[h5]Have you seen Chris Archer pitch yet?[/h5] I know I just wrote about him in my last post where we looked at his delivery (unusually slow and deliberate for such a hard thrower). But He just came off a ridiculously strong July, and he’s quickly becoming my favorite young pitcher.

And while it was his delivery that originally piqued my interest, the more I dug into his background, the more I was intrigued… This guy basically burst onto the scene last month, earning both AL Pitcher and Rookie of the Month for his performance this July.

And the more I read about him, the more there is to like. His story, his commitment to getting better, his mental approach… and he just seems like a young pitcher who is going about his business the right way. He also reads a lot (refreshing to see a young ballplayer recognizing the value of self-education). Then I came across this article, which is full of valuable nuggets for young pitchers, so I just had to share it with you.

Introspective Archer evolving into complete pitcher

One of things he talks about is his use of visualization in his pitching preparation:

“I just close my eyes and go through all the hitters,” Archer said. “Not really specifically the hitters. I do a third-person point of view, so I see myself executing a pitch. And I also see myself from a first-person point of view, where I’m actually inside my own body doing it and feeling it. So I see myself do it, then I actually do it.”

See, it all comes down to making good pitches, but there’s no doubt a big part of Archer’s success has to do with his mindset and his attention to the mental game.

Here’s what teammate David Price, one of his biggest supporters, had to say (young pitchers, pay attention):

“It’s just his work ethic and his determination and his mindset. That’s what baseball is — it’s all mental. … I feel like the mental side of baseball allows you to be able to execute pitches — and that’s what baseball is, it’s all about executing pitches. When you have that right mentality, you believe you’re going to execute that pitch, no matter how hard you throw or how nasty your stuff is. If you have the right mindset and the positive outlook before you throw that pitch, it allows you to be able to execute it.”

So while his slow, deliberate delivery might not be for everyone, I think young pitchers could learn from following his path to success – and I certainly look forward to keeping an eye on him.

I’ll wrap this one up with a clip from the man himself… on believing in himself, staying calm and “controlled aggression.”


 
 
PS – One of the things that’s made Archer so effective is commanding his breaking ball. For a Free Video with my # 1 Tip for throwing a Big League Curveball visit CurveballMastery.com

When I was coming up as a young pitcher, it was pretty well accepted that pitchers should run long distance. So in college and in the minors we ran poles, poles and more poles… For those unfamiliar with this, running poles usually consists of slow or moderate running out on the warning track, foul pole to foul pole (pretty tedious stuff).

And on one hand, it seemed to make sense. As a pitcher, you want to be strong for 9 innings (or 6 or 7, whatever level you’re playing at), so you need to build up your endurance… and what’s the best way to do that, steady-state cardio (i.e. jogging), right?

[h5]Well, turns out maybe not (more on that in a minute).[/h5]  
Even if it sounded like a good idea for starting pitchers, what about relievers? They don’t need the same endurance as a starter, do they? True, so the common approach: relievers would still run poles, just not as many…

For a long time this was the prevailing mindset among most pitching coaches. And so, when pitchers weren’t pitching, shagging BP or doing PFP’s (pitchers fielding practice), they would run, run, run.

But recently, more and more has been written about the drawbacks and potential harmful effects of distance running when it comes to pitching performance.

Basically, long, slow distance running and pitching are two very different athletic activities. Pitching involves high intensity, explosive movements repeated again and again – short bursts of power, followed by short periods of recovery between pitches. In many ways, pitching is much more similar to sprinting than it is to distance running…

chapman-pitching-usain-bolt
 
[h5]You’re training the wrong energy system![/h5]  
Now this is a little outside my comfort zone (I’m a former pitcher turned pitching coach, not an athletic trainer or strength coach), so I’ll defer to some experts in a minute. But put simply, distance running is an aerobic activity, pitching is anaerobic (if you really want to dig into energy systems – aerobic, anaerobic, ATP – give this article a read).

