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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Safer Sprint Training with Derek Hansen

We’re excited to welcome sprint training expert Derek Hansen to this week’s podcast for a great chat on fundamental of sprinting training, his unique approach to managing hamstrings injuries, and much more. Derek shares some general principles as well as specific applications to baseball preparation. CSP-MA Director of Performance John O'Neil takes the lead as a guest host as well.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you’ll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Show Outline

  • How Derek has become the speed-focused coach he is today and how he has become involved coaching national and professional sports teams across multiple sports
  • How Derek designs return to play programs for hamstrings strains and what success he has found transforming recovery times from 3-4 week to 7-10 days
  • How his atypical, acceleration-based program works to not only recuperate the injured hamstrings but build resiliency from future setbacks
  • What warnings Derek has for athletes overzealous to speed through a hamstrings recovery program
  • How Derek recommends to specifically integrate and progress sprinting into hamstrings strain rehab and why he prioritizes stride frequency over stride length early in the rehab process
  • Why Derek emphasizes stride frequency when training his athletes for speed and what tactics coaches should avoid and implement to encourage quality stride frequency
  • What the “10x10” is and why Derek utilizes this return-to-play program as the foundation for all his rehabilitation work
  • How coaches can best manage the volume of their athletes’ speed work
  • How baseball players can preserve their speed qualities in season
  • How the perspective of running has been tarnished in the recent history of sports performance and how Derek is working to transform the perspective on running
  • Why sprinting and lifting are not competing entities and how coaches can manipulate running dosage to elicit training effects regardless of an athlete’s current circumstance
  • What Derek’s advice is for athletes just beginning to utilize sprint work as their primary training approach
  • How mastering the initial acceleration of sprinting and training short bursts of 5-7 strides can go a long way in the development of an athlete
  • Where long distance sprinting (30+ yards) fits into the training of baseball players
  • Why 100% effort does not necessary mean 100% performance and how relaxation plays a role in moving at high speeds
  • What drills or cues coaches can use to teach being loose and relaxed as opposed to tensed and rigid when performing high-speed movements
  • How sprinting distance influences the specific demands of placed on an athlete
  • How sprinting can be programmed to address the different demands placed on baseball players by position
  • Why running technique and communicating effort of exertion are crucial for maximizing speed work in any population
  • What Derek’s coaching philosophy is and how he has learned to adopt a process-oriented approach for simplifying movement for his athletes
  • How coaches and educators can maximize the retention of their training interventions and encourage self-awareness and learning that will stick beyond a single training session
  • What common flaws Derek sees in baseball players’ running technique
  • What technical landmarks Derek is looking for when evaluating an athlete’s running mechanics
  • How posture directly influences an individual’s ability to put force into the ground
  • What role the arms play in efficient running mechanics and how focusing on the upper extremities can create positive change throughout the entire gate cycle
  • How coaching the hands can be used specifically to improve tempo and rhythm in the running motion without overcomplicating an individual’s thought process
  • Why a lack of strength is a poor excuse for avoiding speed work with young athletes and how Derek integrates speed-focused, power drills into youth population’s training
  • You can follow Derek on Twitter at @DerekMHansen and Instagram at @DerekMHansen.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Avoiding Injuries When Baseball Restarts

We're back with Episode 61 of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast. In this solo episode, I speak about considerations relating to injuries as the baseball world opens up across multiple levels.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Rawlings. We’re ecstatic to announce a new partnership between Rawlings and Cressey Sports Performance, and they’ve set up a 20% off discount code on select products for our listeners. Just head to www.Rawlings.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY20 and you’ll receive 20% off on your order. Certain items are excluded, but there’s still a ton of great baseball training gear to make you a better player and coach.


Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Rawlings. If you want to develop faster, and train better, you need the best gear. Well, we have some good news for you. The #1 baseball brand in the world, Rawlings, has partnered with Cressey Sports Performance to make getting the best training gear for you more affordable. Simply head to www.Rawlings.com and use the code, CRESSEY20, at checkout and you’ll save 20% off your order! This offer is only valid on select items, but there’s a ton of great gear you’ll save 20% on that will help you become a better player, so shop now!

