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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/18/17

I've been crushing audiobooks, print books, and DVDs of late, so it's generated some good material for these weekly installments.

Certified Program Design Specialist Course - Robert Dos Remedios just released this course, and I'm working my way through it right now. Program Design is this huge "hole" in industry education; it's so incredibly complex to teach that I'm impressed that Dos even tried to tackle the project! I've enjoyed what I've seen thus far, and this could be a great resource for up-and-coming coaches. It's $100 off this week as an introductory discount.

Smart Baseball - I really enjoyed Keith Law's new book, as it delved heavily into the world of advanced statistics in baseball. If you're a casual observer to the sabermetric world, this would be a good read for getting up to speed - and it'll help you watch baseball through a different lens.

The Quadruped Rock-Back Test: RIP - Doug Kechijian just published this article that asserts that this classic test probably doesn't hold as much merit for predicting squatting success as one might think.

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How to Make the Most of Your Lat Stretches (Video)

I have a love/hate relationship with the lats. On one hand, you need strong lats for all sorts of athletic endeavors, from throwing to sprinting. On the other hand, if they're too overactive, a host of different injuries/conditions can result. With that in mind, preserving full latissimus dorsi length is important, and that's why we incorporate a lot of stretches on this front. It's important that those stretches are done correctly, though, and in today's video, I want to discuss one big mistake we commonly see in this regard.

Speaking of upper body work, I'll be delving into it in a lot more detail at two upcoming shoulder courses. One is in NYC, and the other is near Washington, DC. You can learn more at the following links:

NYC - August 20

DC - September 27

Hope to see you at one of these events!

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Random Thoughts on Sports Performance Training – Installment 29

I didn't get in a May installment of this series, but the good news is that it gave me two months to gather my thoughts for a big June! Here goes...

1. Athleticism is doesn't have to be max effort if you have a strength and power "reserve."

Cressey Sports Performance athlete Logan Morrison is currently second in Major League Baseball in homeruns. I came across this video of #22 on Twitter and it immediately got me thinking:

Hitting bombs in the big leagues - particularly on 95mph sinkers - is really challenging, but that looked absurdly easy. He put some force into the ground, got himself in a good position to succeed, and athleticism "happened."

The only reason this is possible is that he's developed a strength and power "reserve." LoMo is strong - and more importantly, he's a powerful dude. When he throws a medicine ball, in many cases, the entire gym stops and watches because it sounds like he's going to knock the wall down. When you've got a foundation of strength and know how to use it quickly, this kind of easy athleticism happens. It does not, however, happen if you're a) weak or b) strong and not powerful. I'd call LoMo a nice blend on the absolute strength-to-speed continuum.

2. If you're struggling to feel external rotation exercises in the right place, try this quick and easy fix.

One of the reason some throwers struggle to "keep the biceps" quiet during external rotation drills is that they start too close to the end-range for external rotation. A quick strategy to improve this is to simply build a little success in a more internally rotated position. This video goes into more depth:

3. Be cautiously optimistic with new surgical advances.

On a pretty regular basis, we hear about remarkable sports medicine breakthroughs that will revolutionize the way we prevent and treat both acute and chronic diseases and injuries/conditions. Unfortunately, they usually don't live up to the hype. Most of the time, we're talking about a "miracle" supplement or drug, but sometimes, we have to ponder the benefits of a new surgical procedure.

In the mid 1990s, the thermal capsulorrhaphy procedure was introduced to attempt to treat shoulder instability. It gained some momentum in the few years that followed, but the outcomes didn't match the hype in spite of the fact that the initial theory seemed decent (heat can shorten capsular tissues, which would theoretically increase shoulder stability). Failure rates were just too high.

Conversely, in 1974, Dr. Frank Jobe revolutionized the way elbow pain was treated in baseball pitchers - and saved a lot of careers - when he performed the first successful ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction (better known as Tommy John Surgery). More than 1/4 of MLB pitchers have had Tommy John, so you could say that this procedure revolutionized sports medicine even though it's taken decades to fine-tune it.

More recently, a new surgery - the UCL repair with internal brace -  has been gaining some steam as an alternative to Tommy John surgery. The initial results have been very promising, particularly in situations where the patient is a good match (depending on age, activity level, and location and extent of the UCL tear). I've actually seen two of these surgeries in the past week myself. One pitcher (Seth Maness) was able to successfully return to the Major Leagues after having it - but we still have a long way to go to determine if it might someday dramatically reduce the number of Tommy John surgeries that take place. Why? 

