Why did Nolan Ryan’s career last 26 years, a time that allowed him to set countless records while staying relatively free from injury? And why is it that Roy Halladay and Justin Verlander seemed to have been headed for Baseball immortality but suddenly sidestepped “legendary” expectations?
All 3 of the aforementioned pitchers were outstanding athletes, who sustained their great physical conditions with vigorous and energetic work habits. All of the above applied to their lower bodies what could be said as “proper mechanics” for pitching. But, of the 3, only Nolie took advantage of proper “Upper-body” mechanics to facilitate the most effortless, efficient, and powerful delivery of the pitched ball.
It is only a matter of subtle margins of error that separate the great from the greater or greatest, especially when it comes to longevity and freedom from injury. Two schools of opposing thought would insist that a thrower of a baseball has either, “a limited amount of repetitious competitive throws, and then decline is a certainty”; while the other would say that, “when the margins for error are reduced to the barest minimum with a technique of proper mechanical precision, a thrower could expect to repeat the throwing action of a 5 ounce baseball to his maximum intensity indefinitely while his body and arm are conditioned to offset the effects of mental and physical fatigue.”
The following photos of Justin Verlander and Roy Halladay are perfect depictions of at least one “margin-of-error” that undoubtedly contributed to their relative declines in pitching prowess over the years. Attributes to their successes were the unrelenting “work-habits” both espoused, in order to keep their bodies and arms in shape over the relatively long careers at the tops of their game. Unfortunately for both, the mechanical technique, that each had fostered and attributed to his relative success, is the actual “weak-link” in the otherwise masterful display of pitching dominance that finally ended with undue strain to the shoulder.
To borrow a quote from my Book, The Principle of Baseball…, the “axiom” that fits perfectly for both of these magnificent athlete-pitchers is: “The farther away the ball moves from the body, as the arm is preparing to throw it, the heavier the weight will be to the strain of the shoulder (and elbow). As the ball is being prepared for its launch from the thrower’s hand it should remain as close as possible to the ‘Body-Proper,’ while the arm is ‘whipping’ itself to the forward thrusting position. (Nolan Ryan is the best exponent of this ‘principle.’)
The weight-bearing excess that both Halladay and Verlander have displayed over the years has finally taken its toll, and while it is probably too late for Halladay to make a “come-back,” it is certainly not too late for Verlander to change his delivery and eliminate that one particular “margin-of-error” that would contribute to a severe reduction of his former premier pitching status.
Anyone with a “sense” of mechanical propriety could not but notice the excessive weight-bearing strain on the shoulder of Roy Halladay in the following two photos:
Verlander’s delivery is identical.
But, look at the less weight-bearing position of the bent-elbow positions of Nolie, Randy Johnson (who, by the way, was tutored by Nolan), and Curt Schilling:
“That’s All I Have to Say ’bout That”!