Saturday, January 19, 2008

Tim Lincecum, Hip Rotation, and Sandy Koufax

I recently came across an interesting video breakdown of Tim Lincecum's pitching mechanics. I'm not sure who is narrating the video, but he does a nice job of breaking down Lincecum's mechanics. In addition, the video is put together nicely to demonstrate how the differential between hip and shoulder rotation helps to generate velocity, which is something I look at in a pitcher's mechanics.

One thing that you can glean from the video is that Lincecum throws with his entire body better than just about everyone, which should reduce stress on the arm. Pitching has always been about more than just the arm, and Lincecum's mechanics enable him to distribute the stress of pitching out over his entire body. That said, to throw as fast as he does, you still need a top notch arm.

Here is the video, which was posted on youtube by hookemhorns, though I'm not sure if he is also the narrator.

Watching the video raised a couple of thoughts, so I thought I'd flush out the hip rotation and a few other issues a bit more.


At the 3:19 mark, Oswalt and Lincecum have their respective leg kicks at their apex. However, the difference in their degree of coil is evident. Lincecum's tremendous hip rotation means that his Glove Side (GS) knee is almost pointing at second base. Oswalt, however, has much less hip rotation and his GS knee is only pointed at third base. Lincecum's bigger hip rotation allows him to store substantially more energy than Oswalt. The tension created by this degree of hip rotation creates a substantial amount of stored energy, which Lincecum is ultimately able to impart on the baseball.


At the 1:36 mark, you can see how Lincecum unleashes the stored energy to generate his velocity. Again, Lincecum stored up substantial energy with his tremendous hip rotation in his leg kick and now unleashes it by firing the hips before the shoulders. The differential between the hip and shoulder rotation enables him to first store energy and later unleash it.

When the video stops at the 1:36 mark, you can again see massive differential between Lincecum's hip and shoulder rotation. His hips have already fired, which means that they are essentially parallel to a line running from first base to third base. However, his shoulders have not rotated and are essentially parallel to a line running from home plate to second base.

Lincecum uses his body to store and unleash a significant amount of energy, which enables him to generate massive velocity despite a smaller frame.


I do, however, disagree with the narrator on a couple of points.

First, I think Lincecum's changeup is underrated. Obviously, he selected video clips of poor changeups, but Lincecum can really pull the string when he's on. He needs to get more consistent with it, but I have no doubt it will become a true plus pitch. If you watch him work, you can see glimpses of it already and it should become a big part of his arsenal over the course of his career.

Also, I think it's a stretch to say that specificity of his back muscle training may lead to injuries. While repeating his mechanics may have led to increased development of certain muscles, it seems a bit dubious to suggest that the injury risk is increased in his delivery. Just because Lincecum tweaked his back while swinging a bat isn't enough to conclude that his injury risk is heightened. Not to mention, if ANY pitcher alters his mechanics, then he may well be at an increased risk of injury, so it certainly isn't a Lincecum specific issue. Carlos Zambrano, for example, dropped his arm slot significantly in 2007 and that may lead to an arm injury in the near future.

Another interesting aspect of Lincecum's delivery is the deception it creates. After he breaks his hands, Lincecum hides the ball behind his right hip, which makes it tough on the hitter. At the 1:00 mark of the video, you can see that Lincecum completely straightens his arm, which gives the appearance of almost pushing the ball down towards the ground. It's a move that hides the ball behind his right hip and increases deception.

This is also a similarity between Lincecum and Sandy Koufax, as they both hold the ball very low after breaking their hands. Speaking of Koufax, I'm must admit I'm not a huge fan of his mechanics. As mentioned in the video, he doesn't have much hip rotation, which means that as a power pitcher he has to generate the velocity largely with his arm. Similarly, Reds prospect Sam LeCure doesn't coil up his body, but unlike Koufax he can't offset it by generating top notch velocity with his arm.

In addition, at times, Koufax throws against a stiff GS leg on his follow through, which results in his momentum being pushed backed towards the rubber after he releases the pitch. That's similar to what you see in Reds prospect Travis Wood, who also has a tendency to pitch against a firm GS leg.

Overall, I think the video does a nice job of demonstrating different aspects of a pitching mechanics, which really come to light when you can see them in action.


  1. is there another link to the video? thanks for the post!

  2. Hey Anon,

    Unfortunately, that's the only version I have seen. I'm not sure why MLB would feel the need to pull it down, but unfortunately it looks like they have done so. I'll take a look around to see if I can find an "approved" version of it, but it seemed fairly unique so I make no promises.

    It's too bad they pulled it down, as I think it was pretty interesting and a bit instructive.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment. I'll see if I can find a replacement for it.


  3. koufax has enormous hip shoulder separation, google image his name and youll find a distinct picture of it