Pitching Biomechanics – A Perspective


The following piece from yesterday’s NY Times sports page made me decide to write this. Someone needs to set the record straight. The former Mets pitching coach Rick Peterson, who for 20 years has pioneered biomechanic analysis of pitching motions, said that he shielded athletes from the physics behind what they do.

You can’t build a car and drive one at the same time,” Peterson said. “When you talk about how the brain affects athletic performance, that’s mostly right-brain activity. The physics is left-brain. If you get too analytical, you’re going to interfere with that process. I show my guys the film, but not the measurements.

I have no tolerance for gurus and shameless self promoters. This guy is both. I had to work this guy, both with the White Sox and the Mets. He is not what he claims to be. He is such a pioneer that twenty years ago with the White Sox he stated to me, my boss and the other pitching coaches that he did not believe in biomechanical analysis. He refused to take his pitchers to the ASMI lab when he was our AA pitching coach in Birmingham.

We had started a comprehensive project of biomechanical analysis in 1989 with Dr. Chuck Dillman director of the ASMI lab and a real pioneer in the biomechanics field. We had the support of out General Manger Larry Himes and our Farm and Scouting Director Al Goldis. All our monor league pitching coaches were fully on board except for Rick Peterson. Dewey Robinson, out pitching coordinator at the time and now major league pitching coach for the Houston Astros worked hard to facilitate the project. Since our AA team was in Birmingham and ASMI was located there it was a natural to get this done. We realized that one off filming and analysis was not as productive as continual ongoing analysis, so we tried to get our prospects filmed early and them we filmed them as often as possible after that. Since AA is the point of make or break it a players career we would arrange to have the pitchers analyzed during the season by throwing their bullpen day in the lab. From all of these we were able to refine our conditioning and clarify the key point s in a pitchers mechanics that the coaches could focus on. It was a guide, not an absolute process. We were not trying to develop a model as Tom House had done several years before with his biomechanical analysis with the Texas Rangers. The project was fully funded by ASMI because they needed high level subjects for their projects to understand the causes of elbow and shoulder injury. We continued with this analysis throughout the remainder of my tenure with the White Sox.

When I went to work for the Mets Peterson had promoted himself into the job as major league pitching coach after his success as pitching coach with the Oakland A’s using biomechanical analysis. I found this very ironic. Now everything was based on biomechanics. In addition he was focused on certain measures completely out of context. His big emphasis was hip rotational velocity, one of the many measures in the pitchers analysis. I kept telling him you can’t shot a cannon from a canoe, there are several very large body segments before the hips are involved that contribute to hip rotational velocity. This fell on deaf ears. I made him very uncomfortable because I knew he was misrepresenting what he had done with the White Sox. I was a living skeleton in his closet. Well now he is the biomechanics guru. All of you pitching coaching out there take what he says with a huge block of salt.

There is a large body of data of good data on pitching biomechanics going back to Dr. Betty Attwaters (University of Arizona) work in the late seventies. Her article in Exercise and Sport Reviews in 1979 -Biomechanics of overarm throwing movements and of throwing injuries,is a classic. Once again I implore all of you to seek knowledge not information. I also want to emphasize that our work with Dr Dillman and later Dr. Fleisig was invaluable. We did mini studies on throwing over and underweight balls and throwing a football that were very helpful. Lastly I think it is important that biomechanical analysis is one tool in a large toolbox the coach has available.

Vern Gambetta

Vern Gambetta

Director at Gambetta Sports Training Systems
Vern is the Director of Gambetta Sports Training Systems. He has been the a conditioning coach for several MLS teams as well as the conditioning consultant to the US Men's World Cup Soccer team. Vern is the former Director of Conditioning for the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets. He has lectured and conducted clinics in Canada, Japan, Australia and Europe and has authored six books and over one hundred articles related to coaching and sport performance in a variety of sports. He has a BA in teaching with a coaching minor and an MA in Education with an emphasis in physical education from Stanford University.
Vern Gambetta


Athletic Development Coach & Consultant. Founder of GAIN Network. Proud dad. Love to read everything.
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Vern Gambetta

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