Marketing yourself and creating your own personal brand


My last few posts have been about various aspects of training (physical and mental), and this blog post I want to go in a little bit of a different direction and talk about how to market yourself as a player. This is a topic that is overlooked by a lot of guys, even though it’s very relevant to playing at the next level (whether you’re in high school trying to find a college to play at or in college trying to get seen by scouts). Being able to stand out among guys at a similar talent level to you is huge in moving up in the game, and because a lot of guys ignore this, marketing yourself well (or even at all) can be a game changer. This is honestly the whole reason why I got started with this blog, and hopefully in the next year or two it will help me get a chance to play professional baseball. As a side note, it’s been a couple weeks since my last post, and that’s because we started a new term at Caltech a few weeks ago. My workload this term was pretty high until I dropped what would have probably been the hardest class I’ve ever taken (the class is called CS 38 and has homework sets that take 20+ hours/week to complete…pretty unreasonable). Anyways, now that I’ve dropped this class, I should have a lot of extra time on my hands and can start getting posts up on a weekly basis again. With this being said, let’s get to the content of this week’s post: how to use social media and a training website as platforms to market yourself!


Social media


One big platform guys can use to market themselves is on social media. In today’s world, everyone is on social media, including the college coaches or pro scouts that you’re trying to be seen by. On Twitter particularly, there’s a pretty large “baseball Twitter” community, including scouts, coaches, and people with connections at all levels of the game, which translates to a huge opportunity to market yourself and catch someone’s eye. For this reason, I would recommend that anybody reading this interested in playing at the next level make a (public) Twitter account and post some kind of training content, whether it be video, stats, etc. Coaches and scouts might see this and be interested, and even if you don’t get signed off of a Twitter video, it can help you get your name out there. This goes without saying, but it’s important to be smart with what you post on Twitter (and all social media), because leaving a bad impression on Twitter or Instagram is an easy way to get written off of a coach’s or scout’s list.

What should you post on Twitter/Instagram/etc.? The best thing to do would be to post updates about your training, and to document everything as much as possible. A really good way of doing this is to make a website (which I’ll talk about more below), and use the website as a way of organizing all of this information. From here, you can use Twitter or Instagram to post highlights or new content from your website, in order to hopefully grow a following (hint: this is what I do!). Even if you don’t want to make your own website, you can still use these platforms to market yourself. All it takes is one scout or college coach to like what they see a video in order to get an opportunity, and any kind of marketing is better than nothing (for example, even if your Twitter account only has a couple of training videos on it, that’s still better than not posting anything).

A particularly useful resource on Twitter that I wanted to mention is the FlatGround account, run by Rob Friedman (aka pitching ninja), who I’ve referenced or credited on several other blog posts. Rob’s mission with FlatGround is to “level the playing field” of scouting and recruiting, and give guys who might not have access to certain opportunities (e.g., a college guy who doesn’t play at a big time D1 school, or a high school guy who might not be able to afford an expensive Perfect Game showcase) a chance to showcase their tools. This platform has already given several guys opportunities to get signed, like Chris Nunn, who got picked up by the Dodgers after someone posted a bullpen video of him touching 100 mph. A year or two ago before Rob created this page, Nunn might not have gotten this kind of an opportunity, but thanks to FlatGround (and Nunn being willing to market himself actively), he earned a spot with an affiliate team.


Training website


As I mentioned above, a really good way to organize and document your training is by making your own website for this purpose. I use for this website, and I’ve found that it works pretty well overall. Tanner Reklaitis helped me get set up with mine, and gave me the idea to begin with in this blog post on his website. As a guy in a similar position that Tanner was in as a college junior (someone who is within striking distance of being a draft prospect, but who has work to do in order to get there), I agree with his observation/idea that having all of this information well-documented on a website can give you a bit of a leg up over guys with similar ability level. Rather than having to look around on multiple different websites or platforms to find your information, video, etc., scouts or college coaches can see everything in one place, and can also track your progress over time to see how you are improving and developing. This will ultimately give these coaches/scouts the most complete picture of you possible, as opposed to evaluating you based on a recruiting video and maybe seeing one or two outings in person.

A lot of guys probably shy away from this due to the complications of setting a website up, but I’ll let you know firsthand that it really isn’t very difficult at all (especially if you use a platform like WordPress to build it), and I got mine set up without having to put in very much time (5-6 hours max if you’re efficient). Plus, it’s pretty fun to write new posts, add new content, etc., especially if you’re someone who reads about baseball and about training on a regular basis. If anyone out there reading this is interested in setting up a training website like this, let me know and I can help you out!


My week(s) of training

4:13:19 vs. oxy

Obviously, it’s been a few weeks since my last post, so I have a few games to go over on here:

4/5/19 vs. Redlands: 2+ IP, 1 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 1 K, 2 HBP

4/13/19 vs. Occidental 1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 3 K, 1 HBP

4/19/19-4/20/19 vs. Whittier: did not pitch

4/27/19 vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps: 0+ IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 3 HBP

The first game against Redlands was a while ago now, but I remember not feeling very synced-up mechanically in that game, and not really feeling like I was throwing that hard. I was pitching fairly well through the first two innings, and I probably shouldn’t have come out for the third inning, but I did and ended up giving up a hit, a walk, and a hit batter and getting taken out.

Against Oxy, I felt probably about as good as I ever have. My mom was at the game watching, and she said that I was 86-91 on my warm up pitches (which were about 90-95% effort), according to the Oxy guys who were gunning (they got up and left after my warm up pitches). Unfortunately, they didn’t get any velos during the actual game, and I really let a couple 0-2 and 1-2 fastballs go that could have been PR’s. Even if they didn’t have the velos from this outing, I just flat out overpowered their hitters, and even though I threw nothing but fastballs, none of the hitters even fouled a ball off, which is another reason why I think there’s a good chance that I hit a PR. Either way, I’ll have consistent velo readings again once the offseason starts in a couple weeks. Unfortunately, the scorer for Oxy messed up and didn’t count my inning in the box score, even though they noted that I pitched the 6th in the play-by-play, although they did credit me with my first collegiate at bat (which didn’t actually happen).

