Aztecs right hander Stephen Strasburg lost for the first time this season, as Virginia beat San Diego State 5-1 in an NCAA tournament opener for both teams.
Despite the loss, Strasburg continues to be a shining star in the history of college pitchers. According to Fox News, Strasburg has a fastball that tops 100 miles per hour. Fox reports that the gap between Strasburg and the next best pitching prospect in this year's draft, according to Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus, is "Grand Canyon-esque."
Strasburg, the probable top pick in the Major League draft this month, is among the many pitchers in history at risk of injury, and now science is trying to dissect the mechanics of pitching and identify the best form to prevent injuries.
Glenn Fleisig has studied pitchers and pitching injuries for more than twenty years as the Director of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute in Birmingham, Alabama. His field, biomechanics, is "the application of principles of mechanical engineering to how people move," he said.
After observing that elbow and shoulder surgeries are common for baseball pitchers, Fleisig said, he wanted to "focus on what are the forces on the elbow and shoulder."
Small defects in the throwing motion introduce unnecessary stress, and the cumulative effect of thousands of pitches is significant. Fleisig uses multiple cameras connected to a computer to capture pitchers' motions, measuring variables such as the angle of the arm and the use of legs and hips to generate drive. Proper alignment minimizes stress on the arm.
After setting up the cameras, Fleisig adorns the pitcher with reflective markers, and then records the pitcher's motion, tracking the markers in three dimensions.
Few pitchers have ever thrown routinely at 100 miles per hour and stayed healthy, and it is why Strasburg, who has reportedly thrown as fast as 102 miles per hour this year, is so remarkable. Goldstein said Strasburg's mechanics are not considered "picture perfect, but they are not horrible either."
Once Strasburg fine-tunes his craft during the big leagues, could he potentially throw the fastest fastball of all time? Stay tuned.