Right now, we only have statistics on a limited number of these cases, and they're usually in the high school and college realms. All that is reported on is return to previous level of competition (e.g., varsity baseball). We don't know whether a kid that has it at age 16 is still thriving with a healthy elbow at age 22 during his senior year of college.

Additionally, Seth Maness has really been an 88-90mph pitcher throughout his MLB career. We don't know if this same level of success will be seen with 95-100mph flamethrowers. 

Dr. Jeffrey Dugas has become known as "the guy" when it comes to these procedures, and I loved the fact that he reiterated "cautious optimism" in his webinar at the American Sports Medicine Institute Injuries in Baseball course earlier this year. If this gets rolled out too quickly and in the wrong populations, the failure rate could be significantly higher and give an otherwise effective surgery a bad name.  I think it's important for all of us to stay on top of sports medicine research to make sure we don't miss out on these advancements, but also so that we know to be informed consumers so that we don't jump behind new innovations without having all the information we need.

Speaking of the ASMI Injuries in Baseball Course, it's on sale for $100 off through this Sunday, June 24, at midnight. I've enjoyed going through this collection of webinars, and I'm sure you will, too. You can check it out HERE.

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Not-So-Simple Sports Medicine Solutions

Earlier this week, MLB.com writer Lindsay Berra published a new installment in her series on common injuries in professional baseball. This time, she covered the topic of hamstrings strains, and even interviewed Cressey Sports Performance - Florida co-founder Shane Rye for the piece. You can give it a read here.

As a brief background, hamstrings injuries in MLB are already well ahead of 2016 pace, and this article goes into some detail on why these injuries have been so challenging in MLB over the years. The article cites a few reasons:

a) the nature of baseball (stand around for a while, then have to sprint full-bore without a re-warm-up)

b) poor strength and conditioning practices (e.g., lifting too much to the exclusion of actual sprinting and mobility work)

c) muscular imbalances (e.g., poor glute recruitment, quad/hamstrings imbalances, etc)

I'd also add previous injuries as a big risk factor. Many times, it's one player who is reinjuring the same old hamstrings injury to "inflate" league-wide numbers. 

For a while, the solution was to get the hamstrings stronger relative to the quads. Then the answer was to bring an underactive synergist (gluteus maximus) up to par. And, lately everyone has jumped on board the Nordic hamstrings curl bandwagon; they apparently not only help prevent hamstrings strains, but cure cancer, acne, and hemorrhoids - and will even make girls like you. I joke, but it's actually a perfect lead-in to the next point: sports medicine doesn't have a perfect answer to the hamstrings problem in baseball.

Luckily, as with everything in life, the internet has all the solutions. Monday Morning Quarterbacks abound, and all these doctors, rehabilitation specialists, and strength and conditioning professionals really could have just gotten the billion-dollar solution they needed on Twitter.

As an example, when I linked to the aforementioned article on Twitter the other day, one reply was particularly entertaining: 

"Simple fix already seen especially in female soccer training. With the 'best' sports med docs in pro sports crazy it hasn't been corrected."

This response couldn't be further from the truth.

First, comparing males and females is an issue in itself. Females have far more joint laxity, so they're significantly less likely to have "tight" hamstrings (for a variety of reasons) that could potentially be injured. Moreover, male athletes are stronger and more powerful than females, so there are gender-specific differences in the actual forces experienced. The faster you are, the more likely you are to pull a hammy. This is also why we see far more hamstrings strains in baseball than we do in softball even if they're both equally "far behind" in prevention strategies.

Second, soccer and baseball couldn't be more different. Soccer is continuous play for 90 minutes, and as I recall, the average midfielder covers approximately seven miles per game. Baseball games might last four hours, and a player might not cover seven miles in an entire month - and all of it is done at a high percentage of maximum speed. They stand or sit around, and then are expected to sprint full-tilt without much warning. Improving work capacity in soccer players can definitely reduce the risk of injury late in matches, but won't do much in the baseball world because they never really get fatigued; rather, they stiffen up from doing nothing.

Third, the competitive calendar is different. If you look at the Major League Soccer schedule, most clubs play 6-7 matches in June. Major League Baseball teams play this many games each week - and do so with a much more challenging travel schedule. That crazy schedule pushes out a lot of training time, and makes optimizing recovery incredibly difficult.

