In-Season Arm Conditioning and Maintenance Program ♦ The Randy Jones Sinker
Pitcher’s Toolbox Spring 2012
Injury Prevention and Stabilization Exercises for the Shoulder ♦ Four Goals for Championship Pitching
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Table of Contents
The Pitcher’s Toolbox 4
The Secrets of the Randy Jones Sinker By Chris Welsh, Cincinnati Reds In-Season Arm Conditioning and Maintenance Program By Alan Jaeger, Jaeger Sports
Four Goals for Championship Pitching By Joel Mangrum, Austin Peay State University
Injury Prevention and Stabilization Exercises for the Throwing Shoulder By Dr. Brooks Tiller, Freed-Hardeman University
Managing Editor and Publisher Justin Entrekin Cover Photo: Dr. Brooks Tiller, Performance Coach at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. Photography in articles courtesy of the author unless otherwise noted. Stock photos are from the Microsoft Corporation. © 2012 by The Pitcher’s Toolbox. The Pitcher’s Toolbox is a bi-annual publication, intended for the collaboration of sound, fundamental teaching practices for the skill of pitching. The statements and opinions expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of The Pitcher’s Toolbox. Any advertisements in this or any other issue of The Pitcher’s Toolbox are not an endorsement of the product or company. For contributions to future issues and/or advertising rates, please contact the managing editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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The Secrets of the Randy Jones Sinker By Chris Welsh The Thinking Pitcher caught up with him at the Randy Jones Barbecue Pit at Jack Murphy Stadium (home of the Padres) in San Diego where we discussed his pitching philosophy and his approach to teaching young pitchers.
In 1976, while Nolan Ryan was busy blowing away American League hitters with his 95 mph fastball (327 K’s). Randy Jones was having one of the most remarkable years ever for a finesse pitcher. Armed with a fastball in the low 70s, Jones pitched complete games in 25 of his 40 starts, won 22, and captured the Cy Young Award. In his wake he left a legion of frustrated National League hitters who could not adjust to his off-speed offerings and grounded out in unprecedented numbers.
TTP: How were you different from other major league pitchers? RJ: I was a little bit different because of the uniqueness of the sinkerball and the fact that I didn’t throw very hard. I didn’t strike out many guys, I was always trying to get them to hit ground balls. My idea was trying to get them to hit the first pitch. I wanted them to hit the ball. I try to tell kids today that and they look at me like I’m crazy. I had a unique sinkerball pitch and would vary the speeds on it and my goal was to get them to hit a ground ball. If they were to hit a ground ball on the first pitch, I wasn’t going to argue with them. TTP: Did you throw a sinker as a young pitcher? RJ: I didn’t have one. Being left-handed, I had a tailing fastball, a slider and a curveball. I used those three pitches. Ward Hacker, a minor league pitching coach for the Padres, mentioned it to me in 1972, my first summer of pro ball. It was the following spring training when I really got the grasp of it and started throwing it. Basically, nine starts later, I got called up to the big leagues with it.
In 1976, Randy Jones set a Major League record with 16 wins before the All-Star break.
TTP: What’s the theory behind your sinker? Photo courtesy of National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum
RJ: The theory behind my sinker is that it is an off-speed pitch. It’s a ground ball type pitch. You
The Pitcher’s Toolbox throw it when you’re looking for ground balls. You’re going to give up a lot of hits because a lot of ground balls are going to find the holes. More times than not what will happen is the first one might go through but the next one will be right at the fielder and you’ll have a double-play ball. Remember that it is an off-speed pitch. If you throw it too hard it won’t sink too much. So basically, I’d drop it down a few notches. I could throw the fastball around 85 mph but I found when I threw it around 70-72 mph it sunk a lot more. It was a nice late break, not an elongated one. It would just get to the plate and zip, it would drop two or three inches, and that’s what I was looking for. For the longest time, I never saw it sink but I kept getting ground balls. I finally got to the point where I threw so many that I could pick up the ball and watch it sink and move around.
SOFT SINKERBALL KEYS Many of the factors essential for a consistent sinker are basic to any solid pitching delivery. However, here are a few keys that will help you get the feel of a soft sinker. §
Less leg drive. This often results in a shorter stride and enables the arm to get out front and stay on top of the ball.
Fingers are on top of the ball. For the ball to sink you must stay on top.
Work on a downward plane. A dropped arm or a backside breakdown will cause the ball to flatten out.
Grip has the thumb on the side of the ball. This grip helps reduce velocity and the tendency to overthrow.
TTP: Do you teach your sinker? RJ: There are certain things that have to uniquely be there: the ball has to tail quite a bit. There are certain parts of the wrist or arm that you use to turn the ball over. Most lefthanders do it naturally and their ball usually tails more than right-handers. It’s a tough pitch to teach to those whose fastball does not naturally tail.
Index finger pulls down. This action brings the index finger and the thumb together and helps achieve a proper release point.
Never overthrow. One of the reasons the soft sinker works is because of the slower velocity.
