Home Posts tagged "Pitching Mechanics"

Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 9/12/19

I hope you're hadving a great week. Here's a little recommended reading and listening to keep it rolling.

Complete Coach Certification - Mike Robertson launched this excellent continuing education resource for trainers last week. I just finished working my way through it and it was outstanding.

Models of Skills are Important - Lee Taft interviewed Dan Pfaff for this podcast, and it was absolutely outstanding.

Shoulder Assessment and Treatment with Eric Cressey - Speaking of podcasts, I was a guest on the Squat University Podcast recently. I talked a lot of shoulders with the host, physical therapist Aaron Horschig.

An Alternate Approach to Summer Ball: The Rise of Private Facility Training - This article from Aaron Fitt at D1Baseball.com highlights how many athletes are taking non-traditional approaches to summer development for baseball. Aaron shadowed a training session with Duke pitcher Bryce Jarvis at Cressey Sports Performance.

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The overhead view in a pitching delivery can enable you to see certain things that can’t be appreciated from other perspectives. Foremost among these is the ability to differentiate between thoracic rotation (upper back motion) and horizontal abduction (shoulder motion). 👇 In this image taken just prior to stride foot contact, @gerritcole45’s pelvis has already rotated counterclockwise toward the plate while his torso is still rotating clockwise. This is the hip-shoulder separation throwers seek for generating big time velocity. 🔥 However, when a thrower lacks thoracic rotation - or gives up thoracic rotation too early (usually by chasing arm speed too early in the delivery) - he’ll often resort to creating excessive horizontal abduction (arm back) to find the pre-stretch he wants to generate the velocity he covets. This is not only an ineffective velocity strategy, but it also can increase anterior shoulder and medial elbow stress - all while leading to arm side misses, accidental cutters, and backup breaking balls. 🤦‍♂️ Over the past few years, I’ve heard of a few pitchers being advised to work to increase the horizontal abduction in their deliveries. I don’t think you can make this recommendation without the overhead view, and even then, it’s likely taking a distal (arm) solution to a proximal (trunk and timing) problem. 🤔 I covered hip-shoulder separation in the pitching delivery in great detail in a free presentation I gave away earlier this year when we launched our podcast. You can still get it at the link in my bio.👊👍 . #Repost @astrosbaseball @get_repost_easily #repost_easily ****** Like H-Town in the summertime 💯

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Why the Overhead Angle Matters in the Pitching Delivery

The overhead view in a pitching delivery can enable you to see certain things that can’t be appreciated from other perspectives. Foremost among these is the ability to differentiate between thoracic rotation (upper back motion) and horizontal abduction (shoulder motion).

In this image taken just prior to stride foot contact, Gerrit Cole's pelvis has already rotated counterclockwise toward the plate while his torso is still rotating clockwise. This is the hip-shoulder separation throwers seek for generating big time velocity.

However, when a thrower lacks thoracic rotation - or gives up thoracic rotation too early (usually by chasing arm speed too early in the delivery) - he’ll often resort to creating excessive horizontal abduction (arm back) to find the pre-stretch he wants to generate the velocity he covets. This is not only an ineffective velocity strategy, but it also can increase anterior shoulder and medial elbow stress - all while leading to arm side misses, accidental cutters, and backup breaking balls.

Over the past few years, I’ve heard of a few pitchers being advised to work to increase the horizontal abduction in their deliveries. I don’t think you can make this recommendation without the overhead view, and even then, it’s likely taking a distal (arm) solution to a proximal (trunk and timing) problem.

I covered hip-shoulder separation in the pitching delivery in great detail in a free presentation I gave away earlier this year when we launched our podcast. You can still get it by subscribing below:

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Exercise of the week: Rear Foot Elevated 1-arm Low Cable Row

This week's exercise of the week features a new spin on an old favorite of ours. By elevating the rear foot, you can get more weight shift into the front hip on split-stance low cable rows.

In both pitchers and hitters athletes, we're constantly seeking better ways to teach front hip pull-back - and this is an awesome exercise for feeling the involved musculature. If you want to see this in action, check out the 29-30 second mark in this video of Zach Greinke:

I was surprised at how heavy we've been able to go on this exercise, as I expected a big drop off in resistance utilized because of the balancing component that's involved. In athletes with some single-leg proficiency, though, the rear-foot elevated 1-arm low cable row is an awesome progression.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach at the shoulder girdle, be sure to check out my popular resource, Sturdy Shoulder Solutions.