Yesterday against CMS didn’t go very well, and I felt like I was falling into the same mental “traps” that I had been in previous weeks. I was becoming too conscious of the previous pitch as opposed to flushing the result (good or bad), and in particular when I threw one or two balls in a row I tried to aim the ball over the plate to get a strike, instead of just sending it and not thinking at all about what the count is, whether or not runners are on base, etc. This season (which will end this coming Saturday) hasn’t gone the way that I wanted it to go at all, and it’s frustrating because I invested a lot more time and effort than I ever have into training this past offseason. I plan on talking more about this in my next post, but it’s important to note that no matter how hard you train or prepare, you’re never guaranteed success, and I had the opportunity to listen to a great speech by former first round draft pick Casey Weathers about this exact topic when I was at Driveline last summer. At the end of the day, all you can do is prepare as well as you can and hope that success follows, and if there’s anything positive that I can take away from this season, it’s that I prepared more and put myself in a better position to succeed than I ever have before, even if the results don’t show it.

Image credits:


The mental game: commonalities and differences between different approaches


For the last few weeks, I’ve talked about various physical aspects of training, including mechanics, injury prevention, routines, etc.. This week, I wanted to switch gears a bit and talk about the mental game, and specifically about in-game mentalities. It is clear that different pitchers attack the game in different ways mentally: some pitchers, like Kyle Hendricks or Corey Kluber, show very little emotion on the mound, but other pitchers, like Max Scherzer or Ken Giles, pitch with a lot of emotion. The optimal mental state for you all depends on your personality type and what will lead itself to the most success in games, and this can be very different from person to person. With all this being said, I want to discuss the commonalities and differences between successful mindsets, and how to determine your own “best” mindset.




One characteristic of successful mindsets is a consistent pre-pitch routine. As Nick Siegel discusses towards the end of this blog post (reposted on the Tread Athletics blog), Corey Kluber has an extremely consistent pre-pitch routine, from where he holds the ball, to how he comes set, to how he picks up the target, earning him the nickname “klu-bot” for his almost robotic repeatability. Kluber even takes this one step further, and his entire warm up routine is so consistent it is almost scary. He has won multiple Cy Young awards and is regarded as one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, and his “robotic” routines are a huge reason as to why he’s so reliable.

This near-perfect consistency in your pregame routine is probably a bit unrealistic for most guys (although it is a good model to keep in your head), but every pitcher can benefit from having some kind of deliberate pre-pitch routine that they are able to repeat every single time they step on the rubber. As Ben Brewster discusses in this video, pre-pitch routines are actually something you can practice and improve, and having a good one to go to can really help guys who struggle with consistency in games. Regardless of how amped up or calm you choose to pitch, having a well-established pre-pitch routine will enable you to better maintain this mindset over the course of a game.

Another commonality between these two mindsets is the external focus prior to delivering a pitch. As Siegel discusses in his article on the yips, elite performers in any sport are great at blocking out unnecessary external stimuli, directing their attention only to the task at hand and ignoring potential distractions. As Trevor Bauer, an elite performer, describes in this podcast (which I discussed a few weeks ago in one of my blog posts), the best focus to have during a game is a “narrow external” focus, in which you are thinking only about executing a certain pitch. For reference, a “broad external” focus would involve thinking about your entire environment, i.e., the stadium, fans, umpire, hitter, etc., and a broad or narrow internal focus would involve thinking about how your own body is moving. According to Bauer, what separates the elite from the average mentally is being able to filter out the “noise” of the broad external world and maintain a narrow external focus.



max scherzer

In order to discuss the differences in mental approaches to pitching, I’ll consider the two extremes of a pitcher who is completely calm on the mound and a pitcher who is completely amped up, and assume for the sake of discussion that all pitchers lie somewhere on a continuum between these two extremes. Essentially, all of the mindsets on the continuum are the same with regards to the commonalities I discussed above, but differ in the small details within those constraints. For example, the pre-pitch routine of a calm pitcher might look a little bit different than the pre-pitch routine of an amped-up pitcher, but as long as they both repeat their pre-pitch routines consistently, they are set up for success. Again, I’m not saying that one approach is better than the other, and I think that it’s worth playing around with this continuum of approaches to find what works best for you.

Let’s think about what the pre-pitch mindset (i.e., the narrow external focus I discussed above) of a calm pitcher vs. an amped-up pitcher might look like. A calm pitcher’s pre-pitch routine might involve clearing his head and thinking only about the spot, i.e., creating a “see spot, hit spot” mentality that Siegel discusses in his article. Clearly, this pre-pitch mental approach involves a narrow external focus: the pitcher isn’t thinking about how his body is moving, about the hitter, the score, or anything else other than hitting the spot.

On the opposite end of the spectrum is the amped-up mindset, in which a pitcher channels his adrenaline and uses it to his advantage. Former professional pitcher Alex “Flama” Casillas talks about how he used his adrenaline to touch 97 and dominate the American Association in this podcast (he talks about this in the first minute or two, although the whole podcast is good). Essentially, you can use this adrenaline to your advantage on the mound, and allow yourself to become immersed in the emotions of the game to pitch more effectively. This mindset, when implemented well, still maintains a narrow external focus, but rather than thinking only about the spot, the focus in this mindset might be more on beating the hitter, or on winning each at bat. This makes it a bit different from the calm or relaxed end of the spectrum, but still shares the same commonalities I discussed above.



One important caveat to these extremes of “calm” and “amped up” is the fact that they lie on a continuum, meaning that many pitchers are somewhere in the middle. Not every pitcher who pitches calm or emotionless is going to be as robotic as Kluber, and not every pitcher who gets amped up is going be like Giles (who famously punched himself in the face after giving up a big homerun…talk about pitching with emotion). Therefore, it’s important to play around with your own mental approach to the game and find what works best for you. Another caveat is that not all command issues are “mental,” and finding your optimal mindset won’t always fix your command (see this Driveline blog post). While working on the mental game will likely help a lot of guys, especially those who have never really worked on it before, it’s not a solution to any and all command problems.