TTP: Is it like a “dead fish” or a “BP” fastball? RJ: Yes, but it has more movement on it. If you want to throw a good sinkerball, you’ve got to get your hand almost on top of the ball at the release point. That’s what makes the ball sink. Once you get your fingers on top of the ball and you can move that seam a little bit, you can cause the ball to sink.
TTP: Is it similar to the release of a circle change? RJ: Yes, it is similar. If I find a kid that naturally turns the ball over, he’s a prime candidate for a sinker. If he’s throwing 90 mph, I don’t teach him a sinker. If the young man is a little bit smaller, and doesn’t have the speed of the other kids, then I’m going to teach him the pitch and how to use it.
TTP: What about fingertip pressure? RJ: I put more pressure on the index finger and I moved my thumb up to the side of the ball. I would push in with my thumb and down with my index finger. The middle finger would be there only for guidance.
TTP: How do you determine which style (power or sinker) best fits? RJ: I think everybody starts as a power pitcher. In all my lessons, I take that approach in
Secrets of the the Randy Jones Sinker fundamentals. Let’s teach power pitching and see how you do. In high school, I was a power pitcher until I hurt my arm (tendonitis) and when I came back I couldn’t throw the ball hard. It was gone. I don’t teach how to throw. I teach how to pitch. I don’t want throwers out there, I want pitchers. Even at 90 mph I want location. I still think that the best pitch in baseball is a strike, not a curveball or a fastball, just a strike. If you don’t throw strikes, you’re going to lose. That’s the first thing I’ll teach them.
went out there and pitched a couple of shutouts with this sinkerball. I was scratching my head saying “this is craziness, I should have done this 20 years ago.” All I knew is that this pitch got me to the big leagues and led me to ten years at the major league level. It was amazing. TTP: Did you change speeds on it? RJ: Yes, I did. I would get in my windup and determine how much whip I wanted to put on the ball. The deception was staying closed and utilizing my body, looking like I was throwing the ball hard. It was basically like throwing a good change-up. When you throw a good change-up, it’s the motion that fools the hitter, not the ball. That’s what I did with my sinkerball. I’d look like I was throwing it as hard as I could and it would come out 75 mph. That’s how I got it to work.
TTP: What other mechanics are important to throwing a quality sinkerball? RJ: The big thing is that you’re not going to fire off of the mound. You’re not going to push as much. Also, power pitchers are sometimes taught to use their front side to whip their arm. A finesse pitcher should show it to them (front side) but not use it as much- that develops too much arm speed. Then you start throwing the ball too hard and it begins to flatten out. Remember, I consider my sinker to be an offspeed pitch that sinks best when I throw it at a slower speed.
TTP: What was your throwing regimen? RJ: I was on a four-man rotation. I’d go nine innings, rest a day. Then I’d throw on the side for about 20 minutes, rest a day and then pitch in a game. I’d also play catch everyday. If you’re a sinkerball pitcher, you don’t want your arm too strong. As a sinkerball pitcher, if they don’t get to you in the first few innings, it gets easier and easier. As your arm gets more tired, your sinker sinks more and more.
TTP: What is the ideal speed for a sinker? RJ: At certain speeds the ball moves better. As soon as you get a young pitcher thinking about it, playing with it a little bit, and he can see some success with it, it will spur him on to work at being a sinkerball pitcher or a finesse pitcher. I threw my best sinkers at 70 to 72 mph. The thought process is important. He’s not a thrower anymore, he’s a pitcher; hitting spots and changing speeds.
TTP: What did you do on days when you felt too strong? RJ: On those days, I would go to my slider and curve a little more. I would stay away from trying to throw the sinker and trying to get the ground out. The slider would take the edge off my arm a little bit and I would go to the sinker later in the game.
TTP: How do you get confidence in throwing with less than 100% effort? RJ: It comes with experience. You work on it and you work on it. Don’t take my word on it, go out on a mound and try it. That’s where the real boost in the ego and the excitement comes. I
Chris Welsh is a former pitcher for the San Diego Padres, Montreal Expos, Texas Rangers, and Cincinnati Reds. Currently, he is the color analyst for the Reds television broadcast team. Copyright © 1993 by Splitfinger Publications. Reprinted by permission by Chris Welsh and The Thinking Pitcher.
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“In-Season” Arm Conditioning and Maintenance Throwing Program: Integrating Long Toss into Bull-pens and In-Season Pitching By Alan Jaeger Once a pitcher has gone through the initial 6-8 week stage of resting his arm and rebuilding his base correctly through among other things, Surgical Tubing and Long Toss, there are 2 more stages to go through before pitchers transition into the “inseason” training or maintenance. Stage 1 involves the integration of mound work (bull-pens/game innings) into the Fall/Winter months leading up to the holiday break (the end of December), and Stage 2 addresses the Spring season, whether the pitcher is a starter or reliever.
Above: Chris Seddon (Seattle Mariners) and Mike Montgomery (Kansas City Royals) get started for their Long Toss Program at Birmingham HS.