Fourth - and this is a very subjective, anecdotal observation - baseball players are less likely to take good care of themselves off the field. Major leaguers are far more likely to go out and crush eight beers after a game than the 16-year-old female soccer player that's been positioned atop a pedestal of sports medicine excellence. They also don't test for recreational drugs in 40-man roster players in MLB. Don't you think the guy who went on a bender the night before a doubleheader is more likely to strain his hamstrings than Susie Soccer who still lives with her parents?

I could go on and on about the differences, but I don't think that the point needs to be illustrated any further. Every sport has different physiological, biomechanical, social, and psychological factors that need to be taken into account in the injury prevention battle. Most people on social media can't possibly even come close to fathoming all these different contributing factors.

Now, I'm all for borrowing training ideas from different facets of the sports medicine industry. I've learned a ton from coaches in everything from sprinting, to tennis, to track & field, to powerlifting. Nobody has the perfect solution for your sport-specific problem, though (even though social media might tell you otherwise). Still look to to learn from these other professionals, but critically evaluating everything you come across. 

Above all else, make sure that you're still working hard to get educated in your specific sporting discipline. As an example, it's one reason why I'm going through the American Sports Medicine Institute (ASMI) Injuries in Baseball course right now. This resource brings together some of the most renowned surgeons, rehabilitation specialists, and strength and conditioning professionals in the baseball world each year. And, it's on sale for $100 off this week as an introductory discount. If you work with overhead athletes in any capacity, I'd encourage you to look into it. You can check it out HERE.

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A Letter to This Year’s MLB Draft Picks

It’s been over ten years since we first had a Cressey Sports Performance athlete selected in the Major League Baseball. Each year, the number grows – especially since the addition of a FL facility to complement our original MA operation. Over the past four years, exactly 100 athletes have been selected, so the early part of June is always an exciting time around both facilities.

This decade of draft picks has been accompanied by countless hours each off-season interacting with the professional players we train. They range from 1st rounders to 50th rounders. They come from all over the US and abroad. There are both high school and college draft picks – and to all 30 MLB organizations. Several races and ethnicities are represented in the CSP Family, and they come from all sorts of socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of these athletes trained with us as early as middle school, too.

The point is that I’ve seen the draft – and the professional careers that follow – from a variety of angles. In the process, I’ve learned a lot of lessons. If you are fortunate enough have your named called in the next few days – or you know someone who is – consider these ten suggestions.

1. Don’t stop learning.

Signing to play professional baseball serves as either the temporary or permanent halt to formal education. Either high school has ended and you head to the working world, or you’re drafted as you leave college. In many cases, players return to start or finish a college degree at some point. This does not mean, however, that your education has ended – and I’m not just talking about learning about the game of baseball.

Learning is a skill that needs to be refined just like hitting, throwing, and taking ground balls. It’s very easy to detrain the “academic” portion of your mind, and that’s a terrible thing in the 18-22 year-old age range, when your brain is still developing. Don’t get to age 30 and realize that you’ve forgotten how to learn; be a student for life. Read books, listen to audiobooks, watch Ted Talks, attend seminars, take college courses, and ask questions of the smart, experienced players and coaches you meet. Don’t let baseball make you dumb.

As a start, I would recommend Decisive by psychologists Chip and Dan Heath. It’s an invaluable read that will teach you about the decision-making process – especially if you’re on the fence about whether or not to sign. I’ve given it to many of our high school draft picks over the years.

2. Remember that your money is your money.

Last week, in a text message with an agent, he commented to me, “A signing bonus is about so much more than performance.” In other words, teams don’t just pay you for what you’ve done; they pay you because they’re betting on your future. Effectively, they’re investing in you. That money is intended to put you in the best position possible to help them down the road.

That money should be used to make sure you don’t need to have an offseason job. It should cover travel, training, massage therapy, equipment, or whatever else you need to be the best baseball player you can be.

What shouldn’t it go to? The second cousin who wants you to invest in his real estate idea. Or the entourage that thinks you should always pick up the tab for dinner because you’re a “bonus baby.” This leads us to…

3. Invest in yourself and appreciable assets.

I’ll be blunt: that expensive car you want will depreciate 10-20% the second you drive it off the lot. It won’t be a tax deduction, and it sure as heck won’t make you any better at baseball. The same goes for jewelry, boats, tattoos, and a host of other luxuries. Additionally, if you consider a 7% historical rate of return of the stock market, that money would likely double every ten years in the stock market if you were to invest it. So, that $80,000 car at age 20 really was worth $1.28 million at age 60. There's a big opportunity cost to your decision. 

On the other hand, investing in your training, equipment, and education will be tax deductible. The same goes for investing in your retirement.

