Posts Tagged ‘Pitching’
I’ve recently found myself in social situations in which I have to describe my life and interests to people. As it turns out, all I bring to light is how little I have.
Since I’m a transplant to a new city, I have no family within 8 hours driving distance. I have few friends in town. I have only enough possessions to fill the trunk and back seats of my average-sized car. I have no furniture in my room aside from a bed and unused shelf; no curtains, no posters, no photos. I’m almost never home, anyway.
I no longer have Facebook – deleted it over a month ago. I watch almost no TV whatsoever, save one or two programs per week. Movies rarely capture my attention. I watch sports only when I’m in a public place that displays them; no football, baseball (I’ve watched a combined 10 innings or so of the entire playoffs), or any other sports. I don’t scour YouTube for videos or any of that worthless shit on the internet, either.
I don’t go out that much and don’t have hobbies. I really liked rockclimbing, which I did for about a year and a half, but I had to give that up because it bothered my pitching arm; I’m a little bitter about that breakup. I don’t have pets (if you knew my ex’s dog you’d understand why), don’t call my family enough, go downtown only occasionally, and rarely take trips. I don’t have any debt, I own my car and all of the equipment I bought for my gym. I make ample money and put nearly all of it back into my business. I also don’t have a girlfriend or anyone to occupy significant amounts of my time.
And yet, my immediate goal in becoming better as a ballplayer and more productive as a person is to do even less. By this, I mean that I have to remove myself even further from my distractions and sit and be quiet. I have to learn to set aside time to meditate, and do so more often and for longer durations. Despite how little I have, need and want, it’s difficult.
Meditation is going to sharpen my mind and allow me to focus more intently on my work, be it on the mound or at my gym. I’ve started recently after reading Alan Jaeger’s book, Getting Focused, Staying Focused.
I had problems with negativity creeping into my mind and undermining my abilities this summer. On the mound, I found myself doubting my ability to command pitches and get outs. I couldn’t turn my mind off, and I couldn’t silence the negativity; it affected my physical performance. Being a Philosophy and Psychology major and a very intellectual, analytical person, I’ve always thrived on mental activity. Pondering things over and over in my mind was natural exercise for me. Having to suddenly find a way to ignore the very thing that has made me successful in life has proved, well, impossible. While impossible overnight, I’m on a mission to develop this ability, the ability to ignore my mind when I need to. The first step in this is learning how to sit still, let my mind wander and pay it no heed. It can chatter at me all it wants; I’ll be focusing my attention elsewhere.
So, I’ll be finding ways to take time away from whatever it is that distracts me and sit and do even less. A rollercoaster descent into monkdom.
Also – don’t pity me. I’m happy, have great family & friends, time to do the things that I value, ample quiet time when I’m not training, and few things to tie and slow me down. Despite having virtually none of the hobbies and “things,”on which most people give life a materialistic valuation, I’m living my personal dream – doing whatever I want, whenever I want. I run my business how I see fit and train in pursuit of my dreams and the dreams of my clients. Television programs, Facebook statuses and wine-tastings wouldn’t add to that.
It’s great to go to the mound, fully rested, and have your entire arsenal ready and able to dice up a lineup. Unfortunately, few of us take the mound under such utopian circumstances, and we pitchers usually toe the bump with less-than-perfect stuff. Less-than-perfect is standard; however some of those days, you just plain suck. But, you just can’t give up when your curve won’t bite, your changeup doesn’t change, and your fastball has the life of a 35-year old playing World of Warcraft in his parent’s basement. So how do you go out and win when you haven’t got much? Read the rest of this entry »
This is my first season pitching within a true 5-man rotation. In college and summer ball, there often are too many off-days to make the rotation stable. Weekend series in college mean that starters generally pitch once a week, giving ample time for physical and skill work in between outings.
