Throw Me Maybe: The Biomechanics of Carly Rae Jepsen
Is it fair to do a biomechanical pitching analysis of first-pitch hurler Carly Rae Jepsen?
We start with a small sample size of only one pitch. We don't have the best angles from the endless animated GIFs that swept the web. There was no PitchF/X, both because the system is not normally turned on for ceremonial pitches and because the pitch didn't travel far enough to register.
But just look at this:
That pitch, thrown Sunday at a Tampa Bay Rays game, demands the kind of serious biomechanical analysis that major league pitchers get, if only to answer one question: What the bleep happened?
As it turns out, it's a simple issue.
The announcers at the time and her personal catcher, Rays pitcher Matt Moore, said Jepsen was throwing strikes in warm-ups, and an analysis of her delivery shows that it's entirely possible. While I don't have sophisticated biomechanical tools available, this doesn't require more than a basic knowledge of pitching to understand.
Jepsen is throwing the full distance from the top of the mound. It's a bold move, one that most first-pitch throwers avoid.
Her foot placement is a bit questionable, but she appears to have a solid base and good traction. Her stride is short, but not too short and is in line with the delivery. Her arm is into external rotation a bit early, but we're talking about one pitch, not an injury concern over 35 starts.
In the second picture, things still look on track. Her body is coming forward, her knee is over her foot and her torso is just slightly behind the normal "stack" position where foot, knee, glove and chest are all in a vertical line. Her elbow is slightly below the acromial line, with a bit of a head tilt to the "glove" side. This is not ideal, but not hugely problematic.
We see this from another angle in this picture. While it's a better angle for Carly, it's not a better angle for pitching. It's more clear how far down her elbow is below the acromial line and how much weight has already been transferred to the front foot. This picture is the root of the problem that's about to occur.
It's here in this picture, just before release, that we see how the problem is beginning to manifest—and worse, it's amplifying itself.
Because her weight transferred forward, her "push" comes from the back foot and raises her up rather than pushing her forward. Because her elbow was low, it's forced to go up to get to the normal release point. Both her hand and foot are going up rather than forward, which is normally going to result in a looping arc pitch.
Instead, Jepsen does something unexpected and frankly, a bit more kinesthetically aware than she'll get credit for. It's as if she realizes that her body and her release point are going high.
In response, she cocks her wrist, dropping the release point and unintentionally changing the vector of force. It's that simple mistake that results in the ball going down and across her body.
Which results in this look from Carly and universal disdain from a snarky internet.
And let's face it, Jepsen did look pretty cute failing. At least she has that over Cincinnati mayor Mark Mallory, who in my mind still holds the record for worst first pitch ever. Though as you'll see in this article, there are more than a few candidates.
Jepsen's pitch result was bad, but the mechanical flaws are easily correctable. Jepsen needs to have a longer stride to keep her back foot from pushing up. Plus, her elbow needs to be brought up slightly in order to direct the force towards home plate more than up.
So Carly, don't feel so bad. The pitch result was bad, but with a little work, we can have you throwing strikes in no time. Here's my number, call me maybe?
Will Carroll has been studying pitchers for over a decade. He wrote "Saving The Pitcher" in 2004 and has been part of the faculty at the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course twice. He's done similar mechanical analysis for MLB.com. All pictures in this taken directly from this YouTube video.
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