I always love hearing about players and their agents and financial advisors preparing budgets not only because it creates a sense of fiscal responsibility, but also because I know small hinges swing big doors. If you take a calculated approach to your finances, you’re also far more likely to take a calculated approach to preparing for training and games.

Stop investing in “stuff” and prioritize experiences. Recognize the difference between a “want” and a “need” before it’s too late.

4. Figure out your team.

It’s remarkable how many people come out of the woodwork and want something from you the second you’re drafted. Sure, it probably doesn’t happen to the 39th rounder, but you can bet that there are a lot of people out there looking to take advantage of the 18-year-old kid who became a millionaire overnight. Think long and hard about the people – parents, siblings, coaches, agents, friends, sports medicine professionals – you trust and how they each help you in unique ways. Once you’ve got your team in place, think long and hard any time you bring someone into that circle of trust. Too many cooks in the kitchen can quickly ruin the finished product if they aren’t agreeing on the recipe.

5. Be a better person next week, month, and year than you are today.

It takes hard work to become a draft pick. It takes even harder work to get to the big leagues and make a career out of it. Your work ethic should actually improve when you get to the next level as you’re challenged by better competition and you recognize how hard it is. Sadly, money can change that pursuit of excellence for a lot of players, as that paycheck comes with a lot of distractions. Aim to treat people even better and work even harder than you did before your occupation and bank account changed, especially because there will be more eyes watching you. Think back to the aforementioned team; which one of them will you count on to set you straight when you start straying from the habits that have made you successful in the first place? Tell them now that you expect that honesty from them.

6. Communicate with your families and significant other about what is ahead.

Several years ago, I had a great conversation with the wife of a retired MLB player. They were still happily married well after his career ended. I asked her what she thought the key was to marriages that lasted when it’s well established that a shockingly high percentage of professional baseball marriages end in divorce.

She told me that the secret – in her mind – was for the wife/girlfriend to either have “her own thing” or be “100% invested.” In other words, she had to be able to keep herself busy with her own education, occupation, or charity work. If she didn’t do that, she needed to be 100% invested in the baseball life by helping the player with everything from cooking healthy foods to managing a crazy travel lifestyle (this particular wife had actually learned massage therapy to help). What always failed was the wife or girlfriend who spent the majority of her life harassing the player about how he was at the park too early or late, or complaining that she was bored. I know it sounds harsh, but I’ve seen it over and over again – and I’m really just relating her words, not mine.

I think a big issue is that most players honestly have no idea how hard the professional baseball lifestyle is until they experience it. And, if players don’t understand it, how are players’ families and significant others supposed to understand what to expect and how to act?

Just imagine: you’re 18 years old and just told your girlfriend of four months that you love her because you’ve spent every single minute of the month of June with her. She’s in for a very rude awakening when the only time you can call her is at 2am in the middle a nine-hour bus ride in the Midwest League. And, chances are that you’d rather sleep than talk on the phone, anyway.

I’ll end this point with a story. This offseason, one of our most well-known MLB clients and I got on the topic of vacations. I was surprised to learn that he’s never been to Europe, as he could afford any vacation he’d like. His logic was straightforward: too much missed training time, and too much travel. He’ll get to it when he retires. What are you going to say when a two-week family vacation comes smack dab in the middle of your offseason training program? It’s better to have these conversations now than later.

7. Be an awesome teammate, and learn conflict prevention and resolution strategies.

In professional baseball, you’ll have teammates from all over the world. They’ll speak multiple languages and have all sorts of different tendencies. You’ll hate some of their music and find some of them to be terribly obnoxious. You’ll probably hate your manager, pitching, or hitting coach at some point, too. In many cases, all these frustrations will be magnified by a 14-game losing streak or the fact that everyone is sleep deprived after brutal travel circumstances. Maybe you’ll even be pissed off that your second baseman booted a ground ball behind you. If you pick fights with everyone, though, you’ll have a very short career unless your on-field performance is incredible. Nobody wants to play with or employ a jerk.

Steve Cishek is a long-term CSP athlete and close friend of mine. He’s played for three teams since his MLB debut seven years ago. Everywhere he goes, he creates raving fans because he’s such an awesome teammate and unconditionally positive person. Be like Steve; try to find the good in people instead of chasing down conflict.

To that end, a book I’d recommend on this front would be Legacy. There are some tremendous lessons on leadership and being an awesome teammate. Just read some of the replies to this Instagram post, if you don't believe me.

