Some time ago one of my baseball coaches referred to velocity development as a giant equation. In this equation, we needed to positively affect as many parts of the variable as possible in order to ensure the greatest chance for success. It is impossible to compute your chances of success if you follow all of these steps, there is just no way to tell. But with certainty I can tell you that if you do none of these things your chances of attaining success are almost zero. This way of looking at development was huge for me as a player. And I have taken the same approach as a coach when working with our athletes.
Specifically, for my pitching career my development took many forms. Such as: long toss, mobility work, flexibility work, strength development, pitching mechanics, weighted balls, recovery methods, pitch sequencing work, spin work, video work, hydration, nutrition, mental development, and biomechanics/ motor development research. All of this helped me to be the best pitcher that I could be. It was not just one thing, it was the culmination of all the work that went into each discipline. I would often get the question, “If I long toss will I throw like you?” And my answer was always, “It’s never one thing.” We as humans always look for the simplest most direct answer, we are always trying to be the most efficient being possible. But, player development is never that linear. We are such complex beings that attacking an athlete’s development is multifaceted. The best chances of us getting the results that we seek is to go about it in many different directions.
No one asked me to do any of this. I could have just been like most pitchers and went to my one pitching lesson per week and hoped to get better as a result. But instead, I took my development and career in my own hands and did what it took in my situation to get it done. My ultimate goal was to always play pro baseball. With this being a feat in itself, I could not do the norm and expect to get to my goal. This goal is definitely not of the norm, this called for going above and beyond what was asked of every other baseball player. Applying myself to this goal meant doing research on certain topics so I could better understand and apply them to my own situation. Without a firm base of knowledge, it is very easy to be swayed off the path I was trying to take.
This goal and dream that I had meant me going out of my way to visit and seek out the professionals that are the best in their field. Whether it meant seeking out Eric Cressey and Mike Reinold in Massachusetts, Ron Wolforth in Texas, Jim Wagner in Santa Clarita, or Kyle Boddy in Washington. All of this was necessary to ensure me giving myself the best chance to succeed. If you truly want something bad enough you will do whatever is necessary in order to get it. If you fall short of that, then the only explanation is that you really didn’t want it as bad as you thought or said you did. In society, today we hear this all too often. We all want something, but doing the work necessary is the true separator. The proof is in the work. Specifically, in baseball, we expect to see immediate results and if it is not immediate with think we are not making any tangible strides and we often give up or lose hope.
This past week I heard a quote by Aubrey Marcus of Onnit regarding athletic success and development. Marcus described athletic based success as a marathon, if you ran the best 5 miles of your life you still cannot see the end of the marathon and this is a shitty feeling to have. It is that trust that you must be ok with in knowing that you are on the right path to success even though you cannot see the end immediately. He also went on to say if you need immediate success and results in order for you to believe in the process then your approach and process is paper thin and will crumble under the sight of any obstacles which are undeniably going to happen along the way.
Driving to East Texas with my best friend in a mini-van with no power steering and a blown-out tire was something that we thought was necessary in order to grow as players. Or driving 4 days a week to Santa Clarity valley in a car with no air conditioning in 100+ degree weather to get our workouts in with our pitching coach. Or saving up the money as a college student to spend a week in Boston Massachusetts to see our strength coach and baseball physical therapist. No one asked us to do this. But, we found it imperative for our development and careers. As hard as all of this was looking back on it now, I would do it all over again the exact same way.
A lot of what we are seeing today is the people that are the most successful in their respective fields are the ones that take the step forward and do what is necessary to attain their goals. There is nothing that is stopping them from getting their work done. Less sleep, waking up earlier, prioritizing time, and committing are some of the things that separate the best from the rest.
-Start with the foundation in mind.
How important is baseball to you? What drives you to play baseball? These are some questions that not even the most fanatic baseball player can sometimes answer. This is a bit concerning too. In this blog, we will dive into the internal and external motivators that make young athletes play baseball and what keeps them going. However, we are also going to discuss the downfall to each type of motivator.
