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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast – January 2023 Q&A: Assessment Principles, Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, Warm-ups, and 91mph 13-year-olds

It's time for another listener Q&A, so I cover four questions from our audience in this week's podcast on the following topics:

  1. "Big Rock" Assessment Principles
  2. Why Thoracic Outlet Syndrome is a Diagnosis of Exclusion
  3. The Key Components of a Good Warm-up
  4. Injury Concerns in Young Pitchers with Elite Velocity

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Proteus Motion. They're changing the way we assess and train athletes with their 3D Resistance. Head to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite to learn more about this cutting-edge technology. 

Sponsor Reminder

Proteus Motion has a patented technology that allows us to measure power for the overwhelming majority of human movements. Proteus software guides users through 4-minute physical assessments to arm trainers with unprecedented performance data and insights, creating an entirely new standard for personalized fitness and physical rehabilitation. All of this is enabled by a total reinvention of resistance training called 3D Resistance. Training power and acceleration with Proteus’ patented 3D Resistance can be safer, more efficient, and more effective than traditional resistance training tools in many cases. I’ve been a big fan of Proteus for the past few years. We have a unit in both Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and actually helped to develop the Cressey Power test for rotational athletes. The information we’ve gathered from this testing has been an absolute game-changer in helping us to more optimally program for our athletes. Additionally, as a training initiative, work on the Proteus has allowed us to train different points on the force-velocity curve in rotational patterns in ways that medicine ball work never could.

You can learn more about them by listening to Episode 106 of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast, or by heading to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite.

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: Braxton Garrett

We welcome Miami Marlins starting pitcher Braxton Garrett to the latest podcast. Braxton shares insights on how his mechanics and pitching approach has evolved, and how adversity has shaped his ability to compete at the Major League level.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

You can follow Braxton on Instagram at @BraxGarrett and Twitter at @BraxGarrett.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF-certified 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 - 10 FREE travel packs - 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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Email
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CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Creating a Culture for Sustainable Success with Tim Corbin

We’re excited to welcome Vanderbilt University head baseball coach Tim Corbin to this week’s podcast for a discussion on transforming cultures in a team environment, and what key standards must be present to provide for sustainable success. Tim also speaks to college recruiting, long-term player development strategies, and the evolution of the student athlete.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

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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Elite Baseball Development Podcast: The Problem with Averages

I'm flying solo for this week's podcast, as I wanted to tackle what I believe to be among the most important considerations in player development in baseball. Many training approaches over-value "averages" and undervalue outlier qualities - and, in doing so, really interfere with some athletes' development. 

Before we get to the show, though, a special thanks to this episode's sponsor, Athletic Greens. Head to http://www.athleticgreens.com/cressey and you'll receive a free 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

 

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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Email
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The Best of 2022: Podcasts

2022 marked year 4 of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast. In all, we released 36 episodes in 2022 - and I learned a ton from some great guests. That said, here are our top five episodes from the year:

1. Navigating Youth Baseball Development and College Recruiting with Walter BeedeBaseball dad, coach, author, and consultant Walter Beede joined us for a multifaceted conversation on a wide variety of topics that are essential for baseball families to understand. I’ve known Walter for over 15 years, and in addition to having more passion for baseball than anyone I’ve ever met, he’s also helped a ton of families navigate the travel ball and college recruiting landscapes.

2. College Baseball Strength and Conditioning Considerations with Zach Dechant - Texas Christian University Assistant Athletic Director of Human Performance Zach Dechant oversees baseball development at TCU. In this discussion with guest host John O’Neil, Zach shared insights on long-term development of college athletes, discussed his offseason work with alumni that have moved on to professional baseball, and outlined the key competencies he looks to develop in the coaches he mentors.

3. Principles of Power Development - I flew solo for this podcast, as I took on a whopper of a topic: power development. My goal here was to take a large, seemingly complex topic and break it down into digestible constituent parts.

