Baseball Long Toss: The Never Ending Debate

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Every baseball player has had the teammate who lives and dies by long toss! But have you ever wondered if it actually works?

Long toss lovers will preach about its uncanny ability to increase arm strength, conditioning, and of course the most popular claim: it increases pitching velocity.

The long toss haters like to respond with: it will ruin your pitching mechanics, it doesn't increase velocity, and it is a waste of important training time.

The biggest long toss proponent of all is Alan Jaeger.

The Jaeger long toss program: What's behind it?

Alan Jaeger takes the idea of long toss training to a new level.

Jaeger's long toss program focuses on throwing extreme distances exceeding 300 feet.

To make a comparison, most MLB teams have their pitchers long toss at a maximum of 120-140 feet.

Former Atlanta Braves Pitching Coach, Leo Mazzone once said, "You do not clone pitchers. If an individual chooses to long toss, that's fine. You don't give him a distance. Why there's a limit of 120 feet I do not know."

Jaeger also strays away from the traditional "throw the ball on a line" approach by allowing his baseball pitchers to "air it out." To simply put it, he allows his students to throw the ball on an arch. Jaeger is not alone in the long toss advocacy department.

Several MLB Pitchers including Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren, Barry Zito, Greg Maddux, and Cole Hamels firmly believed in baseball long toss as a training method. Lincecum has been sighted throwing long toss from foul pole to foul pole prior to pitching.

So if so many prominent MLB Pitchers use long toss, then why would anyone ever disagree? Well, similar to everything in life, there is always be two sides to an argument.

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Traditional baseball long toss

According to NBC Sports, about half of the teams in the MLB do not believe that extreme long toss or the Jaeger approach, is beneficial for their baseball pitchers. By extreme, I mean distances exceeding 120 feet that will force pitchers to put arch on the ball.

Many teams are sticking to the traditional method of throwing 120 feet on a line to the target. What's the reasoning behind this?

Pitchers sticking to the traditional form of long toss are generally concerned about pitching mechanical issues.

Some pitching experts believe that by throwing extreme distances, you are forced to throw in a manner completely different than how you would throw on a pitching mound.

Pitching experts Brent Pourciau of 3X Pitching and Dick Mills are two instructors that advise against long toss. Both believe that there is no real benefits to long tossing, and that it may actually even be a waste of time. Their opinions are unique, but difficult to disprove.

Tommy John has said, "I'm not an advocate of long throwing. Shortstops don't long toss, so why do pitchers do it?"

There is no denying that you must significantly alter your throwing mechanics in order to propel a ball almost 300 feet. However, I think Jaeger and other advocates are greatly aware of this issue. I guess we need to understand what the purpose of baseball long toss is.

What's the purpose of long toss?

Long toss is not an exercise with the intention of developing better pitching mechanics.

The motive behind long tossing is to condition and build stamina in the arm to prevent injury during a rigorous season. I'm not going to claim that it will increase your pitching velocity, although I do believe it is possible. But rather, I believe increasing your velocity is the result of a combination of different training methods.

Long toss will only be effective for a pitcher if you understand its purpose. Developing effective and explosive pitching mechanics should be a pitchers number one priority. Every other training method including long toss should be a secondary training technique. Learning how to properly delivery a baseball off an actual pitching mound is the most important thing a pitcher can do.

There are few things that you should take out this (hopefully) somewhat objective analysis of baseball long toss. Let it be known, that there is no empirical data supporting a correlation between long toss and pitching velocity. On the flip side, there is also no legitimate data disproving its effectiveness.

You, as a pitcher, must decide what feels right to you. Every body and every arm is different, and therefore you must know your arm. If you really feel that long toss is helping you, then keep it up! Do whatever makes your arm feel the best.

We can only hope some legitimate research is performed on this topic because it will continue to fuel the fire among pitching experts until some conclusive evidence surfaces. Whether you are using long toss as a training method or not, there is a few important things to remember.

Despite the potential pitching velocity gains associated with baseball long toss, we must understand that it is only one component to developing excellent velocity, and becoming a great pitcher. Simply performing long toss alone will not make you a good pitcher.

Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.

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