Cross pollination 'tween golf and baseball

Let’s see.
Perhaps the best place to start is intent. When a baseball pitcher seperates himself / herself from the pack, one the key moments is learning how to stick the bird finger in the catcher’s eye (at least that’s the version sanitized for polite company).

For 99 per cent of all ball throwers, the last point of contact between the body and the ball is the junction of the fingernail and skin on the bird finger of the throwing hand. That pressure point is the equivalent of P3 in golf, the first joint of the index finger.

Anyone can learn to throw a ball well enough. Getting it to your teamate, somewhere around their chest area, does the job 99 per cent of the time.

But if you want to max out precision, you have to change your intent (sound familiar?).

A pitcher has the intent of poking the target with his/her bird finger. Very often, this target is the catcher’s eye. So, quite literally, the pitcher is trying to poke the catcher in the eye. Obviously impossible, given the 60 foot gap between them.

While other dynamics are involved, the “intent” of trying to poke the catcher’s eye more or less forces the pitcher’s hand into the proper motion to efficiently harvest the energy of leg drive, torso and shoulder turn, and put maximum lag pressure on the throwing elbow (again, sound familiar?)

Another parallel between golf and baseball is the optical illusion effect; in golf, few of us ever “see” the golf swing plane properly, 'cause, as Tyrone so correctly commented, “it was a funny angle”. This is a part of golf that continues to flumoxe me, but knowing it’s there has made a world of difference.

In baseball, we have the two seam fastball. Some folks say these balls rise. No, they SWEAR the ball rises. And I have to admit, if you are catching a dude who throws a really good one, it REALLY does appear to rise. But it doesn’t. It just doesn’t fall as fast.

It’s no different than one of my PW shots vs. a PW shot from a good shooter, the backspin rate is way higher. The Ken Venturi affect in all its glory.

Another element is release point. Only the best of the best ever bring it “straight over the top”. Everyone else drops to 3/4. And, lo and behold, the motion that ABS supports and the pitching arm of a person throwing 3/4 are WAY more similar than they are different.

Note that for outfielders, none of that mattered: If you didn’t come 100 per cent over the top, you could never throw the ball well enough to field your position properly.

And for a nod to our international readers, the last paragraph more or less describes the difference between a baseball pitcher and a cricket bowler: A dominant bowler might not be able to throw strikes, but whoo-ee, I bet not even Ricky Henderson would ever try to stretch a double into a single if they were in right field.

Oops, almost forgot the key piece: the position of the non-pitching hand. Anyone who threw a heavy ball invariably had it tucked right up tight to the pectoral muscle on the non throwing arm.

Anyway, I toss this out there not to bore you with baseball (a sport which a former boss once described as “a non addictive substitute for sleeping pills”) but rather to show how the elements I’ve discovered in ABS can be found in other sports, and thus have achieved marked credibility in my books. Not that Lag needs the props, he already knows what he knows.

And also to provide a toothing stone, as it were, for other athletes who, like me, did well at, if not mastered, other sports, but struggled at golf.

BTW, the baseball throw metaphore in 5 Lessons never really gelled for me. I’ve seen litterally millions of throws from 6-3, and not sure one ever looked (or more importanlty, felt) like that. I suspect if Grantland Rice had ghosted the book, they would picked a different way to say it… .

And all that to say, well, that concept of accellerating past the ball held water in baseball, and there is no reason to think any different in golf.

Again, thanks for reading.

Nice one. Enjoyed it.

This has interested me since I watched a video, made for kids, a decade ago on pitching mechanics. What do you think is the importance of this? Is it to get as much mass as close too the center of rotation as possible, and somewhat opposite the throwing arm?

I look forward to your lightbulbs related to pitching when you hit Module 2.