The essence of this article is to understand the importance of maintaining your base and optimizing your recovery period once “mound work” is introduced in the Fall (and eventually Winter/Spring). This is best accomplished by understanding that your “mound work” is an extension of your Long Toss throwing program, rather than the focal point of it. In other words, Long Toss is the key to your work load each day and if you get on a mound on a given day, it is simply the culmination of your throwing program. As you will see throughout this article Long Toss is what most effectively replenishes the base and significantly improves recovery period after any form of “mound work”. Maintaining a strong base and optimizing recovery period are the key factors in optimizing health, strength and endurance throughout the year. This article has been written with this in mind.
Alan Jaeger is the founder of Jaeger Sports. Since 1991 Alan, as a personal trainer and consultant, has worked with over 200 professional players, including 2002 Cy Young Award Winner Barry Zito, and AllStars Dan Haren and Andrew Bailey. Alan has also consulted with many schools and organizations including the Texas Rangers Baseball Club and the 2004 National Champion Cal State University, Fullerton baseball team.
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Stage 1 - Fall into Winter: Bull-Pen Integration
months, separated by as many recovery period days as possible. For example, a Monday/Friday is the most ideal format because you maximize your “off days” from bull-pen to bull-pen. These off days away from mound work allow the arm optimal time to recover and recondition itself for the next bull-pen. The amount of pitches thrown in the bull-pen and the intensity behind it again varies from pitcher to pitcher (and the work load that preceded it). The priority is that the arm, through Long Toss, is stretched out thoroughly prior to any mound work.
Now that the arm has had a minimum of 4-6 weeks (September 1st to early/mid October) to rest and rebuild (free from the mound), the pitcher is ready to begin to integrate bull-pens into his throwing program. Because such a strong base has been built from the previous 4-6 weeks, bull-pens should have a dramatically less effect on the arm regarding swelling, soreness, etc. This allows the arm to recover faster, which in turn will allow the base to be minimally affected or “depleted”. This is a critical principle to understand because having great recovery is the essential ingredient to maintaining arm health, strength and endurance throughout the year.
“We would go out to Pierce Junior College and long toss and just have a good throw. I still do that in-between starts and even before I start. I’ve taken this program and molded it into my own and still use it to this day.”
In the case of a pitcher who has extended his Long Toss to 5 days a week leading into his first week of bull-pens (typically around early/mid October), the main priority on bull-pen days is for the pitcher to think conditioning/long toss first, and mound work second. Essentially, the bull-pen is used to “culminate” the workout, rather than be the focus of the throwing that day. The idea is that when the arm has the opportunity to “stretch out” through Long Toss it is most effectively prepared to throw off the mound. To put it another way, the focal point of each day is to condition the arm, and then use the bull-pen for pitching specific skills (i.e. mechanics, getting used to the decline). Many coaches make the mistake of “saving the arm” for the bull-pen by minimizing the amount of throwing on “bull-pen days”. This actually has the opposite effect on the arm -- it is telling the arm to throw aggressively before it has been properly stretched out and conditioned. It’s like running only a mile each day to “save your legs” for a marathon at the end of the week. This mentality of “saving the arm for the bull-pen” is the primary reason why recovery period worsens, and the pitchers base is depleted (the same principle also applies for in-season bullpens and game situations).
Dan Haren, LA Angels 3-time All-Star selection (2007-2009)
Remember, recovery period is crucial because the better your recovery period, the more the arm is going to want to “stretch it out” from day to day -- stretching the arm out is what replenishes the arm. Having great recovery period leads to a “positive cycle” -- a positive cycle because the arm wants to throw more rather than less from day to day because it feels good. Essentially, the arm can sustain its base throughout the Fall/Winter and into the Spring because bull-pens and game action have a minimal effect on recovery period. If recovery period is poor and the arm is swollen or unusually sore the arm will need to rest more often which further deprives the base from getting replenished (this is what we call a “negative cycle” which exposes the arm to breaking down).
How often a pitcher integrates bull-pens into the Fall/Winter months is a feel thing from player to player. But the bottom line is to integrate work load slowly and progressively into your bull-pen sessions just as you worked slowly and progressively into your Long Toss routine when you built your initial base. I would recommend 2 bull-pens a week through the Fall/Winter
As you go through the Fall/Winter months the primary goal is to stay in a conditioning mode as you increase the pitch counts in bull-pen situations. As bull-pens turn into Fall/Winter game action, the principle doesn’t change. For example, let’s say in week 5 (your first week of bull-pens after your base is built) you threw a 15-
InIn-Season Conditioning and Maintenance Throwing Throwing Program
always comes down to “listening to your arm” -once mound work begins, your focus is on stretching the arm out each day. How far you go out and how aggressive you “pull down” from day to day depends simply on how your arm feels, and how good your recovery period is.
25 pitch bull-pen session on Monday and Friday, and by week 7 (mid/late October) you graduated to 35-45 pitch sessions/and or 1 inning of work in a game situation. Even as you approach week 9 (November) and add additional innings leading into the holiday break (end of December), the principles do not change. Bullpens and game situations are interchangeable. So if you bull-pen/game situation on Monday/Friday, and you’ve worked up to 45 pitches in a game, your goal is to continue to Long Toss at least 1 other day thoroughly (remember, your bull-pen/game day are also relatively thorough Long Toss days).