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Elite Baseball Development Podcast: Monitoring Arm Stress and Workload with Ben Hansen

We're excited to welcome Ben Hansen, the Vice President of Biomechanics and Innovation at Motus Global, to this week's podcast. In lieu of a sponsor this week, we've just got a final reminder that this week is the last chance to get the early bird discount on this year's fall seminar at CSP-MA. It takes place September 21-22; you can learn more HERE.

Show Outline

  • What led Ben to pursue a career in biomechanics and wearable technology
  • How Motus Global strives to impact the game of baseball and how their model for developing healthy arms has shifted over the years
  • What peer reviewed research says about the significance of joint torques and how we should interpret these metrics for predicting the risk of injury in baseball players
  • What acute and chronic workloads are, and how managing these variables can allow coaches to keep their athletes healthy and high performing
  • Why pitchers should have individualized throwing programs to account for the diverse variables that impact a player’s health
  • How truly different catch play, flat ground, bullpen, pre-game, and in-game throws are, and how coaches can more accurately account for the stress they impose on pitchers throughout a season
  • How rest should be incorporated into a baseball players year and why short breaks during a season of heavy throwing may be doing more harm than good for throwers
  • What ballplayers should consider when deciding between continuing to throw into the next season or shutting down to rest
  • What role mechanics plays in the health of a throwing arm and how common mechanical tendencies, like the Tommy John Twist and the Inverted W, influence arm stress
  • How fatigue is more predictive of injury than mechanics
  • Why building a durable work capacity is more important for staying healthy than mastering mechanics
  • How reliable using perceived effort is when creating and executing a throwing program
  • Why professionals need to rewrite the return to throwing program for common injuries in baseball
  • Where more research is needed to further understand how to manage baseball arms

You can follow Ben on Twitter at @BenHansen9 and on Instagram at @MotusGlobal.

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 with Brandon Kintzler

We're excited to welcome Chicago Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler 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 Brandon progressed from being a two-time 40th round draft pick out of Dixie State University to an MLB All-Star (while being released and going to Independent ball along the way)
  • How training to be healthy and durable allowed him to become a student of the game, recover from his injuries, and find success in pro ball
  • How Brandon has learned to effectively throw a sinker
  • Why having good direction in your delivery and mastering your lower half mechanics is essential to be able to stay behind the baseball, create late arm speed, and power through a two-seam fastball
  • Why Brandon chooses to stick to his strengths and hold firm in his belief in the effectiveness of his two-seam even while so many MLB pitchers shift toward 4-seamers
  • How Brandon’s velocity has steadily increased since coming back from injury and why he chooses to live in his sweet spot for velocity rather than throwing as hard as he possibly can
  • Why Brandon is throwing more off-speed pitches in recent years and how simplifying his mechanics have allowed him to have more consistent, repeatable stuff
  • Why Brandon struggled in the 2018 season and how straying from his game plan to chase more strikeouts turned out to be detrimental to his game
  • Where Brandon is most misunderstood by the public and why he has chosen to spend his energy being his genuine self rather than worrying about his image portrayed by the media
  • How beating Steve Cishek in a round of golf has led to a hilarious prank war between the two teammates
  • How Brandon has developed a relationship with Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, and how the two challenge each other to be better pitchers year in and year out

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 with Tyler Skaggs

 We're excited to welcome Anaheim Angels starting pitcher Tyler Skaggs to the podcast. A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Jaeger Sports. Head to www.JaegerSports.com and enter the coupon code CSP to get 20% off on your order through May 31.   

Show Outline

  • How Tyler’s experience as a multi-sport high school athlete facilitated his development as an athlete
  • Why Tyler progressed through minor league baseball and up to the big leagues quickly after being drafted out of high school in 2009
  • How Tyler has refined his curveball in pro baseball
  • How Tommy John surgery impacted Tyler’s career in 2014 and what his advice is for young pitchers who are going through major setbacks in their career
  • How Tyler is working to develop a slider and learning to differentiate this pitch from his curveball
  • How Tyler structures his throwing and training in season as a starting pitcher in a 5-day rotation
  • What Tyler’s routine is on the day of his start
  • How the game of baseball has evolved since Tyler was drafted a decade ago
  • How the use of technology in baseball has allowed Tyler to better understand his pitches and develop a plan to more precisely refine his craft
  • What characteristics in coaches have benefited Tyler’s development throughout his baseball career
  • How the role of the pitching coach is evolving to include a more holistic approach to player management
  • What the most common mistakes Tyler sees pitchers making when throwing curveballs

You can follow Tyler on Twitter at @TylerSkaggs37 and Instagram at @tskaggs45.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Jaeger Sports, who specializes in arm health, arm conditioning, and mental training. Best known for their long toss protocols and popular J-Bands, Jaeger Sports has been helping baseball and softball athletes reach their potential on the field since 1991. Alan Jaeger has been a trusted resource to me for close to a decade, and many of our athletes use J-Bands every single day. Through May 31, you can get 20% off on your order at www.JaegerSports.com using the coupon code CSP.

