After lifting his front leg up before the throw, the pitcher’s leading foot makes contact with the ground. At that point, his throwing forearm, which is cocked behind him, should be between horizontal and vertical. If the arm is too high or too low, either the pitch will be too slow or the pitcher will put too much force on his elbow and shoulder, ultimately leading to injury.
Next comes a subtle twisting of the body, when a right-handed pitcher like Verlander shifts from facing third base to facing home plate. Like other elite pitchers, Verlander’s pelvis turns first, followed by his trunk (see video here). That way, all of the muscles in his upper body distribute energy into the throw. Amateur players often draw energy from just their arms and legs.
As he lunges forward, the pitcher’s front knee needs to be bent deep enough to stabilize his weight and maximize the amount of energy that passes from his leg muscles through his trunk.
Of course, the movement of the arm matters — particularly the angle that a pitcher drops his hand behind his body before whipping it forward. Like a sling shot, the farther the arm can reach back, the faster a pitcher can throw the ball. Bigger arms help, but Newton’s Laws of Motion suggest a tradeoff. An arm with more mass is slightly harder to accelerate to the same speed as a smaller arm.… Verlander releases the ball at a height of about 6.5 feet, said Alan Nathan, a physicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne. After that, physics takes over yet again with a few basic forces of motion. Gravity pulls the ball down, sometimes by as much as three feet. And air resistance slows it down by as much as 10 miles per hour.
(via Discovery News)
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