4. Multifaceted Pitching Development with Matt Hinkley - Matt Hinkley joined the Cressey Sports Performance - FL staff in late 2021 and has done a phenomenal job with our pitching department. In this podcast, we covered a wide range of pitching topics, including:

  • How to connect the dots between pitching mechanics and strength and conditioning
  • How to employ high-speed cameras for pitch design
  • Why it’s so important to plan the yearly competitive calendar
  • When to use subtle adjustments vs. broad overhauls
  • Why he’s more of a “pitching manager” than a “pitching coach”
  • Why the mental side of pitching can never be overlooked

5. Understanding Anterior Shoulder Pain with Dr. David AltchekDr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery and New York Mets shared some outstanding clinical insights on the diagnosis and treatment of anterior shoulder pain in overhead throwing athletes.

Finally, while I've got your attention, be sure to check out our foremost sponsor from the past year, 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 – 10 FREE travel packs – 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.

We're back to the regular EricCressey.com content this upcoming week. Thanks for all your support in 2022! We've got some great stuff planned for 2023.

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: Jake Fishman

We welcome Oakland A's pitcher Jake Fishman to the latest podcast. Jake's rise to the big leagues is a tremendous example of persistence; his story touches on just how hard it is to make it to "the show," and how players have to be openminded to reinventing themselves and adjusting as the competition level increases. Jake also holds the distinction of being the only former Cressey Sports Performance intern to make it to the Major Leagues. 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 10-pack of Athletic Greens travel packets with your first order.

You can follow Jake on Instagram at @SwedishFishman1.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Athletic Greens. It’s a NSF-certified 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 - 10 FREE travel packs - 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!

Name
Email
Read more

CSP Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Peter Strzelecki

We welcome Milwaukee Brewers pitcher Peter Strzelecki to this week’s podcast. Peter shares his journey from junior college, to undrafted free agent sign, to the minor leagues and onto a big league roster. He offers insights on overcoming Tommy John surgery, and also key strategies for embracing a unique delivery and pitch mix.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Proteus Motion. They're changing the way we assess and train athletes with their 3D Resistance. Head to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite to learn more about this cutting-edge technology. 

 

You can follow Peter on Instagram at @Strick2118.

Sponsor Reminder

Proteus Motion has a patented technology that allows us to measure power for the overwhelming majority of human movements. Proteus software guides users through 4-minute physical assessments to arm trainers with unprecedented performance data and insights, creating an entirely new standard for personalized fitness and physical rehabilitation. All of this is enabled by a total reinvention of resistance training called 3D Resistance. Training power and acceleration with Proteus’ patented 3D Resistance can be safer, more efficient, and more effective than traditional resistance training tools in many cases. I’ve been a big fan of Proteus for the past few years. We have a unit in both Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and actually helped to develop the Cressey Power test for rotational athletes. The information we’ve gathered from this testing has been an absolute game-changer in helping us to more optimally program for our athletes. Additionally, as a training initiative, work on the Proteus has allowed us to train different points on the force-velocity curve in rotational patterns in ways that medicine ball work never could.

You can learn more about them by listening to Episode 106 of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast, or by heading to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite.

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: David Peterson

We welcome New York Mets pitcher David Peterson to this week’s podcast. David trained at Cressey Sports Performance - FL this past offseason and really impressed me as not only a hard worker, but a pitcher who really understands his identity and what makes him successful. He had a breakout year in 2022, but as you'll learn in this podcast, it was actually the culmination of a good long-term strategy and a willingness to be openminded to new ways of attacking his development.

A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Proteus Motion. They're changing the way we assess and train athletes with their 3D Resistance. Head to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite to learn more about this cutting-edge technology. 

 

You can follow David on Instagram at @David_Peterson_3.

Sponsor Reminder

Proteus Motion has a patented technology that allows us to measure power for the overwhelming majority of human movements. Proteus software guides users through 4-minute physical assessments to arm trainers with unprecedented performance data and insights, creating an entirely new standard for personalized fitness and physical rehabilitation. All of this is enabled by a total reinvention of resistance training called 3D Resistance. Training power and acceleration with Proteus’ patented 3D Resistance can be safer, more efficient, and more effective than traditional resistance training tools in many cases. I’ve been a big fan of Proteus for the past few years. We have a unit in both Cressey Sports Performance facilities, and actually helped to develop the Cressey Power test for rotational athletes. The information we’ve gathered from this testing has been an absolute game-changer in helping us to more optimally program for our athletes. Additionally, as a training initiative, work on the Proteus has allowed us to train different points on the force-velocity curve in rotational patterns in ways that medicine ball work never could.