 

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: Kids and Curveballs

We're going to deviate from the normal single-guest model for this episode, and instead rock a collaborative effort between me and Cressey Sports Performance - MA pitching coordinator, Christian Wonders. We're going to discuss the debate on when kids should start throwing curveballs and sliders.

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

  • What research says about youth pitchers throwing breaking balls
  • When the right time is to begin integrating a breaking ball into a young pitcher’s development
  • How Christian introduces a young pitcher to spinning a curveball for the first time
  • What steps Christian takes to progress a young pitchers from simply learning to spin a baseball to consistently throwing breakers in a game
  • Why youth pitchers should prioritize commanding fastball and changeup before jumping to learn a big breaking ball
  • How the delicacy involved in throwing curveballs takes young pitchers away from working late arm speed and powering through the baseball
  • What common mechanical compensations arise as young pitchers try to throw a quality curveball
  • How Christian plans to develop a curveball with his 10 year old brother
  • Why it is so crucial for pitchers to find a consistent and comfortable curveball grip that works for them
  • Why Christian never has any of his pitchers, youth, high school, or college, throw more than two off speed pitches in a row in bullpens
  • Why it’s important to replicate fastball arm speed on breaking pitches

You can follow Christian on Twitter at @csp_pitching, and on Instagram at @csp_pitching. Also, for more information about our upcoming CSP Elite Baseball Mentorship, be sure to check out www.EliteBaseballMentorships.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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Elite Baseball Development Podcast with Adam Ottavino

We're excited to welcome New York Yankees relief pitcher Adam Ottavino to the podcast. A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Lumberlend. Head to www.Lumberlend.com and enter the coupon code CSP to get free shipping on your order of two or more bat mugs.   

Show Outline

  • Why Adam opted to attend Northeastern University instead of immediately pursing professional baseball when drafted out of high school.
  • How Adam learned to spin the baseball well at a young age, and how aspiring ball players can become masters of manipulating the movement on a baseball.
  • How Adam developed his current pitch arsenal as he progressed through pro ball.
  • How altitude influences pitching and the hidden advantage of pitching at Coors Field.
  • How Adam made a successful transition from a starter to reliever.
  • Why Tommy John turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Adam, as he took advantage of his time away from the game to prepare physically and experience the mental reps necessary to be immediately successful upon his return.
  • How the tribulations of the 2017 season led to the creation of Adam’s “lab” in Manhattan and the diligent work that followed to propel him to a successful 2018.
  • Why it’s important to differentiate between a cutter and his slider
  • How Adam keeps a level head through the emotional roller coaster of a major league season.
  • Why it’s so important to play meaningful catch, throw with conviction, and understand when the best opportunity is for you to refine your various pitches.
  • Why advice from Adam’s little league coach proved to be one of the most impactful lessons of his baseball career

You can follow Adam on Instagram at @adamottavino.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Lumberlend Co. If you're looking for a unique gift for a baseball fan in your life, you'll definitely want to check this out: they've hollowed out the bat barrel and created a cool drinking mug. You can customize these with colors, names, logos, and photographs. They're also an officially licensed MLBPA product, so you can get your favorite teams and players incorporated into the designs. I've used these as gifts with great feedback, so I'm confident you'd experience the same. The crew at Lumberlend is offering free shipping on two or more bat mugs with the coupon code CSP at checkout. Just head to Lumberlend.com to design yours today.

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 with Steve Cishek

We're excited to welcome Chicago Cubs relief pitcher Steve Cishek to the podcast. A special thanks to this show's sponsor, Lumberlend. Head to www.Lumberlend.com and enter the coupon code CSP to get free shipping on your order of two or more bat mugs.   

Show Outline

  • How underdeveloped, high school Steve Cishek sent VHS tapes to college coaches enticing them to recruit him
  • Why Division 2 Carson-Newman College was the right fit for Steve and his development
  • How Steve’s arm slot has remained consistent throughout his career, and he has instead manipulated his trunk position to find the pitching delivery that works best for him
  • How Steve’s appearance in the 2013 World Baseball Classic contributed to his struggles in April 2013 following the WBC, and what he learned about his fastball and what makes him effective as a pitcher during this time
  • How Steve’s slider developed in the minors
  • Why Steve's humility has made him a popular player in every clubhouse in which he plays
  • How Steve modified his throwing program daily to account for his workload as a reliable reliever in-season
  • How Steve remains even keel through the ups and downs of a season
  • How Steve approaches in-season training
  • Why Cishek’s fastball usage is increasing when fastball usage is trending down across most of MLB
  • Steve explains ways young pitcher’s can build rapport with their catcher.