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

Name
Email
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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Lou Trivino

We're excited to welcome Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Lou Trivino to this week's podcast. Lou is an awesome story of a minor league breakout player who quickly became an impact player at the MLB level.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Rawlings. We’re ecstatic to announce a new partnership between Rawlings and Cressey Sports Performance, and they’ve set up a 20% off discount code on select products for our listeners. Just head to www.Rawlings.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY20 and you’ll receive 20% off on your order. Certain items are excluded, but there’s still a ton of great baseball training gear to make you a better player and coach.

Show Outline

  • How being a three-sport athlete in high school impacted Lou’s early athletic development
  • How Lou ended up at Slippery Rock University out of high school
  • What transformed Lou from a Division 2 arm into an 11th round draft pick in 2013
  • Why Lou was unimpressive initially in pro ball but soon found himself as a transitioned from a starter to a reliever
  • How getting more rotational in his sparked a jump from 89 mph to 96 mph overnight
  • How Lou’s reason for coiling is rooted in maintaining counter rotation and feeling tension, and what thought helps Lou to coil effectively in his delivery
  • How Lou managed the switch from a starter to reliever
  • Why Lou has decided to showcase five pitches out of the pen, and what type of flexibility affords him
  • Why Lou cut back on throwing his cutter early in his professional career
  • How Lou reincorporated the cutter back into his game in 2017, at a higher rate than years prior, and how this pitch has defined his game since
  • Why he utilizes his cutter to gauge how in sync his delivery is, and how throwing an effective cutter is impacted by the movements earlier in the chain
  • How Lou taught Blake Treinen to throw his cutter and how a quality cutter is less about the perfect grip, and more about the approach behind the pitch and feel for the ball out of the hand
  • Why Lou oddly throws his 2-seam faster than his 4-seam fastball and how he has learned to differentiate these pitches
  • What Lou’s routine is for getting hot in the pen
  • How Lous structure his throwing in-season to remain prepared to throw in-game any day of the week
  • What Lou’s recovery process between outings and daily training sessions is
  • How Lou attacks strength training in-season without compromising his performance on the field
  • Who Lou’s favorite player to watch is
  • You can follow Lou on Instagram at @LouTrivino.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Rawlings. If you want to develop faster, and train better, you need the best gear. Well, we have some good news for you. The #1 baseball brand in the world, Rawlings, has partnered with Cressey Sports Performance to make getting the best training gear for you more affordable. Simply head to www.Rawlings.com and use the code, CRESSEY20, at checkout and you’ll save 20% off your order! This offer is only valid on select items, but there’s a ton of great gear you’ll save 20% on that will help you become a better player, so shop now!

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Progression Strategies for Back Hip Loading

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Massachusetts associate pitching coordinator, Jordan Kraus.

Skill coaches are often faced with the challenging task of addressing mechanical problems that are actually underlying movement inefficiencies. This is especially true with respect to different aspects of the pitching delivery, and today I will be discussing the back hip load. We place a lot of emphasis on mastering this initial move in the delivery because of the many of downstream effects it has. Simply put, if the first move in the sequence is poor, the subsequent moves won’t be very good, either.

The biggest challenge stems from the fact that pitching is a unique skill, and the movement patterns associated with it become very ingrained. It is very difficult to change these patterns within the confines of the mound and baseball in hand, so stepping away from the specialized task of throwing to create context for a new movement pattern can expedite the process.

Efficiently loading the back hip can be challenging because of the different planes of motion involved and the speed associated with a pitching delivery. The three movements we look for in the back hip are flexion, adduction and internal rotation. It’s important to note that not everyone’s load will be the same, but all will have varying degrees of each of these movements.

The following movements can be used to help facilitate positions we want to replicate on the mound. For simplicity, they are broken down into four categories: unloaded, loaded, dynamic, and skill-specific. Within each of the first three categories, the movements progress from sagittal, frontal, to transverse plane movements. The goal of the sagittal plane movements is to control hip flexion while shifting weight posteriorly. Next, we are progressing by shifting our weight posteriorly while moving laterally in the frontal plane. The third movement in each category combines all three planes of motion as we learn to control flexion, adduction and internal rotation. The final category is a medicine ball series that will help bridge the gap between movements in the weight room and the throwing motion.

