Sunday, January 16, 2011

Start Your Preseason Throwing Program

It's now the middle of January 2011. Even though the majority of the midwest is still under a foot of snow and no where but Florida and southern Cali feel anything like baseball weather, it is time to put on your Nike HyperWarm and a stocking cap and start throwing. For most high school ball players, tryouts are at the end of February, this gives us a solid month to build the necessary arm strength to be in "mid-season form" by the first day of try outs.

Hopefully, the majority of you have already been throwing some. However, now is the time to dial in your focus and start charting your throws with a specific goal in mind. For example, this week should consist of three separate throwing sessions. The first should be a light toss and bullpen consisting of no more then 30 pitches - fastballs and change ups. If you have already been throwing for a few weeks, then the breaking ball can be added as well as a few extra total pitches. These bullpens can be thrown in doors (as most of you will need to do anyways) at your local high school or indoor facility.

The second sessions should simply be a light toss. Focus on release point and finish, and not going anything further than the distance from home to 2nd base (120 ft. if you're on a full size field). You should throw enough to get loose and warm, but should not be sore after the session is over.

The final session will be a longer, more strenuous, dedicated long toss program. We are going to have to head out doors for this one; as the goal is to reach your max throwing distance with a generous arch on the ball. We are still finishing to the target with focus on the hand path through the ball, but we aren't concerned as much about the flight of the ball. After reaching your max distance, you want to work your way back in throwing the ball on a line at close to max effort. Again, focus is still on finishing to the target, but now the ball will have a down angle out of the throwers hand and will have to short/long hop the throwing partner until the distance is shortened enough.

You should be sore after this session and will need atleast 2 days off before your next week's bullpen. Each new week, you will want to add an addition throwing day (bullpen or long toss) depending on arm strength until you are throwing 5 to 6 days a week. Gradually increasing arm strength along the way.

Good luck and post any questions.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving WishList 2010.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you out there in LIM Land. Having finished up what feels like ten days worth of food, I thought it was due time to fire up the 'ole blog and shed some light on some things that we as baseball players and, specifically, pitchers can be thankful for. Similar to last year's edition with updates and improvements as we head into the think of the off-season.

In no particular order, here is our Thanksgiving Top Ten.

10. Ground Ball Double Plays
With men on first and third and 1 out, there is nothing better than throwing a good harder sinker and getting out of the inning with a nice 6-4-3.

09. Catcher's Who Can Block Balls and Call Games
Mike Metheny (SF Giants) comes to mind. There is nothing better than having the confidence that your catcher has studied the hitters as much as you have and will block every single slider you throw in the dirt.

08. Pitcher's Toe
No this isn't some odd disease only pitchers can get. Instead, the perfectly dipped plastic mold on the back foot prevents the violent movements of a delivery from tearing your new Nike's apart at the seams.

07. Long Toss
Sometimes, there is nothing better than getting outside and jus airing it out. Designed to teach the body and the arm how to throw harder and longer, it is essential to every pitchers 'in-season' and 'off-season' throwing program.

06. Single Leg Romanian Dead Lifts with Single Leg Squat
This complex full body exercise is one of the single best moves a pitcher can execute to increase balance and body control. Performed by balancing on one leg and, with the opposite arm, bending at the waste and touching the foot on the ground with that arm. At the same time, lift the other leg up to parallel. Then, return to upright and lift the free leg into a leg lift position and perform a single leg squat.

05. Roy Halladay
A pitcher who pitches the way it was meant to be. Throwing strikes, getting ahead, and getting out. He's thrown more complete games than any other pitcher is recent history. Expects to go the distance every time and doesn't rely on anyone but his defense to get the job done.

04. Free Swinging Hitters.
Only Vlad and Pablo Sandovol have been successful at swing at everything. The majority of these types of "hackers" are great at getting themselves out with pitches not in the zone. Think about Sammy Sosa early in his career or Mark Reynolds and Carlos Pena now. Sure they may hit one out of a hundred 900 feet, but the rest of the time, they usually end up back in the dugout.

03. The Change-Up
Easily the most difficult pitch to hit. Ask any pro-hitter, especially the aforementioned free swingers. Anything that looks like a fastball until it reaches the hitting zone, but isn't, tends to be the toughest pitch for a hitter to hit.

02. Phiten Necklace/Sinker Sleeves/Lucky Shirt
In other words, superstition. Pitcher's are notorious for relying on other worldly rituals to give them the edge (in addition to all other necessary work) on the mound. Whether its keeping a nickle their grandpa gave em in their back pocket during the game or always putting the left spike on first, if you believe it works....then it does.

