Thursday, March 30, 2017

What To Do After Front Heel Plant

Coach Rich goes over what you should do after your front heel plants down. See more at

Also see Coach Rich's page at the Epstein Online academy :

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Are Pitching Drills Really a Good Tool to Improve Poor Mechanics?

Prior to about 2004,  I too once believed that pitching drills were the "Holy Grail" of teaching and correcting mechanical faults.   After reading what the research says about the value of pitching drills for improving mechanics...I no longer feel that way, in fact, I believe drills may be one of the biggest reasons why pitchers are too mechanical, over-think, and sometimes move too slow.  Thus why pitching drills reduce pitching velocity.

Since 2004 I have not recommended pitching drills for pitchers at any level.

I now understand that in an activity like pitching, which is a complex two-phase motor skill with no natural breaks or stopping points, drills hinder the flow or the rhythm of a pitching delivery.

Like the golf swing, there is no stopping and yet pitchers are continuously taught to stop at the balance point in order to feel balanced. Stopping at any point teaches the pitcher's body that there is a break in the flow so it will naturally want to slow down at the point for emphasis.

The science is quite clear on why pitching drills are not valuable for improving pitching mechanics.  This article reveals the science and also provides a video showing the differences between a college pitcher doing the towel drill and an MLB pitcher throwing a baseball:

We see slow movements and hesitations often while doing video analysis...which allows us how to evaluate any pitcher's delivery by slowing it down and going frame-by-frame.   It becomes clear then why pitchers are losing 5-7 and sometimes 10 mph because they do not use their bodies efficiently to maximize force production.

Slow movements and hesitation reduce velocity.  Pitching drills tend to produce slower movements and hesitations which is another reason why they can reduce velocity.

Pitching velocity is developed mainly from the first movement that a pitcher makes as he moves from his back leg to his front leg. Most of a pitcher's velocity potential will result from how he  shifts his weight as it moves over the displacement of a long stride.

The faster the pitcher moves his body from as far away from the plate as possible, the more momentum his body will produce and the more energy will be available to shift to the ball.

The more efficient a pitcher's movement is during this short time, the more potential energy he will have to shift momentum to the next body part up "the kinetic chain". If he moves too slowly, he may not have enough impulse to get his body in the correct position for the ball release.

If he moves too quickly, he may inadvertently shift his upper and lower body together so that both will rotate at the same time upon landing. The point being made here is that the movement of the pitcher's lower body away from the back leg can contribute to improved arm speed.  In effect, the lower body is the aspect of the pitching movement pattern drives the eventual speed of the upper body and arm.

Once pitchers learn the sequence of a high velocity pitching delivery they are able to understand how to use their bodies more efficiently and productively.  It becomes clear why a drill

If pitching drills isolate the upper body and do not take into account the important and necessary role of the lower body, a pitcher will be taught something that never occurs in the total pitching movement.

The Kneeling Drill

For example, the "kneeling drill" is used commonly in youth and high school baseball. I once endorsed it. The purpose of this drill is to isolate and focus on using trunk rotation. However, the movement of the trunk in a full pitch is dependent totally on the momentum that is transferred from the lower body. Removing the lower body in this drill will have little benefit and removes a most important aspect of pitching mechanics - ordered movements sequentially build momentum.

The Towel Drill

Another popular drill is the "towel drill". This drill is designed to help the pitcher get more extension with his throwing arm so the ball is closer to the hitter at release. In effect, this drill teaches the pitcher to reach out further to extend his release point. There are three problems with practicing this drill.

The first is that a towel and not a ball is used. When you throw a baseball, you release the ball. The towel drill also requires the pitcher to fully extend out and finish the pitch while still holding the towel. Not only does a towel not feel like a ball, but also never does a pitcher not release the ball.

The second problem with this drill is that it may teach an error in how the trunk is used. Because the pitcher focuses on extending his arm, he will concentrate on reaching out . . . and in doing so his trunk will flex forward before it starts to rotate. This timing error will reduce power and throwing velocity.

