How To Improve Pitching Velocity
If you look across the internet for ways to improve pitching velocity, you will find a variety of articles and a variety of opinions on the best way to achieve this goal. It is not possible for everyone to throw 100MPH, but with a strong work ethic over a long period of time almost everyone can add some extra ticks to their fastball.
In some cases, pitching velocity has been minimized by coaches and experts as being something that does not matter, but if the end goal is to get a college scholarship or to be potentially drafted, without pitching velocity you will not cross the barrier to even be considered. Sure, throwing strikes is important to win the individual game you are competing in, but if the long-term goal is to get a scholarship or make it to the professional level, there should be a plan in place to develop that part of your game.
Why is Velocity Important?
If you are a recruit trying to attract a coaches attention from another area, the number one question they will most likely ask you is what is your pitching velocity. With athletes getting bigger/stronger/faster and more specialized, pitching velocity is crucial in terms of being able to get the ball past athletic hitters so they will have very short reaction times to being able to hit the ball. As the hitters athleticism and hand speed becomes more advanced, additional velocity or deception in terms of pitching is needed to get the ball past them at each level. At the Major League Level, most hitters have what is often referred to as 4 or 5 tools, which are very difficult to achieve and sometimes seen as God Given from a scouting perspective.
Most people do not understand why Velocity matters so much in terms of scouting but if you look at it from an athleticism standpoint from a hitters perspective, it will start to make sense why velocity is critical in terms of getting the ball past a new level of athleticism at each level you move up through the ranks.
Why Sometimes Coaches Don’t Agree
Coaches are often focused on the short-term objectives of winning games, having a great season to spend too much time on individual velocity development. Coaches typically will preach the “Just Throw Strikes” message to pitchers in High School and sometimes College level and emphasize that control and movement are just as vital as velocity. While this may be true to win the local Tuesday night high school game, control and movement are not going to get a player noticed at the college or professional level unless they throw from an unorthodox arm angle or have something very unique. Typically, coaches will want players to focus on how to help them achieve the team achieve success in the short term and help them win games as coaches. Slowly coaches at the college level are starting to incorporate velocity specific training into their practice plans, but it has taken a while to get past the normal coach speak of throwing strikes and neglecting velocity improvement.
Major League Velocity
The average major league fastball in 2018 was 92.8 MPH, which is up 2MPH from 2008 when the average was around 90.1 MPH. With more year-round focus on baseball at the youth level, in addition to more educational resources and year round training, we suspect the number will continue to creep up and wouldn’t be shocked to see the average MLB fastball around 94-95MPH in 5 years or so. Here is an interesting article about the jumps in velocity and correlations to injuries rising in the throwing arm: Velocity Article
Minor League Pitching Velocity
At the Minor League levels, the average velocity is typically between 89MPH and 94MPH. Normally at the lower levels of the minor leagues the averages are on the lower end, while the prospects that are at 94MPH plus are typically in Double A or Triple A. Occasionally you will have 88-90MPH pitchers in Double A and Triple A that put up great statistics year after year but never get a shot at the big leagues because the scouting departments and coaches do not see these pitchers as having the physical tools in order to get Major League Hitters out. These players are often referred to as organizational players, which mean they are great minor league players but just lack the tools in order to become a true Major League prospect. In order to get to get Drafted by a MLB Team and become assigned to a Minor League team you normally have to be throwing over 90MPH in order to get scouts attention. Over the last several years that number has probably started to rise due to the high frequency of people that can throw 90MPH or harder. 10-20 years ago, 90MPH was the magic number and as with any sport, with time comes advancements and athletic improvements.
Division 1 Pitching Velocity
For Division 1 Baseball, the average fastball is in the 87-90 range, while at the top 25 level, the velocity levels tend to be a tick higher with most teams having several pitchers that can reach 95MPH. To get to the division 1 Top 25 level, coaches will typically look for a combination of velocity, pitch ability, temperament, and performance in big games over their high school/travel ball career. Sure, you can get a top 25 Division 1 scholarship topping out at 88MPH, but in today's world you better have the control of Greg Maddox or killer offspeed pitches that are proven to get high level hitters out in order to get a major college coaches attention.
