After failing to get on the mound in 2019 while recovering from Tommy John surgery, Shohei Ohtani gave a sneak peek at a new throwing motion during Spring Training.
Shohei Ohtani completed the bulk of his Tommy John surgery rehab in December and was ready to return to the pitching rubber as the Angels ace by mid-May had the season not been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Before Spring Training was shutdown, he was seen throwing off a mound several times in Tempe (once in the rain, no less). A Japanese sports show captured footage of these sessions and noticed something different in his throwing motion.
The Japanese expert featured on the show points out how Ohtani’s right elbow is in a lower position in 2020 than it was in 2018. The expert’s analysis was translated to English for Halo Hangout by a Twitter account (@shoheisaveus) dedicated to the Japanese star.
As explained in the video, where you can see the difference as clear as day, Ohtani’s elbow angle in 2018 exerted tension on his elbow and shoulder because it put his arm behind his body when he turned toward the plate to follow through on his pitch. His arm and body were essentially fighting against each other; the poor mechanics leading to stress on his elbow.
In 2018, Ohtani’s elbow and forearm almost come to a right angle, with the baseball held perpendicular to his elbow before the pinnacle of his release. Watching Ohtani closely this past March and you notice how he grips the ball higher throughout his wind-up, bringing the baseball above his elbow before release, which results in a lower elbow angle preceding his throw. Again, the idea is for the new form to alleviate tension on his key joints.
With baseball unlikely to return to normal activities before June, Ohtani will have plenty of time to perfect his new mechanics. A shorter season should help the Angels in giving their ace more time to heal. It will be interesting to see if he uses this new motion during the season.