1. Unloaded: RDL/1-leg RDL > Lateral Lunge > Bowler Squat

2. Loaded: KB RDL/1-leg KB RDL > KB Lateral Lunge > Rotational Landmine Press/Rotational Row

3. Dynamic: Drop Squat 2:1 > Low Box Shuffle w/Stick > Lateral Lunge w/ Fake Medicine Ball Chop

4. Skill-Specific: Rear Foot Elevated Medicine Ball Shotput > Step-Back Medicine Ball Shotput > Knee-to-Knee Medicine Ball Shotput

It’s important to note that there are plenty of other movement options and the progressions for these are not linear. Additional load or increased speed of a movement can sometimes produce a more favorable outcome, so there will always be a level of coaching required for exercise selection. Selection will depend on a variety of factors, including strength, athleticism, mobility restrictions, and individual compensation strategies. Once these movements become proficient, the next step would be to blend the new loading strategy into plyo drills, catch play, and ultimately to the mound. Changing the task can drastically improve motor learning, so don’t be afraid to have pitchers step away from the mound to create better movement patterns.

About the Author

Jordan Kraus serves as a Pitching and Strength and Conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance-MA. You can follow him on twitter and Instagram at @_JordanKraus_, or email him at JordanRKraus@gmail.com.

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Exercise of the Week: Bowler Squat to J-Band Y

This week's exercise of the week is the brainchild of physical therapist Eric Schoenberg, who works out of Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. When I first saw him implementing it with a patient, I immediately thought, "How have I never thought of it?" You see, this drill actually combines two of my favorite exercises: the bowler squat and the J-Band Y. In doing so, we get an awesome arm care exercise that integrates single-leg balance and hip mobility.

The bowler squat component delivers a triplanar challenge to the glutes, as you have to eccentrically control hip flexion, adduction, and internal rotation on the way down - and it's actually overloaded in the transverse plane by the pull of the band. Here are some coaching cues and notes:

1. The upper arm should be at about a 135-degree angle to the torso so that it's in the line of pull of the lower traps. The upper extremity action should actually be driven by scapular movement into posterior tilt.

2. Most athletes should start with a J-Band Jr. before proceeding to a regular thickness J-Band.

3. As the athlete approaches the bottom of the movement on the lowering phase, he should try to get more hip motion than upper back motion. Although both are necessary, we've seen a lot of athletes who jump dump over into thoracic kyphosis (rounding) when they start to struggle. In other words, use the hips to deliver the hands.

4. The head should remain in line with the body to preserve a neutral cervical spine.

5. I generally prefer this to be done barefoot or in minimalist sneakers, like I'm wearing. It can be helpful to cue the athlete into "tripod foot" or tell them to "grab the ground like you're trying to picking a basketball with your foot."

6. We like this as a warm-up exercise or "filler" between sets of medicine ball work. We'll program it for sets of 8-10 reps on each side.

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Kolten Wong

We're excited to welcome St. Louis Cardinals second baseman and 2019 Gold Glove Award Winner Kolten Wong to this week's podcast.

A special thanks to this show’s sponsor, Rawlings. We’re ecstatic to announce a new partnership between Rawlings and Cressey Sports Performance, and they’ve set up a 20% off discount code on select products for our listeners. Just head to www.Rawlings.com and enter coupon code CRESSEY20 and you’ll receive 20% off on your order. Certain items are excluded, but there’s still a ton of great baseball training gear to make you a better player and coach.

