Developing Overhand Velocity for Softball

Posted: November 12, 2013 in Softball, Velocity Development
Tags: , , , , ,

This post stems from a discussion I had with one of the softball players I train. I made the statement that most softball players could benefit from overhand throwing instruction, because their mechanics are typically substandard when compared with those of baseball players. She retorted that softball players have to short-arm the ball and throw with a low elbow because they have to get rid of the ball more quickly due to the fact that they play on a smaller field. In other words, they “don’t have time” to utilize proper mechanics. But in reality, throwing with proper mechanics doesn’t take any more time than throwing with poor mechanics.

What Softball Players Can Learn From Baseball Catchers

Think about this: the position in baseball that requires the quickest throws is probably catcher. To be considered “good” a catcher must be able to get the ball from his glove to second base (referred to as his “pop time”) in 2.0 seconds or less. Catchers must spend lots of practice time developing a quick transfer and release to make sure they are getting rid of the ball as quickly as possible. So if getting rid of the ball quickly is only possible with a low elbow and no trunk involvement, the best defensive catchers should throw with those types of mechanics. But if we look at how elite catchers actually throw, they don’t throw with “softball” mechanics. They get on top of the ball, throw with good elbow height, and use their legs and trunk effectively.

molina throw

Conversely, many softball players exhibit the following mechanical flaws.

1) Throwing with a low elbow
2) Not utilizing the legs and torso to add power to the throw
3) Poor glove-side mechanics

Take a look at this photo to see an example of what this looks like:

softball throw

The Advantages of Good Mechanics

Some softball players (infielders especially) may be hesitant to learn proper overhand throwing mechanics because they think it will somehow take longer to get rid of the ball, and therefore make it difficult to record outs on groundballs. To throw out a fast baserunner at first base, the ball must typically arrive to the bag in about 2.5-2.7 seconds from the time the ball is put into play. But as we see with baseball catchers, good mechanics can be applied quickly. And since improved mechanics lead to improved velocity, they provide an advantage when making bang-bang plays.

Something else to think about: if softball players with poor throwing mechanics work hard and fix those mechanics, they can realistically expect to add anywhere from 5 to 10 mph to their throws. For a shortstop, an average throw from short to first is around 85 to 90 feet. If we do some simple math without factoring in things like drag and wind resistance, a throw of 50 mph will arrive at its target in roughly 1.23 seconds. Now, if we increase the velocity of the ball from 50 to 60 mph, the ball arrives at its target in 1.02 seconds. That’s an improvement of .21 seconds, which may not sound like much. But .21 seconds is a HUGE difference in a game like softball, where everything has to happen fast and bang-bang plays are a regular occurrence. If the ball is just .05 seconds late getting to first base, it might as well be 5 hours late. By shaving .21 seconds off every throw, we greatly increase the likelihood that an out will be recorded on any given groundball fielded.

Fix Your Mechanics, Be a Better Player

Coaches like to see that players can make strong throws from all over the field and get people out. If a girl is throwing 70 mph BBs from shortstop, she’ll get a scholarship over another player who has a similar skillset, but throws 50 mph shot puts across the diamond.

If you want to be a truly well-rounded softball player and make the most of your abilities, proper throwing mechanics and maximum throwing velocity are must-haves.

 

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