We all know that internal motivation is a lot stronger than external motivation. Internal motivation comes from ideas and principles. They come from the drive to be the best no matter the cost. Let’s use vegetarianism as an example. Those who actually stick with becoming vegetarians and vegans are more often those who have a strong moral reasoning behind it. They are the ones who absolutely abhor any cruelty of animals and do not want to partake in of the cruelty themselves. How else can someone go against human biology and not eat meat? They need to have powerful intrinsic motivation. Those who do it purely for the “health benefits” are the ones who usually don’t last for long. Health benefits, while sometimes intrinsic, can also be very extrinsic. The reason I say that is because if you’re doing it for the health benefits, the intrinsic motivator would be to “live a long life for my kids and family.” That is intrinsic. Extrinsic would be to “look good in a bathing suit.” While that can be powerful and get the job done, it may not last for the long haul.
How does this apply to baseball? Well, intrinsic motivators come from wanting to be the best. You do everything in your power (except cheat) in order to be the best. You don’t do it for the money, fame, or glory. Getting to the big leagues is a lot of hard work, and it will take about a decade worth of work. Yes, it will take about 10 years for you to be even close to reaching the big leagues. If you do not have a strong motivator, if you do not have the grit to be the best, then you will not succeed. If you give anything short of 100%, even if it is 99%, you will not succeed. But if you don’t have the intrinsic motivation to give 100% every single day, then how will you ever be successful? If you think the motivation of girls, money, and becoming famous for being a professional athlete are your motivators, you have already lost. You can do those things without baseball. But if you want baseball it has to come from within.
How do we get you to want to be the best? We don’t. It’s that simple. Coaches have about 10% of the say in an athlete’s development. That 10% can be the difference between being a high school player and pro, but when you have to get 50% better, there is nothing a coach can do or say to motivate you. Coaches have less a say over what actually happens to you. In fact, no one has more of a say over how good you can be than you. You, the athlete, have the most say in your career than any coach, parent, or umpire you come across. But you need a strong why to continue. If your “why” is weak, you will not succeed. If your “why” is strong, then you give yourself the best chance to be successful.
A little anecdote to finish off this blog. Roger Clemens was actually not good when he was younger. He went to junior college before becoming the person he is now. Most of you can’t stand the thought of JC baseball because you think it’s a demotion. Yet, he was able to push through it. How? He used to get angry at people when he pitched. He grew up poor, and he didn’t want to live poor the rest of his life. His mom used to clean bathrooms and floors at night in order to make ends meet. Clemens pretended that every single hitter he faced was someone that made his mom clean floors. They were the enemy and he wasn’t going to let them win. While you could say that his motivation might be “money” and therefore it wasn’t intrinsic, you would be wrong. While money can be extrinsic and a short term burst for cash, growing up in poverty is a different story. He didn’t want to live that like anymore and used that as fuel to be the best pitcher. You need a strong why to be one of the best in your field of operation, and no coach or parent can give you that why. It has to come from within.
Director of Pitching
As we have all have heard baseball is a game of failure and being able to manage those failures over the course of the season. Lately, I have been seeing a troubling trend with hitters, their idea of success is completely clouted and holds no water. I hear it every weekend, “oh coach I did great I went 4-4” or “I did horrible I went 0-4” success and failure to hitters these days revolves around getting hits. Now don’t get me wrong, I love hits just as much as the next person, BUT I understand that is not the end all be all. The problem with this mentality is that you are judging yourself based off of something that you cannot control. Like it or not, you have no control over getting a hit or how many hits you get. You can certainly influence the number of hits you are probable to get but it pretty much stops there, more on this later. It is downright silly to judge yourself solely based on how many hits you got in your previous game. I like to refer to this as the illusion of control, this is the tendency for people to overestimate their ability to control events, it occurs when someone feels a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.