Phase 2 - Winter into Spring Once the Winter Holidays come and go (this is traditionally a 2-3 week window) and players return back to school pitchers need to be able to spend at least 2 weeks off the mound to recondition their arm. For the same reasons why pitchers use the first 4-6 weeks in the Fall to stay off the mound to condition, players need to “rebuild” the base for the first two weeks without even thinking about mound work. This is essential to understand because these two weeks allows the pitcher to reconnect to the base that was built all Fall/Winter. Fortunately, because the arm was so well “built” in the Fall/Winter period, it only takes a couple of weeks to “recatch” the wave (especially if the pitcher spent the Winter break doing his arm care program and playing some form of catch).
The idea with this Fall/Winter mentality is to keep the focus on Long Toss as you increase pitch counts for bull-pens and game situations. Because a thorough Long Toss session is incorporated at least 3 days a week, the arm is best positioned to stay in a positive cycle through the end of December, despite the reality that pitch counts can elevate up to 45-60 pitches in game situations.
“I still use and believe heavily in Long Toss.”
Once this 2 week period has been established the pitcher is ready to integrate bull-pens and game innings into his throwing routine. This too should come quickly. A pitcher should be able to go from throwing a 25 pitch bull pen in week 3 (late January/early February) to throwing 35 pitches in an inter-squad game by week 4.
Andrew Bailey Boston Red Sox closer 2009 AL Rookie of the Year 2-time All-Star selection (2009-2010)
Naturally, because High School and College seasons begin at different times, how you integrate bull-pens and game situations depends on a number of variables. The priority here is still about learning how to prioritize your conditioning off of the mound for 2 weeks after the Winter break so the base is reinforced and recovery period is effective once mound work is reintroduced. Remember, once the Spring starts getting close the tendencies are to ramp up the pitch count and prepare for game situations. This is an even greater reason to use the first two weeks for base building -- otherwise, you may be putting the pitchers arm in harm’s way.
Note: Once a pitcher starts throwing bullpens/innings in the Fall/Winter, he will find that the days he is going to throw off a mound are actually his best Long Toss days because he will have the most amount of recovery period days between mound work. With that said, it should be noted that the day after a pitcher’s mound work, Long Toss will probably consist of only the “stretching out” phase and the distance may only consist of about 50-75% of a pitchers normal distance. This is important to understand because Long Toss after mound work should be less aggressive with the focus being on “stretching” the arm out. If done right, the second day after mound work will lead to a more normal distance of Long Toss, and the “pulldown” or more aggressive phase of Long Toss can be added if it feels right. Remember, it
Phase 3 - The Spring Is Here -- In Season Throwing and Maintenance Once the pitcher has reconditioned his arm in this 2 week period after the Winter break, and
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has built his pitch count in the subsequent few weeks leading into the season, I would assume that by the first game of the season, the pitcher is now in a position to throw 60-75 pitches or the equivalent of 4-5 innings, and 75-90 pitches by his second game. The key here is that the innings have been increased by maintaining the pitchers Long Toss program throughout the week. What has changed in season is that the pitcher will learn to adjust his Long Toss based on how many pitches he’s made in a game, and how much recovery period he has until his next outing.
that the first priority is to always listen to your arm. In Season, 7 Day Routine (Cycle) In order to make this routine very simple to follow I’m going to pick “Monday” as the reference point as to when you are scheduled to start your game. By establishing our “game day” we can then focus on how we maintenance (cycle) the arm back in shape most effectively for your next start, the following Monday. Monday, Game Day (Long Toss Day) -- this is ironically your best Long Toss day “in-season” because you’ve had 6 days to rest, recover and rebuild leading into your game day from your previous start. As a simple example, if you have been long tossing out of season in the 250 foot range (~85mph), then that’s about how far your arm is going to want to stretch out to the day of your start. In essence, your game day is very similar to your best out of season long toss day, except that you may cut down on the amount of throws your making in both the stretching out (going out away from your partner) and pulling down phases of Long Toss (coming back toward your partner). If you feel like cutting a little distance out of your throwing (i.e. it’s later in the season) or you feel like cutting down on your aggressive throws coming back in toward your throwing partner, that’s fine. But if you conditioned your arm well throughout the offseason, your arm is going to really want a pretty thorough long toss session the day of your start.