My week of training

I’ve been working on my mental approach a bit this past week, and I ended up pitching the best when I was closer to the calm end of the spectrum. Basically, I’ve tried to make sure that I cleared my head as much as possible before every pitch, and I think this approach has helped a bit. I’ve thrown in a few games since my last blog post, and here’s what my results were:


3/25/19 vs. New Rochelle: 1 IP, 1 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 0 HBP

3/29/19 vs. Cal Lutheran: .1 IP, 0 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 1 HBP

3/30/19 vs. Cal Lutheran: 1 IP, 0 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 2 K, 0 HBP


I basically had two okay outings and one bad one. The last outing against Cal Lutheran I really tried to focus on staying calm and clearing my head before each pitch, and I thought that this lead to better pitch to pitch consistency overall. It still wasn’t a great outing by any means, but at least I feel like I’ve got something to work with moving forward in regards to my mental approach, and I felt like Saturday’s outing was a “first draft” version of this approach. Hopefully, with a week of deliberate practice of this approach, I’ll be more consistent moving forward this season.

One very positive aspect of Saturday’s outing, and really of the last week of training in general, is the fact that my arm has felt great and my arm stresses have been really low compared to previous weeks. I think playing around with how I come set has helped a lot. I sort of copied Ben Brewster’s set position (skip to 5:20 in the video), and really have been focusing on trying to maintain the tension I feel in this set position throughout my entire delivery. Although mine is less exaggerated than Ben’s, it’s still a little bit unconventional, but honestly it feels great to me. Here’s a video of what my version looks like:

Velocity-wise, this set up has helped a bit too. On Saturday against Cal Lutheran, I was able to groove 87 relatively easily, and got up to 91 on a pitch that I literally tripped and fell down the mound on, all after throwing in the game the day before as well. I think that there’s a decent chance I’ll hit a new PR at some point this season (knock on wood) given how these mechanical changes have been feeling, but we will see.

Image credits:—-innings/c-205351136


The Motus sleeve and its role in injury prevention

motus sleeve 1

In 2018, 17 major league pitchers had Tommy John surgery (through 9/12), and even though this is actually down a bit from previous years (per FiveThirtyEight), this still represents more than an entire team’s worth of pitchers getting Tommy John! There are a lot of reasons for this trend, but it is safe to say that any pitcher (or position player, for that matter) with aspirations of playing at a high level should make sure they are following a training program designed to keep their arm healthy. With this in mind, I wanted to talk about how the Motus sleeve (aka, the motusTHROW sensor) is a good tool for monitoring arm stress and workload, and how it can help prevent injury when used in conjunction with a well-rounded training program.


What does the Motus sleeve tell you?

motus readout

The Motus sleeve essentially gives you four pieces of information on every throw: your arm stress (peak elbow valgus torque, in Newton-meters), arm speed (peak forearm angular velocity in rotations per minute), arm slot (angle your forearm makes with the ground at ball release in degrees, i.e., a sidearm slot is 0 degrees and a true over the top slot is 90 degrees), and shoulder rotation (angle your forearm makes with the ground at max external rotation in degrees). Aside from this, it also tracks the total number of throws on a given day, and can account for different ball weights in its calculations by “tagging” certain throws accordingly. Unfortunately, all of this data is deleted at the end of each day, unless you buy a premium analytics program called Motus dash.

The most useful metric of these four is the arm stress. Obviously, all else being equal, a higher stress throw is more dangerous than a lower stress one at the same intensity level, as a higher stress throw generally implies more torque being placed on your Ulnar Collateral Ligament, or UCL. If we make this “all else equal” assumption (which I will discuss below), then the utility of the Motus sleeve is obvious. If an athlete is complaining of medial elbow pain, he (or she) could use the Motus sleeve during a training session experiment with different cues or movement patterns, and see which ones lend themselves to lower stress readings and get rid of their elbow pain.

It is important to note in using the Motus sleeve that, for a given athlete, arm stress and velocity are usually proportional, and Driveline defines the mstress metric as (arm stress / velocity in MPH) * 100 as a way of normalizing for this. In other words, for a given athlete we would expect the mstress of a low intensity 50 MPH throw to be the same as the mstress of a higher intensity 80 MPH throw. This is useful when using the Motus sleeve at lower intensities (e.g., using it on a 70% intensity day), so that you can make sure your mstress at 70% isn’t higher than your mstress at 100%.

The other metrics have some use as well, but the one to really watch is the stress. I’ve found the arm speed metric to be useful at estimating my perceived effort on a given throw. For me, a game intensity throw recently has been in the 800-900 RPM range, so I can sort of work backwards from this and make sure that, say, a supposed “70%” throw isn’t creeping up towards that range. The arm slot metric may also be useful for some guys, although it’s important to note that this isn’t a measure of contralateral tilt or shoulder abduction, since the sensor can only measure the angle of your forearm relative to the ground, not the angle of your torso or of your forearm relative to your torso. The shoulder rotation metric also could be useful, although I haven’t looked into that one very much yet.


Limitations and issues


Likely the biggest limitation to the device is the fact that it is unable to determine how much of the total stress/torque on each throw is actually torque on the UCL, and how much is distributed throughout the surrounding musculature. For example, in this blog post on Driveline’s blog, research analyst Michael O’Connell notes how a throw with 30 Nm of torque on the UCL and 34 Nm of torque on the surrounding musculature would give the same total stress reading of 64 Nm as a throw with 20 Nm on the UCL and 44 Nm on the surrounding musculature. Of course, the second throw is preferable to the first, as the goal is ultimately to reduce the stress on the UCL, but this issue of not being able to measure that stress directly makes these two throws look identical. Because of this, looking at a stress value from a given throw with no context isn’t very useful, because it is possible for one pitcher to be completely healthy at, say, 80 Nm of stress, and another pitcher to get injured at 60 Nm.

What can be useful, however, as O’Connell points out in the same blog post, is to compare how the total stress changes under different training protocols, different drills, or in response to different cues. For example, if a pitcher has stresses around 65 Nm in a bullpen and complains of elbow pain, and he tries a certain cue or new drill to address the elbow issue, he could retest his mound stress and see if it is lower than it was before. Essentially, the value of the Motus sleeve (for right now) lies in tracking changes in stress over time and in response to different training modalities, rather than just measuring the raw stress value itself.