Bottom line, you don’t need to be able to run 9 miles to be able to pitch 9 innings. Just ask David Wells and C.C. Sabathia…

David-Wells-CC-Sabathia
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

One of my favorite David Wells quotes: “You don’t run the ball up to the plate.”

Disclaimer: please don’t take this as license to eat like crap and get overweight.

So as I mentioned, aside from my direct experience with running in my playing days and its effect on my own performance (usually a drop in weight, power and velocity over the course of a season), I’m not an expert on this. So for more on why distance running isn’t a great idea for pitchers looking to maximize performance, I highly recommend giving these a read:

A New Model for Training Between Starts: Part 1 – Eric Cressey

Should Pitchers Run Long Distance? – Joe Meglio

Now to be fair, this understanding was making its way into pro ball when I was still playing. In the minors we did a lot less long-distance running and a lot more sprint work. But there was still some form of running pretty much every day, and the day after your start you were expected to do a 20-30 minute jog… in the 90 degree heat (and 1000% humidity) of Columbus, GA, that takes a toll.

[h5]So, does this mean pitchers should ditch long distance running completely?[/h5] [h5]Not necessarily…[/h5]  
This is a tough one for me, because personally I’ve always enjoyed running. Not so much the monotony of running poles, but more the endurance challenge of a good long run appeals to me – it’s great mental toughness training. I almost always feel better after running, both mentally and physically….

So it was refreshing to read an article recently that actually talked about the benefits of aerobic conditioning! This is a fantastic piece by Mike Robertson, well worth a read for anyone serious about their health and athletic performance:

You NEED Long Duration, Low Intensity Cardio

See, while maybe not the best thing for maximizing explosiveness during the season, some level of cardio training has some serious benefits.

I’m mainly talking about the effects on your heart and your mind… two pretty important things for any pitcher!

Some key benefits of distance running:

  • It leads to positive physical changes to your heart
  • It can lower your resting heart rate, helping you stay calm and relaxed.
  • It builds mental toughness.

So while it isn’t ideal for building and maintaining power on the mound, and should probably be kept to a minimum during the season, I still think distance running has its place…

And in closing, I leave you with some words of wisdom from Will Smith.

In previous articles, I’ve written about the importance of good mobility and stability in your pitching delivery. But one thing I haven’t mentioned before is that late in my career, I finally got serious about addressing flexibility and mobility issues that were holding me back. And I started doing something I never would have considered in my younger days…

I had tried stretching at night, and that helped to some extent. But I still felt I could do more to improve my flexibility, stability and balance to make my pitching delivery more efficient. So one off-season, I decided to take a different approach and started doing Yoga. I still kept up with my other conditioning (lifting, plyo’s, sprinting).

[h5]Here are some key benefits I saw from adding Yoga to my training:[/h5]
  • Improved overall flexibility
  • Improved balance and stability
  • Improved body awareness
  • Improved strength and stamina

Plus an unanticipated side-benefit…

  • Improved mental focus and toughness

I recently caught up with Gwen Lawrence, a leading Yoga instructor when it comes to training athletes. Gwen has worked with many pro and amateur athletes, including members of the New York Yankees and New York Giants.

One thing I like about Gwen’s approach is that she really makes an effort to understand the individual athlete. She understands the position, and the unique demands a pitcher may have vs. a hitter. And at the same time, some guys may need to work more on flexibility, some more on balance and stability.

Now Yoga isn’t necessarily for everyone… But if you keep an open mind, I believe most pitchers can benefit from adding Yoga to their training.

So if you’re like me, and you’re always on the lookout for ways to be a better pitcher, check out today’s interview!

[h5]Gwen Lawrence[/h5] GwenLawrence.com
•E-RYT 500 experienced registered Yoga Teacher 500 hour, highest accredited
•YTA member of Yoga teachers association
•YA member of Yoga Alliance
•NSCA member National Sports conditioning association
•RY th Registered Yoga Therapist
•RYS register accredited yoga school owner founder director

Power Yoga for Baseball

Power-Yoga-for-Baseball
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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[h5]Poses/Stretches referenced in the interview:[/h5]

Gwen-Lawrence-Yoga-Poses

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