Home Posts tagged "Pitching Mechanics"

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!

Name
Email
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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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Pitching Mechanics: What to Make of an Open Landing Position

After my recent presentation at Pitchapalooza in Nashville, I received the following question from a college coach who was in attendance:

Q: "My question revolves around pitchers landing with an open foot position. From your experience and from a biomechanical standpoint what have you seen regarding this landing/stride position in regards to why it occurs and how you have gone about correcting it? And, how have you seen it impact knee and back health. My experience has been that there is either some underlying knee or back history, or something is about to occur. In the recruiting process, I've spoken with several coaches and scouts who won’t consider someone who has this issue (open foot strike) regardless of velocity, due to concerns over long term health."

A: This answer can go in a lot of directions, so I decided to film a video:

In terms of a real-world example, take a look at Cressey Sports Performance athlete and Astros pitcher, Josh James. Josh has a slightly more retroverted hips presentation, and you can see that he lands a bit open. This is his normal alignment and he controls his body well, so it works for him (to the tune of consistent 100mph+ velocity).

More often that not, though, the pitchers who are winding up in this open foot position are getting there because of mechanical faults or physical limitations.

[bctt tweet="It's imperative to have a thorough assessment process for pitchers; you never want to try to take a mechanical fix to a movement problem."]

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The Best of 2018: Baseball Articles

With baseball athletes being the largest segment of the Cressey Sports Performance athletic clientele, it seems only fitting to devote a "Best of 2018" feature to the top baseball posts from last year. Check them out:

1. When Pitching Goes Poorly: 5 Strategies for Righting the Ship - Pitchers can struggle for many reasons beyond just mechanics. Here are five factors to take into account.

2. Is It Really Biceps "Tendonitis? - One of my biggest pet peeves is when all anterior shoulder pain is given a "blanket diagnosis" of biceps tendonitis. With that in mind, this webinar excerpt from my Sturdy Shoulder Solutions resource delves into the topic in greater detail.

3. How to Apply the Joint-by-Joint Approach to the Elbow - In this video blog, I discuss how we can apply the concept of regional interdependence to the elbow, particularly in the context of pitching injuries.

4. How to Win 99% of High School Baseball Games - I've haven't coached a high school baseball game in my life. I know a lot about adaptation to training in youth athletes, though, and that puts me in a unique position to comment on how to win high school baseball games.

5. Why Injuries are Highest Early in the Baseball Season (Video) - Major League Baseball Injuries are highest during Spring Training and early in the regular season. Surely, some of this has to do with the fact that some players had lingering issues from the previous season that never went away - but it definitely goes further than this.

We've got one last "Best of 2018" list running tomorrow, so stay tuned for the closer!

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Strength and Conditioning Stuff You Should Read: 7/6/18

I hope you all had a great holiday week. Here's some recommended reading and listening from around the 'net over the past week:

The Best Team Wins - This was an awesome recommendation from my buddy Josh Bonhothal. Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton provide some outstanding strategies for both sports team settings and businesses alike. The section on Baby Boomers vs. Generation Xers vs. Millenials was particularly fascinating.

Matej Hocevar on the Physical Preparation Podcast - Matej is an absolutely awesome guy with a wealth of information to share, and this podcast is an excellent example. He was also an amazing host to my wife and me when we visited Slovenia a few years ago.

7 Ways to Increase Your Training Density - I reincarnated this post from the archives earlier in the week and it was a hit, so I wanted to give it a mention here as well.

Top Tweet of the Week

Top Instagram Post of the Week

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When Pitching Goes Poorly: 5 Strategies for Righting the Ship

Pitchers can struggle for a number of different reasons, whether it's command, velocity, "stuff," or actual pain/soreness. Historically, when players run into these tough patches, they've been conditioned to look to their mechanics first - and often unnecessary modifications are made on this front before looking deeper into the situation. With that in mind, I thought I'd use today's post as a quick look at some of the other "big picture" considerations.

1. Health

Very simply, if you hurt, it will alter movement patterns. It will change the way that you prepare and, in turn, execute pitches.

When it comes to optimizing pitching performance, the challenging thing (and this will sound crazy) about pain is that it can be covered up. Anti-inflammatories/pain killers can make symptoms and allow throwers to get away with bad patterns over an extended period of time.

2. Movement Quality

There are also instances where an athlete may have a significantly out-of-whack movement pattern, but without any symptoms. The goal with these individuals is obviously to optimize movement quality to get improvements without having to touch mechanics - and before pain kicks in.

3. Fatigue

Fatigue both acutely (within a game) and chronically (over the course of a season) can markedly impact a pitcher's consistency. It's a topic that also warrants much deeper digging, too, as it can be impacted by nutrition, initial work capacity, sleep quality, environmental conditions, and a host of other factors. We know that fatigue impacts not only mechanics, but also the motor learning we're trying to achieve in our preparation work.

4. Extrinsic Factors

Some guys pitch (and feel) terribly in cold weather. For others, really hot, humid days are the problem.

Pitching on a poorly maintained mound can minimize the effectiveness of even the most elite pitchers.

Throwing to an inferior catcher - or in front of a bad umpire - can have a dramatically negative impact on pitchers' success.

Only some of these factors can be modified, but the important thing is being able to recognize them so that you don't automatically assume that the struggles are coming from a different category from this list.

5. Feel

This is likely the most subjective and hard-to-describe issue. Some days, guys just don't have "feel" for a particular pitch on a given day, week, or month. At the younger levels, it is usually secondary to one of the first four factors I've outlined. At the more advanced levels, though, you almost have to chalk it up to a bit of random variation. Even the best pitchers on the planet have some considerable variation in their spin rates and extension numbers from pitch-to-pitch (as I outlined in a previous blog, Are Pitching Mechanics Really That Repeatable?)

I think this "feel" discussion reminds us that we don't want to throw the baby out with the bath water just because a guy struggles in one outing. When someone is struggling on the mound, look for trends and ask a lot of questions.

Wrap-up

These factors don't exist in isolation. For example, sometimes a physical issue (e.g., shoulder pain) can become a mechanical issue (e.g., lower arm slot). Moreover, thoracic outlet syndrome would qualify as a condition that spans the health, movement quality, feel, and fatigue realms.

There is a time and place for mechanical corrections, but before you go down that path, check these factors out first. We apply this sequential approach to development with all of our pitchers, aiming to identify "big rocks" early on that will deliver the most profound performance improvements.

This comprehensive approach to developing pitchers will be utilized heavily in our Elite Collegiate Baseball Development Summer Program. For more information, click here.

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