According to Statcast data, 123 pitchers average 95 mph or higher in the Major Leagues and 571 pitchers (out of 673 who have pitched so far this year) average 90 mph or higher! Whether you like it or not, velocity is a big part of the game. There are always outliers that throw below average velocity and have success. Some names that come to mind are Kyle Hendricks, Adam Wainwright, Sergio Romo, Rich Hill, Dallas Keuchel, and Mike Leake. Guys like this have something unique about themselves that has gotten them to this point. Hendricks has unbelievable movement and control. Romo throws from a lower arm slot and had one of the best sliders in his prime. Hill has a funky delivery with good command and threw hard when he was younger. Keuchel could hit mid 90's early in his career and now has great movement and command. Mike Leake also used to run it up in the mid 90's early in his career and cuts and sinks the ball with the best of them.
The question isn't which is more important between velocity, movement, or command. The question is what areas do you lack the most? If you don't have elite velocity, you need to improve it. Just because you are a softer thrower that doesn't make you automatically a command guy with good movement. You want to see a guy that actually had good command and movement go watch Jamie Moyer, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Kyle Hendricks. You'll pick up real quick that your ball does not move like theres and you don't hit your spots as often as they do. The reason velocity is talked about so much is because that fact of the matter is it's necessary. Guys that throw hard get more opportunities. According to a Fangraphs article, fastball velocity accounts for about 25% of strikeout rate. As we know, the more swing and misses you get and weaker contact, the more effective you will be.
Take it from me, I know first hand that just because you put up good stats and pitch well it doesn't mean you will get drafted. I posted a 2.03 ERA in 115 innings my senior year at a D1 and had a very good K/BB ratio. My team even made it to a regional and I pitched well there. Want to know what the problem was? I threw 82-85 from the left side. Another left hand handed pitcher in my conference had a 5.5 ERA but he threw 91-93 and got drafted. Did it seem fair to me? Of course not, but that is the reality of where things are in professional baseball.
Prioritize getting stronger, becoming more mobile, throwing harder, improving command, becoming mentally stronger. All of these things play a factor in your success. Velocity is a big piece of that. Velocity will get your foot in the door, getting outs will keep you there.
Keys to Improving Velocity:
- Get stronger (stick to big lifts early on- deadlift, squat, lunges, push and pull variations, core stability, anti rotation, etc.)
- Improve mobility (hips, hamstrings, shoulders, T-Spine, etc.)
- Arm Care (bands, wrist weights, shoulder tube, plyos, etc.)
- Improve Mechanics (better separation, rotate faster, block front leg better, Improve arm path, etc.)
- Good throwing program (long toss and weighted balls)
- Body Weight (minimum of 2.5x your height in inches)
- Nutrition (reach your macros. More natural food, less processed. NO SODA.)
- Sleep Quality (shoot for 8-10 hours. No distractions. In bed early. Blacked out shades.)
These are the main points to take away when improving velocity. They all play a role and it is likely you are strong in some of these and weak in other areas. Want to become a better pitcher? The first step is to realize you are a nobody and you need to improve all of these. Hungry players who are constantly learning and developing WIN.
This article was focused on velocity, but I want to make it clear that velocity alone will not give you success. Become well rounded at everything involving pitching including mental approach, pitch design, command, and movement. The reason velocity is a big deal is because if you are not at least at a certain level with it you will not get opportunities. Good colleges will not sign you throwing 75 mph. Develop a plan and attack it. Be relentless in your pursuit to become the best player you can be.
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