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Pitchers can throw fastballs because homo erectus evolved for the hunt

Jun 26, 2013, 4:00 PM EDT


I took a lot of physical anthropology in college and several allied primatology courses as well. I actually had more hours in those classes than I did in my major, political science, but because I didn’t take the proper cultural anthropology and archeology courses I couldn’t get the double major. Oh well. Fact remains that the anthro stuff sticks in my head better and informs more of my thinking than any of the poly sci stuff does. Mostly because it’s AWESOME.

So obviously this sort of thing is gonna be right up my alley: a study from Nature about how humans evolved to throw things really, really fast.

“We think that throwing was probably most important early on in terms of hunting behavior, enabling our ancestors to effectively and safely kill big game,” Roach said. “Eating more calorie-rich meat and fat would have allowed our ancestors to grow larger brains and bodies and expand into new regions of the world—all of which helped make us who we are today.”

With the development of spears and bows and guns and all of the other things the need to hurl projectiles became way less necessary. Pitcher’s ability to hurl fastballs, therefore, is nothing but an evolutionary hangover. Well, except for Rob Dibble. He’s still pretty much out there doing the caveman thing I presume.

Anyway, even if this stuff doesn’t interest you, you should read the article for two reasons:

1) There’s a diagram of a chimpanzee throwing a baseball, which would be amazing; and

2) This gif which looks an awful lot like raw video of a right-handed Chris Sale:


  1. Innocent Bystander - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:10 PM

    Questions: Why is Fred planting his front foot? How can he push off the rubber and still deliver the pitch? If there is a runner on base, is there any way he doesn’t balk with this delivery?

    • mybrunoblog - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:13 PM

      Fred only had three toes? Who knew?

    • historiophiliac - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      Answer: Fred’s middle name is Pettitte, and yes, he’s gonna balk.

    • sdelmonte - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      Fred was a terrible stoneball player. His sport was rockball.

      • thomas655 - Jun 27, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        Fred was a hell of a bowler, though.

    • trollingforjustice - Jun 27, 2013 at 2:10 AM

      thats his “twinkletoes flintstone” delivery where his foot rises up and takes the ball from his hand…kinda like an “eephus” pitch

  2. mybrunoblog - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:11 PM

    Ha ha. He said “homo erectus” ha ha.

  3. El Bravo - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:23 PM

    Great article.

  4. tmohr - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    This doesn’t explain Bugs Bunny’s powerful, paralyzing, poifect, pachydoimous, percussion pitch.

    • sdelmonte - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      Bugs is clearly a more highly evolved species: rabbitus superius Americanii.

  5. Old Gator - Jun 26, 2013 at 4:57 PM

    To be honest, it would have been far more useful to have kept our prehensile tails.

  6. gmagic9044 - Jun 26, 2013 at 5:37 PM

    This gets even cooler when you breakdown the mechanical differences between males and females when it comes to throwing a ball.

    Women evolved to be able to throw (rocks, presumably at prey) while holding a baby with their off hand, where as men, usually, didn’t have to hold a child, so are able to get more rotation and momentum using the off arm and greater hip rotation…which, in turn, allows for more speed for the projectile.

    Pretty cool stuff if you are a biomechanic nerd like I am.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Jun 26, 2013 at 5:58 PM

      Couldn’t women use the baby as a counterweight, sort of getting maximum rotation a la the discus throw?

  7. bigmeechy74 - Jun 26, 2013 at 8:24 PM

    Evolved??? What??? I aint’ evolved! I ain’t no monkiey! I was created by gawwdddd!!! My ancestors were a couple named adam and eve! She ate a magic apple given to her by a talking snake! That’s the only science i know! Y’all can just stop with this homo erector stuff!

    • unclemosesgreen - Jun 26, 2013 at 11:03 PM

      I’m gonna go ahead and assume meech is being sarcastic here. One thumb up from Big Unk.

  8. stex52 - Jun 27, 2013 at 11:00 AM

    Actually that gif looks a little less gaunt than Sale does. First time I saw him was when I realized that a scarecrow can pitch.

  9. leftywildcat - Jun 27, 2013 at 12:50 PM

    Slow news day.

    Barney must have walked a lot due to his small strike zone.

    Were the Bedrock Water Buffaloes in a league that allowed or prohibited the DH?


  10. misterj167 - Jun 27, 2013 at 5:54 PM

    Don’t you people realize that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and anthropology, along with geology and evolution and other “sciences” are just hoaxes perpetuated by “scientists” so they can make money off our hard-earned tax dollars? Hard-earned, I tell ya!

    Men throw fastballs because God and Jesus wanted us to, and I don’t care that the Bible conveniently leaves out Jesus’ un-Messiah-like 4.83 ERA in the three seasons he pitched for the Bethlehem Nazarenes in the now-defunct Byzantine League.

    Geez, you might as well believe in sabermetrics and not grit.

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