But in the professional season, off-days are few and far between, and the rotation gives each starter 4 days to prepare for his next outing. Everyone is different in what he needs to prepare, but I’ll share my own preparation schedule that I feel gives me the best chance to succeed and stay strong throughout the season. Read the rest of this entry »
Some of the best philosophical and psychological writings on sport come from the ancient masters of Asian martial arts. One of my favorite books is The Unfettered Mind: Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman,
and it was written by a Zen monk named Takuan Soho in the 1600s. The lessons one can learn from this short (about 90 pages) book are applicable to all sports, especially those with a highly mental aspect that can cause a physical lapse in times of pressure (fighting sports, baseball pitching and hitting, golf, football kicking, etc.). While this book is short and in many parts very straightforward, it isn’t something most people would pick up and get much out of. Philosophy readings are difficult, and this is no exception, so most athletes are not going to find this an easy read while sitting in the clubhouse. But, I’m here to give you the Americanized version that you can take out onto the field with you today… Read the rest of this entry »
Starting pitchers are given plenty of time between outings to build a scouting report and game plan for facing their opponent. Our season started last week, which meant we had to figure out what our opposing hitters had on the fly. As an expansion team, we didn’t have scouting reports already laid out for us, so we were faced with assessing all of the hitters ourselves.
So as the pitchers leaned on the railing, watching the games, we bounced ideas off each other and our pitching coach about each hitter. Some of the things discussed were: Read the rest of this entry »
I arrived in Normal, Illinois on May 3rd for spring training for my first season of Independent professional baseball. I had pressure on me because I knew I had to perform well and outcompete a staff of more experienced pitchers, but I didn’t realize it would be maybe the two most stressful weeks of my life. Why was it so hard? Because I really, really, really didn’t want to go home, and it felt, at times, like certain things were out of my control.
Here’s how Independent ball works, and why it can be harder than affiliated ball to keep your job: Read the rest of this entry »
If you watch a major league baseball game, pay close attention to the velocity differentials of each pitcher’s offerings. As I am writing this, I am currrently watching Brian Duensing of the Twins throw a 92 mph fastball and an 80mph curve. Duensing throws what coaches would refer to as a pro curve. What is the difference between and pro and amateur curve, you ask? Speed and, subsequently, deception. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a drill that I have been doing for about 9 years now. I learned it from my friend Duane Rhine, who taught me the curveball that got me into college. My hammer was the only reason my 78-81 arm ever saw the mound as a freshman, and this drill helps tremendously to get the spin and consistent release down.
The point of the bucket? Well, that’s your “strike” release point. Don’t expect the ball to break at such low velocity; just work on getting tight spin from your grip and follow through. Learn to nail that bucket on a consistent basis and you will have no trouble spotting up that curve in game situations. It’s all about repetition with proper mechanics.
Applying the deliberate practice principles to your throwing
In my last post, I talked about the deliberate practice principles laid out in the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin.
To refresh, deliberate practice involves
- Working on a specific aspect of performance
- High repetition
- Continuously available feedback
- Highly demanding mentally
- Isn’t (usually) much fun
In this post I’m going to talk mainly about the third piece of the puzzle, focusing primarily on how it relates to improving throwing mechanics and velocity.
Feedback and throwing mechanics:
To start, you’re probably wondering why “throwing mechanics” and not “pitching mechanics.” Paul Nyman of SETPRO was the first to make the clear distinction between these two activities. Pitching is about doing everything you can do get the batter out, whereas throwing refers to the specific movement patterns/sequences that your body goes through to apply force to the ball. When you hear people talking about posting leg position or hand break timing or whatever, what they are really referring to is a player’s throwing mechanics.
Feedback is particularly under-appreciated when it comes to players and velocity development. When was the last time your pitching coach brought a radar gun to your team’s bullpen sessions? I can tell you that, in my experience, at the high school level and below this form of feedback is almost nonexistent.
So how do you make sure that you’re applying the continuous feedback principle and aren’t wasting your practice time on empty repetitions? Here are a couple ideas…
Grip strength is critically important, and I have been harping on it for some time. EVERYONE can use increased grip strength, and the implications it has on throwing harder, swinging harder and preventing injury are huge. Grip, or hand strength can be classified in many different ways, but today we are going to focus on just open and closed hand strength, the differences between them and their implications for pitchers and hitters.
Closed Hand Strength
This is just what it sounds like, holding things with a closed fist. This is the most important type of strength for a hitter to have, as gripping the bat is done with closed fists. This isn’t meant to be groundbreaking info, but I want you to see the carryover from the weight room to the field for both pitchers and hitters.
I jotted down notes about my bullpen or general throwing sessions from months 7-9.5 of my recovery. I discovered it while cleaning my place. I’m just rewriting what I had down, so I may or may not be able to clarify if you have any questions.
