Home Baseball Content (Page 61)

Overbearing Dads and Kids Who Throw Cheddar

Q: I run into a TON of Fathers who want their son to gain throwing velocity.  What are your keys to gaining velocity?

A: To be blunt, Step 1 is getting away from your crazy overbearing father and realizing that if you're going to throw the baseball harder, it's because YOU want to do it, and are willing to put in the hard work.  There are millions of American fathers who want their sons to throw 95+mph, but only about eight guys in the big leagues who consistently throw that hard.

Taking it a step further, the average fastball velocity is actually higher in A-ball than it is in professional baseball, so while throwing hard is important, it's just one piece of the puzzle.  I'd love to hear more fathers talking about learning to command the fastball and master a change-up.  And, most importantly, I'd like to see more fathers who are interested first and foremost in keeping their kids healthy so that they can have the continuity necessary to realize their potential.

Next, you have to consider what kind of velocity we're actually discussing.  Is it what the radar gun reads: actual velocity?  That's really just one of three kinds of velocity.

You also have perceived velocity - which is higher in a pitcher who gets down the mound further than his counterparts and therefore gives the hitter less time to react. Chris Young (at 6-11) gets the benefit of perceived velocity in spite of the fact that his average fastball velocity doesn't even approach 90mph.

young

Perceived velocity also explains the success of many pitchers with deceptive deliveries where the ball seems to just jump up on hitters.  Often, these pitchers stay closed and throw across their bodies.  While it may not be healthy, correcting it could take away their effectiveness.

Lastly, back in 2008, Perry Husband introduced me to the concept of effective velocity, which is a bit more complex.  The effective velocity a hitter appreciates is actually impacted by:

1.     pitch location (high and inside are faster, and low and away are slower)

2.     previous pitch location, type, and velocity (coming up and in with a fastball makes it seem harder if it follows a low and away change-up)

3.     the count (when behind in the count, the hitter must cover a larger strikezone, and therefore a larger effective velocity range)

If you need any proof of the value of effective velocity, just watch Jamie Moyer or Tom Glavine.  They nibble away over and over again, and then they come back inside on a guy and he looks blown away by the velocity even though it may only be low-80s.

jamie-moyer-getty2

That said, getting down to the nuts and bolts of throwing the ball hard (actual velocity) mandates that you understand that there are tons of factors that contribute to velocity, but they aren't the same for everyone.  Very simply, there isn't just one mechanical model that allows one to throw harder than others.

Some guys have congenital laxity that allows them to contort their bodies all over the place.  Others "muscle up" and shotput the ball to the plate.  Most pitchers are somewhere in the middle and rely on a balance of elastic energy and mobility to make things happy.  With that in mind, having mechanical efficiency and thousands of perfect throwing reps in this efficient model is what every pitcher should strive to achieve - just as a golfer would practice his swing or an Olympic lifter would practice the clean and jerk or snatch.

snatch

Second, it's imperative to prepare young pitchers' bodies for the rigors of throwing a baseball.  I've written extensively about the overwhelming extremes the throwing arm faces, and while it's important to improve arm strength, flexibility, and soft tissue quality, the rest of the body cannot be ignored.  Improving function of the scapular stabilizers, core musculature, and lower half is essential for taking stress of the throwing arm.  We encourage kids to get started with foam rolling, targeted flexibility work, and resistance training as soon as their attention span allows.  As I have written previously, the "stunting growth" argument doesn't hold water.

Third (and this piggybacks on my last point about resistance training), it's important to understand how to manage a young pitcher throughout the year. Contrary to popular belief, playing year-round is not a good idea.  In fact, it isn't even good enough to qualify as a "bad" idea; it is an atrocious idea.

If you want my ideal competitive season for a youth baseball player, it's to pick up a ball and start tossing around Thanksgiving, progressing to bullpen wok in early January after long-tossing distance has been progressed.  Then, the athlete throws up through his competitive high school season (late March- early June) and summer ball (through early August).  That's about 8-8.5 months of throwing throughout the course of the year - and it's plenty.