You can learn more about them by listening to Episode 106 of the Elite Baseball Development Podcast, or by heading to www.ProteusMotion.com/elite.

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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Email
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5 Drills for Dynamic Trunk Deceleration

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida coach, Eduardo Valle.

Coaches and athletes often get fixated on power production and forget about force absorption, or deceleration. Deceleration is an important quality for athletes to possess, as it will help them stay within themselves when performing a task and lessen injury risk. A pitcher or a hitter that can't decelerate may spin wildly out of control. A rotator cuff that can't slow your arm action down is a recipe for an arm injury. A hitter that can't decelerate sufficiently can't check his swing. There are countless other examples - and this is why we take deceleration training quite seriously. With that in mind, here are five non-traditional drills to implement dynamic trunk deceleration into your training.

1. Anti-Rotation Landmine Windmill: With this drill, you are trying to control the weight on the way down without rotating through your hip, as this will promote trunk deceleration without hip involvement. This is also a good strengthening exercise as you have to then rotate back to the center and repeat to the other side. Choose your weight carefully, as this is an easy one to cheat.

2. Split Stance High to Low Aquabag Chop (over Front Leg): This is a more dynamic exercise overall and one that has immediate transfer to the field, as every baseball player throws and needs to be able to decelerate properly to avoid spinning out of control or missing their target. This will also help athletes to learn how to absorb force into that lead hip.

3. Pallof Press with Deceleration: This exercise is reactive in nature. You're going to set-up like a normal Pallof Press, and then you're going to let go and rapidly catch the handle again. This will challenge your core to quickly stop your trunk from going into excess rotation.

4. Proteus Straight Arm Anti-Rotations: This is a more dynamic progression from the landmine anti-rotation drill I demonstrated earlier. Here, we're rotating our upper body as fast as possible and coming to an immediate stop at end-range. This is extremely challenging because if you are unable to stop properly, you simply lose your balance and fall off to the side. We want to ensure that our trunk can stop itself independently from our hips so as to not put too much stress or rely too much on our hips when everything is working together.

5. Proteus Split Stance High to Low Chop (over Front Leg): Similar to the Aquabag chop, we are going through a modified throwing motion, trying to exert as much force as possible. If we are able to properly absorb our high output here, then we should be able to have more success on the mound maintaining good posture after a pitch instead of spinning uncontrollably.

The lighter/faster drills here typically work well as part of "pre-work." In other words, we'll integrate them after warm-ups and before we get to our lifting for the day. They pair well as fillers between medicine ball drills, too. Conversely, if the loads are heavier, they're best integrated as assistance exercises during strength training sessions.

About the Author

Eduardo Valle is a strength and conditioning coach at Cressey Sports Performance - Florida. He graduated from the University of Virginia with a BS.Ed in Kinesiology. A Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA, Eduardo also works as part of the UVA Sports Medicine Staff as an Athletic Training Student; this experience helped shape his view of exercise as medicine being an integral part of both mitigating injury and maximizing performance. He's currently in a Master's program at Florida Atlantic University for Exercise Science and Health Promotion. You can follow him on Instagram at @edu_valle2.

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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Vertical Bat Angle: A New Way to Look at Batter vs. Pitcher Matchups

Today's guest post comes from Cressey Sports Performance - Florida associate hitting coordinator, Tyler Wolfe.

In the 8th inning of a recent NLDS game between the Dodgers and the Padres, the Padres went to their left handed closer, Josh Hader, who possesses one of the better fastballs in the game. The second batter he was set to face was a left-handed hitter, Cody Bellinger, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts chose to pinch hit for Bellinger. His two most likely options he was deciding between were right handed batters Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes. Taylor would be the obvious choice to most because he is more of an offensive threat than Barnes. Roberts decided to go with Barnes, but unfortunately the move didn’t work out as Barnes flew out to center field to end the inning. Roberts was questioned about the unusual decision after the game and had this to say: “Hader’s tough on anyone but I felt that Austin’s short swing, flat path…Hader throws the 4-seam rise fastball, CT swings uphill, and Austin has had success against Hader.”

