The following is a brief review on 15-year old, 6’4”, 205 lbs. RHP Brian Doherty (Class 2020) who has made tremendous progress in our Pitcher Development Program. Brian trained at RPP this past fall and then rejoined us again recently. As a part of the development program, he has been working on a variety of topics this spring, including:
- Pitching Mechanics and Delivery
- Ball Movement Patterns (Data Analytics)
- Strength and Conditioning
From a pitching delivery standpoint, Robbie Aviles has been working with Brian, helping him to focus on a few topics that were evident in his assessment / video analysis, including:
- Adjusting stride length to maximize front leg blocking / ground reaction forces
- Improving his hinge pattern (glute load) from his more “quad-dominant” delivery
- Creating better hip / shoulder separation by improving glove side integrity
- Creating arm speed later in the delivery to help create better leverage on the ball and perceived velocity
Data Analytics / Movement Patterns
An initial review of Brian’s data output from Rapsodo highlighted several areas of potential improvement, including his Strike %s, Spin #s, and overall pitch movement patterns. Following several weeks of concentrated effort Brian’s numbers have shown a dramatic improvement.
Strike % – His Strike % rates are up across the board among his various pitches, including a significant increase on his 4-seam from mid-40%s to mid-70%s. He has accomplished this even with significant increased ball movement across all pitches. For example, his Strike % on his 2-seam has improved from 10-20% to 60-70%, even though the lateral movement on the pitch has improved by as much as 12 inches (see movement chart further below). Given his improving Strike % rates, it’s fair to say that he has learned how to adjust to his increased movement pattern.
Spin #s – Brian’s Spin #s are also up significantly due to strengthening his body which enables him to access more leverage through a better release point, as well as working on how the ball is coming off his hand / finger tips.
Data analytics and high speed video has shown that simply rotating the ball around the seams in the hand does not, by itself, create all the desired incremental movement pattern. Point of release, and hand / finger pressure / timing of pronation has just as much to do with the spin axis, and direction and amount of movement, if note more (than rotating the ball). Furthermore, working on reducing the amount of gyro-spin on his fastballs and change-up has also had a direct impact on his Spin #s.
Movement Pattern – When Brian initially began throwing here, his fastball (4-seam, 2-seam) and change-up movement patterns were literally on top of one another (chart further down).
By utilizing our in-house, high-speed video library of various pitch-release points, we have been able to provide Brian with both visual and immediate data feedback to make on-going, and in the moment, adjustments. Below is a good example of a change-up’s high-speed footage in our library that we use for visualization with pitchers for the point of release:
(High Speed Video Library – Change-up Release Point)
Today, there is significant improved movement across all of his pitch types and a true separation of movement between the 4-seam and 2-seam (which didn’t exist initially). The blue and yellow markers on the “initial” chart demonstrate the movements on his 4- and 2-seam pitches when he began. The markers on the “current” chart demonstrate the present movements. You can also see that his curveball now has additional depth due to his improved curveball spin rate.
Strength and Conditioning
Throwing velocity can be increased by resistance training (Effects of general, special, and specific resistance training on throwing velocity in baseball, by Derenne C, Ho KW, Murphy JC). We’ve seen guys gain velocity without making any changes to their throwing programs and/or mechanics, but it’s much more than that. Developing and/or restoring inappropriate movement patterns through an individualized strength/mobility program can help these structural / functional issues from reaching threshold, affecting proper mechanics which in turn affect the athlete’s ability to create better leverage at ball release.
Brian is already a big physical presence at age 15, but hasn’t gotten near where he will end up physically. There is a lot of variation in terms of physical maturity and training experience at these ages, and we can get a pretty good idea of what they need strength-wise just by watching them move. Much of what we are working on with him from a strength and mobility standpoint is directly related to the issues we mentioned at the beginning of this article.
- Mid/lower trap strength (upward rotation)
- Strengthening subscap (anterior stability)
- Posterior chain strength (lower body power)
- Anterior and rotational core strength (hip/shoulder separation)
And it’s not just about weight lifting. We do a lot of flexibility/mobility/stabilization work as well.
As a side note, be leery of people who say training in the weight room isn’t important, it probably means that they know nothing about it.
Although there still remains work to be done, Brian has made significant improvements across the board. He has been strength training 3x per week, while throwing bullpens 2x per week. Recently, his Peak Velo touched 80+ mph, 4-5 mph higher than when he started. This is a significant gain and the results are first and foremost a testament to his commitment to the process. More specifically, however (a) improvements in pitching mechanics, (b) increases in Spin Efficiency, and (c) an additional 12 lbs. of lean muscle mass have all contributed to his velo increase. Below is a recap of his peak velo across his various pitches.
Developing elite pitchers that can throw strikes with gas, while creating deception through their movement patterns, requires a strength program that appreciates the specific needs of a pitcher and a thorough understanding of what the data is telling you.
Bottom line, you need to know how to read and decipher the data output and develop an action plan for every pitcher, so that you can cue them on the mound with very specific adjustments for optimal results. But, most importantly, it requires a committed athlete that buys into new methods of learning and putting data to work… In this case, Brian seems to be on a great path towards success.
By Nunzio Signore (BA, CSCS, CPT, NASM, FMS), Robbie Aviles (Pitching Lab Coach)
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