Vincent Luther, Junior at Ridgewood High School in New Jersey, is having an excellent start to his 2023 baseball season. More than halfway through the spring, he has pitched 35.2 innings with a 1.18 ERA. His velocity is up 6 mph from 78 in July 2022 to 84+ mph since he started training with us last September, which gave us a good amount of time to work on several different areas.
How did he do it?
At the time he started, his objective was to gain velocity. Let’s quickly review what we’ve worked on since he joined:
- Improving Lean Muscle Mass
- Improving Mobility
- Improving Strength and Power
- Improving Mechanics
- Improving Pitch Movement Patterns
In Vincent’s case, there really wasn’t one or two issues that stood out. So, in this particular case, we addressed several aspects, including the “lowest hanging fruit”. Let’s review each component.
Lean Muscle Mass
At the time of his initial assessment last September, the 6’4” lefty weighed 164 lbs. His weight to height ratio was 2.18x, slightly below the 2.5 – 3.0x target we look for in our high performance athletes. Often, weight gain can be the lowest hanging fruit for young athletes looking to improve their velocity and Vincent is a perfect example. By this April, he had gained 16 lbs. Although there is much more he can do on this front, this is a great start.
Vince’s pitching analysis pointed to a few topics we thought needed to be addressed in order to clean other issues later in the delivery, including:
- Drifting – The weight shift that initiates the movement of the COM down the mound in order to apply force in a linear direction during the drive phase
- Trunk Stack – The ability to keep the pelvis and upper body “stacked” going into foot plant giving us a more vertical axis to rotate on later in the delivery
- Smooth Arm Path – Keeping a continuous momentum in the arm path which can help prevent “muscling up” the throw
At first glance, our lowest hanging fruit was Vince’s ankle strength and mobility that more than likely was also affecting his ability to balance and stabilize on one leg, which was surely impacting his plyometric ability in the frontal plane.
His core strength was another topic that was negatively affecting his posture and trunk stack at foot plant. We felt that addressing these issues along with some strength training would put him into a better direction mechanically.
For his size, Vincent demonstrated decent numbers for max strength. However we believe that his ability to use this for power in more pitching-specific movements was compromised. Below is a summary of his main lifts in the weight room.
While Vincent’s max strength numbers listed were pretty good, note below the gap between his CMJ (elastic) jump and his Squat (muscular) jump, as well as his lower scores in the lateral RSI (frontal plane). This tells us that he relies heavily on his stretch-shortening cycle to create power vertically but cannot transfer it laterally. Prescribing strength training based in “accelerative strength” (60-80% of 1RM), would help bridge the gap between his good max strength numbers and his SSC ability.
After addressing these mobility and power issues, we prescribed two throwing drills to help his delivery proprioceptively and improve his movement patterns, the Rocker Drill and what we call the Janitor Throw.
With the Rocker Drill, we utilized a half figure 8 to help keep the arm loose and also focus on moving through the hips, helping to develop a smoother more pendulum like arm swing into his throw. Second is a Janitor throw which helped Vincent with trunk stack as well as the timing of his hip to shoulder separation into foot plant while adding momentum down the mound.
Pitch Movement pattern
As mentioned earlier, Vincent started his training with us in September last year. For us, fall is a great time to focus on pitch design movement. He has made great strides and at this point his movement patterns are advanced for a high school pitcher. The following are high speed videos of each of his pitches to demonstrate his release.
The difference between his changeup and fastball on one end and slider / sweeper on the other end can be as much as 40 inches. In addition, he can also throw a cutter pitch (green dot) which sits smack in the middle of the other pitches.
Now let’s look at his point of release metrics to see if release points are generally consistent. Sometimes, pitchers with a large differential between their pitches make extreme changes to their arm slot to create the movement. However, Vincent is generally very consistent with his release, with the exception of his changeup where the release point is slightly elevated, but not enough to make a significant difference.
Vincent has made a great strides in a short period of time. As highlighted earlier, he is having a great start to his spring season, having already pitched 35.2 innings with a 1.18 ERA. His velocity is up 6 mph from 78 in July 2022 to 84+ mph since he started his training last September.
We are happy to see Vincent’s hard work paying off and looking forward to his continued development.
Keep up the great work!
By Nunzio Signore and Bahram Shirazi
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