You'll see that this competitive year fits quite nicely with participation in a fall sport - whether it's football, soccer, or something else.  And, athletes can still "get away" with playing winter sports as long as they're willing to commit to a throwing program, even if they have to start playing a bit late.  If I had to give my ideal scenario, I'd say play football or soccer, and then play pick-up/intramural basketball in the winter alongside a throwing and lifting program.

pop-warner

Within this year, you have several crucial blocks during which to increase resistance training volume.  One, there is the entire winter break, obviously.  Two, there is generally a decent break between spring and summer baseball (late May-early June), and another during the month of August.  Three, kids can (and should) still train in-season, regardless of the sport.

This, of course, speaks to the high school athletes who have practice/games just about every day.  Managing a 10-year-old is a lot easier.  His sport practice may only be 2-3 days per week - meaning that he can participate in different activities throughout the week.  However, he can't do that if Dad thinks that playing on four different AAU teams at once is the secret to getting him to the big leagues.  He has to play multiple sports at a young age.

little-league

So, if I had to give the synopsis of my thoughts on how to get a kid to throw hard, it would go something like this:

1. Appreciate that throwing hard is just one piece of the "being a successful pitcher" puzzle - and that there are different types of velocity (actual, perceived, and effective).

2. Clearly outline his competitive season and stick to that outline.  Don't add showcases, camps, and additional teams.

3. Let him play for two teams: one spring (school) and one summer (AAU, Legion, etc.).

4. Find a skilled pitching instructor to work with him to optimize mechanical efficiency.  Before you start working with this instructor, have him explain his approach to managing your son both during a typical lesson and throughout the competitive season.  Then, go and observe him as he works with other pitchers.  Do they just "show and go," or do they warm-up before even picking up a ball?  Does he ask kids how they feel prior to each session, and does he pace them throughout the session?  Or, does he just grunt and spit dip juice all over the place.

5. Get him involved in a comprehensive strength and conditioning program that incorporates resistance training, medicine ball work, flexibility training, and movement training that all take into account the unique demands of baseball.  The strength and conditioning coach should provide a thorough evaluation that screens for all the mobility deficits and stability issues we commonly see in throwers.

6. Make sure that the pitching coach and strength and conditioning specialist communicate and collaborate. The CP staff is fortunate to have this kind of productive collaboration with Matt Blake all the time:

 

Kidding aside, very rarely will a pitching coach know about strength and conditioning, and very rarely will a strength and conditioning coach know about pitching.  It's unfortunate, but true.

7. Have him play multiple sports.  The younger the pitcher, the more sports he should play.  Specialization shouldn't come until age 17 at the earliest.

8. Make sure he continues to take care of his resistance training and mobility work in-season.

I could go on and on about all the subtle details of what we do with pitchers on a daily basis, but the truth is that I envision this blog as something that will be most popular with the Dads in the crowd who really just want to help their kids realize their potential and remain injury-free.  So, I'm keeping it more general - and referring you to the Baseball Content page for the more "geeky" stuff.

I do have one more closing thought, though.  We deal with a lot of very talented young pitchers who throw the ball very hard.  One anecdotal observation has been that their fathers are the ones who "get it."  These are the guys who are concerned about the important things: staying healthy, enjoying baseball, finding the right college, etc.  They don't boast about how many guys their sons struck out in little league. They are genuinely humble and respect the game - and this carries over to their kids, who work hard and carry themselves the right way.

Conversely, the kids who are always told that they're the best and get raved about by their fathers are the ones who invariably struggle to succeed long-term.  It may be because they're overworked, over-pressured, or just overrated in the first place.  It may be because coaches get frustrated with having to deal with an overbearing father, and the kid gets punished for it.  It may be that the kid doesn't think he needs to work as hard because he's already the best - because Dad told him so. Or, maybe he misses out on crucial development because he spends all his time playing in baseball games when he should be practicing, training, or participating in other sports - or just having fun and being a normal kid. Worst of all, a kid may just flat-out start to dislike the game because all the fun has been taken out of it because of Dad's hype and excessive pressure.

Is velocity important? Sure.  Can it sometimes be the trees that prevent us from seeing the forest?  Absolutely.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches
used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!


Name
Email
Read more

Wrapping Up a Great Pro Baseball Off-Season

Today marks the end of one of the funnest "eras" of my life. Back on September 9, we officially kicked off the pro baseball off-season with Tim Collins' arrival at Cressey Performance for his first training session of the off-season.  Coming off a great season that included a promotion to Double-A at age 20 and a Blue Jays organizational pitcher of the year award, Tim was ready to get after it - and that's exactly what he did.  From that day in September through February 6 (when he was called to Florida for mini-camp), Tim added 21 pounds to his frame while getting leaner - and increased his vertical jump by four inches (to 37.9 inches).