Fantastic! Thanks for sharing, Hawg1. The application of pressure all the way to the end makes so much sense- great stuff. Going all the way out to the end of the longest finger is kind of like a full foot stride in running or jumping that utilizes the full length of the foot all the way to the end of the big toe. And it’s all there in golf too. Man, I love this kind of stuff.
I also have the same question as Eagle. I can see in golf how key the left shoulder area is during acceleration(for righties) but the tucked glove has always intrigued me as to the why of it. I was watching Curt Schilling do an analysis of Stephen Strasburg’s action on ESPN(post injury- such a sad story btw… fingers crossed for that!) and he was talking about how he could improve his mechanics by getting the glove tucked in tighter. I suppose I can see the tighter radius idea in there somewhere, but it seems like there’s more to it.

The tucked in glove helps with rotation, but not in a way that is immediately obvious.

For this discussion, we will limit the topic to the pitcher, but it’s the same for all other positions, but not as critical.

The throw can be roughly divided into a windup phase and a delivery phase. During the windup phase, the pitcher wants his non-throwing arm to be as far from his body as possible. I have that classic picture of Sandy Koufax in mind, arms out like an iron cross, support leg bent, balance leg just off the ground, beginning his leg kick… .

When the arm is extended like this, and the body rotates, it puts maximum load on the muscles required to move it. As the body changes direction of rotation, pulling the arm back in recaptures that energy, and dumps it into rotational speed.

I’ve done a couple of reps of throwing motion just now, and the best description that pops to mind is (I’m throwing RH) is I start by reaching my left hand at the catcher’s mitt, grabbing in, then pulling it under my armpit. Simultaneously my core rotates, and I throw the ball at target.

You will throw A LOT harder this way, actively pumping the non-throwing vs. leaving the arm just tucked up tight.or worse, dangling down by your waist somewhere. In physics terms, you are dynamically changing your polar moment of inertia, and that is a really efficient way to accelerate rotary motion.

Hope that helps,

When I hit a forehand in tennis I make a similar move. I point my left hand and arm outstretched toward the oncoming ball. I’ve always done this move to help me get into position but following this thread I now realize that it also ensures a more powerful turn through the ball.

What is the function of the throwing arm in baseball? Is it just for “energy transfer” into the hands and therefor more acting as a “whiplike” instrument or does it take an active role in energy creation?
From watching slow motion studies i would say the first one?

Hawg1…a belated welcome to ABS land. Enjoying your comments.

Have seen those “tucked and coiled arms” before but never gave it much thought. I can visualize your throwing description with great acuity. It seems like the lead arm pulling inward from the catchers mit is a CP property and effective in increasing core speed. For rotary pivot speed it may be the equivalent of instead of the body turning into the arm, the arm finds the body. Good stuff, thanks for sharing. :slight_smile: RR


The arm is actively involved in energy creation. You “can” throw a ball with the arm just acting as a whip, but it won’t go very far, or very straight, either.

While the ideal motion for max power in a throw can be described as “trying to throw your arm off your body” one has to add the energy from the muscles in the arm itself to get there.

When throwing a fastball, the humerous is undergoing pronounced external rotation (using that amorphous area kown as the rotator cuff, wich isn’t an acutal muscle itself, but rather a concept to describe the combined dynamic action of four distinct muscles), and the wrist flexors are working hard as well.

When throwing a curveball, all of the above is true, plus the action of the forarm’s pronator muscles, plus the action of the big meaty muscle under your thumb. And the flexor muscles in your fingers.

And when donde correctly a baseball throw creates trememdous lag pressure on the throwing elbow. So much that many professional pitchers have a tendon from their non throwing arm removed, then wraped around radial-humeral joint in the throwing arm’s elbow (the infamous Tommy John surgery) as a reenforcement.


Cheers Hawg1… very interesting. It’s like the push and pull of a punch or a good golf swing, or anything for that matter…
Thanks for the thorough analysis…


Got a quesstion about power and pitching. This also may apply to tennis serve as I noticed it a little watching the US Open, and also Bom’s post on another thread showing Andy Roddick, talking about power.

How much power comes from the pitcher bending forward, or flexing, as he throws? This is in addition to his rotation of course.

In tennis, some of the servers have a rather marked bending backwards as they toss, then bend forward as they rotate using their lower bodies for power as Roddick pointed out.

Not much is said about this action in golf, because it is sort of camouflaged. However, I think all ABS’ers would agree with Roddick’s lower body comments.