This is where in season training gets a little tricky based on whether or not you are a starter or a reliever. So in order to address the “in season’ training mentality for both starters and relievers, I’m going to break them down into 2 categories. This way, whatever your role is as a pitcher you will have a clearer understanding of how to keep your arm in optimal shape throughout the year. Starting Pitchers - 5 or 7 Day Cycling Where a reliever has to play with some unknown variables as to when and how much he is going to pitch from day to day starting pitchers have it much easier in season. Starting pitchers know exactly what day they are throwing each week and therefore can plan the other 6 days (amateur) or 4 days (professional) around their game day. For this reason, setting up a starter with an “in-season” routine is much easier than a reliever. Below, I am going to go through the format and work load for a basic 7 day routine, considering that more players are at the amateur level. Also, once you understand the principles to the 7 Day routine, adjusting to the 5 Day routine will be relatively similar. Keep in mind
Tuesday, Day 1 after start (Recovery/Stretch) -Depending on how many pitches you made, Day 1 is all about blood flow, ranger of motion and “stretch throwing”. If you threw 90 pitches the day before you may only want to go out to 90120 feet of really low impact, light catch. If you only threw 50 pitches, your arm may want a distance closer to 150-200 feet. Again, the priority is RECOVERY. The focus is on positioning the arm for the next day, and in fact, the next start. There should be little to no “downhill” or aggressive throwing on Day 1. Wednesday, Day 2 (Recovery/ Stretch) -Ironically, Day 2 is when most pitchers are the most sore after a start. Thus, Day 2 is a “continuance” of the stretch out, low impact mentality. Again, keep in mind that your arm is going to tend to have tremendous recovery
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InIn-Season Conditioning and Maintenance Throwing Throwing Program
period in general due to your off-season throwing program, but to be safe, I tell players to let the arm breathe again on Day 2, and if it wants to stretch out further, per se, 150-200 or 200-250 for harder throwers, great. Again, I would suggest to minimize downhill or aggressive throwing unless the arm tells you differently.
Toss day, and that is your priority. Again, your bull-pen tops off your work-out as opposed to being the focal point of it. It doesn’t mean that you have to have an epic Long Toss before you bull-pen…it just means to be sure that you have a pretty thorough Long Toss prior to getting on the mound. Remember, your arm is programmed now to condition before it gets on a mound…and that’s the way you want it to be.
“The J-Band is a great tool for building and maintaining arm strength through the duration of a long season. I have been using the J-Band for the past three seasons and have noticed a significant difference in my velocity and arm strength. I also notice the difference going into the later months of a season, as my velocity has not dropped from the beginning of the season.”
Saturday, Day 5 (Stretching/Optional) -- Day 5 is a bit like Day 1 after your start. You’ve been on the mound the day before; you’ve had a lot of workload leading up to this point in the week so I advise pitchers to go lighter on Day 5. Again, listen to your arm, but you may find that you are only interested in a minimal amount of throwing, or you may find that you want to stretch it out to 120-150 feet without any aggressive throwing, or you may want another good day of stretching the arm out pretty far. This day is dictated by how you feel and what stage of the season you are in. Listen to your arm.
Clayton Kershaw Los Angeles Dodgers 2011 NL Cy Young Award
Sunday, Day 6 (Stretching/Rest/Optional) -The day before any pitches start can truly be a personal preference. So, I always advise pitchers to do what’s comfortable. Some pitchers like to take the day off, some like to play light catch, and some like to stretch it out to about 75% of their max distance, but with little to no aggressive throwing down hill. It is the core principle of our program to listen to your arm, and this day is no different. Do what feels right.
Thursday, Day 3 (Extension, Pull Downs) -- Day 1 and 2 have now set you up for a more normal Long Toss session on Day 3. This is the beauty of having a 7 day routine -- you can use an extra couple of days to recondition your arm in season. The arm is positioned on Day 3 to both stretch out to its normal out of season Long Toss distance and to “pull down” relatively aggressively. How far you go out again depends on the individual, but for someone who throws 85mph, you’re looking at about 250 feet. Harder throwers again are looking at 300 feet or more. So we’re both extending the arm on Day 3, and we’re beginning to integrate the pull down or aggressive phase of Long Toss. The key here is to still use Day 3 as a conditioning day and to prep for Day 4, which is your bull-pen day.
Monday, Day 7, Game Day (Long Toss) -- Now you can see how your “start day” is actually your best day to Long Toss. You’ve spent the previous 6 days resting, recovering and rebuilding in the most optimal and effective way. You’ve allowed the arm to progressively build itself back into shape and positioned it for what it wants most -a great Long Toss/conditioning session prior to getting on the mound. Relief Pitchers - “Opening The Door”
Friday, Day 4 (Long Toss/Bull-Pen) -- Now that you’ve used the first 3 days after your start to do nothing but progressively and effectively build the arm back into shape you are now set up for your bull-pen day. The key here is to not “save your arm” by minimizing your throwing prior to the bull-pen -- it’s actually to do the opposite. You have set your arm up for another great Long
Because relief pitchers don’t have a set rhythm throughout the season, it can be a little bit more difficult to figure out when to Long Toss and when to rest from outing to outing. As you will find with our approach, “listening to your arm” is always the first principle to keep in mind because there are so many variables. For
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instance, you may have made 40 pitches in relief the previous day, or you may have not thrown in a game situation for a week. In either case, your plan should be to go out each day to do your arm care program (surgical tubing, etc.) and stretch your arm out. This sensation of stretching your arm out is what I refer to as “opening the door”, meaning, you are allowing your arm to get the benefits of stretching, blood flow and range of motion each day, regardless of whether or not you are pitching that day. What you’ll begin to realize is the arm wants to stretch out every day (unless it needs a total rest), and that some days the arm will want to stretch out further than others. In fact, if a pitcher has gone more than 34 days without pitching in a game, the arm will probably want to not only “open the door” to a long distance, but it will want to come back in toward your throwing partner and “pull down” aggressively just like a normal, out of season Long Toss session . This feeling of wanting to “close the door” after a number of days off of the mound is essential in keeping the base strong throughout the season (note -- having an aggressive Long Toss session may be critical for your base even if you are going to pitch in the game later that night. Remember, the point is to “condition” first when the arm needs it. Besides, you will probably throw harder and have better recovery period even if you do get into the game on a night that you had a relatively aggressive Long Toss session).