 

A little reading material for our collegiate baseball development program guys. #leadership #legacy #cspfamily

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

8. Be an advocate for yourself.

I know a 100mph+ arm who received close to $1 million in the draft a few years ago. Before he’d even thrown a professional pitch, a minor league pitching coach was trying to overhaul his delivery. He was 6-6 and more of an East-West delivery; they wanted to stand him up tall and bring his arm over the top. Those are massive changes – and it effectively ruined his first three years in pro ball. The results were subpar, and things spiraled out of control because he had 7-8 different pitching coaches all giving him different cues. This happened in part because he was a nice guy who never wanted to be perceived as uncoachable – so he got pulled in many different directions and wound up pleasing nobody, especially himself.

He finally walked in to the minor league pitching coordinator’s office, slammed the door behind him, and demanded to be left alone. He’s been a completely different pitcher ever since.

There will surely be coaches who can help you a ton, and others who will make your life much more challenging. It’s your job to nurture relationships with them so that you can have dialogue about what has and hasn’t worked for you, and how you can work together to get to where you want to be. The best coaches I know never tell players what to do; they facilitate discovery by the player and regularly solicit feedback. And, the best developmental organizations are very meticulous about making sure that clear and consistent messages and cues are related by the entire coaching staff. If you are hearing mixed messages from different people, speak up and get clarification; you will always be your own best coach.

9. Control what you can control.

If you’re a 27th round pick, it’s going to be harder to get to the big leagues than if you were a 1st round pick – even if you have identical numbers to that first rounder. It’s not fair, but it’s the truth. Moreover, regardless of when you’re drafted or how much you’re paid, you probably won’t get promoted as soon as you deserve it. A lot of politics outside your control govern those decisions.

The sooner you recognize that the only things you control are your actions and your attitude, the better. Some accountants get frustrated with their bosses, and some nurses don’t get the promotions they deserve – so you certainly aren’t alone.

10. Develop your coping mechanisms.

If you’re getting drafted, there’s a strong chance that you were one of the best players – if not the best – in the history of your town. Now you’re competing against a bunch of guys who were also the best players in their towns – and you’re adding the best international players. And, you’re going from all the hoopla of the draft directly into the obscurity of minor league baseball. Make no mistake about it: there will be fewer people at your Gulf Coast League back field games than you had at your high school games.

Moreover, it’s only a matter of time until you get your butt handed to you on the field. It might be a golden sombrero as a hitter or giving up seven runs in the first inning as a starting pitcher – but it will happen. And, as Mike Tyson has said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

What’s your plan? How do you cope with failure and make sure that it doesn’t impact your next performance?

I know some guys who read the Bible to “reset.” I know others who play video games. Some call their fathers or high school coaches. Some watch video and take notes on what they learned. Some keep journals. I even know some players that said it was easier to handle the “lows” when they came home to their kids, as opposed to when they didn’t have children.

The game will humble you quickly and test you with physical and psychological challenges that you’ve never considered. I can’t speak to what playing 200 games in 230 days is like, but I can tell you that every player I've met finds it exhausting. I can’t tell you what throwing 200 innings is like, but I’ve trained plenty of guys who’ve given me perspective on just how hard you have to work to be able to do it year-in and year-out. You don’t have to learn all those lessons immediately upon your arrival in pro ball, but the sooner you can start making good decisions, the higher your likelihood of success will be. Good luck!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 6/6/17

After a crazy few days of travel and lots of college baseball assessments, I had time to pull together a little recommended reading I've covered over the past week.

The Captain Class - I'm about halfway through Sam Walker's great new read. In it, he looks at the factors that impact the most successful teams of all time.

The Bench Press Arch: Why You SHOULD Use It - In light of my blog from earlier this week, Cressey Sports Performance coach Tony Bonvechio went into great depth on the rationale behind arching - whether subtle or more extreme - during bench press technique.  

Gym Owner Musings: Installment #5 - Speaking of CSP, my business partner, Pete Dupuis, pulled together this great collection of thoughts for current or aspiring gym owners. 

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Are Pitching Mechanics Really That Repeatable?

The 2011 Major League Baseball Draft class was pretty ridiculous. As I recall, it was ranked as the deepest draft since 1986, and the top 20 picks alone produced established big leaguers like Gerrit Cole, Trevor Bauer, Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon, Archie Bradley, Francisco Lindor, Javy Baez, George Springer, Jose Fernandez, Sonny Gray, Matt Barnes, and Tyler Anderson. Even just looking a few picks later, you see names like Joe Panik, Jackie Bradley, Jr., Michael Fulmer, and Trevor Story – and these are really only the tip of the iceberg. Mookie Betts was a 5th rounder, Blake Treinen was a 7th rounder, Kyle Hendricks was an 8th rounder, Travis Shaw was a 9th rounder, Cody Allen was a 23rd rounder, and Kevin Pillar was a 32nd rounder.

