As a former pro pitcher who long tossed significantly throughout my career, I can say that I literally love long toss and think it's a great addition to any year-round throwing program for pitchers.
But it's not an end-all-be-all!
And it's not a replacement for developing good mechanics, spending a majority of your time throwing off a mound, or performing pitcher-specific exercises in the weight room such as plyometrics and modified Olympic lifts.
In fact, you may be wasting a great deal of your time long tossing.
I have seen countless players and teammates spend a ridiculous amount of time long tossing, but they don't have the ability to locate on both sides of the plate, they can't throw any off-speed consistently, and haven't produced any significant results!
My biggest issue with long toss is that it takes time away from the important pitching aspects you should be focusing on.
Throwing fast and accurate is not an easy task. It takes a great deal of practice and perseverance in order to succeed, even if you're naturally blessed.
You need to ask yourself these questions regarding your long toss regime:
Are you seeing significant results?
Chronic long tossers have a difficult time answering this question.
They will preach that their long toss regime is a legitimate reason why "they are throwing harder". Yes, maybe long toss helped to add 1, possibly 2 mph to velocity. But chronic long tossers don't take into account the other activities they are participating in.
Activities such as weightlifting, rotator cuff exercises, conditioning, throwing with greater frequency, and throwing bullpens. These other activities can increase velocity during the course of a season.
If you're sold on long toss, then I encourage any pitcher to conduct an experiment:
Eliminate all other forms of training. No weightlifting, no conditioning, and no bullpens. And for at least 3 months, only throw long toss.
Use long toss as your primary form of training, and document the results.
Also, actually use a radar gun prior to beginning your long toss adventure. Then after about 3 months or however long you do it, radar your velocity once again.
Keep in mind, you aren't measuring your velocity on a crow hop. Measure both velocity readings on a mound, throwing an actual pitch.
I can predict a few things:
- Your arm will feel "conditioned"
- You won't see significant gains in your velocity.
- You won't throw harder than you have thrown in the past.
And just to clarify, I'm not saying long toss doesn't condition your arm and prepare it for the rigors of a long season. I'm simply stating that long toss will not increase your velocity, and if it does, it will be insignificant.
I encourage the many long toss advocates to try this experiment!
Last word on the correlation between velocity increase and long toss: there is no scientific evidence or empirical data supporting the idea that long toss will increase velocity.
Are you performing in games?
Seriously, ask yourself this question.
Is long toss truly making you a better pitcher, or is it making you a great thrower?
I think it's totally awesome that Tim Lincecum or Trevor Bauer can throw long toss from foul pole to foul pole. But seeing this can really distort a developing pitcher's mindset! Seeing this makes you believe that you should be doing the same. You're probably screaming, "look the pros are doing it!"
But you're missing one very important element. These two pitchers don't have above average velocity because of long toss.
Their velocity is a direct result of their emphasis on developing proper pitching mechanics. Both of these pitchers have excellent mechanics, and they spent a great deal of time developing them.
Lincecum's dad instilled all kinds of biomechanical principles in his mind at a very early age. He wasn't teaching Tim how to long toss, he was teaching him great mechanics.
This is when spending time on things that are important comes into play. Pitchers of all ages, should be spending more time developing their pitching mechanics than long tossing. Plain and simple.
Pitching is hard enough. Don't sell yourself short by spending 90 percent of your throwing session chucking long toss 300 feet. Unless you're the pitching messiah, then I can guarantee you have many things to be working on.
Can you effectively locate on both sides of the plate?
This is another important question to ask yourself, and determine if you're long tossing too much. If you can't locate on both sides of the plate, and you spend more time long tossing than working on fundamentals, then you should reconsider your approach.
Increasing your performance in games should be your only objective.
Can you locate your off-speed on a consistent basis?
Yes, you can throw a baseball 300 feet, but can you locate a changeup? Is your changeup at least 8-10 mph slower than your fast ball, but with the same arm speed and throwing motion?
If not, you should be spending more time developing your off-speed.
There are plenty of pitchers who can throw with incredible velocity, but what's the primary reason why they never make it to the big leagues?
Answer: They have poor off-speed, or they have little consistency with any of their secondary pitches.
This concept applies to pitchers going into college as well. Unless you're playing at the D3 level, then you will have a difficult time having great success with a fastball alone. Even at the D3 level, you probably won't have much success without off-speed consistency, unless you're throwing 89+.
And in the worst case scenario when you can't locate your fastball or your off-speed, then you really need to reconsider your strategy.
Final word on long toss
I know this analysis seems to be very critical of long toss, and it was meant to be.
But I want to make some things clear: I'm not telling you to completely scrap long toss altogether.
I just believe that you should reduce the amount time you spend on it. You should consider focusing far more energy on developing your mechanics on a mound. Remember, you don't crow hop off a mound, and you don't pitch from the outfield.
Use long toss to condition your arm or "get it into shape", but don't rely on it for increasing your velocity.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
Learn more about my off-season workout programs for pitchers
To get to the next level, preparation matters. Your work ethic matters. Being committed to the process matters. Big league pitchers spend far more time preparing to pitch than actually pitching. The journey is just as important as the end result.
If you believe adding velocity could be critical to your success, check out my proven programs for pitchers of all ages.
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