Another more minor issue is the fact that the Motus sleeve has to be worn exactly correctly in order to measure accurately. Basically, if the sleeve is too loose, or if the sensor is oriented incorrectly, the readings could fluctuate or just be off by a consistent amount every time. This is to be expected to some degree, given that you have a device that fits in the palm of your hand capable of calculating your arm stress, arm speed, etc., but from personal experience I’ve noticed that the stresses can vary by as much as 20 Nm if the sensor is not set up properly. This is a huge margin for error, given that most guys have stresses in the double-digit range, so make sure that your sleeve is set up properly and is not too loose (see linked article for help with this).

Overall, in spite of these issues, I would argue that the Motus sleeve is a very valuable piece of equipment, especially for guys with injury histories. As long as you use it every day, or at least during high-intensity throwing days, the objective data the sleeve gives you is very useful in my opinion. Plus, as we begin to understand more and more how the stress is distributed during a throw, the Motus sleeve will be able to tell us more and more information.


My week of training

I didn’t make a blog post corresponding to last week because we didn’t have any games after Thursday, but now that conference games are picking up, I’ll be posting one each week, and plan on posting one each week after the season ends as well. Anyways, here are my stats from last weekend:

3/22/19 vs. La Verne: 0+ IP, 0 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 3 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 0 HBP

It was another frustrating game for me on Friday, as I ended up walking three guys (all on 3-2 counts I think) and getting pulled. It’s been a frustrating year on the whole up until now, as I know that I have some of the best stuff of anybody in the SCIAC, but I just haven’t been able to put everything together yet so far this season. That being said, we still have over half of our schedule left, and I’m not going to let myself finish the year the way that I started it. I think the issue I’ve been having mentally is focusing too internally and not focusing externally on a pitch-to-pitch basis, meaning that I am not clearing my mind before the pitch and thinking only about shoving it past the hitter.

In terms of my arm health, a positive takeaway from the game Friday was they my stresses were pretty low in the bullpen before I came into the game (I didn’t wear the Motus sleeve during the game), and my arm has been feeling solid. For reference, the bullpen readings once I got up to game intensity were about 50-55 Nm, which from past experience I’ve found to be a good benchmark to aim for. The only issue I’ve been having arm-health wise is that sometimes my Motus sleeve readings fluctuate from day-to-day, in that I’ll have days where everything feels the same mechanically, but my stresses jump a bit, and I’m still working on smoothing that out. Overall, though, the stress numbers have dropped a bit from last week, which is a good sign. I didn’t have any video from this past week, but I’ll try to get some video up here for next week’s blog post!


Photo credits:

The kinetic chain and efficient mechanics

kinetic chain

This week, I wanted to talk more generally about pitching mechanics, and specifically the fundamental concept of the kinetic chain. Apologies if this post is a little bit late, as winter term finals are getting going here at Caltech, and so I haven’t been able to finish writing this post until now! Anyways, lets get to it.

No two pitchers are going to have exactly the same set of mechanics for a variety of reasons…even if two pitchers have exactly the same body (i.e., the same height, weight, body composition, limb lengths, etc.), there are still essentially an infinite number of variables that determine your mechanics. For simplicity, we break up certain movement patterns into groups, like “arm action” or “hip-shoulder separation,” but in reality these movements are extremely complex, and creating these groups is just our attempt to simplify this infinite degree of freedom problem into something bearable! With all of this being said, at the core of an efficient set of throwing mechanics is an efficient kinetic chain, and getting the kinetic chain sequenced properly can really set you up to optimize (or come close to optimizing) this infinite-dimensional mechanical problem.


What is the kinetic chain?

summation of speed

As Paul Nyman describes in this article, which I originally found through this Tread Athletics video, the kinetic chain in its simplest form refers to the transfer of energy through different segments of your delivery, with energy being transferred from the larger muscles of your legs and lower body, through your torso and shoulders and ultimately to the baseball at release. In an ideal kinetic chain, the transfer of energy from one segment to the next is a smooth one, and there is relatively little “wasted” energy (i.e., energy that doesn’t end up being transferred to the baseball at release) as a by-product. In creating this optimal kinetic chain, it is the timing of these movements that is critical. Obviously, if your body is weak and you aren’t able to produce a lot of force to begin with, chances are you’re not going to throw very hard, even if your kinetic chain is sequenced optimally. However, you can look like the rock and still throw 75 if your sequencing isn’t good.

As Nyman talks about in his article, the optimal sequencing pattern is one in which, just as one section of the chain is reaching maximum velocity (i.e., once it is done accelerating), the next section of the chain is beginning to accelerate. This is known as the “summation of speed principle,” and in an ideal system the speed of the final section of the chain would be equal to the sum of the maximum speeds of all the other segments. While this is an idealization, it is certainly true that sequencing the different segments of the kinetic chain (for example, your trunk, shoulder, forearm, and hand, as in the image above) in this manner will result in a velocity that is close to optimal.


Where does the kinetic chain show up in your delivery?

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at San Francisco Giants

An example of a kinetic chain link or segment is the relationship between the hips and the shoulders, and the concept of “hip-shoulder separation.” I have some firsthand experience with this concept, and it’s been somewhat of a recurring “bug” in my mechanics over the past offseason and even more recently than that. When I first got to Driveline last June (June 2018), my initial motion capture showed that my “raw” hip-shoulder separation (i.e., the maximum angle I created between the line of my hips and the line of my shoulders) was pretty good, but the timing difference between the two segments (i.e., the difference between the time in which my hips hit maximum velocity and the time my shoulders hit maximum velocity) was almost 0 (.0083 s). Coming off an injury during the 2018 season, I wasn’t throwing very hard in this assessment compared to usual (I couldn’t break 86) and this “break” in the kinetic chain due to my hip-shoulder separation timing was a major culprit. Driveline’s director of player development Sam Briend wrote a blog post on their website about something similar (check out the “What does it look like?” section).