Show Outline

  • How the culture of Hawaiian baseball played a role in Kolten’s development
  • Why Kolten chose to attend the University of Hawaii instead of signing professionally out of high school
  • Though known as a second baseman, how Kolten became recognized as a talented catcher in high school, and why he transitioned to play center field his freshman year at Hawaii
  • How Kolten seemed to smoothly transition through the ranks of professional baseball and into the big leagues
  • How straying away from his strengths and trying to be someone he’s not led to an underwhelming first month as a rookie and a trip back to AAA
  • What hitting adjustments Kolten made to bounce back from his initial setbacks and return to major league baseball to earn the NL Rookie of the Month in May 2014
  • After being sent down again in 2015, how Kolten’s experience as an outfielder at Hawaii and his willingness to be versatile allowed him to return to MLB as the Cardinals’ center fielder
  • Why he returned to the infield as a second baseman in 2016 and how Kolten has progressed to eventually become the outstanding defensive second baseman he is today
  • How critical self-evaluation and seeking out advice from knowledgeable veterans helped Kolten turn a corner in his game and develop an edge defensively
  • How understanding details of the game defensively has elevated Kolten games to a new level
  • What Kolten’s pre-pitch defensive routine is, and how did he come to find this optimal pre-pitch set up
  • How defensive training fits into his offseason schedule
  • How Kolten has come to be passionate about teaching the game of baseball to the next generation of players
  • What foundational skills and fundamental lessons Kolten always tries to pass on when working with a young ball player
  • Why getting in front of the baseball is not always the right move defensively, and how having the ability to field with one hand is an overlooked skill in the game if baseball
  • What Kolten’s glove care routine is, including: how often he replaces his glove, how he goes about breaking in a new glove, and why the glove is simply an extension of the hand
  • How Kolten trains to remain healthy and durable through the daily demands of being a position player
  • Why Kolten has shifted to incorporate more yoga into his training recently and how these difficult bodyweight positions are advancing his game physically and mentally
  • What Kolten believes is the best defensive play of his entire baseball career
  • You can follow Kolten on Twitter at @KoltenWong and on Instagram at @thewongone808.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Rawlings. If you want to develop faster, and train better, you need the best gear. Well, we have some good news for you. The #1 baseball brand in the world, Rawlings, has partnered with Cressey Sports Performance to make getting the best training gear for you more affordable. Simply head to www.Rawlings.com and use the code, CRESSEY20, at checkout and you’ll save 20% off your order! This offer is only valid on select items, but there’s a ton of great gear you’ll save 20% on that will help you become a better player, so shop now!

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The 2-Seam Roundtable

We're excited to welcome Major League pitchers Adam Ottavino, Corey Kluber, Blake Treinen, Brandon Kintzler, Mike Soroka, and Steve Cishek - along with CSP-Florida pitching coordinators Brian Kaplan and Mark Lowy - for a roundtable on the two-seam fastball. This podcast featured a lot of great insights for up-and-coming pitchers, and also a lot of great back-and-forth among some of the most accomplished pitchers in the game.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Marc Pro. Head to www.MarcPro.com and enter the coupon code CRESSEY at checkout to receive 20% off on your order.

Because this podcast was filmed on Zoom and we featured screen shares of pitch profiles and demonstration of pitch grips, it's probably best watched on YouTube:

That said, you can also listen to it here:

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Marc Pro, a cutting-edge EMS device that uses patented technology to create non-fatiguing muscle activation. Muscle activation with Marc Pro facilitates each stage of the body’s natural recovery process- similar to active recovery, but without the extra effort and muscle fatigue. Athletes can use it for as long as they need to ensure a more full and quick recovery in between training or games. With its portability and ease of use, players can use Marc Pro while traveling between games or while relaxing at home. Players and trainers from every MLB team - including over 200 pro pitchers - use Marc Pro. Put Marc Pro to the test for yourself; use promo code CRESSEY at checkout at www.MarcPro.com for 20% off on your order.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Enhancing Coach-Athlete Communication with Nick Winkelman

We're excited to welcome Nick Winkelman, Head of Athletic Performance & Science for Irish Rugby, to this week's podcast. Nick is extremely well versed in motor learning and how to best get through to athletes, and you'll see why in this interview. It's timely, as his new book, The Language of Coaching, was just released.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Show Outline

