Updated: Mar 29, 2020
Flying open is a common pitching characteristic. Flying open occurs when the torso starts to rotate too early in the pitching delivery. This pitching characteristic is directly related to a pitcher's disassociation or lack thereof. The pitcher should not start rotating from the torso until they reached at least 70% of their stride length. The greatest amount of separation between the upper and lower body should be observed at foot touch and can range from 40-60 degrees (OnBase University). This can vary based on the individual pitcher. This can be accomplished a couple different ways. One is to have a big shoulder turn with a relatively small hip turn. The second is to have a relatively small shoulder turn with a big hip turn. The third is to have a good balance between the two. However, you accomplish this separation does not matter, just that you are able to create it. The picture below of Aroldis Chapman shows what good hip to shoulder separation looks like. In comparison, the pitcher on the right is flying open and the arm is dragging behind.
How can this effect my performance?
Flying open will disrupt the proper sequencing and transfer of energy in the pitching delivery, known as the kinematic sequence. The sequence we are looking for is the lower body to lead, followed by the thorax, followed by the throwing elbow, then the throwing shoulder and finally the ball.
When you fly open, the upper body is dominating the pitching delivery and firing too soon. This will cause a leak in energy transfer which will limit the power and velocity you can produce. The ability to separate the upper and lower body creates a rubber band like effect which can help create speed and is lost when you fly open
Not only is flying open an energy leak, it also can throw off your timing, which hurts control. Often times if you fly open you will be prone to missing high on the arm side. Lastly flying open can put increased stress on the throwing shoulder. When you fly open you are not effectively using the lower half to produce velocity and instead are relying more on the upper body to produce velocity. It also puts the throwing shoulder in an undesirable position
How is this related to the body?
There are several physical limitations which can cause the hands to cast.
1. Limited spine disassociation: the ability to separate the lower body from the upper body allows the player to initiate the pitching delivery with the lower body, while keeping the upper body back. This is best assessed through the pelvic rotation test. A limitation in this test can be due to a lack of hip or spine mobility, poor stability of the torso or poor coordination of the muscles that produce rotation.
2. Limited Trunk Rotation: The ability of your trunk/thorax to rotate and extend is very important for making a proper turn during the wind up and cocking phases. If this motion is limited, then it might be easier for the pitcher to fly open instead.
3. Limited Hip Mobility on either the front or back leg: Good hip mobility is needed to drive and transfer energy effectively to the front hip to allow the lower body to lead in the pitching delivery.
4. Limited Leg strength and power: if the lower body is lacking in strength and power this can cause the upper body to become over active in the pitching delivery. Our strength and power testing protocol can quickly identify how your body's primary power sources and if they are in balance. If the upper body is the dominant power source it is not uncommon to see the upper body dominate the swing or pitching motion.
5. Flying open can also be seen frequently in combination with a short stride.