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.

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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.

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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!

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Pushing vs. Pulling in the Arm Action

Aroldis-Chapman (1)

Last week, I gave some of my more general thoughts mechanics, and talked a little bit about my own arm action and where it is right now. This week, I want to go into some more depth on that subject, and share some of the related articles I’ve been reading, videos I’ve been watching, etc. While I thought I had a pretty good handle on my arm action last week, some of the information I read this week made me reconsider and expand my horizons a bit (which is a good thing!). Arm action and pitching mechanics in general are complicated, and even people who study them on a daily basis and understand them well (take a look through Anthony Brady’s twitter feed for an example of somebody who understands them at a high level) would likely say that they don’t have all the answers.

This week, I spent a lot of time looking through the Tread Athletics blog (and YouTube channel), and came away with a lot of insights. Tread’s blog, YouTube channel, and twitter account (run by Ben Brewster, the founder of the company) are all goldmines of information and have helped me significantly in terms of understanding these concepts. Although I’ve never worked with them directly, Tread runs an excellent remote training program from everything I’ve heard/seen, and their book Building the 95 MPH Body is a must read in my opinion. After reading it cover to cover multiple times and implementing some of their nutritional approach, I made significant strength gains over the course of the summer/fall, and became an all-around better athlete (large credit to the strength trainers at Driveline for putting solid strength programs together for me as well). After Driveline’s blog, Tread’s blog is probably the one that I read the second most, and their YouTube channel is a great supplement to the information on their blog.

In particular, I read through one of their blog posts this week about what can cause an athlete to “push” the ball towards home plate, rather than “pulling” the ball forward with their pec/lat. This blog post really helped me understand this concept better, and based on recent video it looks to me like I’ve been pushing the ball towards home quite a bit without even realizing it (more on this below). What threw me off was the fact that it’s possible to have a decent-looking elbow spiral while still pushing the ball if the movement is driven by the muscles in your arm (bicep/tricep). In this case, the path the arm travels looks fairly similar, and as somebody who has never really looked to see the difference until now, I was unable to tell a “pushing” arm action from a “pulling” one. I realize that I’m using these terms broadly to describe a system with a large number of degrees of freedom, but for the moment let’s just assume that we can differentiate arm actions into “pushing” and “pulling”, even though in reality pretty much every arm action is probably somewhere in the middle.

pushing gif

This gif (originally from the same Tread Athletics article) is a great example of what I mean. While this athlete’s arm does indeed follow a spiral staircase-like path, we can also see that he is pushing the ball forward with his arm, instead of letting the arm lay back and “pulling” with the pecs/lats to initiate the movement. This is what confused me about the term “pulling” for quite some time, as before I would have looked at this gif and thought that everything was fine. As Ben discusses in the article, this athlete is actually creating “fake” layback via this pushing movement, which tricked me initially and probably tricks a lot of athletes looking at video of their mechanics. Aroldis Chapman, one of the best throwers on the planet, exemplifies the concept of pulling with the pec and lat very well.

chapman arm action

There are a lot of elite movements going on in this gif, but as we can see Chapman executes this pulling move to near perfection. Combine his long levers with excellent shoulder and upper body mobility, and it’s not hard to see how he can produce 100+ on a regular basis. Ben touches on this in his blog post, but it’s not possible for everyone to get into exactly the same positions that Chapman or other elite throwers do given mobility constraints and anatomical factors. However, Chapman’s arm action does give you a pretty good idea of what this movement can look like when done very well. If you’re looking for more gifs like this, check out Pitching Ninja’s twitter page and dropbox account!

So how do you train or improve this aspect of your delivery? It depends on the athlete, and obviously mobility will play a huge role, but assuming your mobility is not an issue, Ben recommends going a couple of different routes. One way to attack the issue is through J-band work, using the resistance of the band to isolate the “pulling” movement and encourage your lats/pecs to fire. Another way is by using different cues on the plyo wall, and I’ve heard Ben talk about “driving through your armpit” or thinking about “serving a tennis ball” as possible cues to try. Ben also discusses how some athletes can benefit from going lighter on certain plyo drills, as the heavier plyo balls can promote this pushing arm action in some cases.