However, the more fundamental difference to what occurs in a full pitch is that the ball is released well before the arm extends (Broer & Houtz, 1967; Gollnick & Karpovich, 1964; Hay, 1993).

Thus, the towel drill trains a movement that will precipitate injury and compete with proper mechanics. The only possible way a pitcher can add extension to his release point is by increasing his starting momentum as he moves away from the rubber. This should help increase his stride length which will aid in developing more powerful trunk rotation and trunk flexion both of which are major causes of power development.

The third problem and the one which I believe causes elbow injury, is that when you do the towel drill the arm is fully extended before it snaps out in front. When pitching a baseball the arm never gets to full extension but remains slightly flexed because the body protects itself from such injury producing actions...since throwing is a natural activity having been around for thousands of years.

The Major Drawback Of Pitching Drills

A major drawback with drills is they emphasize the pitching delivery in parts rather than as a completely dynamic motion with proper rhythm, tempo, and timing, and with no unnatural breaks.
This dynamic movement must be practiced in the context of one fluid motion . . . mostly at game intensity. Pitching drills interfere with that requirement.

The question that should be asked is: "How will pitching drill activities be interpreted by a pitcher's body?" The answer is they will be processed as a completely different activity with little to no transfer to a pitcher's game-delivery.

Are there places for drills or partial practice? I believe they have their place largely with beginning pitchers.   There are far better ways to teach mechanics and improve mechanical faults than by using drills.

Finally, what I see as the biggest misconception and confusion in teaching baseball pitching is the emphasis on the arm as the source of power as well as thinking that building more overall arm strength will help maximize velocity.

The arm is the delivery device of the ball and the source of control while the legs and body are what provide the main source of acceleration.

What has influenced me most is the idea that pitching is mainly a skilled activity, which proper conditioning may enhance but if it does, only to a minor degree. Pitching is not about strength or about how far a pitcher can throw a baseball.

Pitching is mainly about developing skilled pitches that the pitcher is capable of using to hit the catcher's glove or other areas in and around the strike zone.

As former MLB pitching coach Rick Peterson always has said: "Pitchers are professional glove hitters."

With more refined physical and mental pitching skills, every at bat for a hitter should be uncomfortable and unsuccessful.

Pitchers, parents and coaches should understand why it is the body that produces velocity and not the arm. This understanding should go a long way in reducing the avalanche of pitching arm injuries that have increased at all levels of baseball unnecessarily.

I honestly believe that pitchers today are wasting as much as if not more than 50% of their practice time on activities that do not improve performance.

Imagine how quickly pitchers would improve when they understand which activities are valuable and performance enhancing...and which are not.

We don't believe that pitching drills have a place in helping pitchers improve their mechanics or their pitching velocity.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Front Shoulder and Front Leg Connection - The Baseball Barn

Coach Rich explains how the front leg is connected to the front shoulder. By landing, or falling into a flexed front knee, this can help with keeping your front shoulder down and slightly in resulting in more torque and more bat speed and power.

See more at

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

US, Venezuela Have Something to Prove in Classic

By Richard Justice /

Two teams with a puzzling -- and frankly, a disappointing -- history in the World Baseball Classic offer one of Wednesday's most intriguing matchups: Team USA vs. Venezuela.

First pitch is scheduled for 9 p.m. ET on MLB Network and MLB.TV.

Both teams have star power. There's Miguel Cabrera, Felix Hernandez, Jose Altuve and a long list of other familiar teams anchoring the Venezuelan roster.

As for Team USA, there's the usual chatter about some of Major League Baseball's best players electing not to participate in the Classic. That talk should be ignored.

This team is loaded: Paul Goldschmidt, Giancarlo Stanton, Buster Posey, Eric Hosmer, etc., are in the lineup. On the mound: Marcus Stroman, Chris Archer and Danny Duffy.

If Team USA doesn't win a medal, it won't be because there wasn't enough talent. There should also be a friendly environment of Petco Park on Wednesday, even though there's likely to be a sizable Venezuelan contingent as well.