bull-pen/game situations are integrated is the key to not only maintaining a healthy arm throughout the Fall/Winter, but actually positioning your arm to get more durable and possibly even stronger throughout the Spring (in season). Finally, always “listen to your arm”. Only it knows from day to day what it needs and what it wants. Because you have learned to condition and maintenance it so well the reality is you will probably find yourself wanting to stretch your arm out (Long Toss) more often than you are used to -- but this is a great sign. It’s a reminder that the body responds best to activity rather than inactivity -- the body (arm) wants to regenerate, not degenerate. And when the arm gets into this “positive cycle”, the arm is in the best position possible throughout the year to stay healthy, strong and durable. Acknowledgements: (I would like to thank Ken Kontor for his contribution to this article).
Copyright © 2010 by Jaeger Sports and reprinted by permission from Alan Jaeger. To see more of Jaeger’s programs, go to www.jeagersports.com.
In short, relief pitchers should come to the field each day to “open the door” or stretch out the arm. How far, how long and whether or not you “pull down” aggressively depends on how much throwing you’ve done the previous day or days. The key is to always go out with the intention of stretching your arm out because, quite simply, your arm has been built this way from the offseason and it is looking to condition, even in season. Summary Remember, the ideal way to maintenance (strengthen) an arm “in season” is to have a great base to in place from the “off season”. This off season base is the key to having great recovery period, which in turn allows the arm to recondition itself most effectively as bullpen/mound work is integrated into the Fall/Winter months, and eventually into the Spring season. This ability to maintain good recovery period and a Long Toss program as
Four Goals for Championship Pitching By Joel Mangrum Pitching Coach, Austin Peay State University 14
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productivity between 2-1 and 1-2 is large. It is imperative to throw two of the three pitches to a hitter for strikes.
GOAL #1: 1st Pitch Strikes The number one goal in our pitching plan will be 1st pitch strikes. Some plans have strayed away from this approach because hitters bat .300 in a 0-0 count. The high average was thought of as a result of guiding the 1st pitch or because of the excessive pressure placed on the 1st pitch strike. The number is very deceiving in that hitters only swing at the 1st pitch fifteen percent of the time. Plainly put, if a pitcher faces 100 hitters, 15 of those hitters will swing and put the ball in play. Of those that put the ball in play, less than five will result in a hit. Ten to eleven of those were 1st pitch outs! What occurred on the other 85 hitters?
GOAL #3: 0-2 and 2-0 Counts The third part of the plan deals with 0-2 and 2-0 counts. When you are behind in the count (1-0, 2-0, 3-1, 3-0) you box the next pitch. You throw your highest-percentage strike pitch (hopefully you have more than one), with a good angle, over the middle of the thirds of the plate (depending on who you are it may be the middle), in an area above the knees and below the belt. More advanced pitchers can go midthigh to knees. The more proficient pitchers can half-box in these situations and throw the ball knees to waist or mid-thighs, in or out, and on the black. While boxing or half-boxing it can be more effective by throwing a pitch with movement.
The extension to this plan is to get two of the first three pitches for strikes. It is very important to get ahead of the hitter, and equally important to be able to do it with more than our fastball. If the pitcher has two pitches he can command for strikes on the first or second pitch, he is in a more advantageous position. What it gets down to is, throwing your highest-percentage location on the first or second pitch.
The 0-1 count is a prime time to half-box for some pitchers. The boxing technique can be used on any count based on the abilities of the pitcher, command, stuff, and situations. When the count is 0-2 or 0-1 for some pitchers, you tilt. This involves going up and in on the hitter and then down and away. The up and in pitch should be a fastball thrown at the hitter’s hands just below his front elbow. In general, you want to throw this pitch with four seams, but it could be thrown along the narrow seams and have it run into the hitter on the arm side or back over the inside corner to a hitter away from your arm side. The slider could also be used away from your arm side to the ball in on the hitter’s hands. This slider is going to be flatter than the slider you throw down at the hitter’s back foot.
