Pitch velocity has become an increasingly popular metric by which pitchers are graded and compared. Training programs that utilize weighted balls have been effective in increasing velocity but at the cost of increased injury risk.
All baseball pitchers who participated in a 15-week pitching mechanic and velocity training program were included. Training program was broken down into three phases, and each participant went through the same program. Lighter balls (4oz and 3oz) and standard baseballs (5oz) were utilized as part of the training program. Weighted (heavier) balls were not used. Velocity was measured at four time points throughout the program. Injury rates for all players were recorded throughout the entire program. The purpose of this study was to determine if a baseball pitcher-training program utilizing lighter baseballs could increase fastball velocity without increasing injury risk. The author’s hypothesized that the training program with lighter baseballs would increase fastball velocity without causing injuries during the training program to the participants.
48 male pitchers aged 10-17 (average age: 14.7 +/- 1.8) years started the program and 44 had complete data and were included in the analysis. No pitcher sustained a baseball-related injury while participating in the training program (one player broke his ankle playing basketball, one player moved, one did not have baseline velocity data, and one experienced biceps soreness after participating in back to back showcases against recommendations). Fastball velocity increased by an average of 4.8mph (95% confidence intervals 4.1 - 5.5mph). Overall 43/44 players (98%) had an increase in fastball velocity over the course of the program.
A 15-week baseball pitcher-training program with lighter baseballs significantly improved pitching velocity without significantly increasing injuries. Lighter baseballs should be considered instead of weighted baseballs when attempting to increase a pitcher’s velocity.