While any motion that causes the shoulder to move toward the target will add power, the amount is not appreciable. In other words, no one ever bitches about a sore gut after firing in 25 smokin’ hot fastballs in a row.

Yes, core muscle strength matters, but in a the baseball world, it’s more to keep the upper body stable, keeping the release point as precise as possible.

The real power source is the right leg for a right handed thrower; if you don’t get the leg drive down pat, everything else is moot.

A good example of this are the throws from the short stop and third baseman; any little league coach (or any coach, for that matter) will attest to how hard it can be to break the habit of the shuffle step before throwing. Good ball players instinctively know they need to work in a step, and shuffling is a way to do it. Trouble is,the time needed to pull it off is not made up by the extra mustard you get on the ball. It’s a truly nasty habit to break, cause it’s not really a habit, but a vestige of a sound principle.

It’s a little different in tennis, the substantially longer lever arm, and the lack of a hyper solid fulcrum (the pitching rubber) dictate a different move. But it is instructional no note how far into the court those guys get, they really are throwing themselves at the ball, and to do that, they need leg drive.

I bet if you were to give a top tennis player the equivalent of a pitching rubber to push against, they could get a 20 or 30 per cent gain in their top speed serves. Which would make them all but un-returnable.


If you want to compare a pitcher’s motion to a golfer’s, I think the best model would be the sidearm motion. The plane is closer to the golf swing. Here’s probably the best sidearm pitcher of all time, Walter Johnson. When I make my best move towards the ball in my golf swing, I feel this side arm motion.



Props to you for the pix of Walter Johnson. While he lived in the days before jugs guns, he is generally considered to be the person who has thrown baseballs faster than anyone else in living history.

It’s interesting that folks can feel the sidearm motion when they have a golf swing. This topic has been a topic of many 19th hole jaw-waggin’ sessions. I’ve tried for years to feel a golf swing that feels like a sidearm pitch. And while I’m not Walter Johnson or The Quiz, I can assure you I could bring a sidearm fastball with speeds approaching 90 mph. Ya just can’t do that with bad mechanics.

However, that was before I ran across a video that has me drilling with rolling my hands that far open (mod1). Knowin’ that it’ ok, or in fact desirable, to get one’s hands that far behind ya on the golf swing is kinda wild.

I’m gettin’ the sense this is where the journey is headed. Have to say, I’ve never “got” Hogan’s reference to a baseball sidarm throw in five lessons. Guessin’ maybe in a few thousands reps and a couple of modules form now, might not have the same opinion, or more importantly, feeling.

BTW, I watched a few innings of the provincial little league championships today. Looking at the batters through ABS eyes was enlightening, to say the least. Hands are tight to the torso, the big muscles make the swing turn, it really does look like a stick bolted onto the hip… .

Again, thanks for postin’ a vid of Walter Johnson.


Today is Hawg’s turn to eat crow.

I’ve always had a bit of an issue with the sidearm baseball throw motion describing the motion of the trailing right arm in a golf swing described in Hogan’s Five Lessons.

I’ve spent hours contorted in front of a mirror. I’ve thrown nine irons in empty lots. I’ve shared beers with fellow players who were equally flumoxed, spending countless hours on the 19th hole, jaw waggin’ about it, and trying to get a feel for, what was going on here.

I’d come to the conclusion that Mr Hogan, while the greatest ball striker ever, might not necessarily have been that hot a baseball player. Sure, he’d probably seen a few ball games, and who knows, he mighta shared some quality time with Joltin’ Joe. Certainly the pair of Hogan and Wind had access to the best copy editors, fact checkers, proof readers and general “folks who know dere biddness” that money could buy.

But until today, I’d always felt that whole “golfers-right-arm-action-as-baseball-sidearm-throw” parallel was more of Hogan describing appealing to the cultural literacy of the (North) American reading public and less a construct capable of conveying meaningful sensory feedback. And given what I’d read about Mr. Hogan’s gamesmanship, it seemed that perhaps he was building in a bit of camouflage.