Interestingly, Massachusetts was ranked as the #5 state in country that year, so Cressey Sports Performance was right in the thick of things. As a result, the spring of 2011 was a big lesson for me in managing highly touted prospects – and it set the stage for our draft classes to grow with each passing year thereafter.

Foremost among these prospects was CSP athlete Tyler Beede, who was committed to Vanderbilt and ultimately wound up turning down a large signing bonus from the Toronto Blue Jays as the 21st overall pick. Three years and a Vanderbilt national championship later, he was a first round pick again, and is currently in AAA with the San Franciso Giants.

This isn’t an article about that draft class, though; it’s about a lesson I learned during the spring of 2011 that applies to every single pitcher on the planet, regardless of age and ability level – and whether they were even close to being drafted in 2011 (or any year).

Ask any Northeast scout, and they’ll tell you that evaluating any New England prospect is incredibly challenging. Talent is very spread out, so it’s difficult for scouts to even geographically get to all the prospects they want to see. Additionally, it’s hard to consistently see good pitchers match up with good hitters to see how they compete on higher stages. Northeast players are also far more likely to be multi-sport athletes than prospects in other parts of the country, so you’re evaluating athleticism and “projectability” more than just baseball competencies.

Moreover, because of weather restrictions, the season can be very short, so a starting pitcher might only have 7-8 starts prior to the draft. Also on the weather front, pitchers peak later as the temperatures warm up. The first 3-4 games of the season are usually played in 40-something-degree weather, and rain (or snow!) might actually push games back a day or two last-minute, throwing off both the players’ and scouts’ schedules.

Getting back to Tyler, he started his season well, pitching at 91-94mph for the first several starts. Typically, the lines were complete games with 14-18 strikeouts, 0-1 walk, and no earned runs. To give you a frame of reference, between his junior and senior years, Ty went 14-1 with a 0.80 ERA with 189 strikeouts in 96.1 innings – pretty much what you’d “expect” from a eventual first-rounder.

Roughly five weeks into the season, Ty had a Wednesday outing on the road. It was early May and probably about 50 degrees. I was a few minutes late getting to the game, and actually arrived right as he was hitting in the top of the 1st. The parking lot was out past center field, and as I was walking in, Ty drilled a ball to the gap and legged out a triple. A batter or two later, the inning ending and he went right out to the mound.

As I settled in on the left field line, I saw a crew of people get out of the car and all set up not far to my left. Like everyone else at the field that day, I quickly recognized one of them as Theo Epstein, who was still with the Red Sox at the time. He seemed to have so many Red Sox scouts with him that I actually joked to my wife that they must have borrowed the magical car from Coolio’s “Fantastic Voyage” video to get them all to the park. They fit in nicely with the 40 scouts and front office guys who were standing behind the plate.

As I recall, that day, Ty threw six innings, struck out 12, and gave up no runs and no walks, with just two hits. One was a double on a ground ball that hit the first base bag, and the other was an infield single. He pitched at 89-90mph most of the game. I might have seen one 91mph fastball. Ty still absolutely dominated overmatched hitters and showed what many people called the best high school changeup in the country, but it was a pretty “blah” outing by his standards. The team won, and we even joked around post-game with Ty and his teammates.

Within a day or two, I had gotten a few texts from scouts. Paraphrasing, they ran the gamut:

“What’s wrong with Beede?”

“Is Beede hurt?”

“Has Beede lost his fire and gotten too comfortable?”

My response was pretty simple: “He’s fine. He’s also 17 years old.”

That Sunday, Ty was in for an in-season lift at the facility. I can distinctly remember our conversation about how – as unfair as it might seem – he would always be held to a different standard than just about everyone else. Expectations of consistency would always be unreasonable, so it was always important to focus on the process and not the outcome. Even Cy Young award winners don’t have their best stuff every time out, but you can’t deviate from the plan for every little hiccup. The secret was to never get too up, and never get too down.

It was in that moment that I think I truly realized that Ty would someday be a big leaguer. Absolutely nothing I said to him came out of left field; he got it.

The next time out, he was back to his old self. A week or two later, in his last start before the draft, he was 93-96mph. He even walked to lead off the game - and then stole 2nd and 3rd as dozens of scouts gasped in terror that a kid with millions of dollars on the line would risk injury. What they didn't seem to realize is that this was all part of being process-driven (competing hard to help the team win) instead of outcome-driven (impressing scouts and getting drafted). Go figure: he led his team to an undefeated season and league championship.