The old school approach when playing matchups from an offensive perspective is to put in a hitter who hits from the opposite side from the pitcher's throwing arm. This has been the standard go-to matchup maker in baseball for a long time and makes complete sense because it is a much more comfortable at bat for most because the breaking balls will move into them instead of starting at or behind them and moving away. Today, I want to get a little more in depth on playing matchups to play to the hitters strengths instead of just putting in a righty hitter because it’s a lefty pitcher.

So back to the Dodgers story, what exactly is Roberts referring to when he says this? My guess is that he was referencing Vertical Bat Angle (VBA). It could also have to do with Attack Angle, but VBA is what I want to discuss today. What exactly is Vertical Bat angle you might be wondering if you haven’t heard of it before? The bat sensor company Blast Motion gives a good definition of what VBA is:

“Vertical Bat Angle is the angle of the bat with respect to horizontal at the moment of impact. Vertical Bat Angle is measured in degrees and provides the location of the barrel of the bat relative to the knob of the bat at impact. Vertical Bat Angle will be zero when the barrel of the bat and the knob are parallel to the ground. Vertical Bat Angle will be negative when the barrel of the bat is below the knob of the bat at impact.”

Here's an example of two very good hitters with very different VBA’s to the exact same pitch: High School hitter Whitey Ossenfort on the left (Average -47.1 degrees of VBA) and Blue Jays minor leaguer Karl Ellison on the right (Average of -28.7 degrees of VBA).

Chris Taylor has a very steep average vertical bat angle of -39 degrees. Austin Barnes has an average vertical bat angle of -27.6 degrees. These two are drastically different in their swing paths and it leads to very different results. In my opinion, neither one is right or wrong, but as Dave Roberts’ quote implies, they can help to understand a hitter and what pitches and locations each guy might hit better than others.

I wanted to do a deeper dive into VBA to see if it could be an even better predictor of what kind of pitches and locations certain hitters could handle better than others. This could go for both the college and pro level because VBA is something that is very simple to measure. You could do so with just a camera if needed, but a Blast Motion or Diamond Kinetics sensor are probably easiest and both a relatively inexpensive option that gives you the data real time in both training and game.

The two examples I want to look at are two of the best hitters in baseball: Mike Trout and Juan Soto. They are the perfect examples for looking at VBA because they are at opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to VBA, but both are very successful hitters. The Average VBA in Major League Baseball over the last 4 years (2019-2022) is -32.2 degrees according to SwingGraphs (subscription required, but $5 gets you full VBA’s from the last 4-5 seasons).

• Trout has had an average VBA of -37.1 degrees over that four year period
• Soto has had an average VBA of -27.4 degrees over that same four year period

With that in mind, let’s look at some of the Baseball Savant illustrations for both Soto and Trout so we can get a better idea of what parts of the zone they handle best and what their approach might be.

-The first row of charts below is K% for each guy in each section of the zone
-The second is Launch Angle for each guy in each section
-The third row is wOBA
-The last chart is Batting Average, for the old school folks in the crowd 

                                  BaseballSavant: Trout - K Rate                                     BaseballSavant: Soto K-Rate


BaseballSavant: Trout - LA                                BaseballSavant: Soto - LA

BaseballSavant: Trout - wOBA                              BaseballSavant: Soto - wOBA

BaseballSavant: Trout - BA                                     BaseballSavant: Soto - BA

These four charts all show very different results for both of these two elite hitters. Trout does much better in the lower 2/3 of the zone than he does in the top 1/3 in all four of the charts. Soto, on the other hand, is best in the top 2/3 of the zone. Not to say they can’t handle that section of the zone but they have much less success in that one section of the plate and it’s likely due to the path their bat takes to get to pitches at that height/location.

So, let’s go into a hypothetical game example. Let’s say it’s that same 8th inning situation in that Dodgers/Padres game with runners on first and second, with two outs and Josh Hader on the mound – and the Dodgers trailing 5-3. You have the Josh Hader scouting report and know that he throws nearly 70 percent fastballs and lives primarily glove side upper half of the zone with it (heatmap of his fastball over the last four years below).


