by Darren Fenster
In Game One of last October’s World Series, the Kansas City Royals pedaled reliever after reliever into a 14-inning instant classic against the New York Mets, all throwing in the mid-to-upper 90’s. That was, until Chris Young entered the game in the top of the 12th, showing the baseball world and aspiring Big League pitchers everywhere that you don’t, in fact, need to have eye-popping velocity to successfully compete at the highest level of the sport.
Pitching out of the bullpen for three scoreless frames, striking out five while earning the win, Young hit 90 MPH on the radar gun in that game. That’s significant because it was the first time he did so since 2009. And he only touched 90. Once. For the past 12-plus years, Chris Young- who stands at 6’10” tall- generally has made his living as a Major League pitcher by throwing his four-seam fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s, one that averaged 86 MPH for the 2015 season.
In the age of velocity that baseball seems to be living in right now, that aforementioned fact begs the simple question of, “how?” How does Chris Young do it?
Velocity is a gift. Granted, a gift that can be developed and improved through hard work and dedication, but not one that most baseball pitchers at most levels of the game are blessed with. Velocity is magnified on television every night and at ballparks every day so much so, that many up and coming pitchers may get discouraged when the realization comes that they don’t have it and haven’t been blessed with the ability to throw a ball as hard as the next guy. Scouts love velocity. College recruiters love velocity. Professional coaches love velocity. But plain and simple, not every player who toes the rubber will be able to throw 90 miles per hour.
But the ability to throw the ball hard is just one piece of the puzzle to get a hitter out.
Allard Baird, currently a special assistant in the Red Sox front office, and former GM of the Royals, once said “tools are great. Everybody loves tools. But if you cannot translate those tools into usable baseball skills that can help you perform and your team succeed, then those tools are worthless.” Velocity without the ability to throw the ball over the plate may win you a stuffed animal on the boardwalk, but it won’t get hitters out. Continue reading
by Dan Olear— Pitching Coach/Instructor Cranford, NJ
I started my coaching career when I was 23 years old, a varsity assistant in high school. By the age of 29 I was a head coach at a St. Peter’s (NJ) College. I knew nothing about pitching and had no money in the budget for a good pitching coach. Pitching wins games, I had no choice but to learn all I could about it, and how to develop strong, reliable arms. That was 1998. 18 years later, I no longer coach in college yet I am still learning all I can about pitching and pitchers themselves. Continue reading
by Seth Daniels, Managing Director of North America
Pitchers occupy one of the most high-pressure and physically taxing positions in the sport of baseball. At all levels of the game, great lengths are taken to maintain pitchers’ performance and ensure that they are in top form season after season. But across the professional, college and high school levels, one thing is lacking when it comes to the building, training and preserving elite pitchers – data analysis. Many will say that overuse, lack of conditioning, and improper pitch mechanics are the biggest problem facing pitchers over the course of their careers, and that may be true at some level. But, the real issue is coaches and trainers need more data on how their pitchers are performing over time, and in specific instances.
New data collection and analysis tools allow teams to track every single ball a pitcher throws, measuring velocity, strike zone, curve, rotation, and more. By analyzing this level of data over time, coaches can get a far more accurate read on a player’s ability and performance levels.
Statistics and baseball have always gone hand-in-hand. But, big data in baseball is a relatively new development. Coaches have always been aware that arm strength, stamina, max pitch count, recovery time, and warm up routines vary from pitcher to pitcher. But until recently, observation has been the primary metric for determining player readiness and performance.
Here are several game-changing applications for pitch data collection and analysis:
The time is now to jump into Alan Jaeger’s latest passion- the Year Round Throwing Manual.
After more than two decades working alongside countless amateur and professional baseball players, Jaeger put pen to paper and developed a detailed throwing plan that is applicable for pitchers of all shapes, sizes and ages.
“The inspiration for writing this was twofold,” said Jaeger. “First, we wanted to put all of our research and experience in one place, where a player, coach or parent could have as many questions answered as possible. Secondly, in response to the dramatic increase in arm injuries, we felt it was important to put information out there that could make a huge impact in the reduction of arm injuries and provide guidelines to help optimize the health, endurance, strength and recovery of the arm.”
The manual outlines a year-round plan for arm training, maintenance, rest and protection by detailing Jaeger’s time-tested protocols for arm training, keys to training the arm, how to ‘listen’ to the arm, and the role of long toss. Pre- and post-throwing arm care is also discussed. The Manual also discusses when the best time of year is to start a player’s ‘throwing cycle,’ along with how to approach the throwing cycle. Continue reading
Angels pitcher Joe Smith made the conversion as a sophomore at Wright State, where he found that he could actually throw harder by dropping down. Orioles reliever Darren O’Day picked it up in, for lack of a better term, the ‘beer leagues’ after being cut at the University of Florida. Diamondbacks sidewinder Brad Ziegler has been (statistically speaking) one of the most effective and durable relievers in the big leagues for the past few years.
Sidearm pitchers are unquestionably unique, however the chance to learn from one is oftentimes a challenge for youngsters looking to experiment with a new arm angle. Geoff Freeborn wants to change that. With the emergence of websites like his (SidearmNation.com), the number of resources available for ‘submarine’ pitchers is growing.
A former sidearm pitcher himself, Freeborn spent some time with Inside Pitch discussing just how his success has dovetailed into finding his niche in the game, both as a player and a coach: Continue reading
Researchers at Tarleton State University recently completed a study that examined the effectiveness of strength and conditioned protocols as they relate to the one thing all coaches care about- winning.
In the study, titled ‘Agility Measures Related to Game Performance of NCAA Baseball Pitchers,’ Andrew Wolfe, Jason Jones, Kayla Peak, Randy Martin and Joe Priest looked into the similarities between the pitching motion and the kinetic chain employed in agility tests which involve acceleration, deceleration, and change of direction. Continue reading