The DVS Score, Part 2: The Best Tool For Measuring A Pitcher's Health and Performance Potential

In Part I of this series, we conceptually outlined why Mechanical Efficiency is a pitcher’s first and largest step towards success. Not only is this likely to have the largest impact on the health and performance of a pitcher, but it also happens to be highly malleable, meaning it can be influenced to a large degree. Therefore, if you’re a player, parent, or coach, and are trying to determine the most effective way to maximize the genetic ability present at-hand, focusing on Mechanical Efficiency will give you the largest return on your investment. This not only relates to velocity, but it also satisfies the remaining three essential characteristics that all successful pitchers share: health, consistency, and mental fortitude. If a pitcher focuses on Mechanical Efficiency, they will engrain repeatability, preserve health, tap into their true velocity ceiling, and find success. This process will improve confidence levels, which in turn will lead to a strong mental fortitude. 

However, as we closed Part 1, the looming question remained; if Mechanical Efficiency is the most direct path to a pitcher’s success, and it casts the largest influence on velocity, health, and performance, then how do you quantify it? How do you know where you stand in regards to your full potential? How much more do you have in the tank? Are you creating unnecessary road blocks for yourself, or setting yourself up for an injury? These, among others, are essential questions that every player should ask at some point in time, as they not only open the doors to Mechanical Efficiency, but efficiency within other aspects of your game as well. Not only that, but if you can’t quantify where you currently stand in regards to your overall potential, the process for improvement becomes much more difficult, inefficient, and risky. Thus, back to my current question. How do you know the current amount of Mechanical Efficiency present in your pitching delivery?

MECHANICS QUANTIFIED: THE DVS SCORE

To answer this, I introduce to you the DVS Score. The DVS Score is a single score formulated through the analysis of a pitcher’s throwing motion. It was created through years of study and testing, and has been statistically validated through the rigors of research at predicting a pitcher’s time-to-injury. 

 
 The graph above consists of former MLB pitchers. As you can see in both groups (Starters & Relievers), as DVS Score (x-axis) increases, so does the number of innings pitched (y-axis). Lower DVS Scores are correlated with greater risk of injury, which is why inning totals are lower as DVS Score decreases.   

The graph above consists of former MLB pitchers. As you can see in both groups (Starters & Relievers), as DVS Score (x-axis) increases, so does the number of innings pitched (y-axis). Lower DVS Scores are correlated with greater risk of injury, which is why inning totals are lower as DVS Score decreases.   

 

The DVS Scoring System spans from zero to 24, with each ascending score correlating with greater efficiency and less injury risk. In other words, higher scores indicate greater levels of Mechanical Efficiency and a smaller chance of getting injured, as lower scores reflect less Mechanical Efficiency and greater injury risk. The scoring system is comprised of six different components, with each one corresponding to a specific aspect of the pitching delivery. Each component is scored separately, and the sum of all the components result in a pitcher’s DVS Score.       

 
DVS Score Table
 

Now, before we begin to break down a DVS Score, understand that we won’t be going into any great detail of how each component is scored. It’s too complicated, and frankly, it’s not really important for you to know. The main thing you need to grasp is that scoring is based on the position of the body in space, which is directly related to a pitcher's mindset. More specifically, a pitcher’s movement is a reflection of how that individual is thinking about creating force and energy into the baseball. If this thought process is efficient, force will be created and transferred into movement more efficiently, which will be reflected positively in the overall score. If this process is inefficient, well, you get the picture. Also, in addition to the component categories, we will be breaking things down using the DVS Delivery Phases. This allows us to simplify things even further into four basic phases of the pitching delivery: Acceleration Phase I, Transfer Phase, Acceleration Phase II, and the Deceleration Phase. Often times, it’s easier to look at the bigger picture of movement to tie everything together. 

With that said, here were go. 


ACCELERATION PHASE 1

The creation of initial energy generated by the body, and the timing between the trunk and arm as the pitcher moves into the Transfer Phase of the throw. 

  • Mass & Momentum: Mass & Momentum measures the positioning of the lower extremity as the front foot crosses the lead hip while the body moves down the mound. 
  • Arm Swing: Arm Swing is the path of the throwing arm as it travels out of the glove to the point where the throwing hand extends above the throwing elbow.
  • Posture: Posture relates to the positioning of the head and trunk as the body moves towards the target prior to front foot contact with the ground.

TRANSFER PHASE

The point at which the front foot makes contact with the ground, the lower body stabilizes, and the torso prepares to release the stored energy into Acceleration Phase II.

  • Position at Foot-Strike: Position at Foot Strike is the positioning of the trunk and throwing arm as the lead foot firmly plants into the ground.

 


ACCELERATION PHASE 2

The torso and arm accelerate forward into ball release as the lower body continues to stabilize and anchor into the ground.

  • Path of Arm Acceleration: Path of Arm Acceleration accounts for the path of the arm during the late-cocking phase of the throwing arm into the point of ball release. 

DECELERATION PHASE

After ball release, the torso and arm absorb back into the body, as the lead leg acts as an anchor to support the finish. 

  • Finish: Finish is defined by the transition of the pitcher’s body following release of the baseball into a balanced follow-through position.

