Pitching Lab… Inside the Nets

By Robbie Aviles (Pitching Lab Coach, MiLB Orioles Pitching Coach)

As we get close to the start of the Pitching Lab, I am getting really excited to put to work what we have mapped out for our pitchers. In addition to the strength training program, the Pitching Lab includes 19-20 sessions inside the nets. It will encompass everything from re-mapping faulty mechanical issues, simulated long toss, working on command and control as well as extensive instruction on how to throw different types of pitches in different situations.   Here is an expanded summary…

Pitching Correctives

At the beginning of the Pitching Lab every pitcher gets video taped for bio-mechanical analysis from 4 angles, similar to this:

This video is then analyzed for any mechanical disconnects and every pitcher will be given individualized pitching correctives specific to each athletes needs.

I can tell you from personal experience that much of pitching is habitual and making adjustments requires a dedicated pitcher and a consistent coach to reinforce correctives. When I arrived at the Indians camp my first year they told me I needed to get stronger in the weight room and utilize my lower half more. So, there I was doing drills every day for weeks on how to lead with my hip first and learn how to engage my lower body in my delivery.

(Lower Half Engagement)

If you want to improve your mechanics, the key is to learn to “feel” where the body needs to go. Most times if the athlete can feel it they can do it. Here are a couple of additional examples:

(Marshalls)

(Lead Leg IR w/ CVB)

Different Types of Pitches and Situational Pitching

Everywhere you look these days everyone is talking about velo. But let me tell you from personal experience, while velo is a pre-requisite, you need to know how to pitch as well. Here are a few video/tips we recently released covering some of the topics we’ll cover in the nets:

(Change-up)

(Curveballs vs. Sliders)

We will be covering all types pitches extensively and reviewing when and how they could be most effective. Specific weeks will focus on command /control (covered below) and sequencing pitches. We will review pre-game prep and game-day prep.

Command and Control

Along with velo, command and control make up the other half of the equation. At any level, throwing strikes and hitting your mark are a huge part of the game. If you don’t possess both, sooner or later it will catch up with you. Having said that we devote a significant amount of time to improving command and control. Let me just quickly review what we mean by each.

Control – To have control over one’s pitches means that a pitcher is able to throw strikes. Not just out of the zone swings and misses either, but actual called strikes. A pitcher needs to exhibit the ability to throw a fastball for a strike at any time during an at-bat. In other words, “consistency”.

Command – Once a pitcher gains control over their pitches they must then move on to learning command. Pitchers with good command have the talent to place their pitches anywhere they want within the strike zone; they are able to throw not just strikes, but good strikes.

Having better “control” means that your brain does a good job calling on the right muscles at the right time, this is built first and foremost around good movement quality and strength (which is built in the weight room). Inside the nets, we address mechanical efficiency first, and then give the athletes different stimuli to force them to make adjustments pitch-to-pitch and ultimately improve “feel” as they are completing the same tasks (throwing) with these small variations.

Schedule

The sessions during the Pitching Lab are progressive in nature.  We begin with 65%-70% intensity and work our way up to 100% just before the beginning of the spring season.  First and foremost we begin with a ramp-up process.  Thereafter, we continue with a modest pitch count in the early stages and work our way up to 40-50 pitches off the mound to prepare pitchers for the spring.  The following is a brief summary of the schedule:

    • Sessions 1-4 – Ramp-up, Simulated Long Toss, Pitching Correctives
    • Sessions 5-10 – Command and Control, Fastballs, Breaking Balls and Change-ups
    • Sessions 11-13 – Command and Control, Situational Pitching
    • Sessions 14-17 – Game Prep and Planning
    • Sessions 18-20 – Game Ready

Growing up throwing with my dad was awesome. But I can tell you this, to find a program that utilizes all of the tools necessary (including strength training) to succeed at the highest level under one roof was impossible back then.  I honestly wish I had something like the Pitching Lab available to me when I was coming up through high school. The Pitching Lab, inside and outside the nets, is the most comprehensive program that I know of and it covers all the bases.

Looking forward to seeing everyone in the nets soon…