After about a month of really focusing on this concept during daily throwing, I was able to get my separation timing up to around .05 s in my exit assessment in July, which is more or less where it should be. As a result, my velocity began to climb, and although I wasn’t touching 90+ like I had during the 2018 season, over the remainder of the summer I got back up to around that range. It’s also important to note the timescale of .01 seconds that this hip-shoulder separation occurs on, and that it’s extremely difficult to see this even on slow motion video. While it is certainly possible to diagnose and correct a lot of mechanical bugs, getting objective motion capture data can be a game changer if it’s available to you.

There are obviously a lot of other places that the kinetic chain manifests itself throughout the delivery, and we can look at the “links” between different segments to see this. For example, the elbow spiral encompasses movements of the shoulder, elbow, and hand, all of which are important links in the kinetic chain. The body is a complex system, but simplifying it using the kinetic chain can aid significantly in optimizing your mechanics.


How do you train the kinetic chain?

plyo balls

So we know that we want all of these different segments of the kinetic chain to move sequentially, according to the summation of speed principle, but how do we train our body to do this? For those of you that are familiar, I’m a big fan of Driveline’s plyocare drills, which allow you to isolate certain components of the kinetic chain separately, and then eventually blend them together into your overall delivery. For example, in pivot picks, you can isolate the arm action and the later-occuring sections of the chain, whereas in roll-ins you can really work on the hip-shoulder link of the kinetic chain (among other things). Of course, any drill can be modified to work on a specific focus, but the general theory of the kinetic chain holds across this group of plyo drills. For a more detailed look at these drills (and at the kinetic chain in general), check out Driveline’s training manual, suitably named Hacking the Kinetic Chain.

There are, of course, other ways of training the kinetic chain as well. For smaller breaks or bugs in the kinetic chain, often times your body can self-organize and fix the issues automatically through high intensity throwing. In other words, if you have a small timing issue somewhere in your mechanics, by attempting to throw the ball at higher and higher intensities, your body can sometimes “figure out” a way to fix minor issues. However, for larger issues, this can sometimes do more harm than good! Determining the best way to address mechanical inefficiencies is a difficult skill to acquire (and one that I struggle with), and having a good trainer to work with can be very helpful in figuring things like this out.

As somebody who’s had his fair share of issues sequencing wise, the fundamentals of the kinetic chain are often a good place to start when trying to make mechanical adjustments. The last week or two at practice, I had really been focusing on working hip/shoulder separation through the roll-in drill. I ended up seeing some fairly significant improvements in this area, although I also noticed on video from my most recent bullpen that my shoulder abduction was a bit low. This shoulder abduction is related to how energy is transferred through the upper part of the kinetic chain, and will definitely be a focus moving forward in plyo drills. You can see what I mean in this video from Tuesday:



This mechanical issue was backed up by Motus sleeve data, which had my peak valgus torque (aka arm stress) in the 70+ Nm range (for comparison, when I used the Motus sleeve over the summer, my stresses were in the 50’s…I had a Motus sleeve before that broke, and I bought a new one last week as they just came off back order). Especially given that I was throwing this pen at about 80-90%, this is a bit high, although I didn’t really feel very much at all in my elbow during this pen. Either way, I’ll definitely be monitoring my shoulder abduction moving forward during plyo drills.

I didn’t have any stats from the past weekend, as we only had a single game that I didn’t get into (although I did get hot in the pen in the 8th inning), although I do have stats from our game yesterday:

3/15/19 vs. Ithaca College: .2 IP, 1 H 3 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 2 K, 0 HR, 1 HBP

Obviously, this wasn’t a good outing, and moving forward I’ve got to really trust my stuff a more than I did yesterday. A lot of times I’ll get into the trap of trying to take something off and “aim” the ball when I throw 2 or 3 balls in a row, and this really just sets me up for failure. Going out into a game and trying to PR every pitch is probably not the best strategy, but at the same time neither is not throwing hard and aiming the ball because I’m afraid of walking or hitting guys. In the future, I’m just going to trust that I can still throw strikes at 87-88+ and work with that.

Even though the results weren’t there, my elbow at least felt fine, and even today it wasn’t really in much discomfort or pain at all during catch play. Also, stuff wise I was still dominated pretty much every at bat and generated a ton of swings and misses on my four and two seam fastballs, which is always a good sign. Once I get my command dialed in and really start trusting my stuff, I should produce some better results.


Image credits:

Away trips: making the most out of constrained resources


My team had our first (and only) away trip this past weekend, traveling to Tuscon, AZ to play in an invitational tournament there, and in this blog post I want to talk about how to make the most out of limited resources (e.g., constrained time, not having all of your equipment with you, etc.) during an away series. While everybody loves to train with unlimited time, their entire array of shoulder tube, J-bands, etc. in front of them, and a solid, obstruction-free wall to throw plyos against, sometimes you don’t have access to one or more of these things on an away trip! If this is the case, can you even get a sufficient warm-up, recovery, etc. routine in?

The answer, fortunately, is yes in pretty much all reasonable cases. If your team gets to the game 15 minutes before game time and you don’t have any of your equipment (as an extreme example), there’s probably not a whole lot you can do, but in most scenarios you’ll be able to get in some variation of your warm up and recovery routines in before and after the game. The key to dealing with these scenarios is creativity and ingenuity, because every away field is different and every team’s schedule is different. I’ll try to give some of my more general thoughts as to what I’ve done in the past, but keep in mind that you’ll probably have to adapt and modify what I’m saying to your particular situation.


Scenario 1: your team gets to the field with limited time before the game


Ideally, you would know that this scenario is going to happen ahead of time (for example, you’re playing a team that’s far away, or your coach just wants to get to the field later for some reason, etc.), and can plan accordingly. If this happens to you, then you could do some of your lighter mobility work, corrective exercise work, etc. before getting on the bus, and then save the exercises that are really going to get you loose to pitch (or hit) for when you get to the field. You could also have a conversation with your coach about leaving earlier and making sure everyone has enough time to get their pregame routines in, which could stop the limited time scenario from happening before it happens. As always, be respectful and understand where the coach is coming from, because no coach likes the guy who is constantly in his ear about every little thing.