"Just to wear USA across our chest is something I've always wanted to do," said Mariners left-hander Drew Smyly, who will start the game opposite MLB teammate Hernandez. "And to play against the best in the world, it's an honor, so I'm excited to get my chance."

When the World Baseball Classic was born in 2006, Team USA and Venezuela figured to be powerhouse clubs. Baseball is a big deal in both countries, and Venezuela has produced some of the best players on the planet.

Some Venezuelan players say their country's political and economic unrest have contributed to a sense of urgency about doing well in the Classic. As Hernandez said before this year's tournament began, "We'd like to give our people something positive to cheer for."

So far, though, neither the Venezuelans nor Americans have had the success they hoped to have in the World Baseball Classic. In four tournaments, Team USA is barely above .500 at 12-11 and has zero medals. Venezuela 12-9 with finishes of seventh, third and 10th. That third-place finish in 2009 did get the Venzuelans to the medal stand.

The Venezuelans were three outs from elimination on Monday night when Cabrera hit a monstrous home run to tie a game against Italy in the top of the ninth inning. They scored two more runs in the ninth inning to win, 4-3, and advance to Wednesday's game against Team USA.

Maybe that's the kind of victory that can propel Venezuela to a nice run as the second round begins. After opening the tournament with an 11-0 loss to Puerto Rico, the stars could be lining up.

Team USA could use a little magic, too. In three previous Classics, it has had finishes of eighth, fourth and sixth. The Americans have won two of three games in this tournament, rallying from a 2-0 deficit to beat Colombia, 3-2, in 10 innings, in the opener. Then came Saturday night when a 5-0 lead over the Dominican Republic became a 7-5 loss.

The Americans were propelled into the second round with an impressive 8-0 victory over Team Canada on Sunday. Now manager Jim Leyland has Smyly, one of his former Detroit Tigers, on the mound and a rested bullpen to back him up.

Every American player surely is aware of their team's poor showings in the World Baseball Classic, and many of them understand the event may not gain a strong foothold in the hearts and minds of baseball fans in the United States until the Americans do better.

While it may sometimes seem that players from other countries show more emotion than American players, that doesn't mean they care any less or are any less motivated.

"I think we have a pretty motivated clubhouse," Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich said. "It's all guys who wanted to be here. Nobody forced us to come play. Everybody took pride and wanted to represent our country."

The World Baseball Classic runs through March 22. In the U.S., games air live exclusively in English on MLB Network and on an authenticated basis via, while ESPN Deportes and WatchESPN provide the exclusive Spanish-language coverage. MLB.TV Premium subscribers in the U.S. have access to watch every tournament game live on any of the streaming service's 400-plus supported devices. The tournament is being distributed internationally across all forms of television, internet, mobile and radio in territories excluding the U.S., Puerto Rico and Japan. Get tickets for games at Tokyo Dome and Petco Park, as well as the Championship Round at Dodger Stadium, while complete coverage -- including schedules, video, stats and gear -- is available at

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Youth Movement: 10 Prospects Set to Star

