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The Strom List: Part 3 - Holt, Husband, Johnsons & Kokoris

Getting in the mind of the one and only Strom by studying his “Go-To Experts”

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If you haven’t seen any of the work previously, we’ve been running a series of articles to get inside of the mind of the man, the myth, the legend.... Brent Strom.

About a year ago, I wrote an article called the Brent Strom Magic Method. This took a high level look at the theories that Strom publicly spoke about and is believed to have implemented.

Fortunately, Peter Caliendo did a full hour long interview with Strom. In the interview, Strom holds up a list of names that he considers the best of the best, the go-to experts in the industry.

As you can tell from the image, it’s pretty difficult to read the list, but we were lucky to have Pete Caliendo send us a picture of it. Armed with the list of experts, we embarked on a journey (here is Part 1, Part 2) to try to learn their areas of expertise / what Strom took from their philosophies.

As with the previous articles, I start with a key note section which highlights who the experts are and the theories that the go-to expert subscribes to in a short summary, then below provide a bit more of a bio and in depth research as well as links to their work if you’d like to research it further.

  • Holt: Ex-Astros Assistant Pitching Coach and current Director of Pitching for the Orioles over both the minors and major league pitchers. Strong advocate of the technological approach (Raspodo, Trackman, etc) and translating that information to pitchers.
  • Husband: We’ve covered Husband previously, but considering his spot as the #1 Go-To Expert and Father of Effective Velocity plays such a large impact in Strom’s approach that it’s important to highlight again as one of the key building blocks of Strom’s model. I highly recommend the interview with him where we go into a lot of depth.
  • Derek Johnson: 2019’s Coach of the Year, very similar to Strom in his approach. Another life learner who takes the time to share the information he learned. The players who have spoken about him talk about the unique “packages” that he prepares, highlighting their strengths, developing pitching approach, minor mechanical tweaks through environment etc.
  • Wes Johnson: The first coach hired directly from college, Wes is known for his ability to add velocity to pitchers. He cites himself as Strom’s biggest fan, which makes it unsurprising that he subscribes to a similar set of theories (Nyman’s Kinetics / Biomechanics, Husband’s Effective Velocity, etc).
  • Kokoris: Blue Jays Minor League Coach, another life long learner. In addition to the similar overarching strategies, Demetre worked directly with renowned sports psychology Ken Ravizza who he views as a mentor. Ken is seen as one of the legends in the industry from a mental perspective from preparation to dealing with stress.

Interestingly, this list (other than Husband) are all current coaches with professional teams. This is unique as the first 2 parts of the stories focused on experts with a specialty in a specific area of focus. These coaches are more of generalists, taking these cutting edge trains of thought and finding a way to translate and implement them to professional player. They seem to follow a similar conceptual mindset coming from the “school of Paul Nyman” (he’ll be coming up in one of the future articles, but I included a link on his rotational throwing book below), a holistic body approach for training with specific focuses, utilizing effective velocity for the pitch design aspect.

Honestly, this list would essentially be some of the best candidates for a replacement for Strom when he decides to hang up his cleats.

WHO: Chris Holt

Learning Resource: Ahead of the Curve Podcast, One Flew over the Shorebird’s Nest Podcast

Some of you may recognize Chris Holt’s name from his time with the Astros. Holt previously a minor league pitching coach and Assistant Pitching Coordinator went to the Orioles with Elias and Fast. He was recently promoted to the Director of Pitching, a unique title - where he oversees both the major and minor leagues from a pitching coach and pitching development perspective.

Since making the transition to the Orioles, Holt has exceeded expectations with claims to fame including breakouts of players like John Means, Michael Baumann, Dean Kremer, and Keegan Akin being credited to him.

Holt primarily has brought the technological approach that differentiated the Astros, including installation of Edgertronic cameras, and his “fluency” in being able to translate that information to players on the field.

“As pitchers, we kind of have an idea of what our ball does, but there are times when what you’re doing is actually counter-intuitive to what you’re trying to do,” said starter Alex Cobb “Seeing it broken down changes your perspective, helps your mind wrap around what’s happening with the ball more clearly.”

WHO: Perry Husband

We covered Husband in the first article and with a subsequent interview. I’d highly recommend studying Effective Velocity as it is such a critical component of the Strom Magic Method, and one of the largest differentiators. I considered skipping Husband given the coverage we’ve had on him, but figured I’d include this blurb again as Brent himself names him as his #1 Go-To Expert, and Effective Velocity plays such a large factor in Strom’s methodology.

