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Saturday, November 15, 2014

Adding inches to a fastball: just release it closer to the plate.

Pitches travel much less than 60 feet, 6 inches to the hitting area.  There's an old baseball saying that so-and-so has lost a few inches off his fastball, meaning that it is slower and that the slowness is relative to the distance that the pitch travels.

From the official MLB diagrams:
- 127 feet, 3 3/8 inches (127.28 feet) from the back of home plate to the middle of second base; the 90 foot distance to first and third appears to be to the BACK of those bags, which makes them closer to home than we tend to think
- 60 feet, 6 inches is from the pitcher's rubber to the back of home plate, which obviously is closer than half way between home and second, which would be about 63 feet, 7 inches (63.64 feet)
- the distance from the rubber to the front of home plate is 60'6" minus the 17 inches of home plate: 59 feet, 1 inch.
- pitcher's circle is described as an 18 foot diameter circle, so the radius is 9 feet.

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/downloads/y2014/official_baseball_rules.pdf

DIAGRAM NO. 3

Pitching Mound: An 18' diameter circle, 
center of which is 59' from back of home plate.

Locate front edge of rubber 18" behind center of mound.

Front edge of rubber to back point of home plate, 60'6.
______________________________________

We tend to think of the rubber being in the center of the mound and the mound in the center of the diamond.  Neither is correct.

- rather than the center of the mound, the rubber is 18 inches further way from home plate

- rather than the center of the diamond, about 63 feet, 8 inches from the back of home plate  to second, the rubber is only the proverbial 60 feet, 6 inches from the back of home plate; the difference is about 3.13 feet; the actual center of the diamond is about 5.2% farther from the back of the plate than the rubber

- minus the 17 inches of home plate, the rubber is only 59 feet, one inch from the FRONT of home, which is what really has meaning

- 59 feet to the center of the pitching circle, minus the 9 foot radius, minus the 17 inches of home plate: 48 feet, 7 inches is the distance from the front of the pitching circle to the front of home plate.

10 feet, 8 inches from the rubber to the front of the mound (pitching circle) is critical because it seems that pitchers are releasing the ball really close to the front of the pitcher's circle.  I'm guessing that the pitcher is restricted to the circle but that may not have even been considered a realistic possibility 100 years ago or whenever the diagram and rules were dreamed up.

The absurdity of it is that some pitchers, generally taller ones, can release the ball significantly closer to home plate.  This adds the proverbial inches to the fastball.  I wonder if part of the effectiveness of the drop and drive technique popularized in the 1960s is that it propels pitchers closer to the plate.

The pitcher releases the ball even closer to the plate than where his front foot lands.  Next time you watch a game try to determine how close to the front edge of the circle the foot lands.  Then add that to the 48 feet, 7 inches distance from front of the circle to the front of home plate where the batter tries to hit the ball.

Here is 6 foot, 10 inch Randy Johnson:



I'm guessing that Johnson is landing about four feet from the front of the circle,  If so, then he is releasing the ball with his foot about 52-53 feet from the front of the plate.  Obviously, Johnson's left hand is considerably closer than his right foot.  Measuring myself, my extension and release point is conservatively about my height.  If that is roughly correct, then Randy Johnson is releasing the ball about from about 59 feet, 1 inch.minus Johnson's height of 6 feet 10 inches: about 52 feet from the front of home plate.

Note: I later found this: Baseball Pitching Mechanics: The Importance Of Stride Length:

"We encourage most pitchers to stride their body height...   From the front of the rubber to the end of the toe of the landing foot it should be somewhere between 90-100% of the pitcher’s height."

Hall of Fame pitcher Whitey Ford was a foot shorter than Johnson.  Ford's release point would be about 53 feet.

It doesn't seem fair to compare pitchers with such different release points.  Pitchers should release the ball from a minimum distance and that distance should be the center of the diamond: about 63 feet, 7 inches, not 60 feet, 6 inches to the back of home plate.  It's also much more fair to the batters for all pitches to be released from a minimum distance.

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