THE HALL OF FAME LIBRARIAN
Hall of Fame pitcher Greg Maddux's modus operandi was to throw 3-4 different pitch types, at any time, with precise accuracy. Maddux didn't achieve his incredible pitching success because he had top-secret pitch grips, or because he was so much bigger and stronger than other pitchers. In fact, he looked more like a librarian than an MLB pitcher. Maddux was definitely not a genetic outlier, and he didn’t rely heavily on any ultra-sophisticated training routines. Moreover, Maddux wasn't successful because he had some unorthodox delivery that gave him unique powers, or rare deceptiveness. Greg Maddux was a first-ballot Hall-of-Fame pitcher because he perfected the 20% of pitching actions that yield 80% of the final result.
SHINY OBJECT SYNDROME
While many pitchers and pitching coaches are focused on fancy pitch grips, arm slots, stylish training modalities, and having six different pitches, Greg Maddux simply went about building and maintaining a solid foundation. More specifically, he optimized his leg movements and maintained perfect torso posture. He prioritized the pitching actions that netted the biggest and best results. He perfected his base and core, and that’s far and away the main reason Greg Maddux won 355 Major League games and 4 Cy Young Awards. Take a moment after reading this article to go online to watch a few videos of Greg Maddux pitching, and you’ll see exactly what I'm describing.
Pitch design, improving spin rates using great tools such as a Rapsodo, and optimizing the arm path using plyoballs can all lead to improvements. However, until a pitcher’s foundation is operating optimally and consistently, there is no reason to spend much training time on the actions that come later down the kinematic chain. The vast improvements, the massive benefits, come from properly training the legs, hips, and core. Those are the priorities.
HOME BUILDING 101
A different way to think about building great pitching mechanics is by examining the home-building process. When building a house, the construction crew preps, lays, and perfects the foundation before ever building up its walls or installing its roof and definitely well before installing that sparkling chandelier. The roof, the walls, and the fancy chandelier rely on the foundation. However, the foundation does not rely on the ceiling, the drywall, and the decorative light fixtures. Homebuilders understand the importance of getting the foundation right. Build a pitcher using the same blueprint.
A LESSON ROOTED IN NATURE
Using nature as another example, a tree can have broken branches yet still stand strong, but if that tree were to have weak and stunted roots, sooner or later, it would surely topple over. Pitchers can learn a very valuable lesson from home building and from how trees gain their sturdiness. Baseball pitchers, like almost all athletes, should prioritize building a solid foundation and only later spend time worrying about the less vital movements found further down the kinematic chain. Train the pitcher from the feet up.
FROM THE FEET-UP
A pitcher’s foundation, as with almost all athletes, starts at the feet and moves up through the core, and then out to the hands.
First, a pitcher must have a set of strong, stable legs with optimal ankle mobility and hip joint integrity.
Next, as we move up through the ladder of importance, a pitcher must have core strength and core mobility to maintain optimal torso posture through the pitching delivery.
From there, the shoulders must have functional mobility and stability, known as joint integrity. The combination of stability and mobility, perfected from the ground up, is the main key to consistent, long-term health and success on the mound.
There is a lot of interesting information out there regarding how to improve an athlete's skills. Younger players most likely enjoy reading articles that, for example, talk about MLB pitchers using 2,000 frame-per-second video to add a few hundred revolutions per minute to their four-seam fastballs. While this information is fun to digest, these younger players must understand that MLB pitchers, in all likelihood, solidified their foundations earlier in their careers.
A DIFFERENT STAGE
It is crucial for young players to understand that the MLB pitchers we see on TV or at the stadium are at a more advanced stage in their career. Young players should proceed with caution when trying to duplicate the current training routines of their favorite MLB players.
By: COACH BO
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