[bctt tweet="Expecting a teenager to consistently perform at a high level each and every week is unrealistic."]

Every geographic climate is different. Every mound is different. Hitting in a week when you’ve had four exams and are sleep deprived won’t be nearly as easy as it is during vacation week. And having the general manager of your favorite MLB team show up to watch you pitch might even impact your performance a bit.

Teenage athletes are still developing physically, emotionally, neurologically, and socially. It’s why I absolutely abhor mock drafts that shuffle players up and down from week to week based on results and – in many cases – feedback from folks who don’t have the knowledge of physiological and psychological variability to even make valid estimations in this regard. 

And, don’t even get me started on companies that are ranking eighth graders ahead of their peers just because puberty kicked in early and their parents are misinformed enough to shuttle them around to showcases all across the country when they should be preparing their bodies for what’s ahead – and enjoying their childhood. 

This entire experience and the countless erratic performances we see from players of all levels - from high school kids who walk the bases loaded to big leaguers who develop "the yips" - has given me a lot of time to think about just how unrealistic some coaches, parents, and fans are in demanding incredible consistency in performance from throwers. If one of the best high school arms in one of the best draft classes in history had up-and-down performances, you can be sure these struggles are going to extend 100-fold to less prepared pitchers.

To further illustrate this point, I did a little digging last week. As I type this, the three hardest throwers in MLB in 2017 have been Aroldis Chapman, Joe Kelly, and Trevor Rosenthal. Modern technology like Trackman can give us a lot more information than just velocity, though. Pitching release point (extension) is one such piece of information that fits in nicely with this discussion. According to a quick look at Statcast reports on the 50 hardest pitches in baseball this year, here is the variance in extension for those three:

Chapman (20 pitches): 6.5 to 7.2 feet

Kelly (9 pitches): 5.7 to 6.5 feet

Rosenthal (4 pitches); 5.5 to 5.9 feet

With a larger sample size - particularly for Kelly and Rosenthal - we'd likely see even bigger gaps. That said, it's important to recognize that a lot of factors can play into this variability. One MLB front office friend of mine commented to me, "There are a lot of park to park variances, so we have to calibrate raw data." Additionally, pitches may be different from the stretch and wind-up, weather factors may impact extension, and accumulated fatigue plays into it as well. And, extension will be different for different pitches - although that likely doesn't factor in here because we're comparing apples (fastballs) with apples (fastballs). The point isn't that any of this data is absolutely, 100% perfectly accurate. Rather, the message that any way you slice it, the three hardest throwers on the planet - some of the guys who theoretically put themselves in the best possible positions to throw the crap out of a baseball - actually deviate a little bit from their "norm" on a very regular basis. "Repeatable" mechanics aren't perfectly repeatable.

Looking further, check out the 2017 Pitch/Fx fastball velocity ranges for these three guys, as per Fangraphs:

Chapman: 95.4-102.1 mph

Kelly: 96.0-102.0 mph

Rosenthal: 95.5-101.7 mph

(we can bank on these "interpretations" of pitches being accurate, as nobody is ripping off 95-96 mph sliders or changeups)

What do these numbers this tell us? Even in the hardest throwers on the planet, there are actually considerably larger variations in pitch-to-pitch mechanics and performance than most folks realize. Every year, the media becomes convinced that a few dozen pitchers in MLB have "lost it"- and invariably, they all figure it out at some point and it all evens out over the course of a season. Remember a few years ago when everyone told us that Justin Verlander was washed up? Yep, he wasn't.

If we were to extend my aforementioned three-pitcher "study" out even further - particularly to a collection of minor league pitchers who haven't had success on par with these three - I'd be willing to bet that we'd see even more considerable variation. And, it'd be huge if we looked at college pitchers, and massive in high school guys (and younger). 

Anyone who has spent time reviewing data from Motus sleeve measurements can attest to this. Even as the accuracy of the readings has improved dramatically and the sleeves have become an incredibly useful tool, the variability from pitch-to-pitch has remained intriguingly high. You'll see different ranges of motion and joint stresses for two of the same pitch thrown 30 seconds apart. 

Where does all this leave us? Well, above all else, I think we can at least appreciate that even in a very specific closed-loop (predictable) action like pitching, there is still at least subtle variance - and this variance becomes even more dramatic as you go from the professional down to the amateur ranks. Sorry, Dad, but your 11-year-old doesn't have "pristine mechanics;" he is just less inconsistent - and likely more physically prepared - than his peers.

