Island University Professor Part of Team that Publishes First Comprehensive Study on Baseball Pitching Performance

April 07, 2016

Island University Professor Part of Team that Publishes First Comprehensive Study on Baseball Pitching Performance

With baseball season underway, fans are aware that the sport can also be a rigorous experience for players, in that it requires periodical explosive bursts of energy from its athletes. No one understands this dynamic more than Dr. Frank Spaniol, Professor of Kinesiology at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

Spaniol, along with seven other colleagues across the nation and beyond, knocks it out of the park with a study published in the “Molecular Diversity Preservation International (MDPI) Journal of Sports” titled, “A Description and Comparison of Cardiorespiratory Fitness Measures in Relation to Pitching Performance among Professional Baseball Pitchers.” For more in-depth information on their study, click HERE.

Spaniol and the research group discovered a strong correlation between starting pitchers who were more aerobically fit and their pitching statistics and performance. Athletes who were more fit were observed to have superior pitching performances.

The team found this correlation by focusing on the significance of cardiorespiratory fitness, the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen to skeletal muscles, among pitchers. In one of the world’s first comprehensive studies of its kind, the research group’s analysis included 14 starting pitchers and 10 relief pitchers from a Major League Baseball team between the years 2007-2013. The research group tested the pitchers using a modified Bruce protocol, a maximal exercise test in which athletes voluntarily work to complete exhaustion on a treadmill that alters its speed and incline gradually. Athletes have a limit to how much oxygen they can intake during incremental exercise. The time it takes for athletes to deplete the oxygen they consume is referred to as their maximum oxygen intake.

"Having access to elite Major League Baseball pitchers and an esteemed international research team made this investigation especially rewarding,” said Spaniol. “While we certainly do not suggest that pitchers become marathoners, we did find that starting pitchers with higher aerobic fitness had significantly greater success on the field.”

Spaniol says that the key practical application of this study is that, in addition to training for power and strength, pitchers should work to maintain an adequate balance of aerobic fitness.

The team’s investigation has determined maximum oxygen intake plays a significant role in analyzing an athlete’s body to continuously transport oxygen throughout the body for extended periods of time, critical for athletes who work through extended and strenuous exercise through practices or games. 

Spaniol was part of an international research team which included Javair S. Gillett, the Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the Houston Rockets; J. Jay Dawes from the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs; Matthew R. Rhea and Derek J. Bunker from A.T. Stills University; Joe P. Rogowski from the Athletic Heart Research Institute; Mitchel A. Magrini from Oklahoma State University; and Roberto Simao from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.