BaseballSavant - Hader FB Heatmap

You’re in Dave Roberts shoes and you have Soto and Trout on the bench (for some insane reason they’re on your team and not playing) and you need to send one of them up. Who would you think would have a better chance of success in this situation? The old school theory is to send up Trout because he’s a right handed batter. If I’m in the manager's shoes and these are my options, I’m sending up Soto every time in that situation because of the type, percentage, and location of fastballs Josh Hader throws. For reference, Trout has never faced Hader and Soto has faced him three times and is 2 for 3 with 2 RBIs off of him.

Let’s look at one final example. We will go with almost the same situation, where we’re down 5-3 with runners on first and second, but let’s say only one out now in the 8th inning. You have the same two options for pinch hitters off the bench. This time, though, we’re facing Seattle and Luis Castillo is still throwing. Castillo has had a 51% ground ball rate over the last four years and does throw both a 4-seam and a sinker. His heatmap of all pitches over the last four years is below. Trout has three plate appearances against Castillo. He has a walk, a homer, and a single against him in those three plate appearances. Soto has had 10 plate appearances against Castillo and has also had some success, as he has two hits – including a homer and three walks. However, he does have a 67% ground ball rate against him.


BaseballSavant: Castillo - FB Heatmap

Once again, the old school approach would say to send up Soto in this situation because he is a left handed batter against a right handed arm. With what we have looked at so far, which guy are you going with if you’re managing? For me, it’s Trout every time because he is going to be able to get the ball in the air more, especially off a guy who strength is to throw more pitches down in the zone. From an offensive perspective, the worst thing that could happen in this situation is a double play, and Soto has a much tougher time elevating balls at the bottom of the zone, as you can see by his launch angle chart (above). This is why I would send up Trout in this situation.

As I close out this article, I want to emphasize that VBA is not a perfect stat for measuring what pitches and locations guys handle best because there is so much more that goes into hitting, most notably timing and approach. It is, however, a great measurement for getting a better understanding of what your players swing path looks like and how this may affect their ball flight and contact rates. VBA changes for each hitter based on height and location. For pitches up in the zone (especially with fastballs), hitters need a flatter bat path (VBA closer to 0), and for pitches lower in the zone, they need a much steeper bat path. Like I said, it doesn’t mean that they can’t handle the opposite pitch of what their average bat angle is, but it does make it harder to square it up because of the direction of their bat path to the pitch. Soto has a tough time getting the low pitch off the ground and Trout is susceptible to hitting the high pitch too high in the air.

There are many factors that go into VBA, but we will have to save that for another article. Some of those factors include:

  • Height/Location of the pitch
  • Height/Posture of the hitter
  • Timing: If a hitter is either on time, early, or late this will make a difference
  • A hitter’s mobility, strength, and stability all the way up the chain

Conclusion

In my opinion the best thing that understanding a player's VBA can help with is creating a better approach for each hitter. Mike Trout probably isn't going to look to swing up in the zone until he has to with two strikes or if a situation allows for it. Juan Soto probably is going to look for a pith up in the zone. This isn’t to say that they don’t train to work on these locations they struggle with; my guess is that they actually spend a lot of time working on these weaknesses. There are videos of Trout talking doing about some high tee work trying to stay on top and flat and hit ground balls up the middle. This seems like a great drill to help him feel what he needs to do in order to get to these balls up in the zone when he has to hit them. As any great hitter would agree, having a good approach is likely the most important thing to being a good hitter but it’s hard to individualize that approach if you don’t know what pitches/locations a hitter can handle best.

*A big thanks to CSP Associate Pitching Coach Matt Ellmyer for the idea to put this into a blog, and for helping with some of the research as well.

About the Author

Tyler Wolfe serves as Associate Hitting Coordinator at CSP-FL. Prior to joining the CSP staff, he worked as a minor league hitting coach for the St. Louis Cardinals. Tyler played baseball at Des Moines Area CC and Kansas State University as an infielder and pitcher before being drafted as an infielder by the Houston Astros in 2016. He went on to play four years of professional baseball before starting his coaching career. His first coaching role was as the assistant hitting coordinator for the Minnesota Blizzard, a premier Midwest youth and high school travel organization. Tyler holds a B.S in Psychology from Kansas State and a M.S in Sports Management from Indiana State University.

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