Tim was one of over 30 pro guys we had this winter.  Results were typical. Chad Rodgers (Atlanta Braves organization) went from 206 to 233 while adding just under three inches to his vertical jump.  And he dominated "No Shave November."

Jeremiah Bayer (Red Sox organization) packed on muscle mass faster than just about any athlete I've ever seen - to the tune of 13 pounds in only two months - while adding an inch to his vertical.  That's a 5.6% improvement in predicted peak power in a short amount of time - and one that is carrying over to the mound already. Heck, Pat Bresnehan packed on 14 pounds and jumped 37.5 inches (a 6.3 inch) improvement - and got himself signed by the Mariners - after coming to us in the latter phases of his rehab period! Craig Albernaz (Rays organization) increased his vertical jump by over five inches while adding seven pounds before heading to big league camp - and this is a guy who has always struggled to put on any weight, let alone good weight! Cory Riordan (Rockies) and Steve Cishek (Marlins) win the awards for the longest commutes to train.  Cory drove two hours to CP, and two hours home to Connecticut to get in his work with us - and he's got a new body and a lot more athleticism to show for it.  Cishek wasn't far behind with his 1 hour, 45 minute commute from Cape Cod four times a week all the way up through January.  I can say without wavering that both of them would tell you that the ride was 100% worth it. Two other Braves guys - Derick Himpsl and Matt Kramer - also put in some great work that is already carrying over to the field.

Zach Piccola's headed to White Sox camp with a great few months of training under his belt alongside free agent Nick Asselin.  Jim Fuller (Mets) committed himself to train like he never had before, and looks fantastic now.  Another Mets guy, Tim Stronach, has busted his hump to get better alongside his rehabilitation from shoulder surgery. Steffan Wilson leaned out and dramatically changed the way he looks and moves - and it helped get him a much-deserved call-up to big-league camp last week.

Kevin Youkilis had a great off-season as well - due in part to his love of pushing the sled.  So far this spring, Youk's looked good (much better than his strength coach, as is shown below), and we're excited about the Red Sox season ahead.

17-youk__1266349971_2440

Will Inman (Padres), Phil Negus (White Sox), and Kevin Nolan (Blue Jays) put in a great few months in the fall, and Steve Hammond (Giants), Kevin Pucetas (Giants), Nick McBride (Rangers), Benji Johnson (Braves), Matt Morizio (Royals), Justin Edwards (Cardinals), and Howie Clark (Blue Jays) made the most of all their visits to Boston this winter.

And, some "distance-based" guys of mine - Chad Jenkins (Blue Jays) and Anthony "A-Tan" Seraterelli (Royals) - made some excellent progress by following everything to a "T."  A-Tan, Howie, and Morizio even made a hilarious video about their experiences (a joke, FYI):

One athlete, though, stepped it up big time on Thursday to set himself apart from all the rest. Tim Kiely (Angels) added 11 pounds and seven inches to his vertical jump, but his biggest claim to fame is that he took home the Gold in the first ever Cressey Performance Elite Baseball Olympics on the last day.  Granted, the "Olympics" were limited to five participants who collectively agreed to not tell the most athletic guys of the bunch about the event ahead of time - but that doesn't mean that the boys didn't bring their A games!  The Silver (5-lb) went to CP pitching coach Matt Blake, and the Bronze (2.5-lb) went to free agent Alex Szymanski.  Shawn Haviland (A's) finished fourth, but he has a Harvard degree, and probably would have won if Sabermetrics trivia and word searches had been part of the contest.  Here's the much-anticipated medal ceremony:

I am not sure where the championship belt fit in, but the entire day didn't make much sense, so it seemed right.  Congratulations, Tim.

From these videos, a lot of people might think that we're all about goofing around - but that couldn't be further from the truth.  Our guys have a good time, for sure, but it always comes after they've busted their butts in the gym.  And, frankly, if we didn't have such great camaraderie and the guys weren't such good friends, the motivation to train would never approach the level it has.  A good culture and outstanding results absolutely, positively go hand-in-hand.