Expanding the discussion to higher levels, a thought process that has recently surged among those "in the know" on social media is that velocity and "stuff" are probably even more important than consistently outstanding command (which would theoretically relate to optimally repeating mechanics). This highlight reel of CSP athlete Max Scherzer during his 20-strikeout game last year shows just how many times he missed his spots.

I'm not saying that command isn't important; professional pitchers definitely miss spots a lot less than amateur ones. I'm just saying that all these factors fluctuate more than we appreciate and it's part of that discussion. Interestingly, command is the one of these three factors most impacted by outside factors: umpire interpretation, catcher's receiving, sweaty palms, pretty girls in the stands, and whether Mom is yelling "super job, kiddo!" from the stands.

Expecting teenagers to consistently repeat their mechanics at a high level - particularly during a period of time when their bodies (and brains) are constantly changing - is absolutely absurd. Far more important is preparing their bodies for all the chaos that sports throws at them. This is done with exposure to a wide variety of athletic endeavors in the youth levels, comprehensive strength and conditioning and arm care, and a broad spectrum of throwing challenges (not just mound work!).

That doesn't mean that it will work to just throw a bunch of poop on the wall to see what sticks. This has become a larger issue of late, as countless kids have assumed "throwing with intent" to be "just try to throw hard."

Very simply, here is the most important message I can deliver to any young pitcher:

[bctt tweet="Every throw is a chance to get better or worse."]

Treat every throw like you're playing catch with a Cy Young award winner and want to leave a favorable impression in terms of your attention to detail. Don't give up any throws. Even as a teenager - and regardless of who his throwing partner was - Tyler Beede tuned out the world every time he picked up a ball. He was always working on improving or refining something. It's almost like he understood that inconsistency could always sneak up on a pitcher in the blink of an eye, and he wanted to stay ahead of it. Ty didn't become a two-time first rounder or #1 organization prospect by accident. 

Really, more importantly, the take-home message is to be patient with young athletes and pitching success. Practice consistently and train to handle all everything the sport might throw at them. Still, though, remember that some of the best in the world struggle to consistently repeat their mechanics, so you can probably cut that 17-year-old some slack when he throws a 97 mph fastball to the backstop in an All-American game. And, your 11-year-olds can still have post-game ice cream even if they walk seven batters in three innings of work. Being consistent with anything in athletics is challenging, but if you focus on processes instead of outcomes, you'll never be disappointed.

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/22/17

I hope you all had a great weekend. I turned 36 on Saturday, and it was a pretty mellow, unremarkable birthday - which is exactly what I wanted! Here's a little recommended reading/listening/viewing for you to kick off the week:

Lat Injuries in Major League Baseball - Here's an article from Lindsay Berra on an injury on the rise in MLB. I chipped in some info on the function of the lats in throwing.  

EC on The Fit Clique Podcast - I hopped on Chris Doherty's podcast last week, and you can check it out on YouTube:

Business Bench Pressing with Pete Dupuis - Speaking of podcast, my business partner, Pete, shared some great business tips for fitness professionals on The Fitcast a few weeks ago.

How Harmful Are Processed Foods? - The Examine.com crew has been on a roll with great content lately; here's another example.

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Video: Active vs. Passive Hip Extension

Here's a video I just filmed that talked about how important appropriate hip extension is to the pitching delivery. While the video is addressed more to pitchers, the general lessons are applicable to all athletes whose sports involve hip extension (particularly if it's hip extension past neutral). Check it out:

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 5/3/17

After surviving last week's sale, I took a quick blog hiatus to get my feet underneath me. I'll have some new content posted later in the week, but in the meantime, here's with some recommended reading.

Pitching Injuries: Should Lat Strains Even Be Happening? - In light of Noah Syndergaard's lat injury this week, this article of mine from last year got a lot of traffic (and I received lots of emails and social media outreach). This one's a whopper, so have a cup of coffee ready to help get you through it.

The Hardest Topic to Write About: Program Design - My old friend Tony Gentilcore did an excellent job tackling a complex topic. I'd highly recommend you give this a thorough read to appreciate just how daunting a task it is to write about program design.

The Stop & Give Me 20 Podcast - I hopped on a 20-minute podcast interview with Anthony Renna a few weeks ago, and you can listen to it here. I really enjoyed it because it wasn't the same 10 questions that ever podcast interviewer seems to ask!

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