Nothing like puttin’ one’s ignorance squarely on display, eh?

I’ve just spent 20 minutes with a ball and a wall, getting the sound of the tick-boom of the wall - floor contact just right (it’s a feel thing).

I was throwing sidearm on purpose, to feel THE EXACT SAME sensation I felt today on the golf course when I stumbled across striking a golf ball with a true hitting strike.

When you throw sidearm, you swing the ball WAY behind you. Ridiculously out of position. But it’s a counterbalance, a dynamic one.

Imagine a plane running between batter and pitcher. The plane passed through the pitchers left and right hips. If the pitcher wore striped-seam pants (like a police or military dress uniform), and stood at attention, the stripes would be on that plane.

When you throw overhand or 3/4, your throwing hand might cross that plane a little. But as a rule, you don’t.

When you throw sidearm, you stick the ball WAY past the plane, as deep as your elbow, or even more if your nickname is Eck or The Quiz.

In other words, your throwing arm, at the key point in the motion, is sticking more or less straight back behind you (or at least as far as your SITS muscles will let it go.)

Before today, I’d never felt my arm in a similar postion with a golf club in my hand.

Wanna feel it yourself?

Line up on your Mod 1 drill. Go to your end postion. With your mind’s eye, project the line of the club shaft rearward to infinity. Now swing your ARMS so the the club does not come off that line. If you are true to form, when you run out of range of motion, your right hand will be in pretty much the same spot as it would be if you were throwing a decent side arm pitch.

And your move back to the golf ball is awefull close to a pitcher throwing a knee high strike.

We’ve all read in these forums how far behind our hands have to get in an effective golf swing. I never really, truly believed it before today.

Here’s hopin’ that these few words might help other golfers reach the same conclusion.

And remember, if you are in a swinging protocol, your golfing arm feel will never come close to what Hogan described it would.


Greeting from spudland.

Was readin’ through the archives and found this quote from Lag:

Let’s see. No one would pitch. Not even bene popin’ psychos. The game would require a mechanical pitcher, a la Iron Byron, and then it wouldn’t be baseball anymore.

Baseball will be the last bastion of wooden equipment. Baseball bat trees (White Ash, with the grain running straight from an old growth forrest) are a finite resource. While they will likely switch to some sort of ceramic / aramid composite, professional baseball will NEVER, EVER, EVER allow aluminum / titanium / magnesium bats. Not ever, ever ever.

Now, before anyone gets their panties in a twist, reread that sentence, and underline the word professional. We know the difference between a good amature golfer and a tour pro is difference between chalk and cheeze. The gap is even bigger in baseball, perhaps the biggest gap between the top rung and almost top in all of sport.

Aluminum bats have largely replaced wood in all levels of baseball, other than pro. Their advantages greatly counterbalance their drawbacks.

But at the pro level? Never wuz, never will.

It all comes down to potassium.

There is an upper limit on homo sapiens’s reaction time, even for the one-in-a-billion freaks. In baseball, the time it takes the ball to travel from the pitcher’s hand to the batter’s bat is just within that limit (for argument’s sake, a scosh less than 1/10 second).

The variable that ultimately determines that reaction time is how quickly potassium can shed / gain an electron, and thus depolarize an axon.

So, unless we change our brain chemistry to use another element to transmit nerve impulses, our limit is our limit.

Now back to wood bats. At the top major league level, there is just enough energy dissipation so that a ball hit squarely back at a pitcher stays under that magic number, and that pitcher has just enough time to get his hand up to catch the ball or otherwise protect his / her self.

With a metall bat, way more energy is conserved, and the ball comes off the bat just too damn fast. The pitcher would see the ball come off the bat, move his hand to cover, and CRUNCH, get hit anyway.

It’s also interesting to note that modern baseballs are pretty much unchanged from the days when golfers were using a featherie ball. A few yards of balled up yarn, about a square foot of horsehide, and 108 red stiches… .

As for bigger ball parks? Yeah, that would be absolutely required. Waaaayy bigger parks.

