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The importance of tryouts for all team sports goes without saying. Getting it just right can make or break a team and/or a player’s career trajectory. Yet, the process is fraught with uncertainty. Technology has made the process less of a guessing… wait, sorry, a matter of instincts and a trained eye, but most of those are cost prohibitive for all but top league professional teams.
Recently, a team of researchers from National Taiwan University of Sport and Ithaca College tried to level the playing field, even just a little. Huang et al. investigated whether there is any correlation between physical anthropometric measurements of male pitchers and their performance on the field. In the study, they adopted field tests that used affordable equipment in a tryout event for a professional baseball team in Taiwan, 2019.
Numerous studies have analyzed possible factors that may influence performance such as talent, mechanics, and strength and conditioning. The tests were expensive and often required special settings.
For example, one study investigated predictors of pitching velocity by recruiting participants aged 14.7 ± 2.6 years; the significant predictive factors were age, height, weight, body mass index, shoulder external rotation, and total arc of shoulder rotation, and significant kinematic factors were maximum knee height, stride length, knee flexion, foot angle, lead hip flexion, lateral trunk tilt, and hip–shoulder separation.
Another study conducted a thorough review of factors associated with baseball pitching performance and observed that body weight, age, lateral-to-medial jump, medicine ball scoop, standing long jump, 10-m sprint, and grip strength were significantly associated with pitching velocity.
Huang J.H. et al. opted to forgo kinematic or kinetic parameters due to cost and because many of the measurements tend to be performed in laboratory settings.
Testing took place over a half day and consisted of 64 players. Measurements were used to develop a model for predicting pitching velocity of amateur adult pitchers. Thy included maximum external shoulder rotation, maximum internal shoulder rotation, countermovement jump (CMJ) height, 20-kg loaded CMJ height, 30-m sprint time, height, age, and weight tests. According to the researchers, multiple regression indicated a moderate correlation between these tests and pitching velocity. Among the measures, the ratio of loaded CMJ to CMJ, ratio of first 10-m sprint time to 30-m sprint time, and height were significant contributors to pitching velocity.
Huang noted: “Overall, these measures explained 23% of the variance in the predicted pitching velocity. These field tests can be adopted in tryout events to predict a prospect’s potential and to identify underestimated players. A limitation of this study is that we analyzed only Asian adult male amateur players, and there are only a limited number of tests we can try due to the time limit of the tryout.”
In the end, 8 players were drafted after the tryout. Huang tracked their measurements and field tests for the following year, along with their pitching velocity in order to see how much room there is for players to grow with proper strength and conditioning training (both in range of motion and explosive power). His group found some positive intra-individual correlations between the growth of these measurement results and the pitching velocity.
Citation: Huang JH, Chen S-H, Chiu CH (2022) Correlation of pitching velocity with anthropometric measurements for adult male baseball pitchers in tryout settings. PLoS ONE 17(3): e0265525. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265525