Most of my writing on this blog is obviously geared toward educating folks on the training, research, nutrition, and other geeky science stuff.  However, I should make it absolutely clear that all the knowledge in the world in these regards won't matter if you don't have a good culture established for your athletes and clients.  They need to enjoy training and look forward to each and every session because they enjoy the process as much as the destination.

They need to be willing to come to you to critique the best man's toast they've written (happened this winter).  They need to feel comfortable staying at your place if they're in town for a few days (happened multiple times this winter).  They need to feel welcome spending Thanksgiving with your family (two of my athletes came home with me this past November).  And, they need to respect you enough as a person to value your opinion as a professional.  As the saying goes, they don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.

That's why most of our pro guys train six days a week from September/October all the way up until now, whereas many other places pro guys frequent consist of 3x/week "workouts" for the 4-6 weeks before spring training starts.  And, I feel like it is one of many things that differentiates us from our competition (whatever that may be).  We are about making athletes better, not just "working them out."

I'm proud of all our guys not only for their hard work this off-season, but for taking an ownership stake in Cressey Performance to make it something special now and in the future.

Thanks for an awesome 5+ months, guys.  We can't wait to do it again.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Should Pitchers Overhead Press?

The following video excerpt is from my November seminar with Mike Reinold.  It is available in its entirety on our DVD series, Optimal Shoulder Performance: From Rehabilitation to High Performance. I just thought you might like a teaser!

Please enter your email below to sign up for our FREE newsletter.

Name
Email
Read more

Should Pitchers Bench Press?

Q: One of my favorite (insert generic sarcastic look here) things to watch in the weightroom is my pitchers getting under the rack for bench presses.  It's not the fact that they're benching that upsets me, but the "Beach Body" mindset that is behind it.  What's the most efficient way for a pitcher to work on his bench, and more importantly, what should he be trying to gain by performing the bench press correctly?

A: Okay, let's get right to opening this can of worms.

can-of-worms

With any exercise, we look for carryover to the functional demands of our sport.  However, we accept that general strength gains transfer in most cases.  As an example, we know that we can improve throwing velocity with a variety of training initiatives, but training specificity like this is stupid:

Now that we've all gotten a bit dumber, let's continue...

As it relates to pitching, the fundamental problem with the conventional barbell bench press (as performed correctly, which it normally isn't) is that it doesn't really train scapular movement effectively.  When we do push-up variations, the scapulae are free to glide - just as they do when we pitch.  When we bench, though, we cue athletes to lock the shoulder blades down and back to create a great foundation from which to press.  It's considerably different, as we essentially take away most (if not all) of scapular protraction.

Additionally, the closed-chain nature of push-ups is much more shoulder friendly, even if pitching is an open-chain exercise.  In fact, most rehabilitation progressions - regardless of the shoulder issue in question - will begin with push-up variations before any open-chain pressing exercises.

With dumbbell benching, we recognize that we get better range-of-motion, freer movement of the humerus (instead of being locked into internal rotation), and increased core activation - particularly if we're doing alternating DB presses or 1-arm db presses.  There is even a bit more scapular movement in these variations (even if we don't actually coach it).

With a barbell bench press, you don't really get any of these benefits - and it's somewhat inferior from a range-of-motion standpoint.  While it may allow you to jack up the weight and potentially put on muscle mass a bit more easily, the truth is that muscle mass here - particularly if it leads to restrictions in shoulder and scapular movement - won't carry over to throwing the way the muscle mass in the lower half and upper back will.  I've seen a ton of guys with loads of external rotation and horizontal abduction range-of-motion throw the crap out of the baseball, but can't say that I've ever seen any correlation - in the research or my anecdotal experience - between a good bench press and throwing velocity.

wagner2

That said, I recognize that there are still a lot of "wannabe meatheads" in the pitching world, so we do our best to meet our athletes halfway and please the bench press gods. Most of the time, dumbbell bench pressing and push-up variations will be sufficient, but we will sometimes us the multipurpose bar with our pitchers because it puts them in a more shoulder-friendly neutral grip.

Add some chains to the bar, and you have a great stabilization challenge that works the true function of the rotator cuff.

That said, if you absolutely feel like you need to do traditional benching, keep the volume down, keep the elbows tucked, and keep the shoulder blades stable underneath you.  And, be sure to recognize that your ego probably isn't doing much for your success on the mound - as there are training initiatives with better returns on investment.  Remember that pitchers have loads of competing demands - from throwing, to mobility training, to soft tissue work, to fielding practice, to movement training - so what you do in the weight room has to highly effective to justify its inclusion.  I just struggle to consider bench pressing "highly effective" for pitchers.