If you get to the field late because of unforeseen circumstances, then there are still solutions and ways to get in abbreviated versions of your routine. This is more common than you would think, and I’ve dealt with late busses, bus drivers taking wrong turns or driving to the wrong place, and more, and it’s really frustrating, but you can still make the most out of the situation. The best solution to this scenario is focusing on the aspects of your warm up that are absolutely vital first, and either abbreviating or cropping out the less important aspects. For example, I would argue that J-bands, shoulder tube work, plyos etc. (for those of you that use Driveline equipment) are pretty important, whereas you could probably get away with skipping a day of a specific passive mobility exercise if you had to (don’t get me wrong, mobility is important, as I wrote about in my last blog post, but missing one day because you don’t have enough time to do it before a game probably isn’t going to kill you in the long run). In all cases, it is important to keep track of the time and determine how much of your routine you’ll have to cut out or abbreviate.


Scenario 2: you’re missing certain pieces of equipment

shoulder tube

This scenario is actually really common, especially on farther, overnight trips, but even on (relatively) close, single day trips. Chances are if you’re flying across the country to play, it’s going to be pretty difficult to bring your 5-foot long shoulder tube and irregularly shaped recovery trampoline (unless you have one of the smaller Driveline brand ones) with you. In this case, it’s worth noting that there are a lot of things you can do to substitute or modify these aspects of your routine in order to deal with the constraints. In the worst-case scenario, you can always just skip certain aspects of your routine that require pieces of equipment you don’t have if you absolutely can’t think of a substitute, and instead just supplement by adding a few sets and reps of something else (e.g., if you don’t have your shoulder tube, supplement by adding more reps to your J-band routine).

For the shoulder tube, a pretty good trick I saw on twitter a year or two ago (I forgot where I saw this unfortunately) is to just use a green or black plyo ball, and either shake it up and down or drop and immediately catch it again in the positions that you normally do your shoulder tubing in. I’ve used this trick before when I haven’t had a shoulder tube available, and it works pretty well. For the recovery trampoline case, a trick I’ve seen employed in this video (skip to 5:44) is using a foam balance pad (something like this I think) to bounce plyos off of, which I have yet to try but might consider ordering this spring. Assuming you can bring this mat with you, you can essentially do recovery trampoline work as normal in this case, although if you don’t have access to a recovery trampoline or a mat, you can always just mix in a different recovery exercise instead of rebounders for the day, which is what I’ve done in the past.


Scenario 3: no wall to throw plyos against


This is another very common scenario you’ll run into at a lot of fields. Unless you’re at the level of a major D1 school or above, chances are a lot of the fields you’ll play on will have primarily chain-link fence enclosing them, and won’t have a hard surface to throw plyos against. I’m lucky enough that Caltech has a gigantic cement wall down the third base line that I can throw against (take a look at the picture here if you want to see what I mean), and that pretty much all of the other SCIAC fields have something I can throw against (even if it’s not ideal), but what do you do if this isn’t the case?

The best solution to this problem is Driveline’s yoga mat hack. You buy a yoga mat and some clips and just clip the yoga mat to the fence, giving you an effective plyo wall to throw against. While it isn’t ideal (nor as satisfying as throwing against an actual wall), it gets the job done. When we played against Pomona (a school that does a team-wide Driveline program) a couple weeks ago at our place, they had about 2 or 3 yoga mats up at once against the chain-link fence next to their dugout. An important point with this yoga mat hack, however, is to make sure that the yoga mat you get is going to be able to withstand repeated plyo throws, since I’ve tried it before with a crappy yoga mat and it ended up breaking after about 15-20 light throws.

In our trip to Tuscon this past weekend, I didn’t have access to my shoulder tube or recovery trampoline, or a wall to throw against, but I worked around these constraints by using a green plyo for shoulder work, and substituting upward tosses for rebounders. Thankfully, there were a lot of screens lying around at the facility that I could throw plyos against. My elbow also finally felt good enough to get back into games this weekend, and I had some decent results:

Game 1 vs. Carthage College: 1 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 0 K, 0 HR, 0 HBP

Game 2 vs. Gustavus Adolphus College: 1+ IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 0 HR, 2 HBP

On the whole my elbow still isn’t at 100%, but it felt just good enough to go out and compete in games, even if my velo might have been a little down (I went out with the intent to sit around 84-85, although I could have been throwing harder than that based on how the hitters looked…unfortunately there was no radar gun). The first game I came in with a runner on 2nd and nobody out, and I gave up a ground ball up the middle that allowed him to score, but worked out of the inning after that, allowing just a bunt single afterwards. Here’s a quick video of how my mechanics looked:

In the second game, which I wasn’t even really expecting to pitch in, I walked and hit the first two batters, but then I settled in and basically just threw fastballs by everyone to strike out the side. Again, wasn’t trying to throw at normal game intensity, but it’s possible the ball was coming out harder than I thought, especially based on how the hitters just swung and missed at everything. I probably shouldn’t have gone out for another inning, as my elbow was bothering me a bit at this point and I sort of had to talk my coach into it, but I did and I ended up giving up a weak ground ball up the middle, followed by a walk and hit batter. I then got pulled from the game and two of my three inherited runners scored. Thankfully, my elbow is feeling a lot better now, and hopefully it will feel 100% by our next game on Saturday!

Overall, I thought this was another outing where the stats didn’t really tell the full story, especially based on how my arm felt this weekend, and how I pitched in back to back games (I also ended up throwing 40+ warm up pitches in the pen during the 2nd game). In future games, my arm will (knock on wood) feel better, and I’ll be able to throw deeper into games while remaining effective, and my command will likely improve as well the better that my arm feels. If I’m able to generate consistent strikeouts and/or weak contact now against solid teams (both Carthage and Gustavus Adolphus could compete in the SCIAC in my opinion, and Gustavus would probably be at least a middle of the pack kind of team), especially on an elbow that’s not 100%, it bodes well for the future.