NAIA, D3, D2 Pitching Velocity
From the NAIA to D-2 level, a minimum velocity of around 85MPH is going to be what is needed to get a coaches attention in order to get their attention and attract a potential scholarship offer. The hitters will not be as advanced at these levels and the velocity factor will not be as significant of a measure of success compared to the D1/professional levels. There are many MLB players that have come from these levels so it is not a bad place to start and try to develop as a player.
High School Pitching Velocity
The normal pitching velocity at the high school level ranges depending on geography and size of school. We typically see ranges from 75-85MPH as the normal pitching velocities at this level. Occasionally there are high school pitchers throwing 95MPH plus and they are typically drafted very high in the Draft as the unique combination of high velocity plus youth typically will have scouts salivating. There are numerous high school pitchers drafted every year that may not have the best control or stats, but scouts will see an electric arm and hope that they can be refined and coached up in the minor league system and turn the talent into a refined finished product.
Recommendations to Add Pitching Velocity
Long toss is a time-tested method that has been around for as long as the game has existed and has helped build arm strength in many arms. Contrarily, we believe that most people long toss out of routine and do not have a specific goal or objective while they are in the process of warming up. A typical pre practice throwing routine will normally involve players playing catch and then slowly backing up for 5-10 throws or so before coaches start to waive players in to start with practice or they just throw high, low effort type throws to their throwing partner. From our experience, Long Toss needs to be an explosive, athletic movement that involves using the legs, hips, abs, arm etc. We recommend at least 20 minutes of long toss at least 3 days a week at a distance where you can get the ball to your throwing partner at max effort with good velocity and perhaps once bounce. Once you get to that distance, it is recommended to throw 20-30 max effort throws at this level while focusing on using your body to get into the throws instead of throwing the ball high into the air to get it to your partner.
One area that is commonly neglected in pitchers is that they often neglect staying in good physical shape as there is a belief that pitchers just need strong shoulders. Most Major league Pitchers are often exceptional athletes that normally have impressive athletic backgrounds in other sports. Pitching is an explosive movement that requires balance, flexibility, explosiveness, control and torque in order to get the ball to the catcher as quickly as possible. Most baseball practices are limited from a time perspective to focusing on athleticism enhancements which is why it is critical to try and stay in the best shape possible and train outside of practice. From a training perspective, we recommend the following areas to focus on in order to translate to an explosive delivery:
Plyometrics- Often used in basketball and football, Plyometric training is not typically utilized in baseball training. From a pitching perspective, plyometrics will help improve explosiveness from the ground up and enable you to be a more fast twitch athlete. The objective with increasing pitching velocity is to become explosive off of the rubber toward the plate and plyometrics will greatly help make you a more explosive athlete. Here is a great program from the American Council on Exercise: Plyometrics Program
Swimming- Swimming is often an overlooked training tool that can help add to increased pitching velocity. Swimming helps increase the strength in the small muscles around the shoulder as well is great for building core strength and overall flexibility.
Sprinting Programs- Sprinting helps increase fast twitch muscle development throughout the body and is often neglected by pitchers. Coaches commonly have players run “Poles” slowly along the outfield warning track as a cardio exercise. Doing so does not help increase explosive movements that translate to pitching but rather helps develop stamina and endurance for pitching multiple innings. If the objective is to improve velocity we recommend a sprinting program to build fast-twitch explosiveness. Here is a great program we recommend: Sprinting Program
Explosive Weight Training-Weight training for pitchers is often taught in a cautious “Do what Pitchers have always done” approach which includes light weights and high reps. This approach is good for maintaining strength but is not best in terms of building explosive strength that can translate from the pitcher’s mound. We recommend an explosive weight training program that includes squats, dead lifts, Hang Cleans, Dumb-bell bench press and extensive core and abdominal training. Here is a more in depth article on example exercises:
Weighted Ball Training- Weighted ball training has really picked up in terms of popularity in the last several years as many are showing big jumps in velocity by following these programs. We recommend to make sure supervision and a controlled program is followed closely as there have been numerous arm injuries from weighted ball programs in which players putting too much stress on their arms without proper rest and recovery.
With the advancements in technology and training methods, it is a great time to be a pitcher and work on velocity development. While there are ceilings to each person’s physical potential, we believe hard work, a disciplined approach and plan over a long period of time is the best way to slowly build up arm strength and maximize ones ’potential.
We hope you can take one or two nuggets from the article to help contribute to extra MPH!