 

For more information on managing throwing shoulders, be sure to check out the Optimal Shoulder Performance DVD set.

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches
used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!


Name
Email
Read more

From the Little Leagues to the Big Leagues? Nope.

Today marks another great blog Q&A from Matt Blake. Q: I was quite shocked to learn that only three pitchers have ever made it to the Big Leagues from the Little League World Series (LLWS). It makes perfect sense, as the mature kid at 12 generates more velocity than little Billy. Most parents assume that since he is more mature he can handle more stress when in actuality it just means his muscles are stretched out farther and are more susceptible to injury. More specifically, Tom House claimed that the stretched out muscles could be counteracted by dropping your center of gravity. Any input would be great! A: I think this speaks to a lot of problems with how the players got to Williamsport and the developmental path that carries into their teenage years. The main concerns with the 11-12 year olds that are competing in the LLWS is how skilled they are for such a young age. Typically, this means that they have had a tremendous amount of repetition at a young age, and have competed in a very large number of games over the course of the spring and summer to make it to Williamsport.

littleleagueworldseriesday5mdrqnq9hazpl

Three issues that might speak to why only three pitchers have gone on to play professional ball include: Issue #1 - These players are not skeletally mature to handle the amount of stress placed on their bodies, so they will probably turn up with more overuse injuries in their teen years that have been accumulating due to the high demand from 9-12. Issue #2 - This could be a simple timing of maturation. A lot of the dominant players are taller, weigh more, throw harder and have probably entered certain stages of maturation quicker than their peers. This doesn't necessarily mean they'll be ahead of their peers at 13-15 or even 16-18; it just means that at the age (11-12) we happen to televise, they were more developed. There are at least six more years before this player can even think about playing professionally, so a lot of things can happen to level out the playing field. Issue #3 - There's a good chance the amount of repetition that these players have put in at an early age could lead to "burnout" down the road or a feeling of satisfaction and less of a demand to work hard, because everything came to the player so easily at a young age. This game will eat you up if you don't continue to get quality repetition over the long haul.

littlekid

At some point, an abundance of talent will be matched, whether it's in high school, college, or the minor leagues. This is where the intangible qualities separate players and hard work is required to keep your competitive edge. Needless to say, I'm still shocked that only three pitchers have made it from the LLWS. For me, this signifies a serious red flag in the way we are developing talent in the baseball industry if our best players at age 12 don't translate well to the upper levels. Have a question for Matt?  Drop him an email at mablak07@gmail.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Clearing up the Rotator Cuff Controversy

The college coach of one of our current pro baseball players was asking me about the rotator cuff program he's doing with us now, and I figured I'd turn it into today's topic.  We take a bit of a different approach with it than you'll see with a lot of guys in the industry, and it's basically dictated by three assertions/assumptions: 1. The true function of the rotator cuff is to stabilize the humeral head on the glenoid (shoulder socket).  While external rotation is important for deceleration of the crazy internal rotation velocity seen with throwing, it's stabilization that we're really after. As you can see, the humeral head is too large to allow for great surface area contact with the glenoid.

glenoid

My feeling is that the bigger muscles - particularly scapular stabilizers, the core, and the lower half - will decelerate the crazy velocities we see as long as mechanics are effective and the deceleration arc is long enough.

robertson

2. The shoulder internally rotates at over 7,000°/s during acceleration; that's the fastest motion in all of sports.  There's no way that the rotator cuff muscles alone with their small cross-sectional area can decelerate it.  And, to take it a step further, there isn't much that some rubber tubing is going to do to help the cause (aside from just promoting blood flow - although I'd rather get that in a more global sense with full-body flexibility circuits, as I discussed HERE).

More important than blood flow is getting range of motion (ROM) back (particularly elbow extension and shoulder internal rotation) after a pitching outing.  In my experience, losses in ROM get guys injured faster than weakness, in my experience.  I've seen quite a few people come to me who have healthy shoulders, but test poorly on classic rotator cuff strength measures.  Why?  Perhaps they are very strong in their scapular stabilizers, core, and lower half and have become efficient enough to handle more of the deceleration demands in areas other than the rotator cuff.  Or, they may just be lucky; rotator cuff strength is still important!