The situation will dictate variation to this plan. Obviously with runners on second and third (for a right-handed pitcher) and a good left-handed hitter at bat, but a weaker right-handed hitter coming up will dictate changes to the plan. This is a general rule that is always open for adjustment. In baseball, or anything for that matter, there are no always or nevers. GOAL #2: The 1-1 Pitch The second part of this plan is dealing with the 1-1 pitch. The second most important pitch is the 1-1 pitch because the difference in batting average between 2-1 (.320) and 1-2 (.180) is 140 points if you take all the big leaguers over the course of a season. You have to throw that pitch for a strike. You need to pay attention to that 1-1 pitch in terms of location and type of pitch so that you give yourself the best chance possible to throw that 1-1 pitch for a strike. Every pitch is important because the game is played one pitch at a time, but the difference in offensive
This up and in pitch can be thrown off the plate to move the hitter’s feet. This takes the hitter out of his comfort zone. If can also be thrown on the inside corner for a strike. The hitter, pitcher, and situation will determine whether you try to throw this up and in pitch for a strike or not. The second part of the tilt technique is to the ball down and away for a strike. When thrown to the
Four Goals for Championship Pitching
Throw two in a row to the same spot to keep hitters from adjusting to the tilt pattern. Doubling up is a technique that will keep the hitter from anticipating a tilt pattern. Many experienced hitters dive into the plate after you go in on them. To combat this, you can double up and throw consecutive pitches in on the hitter. The first may be in off the plate and the second for a strike.
Four Goals for Championship Pitching Goal 1
1st Pitch Strikes
The 1-1 Pitch
0-2 and 2-0 Counts
The 1-Pitch Put-Away
It is important to throw in off the plate to move the hitter’s feet. You need to take hitters out of their comfort zone. They need to feel like they are at risk every time they step into the batter’s box. Our goal is to give them the most uncomfortable at-bat they have ever had.
hitter on your arm side, this can be a four-seam fastball on the corner or a two-seam fastball that tails back on the corner (or a breaking ball). This two-seam taking fastball is difficult to throw because it’s hard to get tailing action away from your arm side (right-handed pitcher versus a left-handed hitter), this pitch can be a two- or four-seam fastball, a change-up that tails, or occasionally a back-door breaking ball (which is a breaking ball that starts off the plate and breaks on the corner). Hitters tend to give up on this pitch, but care must be taken so that the pitch does not break over the middle of the plate.
For hitters away from your arm side (righthanded pitcher versus left-handed hitter), you can double by going in off the plate with a fastball and then wrap a breaking ball around a hitter’s back foot. Another variation of this twopitch put-away is working up and down to cause an eye switch, which keeps the hitter from gearing in to the ball down only. This is especially effective for pitchers that throw a down-breaking curve ball or a split that goes down. Hitters will swing at fast balls up, thinking they are the downer curve balls or splits, because the rotation is on the same axis. The curve is 12:6 and fastball is 6:12. The downer curve ball starts high and ends up down in the strike zone. The hitter swings at fastballs up thinking that they are curve balls or splits that are about to break down in the zone.
Tilting, especially when you establish the handhigh inside corner of the plate for strikes, makes the hitters more inside-conscious and gives the pitcher the entire 17 inches of the plate with which to work. In reality, if you can command
GOAL #4: The One-Pitch Put-Away the inside and the outside of the plate, you have 22 inches of the plate, because the ball is 2 and ½ inches in diameter, and you’re adding 2 and ½ inches in and out to the 17-inch plate. Also, the umpires will add width to the plate for pitchers who work fast and throw lots of strikes.
The final technique in the pitching plan is the one-pitch put-away. This is the two-strike pitch with which you are going to finish off the hitter. The put-away pitch is a fine strike or a high or low pitch in the hitter’s chase zone. These are your swing and miss pitches in their or your zones.
You can also reverse your tilt and start low and away and then go up-and-in for strikes. This keeps the hitters from getting geared up to one pattern. Another possibility in the 0-1, 0-2 counts will be to double up on your pitches.
The fine strike with the fastball can be in on the hitter’s hands, a four-seam fastball right at the hitter’s hands or a two-seam fastball that runs in
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on the hitter’s hands or knee-high pitch on the black of the plate away. Throw this pitch with four seams away from your arm side and either two- or four-seams on your arm side. The chase-zone fastball is a four-seam fastball up out over the plate away from the hitter or up and in just off the plate. This up-the-ladder pitch is especially good against hitters who are trying to lift the ball but chase balls up in the zone.
A true warrior once said after facing the best hitters and surviving:
The put-away breaking ball is thrown low and away for a strike and the chase-zone breaking ball is thrown in the dirt. The one-pitch putaway can be a hitter’s pitch that is just out of his effective hitting zone. Generally speaking, this is the 0-2 pitch or 1-2 pitch.
I work hard every day on sharpening my pitches. For the best hitters will return, and when they stand before me again, I will not cheat them.
“I have seen the face of the best hitters, and I know the best hitters know my name.
The best hitters are the warrior trade; they risk the taste of my best pitches as I look without fear into their eyes.
Treat the 2-2 pitch like a 3-2 pitch. Be able to throw the same pitch 2-2 as you would throw 32. Unconfident pitchers try to trick hitters 2-2 by throwing too fine of a pitch or throwing breaking balls, then they struggle to throw strikes on 3-2, and they rarely throw the breaking ball.
