Discovering the Intent to Throw Hard

January 25, 2017 • Training

Intent is vital to every kind of training. It is the difference between reaching for goals and going through the motions. Applied to physical training, specifically for sport, intent can take many forms: trying to set a PR in the weight room, trying to beat your last 60 yard dash time, or trying to throw the ball harder than you ever have before.

The most common use of "intent" in modern pitching training refers to the intent to throw hard, a phrase coined by Paul Nyman, which is most succinctly summarized as "If you want to throw hard, try to throw hard." -- a thought you will see echoed across blogs and Twitter timelines.

The tricky thing about the intent to throw hard is that young athletes often have trouble accurately assessing their own maximum intent level. Back in 2013, Kyle Boddy wrote a blog post that touches on it:

[They] thought they were trying to throw hard, but they had no idea what it actually felt like to even try.

Driveline Baseball, https://www.drivelinebaseball.com/2013/10/role-intent-pitching/

Any pitching coach that has had more than a few clients has run into a pitcher that can look you square in the eye and tell you that he is operating at 100% intent... in between throws that look like they were performed underwater. The catch is that he's not intentionally lying to you; he's just clueless.

Using a variety of implements (wrist weights, heavy balls, light balls) and techniques (constraint drills, running throws) can go a long way to helping athletes discover intent they didn't know they had.

I've always felt that intensity is something you know when you see it, so in addition to training variety, I make judicious use of Tweets and Vines that demonstrate clear and undeniable intent.

Show a kid this video of Driveline Baseball's Matt Daniels performing a pivot pickoff, and ask him if he still thinks his pivot pickoffs are at 100%.

Or you can show him video of recent Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick John Pomeroy performing a walking windup.

Or you can show him video of pulldowns performed by Trey McNutt, Peter Bayer, Eric Jagers, and Spencer Mahoney.

Seeing is believing. Don't be surprised if, after watching videos of true intent, that "underwater" kid suddenly looks a lot more athletic.

Getting a kid to discover for himself what the intent to throw hard really feels like is a major developmental milestone.


Season Preparation: On-ramping

December 15, 2016 • Training

It's still December, but in Texas, it's already time to start thinking about your spring season on-ramping. With high school and college teams beginning practices in January and many youth leagues not far behind, the training window is already turning into the preparation window.

Sufficient preparation is essential for both performance and health. Whether you spent the off-season training your butt off or resting and recovering from a year-round schedule, you don't want to show up to that first practice -- especially if it's a tryout -- and not be ready to go.

If you've been training, on-ramping for the season will mean transitioning to focused flat-ground work and eventually throwing from a mound. The goal is to translate off-season gains into baseball-ready performance.

Professional players are still 8-10 weeks from reporting, and at Driveline Baseball near Seattle, the pros have just started high-intensity throwing:

If you've been resting, however, on-ramping for the season will mean gradually returning to throwing. Most youth pitchers will fall into this category, and nearly all year-round pitchers should fall into this category. (Some pitchers don't even give themselves time to rest, playing in fall leagues and showcases well into December!)

Traditional prehab-style on-ramping focuses on constrained throwing (wrist flicks, elbow extensions, etc.) with limited intensity and restricted distances. As part of the ramp-up, throwing constraints are removed, intensity is increased, and distances are extended.

Coming off a period of rest is a great time to introduce a plyo ball program. The low-intensity, constrained throws at the beginning of such a program will not only physically prime the body for more intense throwing, it also gives the pitcher time to learn the new movements.

Starting out with heavier implements, such as Driveline's green and black PlyoCare balls, a plyo ball program tests the brain's neurological map for throwing, challenging it to become more efficient. As lighter implements are introduced and constraints are removed, the body continues to move toward readiness while a more efficient throwing pattern begins to take hold.

On the other hand, a traditional on-ramp program that uses only a standard 5oz baseball, while it will help prepare the pitcher for the upcoming season, will generally not provide enough of a training stimulus to challenge movement efficiency.

The clock is ticking on this off-season. Make sure you're ready for 2017.


My Approach to Training Pitchers

May 29, 2015 • Training

No two pitchers are the same. Even two pitchers with similar body types and mechanics likely have different diets, sleep habits, attitudes, experiences, and physical adaptations. They learn in different ways and respond differently to stress. 

And it doesn't make sense to give the same program to a light-tossing, pain-free pitcher that you would give to a flame-thrower with anterior shoulder pain, does it?

One size does not fit all. The program needs to fit the pitcher.

I want you to throw without pain.

My first step isn't far off from the first step at Ron Wolforth's Texas Baseball Ranch where they start with the pain. No matter what your other limitations are, pain will unquestionably hold you back.

A simple physical assessment taken from Kyle Boddy (Driveline Baseball) and a pain survey are the first steps in this individualized approach to training. This will help identify the cause(s) of the pain and help determine our initial focus for reducing and hopefully eliminating your pain.

If you are free of pain, you are free to train.

I want you to throw harder and stay healthy.

Driveline's throwing program is designed to produce efficient mechanics through guided self-discovery -- drills designed to help you teach yourself how to be more efficient! The program isn't just about building efficiency, though; it's also about fitness.

The strength portion of the program will be emphasized for those lacking a good foundation of strength. A good strength program will improve not only strength but also general kinesthetic awareness. You will discover how to feel what your body is doing.