3. We've mocked on the conventional bodybuilding community for training muscles and not movements: chest day, quads day - you get the picture.  Meanwhile, the baseball community is devoting five days a week to training muscles with cross-sectional areas smaller than any of these!

I've had multiple discussions with Mike Reinold that reaffirm this indirectly; he emphasizes that one should never train the rotator cuff to failure, as that's not how it works in the real world.  Our job is to enhance not just its strength, but also its proprioception and rate of force development.  If we chronically abuse it with training on top of the crazy demands of throwing, we never really know how strong the rotator cuff actually is. It makes you wonder how many guys in the baseball world actually have exhausted and chronically overtrained rotator cuff muscles as opposed to weak rotator cuff muscles!

With these three assertions in mind, most of our guys in the off-season will have four days of rotator cuff work spread out over two "types" of training.  Days 1 and 3 (say, Monday and Thursday) would be more rhythmic stabilization drills similar to this (although the options are really only limited by your imagination):

The other two days are more classic rotator cuff work that prioritizes external rotation and horizontal abduction (we never do empty cans).  I do a lot of work with cables here, plus a lot in the side-lying position (EMG activity for the cuff is highest here).

We'll also do a lot of manual resistance external rotation stuff, as it kind of "blends" conventional cuff work with rhythmic stabilizations due to the unstable load. Here's one option:

Later in the off-season, we'll throw in some one-arm medicine ball deceleration catches and external rotation tosses to the wall to get the thoracic spine and hips ready for the full-body demands of throwing.

Keep in mind that - as I noted - rotator cuff exercises are just one piece of the puzzle.  These are one component of a larger overall plan that addresses not only scapular stability, but also total body strength and mobility, soft tissue quality, medicine ball work, movement training, and the actual throwing program.

For more information (actually a LOT more information), check out the DVD set, Optimal Shoulder Performance: From Rehabilitation to High Performance from Mike Reinold and I.

shoulder-performance-dvdcover

Sign-up Today for our FREE Newsletter and receive a deadlift technique tutorial.
Name
Email
Read more

When Should Kids Learn Curveballs?

Today, we've got the first in a series of Q&A contributions from Matt Blake. Q: What do you think of Ron Johnson's presentation at the ABCA convention where he stated that curveballs are okay for youths to throw and that they do not cause any structural damage beyond what a fastball does? Rather, it was the frequency the curveball was thrown that was the indicator. A: I was at Ron Johnson's presentation and have had the chance to read much of the research that has been presented on this topic. I do generally agree that curveballs are not inherently more dangerous than fastballs, but I think the idea of curveballs sends a conflicting message at the youth levels.

youthpitcher

Fundamentally, I'd like to believe that this game is centered around the pitcher being able to locate a fastball to the center of the plate 100 out of 100 times. Obviously, this is an idealistic perspective, but above average fastball command should be the trademark of an advanced youth player, not the fact that he can spin a baseball with his hand in a supinated position so that he can fool unsuspecting 11 year olds. We don't teach hitters to focus on curveballs at this age, so why should we teach pitchers to throw them? Squaring up the fastball over the middle of the plate is step one for both hitters and pitchers. In order to put a player in the best chance to succeed down the road, I think a pitcher should be able to repeat his fastball mechanics and create a certain amount of hand-speed, before he is taught to craft his pitching skills. This is generally considered to be a throwing mechanics versus pitching skills debate and would prioritize mechanical knowledge and the sequencing of the body's rotations.

youthpitcher2

If a player has demonstrated above average command of his fastball to the center of the plate, then obviously, the next progression would begin to zone the plate off for him. Once he can dissect the lanes of the plate with a straight fastball, then maybe teach him a different grip on the fastball or even a changeup. Start by working the changeup down the middle, etc....This game is built on efficient pitching, so to skip steps at these early developmental levels or to place too great an emphasis on winning at this age would compromise the player's development. Obviously, all of this is just simply my opinion. When would I teach a breaking ball? I guess it would be when a player looks skeletally mature to repeat his delivery and can demonstrate effective use of his fastball/changeup combination. If these pieces are set as the foundation, introducing spin tilt and depth might follow. If a player at the age of 11 or 12 is capable of doing this because he has put the necessary repetition in, then I suppose you can't hold him back, but for some reason, I think people might be skipping steps 2 and 3 to get to 4, because 4 gets outs easier at age 12. Have a question for Matt?  Drop him an email at mablak07@gmail.com. Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Talking Pitching: A Recap of the 2010 ABCA Pitching “Hot Stove” Discussion