With this mentality, this leads to a lot of instability in the hitter’s confidence and ultimately, performance. Because they do not have a strong set of goals and their idea of success is off they instead need something concrete to turn to. As a coach, there have been countless examples when I have seen someone go 0-4 and be more of a force than someone who went 3-4 in the same game. When defining success first we need to be able to clearly define the things that we have control over. For me those things include: approach for each at bat/pitch, hitting the ball hard, and getting off your best swing, and being on time. Every one of those is a lot more controllable than trying to find the hole in every at bat. Also, if we do these things well our chances of hitting the ball hard skyrocket, which increases the probability of you getting a hit. It’s much like someone saying, “I want to lose weight,” well if it was as easy as saying it everyone would be skinny. It’s the same thing with hitting, wanting to get a hit is not enough, not by a long shot. You need to have a process to fall back on in order to keep you on track.
Having an approach for every at bat/pitch is important because you need to have a good idea of what is coming in order for you to have a chance at consistently hitting the ball hard. Notice I said hit the ball hard, not getting a hit or putting the ball in play. The people who hit the ball the hardest always win. All too often hitters go up and look fastball and adjust or even worse just look to hit the first pitch that is a strike. With the name of the game being hitting the ball hard we need to have a sense of speed, shape and type of pitch it will be in order to have our best chance of squaring something up at close to our max ability. If we have a solid approach then we can have the feeling of being in the batting cage and knowing what is coming. After all a big reason guys hit better in the cage is because they know what speed, type, and shape the pitch is going to be and they can time it up accordingly.
With the rise of Trackman, HitTrax, and Statcast this has forever changed how evaluators look at hitting. Now with every swing in just a matter of seconds we are able to see exactly how hard and far Aaron Judge hit his last ball. We are not as focused on batting average as we are BARRELS, exit velocity, or hard-hit percentage. The biggest reason for this shift is that there is more behind these stats that helps tell people more of the story. Batting average is starting to die because there really doesn’t need to be much substance behind it in order for it to be at a respectable level. Hitting .300 does not begin to tell the whole story. Hard hit percentage, barrels, and exit velocity are far better predictors of long term success. Again and again statistics show us that the harder someone hits the ball the more successful they are. In the following graph, I chose to highlight slugging percentage instead of batting average because this metric makes players more valuable to their respective teams.
Getting your best swing off goes without saying. Regardless of your thoughts on the swing and your philosophy I think we can agree that consistently putting your best swings on the ball is extremely important for long term success and consistency. If the hitter is not able to produce a swing that he can rely on consistently then it is highly likely that their performance will suffer as a result. This does not mean that someone with a “bad” swing will not get a hit, baseball is an imperfect science but over the long run the cream will eventually rise to the top. This is why minus some stylistic approaches the best big-league hitters when broken down are actually very similar in their movements.
What I absolutely love to hear is someone saying, “I had a great weekend, I squared up 90% of the balls I hit, I stuck to my approach, and I put my best swings on the ball all weekend. And I ended up hitting .400.” Knowing the process behind getting hits is the most important part of the equation. If all we do is want to get hits then good luck over the course of a season facing good pitching. If we know what goes into it then we can directly right the ship when things go wrong. So now it turns into, “I have been swinging at bad pitches for the last week I need to correct that.” Instead of, “man I’ve been in a slump for the last week and don’t know why.”
There is always merit to sticking with a thorough and well thought out approach that is proven. Even when the means that you did not get a hit that day. Don’t panic and stick to your guns because if you don’t, you will be searching for something that you really do not have the ability to control. I leave you with this golden nugget from NL MVP Joey Votto. “A couple of years ago I went 0-6 against the Cubs but it was probably the best day of the year. Because I just missed and I was doing the things that I wanted to do, and there were some tough plays in the outfield. And from my perspective I was sticking with the plan and over the long run I know it is going to pay off.”
-Start with the foundation in mind.
Start video at 7:54
Chapman Baseball Compound
Chapman Baseball Compound is a 3,000 square foot facility where we specialize in baseball development specifically in the areas of: hitting, pitching, catching, and mental training.