  • Where Nick’s original interest in improving the way coaches coach movement began
  • What observations Nick made while watching his athletes compete on NFL Combine Day – and how they transformed his perspective on coaching
  • What the lowest hanging fruit is in terms of how coaches can improve their communication with athletes
  • Why coaches need to add a column for cues in their program and how coaches plan their language to maximize their influence on athletes
  • How motivation influences motor learning and how language can be leveraged to create engagement, investment, and motivation
  • What simple tactics coaches can employ to increase buy-in and give individuals an active role in their training experience
  • Why coaches need to focus their time and attention on coaching the athlete and not the program
  • How understanding purpose – specifically more purposeful coaching – transformed Nick’s coaching philosophy, strategy, and interventions
  • Why Nick has learned to watch more reps and talk less, and how coaches can create a safe environment for athletes to explore movement and “fail forward”
  • How each word spoken and action communicated to an athlete either builds or erodes the coach-athlete relationship and how professionals can avoid the detriments of overcoaching
  • When the right time to communicate with an athlete is and how Nick models the timing of his coaching communication
  • What the difference is between short loop and long loop coaching communication
  • How understanding the coaching communication loop can give us a better understanding of how to teach, challenge, and progress athletes
  • What research states about the impact of cue frequency and cue type on performance and long-term athletic development
  • What simple, actionable strategies coaches can use to help concepts stick with athletes, such as recalling clients’ names and celebrating small wins
  • How coaches can use analogy, an athlete’s language, and emotional hashtags in the learning process to enhance memory
  • How emotions influence our memory and how coaches can tap into emotion to allow their interactions with athletes to be memorable
  • How analogy can be specifically leveraged to tie previous learned knowledge into the learning of new abilities
  • Why internal cueing isn’t inherently bad and where external and internal cueing fit into an athlete’s learning
  • You can follow Nick on Twitter at @NickWinkelman - and be sure to check out his awesome new book, The Language of Coaching.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Cutting-Edge Catching with Tanner Swanson

We're excited to welcome New York Yankees quality control coach and catching coordinator Tanner Swanson to this week's podcast. A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 20-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

Show Outline

  • How Tanner evaluates a catcher’s ability and what key competencies he analyzes to draw conclusions on players behind the plate
  • How Tanner’s methods for analyzing players and principles for building elite catchers have evolved as he has progressed through his coaching career
  • Why the focus with youth catchers should be on developing a general scope of catching-specific abilities and how this general foundation of skills allows for premium skills to be leveraged later on in development
  • What new age data says about the importance of receiving skills
  • How new metrics on receiving are changing how we define high-level catchers
  • How the player evaluation and scouting of catchers is evolving as more information is available on catchers beyond pop times
  • Why catchers’ performance is significantly impacted with runners on base and what this insight says about how we currently coach catchers
  • Why coaches should consider whether we are teaching catchers to receive out of their best blocking and throwing position, or to block and throw from their best receiving position
  • How catchers can find their optimal stance and balance functionality with comfort behind the dish
  • How factors stance and pre-pitch glove rhythm influence a player’s ability to receive
  • Why new age catching is more than a lazy set-up behind the dish on one knee and how catchers can find their best position to both block and receive
  • Why the toughest challenge in catching is getting caught in between pitches and how finding the most effective stance and approaching blocking as an extension of receiving mitigates this challenge
  • How the sheer volume and frequency of work for catchers offers a unique opportunity to watch adjustments organically play out and fine tune strategies that are meaningful for individuals
  • How coaches can preserve a player’s uniqueness behind the dish while still instilling the nonnegotiable characteristics of being a catcher, such as starting in a good position, mastering timing, working below the ball, and dominating the bottom third of the strike zone
  • Why present-day catching demands players have authority over the bottom third of the strike zone and what the increase use of high fastballs and secondary pitchers means for catchers
  • How catchers can best prepare to handle the physical and mental demands of their position, arguably one of the most demanding roles in sports
  • Why the game of baseball is moving away from catchers with weak bats and how catchers can develop a true edge at their position
  • You can follow Tanner on Twitter at @TannerSwanson and learn more about him at www.D1Catching.com.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s an all-in-one superfood supplement with 75 whole-food sourced ingredients designed to support your body’s nutrition needs across 5 critical areas of health: 1) energy, 2) immunity, 3) gut health, 4) hormonal support, and 5) healthy aging. Head to www.AthleticGreens.com/cressey and claim my special offer today - 20 FREE travel packs (valued at $79) - with your first purchase. I use this product daily myself and highly recommend it to our athletes as well. I'd encourage you to give it a shot, too - especially with this great offer.

Podcast Feedback

If you like what you hear, we'd be thrilled if you'd consider subscribing to the podcast and leaving us an iTunes review. You can do so HERE.

And, we welcome your suggestions for future guests and questions. Just email elitebaseballpodcast@gmail.com.

Thank you for your continued support!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive Instant Access to a 47-minute Presentation from Eric Cressey on Individualizing the Management of Overhead Athletes!

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Pitching Mechanics: What’s in a Release Point?

