Hitting is undeniably hard. There is no question to that. It is a moving ball with less than .4 seconds to recognize what the pitch is, where it is going to be, and deciding whether you should swing or not. On top of that you actually have to hit it if you do swing. It is one of the hardest things to do in sports. However, I still believe that pitching is harder, and I will explain why.
Physics, Biomechanics, and ground forces are extremely important in baseball. With hitting and pitching, you need to have a few universal truths in order to swing or throw hard. However, I believe pitching mechanics are harder than hitting mechanics. Hitting mechanics are simple. There’s a weight shift, a rotation, getting on plane, and doing it quickly. There are simple steps, one after the other. In order for a hitter to have elite level mechanics, he must start one segment of the body, and then stop it before the next segment of the body should start moving. In pitching, this is not the case. The body does not stop a segment of the body before the next one starts to move. To use an example, a pitchers’ hips must be rotating before his front foot hits the ground. In hitting, the bulk of their hip rotation comes after the front foot hits the ground.
Try this for yourself. Stand up and rotate your hips with one foot in the air, and then do it with both feet firmly planted. With two feet planted, it feels and is more powerful. However, a pitcher has to achieve the same rotational power with one foot in the air. That is a very complex movement to accomplish. The next segment of the mechanical sequencing is already starting before the last one ends. In hitting, you end it before the next segment begins. The former is harder to accomplish. This is a reason why pitching should not be broken down into a 1-2-3 step format. Its movements are too complex for something so simple.
Everyone considers themselves a pitcher. You can even hear the coaches, parents, and other players on the field yelling at a pitcher: Throw Strikes!! Well if it is so easy, then why don’t you do it. Throwing strikes is not an easy feat. If you are a couple millimeters off, then you throw a ball. Four of those and it’s a walk. What if you miss a spot and give up a homerun? That’s a bad thing. Throwing strikes comes down to so many factors that most people never figure it out. If your direction is off, if your hand comes out of your glove differently, if the mound feels weird; things that you would probably never think of matter in a skilled movement and make throwing strikes that much more difficult. I understand it’s frustrating to watch a pitcher throw ball after ball; but a kid so much as growing taller can affect a pitcher’s proprioception and affect their ability to throw strikes. It’s that complex.
Hitters do have to worry about the same problems. But I can still be successful while missing the sweet spot of the ball. I can get a bloop hit. I can walk and get on base. Then I can steal bases. I can also go be a really good fielder and help my team that way. When you pitch and suck, that’s it. You have wasted your opportunity.
As a hitter, whether you have power or not does not matter. A hitter can be a good singles guy. He can be a power guy, or they can be a good doubles guy. Your style of hitting can be different and you can still be successful. Pete Rose and Hank Aaron are completely different hitters, yet no one will dispute their success. Ichiro and Bonds are different. Jeter and Trout. Different styles, different on the power spectrum, yet highly successful.
Pitching is different. “But wait, Clayton Kershaw and Aroldis Chapman throw different speeds and they are successful!” While this is true, Kershaw throws 91-94 and Chapman rarely throws under 100, there is a difference. While in the baseball world, we like to talk about the “finesse” pitcher who throws a lot of strikes like Maddux or Marco Estrada. Yet, they still throw the ball 90+ mph. In fact, Maddux was scouted with an ‘above average’ MLB fastball. He could run it up to 93 mph. So, while the coaches at every level of baseball will tell you and your kids that velocity doesn’t matter and that you can be successful without having to throw hard, that is a complete lie. They will even use Maddux as an example yet completely ignore the fact that your kid throws 81-82 and Maddux threw 90-93. This does a disservice to the youth baseball population but that’s another topic.
Scouts will even acknowledge this fact too. In fact, if you don’t throw at least 90 mph, your chances of becoming a professional baseball pitcher diminish greatly. Go to a high school game and watch the scouts. If the guy is throwing hard, they keep their radar guns out and get video cameras. If he is not, they put the guns away and move on. There is a minimum velocity you have to reach in order to become a professional baseball player. There is not a minimum power metric for hitters to become professional baseball players. And as we talked about before, in order to become an athletic pitcher with elite velocity, you need to have elite mechanics and those are harder to achieve than elite hitting mechanics.
I think the basis for this argument resides in the fact that to become a professional baseball pitcher, there is a minimum power number needed to be achieved. When in hitting there isn’t. If there wasn’t for pitching, this argument might go a different way. Pitching mechanics are harder than hitting mechanics. In order to throw hard, you need to have elite pitching mechanics. In order to become an elite level baseball player, you need to throw hard. I truly believe that becoming an elite level pitcher is harder than becoming and elite level hitter.
Director of Pitching