Today, we've got another great guest post from Matt Blake. "If I embark on a voyage of exploration, and I set as my goals the willingness to follow any lead, pursue any interesting observation, overcome any difficulties, and I end up in some exotic locale that might be very different from my predictions before setting out, have I changed my destination in any way? I would say not; the sine qua non of science is not the conclusions we reach but the process we use to arrive at them, and that is the polestar by which we navigate." -PZ Myers, Biologist, University of Minnesota One might ask why the heck a pitching coach is leading off his article on a fitness expert's blog with a quote from a biologist, and how it would have any relevance to the topic at hand. Where could this possibly be going? Well, I recently attended the American Baseball Coaches Association "Hot Stove" Pitching Discussion in Dallas, Texas on January 10th with about 200-300 coaches from all over the country.  And, I would say that this notion was the overriding theme to take away from the event. This "Hot Stove" pitching discussion was part of the bigger national convention that takes place every year. This event provided an outstanding forum for people to hear some leading thinkers in baseball discuss pitching in an informal public setting. Some of the notable attendees of this event were Tom House, Alan Jaeger, Brent Strom, and Derek Johnson.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with these names, I'll give you a brief description of each. Tom House is a former major leaguer, former major league pitching coach, and is regarded as one of the great modern day pitching gurus and currently coaches at the University of Southern California. Alan Jaeger runs Jaegersports.com and has an outstanding understanding of long toss, arm care and how it should be applied to your player's development.

jaeger

Brent Strom is a former major leaguer, is an instructor in the St. Louis Cardinals system, and teams up with Ron Wolforth to run the Ultimate Pitching Coaches Bootcamp every year. They also run some outstanding Elite Pitcher Bootcamps during the summer. These two presented early in the weekend and are proponents of the "Blending" and "Chunking" theories and advocate for training pitchers through the use of athletic and aggressive throwing drills. Derek Johnson is currently the Pitching Coach at Vanderbilt University and is regarded as one of the premier pitching coaches in the country. Producing ten drafted pitchers (including three first-rounders) over the last three years will usually do that. Honestly, this is just a handful of people in a room that included dozens of D1/D2/D3 pitching coaches, as well as numerous outstanding high school coaches, but these guys really stand out with their contributions to the pitching community's knowledge base. Tom House did his part by speaking to the crowd about the importance of being able to accept new ideas that run counter to your current train of thought. He brought up an interesting point regarding the need to be strong enough to change your positions and adapt your training methods as the information presented to you deems necessary. This is not too far from what you see happening on the strength and conditioning front every day. If I remember correctly, it wasn't too long ago that Mike Boyle questioned the value of the almighty squat. Who would have thunk it?  This is a great example of a man following a process of logical thought to create his own philosophy even if it runs counter to much of the traditional thought. You don't need to agree with him on this, as we still use a lot of squatting variations at Cressey Performance, but based on his interpretation of the research, this is what he thought gave him the best value in the risk/reward category for his athletes. On the baseball side, this idea was none more evident than when Tom House was challenged about the effectiveness of the towel drill and admitted he was wrong about this drill in its original form. This drill has been a staple in many pitching coaches' dry work for years. In coming to understand where the towel drill was lacking, Tom has recently changed the weight of the implement in the drill from 2 oz to 5/6/7oz depending on the training intentions. This essentially changed the deceleration demands to be more similar to a baseball and worked to counter the argument at hand, by letting everyone know, that as science has progressed he has needed to adapt his training methods.

mark-prior-towel

One of the other important topics that House brought up was the need to understand the science behind the overhead throw. If we expect to train players at the highest level, we need to know what is actually happening in the body. By incorporating information relating to a player's "Kinematic Sequence," one is more apt to see where players are either efficient or inefficient in creating energy and delivering force to the ball. Understanding the sequencing of the body's rotations is essential to getting the timing of the delivery right and avoiding stressful mechanic flaws.