As I mentioned before, don’t get too wrapped in the specifics surrounding each component. The main things you need to take away from this overview of the DVS Scoring System is that it’s comprehensive, and each piece works together to paint the larger picture of Mechanical Efficiency. And even though scoring is based on the positions of a pitcher's body, what it’s truly assessing is their mindset and intention related to energy production. If the intent is to create energy with the arm, movement will be inefficient, timing will be altered, and the arm will endure unnecessary turbulence as it’s pulled through the acceleration path. However, if the mindset centers around creating energy with the entire body, movement will likely occur more efficiently, timing will be better, and the arm will experience less stress throughout the throwing motion. In other words, a pitcher that embodies relatively efficient movement within their delivery will maximize their velocity potential, and better maintain the health of their throwing arm. 

Sounds great in theory, right?  Well, one of the true great things about the DVS System is that not only does it make conceptual and statistical sense, but it has been infused into the training regimens of hundreds of baseball pitchers, and the results speak for themselves. Take a look below at the work we did with the pitchers of the United Shore Professional Baseball League in 2016. Not only did five pitchers sign with affiliated organizations, but velocity and health improved across the board. The following chart reflects the average increase in throwing velocity for all pitchers that came through the league in 2016. 

 
 League-wide, pitchers improved average throwing velocity by a little more than 1 mph (86.41 mph to 87.45 mph).

League-wide, pitchers improved average throwing velocity by a little more than 1 mph (86.41 mph to 87.45 mph).

 

If those numbers don’t seem significant to you, keep in mind that this is an average of ALL pitchers. And just like anything else, there were some guys that really dedicated themselves, and some not so much. However, it’s that dedication and time spent within the system that directly correlates to improvement and success. Therefore, let’s take a smaller sample of the guys that never missed a day, and look at their velocity improvement chart. The data will show that this group improved throwing velocity by an average of 2.46 mph, with the greatest gains coming in at nearly 4 mph.

 
 On average, this group improved throwing velocity by approximately 2.46 mph, with certain individuals improving by as much as 4 mph.

On average, this group improved throwing velocity by approximately 2.46 mph, with certain individuals improving by as much as 4 mph.

 

And that’s not even the coolest part. All these gains were made without a single pitcher missing an inning due to injury. Not only did guys maintain health, but many of them significantly reduced their chance of sustaining a throwing related injury as the season went on. This seems odd as one would expect injury risk to increase throughout the season, as various stressors begin to accumulate and take their toll. Nevertheless, below is our range-of-motion (ROM) data taken daily on every pitcher in the league from the start of spring training to the very end. On a side note, if you need to familiarize yourself with ROM, and how it relates to injury risk within the overhead athlete, reading this first will make the following information more impactful. 

 
 On average, pitchers improved their Total Arc Motion Difference by nearly 5 degrees. Pre-Implementation, pitchers' throwing arms were limited by an average of 2.4 degrees; however, Post Implementation, all throwing arms on average were 2.58 degrees greater than non throwing arms. 

On average, pitchers improved their Total Arc Motion Difference by nearly 5 degrees. Pre-Implementation, pitchers' throwing arms were limited by an average of 2.4 degrees; however, Post Implementation, all throwing arms on average were 2.58 degrees greater than non throwing arms. 

 

In other words, players began to express less injurious trends the longer they were saturated within the DVS System. It's never a good sign when your throwing arm starts to limit motion relative to your non-throwing arm. This concept can be further supported by looking at the flexibility improvements made within pitchers' throwing shoulders as the season progressed.

 On average, pitchers in the league improved their throwing shoulder flexibility by 6.5 degrees.

On average, pitchers in the league improved their throwing shoulder flexibility by 6.5 degrees.

Mechanical Efficiency. Comprehensive Throwing and Soreness Protocols. Valid Arm Care Solutions. These are all factors of the DVS System that blend together to achieve the types of results shown above, and are essential for a pitcher to maximize their health and performance potential. Yes, hard work and dedication are important, but they can actually work against you if you aren’t focused on the right things. Work smarter, not harder; therefore, “what you do” is far more important than “how much you do” with this sort of thing, which transitions us nicely into the conclusion of this article. 

Work smarter, not harder; therefore, “what you do” is far more important than “how much you do”...

If in Part 1 we identified Mechanical Efficiency as the predominant driver of a pitchers health, performance, and success, and now, in Part 2, we presented and broke down the greatest tool at measuring such (the DVS Score), the logical progression should lead you to the question, “how can I improve my DVS Score and make my pitching delivery more mechanically efficient”? And it’s safe to say there will be room for improvement. Based on our data, the current DVS Score averages for both the youth and professional populations are 12.4 and 13.4, respectively. To put that into perspective, let’s refer back to the USPBL data we touched on earlier. Not only did guys come in with a DVS Score average of 13.24, which is pretty much spot-on with the current averages, but look at what happened in the group of pitchers that actually applied themselves to the system. When the group DVS Score average improved by a mere 3 points, velocity jumped by an average of 2.46 mph, and the number of players with injurious ROM Risk Factors went from four to zero. That's a pretty powerful return-on-investment for roughly four months of work.

PART 3: IMPROVING A DVS SCORE

Therefore, in the final segment of this series, Part 3, we will offer solutions and answers to the question above, and tackle the topic of improvement. This will provide clarity on how to best improve your DVS Score once you’ve received it, throw and train with greater efficiency, and begin to unlock your health and performance potential as a pitcher. Until then, stay tuned.

- Will Fox