I plan on experimenting with all of these fixes, and looking at the other possible fixes Ben discusses in the blog post. This past week, I experienced a bit of bicep pain in my most recent outing (Thursday), and after looking at video and reading Ben’s blog, I realized that I’m likely pushing the ball. My velo was down a bit (only up to 88 on Thursday after touching 91 on Monday), and while I recognize that this can happen over the course of a season (or leading up to one, with our first game being this coming weekend), the combination of that with a bit of arm pain indicated that there could be something going on mechanically.

To me, it looks like I’m pushing the ball a bit in this particular rocker throw from Saturday. Hopefully, these changes will set in quickly and my arm will feel good again soon. For comparison, here’s a video from December, when I was moving pretty well and my velos were all up.

This throw looks a lot better in terms of how I’m executing this pull movement with my pec/lat, at least in my opinion. The goal over the coming weeks is to get my arm action to look a bit more like this, and avoid pushing the ball as much as possible. As always, let me know what you think in the comments, and feel free to ask whatever questions you have!

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Pitching Mechanics and the “Oreo” of Understanding


Some pitchers that I’ve played with in the past (and that I play with now) have a pretty simple approach when it comes to mechanics. Every time they pick up a ball, they simply throw it and barely think about their mechanics at all. Sure, maybe they have one or two cues they think about on occasion, but these pitchers don’t spend too much time thinking about their own mechanics or doing drills with the intent to change them. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this per se, and I’ve seen some guys be very successful like this. This is just one end of the spectrum.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are pitchers like Trevor Bauer, who have a pretty thorough understanding of how their body moves, and of how to change or influence their mechanics when they aren’t moving how they would like to. If you listen to Trevor talk about his pitching mechanics anywhere (like here), you can tell that he not only executes them at a very high level, but also understands them at a very high level. For example, looking at the elbow spiral (which is described in detail here if you have never heard this phrase before) phase of the pitching delivery, Trevor clearly understands the “spiral staircase” path that his elbow follows every time he throws a ball, and how it helps minimize the peak stress on his elbow. Obviously, his approach has worked pretty well for him, as he’s developed into one of the top pitchers in baseball, and in my opinion one of the best pure throwers on the planet, capable of throwing a 3 oz. ball 116.9 mph (skip to 1:48 for the throw).

So, which extreme should we try to emulate? Obviously, if you can get to the point that you understand your own delivery (and how to change it) almost perfectly (if this is even possible), this would be ideal, as you would be able optimize your mechanics for velocity, command, and arm health. The only issue is that getting to this point is really hard! It takes years of commitment, scrutiny over the smallest details, and constantly trying to learn more to even come close. Bauer describes in a podcast (around the 45 minute mark) an “Oreo” of understanding, in which the bottom cracker represents understanding very little to nothing about your mechanics, the top cracker represents understanding your mechanics at an elite level (which is where he considers himself to be), and the filling in the middle represents being lost somewhere in the middle. According to Bauer, it is very difficult to be effective in the middle region, i.e., the region of having some understanding of your mechanics but not grasping all the complexities, and this is where he considered himself to be for a couple years during the beginning his professional career.


I really like Bauer’s model of the Oreo, and would argue that it’s even more complicated. This simple model of a single Oreo with a top, bottom, and middle can be extended to an entire box of Oreos, if you will, with each Oreo representing a different aspect of pitching mechanics. It is possible to understand certain aspects of your mechanics very well (i.e., reach the top cracker of certain Oreos), and understand other aspects less well (i.e., be at the bottom cracker of other Oreos). For example, we could consider two Oreos to be the elbow spiral and lead leg blocking (or choose any two mechanical concepts you like). It is possible to understand front leg blocking very well and to be able to translate that into your delivery almost perfectly, but understand the elbow spiral poorly and not know what to look for on video or feel when you’re throwing on a day-to-day basis. Obviously, there’s overlap between different parts of a pitching delivery, as our arms are connected to our torso, which is connected to our hips, etc., but my point is that it is possible to understand and have more control over certain aspects of your mechanics than others.