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida Associate Pitching Coordinator, Mark Lowy. This post comes on the heels of Mark’s appearance on Episode 51 of the CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast. During it, he discusses some of the intricacies of release point data and how he uses the numbers to help understand a pitchers delivery. This discussion in the podcast kicks off at the 20:30 mark. -EC

Back in the fall, Eric put together a great Instagram post on the similarities in upper body positioning between Oliver Drake and Adam Cimber, despite their incredibly different release points.

 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Here's a comparison of two markedly different deliveries that can teach us an important lesson on pitching mechanics and how we prepare athletes for the stress of throwing. 👇 On top, you'll see #cspfamily athlete and Rays reliever Oliver Drake, whose average release height this year was 77.6 inches (one of the highest in baseball). In 2019, his 4-seam fastball had an average spin axis of 11:50. Yes, that basically means he's made himself left handed. On the bottom, you'll see Indians reliever Adam Cimber, who was the lowest vertical release height in baseball at 21.5 inches. He throws a sinker at a 3:48 spin axis. He's what you'd consider a true submariner. Now, swipe left to see the comparison that takes place to see when you flip Oliver's image 90-degrees so that it's on its side and rotate a different angle Cimber picture so that his torso is also upright. You quickly appreciate that they throw with a similar amount of shoulder abduction (arm elevation) in this position in spite of the fact that Drake's vertical release height is over 4.5 feet higher than Cimber's! 🤔 What does this tell us about arm slot? Most of the time, it's much, much more about the amount and direction of trunk tilt than it is about specific shoulder positioning. And, we probably need a lot more variability in the positions we train from a lumbopelvic (core/hip) control standpoint than we do in our arm care work. Look at most pitchers at the max external rotation (lay back) phase of throwing, and there isn't an insane amount of variability in the amount of humeral abduction. If you want to take care of the arm, you better be taking care of the hips and lumbar spine!

A post shared by Eric Cressey (@ericcressey) on

What we know from looking at video is that most pitchers release the ball in the neighborhood of 90 and 110 degrees of shoulder abduction. This is backed up by various studies over the years, and corroborated by current motion capture setups such as Simi and Kinatrax.

Therefore, we know that when looking at deliveries, we can hold shoulder abduction relatively constant across players, and understand that the lateral trunk tilt (right) a pitcher displays during the delivery is going to be a key contributor as to where they release the ball.

Source: https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jab/34/5/article-p377.xml

By understanding this, we can appreciate that the arm slot and ball release for any given pitcher is a result, and not a process in and of itself. If we can agree on this, it begs the question: what helps determine where in space a pitcher releases the ball?

To help answer this, we need to work backward. If you have ball release data available, a good place to start is with the vertical release point, the horizontal release point, and (if possible) the extension (how far down the mound the ball was released) of a given pitch. These three data points tell you where the pitch is coming in from. Rapsodo will give you the first two, while Trackman will give you all three.

If you do not have access to ball release data, don’t worry! It’s still important to coach with your eyes and understand the root cause when you notice something amiss with someone’s arm slot.

To break down the delivery effectively, we need to start from the ground up to understand what affects ball release. It’s important to recognize that each section could serve as its own article, but for time’s sake, we will hit on the big rocks in each group. From start to finish, we can identify:

A. Back leg direction and upper half positioning
B. Stride length to lead leg landing position
C. Trunk tilt into and through ball release

A. Back leg direction

This is an area that is frequently talked about in the pitching world, and with good reason. Since we understand that pitching is a series of highly-coordinated movements, we have to be able to consistently own the first one, as it sets up all events later in the chain.

A main goal of the back leg is to provide a) stability as the body begins to create and store energy and b) provide direction as the body begins to move down the slope. Some factors to take into account when breaking down the back leg of a pitcher can include:

  • Ankle mobility into dorsiflexion and eversion
  • Hip mobility in ER, IR, and flexion
  • Anatomical structure of the hip (retroversion vs. anteversion)
  • Postural tendencies of the upper half

For the sake of this article, we are going to look at the first and last bullets, as they are easier to identify on video. It’s worth mentioning that when breaking down a delivery, we always prefer video over still shots. However, pictures can be useful for comparison’s sake.