You can follow Steve on Twitter at @srShrek31, and on Instagram at @srShrek31.

Sponsor Reminder

This episode is brought to you by Lumberlend Co. If you're looking for a unique gift for a baseball fan in your life, you'll definitely want to check this out: they've hollowed out the bat barrel and created a cool drinking mug. You can customize these with colors, names, logos, and photographs. They're also an officially licensed MLBPA product, so you can get your favorite teams and players incorporated into the designs. I've used these as gifts with great feedback, so I'm confident you'd experience the same. The crew at Lumberlend is offering free shipping on two or more bat mugs with the coupon code CSP at checkout. Just head to Lumberlend.com to design yours today.

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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Vertical Shin and the Pitching Delivery

I came across this picture of Cressey Sports Performance athlete Corey Kluber on the Cleveland Indians Instagram feed the other day, and it reminded me to write this blog that I've had on my mind for quite some time.

It's not an exactly perfect measure, but a vertical shin on the push-off leg during the pitching delivery is a pretty good indicator of pitchers having good direction to the plate.

When the knee drifts forward over the toes, it's a pretty good sign that hip loading isn't optimal in the sagittal plane (hip flexion). Rather, the pitcher is "dumping" into the quad on the support leg. Additionally, unless you have really good ankle mobility (into dorsiflexion) it's hard to preserve a large base of support (i.e., the entire foot) through which you can apply force to the ground. The more the knee drifts forward, the more likely the heel is to come up off the ground.

Corey is a great example of a vertical shin, and it's particularly impressive because he has quite a bit of extra "coil" in his leg lift, which can often make pitchers spin out of the hip and get rotational early. His ability to load back into hip flexion and apply force into the ground improves his direction to the plate and, in turn, his consistency and command (only 34 walks in 215 innings last year).

Some great pitchers - Chris Sale and Jake Arrieta, for instance - will sacrifice good direction to the plate in order to optimize deception and/or stuff. In spite of the fact that they don't preserve heel contact along the rubber quite as long, they still preserve stability long enough into the delivery to make it work. You'll also notice these pitchers use their glove sides and "aggressive" stiffness into the front leg to bring them back on line. It's a higher maintenance delivery, but it can still be nasty. And, chances are that the success will be more related to the stuff than pristine command.

My feeling is that with young pitchers, we want to coach to improve direction. They don't have a body of work to support the legitimacy of putting themselves into bad positions. This is where good footwork and intent during catch play is so imperative; it's where they hammer home direction and learn to load into the hip instead of drifting into the knee. Long-time Cressey Sports Performance athlete Tim Collins might be the best I've ever seen in this regard, and this is one reason why he's pitched in the mid-90s at a height of 5-7 throughout his pro career.

In more advanced pitchers, you have to ask whether they've a) had success and b) stayed healthy. If the answer to both these questions is "yes," then my feeling is that you leave the direction alone and instead focus on taking care of optimizing their physical preparation.

As example, a pitcher with a less vertical shin and more closed off delivery will need more hip internal rotation, thoracic rotation, and scapular upward rotation to get to consistently throw to the glove side. And if they can't do these things well, they'll often rip off accidental cutters to the glove side, have balls run back over the plate, or just sail fastballs up and armside.

Last, but not least, my business partner (and CSP pitching coordinator) Brian Kaplan made a really good point recently: pitch "tunneling" is generally going to be significantly better for pitchers who have better direction. It makes sense, as less moving parts equates to more consistent vertical and horizontal release points, and a more direct delivery to the plate likely makes it harder for hitters to gauge depth (even if they are likely sacrificing some deception). If there is one thing our Major League hitters have told me about facing Kluber, it's that everything looks exactly the same until the split-second.

 


So, long story short, you can't separate direction from pitch design and physical preparation; they all work together. And if you're looking for a good measure of direction, vertical shin (or something close to it) is a pretty good place to start.

If you're looking to learn more about how we assess, program, and coach pitchers - both in terms of strength and conditioning and mechanics - - you won't want to miss our Elite Baseball Mentorship Upper Extremity course. Our next offering will take place at our Hudson, MA location on June 23-25. You can learn more HERE.

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