Baseball is nothing if not steeped in lore, and one of the real benchmarks was that no one, not Ruth, not Canseco, not Moe Vaughn, not Manny, not Cecil, not even the Say Hey Kid himself ever hit one outa the old Yankee Stadium.

Mark McGuire once said he could have done it, if he were allowed to use the bats he used in college (Note, as a pro, he did hit one outa Tiger stadium. He knew of what he spoke).

Now to bring some scale back in: In most fields, a ball struck 410 feet will be a home run. That’s only 130 yards, give or take. A monster shot, along the lines of the one Mr. McGuire belted onto Trumbull Street, might go 160 yards.

Seriously, when most of us hit a solid five iron or better, we will hit the ball significantly farther than any baseball player, anywhere, ever has. Or likely ever will.

In that sense, Baseball has it ALL OVER golf; Hitting to a .300 average (roughly the baseball eqivalent of shooting par) means as much today as it did in
1869 when the Cincinnati Red Stockings first strode onto their field of dreams.

It really is a crying shame that the R & A and the USGA caved, no doubt there were similar pressures brought to bear in baseball (the concept of a tuned flex titanium bat comes to mind, with the argument that more home runs would put more bums in seats, and more eyeballs on t.v. screens, and thus more bux in everyone’s pockets) but the evidence shows their advances were not well recieved.

Who knows? Maybe in a few years, when folks that care realize their achievements don’t really measure up (what year does the asterix come on for golf scores, about 1992 or so?) will rejig the rules.

If Tiger compares notes with Jack (do they ever talk?) does Jack not look at Tiger’s numbers and think “what would you have done playing a real man’s ball?”

While this likely means nothing to joe golfer, pros who’ve used hot rod balls and Aero-space derived clubs will eventually take the long view (sorry kids, if 45 isn’t a birthday you’ve had, then you simply will not grok it.) and when they do, I’ve gotta think more than a few of them will feel cheated, and maybe will place pressure to reform on the powers that be, if not for them, for their kidz … .

or, if you skiped right to last graph: baseball with the equivalent tech changes in golf would likely be an entertaining sport to watch, but it most certainly would not be baseball.



Thanks for the interesting info regarding any moves away from traditional bat material. Makes a lot of sense.

With all the discussion about the “state of the game” and monster-headed, light-weight titanium drivers, I don’t think the initial move away from persimmon was done with distance gains in mind. I’m under the impression it was more about economics and the increasing cost (and decreasing availability) of persimmon. Sounds like baseball is facing a similar fork-in-the-road with white ash.

I’m trying to think back to the performance of the first metal wood I used…a TM “Burner” with the cool-looking “Twist Flex” graphite shaft. They didn’t seem to be much longer than persimmon (my recollection… it’s been a while) and between graphite shafts and ball improvements that were happening then I don’t think we’ll ever know just how much the head material contributed to any distance gains that were achieved. That was over 20 years ago and of course we’ve seen what’s happened since.

Not to get too off-topic, but are all the shatterred bat incidents we see (and they can be ugly… ref the Cub player a week ago) the result of pitches that hit the bat too close to the hands or are some simply poor quality wood? I wonder if “Adirondack” has as many engineers on staff as Taylormade does. :slight_smile:



Sadly, It’s the latter. The incident you speak of has sent more than a few ripples through the baseball pond. Expect a rule change, sooner rather than later.

TV-Grade Baseball has indeed hit the fork in the road. They’ve tried to use maple as a substitute for ash, as wikipedia tells us; “The first player to use [a maple bat] was Joe Carter of the Toronto Blue Jays. Barry Bonds used the bats the season that he broke Mark McGwire’s single-season home run record in 2001 and Hank Aaron’s career home run record in 2007”

If ya use “perfect” maple, it’s not a problem. But this being the real world and all, bats made with almost perfect conditions are also shipped. You can’t really tell the difference until it’s too late. It’s all about grain structure, and shear planes and lotsa stuff near and dear to the engineering types.

All of the knocks on maple bats are true. Maple is a wonderful wood, but it’s not your first choice for the dynamics involved in baseball. Just like we don’t see too many hardwood floors or bowling alleys made with ash.