March 22 – Good, not sore
March 24 – Good, not sore
March 26 – 7 months – Good, not sore
March 28 – 15 Changeups; good, but not perfect
March 30 – 10 changeups, discomfort on 1/3 of them
April 1 – 3/4 speed; no changes, no pain, 66-71 mph. felt ok, not perfect next day
April 3 – felt good, not perfect; 45 pitches @ 3/4 (speed)
April 6 – 1st two digits had pain when pressure applied
April 9 – mid to upper 70s, little pain; felt good after 4 days off prior
April 17 – no pain! 65 pitches at 3/4
April 19 – long tossed to 240 no pain
April 21 – felt good. into low 80s maybe
April 23 – gun read 75-77. TIRED! but no pain
April 25 – 8 months – Hit 81, consistent 76-79 50/30 pitches
April 28 – long toss to 270, 45 pitches at 85%
April 30 – 30 + 45 vs hitters. 82-84. Felt good
May 2 – VERY tired from April 30. Arm achy and slight pain, very dead. threw 70 at 2/3 speed
May 4 – flat ground, 15 curves at 50 ft. pain still, arm not recovered from previous.
May 7 – Hard pen, felt good. 80 pitches at 90%
May 9 – good long toss, felt great.
May 11 – 100% from mound, 100% changes, 50% curves (15). felt good, no pain, but knotted up on forearm after.
May 14 – 100% fast + cu, no curves. Still knot in forearm but no pain
May 16 – 45 fast-curve-change, 75-75-50% respectively. less tightness, no knot next day.
May 18 – Light pen, 30 curves
May 20 – In game, 28 pitches. 30 curves beforehand. Bicep Dead, big knot afterward. No throw 21-24.
May 25 – In game 35 pitches, no knot after, felt good
May 27 – 70 pitch pen, 30 90% curves, felt good, bicep better
May 29 – 50 pitch, 70%, curves getting sharper!
May 31 – 60 in game; arm felt slow, but great after. 55 fb/ 5 curves. No tightness at all.
June 2 – Long toss, hard but not too many throws. Need to get intensity up and let go. Felt good next morning.
June 4 – Bullpen 20 max effort, 85-90. Arm felt achy, some occasional pain twinges, and very dead. Decent next day. Fatigue in bicep/tricep still, but not terrible.
Thats the whole log. Wish I had done more of that during it all, but I was more interested in getting after it than writing it all down. Hindsight…
As I was in there, it suddenly dawned on me: Pitchers are just unlike everyone else in the sense that what they do is so physically violent, that they have to do what is called “prehab” just to reduce the likelihood (or in reality, delay) injury.
Its pretty much a fact that if a pitcher doesn’t do regular rotator cuff, scapula, and forearm work (basically the whole pitching arm), he is doomed to inevitable, catastrophic arm injury. Doing prehab doesn’t guarantee health by any means, as tons of diligent pitchers still injure themselves regularly, but its our insurance policy, and at the very least gives us a better chance of not being injured. Read the rest of this entry »
By Steve Eagerton, Pitcher & Tommy John Patient @ Jacksonville University
The most painful part of coming back from my experience with Tommy John was restoring my range of motion. I was removed from a semi hard cast at two weeks post op., and the next day I started range of motion exercises. It took me about 5 weeks to get full range of motion with my therapist moving my arm and almost 8 weeks to get full range of motion on my own. I literally thought my elbow would explode some days- it hurt so bad. Of all the people I know who underwent Tommy John, I seem to have had the most pain. I think maybe it was because I had a lot of scar tissue, or maybe I am just a sissy (just kidding!).
Full range of motion for me, using my left arm as a guide, was 0-147 degrees. I think the first day I reached 20-88°. We tried to increase the ROM about 10° a week. I got full extension pretty quick, within about 3 weeks, but I made shorter strides in gaining flexion.
For TJ patients, I recommend making sure you keep it moving outside of rehab because if not you won’t progress as quickly. For the first week or two I was so sore that I would just keep my arm immobile on non-rehab days. Eventually I realized I needed to move it, even if just a little, to keep it from stiffening up.
I just want those who think they are hurting a lot while trying to reach full ROM just to know you aren’t the only one, and to grind it out.