Saturday, September 4, 2010

Scrubbing the Playhead on Koufax's Pitching

I just finished "Sandy Koufax" by Jane Leavy. I didn't like her wandering style - she often confuses by jumping the time-line - but the story is a must read for true baseball fans. Koufax put together five of the most dominant years that baseball has seen and Leavy explores both the social and psychological side of that run. To a lesser degree, she also explores the mechanics of Koufax. It's not easy to do with words.

Needless to say, I believe you have to see it. YouTube has a couple of Koufax clips and I've pulled them in to PowerChalk and studied them. With little effort, I can also pull in current MLB pitchers and make comparisons to release points, stride lengths, etc. The more I study, the more I believe that Koufax had the perfect blend of all of those vitals.

Go to PowerChalk, find the color clip below in the Public videos and walk through his motion. One thing that will strike you is the late release of his torso. You'll see the late release all through sports - in the batter's box and in golf tee box. You'll see it with the body, with the arm and with the bat (and club). As an engineer I know that the longer you hold back the torque that you've stored by winding a lever that's in motion, the more force you'll have when you let it go.

Note in frame 503 of the PowerChalk session below that Koufax has already squared his hips but his chest still points towards first base. See the pull in the jersey near the belt at the right hip. Very few of the modern MLB pitchers store that much energy. Then again,there was only one Koufax.

Having said that, I'll show you a modern marvel of the mound. A pitcher that understands the mechanical leverage as Koufax did. A pitcher who had to fight to keep his mechanics in tact as he went from Little League to college to the MLB. Take a look at Tim Lincecum below.

Note the pull of the jersey. Note how square the hips are while the torso is still torqued orthogonal. Both pitchers have arched their back to the point that the abs are engaged as they drive out over the knee.

I personally would need a year of Pilate workouts to achieve the positions noted (try and point your chest 90 degrees from your hips!) but as a coach I can easy see where the average pitcher could find 4 more mph.

I was fortunate enough to work with the Dodger coaches as they implemented PowerChalk this spring in AZ. As we pulled up video clips to play with, time slowed down when I would load the Koufax video. Coaches are still struck by his grace and power.

Success leaves clues and scrubbing video is a great way to learn and inspire.

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