We both live for this battle and we know that in striving to be the best, we must battle without fear. Comfort is not a hitter’s right; as I have worked in every way to assure that can never, ever be the case.
In short, this plan though well-thought out is based on a NO FEAR of CONTACT APPROACH. With that in mind, the overall pitching plan goal is to get the hitter out on as few pitches as possible. The more pitches a hitter sees, the more information goes into his computer, and the fewer innings you’ll be able to pitch. Control and stuff really drops off after 16 pitches in an inning. We want to average less than four pitches per hitter. A notable goal would be on or out in three pitches.
It is wise to respect them, for it brings great honor in their defeat. I will take them on, one at a time. The first will always start the pile. I am the chosen. I train as one. I live as one. I am one. I am a Pitcher, and I am a warrior.”
Be aggressive and remember that nibbling is for mice. While they are sometimes cute, they are pests. They are food for iguanas and snakes and easily consumed by pussycats.
“Go and pillage! Leave carcasses, broken bats, and rattling fingers in your wake!”
THE TRUE WARRIOR (will you be one?)
Injury Prevention and Stabilization Exercises for the Throwing Shoulder By Dr. Brooks Tiller, DPT
NO MONEY (Left) Stand with back against an outfacing corner. Keeping a tall spine and shoulders relaxed, place the arms down by the side with the elbows bent at 90 degrees and palms up. (Right) Externally rotate the arms focusing on squeezing the corner between the shoulders. Keep the elbows close to the ribs, not allowing the arms to drift away from the body during the movement. This movement focuses on the posterior shoulder.
SCAP PUSH UP Beginning in a push up position (left), place the hands slightly above shoulder height with the arms internally rotated to form a diamond with the thumbs and forefingers. This places the diamond directly beneath the athletes face.
This movement focuses on scapula retraction and protraction and muscular control.
(Right) Begin the movement by squeezing the shoulder blades together while keeping the arms straight. Complete the movement by separating the shoulder blades. Some athletes will have trouble with this move and want to turn it into a close grip push up. The key is to keep the arms straight while squeezing the shoulder blades together and then push the floor away from them.
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WALL BALL – RHYTHMIC STABILIZATION (Right) Begin by having the athlete squeeze the shoulder blades together with the arm flexed directly in front of them. Place a plyo ball between the hand and the wall having the athlete lightly push into the ball to hold it against the wall. Begin with light touches to the arm close to the shoulder. Move towards the hand and vary the pressure you apply to the arm. The athlete should be able to keep the ball stable with minimal arm movement. If the athlete is unable to keep the arm stable, decrease the pressure applied. Using rhythmic stabilization, this exercise focuses on turning the small muscles in the shoulder on and off quickly. These muscles turn on and off in fractions of seconds during the throwing motion.
OVERHEAD LUNGE WITH BAND (Left) Secure a light band at or above head height. The athlete will stand in a split squat stance facing away with the arm at 90/90 – shoulder 90 degrees of abduction and elbow at 90 degrees of flexion. This simulates the position of highest torque during the throwing motion. Holding the band the athlete will descend by taking the back knee to the ground. While descending the arm should stay stationary resisting external rotation due to the tension of the band. Resisting external rotation strengthens the anterior shoulder where instability often occurs.
REVERSE OVERHEAD LUNGE WITH BAND Secure a light band at or above head height. The athlete will stand in a split squat stance facing the band with the arm at 90/90. Holding the band the athlete will descend by taking the back knee to the ground. While descending the arm should stay stationary resisting the tension of the band pulling the arm into internal rotation. Preventing internal rotation creates a focus on the posterior shoulder where numerous stabilizing muscles are located.
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3-POSITION RHYTHMIC STABLIZATION Begin with the player kneeling on the throwing armside leg while grasping a band with the glove hand. The first position is the acceleration phase (left). During this phase, the throwing arm behind the body with the glove hand in front. While the athlete pulls the band tight with the glove arm, provide slight and varied perturbations to the throwing arm beginning at the shoulder and progressing towards the hand.
(Right) The second position is the velocity phase with the body rotated to squarely face the band and the throwing arm at the mid-point of the throwing motion. The glove arm should be pulling the band closer to the body using the lats of the back more than the biceps at the elbow. Provide slight and varied perturbations to the throwing arm beginning at the shoulder and progressing towards the hand.
(Left) The final position is the deceleration phase which occurs as the ball leaves the hand. The glove hand is pulled in tight to the body while the throwing arm is fully extended in front of the body. Provide slight and varied perturbations to the throwing arm beginning at the shoulder and progressing towards the hand.
Dr. Tiller is a performance coach for the Lion baseball program at Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson, Tennessee. See videos, blogs and more at www.drbrookstiller.com
www.mhsbca.net Bill Seamon, Executive Director Eric Briggs, President
2011 JEM Award Winners Named in honor of Jerry and Elaine Miles and sponsored by the National High School Baseball Coaches Association
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