01. Pine Tar
Like my old high school used to say..."if you ain't cheatin, you ain't tryin." Used by big leaguers across the land (literally....tons of them). This little piece of sticky heaven placed under the cap, on the laces of the glove, on the belt buckle, behind the back of the hat keeps your fingers tacky and the feel of the ball secure in any and all conditions.

So there are just a few things to think about all this Thanksgiving Holiday. Feel free to post your comments and suggestions.

Until Next Time

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wilson Vs. Cain - The Real World Series Match Up

Unfortunately, the match up between Cliff Lee and Tim Lincecum did not turn out to be the pitcher's duel that everyone had hoped. San Fran claimed the victory with a whopping score of 11-7. Game 2 is proving to be the type of game everyone was expecting It is the middle of the 7th now and the score is San Fran 1 - Texas 0.

I've been studying CJ Wilson pitch much of this season and I am increasingly impressed with his ability to locate all of his pitches in any count. Although he has been removed from the game with a blister on his pitching finger, he has proved his salt while battling the San Fran lineup. His only mistake being a fastball up in the zone, but not up enough, to Edgar Renteria.

I say many similarities between Wilson and Andy Petitte. Both lefties utilize a low 90s fastball and a good breaking ball that they use as a back door and front door breaking ball. By being able to locate his slider both inside and outside to right handed hitters, he prevents hitters from being able to sit on one pitcher or one location.

Similarly, Matt Cain has been able to remain scoreless through the entire playoff race by utilizing a devastating sinker/slider/change up combination that baffles hitters. I really enjoy how compact his hand break and arm swing is as he delivers the ball to the same release point on every single pitch. This make it next to impossible to for hitters to differentiate between what pitch is being thrown until it is in the hitting zone. The consistent downward action of all of his pitchers entices hitters to beat the ball into the ground, inducing double plays and routine groundballs.

The score is now 2-0 and Matt Cain is in control. Still, both pitchers are to be studied to try and emulate their deliveries and hopefully their success.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pitching in the Playoffs

I've been busy...can you tell? It's been over a month since my last post and I've been letting you down. So apologies for that.

In the meantime, there has been fantastic pitching performances going on left and right. There is nothing better than October baseball. Every team is running their best starters out each night. Almost not since the opening day of the season do you get to see so many quality starters going against one another. Roy Halladay, Tim Lincecum, Carl Pavano, CC Sabathia, Matt Garza...the list goes on and on.

What may not translate directly to the camera is how much pressure these guys are under. Playoff baseball has a different feel to it, because the games finally matter. Not to say that the day/night double header these guys are playing in June doesn't matter....but these games REALLY matter. As in, if you lose twice you're probably done. It takes a special kind of player to be able to understand the magnitude of the game, but still remain calm and controlled enough to repeat their deliveries and throw strike one.

For my money, the best to watch is Roy Halladay. He is masterful. Never mind he threw only the second no hitter in playoff hitter (with respects to all other pitchers mentioned), he is, day in and day out, the best pitcher in the game today. Nothing he throws goes the same direction and still he threw 42 strikes in his first 50 pitches...thats 84%. Attacking the hitter is an understatement.

As we get deeper into the playoffs, the games will mean more and more. Stay tuned to see who it is all on their game.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big Leaguer Breakdown: CJ Wilson

Before you even say it, I know this video is sideways. I apologize, but the video was the best clip I could find for the pitcher I wanted to profile. I realize there hasn't been a BLB in a long time, but its mainly because I've been so busy teaching pitching lessons and studying pitchers on TV during big league games. I have a new favorite left handed pitching in the MLB and his name is CJ Wilson of the Texas Rangers. His mechanics, especially his finish, are the best in the game; absolutely text book. He's been outstanding all year long and has only improved with the addition of veteran Cliff Lee to the rotation. As of September 1, he is an amazing 14-4 with a 2.88 ERA. He is one of the main reasons (besides Lee and Josh Hamilton) that the Rangers are making a charge for the playoffs. He is our Big Leaguer Breakdown.

Check out this sideways video to study CJ Wilson's pitching mechanics.

You may have to turn your laptop sideways to view it, but the first thing to notice is how compact CJ's leg lift is. I will post pictures of these clips here so you can visualize with me. His hands and front knee are moving in perfect unison and pause at a very high point as his hands are near his shoulders and knee is near his hands. Notice, also, that he hasn't begun moving toward the plate yet. Instead, he is balanced over his back leg and ready to begin the decent of his knee and hands DOWN FIRST before they go to the plate.
In our next frame, we see CJ getting into an athletic position as his glove and front knee work inward and down toward the plate. Young pitchers need to be careful here to notice that he has not rotated his hips too far inward and has not closed his front shoulder off very far. His front hip and shoulder will both still work directly to the target from this position. Also important is the height CJ maintains on his back leg. There is a slight bend in the back leg as he begins to "get athletic,: but he doesn't lose much height has the hands and elbows begin to elevate.