The throwing program will use a variety of implements and modalities to train your body and arm to produce healthier velocity. Among these are heavy baseballs, light baseballs, heavy wrist weights, reverse throws, long toss, resistance bands, and more!

A full warm-up that focuses on proper muscle activation and a post-workout recovery protocol are vital to the process and included in the program.

I want you to think about executing your pitches not your mechanics.

It has been 7 1/2 years since I gave my last "pitching lesson", and I do not intend to ever give another. We may discuss mechanics and movement patterns and their pros and cons, but I will not micromanage your mechanics.

Mechanics will be learned during the drills in the throwing program. When you are on the mound, your primary focus must be on the pitch you are throwing. If we have done our work properly, your training will handle the rest.

If you work hard and commit to the process, you will get results.

I say this with confidence because I know the man that put the program together has done his research and has proven his results in practice. Kyle Boddy has tested every drill and exercise in this program, and I trust his work. (I highly encourage you to check out the Driveline Baseball website, especially the blog!)

Ready to learn more?

If you're still reading, that probably means you're either ready to sign up or you have more questions. Either way, the solution is to head over to my contact form and send me an email.


"Delayed Internal Rotation" revisited and elbow roll-in

December 8, 2012 • Training

Almost 4 years ago, I wrote an article that was sort of a spit-balled take on an arm action sequencing concept. Practically immediately, it was torn apart by Dr. Mike Marshall. I realized then that the article was poorly written. Part of that was the spit-ball nature of it, its kind of "thinking out loud" approach, but a big part was my wonderfully awful descriptions of and references to the kinetic chain.

Shortly thereafter, I threw a disclaimer at the top and promised to re-write the article. Well, there really isn't much point because, even cleaned up, I don't think the concept holds water. [UPDATE 2019: ... or does it?]

Today, at Ron Wolforth's Pitching Central Ultimate Pitching Coaches Boot Camp, that exact article was mentioned in reference to an analysis of different types of lay back, what causes lay back, and how someone can have late forearm turnover and avoid the dreaded reverse forearm bounce.

It's an action that I've addressed before in my pitcher analyses. In my analyses (both professionally and on this site), I've drawn attention to when a pitcher decreases reverse forearm bounce by "picking up" his elbow. You can see this very well in my 2009 analysis of Brandon McCarthy. Back then, I described it like this:

It's hard to tell from this angle, but McCarthy's reverse forearm bounce might be exaggerated by some elbow flexion. By this, I mean that he picks his elbow up high enough that gravity plus natural elbow flexion - rather than inertia - appear to be causing some of the ball's downward motion. This view is inconclusive, but I don't believe his ulnar collateral ligament would hold up for very long if inertia alone caused a bounce that large.

You probably noticed that I was having trouble effectively articulating my thoughts about it. Chris Holt of Pro Bound USA in Clearwater, FL [2019 UPDATE: now pitching coordinator for the Baltimore Orioles] -- who didn't know I was in the audience -- has solved this problem for me by calling it "elbow roll-in". If someone before him coined the term, I'd never heard it.

With that term in mind, watch some of those McCarthy pitches again. Pay attention to his elbow and layback. While there is almost definitely an intertial lag component that helps with McCarthy's layback, the bulk of the layback was done by the way he rolled his elbow into position to lead his forearm.

This method of layback is something for which I've become a big proponent over the past 4 years (for a number of reasons that I don't have time to get into right now). I've needed a succinct way to describe it for some time, and now I have it.


2011 Texas Rangers: Wins, Attendance, and Playoffs

March 10, 2011 • Analysis

For two years in a row, my attendance prediction model has come extremely close to predicting the actual attendance at the team's win level.

In 2009's prediction, my model overshot actual attendance by 1.15%. In 2010, it overshot actual attendance by 0.85%.

The model has been updated to include data from 2010.

Texas Rangers, Wins vs Estimated Attendance, 2011

Again, the model predicts an increase in attendance. At last year's win level -- 90 wins -- the model predicts an average attendance of 33,645 per home game. To fall below last year's attendance level, the model says that the Rangers would have to win fewer than 77 games.

Coming off a World Series appearance, it will be interesting to see how the model holds up for 2011.

Regression Notes

The standard error is down from last year's 2,602 attendees per game to 2,560. The R-square and Adjusted R-Square values are nearly identical to the previous year's -- all three years have been right around 0.90 for both values.

Thanks to the accuracy of last year's prediction, the t Stat and P-value numbers for all three independent variables improved. The growth factor variable (inflation) is still the least significant of the three with a t Stat of 1.415, but again, removing it from the calculations results in larger errors.

Playoff Probability

There were no significant changes to the playoff probabilities for each win level in the AL West. The 90% barrier is crossed at 95 wins, and the 50% barrier is crossed at 91 wins.

I'm keeping it short-and-sweet this time to avoid repeating what I've said in the past. If you'd like to read my previous articles, which are good if you'd like to read about how I constructed my model, check out the links below:

Texas Rangers Win-Curve Part I: Wins vs Attendance

Texas Rangers Win-Curve Part II: Playoff Probability

2010 Texas Rangers: Wins, Attendance, and Playoffs

If you're fascinated by this stuff and haven't read Vince Gennaro's book Diamond Dollars, I strongly encourage you to take a look at it.