Twenty years ago, to “saw off” a bat in the hitter’s hands was a testament to a picher’s skill. Fifty years ago, a sawed off bat meant the bat boy had dropped your gear down the club house steps and didn’t bother tellin ya about it. One hundred years ago, a sawed off bat mean just that, someone had gone after it with a saw.

Today, well, bats break 'cause ya look at em funny. Well, maybe not, but darn close.

As for the wood supply, well, yeah, persimmon is getting harder to find. But it would be easy for club manufacturers to reproduce the same response in metal woods as persimmon. (Note, this is the a where baseball differs from golf; it’s all but impossible to detune a metal bat down to wood levels, otherwise they woulda gone that route 30 years ago).

Anyway, thanks for readin’.

This one popped into my head while trying to figure out why I can hit a tee ball flush EVERY time with a baseball bat and wiff like crazy on that “drive a golf ball from your knees” drill.

In baseball, there is no equivalent to golf’s “opening the club face.” None at all.

Probably the first thing a young hitter hears when a coach hands him / her a bat is “keep the trademark pointing at your face. That way you’ll hit the ball with the strongest part of the bat.”

You strive to keep this alignment; It’s the first thing ya check when ya take your stance. And the last thing ya feel before ya pull the trigger on a swing.

The alignment doesn’t change. At all. Ever.

But in golf, that aligment changes a full 90 degrees.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but when experts do their Mod1 work, they get the club face parallel to the floor, or looking up at the sky. Or rolled all the way open, However you wanna phrase it, it means you are maximizing the range of motion of forarm pronation / supination.

But try that just once in baseball.

As you load your backswing, rotate the trademark backwards (away from your face, toward the catcher) 90 degrees. It’s the same motion as opening the golf club face.

The hitting coach will be all over ya. You would be corrected out of it instantly. Your hands would look “All Wrong”.

The opposing pitcher would salivate. You are now a strike-out waiting to happen. If I was catchin’, and noticed you do that, I’d be callin’ for pitches right down mainstreet, cause you would never, ever touch em. Gimme a K, gimme another K, K K.

In golf terms, a baseball batter keeps the clubface closed at all costs. Always.

While these feelings might be unique to my journey in the golf world, somethin tells me they are not. Lotsa good baseball hitters struggle with golf.

And I’m kinda guessin’ this might be one of the reasons why.

First of all, thanks for sharing. Really enjoy your posts, keep `em coming :stuck_out_tongue:
I have little experience with baseball (other than some softball matches in college) so hope you won’t mind dumbing it down for me. Can you explain why they’d need to keep the bat ‘closed’ in order to be able to hit the ball?


Sure, no problem.

Imagine a baseball bat, lying flat on a table. Spin it round so the trademark is pointing straight up toward the sky. Then take a good solid grip, you really can’t over do it.

Now cock your wrists up, so the bat is pointing straight up, like a mast, or a flag pole. At this point, the bat’s trademark is staring ya right in the face.

Now rotate just your torso and shoulders, so your back is pointing more or less at the pitcher, you are looking at him over your lead shoulder, and your hands are more or less hidden from his view behind your trailing shoulder.

Most importantly, the bat’s trademark is now pointing more or less at your trailing side ear.

If you were to now incorporate the golf move we learn in mod1, you would rotate the bat another 1/4 turn or so, such that the trademark is now facing a guy standing behind you, and not your trailing-side ear.

If that’s your starting position for a baseball swing, you will wiff every time. Your swing will have a hitch; as you come into the impact zone, the rotation of your forarms will force the barrel to jump. Truly, an Epic Fail.

Of course, you could groove it with enough practice, but why would ya? Adding logitudinal torque to the bat (in aircraft terms, forcing it into a roll) doesn’t put appreciabley more energy into the bat /ball impact. And it has a stunningly bad downside.

Adding that torque, however, makes (as I’m slowly learning) a huge difference in golf; the club head is itself a lever arm, relative to the longitudinaly rotating shaft, and thus we can really go to town twistin’ on it.

Hope that helps