“Spin Rate” has become arguably the biggest buzz word in baseball. The fact is technology, and the surplus of data it provides, has led to discoveries and provided proof to prior assumptions. Physics enthusiasts have long understood that the “Magnus effect” is the obvious culprit for the deviation in trajectory of a spinning sphere. But until the recent influx in technology it wasn’t something that players and coaches spent a lot of time worrying about.
But now, technology has allowed us to more effectively collect and analyze data to make very useful correlations. These correlations, especially in relation to spin rate and axis, have essentially provided additional evidence. Helping to shine light on what makes some pitchers and their pitches “special”. While the accessibility to this technology has allowed us to adapt these correlations to every level of the game. So now, from the big leagues to little league, players, coaches and now parents are placing significant value on “spin-rate”.
DIFFERENT IS DECEIVING
So what is all of this spin rate data indicating? Well, honestly, a lot of it shouldn’t really be news. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the most effective spin rates are commonly those that are “out of the ordinary”. Think about it, the Magnus effect literally “explains commonly observed deviations from the TYPICAL TRAJECTORY OR PATH of a spinning sphere”. Average/TYPICAL is a mathematical fact of life. Once you can consistently collect any measurement there is ALWAYS eventually going to be an average (or TYPICAL) rate. So an average/typical spin rate for any and every velocity is going to give you an average/typical trajectory or path. Meaning, at the end of the day, the average/typical are most predictable because they are the most common. Thus, obviously they are going to be the least effective in deceiving the hitter. Because it’s what they’re most use to seeing.
The point is, the special are special because they are different! And at the end of the day the surprise and unpredictability of different is what makes it more effective. The problem is trying to train someone to be special. Especially when it comes to spin rate. Because there are no proven and/or consistent methods for improving it ALONE in an athlete’s training. In addition, if a viable method was available, and it really was that effective, everyone would take advantage of it and the averages would simply increase. So hitters adapt and the special ones push the ceiling even higher, remaining special. Not to mention, pushing spin rates likely means forcing players to change what comes naturally. Not only is it difficult to change something that’s natural to our body. But in most cases it increases the risk of compromising other, potentially more important, factors. Like consistency, command and health.
Which leads us to a few approaches to training that will likely be more effective than trying to improve the spin rate of your fastball.
IMPROVE VELOCITY:Not only is improving velocity one of the only proven methods for improving spin rate. But velocity trumps spin rate all day long. Especially between the ranks of little league to college. The players with the best velocities have the biggest advantages. It’s why the radar gun is a college coach’s greatest tool for evaluating a pitcher’s talent. I’m not discounting spin rate. I understand it’s likely the reason behind that high school kid who only throws 80 mph but tends to dodge a lot of barrels. My point is the guy throwing 90 mph is more consistently dominating more hitters and is most definitely getting more opportunities and offers from colleges. But mostly what I’m saying is, we have proven methods for increasing velocity. The most effective way for which is to improve health, strength and sequencing. These are all factors that products like our Throw Smart program have a PROVEN TRACK RECORD for improving.
IMPROVE COMMAND:There are plenty of players that have made a living by commanding the baseball and limiting their mistakes. If you’re not deceiving hitters with your average/typical spin rate. Then don’t do them the extra favor of serving them meatballs or putting them on base. Improve your command in your training by ALWAYS throwing at a target with intent. Especially when using various weighted balls. As they can serve as an advanced aid in training your sequencing, timing, and release point. Which together largely impacts your command. This is also an aspect stressed in each portion of the Throw Smart throwing program.
IMPROVE YOUR ARSENAL:As we stated earlier, it’s the surprise, unpredictability and generally deception of “out of the ordinary” spin rate that makes it effective. The exact same has LONG been true for players that have a VARIETY of pitches that they can confidentially control. Early on that may mean simply two pitches that you can control and confidentially throw in any count. But if you get to college and start to notice you’re getting hit around because you have a good but not overpowering fastball. There is a good chance you’ll probably find you also have an average/typical spin rate. But rather than stressing to improve your fastball spin. Start by trying to the improve velocity and command of your current arsenal. While also considering adding another pitch. Then work on mastering it so that you can confidentially throw it in any count. At the end of the day, whether it’s your spin rate or pitch variety and selection, the key to success is deceiving and outmatching the hitter.
SPIN RATE DATA FOR TRAINING
Lastly, if your going to invest time and money into spin rate and axes data, use it wisely. Rather than changing what comes natural, in an effort to improve your spin rate. Use that data to help you determine which pitches in your arsenal show the most promise. Meaning, if you find a pitch that exhibits decent velocity figures, but exceptional spin. You’ve probably found a pitch that you need to spend more time mastering. Because it will likely be an effective pitch in your arsenal. Also, conversely to a curve-ball or slider, when examining a changeup or splitter you should likely be looking for an exceptionally LOW spin rate to velocity ratio.
I know this article is titled “Spin Rate Training”. But the fact is, as it relates to training and improvement. There are a LOT more tried and true approaches for improving a pitcher’s performance on the mound. Stressing to improve spin rate is just not one that should be a high priority.