By Jim Callis /
If you're seeking fantasy pitching help, look away from the 2017 rookie crop.
Counting on first-year pitchers in any case is difficult enough, because they often try to do too much and suffer for it in their introduction to the big leagues. But even if you're tempted to trust rookies arms this year, they're just not out there.
Just one of our top 10 recommended rookies does his work on the mound, and he stands as a good example of the volatility of young hurlers. After all, he cracked last year's version of this list but was unable to make a sizable impact. The current fantasy Top 10 parallels's Top 100 Prospects list, which features just eight hurlers among the first 40 phenoms listed.
Bear in mind, however, that the rankings below are based solely on projected 2017 fantasy production, while the Top 100 reflects long-term all-around value.
1. Andrew Benintendi, OF, Red Sox (No. 1 on Top 100)
As with Corey Seager a year ago, baseball's top prospect doubles as the best rookie for fantasy baseball. A gifted hitter whose quick hands give him surprising power to go with his solid speed, Benintendi has 20-20 potential. Moreover, he will benefit from batting in one of the game's most productive offenses. Benintendi gave a glimpse of things to come by posting a .295/.359/.476 slash line in 34 games with Boston last season.
2. Dansby Swanson, SS, Braves (No. 4)
The No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 Draft, Swanson needed barely a year in the Minors to ascend to the big leagues -- where he batted .302/.361/.442 in 38 contests. Nabbed in the Shelby Miller trade with the D-backs, Swanson can provide a solid average with gap power and some steals as well. Guaranteed a starting job, the youngster has a high floor for a rookie as he prepares to follow in the footsteps of some of the game's other terrific young shortstops.
3. Yoan Moncada, 3B, White Sox (No. 2)
Brett Lawrie's unexpected release removed the biggest obstacle between Moncada and the Majors, as Tyler Saladino and Yolmer Sanchez aren't going to stand in the way for long. The prize of the Chris Sale deal with the Red Sox, Moncada has Robinson Cano-with-more-speed upside. Though he needs some time in Triple-A, he nonetheless could post a better combination of homers and steals than any rookie in 2017.
4. Josh Bell, 1B/OF, Pirates (No. 27)
Despite February knee surgery, Bell should be able to crack the Pirates' Opening Day roster and show why the club paid him a $5 million bonus as a second-rounder in 2011. A .280 average with 15-20 homers isn't out of the question for the first baseman, who is a switch-hitter with tremendous plate skills and developing power.
5. Manuel Margot, OF, Padres (No. 23)
Yet another trade acquisition, Margot came from the Red Sox as the headliner in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Fantasy owners don't need to worry about spacious Petco Park with Margot, as power isn't his calling card anyway. Rather, he has made consistent line-drive contact against older competition and displayed top-notch speed throughout his career. Even if he doesn't begin the year with the Padres, Margot has a good chance to top National League rookies in steals.
6. Hunter Renfroe, OF, Padres (No. 42)
Unlike fellow Padre Margot, Renfroe's game does center around power. The good news is that it's so prodigious, Petco Park won't be able to contain him. Renfroe probably won't hit for a high average, but he has the bat speed, leverage, strength and aggressive nature to provide 20-plus homers in a full season after going deep four times in 11 games with San Diego last September.
7. Yulieski Gurriel, 3B, Astros (not eligible for Top 100)
MLB Pipeline doesn't consider Gurriel a prospect because he was a 32-year-old with substantial professional experience when he signed a five-year, $47.5 million contract last July, but he's definitely a rookie worth owning. The longtime Cuban star didn't tear up the big leagues in his debut -- batting .262/.292/.385 in 36 games -- but he was understandably rusty after his defection and layoff. Gurriel has the tools to hit for average and power, and he should do both now that he's acclimated to the Majors.
8. Tyler Glasnow, RHP, Pirates (No. 8)
The lone pitcher on this list, Glasnow comes with the same scouting report he did a year ago. The right-hander possess an untouchable fastball, a nasty curveball and an improving changeup, but he's still figuring out his control and command. Bypassed by Jameson Taillon a year ago, Glasnow has little left to prove in Triple-A and can dominate Major League hitters with better location of his pitches. Expect some growing pains, but he's still an easy choice to lead rookie hurlers in strikeouts.
9. Aaron Judge, OF, Yankees (No. 45)
After displaying impressive discipline in the lower Minors, Judge has developed a more aggressive approach that boosts his home run ceiling (25 or more per season) but reduces his ability to make contact. He struck out in 44 percent of his plate appearances with the Yankees last year, so he comes with some risk. However, the physically imposing outfielder also has huge raw power, which he flashed in New York late last season by homering in his first big league at-bat and four times in 27 games. 
10. Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers (No. 12)
Though Los Angeles has Adrian Gonzalez at first base and a surplus in the outfield, Bellinger is too talented to keep down on the farm for much longer. The game's best power prospect is a polished hitter who could force his way into the lineup by midseason. If he had a big league job waiting for him on Opening Day, he'd rank No. 2 on this list.