chapman

The way he phrased it may or may not have gone over a lot of coaches' heads and split the camp into science-based vs. common sense/feel coaches.  But, I obviously believe Tom is right on this point or I wouldn't spend my waking life in Eric's facility. On the flip side, I can also understand where coaches who do not naturally gravitate to the analytical style would find other ways to communicate this information than the technical jargon House used. At the end of the day, your players either understand what you're saying or they don't.  If they don't, you need to come back to their level of thought before they tune you out. Along these lines, one of the points I strongly agree with Tom on is the need to look at the golf industry and how advanced their level of instruction is in the private sector. Greg Rose and the people of the Titleist Performance Institute are doing some great things on the technology front, as far as analyzing swings and doing physical assessments to improve golf technique. Obviously, this is a different beast with the way their market dynamics have been established, but there is enough money within the baseball industry to start dedicating some of our resources to making sure we have the best information available to the general public. The rate at which players are getting injured because people are simply uninformed is not okay in this supposed "Information Age."

Layout 1

One of the refreshing things to see is that people are at least beginning to recognize that we can't be so rigid in our approach to training pitchers. We are just now leaving an era where we thought we had all the answers and we could box up our pitchers to 90 degree angles and call it a day. Funny that injuries are up at nearly every level of the game from little league to the Pros, so obviously something isn't working. With that said, I'll leave you with one last short story that Tom House provided us at the convention. It has do with a time when he was coaching Nolan Ryan on the Texas Rangers. Nolan credits a lot of his success later on in his career due to the physical shape Coach House got him in.  Obviously, this is a second-hand retelling of a story, so I'll leave it up to Tom to come over to Ericcressey.com and correct me in the comments section, but I think you'll get the gist. As many of you know, Coach House is famous for really being a pioneer on the biomechanical analysis front. One day, House was attempting to talk to Nolan Ryan about his famously high leg kick, by letting him know that it might make more sense to bring his leg kick down a bit and get himself a little more under control. In Nolan Ryan's Texan drawl, he calmly responded, "Tom, with all due respect sir... I understand you know a lot about the game, but if there's one thing I know.... It's that the higher I lift my leg here, the harder I'm gonna throw this baseball. So you can go ahead and stick that in your computer of yours." And if that doesn't bring this discussion full circle, I'm not quite sure what will.

nolan-ryan

In the end, I think as important as it is to follow the research, it is just as important to let the common sense/feel aspects drive the questions being researched. Obviously, science is continuously digging deeper, but if we don't listen to our athletes, we may be digging in the wrong places. Like I've said before, the athlete throws the baseball, so giving them the necessary information and letting them find their own signature style with it is essential to their development. Matt Blake can be reached at mablak07@gmail.com. Related Posts A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 1 Philosophizing from Goliath's Shoulders A Baseball Training Interview with Eric Cressey Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

The Tao of Cressey

"... Tao is often referred to as 'the nameless', because neither it nor its principles can ever be adequately expressed in words." Aw, what the hell, we'll give it a shot. No questions, no time limit, and no stone unturned. Training? Nutrition? A little piss and vinegar? It's all here. The following is what happens when you get on the phone with a top-level strength and conditioning coach and hit "record." Read more... Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more

Random Friday Thoughts and Pro Baseball Players Getting Down

1. I'm headed to Florida later today to speak at a seminar and then get in a mini-vacation with my wife-to-be.  So, I have lots of packing and programming to do before I take off, but thought I'd throw a little content and some videos up here to get you all through the weekend. 2. Check out this great post by Bill Hartman on thoracic mobility. 3. Speaking of Bill Hartman, our product, Assess and Correct, has been getting some great feedback from folks "in the know."  Check out this latest testimonial: "Assess and Correct may be the most comprehensive corrective exercise product on the market.  I feel this DVD is a must have for anyone looking to make positive changes in their athletes' bodies - or their own. The assessment section provides simple and detailed information for tests that can help anyone become more aware of their body's limitations while the correction progressions offer forward thinking solutions that guarantee optimal performance. Eric, Bill and Mike have done it again!" -Mike Irr - Head Strength & Conditioning Coach, Charlotte Bobcats Check it out for yourself: Assess and Correct.

Layout 1

4. Random videos of pro baseball players training because I don't have time to give you more content:

Have a great weekend!

Sign-up Today for our FREE Baseball Newsletter and Receive a Copy of the Exact Stretches used by Cressey Performance Pitchers after they Throw!
Name
Email
Read more
Page 1 59 60 61 62 63 68