Image credits:


Injury prevention in-season and the importance of recovery: part 2


Last week I talked about a few different recovery methods that are useful in-season for preventing injury and performing at your best, and this week I want to continue on that topic and give my thoughts on a couple of other methods that I didn’t cover last week. No recovery routine, no matter how intricate or well thought out, can completely eliminate injury risk, and it is indeed possible to have an injury even if you’re “doing everything right” from a recovery, strength, mobility, etc. standpoint. I’ll go into this in more detail at the end of this post, but unfortunately I had an elbow injury this week that kept me out of our series against Pomona-Pitzer this past weekend. It wasn’t a huge injury (i.e., I don’t need Tommy John or anything), but it was enough to the point where I couldn’t throw a ball over about 80 mph without pain on Saturday, which was actually a pretty big improvement from Wednesday when my arm felt the worst. I wouldn’t say my recovery, mobility, etc. routines are perfect by any means, but I will say that they are well thought out and likely a lot more extensive than the average college athlete’s (to the point where I feel comfortable sharing and talking about them publicly on this website as an example for others to follow).

With all of this being said, spending time on recovery is still incredibly important, as even though you can never eliminate the possibility of injury completely, you can still minimize the risk quite a bit if you take recovery seriously. With this in mind, let’s look at a few other recovery methods that you can incorporate into your everyday routine, in addition to those mentioned in the first post:


Post-throwing work


When I say post-throwing work, I mean having some kind of arm care routine that you go through immediately after you throw (or as soon as possible after). For guys that are familiar with it, I’m a big fan of Driveline’s post-throwing recovery routine, which includes PlyoCare rebounders, J-band work, waiter walks, shoulder tube exercises, and more. All of this post-throwing recovery work is designed to promote blood flow to the muscle groups used during throwing (especially the shoulder) as well as reinforce good movement patterns and train force acceptance (in some exercises more than others). Whether you like to use Driveline’s post-throwing drills or not, I consider post-throwing work to be a very important aspect of recovery, as it helps kick start the rebuilding of tissues that may have been broken down during a high intensity throwing day. If you don’t have some kind of post-throwing routine in place and are finding it difficult to recover in between throwing sessions, you should definitely consider adding one in.


Mobility work


While mobility work could honestly be it’s own category of training separate from recovery (and indeed it could be in a future blog post), having a solid mobility routine in place is all but essential to staying healthy, and it only becomes more important the harder that you throw. It can be difficult to know exactly what your mobility limitations are without getting some kind of an assessment, and it’s probably ideal to have a certified PT run you through this. While I was at Driveline this past summer, I had weekly assessments done by their in-house PT Terry Phillips, as well as an intro and exit assessment done by their strength staff. They then prescribed me with daily mobility exercises to do based on the mobility limitations I had in the assessment(s). This is the ideal scenario, but if you aren’t able to get assessed this often or get custom programs to target your needs, there are still resources available, such as Tread Athletics’ mobility YouTube playlist, which has a lot of great general exercises to get started with. Tread also has a great YouTube video about why mobility is so important, featuring Astros pitcher Lance McCullers, who demonstrates how elite mobility can lead to elite velocities.


Miscellaneous recovery methods

marc pro

There are a lot of other “supplementary” recovery options in addition to the others I’ve already mentioned. While all the extra recovery work in the world won’t help you if you get 5 hours of sleep a night and eat 2000 calories a day, for guys that have the rest of their routines locked down these additional options can be very helpful. One such option that I like is the Marc Pro, which I use after I complete my daily post-throwing routine. The Marc Pro unit generates a local “heartbeat” in the area you use it on via electric stimulus, and helps increase blood flow to the muscles that need it. These are normally pretty expensive (around $700), but I got mine for about half price used on Facebook marketplace, and this is a good route to go if $700 is too expensive (eBay is another good option as well).

Other “extra” recovery options include cupping, the Graston technique, and other manual therapy options. By breaking down knots and tight areas, these therapy techniques can help your muscles “bounce back” from a heavy day of throwing or training. Having used both cupping and the Graston technique in the past, I can confidently say that both are useful in speeding up recovery timelines. The last recovery method I’ll mention is making sure you are living a lifestyle that has as little mental stress as possible. Some of you might read this and say it’s eyewash, and indeed it might be to a certain degree, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have as few unnecessary commitments outside of training if possible, so that you can focus all of your efforts to becoming the best player you can be. On a related note, it’s also important to make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who support you and your training goals, rather than try and discourage and distract you from them.

These are all aspects that I try to incorporate into my recovery routine, and even though I’ve been staying on top of all of these to the best of my ability, I still ended up getting hurt last week. Thankfully, I don’t think it will be a serious or long-term issue, and not only has my elbow been feeling better every day, but I think I’ve more or less nailed down the root cause of the issue mechanically (knock on wood). I talked a bit in a previous blog post about pushing vs. pulling the ball into release, and I do think that the issue I was having is related, although with an additional wrinkle. I was unable to get into a position to “pull” the ball because I wasn’t creating enough of a stretch between my hips and shoulders, and my torso was almost open at stride foot contact (Ben Brewster talks about this in the same blog post I mentioned a couple weeks ago). Thus, I was more or less forced to push the ball towards home plate, which is a plausible mechanical explanation as to why my elbow was hurting. Obviously, there could be other issues at play, but based on the fact that I’ve been staying on top of my mobility work, strength work, etc. I think it’s pretty likely that this mechanical bug is the main cause of the issue. Here’s a video from last Tuesday, right as I was starting to feel it:

It’s not terrible, but my hip/shoulder sequencing could be improved a bit here. I’ve still been able to throw over the course of the past few days (just not at high intensities), and actively cueing this separation move during roll-ins has felt amazing, so I think I’m on the right track (again, knock on wood). Big thanks to Eric Jagers from Driveline for helping me identify this bug! Obviously, I don’t have any stats or video from this weekend like I thought I would, but I’d be pretty surprised if I’m not game-ready by our trip to Tuscon, AZ next weekend (knock on wood for the third time), if not earlier, especially based on how roll-ins have been feeling.

Image credits:

In-season training and the importance of recovery: part 1

max scherzer

In the last couple blog posts, I focused pretty heavily on pitching mechanics, specifically on the arm action. This week, I want to go in a completely different direction and talk about recovery and the role it plays in staying healthy in-season. Don’t get me wrong, pitching injuries are complex and multivariate, and it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to nail down specifically what exactly causes a given injury when a pitcher heads to the DL. One athlete could take every precaution possible in order to avoid injury and still get hurt, whereas another athlete could ignore all these precautions (i.e., stay up until 4:00 A.M. every night playing Fortnite, eat 2000 calories of processed junk food per day, and completely neglect his mobility work) and make it through the season completely healthy. However, there are certain steps we can take from a recovery standpoint to minimize this injury risk and optimize performance.

