While 'defense wins championships' is a common cliché that has reverberated throughout the sports world, it's a virtual non-argument that it's hard to do much in baseball without a deep and talented pitching staff.
With the emergence of a multitude of unique yet seemingly momentary training programs, two names remain firmly carved into the Mount Rushmore of pitching gurus: Tom House and Alan Jaeger.
House has spent the greater part of his life in the game as a major league player, a pitching coach, a researcher and a motivator. Jaeger has experience as a coach, a personal trainer, and a consultant.
House has Masters degrees in marketing and performance psychology. Jaeger has teaching-training backgrounds in Yoga, Zen and Taoism.
House is the founder and CEO of the National Pitching Association, which provides pitchers, parents and coaches with 3-D motion analysis, functional strength screens, mental/emotional profiles and nutritional assessments. Jaeger has penned his own mental training book, "Getting Focused, Staying Focused," and produced a DVD, "Thrive On Throwing."
House spent time as a volunteer assistant at Southern Cal. Jaeger has worked closely with the folks at Vanderbilt, Cal-State Fullerton, Oregon, UCLA, and the Texas Rangers.
Deep and talented pitching staffs? Look no further than these two. House has tutored Nolan Ryan, Randy Johnson, Mark Prior, Robb Nen, and Kevin Brown in the past, along with countless others that are currently pitching professionally. Jaeger has worked with the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Dan Haren, Cole Hamels, Andrew Bailey, Trevor Bauer and more.
House is known as the "Father of Modern Pitching Mechanics," while Jaeger aims to "merge the mechanics of the Western athlete with the insight of the Far Eastern mind.
Inside Pitch had the wonderful opportunity to catch up with House and Jaeger to get some of their thoughts on pitching.
Inside Pitch: Briefly describe your throwing program and the methods behind it.
Our main focus is on Personally Adaptive Joint Threshold Training (PAJTT) to remediate glenohumeral internal rotation deficit (GIRD), a common shoulder pathology that keeps players from performing pain free and/or up to their genetic potential. Throwers and pitchers are only as strong as their weakest link- they can only accelerate what they can decelerate.
Our research compared the tennis serve with an overhand baseball throw and found that even with 10 to 20 times the number of repetitions, tennis players experienced significantly fewer injuries to their shoulders than baseball players, mostly because tennis players serve and hang on to their racquet, and baseball players throw and let go of the ball. With this disparity in mind, we trained and tested various athletes' throwing motions both holding onto and letting go of balls weighing anywhere from two ounces to two pounds, and our result yielded improved range of motion and velocity. More importantly, the protocols balanced and increased strength, endurance and flexibility in the anterior and posterior muscles, stabilizing the shoulder.
Our throwing program is based on two major principles: surgical tubing and long toss. Tubing is used as a prehab tool, allowing the player to be optimally warmed up out prior to throwing. Long toss is at the core of the development of our players, and we believe that there isn't any substitution for it.
Our Long Toss program is based on a number of important principles, such as teaching the player how to "listen" to and be intimate with their arm, understanding the importance of stretching out the arm prior to throwing, throwing with an arc for range of motion and understanding how to be more athletic and explosive by translating this angle up into angle down (pull down phase). Ultimately, our long toss throwing program is broken down into two phases: stretching out and pulling down. Listening to the arm is the other key principle to our throwing program. Surgical tubing and Long Toss (along with sound mechanics) are the foundation to optimizing arm health, arm strength, endurance, and recovery period.
IP: What is the most detrimental thing that parents of young pitchers do today?
I think that parents’ biggest challenge today is to avoid putting their young athletes in an environment that diminishes their passion and fun for the game, whatever that may be.
Placing an emphasis on playing rather than practicing, and winning versus development. Also, parents placing emphasis on results and statistics as opposed to the process.
Inside Pitch: Do kids throw enough today? What are your opinions on restrictive throwing programs?
Kids today pitch too much, they don’t throw enough! It is my firm belief that pitchers, regardless of age, should take time off from the mound. It is important, however, for each of them to find a throwing program that they can implement year-round.
Today's kids play a lot, but they don’t throw enough. In my opinion, there is simply no substitute for throwing (and I don't mean pitching). The arm responds better to more throwing, rather than less. It's a basic law of nature: degeneration versus regeneration. In lay terms, “use it or lose it!”
Inside Pitch: How do you use the emergence of your personal success stories when you're explaining what you do?
For us, Steve Delabar’s story is amazing. He was released from affiliated ball, shattered his elbow in independent ball, and gave up baseball altogether. Then he tried our Next Generation Velocity Program, started throwing harder and, long story short, made it all the way to the big leagues! The great thing about the program is everyone improves, regardless of age.
I simply see them as a representation of what we do. They epitomize our approach from a training and development standpoint, and they work hard. Being able to tell those stories helps authenticate the value of our principles about more throwing rather than less, and freedom versus restriction.
Inside Pitch: Is there a transition period from what a pitcher is currently doing to starting your training? What is the optimal time of the year (preseason, during the season, postseason) to begin your program?
Because it’s a conditioning protocol, PAJTT can be done year-round at different levels of intensity, depending on the time of the year. We typically apply a relatively high intensity program after the season, a medium intensity program pre-season, and low intensity in-season.
The only transition necessary is to start a pitcher after a rest period. It's optimal to start from scratch, where a pitcher doesn't feel a need to be in a hurry to get on the mound, etc. The offseason is the ideal time to start our program because one of the most important principles of our program is to build the base properly.
Inside Pitch: When should pitchers expect to see results from their training? How important is it to be patient in the process of improving as a young pitcher?
PAJTT is a 10-12 week program that is combined with work on biomechanics and total body functional strength, endurance, flexibility and stamina. It’s important for all of our athletes to realize that they are unique unto themselves, and that improvement comes on their timetable, not ours.
Patience is a virtue of course, and something that is vital to training. We've seen significant changes in a short period of time with most of our students, which is inspiring and motivating and helps them develop a strong belief with our system. They feel it, as opposed to us telling them how much it's going to help.
Inside Pitch: How do you treat players, parents, and/or coaches who are convinced that other methods are more effective for training young pitchers?
We respect players’, parents’, and coaches’ right to choose whatever method(s) they believe in. We make it a point to never criticize other methods to make ourselves look better. We just do our best to provide science-based information, instruction, and inspiration.
We treat them with respect. If the situation is amicable, I will definitely share my opinion about the upside of what we do and do my best to ‘educate’ them with my beliefs and experiences, and let them make their own educated decision.
In summation, if pitching is your cup of tea, then there’s an overwhelming chance that one or both of these two experts are brewing just what you need. IP