Perceived Velocity, Velocity Perception
Timing, mechanics, velocity, and spin are pieces of what make up a pitcher’s overall deception and uniqueness as an individual.
A rotating sphere, in our case a regular 5oz baseball, moving through space has an actual velocity and a perceived velocity. The actual velocity is the speed at which baseball is actually moving. The perceived velocity is the rate/speed at which the ball appears to move to a hitter.
Perceived velocity is predominantly impacted by the distance away the baseball is released in conjunction with rate the ball is spinning (aka: spin-rate).
Peas at the Knees
Relative to the baseball world, baseballs released at a distance shorter than the regulation distance of sixty feet and six inches, appear to have extra jump. Decreasing the amount of time the hitter can visibly see the pitch in flight. The closer the pitch is released the less reaction time the batter has. The harder the pitch is to hit. Increasing the pitcher’s own deception and perceived velocity. Elite Major League pitchers can release the ball up to 7-feet closer to the batter!
A pitch thrown at 95mph has an actual velocity of 95mph. Where the pitch was released from and the rate at which the ball was spinning determines the perceived velocity. In many cases the release point and spin-rate may produce a perceived velocity greater or less than 95mph. Making the same 95mph fastball harder or easier to hit.
Rates of spin largely impact the perception the baseball and its flight. In some cases even causing the baseball to appear as if it is defying gravity. The average fastball spin-rate among active Major League pitching staffs is around 2200RPM, with breaking ball spins-rates reaching over 3000RPM.
“Can of Corn!”
Fastballs thrown with higher spin-rates cause the pitch to stay on its plane or path, longer, giving less visible movement to the batter. So the pitch appears faster and can even appear to rise but does not. Scouts will describe this type of fastball as having, “hop” or “extra-life” and sometimes being “a heavy ball”. Typically offerings from a pitcher with high rates of spin are more pop-ups or swing and miss pitches that appear to be “thrown-by” batters.
Baseballs thrown with low spin-rate fall off their plane at a faster rate. They tend to have more movement through space and more visibility to the batter. The additional visible movement to the batter makes them appear slower. Pitchers with low rates of spin favor two-seam fastballs or sinkers. Due to the action of the pitch either diving or breaking towards the arm-side and sometimes both. Fastballs with lower rates of spin tend to dodge the barrel of the bat, triggering more ground balls.
Efficient Mechanics and the Effective Fastball
There is no foolproof way of getting hitters out, but training to your own strengths and capabilities can tilt the odds in a favorable direction.
When throwing a baseball there is an assumed risk for injury. However, training functionally to adapt to the stresses of throwing can boost overall durability and longevity. Thus lowering that risk. Becoming mechanically efficient, in most cases, leads to the increase in actual velocity as well as perceived velocity. Furthering the effectiveness of a pitcher’s fastball.
Every thrower has their own strengths and weaknesses coupled with an individualistic style for performing the task. By becoming more mechanically efficient; one may lose some deception, but more likely and more importantly gain durability, longevity and actual velocity. However, even this inkling of negativity is an outlier NOT the trend.
Eight years of data from our Throw Smart V+ Weighted Balls, clearly indicates that when our Program is properly implemented athletes, especially pitchers, become more mechanically efficient. This is a product of the additional health and functional strength that participants experience through our threshold training. Coupled with repetitively performing simplistic, yet functional and efficient exercises. Together resulting in the athlete’s natural adaption, both physically and mechanically, in response to the imposed demands of the Program.
Our methods help athletes utilize the lower half, core and upper half to simultaneously increase durability, actual velocity, and perceived velocity. All, in turn, helping athletes disrupt the timing of their competition, thus their ability to square-up the baseball.
For any thrower, training to become more efficient while adapting in early windows of train-ability is extremely beneficial. It can help identify their own specific pitch repertoire, capabilities and most importantly build a stable foundation for later years of competition and training.
To learn more about mechanical efficiency, and other important pieces of the pitching puzzle, check out our last blog article in which we discuss “Maximizing the Lower Half”.