In our next picture, we are focusing on the hips and front foot at the "foot strike" position. His upper half is blurry, but you should be able to tell in full speed that his elbows are up and beginning to rotate forward. What we see in the lower half are the angle of his hips loaded and still closed just before the front foot hits the ground. Keeping the hips closed longer will allow a pitcher to stay on line longer and become more directional when the hips do fire.
Our last clip is the most important. CJ Wilson's ability to explode toward his target and finish with great extension over the his front knee helps him truly attack hitters. He does not walk very many hitters and really prides himself on getting ahead of a hitter and burying him. His explosive but directional finish is what allows him to do this. Observe the final pick and note the position of his chest square to the target and the chin stays on target through release. As the ball is let go, we see his back foot explode upwards. This is key. Many pitchers just turn the hips and let the leg drag behind. This does nothing to help the finish of the pitch. By elevating the back leg (think Johan Santana style) you force the chest to extend at the waist forward. If the chest extends, then the release point gets closer to the plate. If the ball is released closer to the plate then, by default, the movement of the pitch will be closer to the plate and in the zone longer.

Use this video and pics to study CJ Wilson's picture perfect mechanics. Better yet, try to catch him on TV so you can gain a better video understanding of his delivery.

As always, ask any questions you might have and I've got you covered.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Strasburg's Injury Perspective

Poor Nationals fans. Just when they thought they had a savior for their franchise. Not only did they lose a bonafide number 1 starter, they also lost the 5th most marketable face in Major League Baseball. The culprit is a villain that has claimed many pitchers over the course of baseball history; tommy john surgery. Put simply, the main ligament in a pitcher's arm wears down, frays, and eventually tears from the repeated stress of throwing a baseball. Usually the culprit is poor pitching mechanics, but in Stephen's case, that doesn't appear to be the the reason.

So, from a pitcher's perspective, what does this mean. For starters, it will be a long lonesome road of rehab. Strasburg will go back to the Nationals spring training complex in the off season and report to the training room every day at 7 or 8am. After he has the surgery, he will begin a slow and arduous rehab that starts with light movement drills and will eventually get to throwing. That of course will be handled at the most careful pace possible with a star athlete such as Strasburg. Typically, the rehab process has gotten perfected so much that sometimes pitchers can come back in as little as 10 months. I doubt they will rush things with Strasburg, but another side affect that seems to come along Tommy John Surgery as the pitcher is able to refine his delivery and even gain velocity. Now, I doubt Stephen will be able to eclipse 103mphs, but I guess you never know.

One thing is for certain however. The Nationals will continue to take care of Strasburg as if he is the savior of their team. Quite frankly, I don't blame them. Even a hurt Strasburg will generate media attention and keep the Nationals relevant as their other star, Bryce Harper comes along.

I'll talk more in depth about TJ surgery in another post, but in the meantime, here's to a speedy recovery and even more velocity this time next year.

Until Next Time!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Less Is More Pitching Thesis Statement

Sorry for the delay between posts. It's been a hectic few weeks with tons of pitching lessons taking up plenty of time. As we head back into the fall baseball season, I wanted to take a moment to re-establish the Less Is More Pitching Thesis Statement.

From my years of personal experience pitching at the professional level, working with professional coaches and players, and studying the deliveries of numerous major league pitchers I have come to the following "over arching conclusion" about pitching:

"The better a pitcher can create positive muscle memory through dedicated drill work, bullpens and dry run repetitions, the more likely he will be able to replicate his delivery and get to a consistent release point with out having to utilize "maximum effort." Instead, he will be so familiar with his delivery that he will literally feel looser and smoother the LESS hard he tries allowing him to apply MORE velocity, movement, and depth to all of his pitches at the end of his delivery as it naturally explodes to the plate."

The bottom line is the better you know your delivery, the less hard you will have to try to repeat it. The less hard you try, the looser your muscles will be. Loose muscles are explosive muscles and explosive muscles = velocity.

The path to this goal is through repetition. A pitcher must learn to "try less" by forcing his muscles to be so used to the proper positions of the delivery that it will literally become second nature.

All of my pitching lessons are centered around this goal and utilize light shoulder exercises, proper warm up techniques, long toss, dry run drills, short spin drills, bullpen work and mental exercises to help pitchers all over to achieve this goal.

If you're interested, shoot me a line here or on my website to get connected!

Until next time!!