Recovery from in-season competition (and off-season training) is really a full time job when done well, and doesn’t stop when you step off the field every day. Recovery can take the form of specific modalities designed to help you feel your best day-in and day-out, and also can take the less obvious form of monitoring volume/intensity of throwing, lifting, etc. to make sure there is no build up of fatigue. With this in mind, here are some of the most important things you can do on and off the field to recover during the season:



I put this one first on the list because it’s arguably the most important (in my opinion), and one of the easiest things you can fix or improve if you don’t do it already. Stan “the Rhino” Efferding, who currently holds the title of World’s Strongest Bodybuilder and who I’ll be talking about a bit in this post, argues that it’s best for athletes to aim for 8+ hours of quality sleep each night in one of his Rhino Rhants (short informational videos about different aspects of training). He discusses the various benefits of getting enough sleep every night, and how sleep is important for making sure that your body can actually rebuild itself from the training stresses you are putting on it. In-season, it is especially critical for pitchers, as sleeping enough can help us get rid of arm soreness or fatigue faster, and thus be fresher for the next time we take the ball. As Stan also mentions at the end of this video, going to bed in the 10:00-11:00 P.M. range is best (which implies a wake-up time of around 6:00-7:00 A.M. at the earliest), as this is the time window best aligned with our Circadian rhythms, and maximizes the amount of R.E.M. sleep we can achieve.




I like to think of nutrition as a recovery mechanism: while training breaks down muscle tissue, and nutrition and other recovery modalities aid in building muscle back stronger than it was before. In-season, this is particularly important, since as pitchers we want to do everything that we possibly can to make sure that the muscles in our arm, shoulder, back, etc. are healthy. Specifically, in-season we must make sure that we’re eating enough calories in order to actually maintain the muscular size and strength developed over the course of the off-season (assuming you’re also on some kind of in-season strength maintenance program, although this is a topic for another post). This means that the 2000 calorie diet is simply not going to cut it for pretty much any competitive athlete at the high school, college, or professional level, and from personal experience I’ve needed well over 3000 calories just to maintain my current weight of (roughly) 190 lbs. While quality of food consumed is also important (for this I really like the Vertical Diet, which is the diet Stan Efferding created, and I follow this diet as closely as possible while on the meal plan here at Caltech), if you’re looking to get the most bang-for-your-buck, focus on eating enough calories first. Even if you don’t want to track your calories on a day-to-day basis, buy a scale and track your weight daily to make sure that you’re maintaining it as the season goes on.


Monitoring training intensity and volume

bench press

Nutrition and sleep are the two biggest areas to focus on off the field, but there are a lot of things we can do from a training standpoint to make sure our bodies are recovering optimally as well. One important consideration in-season is the intensity and volume of work done in the weight room. While it’s important to make sure you’re going heavy enough as to maintain the strength gains you made over the course of the offseason, you shouldn’t be doing off-season levels of volume or intensity, as this is a recipe for injury and poor performance, as Sam Briend talks about in this blog post. I like to think of in-season lifts as the equivalent of hybrid A days on the throwing side (for those of you familiar with Driveline’s terminology). On a hybrid A day, you work up to about 90% effort (depending on how you’re arm is feeling), and while it’s still a non-trivial load on your arm, its easier to recover from than a full velocity day. In-season lifts are very similar in that regard, as the lifts shouldn’t be easy, but you also shouldn’t feel like you’re in danger of missing reps on every set. While there are times to “pick your spots” and go heavier on certain lifts if you know you won’t be pitching for a few days, you really have to be smart in the weight room if you know you’re starting Saturday and you’re scheduled for a Thursday lift, for example.

This same principle applies to in-season throwing volume and intensity (outside of game day, of course). Given that the days you pitch are going to take a pretty significant toll on your arm, it becomes especially important in-season to stay within the prescribed RPE (rate of perceived exertion) range on a given day, as to avoid fatigue buildup. For example, if you’re the Friday night guy on your college team, it’s important to make sure you aren’t pulling down 3 times a week! Obviously, this is a pretty extreme example, as 3 pulldown days per week is a ton even in the off-season, but you get the idea. While players who aren’t going to contribute as much in a given year may be able to throw more aggressively during the season, high-value contributors need to put development in the back seat, as they are needed to help the team win now.


Providence 2:9:18 2

This is all pretty relevant to me right now, as my team just had our first series this past weekend, with many more games to come moving forward. As somebody who struggled to make it through the past two years healthy, I’ve so far been able to get 8+ hours of sleep almost every night, maintain my bodyweight, and manage my lifting and throwing volume better than I have in previous years. Hopefully, staying on top of all of these controllables (and others that I will talk about in my next blog post) from a recovery standpoint will result in a healthy season, in addition to monitoring the other aspects of my training well (strength, mechanics, mobility, etc.).

Unfortunately, I don’t have any video from this past week, but I’ll be taking some this week and will hopefully have some game or bullpen video as well. Also, with each outing I have this year, I want to give a recap/stat line at the end of every blog post. This past outing against Providence Christian College (Saturday 2/16/19), my stat line was:

1 IP, 1 H, 3R, 3ER, 3 BB, 2K, 0 HR, 2 HBP

Obviously, my command wasn’t great this game. That being said, I don’t really think these stats tell the full story, and I should have probably been out of this inning with only 1 run. There was a soft ground ball to my third baseman with the bases loaded that should have ended the inning, but he reached out to try and tag the runner and ended up dropping the ball (it would have been a pretty good play if he held on), which let the inning continue and allowed two more runs to score. On the positive side, the hitters were pretty overmatched by my stuff, and they swung and missed late on a majority of fastballs that I threw in the zone. Although this team wasn’t as good as pretty much all of the conference teams we’ll face in the coming weeks, the fact that my arm felt good and I was able to throw fastballs by pretty much everyone in their lineup is definitely a good sign moving forward, and my command will improve in the coming weeks with more game reps. Hopefully next weekend I’ll have some video of my outing to upload here, as well as radar readings!

Image credits: