Q: My son pitches for a Division II baseball program - well, at least, until recently. Since he began his strength training regimen one year ago, his pitches have gained velocity, but he no longer has control over the ball. Is it possible that his training has changed the mechanics in his arm so much that he has no idea where the ball is going after it leaves his hand? He’s frustrated - we are talking about one of the best and strongest in collegiate baseball and now they won’t even put him on the mound. I asked some baseball veteran friends about it and they suggested he has to retrain his arm since he has become so much stronger. What are your thoughts?
A: I’ve definitely seen guys who have gained muscle mass and lost velocity because they didn’t train the right way, and it can absolutely go in the opposite direction as well and affect control.
I agree with your pitching coaches that he probably needs to retrain his mechanics with the added weight, but to be honest, it’s something that should have been happening with a gradual weight gain anyway. I would be more inclined to look to address any range of motion (ROM) deficits he may have acquired through the process of gaining weight.
For instance, if he lost some hip rotation ROM, it could markedly affect control. A guy without enough hip internal rotation will fly open early on his front leg and, as a result, the arm lags behind (and out of the scapular plane, which can also lead to arm problems). A guy who loses external rotation tends to stay closed, which means he either throws more across his body (increased arm stress) or miss high and inside frequently (in the case of a RHP vs. right-handed batter, or LHP vs. left-handed batter).
Likewise, a pitcher who bench presses until he’s blue in the face can lose both external rotation and horizontal abduction ROM. These ROM factors are two (of many) predictors of velocity, and while a decrease in one or both normally equates to a drop in velocity, it could also cause a pitcher to change his arm slot. I actually wrote more about this in an old newsletter: Lay Back to Throw Gas.
These are just some thoughts. I’d need to do some ROM tests and see some videos of him throwing to know for sure if any of my impressions are on the money.