If you have an athlete with above average dorsiflexion (knee over toe range of motion), he may be able to get away with more forward knee translation while still maintaining contact with the ground during his load phase. Conversely, an athlete with stiff ankles may struggle to keep the foot anchored in the ground when the knee drifts forward, and will need to maintain a more vertical shin during their load. This can be determined in simple ankle mobility screen, and should also be looked at dynamically during a movement screen to see how well the athlete controls (or doesn’t control) the range of motion he has available to him.

As the back leg starts to bend, the lower half and upper half start to work together. On the right, a more flexed ankle/knee help bring the torso forward. On the left, a more stacked knee and ankle helps keep the trunk more upright.

This is where the postural tendencies of an athlete come into play. Athletes who are more extended and flat through the lumbar and thoracic spine generally take a more upright torso position as they begin to work down the slope, while athletes who are more neutral/rounded through the upper back may prefer to hold more torso lean forward.

B. Stride length to lead leg landing position

As the pitcher begins to move down the mound, there are a lot of factors to look at regarding his stride length and direction. From an assessment standpoint, we hone in on a few things:

  • Adductor length (hip abduction range of motion)
  • Hip internal rotation
  • Thoracic spine mobility (active and passive)

These are three pieces among many that are going to influence a pitcher’s movement down the mound. It’s important to note that we do not coach guys to “push” or “drive” off the rubber – this commonly leads to early and aggressive hip extension, which throws off the timing and sequencing of the delivery. Instead, we want the front leg to land in a position that is a) comfortable for the pitcher and b) allows him to decelerate properly. This will look very different based on the points above.

Athletes with limitations in hip abduction are generally going to benefit from a shorter stride, as the longer the lead leg continues to search for distance, the tougher it is for the back leg to maintain tension into the ground. The flip side are hypermobile/loose pitchers who can get into whatever positions they want, and when trained to be able to create stability in these positions, they can be very effective.

Hip internal rotation can be looked at through a similar lens. Athletes with higher degrees of IR (anteverted hips, hypermobile, etc.) can get away with (and often find success with) a more closed off stride, as it allows them to create more tension and stability into the ground upon landing. They have the requisite room in the hip joint to be able to decelerate their upper and lower half in a closed off position. For athletes with hip IR limitations, a more closed off stride can be problematic down the road, as it forces them to adopt a deceleration pattern that does not dissipate stress as effectively as the hip and torso do when working together.

Stride length and path considerations should be taken into account for the upper half as well. For athletes who are less mobile through their thoracic spine, the longer the lead leg is floating in space, the more demand there is for them to resist torso rotation. The same can be true for someone with high degrees of passive thoracic range of motion, but low degrees of active. Those athletes crave stability, so the longer the lead leg is in the air, the less stability they have.

On the right, note the slightly closed off lead leg, versus the more open lead leg on the left. This is a function of the initial move with the back leg, and the following path of the front leg (and also gloveside). In these examples, we can see that when the torso follows the path of the lead leg, it helps the pitcher hold his line to the plate. If we swapped the lower halves in the two pictures, it would be very difficult for consistently create velocity while finding the strike zone.

C. Trunk tilt into and through ball release

As we are beginning to understand, every step in the delivery influences and sets up the next one. In the comparisons from above, we see how back leg direction can shape both front leg path and upper half direction as the pitcher moves down the slope.

As we get to ball release, the final picture now makes sense. On the left, the more upright torso, stacked lower leg position, and more open stride help pull the trunk up, raising the arm with it. On the right, initial back leg direction shapes a more closed landing position and more level shoulders through ball release.

It’s important to reiterate that this article is not an attempt to determine “right vs. wrong,” but look at different deliveries that exist on the spectrum of high performance. As coaches, the overall takeaway should be to find and create a delivery that recognizes individuality while also understanding how a pitcher’s anatomy plays a large role in how he looks on the mound.

About the Author

Mark Lowy serves as a Strength and Conditioning Coach and Associate Pitching Coordinator at CSP-FL. He completed his internship in the spring of 2018. Prior to joining the staff, Mark trained and coached high school and college athletes in the New York and New Jersey area. He also served as an assistant baseball coach at Ridgewood High School (NJ). Mark graduated from Gettysburg College in 2014.​​​​ You can follow him on Twitter at @Mark_Lowy and on Instagram at @CSPFL_Pitching

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