So what does all this mean in practice? I could be way off, but my advice is to find somebody, whether it be a coach, trainer, etc. who understands the mechanical concepts at a high level that you might not understand as well, and learn from them. Right now, the two people that I have look at my mechanics on a regular or semi-regular basis are John Snelten from Prime Athletics (when I’m back home in Illinois), and Eric Jagers from Driveline. I’ve learned a lot from both of these trainers, and as a result I’ve not only improved my mechanics, but I’ve also improved significantly at understanding and critically evaluating them for myself. While it’s always good to have a second pair of eyes to look at something, being able to figure out stuff on your own is an important skill to have in my opinion. As somebody who was lost in the “filling” of the Oreo for most of my Freshman and Sophomore years at Caltech, resulting in two injury-filled seasons, having somebody to help guide you towards the top cracker (at least in regard to a specific aspect of your mechanics, i.e., the top cracker of a specific Oreo in the box), is invaluable, as it is really tough to get there on your own. I’m not sure if I’m all the way to the top of any of the Oreos in my box yet, but I’m definitely in a better place now than I was before in terms of understanding my mechanics.

A great example of this from my own training recently is the elbow spiral concept. A year or two ago, I understood what the elbow spiral was to some degree, but didn’t really have any concept of how to implement it into my own mechanics, or what it should even look like on video. I was lost in the complexity of the movement, thinking I understood the concept but not really being able to apply it in practice. However, over the course of the last couple weeks especially, I’ve really nailed down this particular mechanical concept in my training.

As you can see in the above video from the beginning of January, my elbow spiral a few weeks ago wasn’t great, and I am almost “pushing” the ball forward, rather than letting my arm unwind naturally (at least that’s what it felt like). I noticed this on video, and after experimenting with a couple new cues and a couple variations on drills (especially pivot picks), I found a movement pattern that worked, and ended up transferring from pivot picks to my overall delivery. The video below is from more recently, after I had a better handle on my elbow spiral.

The results? At the beginning of January, I was having a bit of elbow pain and my velos weren’t where I would have liked them to be. After playing around with these changes, my velos have been steadily climbing over the past week or two, my arm has been pain-free, and I hit a new mound PR of 91 (unfortunately I didn’t have it on video, but hopefully will next time) in our most recent scrimmage last Wednesday (1/30/19). This isn’t to say that every mechanical issue is correctable on your own like this, or that everyone should try to do this without someone else’s help, or that this will be a permanent fix for me, but in this case I had developed enough understanding to make the change by myself.

The point I’m trying to make here is that while it’s good to have trainers, coaches, etc. assist you in finding your optimal set of mechanics (and assist you in all aspects of training), at the end of the day the only person in charge of your own career is you. With this in mind, I think it’s wise to try and understand for yourself how your body moves the best, even if you need the help of a trainer or somebody else to get to a high level of understanding, so that you can take full advantage of your training reps every time you pick up a ball.

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Welcome to the blog!

Thanks for visiting my website! This blog is where I’ll give weekly content about what I’m reading and learning about, and how it relates to my own training. I read a lot of the free information available in the baseball training community on a regular basis, whether it be on Twitter, through email lists, or through training websites, and I hope that I can “give back” some content of my own using this blog. I’m by no means an expert, but I do my best to continually learn, and I hope that’s reflected in my coming posts. I want to give a shout out to new Angels minor league pitching coach Tanner Reklaitis (@TReklaitis) for helping me plan out this website, and for the inspiration to set it up in the first place from one of his recent blog posts (!