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Please note: This post is now more than five years old, but I created an updated version on the 19 fastest-throwing MLB pitchers with great mechanics. It includes GIFs of each pitcher.
Finding out which MLB pitchers have great pitching mechanics is essential for learning and teaching. Of course, every instructor has their own unique perspective about what defines good mechanics, but there are some principles that are agreed upon.
"Good" pitching mechanics utilize the entire body as a single unit, reduce the amount of stress on the throwing arm, can appear to be fluid or explosive, and will produce the greatest amount of velocity with the least amount of effort.
Unfortunately, many pitchers simply do not have good pitching mechanics. Mechanical flaws are especially prevalent at the youth level, but are also common at the higher competitive levels.
For this analysis, we will focus on the MLB pitchers who are considered to have good pitching mechanics.
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10 MLB pitchers with great mechanics
These pitchers will appear in no particular order, but I have selected them based on velocity, fluidity of motion, injury potential, and other various mechanical elements that I like with each individual. Some of these MLB pitchers currently play, and some are from the past, but still had great pitching mechanics.
1. Aroldis Chapman
You knew I was going to include Aroldis Chapman. Chapman is a pitcher that I frequently reference on this website when I'm discussing mechanics. I'm willing to go out on a limb and say that Chapman has some of the best pitching mechanics in all of baseball. Other popular pitching instructors like Brent Pourciau from 3X Pitching Velocity would most likely agree as well.
Chapman is able to generate his record breaking pitching velocity primarily because of his mechanics.
At the peak of Chapman's leg lift, you can see his weight is already shifting, and his lead hip is driving towards home. His weight is not over the drive leg in a traditional balance point position, and lead rear pocket is aimed towards the target.
As Chapman's lift leg descends toward the ground, you will notice a couple of things: his foot is relaxed and aimed towards the ground, his lead hip is closed off and driving towards the plate, his drive leg is slightly bent, his hands are set near his belt buckle, and most importantly, his lift leg is going directly down and out towards home. These are all important factors into his velocity.
At foot strike you will notice several important things. Chapman has achieved an incredibly long stride, he has excellent stride speed, his drive leg is completely extended, his hips are open, and his upper body is still closed. Chapman's incredible hip to shoulder separation is the primary reason why he has such great velocity.
There is no other pitcher in the MLB that achieves greater hip to shoulder separation than Aroldis Chapman. If you're looking an example of good pitching mechanics, then you must analyze every millisecond of Chapman's motion. Pay particular attention to his foot strike.
2. Greg Maddux
Maddux is the poster child for what's considered to be good pitching mechanics. While he did not throw extraordinary hard, Maddux had possibly the smoothest and most efficient mechanics of all time. His consistency and ability to repeat the same motion is what allowed him to have pinpoint accuracy for an entire career.
I'm not including Maddux on this list because of his ability to produce velocity, but rather his ability to repeat consistent mechanics. Velocity is important, but repeating the same mechanics each and every pitcher is equally vital to pitching success.
3. Roy Oswalt
I'm a big fan of Roy Oswalt's mechanics because of his ability to produce above average velocity with a below average MLB pitcher body. One thing that I really like about Oswalt's pitching mechanics is his incredible stride length, which results in massive hip to shoulder separation. Also, in my opinion, Oswalt's arm action appears to be relatively safe.
4. David Price
Price has some really excellent mechanics. In his motion, Price has good arm action that is unlikely to lead to any shoulder or elbow issues. Also, he has very good back leg drive, stride length, and of course, extreme hip to shoulder separation. He could probably add a 1-2 mph if weight shifted a little earlier, but I think his 94-96 mph fastball is good enough.
5. Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander has been one of the most dominant pitchers in the MLB for past few seasons. There are obvious reasons for this including his plus fastball and devastating curveball. But besides his nasty stuff, Verlander also displays some of the best pitching mechanics in baseball.
There is no way a pitcher can throw 100 mph in the ninth inning without good mechanics. So what makes Verlander's motion so effective? First, watch the video.
One characteristics that really stands out with Verlander is his incredible position at the peak of his leg lift. Verlander shifts his weight very early, which allows his to generate better back leg drive. And like the other pitchers in this list, Verlander brings the lift leg down and out, as opposed to out and around.
The other most important element of Verlander's mechanics is obviously his great hip to shoulder separation. If there was any critique of his mechanics, it would most likely be his stride length, which is relatively short for someone who throws as hard as he does.
One last thing that every pitcher should notice about Verlander's mechanics, is how he break his hands to get to the cocked position. Notice that he brings his hands down and up in a circular motion, and his elbow remains below the shoulder. This is most effective transition into the cocked position for preventing possible shoulder or elbow injury.
6. Tim Lincecum
While Lincecum is having one of his worst season of his career, he still undoubtedly has some of the best pitching mechanics in baseball. Lincecum is similar to Roy Oswalt because of their below average physiques. However, Lincecum makes up for his size deficiency with some of the most explosive mechanics in the league.
Most instructors would advise against turning the back towards home, but this motion allows Lincecum to keep his hips closed during the stride phase. Lincecum's velocity is the direct result of his stride length, and hip to shoulder separation. There aren't many pitchers capable of striding about 130 percent of their height, like Lincecum does. His incredible stride length is the result of his effective back leg drive or "triple extension".
One of the biggest issues with Lincecum delivery is transition into the cocked position. As Chris O'Leary first noticed, Lincecum suffers from the inverted L position. You'll notice this at 10 seconds into the video. During his scapular loading phase, his throwing arm is in an L position. This creates additional stress on the rotator cuff, and even potentially the elbow.
7. Matt Cain
Matt Cain has been recognized as one of the top MLB pitchers because of his consistent play, and of course, his incredible perfect game this season. With that being said, there is no surprise that one of the leagues most dominant pitchers, also has some excellent pitching mechanics.
One things that I really appreciate about Cain's mechanics, is just the simplicity of his motion. Every movement is simple, smooth, but still displays the necessary explosive component for throwing plus speeds. Notice his weight shift at the peak of the leg lift, and also his lower and upper half separation.
Like Lincecum, his load position is questionable because it somewhat resembles an Inverted W. It's not extreme, but you should at least take notice of it.
Make sure that you watch Cain's lead foot. He does an excellent job of keeping the foot slightly closed off during entire motion.
8. Roger Clemens
Despite all the controversy associated with him, there is still no question that Clemens arguably has the most powerful pitching mechanics in baseball. Sorry for the low quality video, but it should be enough to see Clemens mechanics out of the stretch.
One of the most important things to notice, is how effectively Clemens drops the lift leg down and out towards home. This allows him to generate great stride speed and length, which results in superior hip to shoulder separation.
Also, notice his position at the release point. His upper body is completely over the lead leg, and his back is almost flat. This indicates that he is using every ounce of his body to deliver the baseball.
9. Nolan Ryan
A pitching mechanics list wouldn't be complete without the great Nolan Ryan. Ryan was the original king of pitching velocity, and used to be the prototype of "good mechanics".
In today's game, most pitchers avoid the high leg lift because of the potential of disrupting balance throughout the motion. Nolan Ryan was obviously an exception to the rule, and he has even claimed that the high leg lift may have actually allowed him to throw faster. Maybe, but I would say his amazing velocity was the direct result of his powerful legs, and back leg drive. If there is any pitcher to study when it comes to proper back leg action, then Nolan Ryan is the one.
He shifts his weight early, he pushes towards home, not "drops and drives", he has great stride length and hip to shoulder separation, and his follow through is impeccable.
10. Mariano Rivera
Yes, there is no surprise that the greatest closer of all time also has some of the best pitching mechanics. Watch the video below. Mariano Rivera is known for having the nastiest cutter in baseball, but he wouldn't nearly be as successful without his ability to throw plus speeds with the pitch.
Even with older age, Rivera still throws in the low 90s, which is faster than the 89 mph MLB average.
Three things to watch for in Rivera's mechanics:
- Back leg action (pushes towards home, and does not over-collapse the drive knee)
- Very good arm path, which avoid any type of Inverted W, V, or L.
- Lead foot is properly closed at foot strike, hips are completely open, and the upper body is still closed. The perfect formula for velocity.
There are many more current and past MLB pitchers who have excellent mechanics, but these are the ones that stood out to me.
Key pitching mechanics tips
Each pitcher from this list displays several important mechanical characteristics, and you should definitely take note of them.
All of the pitchers have relatively safe arm actions (Lincecum and Cain are potentially problematic). What do I mean? These pitchers avoid leading with the elbows to the cocked position. Instead, each pitcher drops the hands down and up in a circular motion. By doing so, they are avoiding the dangerous Inverted W, which increases the chances of shoulder or elbow injury.
You will also notice that each of these pitchers are driving towards home at the peak of their leg lift. Not a single pitcher from this list has their weight completely over the drive leg at the peak of their lift. This is essential for stride speed, length, and proper hip to shoulder separation. Avoid the "balance point".
I hope this post gave you a better look into which MLB pitchers have good pitching mechanics. Now that you know, you can study each of these pitchers to increase your knowledge and ability.
Keep working hard. No off days. No excuses.
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