WHO: Derek Johnson

Learning Resource: The Complete Guide to Pitching, ABCA: Game-Day Pitching Routine, Discussion on Pitching, Pitcher/Hitter Confrontation, Youth Pitching, How to Throw a Curveball, Pitching Mechanics, Fastball Pitching Mechanics

When Trevor Bauer and Sonny Gray were traded to the Reds, I knew both would be successful largely due to Derek Johnson. Johnson is one of the other pitching coaches in the majors who has bought into Effective Velocity in a similar fashion to Brent Strom allowing them to get more out of pitchers with characteristics that align well with the Strom Magic Method.

His rise through the pitching coach ranks including developing a top pedigree of pitchers at Vanderbilt, minor league pitching roles with the cubs, pitching coach of the Brewers, and most recently taking over the Reds and ultimately winning the 2019 Baseball America Major League Coach of the year.

I think Derek will have a Strom-esque impact on the game of baseball, and I just ordered his book (The Complete Guide to Pitching). After reading it, I may do an article with a reviewing and capturing some of the key elements.

We’re fortunate and can find clips of Sonny Gray and Matt Garza discussing his approach, and you start to hear a very similar theme as you do with Strom. They talk about him being on the cutting edge, preparing “packages” on how to pitch (location, order, effective velocity, etc), and the mental preparation and living/dying by their players success.

What’s interesting is how similar he parallels Strom, from the theories and methods to the desire to learn the cutting edge and share their learnings with the world.

I’m excited that coaches like Johnson and Strom are so willing to share what they’ve learned with the world, and will definitely report back once I’ve had a chance to absorb the information from his book.

WHO: Wes Johnson

Learning Resource: Pitching Rotational vs Linear, Building the Foundation of Your Pitching Staff, Pitching Plans, Needles & Haystack PodcastOne

Interesting Read: Interview with Players that goes through buy in

Wes Johnson recently said he is Brent Strom’s “Biggest Fan” and similar to Derek Johnson, subscribes to some of the same building blocks (Nyman, Husband, Bosch, etc). People were surprised when he was hired directly from College Ball without coaching at all in the minors, but he’s already made a name for himself in the league.

Wes Johnson’s main claim to fame has been his ability to increase the velocity of his pitchers. While the biomechanics are a science in itself, we were happy to see an article detailing one component that was a primary focus. Keeping the heel planted and driving through your glutes during your windup. A year later, and the results speak for themselves, with average velocity up as a team and individuals breaking out.

Interestingly enough, similar to Strom, there’s already rumblings of the Wes Johnson Effect, which is another testament to his success. How did he do it? Utilizing effective velocity and the simple change of having pitchers throw their best pitch more often, and the early signs say his expertise in biomechanics and velocity increases are holding true.

“Your results on the mound are a direct reflection of how you transfer kinetic energy.”

“Wes Johnson is and has become one of the most innovative pitching coaches in college or professional baseball. His ability to take a holistic approach to the pitching delivery should bring MSU efficient and healthy pitchers. Wes’ strength is his never-ending pursuit of a better way. The Houston Astros will definitely keep a close eye on his guys.” Brent Strom, Houston Astros Pitching Coach

WHO: Demetre Kokoris

Learning Resource: Ahead of the Curve Podcast, Turn a Pair Podcast, Interview with Indiana Twins TV, Keep Playing Baseball Podcast, Art of Pitching Podcast, Throwzone Podcast (1 , 2), What Demetre thinks of Weighted Balls, Importance of Catch Play

I will be somewhat brief on Demetre for 2 reasons, the first is that Demetre has participated in a ton of podcasts with topics ranging from showing pitchers the data, to less technical topics including selection of a program for pitchers. The other? Demetre agreed to spend some time talking to me, and instead of speculating on his beliefs and recapping, we can hear it directly from the horses mouth.

With that said, Kokoris has been a rising star with coaching experience ranging from some of the top college programs (including a College World Series with USC) and is now a Pitching Coach with the Blue Jays minor league affiliate.

In a familiar trend with most of the go-to experts, it seems like Demetre’s mantra is “Always be learning.” While Kokoris seems to subscribe to quite a few of the same philosophies on the list, he is also an advocate of a mental game aspect that we haven’t highlighted after his time with renowned sports psychologist Ken Ravizza. Ravizza was renowned due to his work with mental training, a focus on coping with stress and mental skills training for peak performance. If interested, here’s a 20 minute video on mastering the mental game of baseball.

From a training perspective, he seems to follow a similar mindset as Balkovec on using external sources for correction (Core velocity belt, weighted balls, etc), as well as Bleeker’s approach of having each drill serve a specific purpose.

Not surprisingly, when asked on Ahead of the Curve, they asked Demetre on resources he’d recommend learning from. He talks about learning from the coaches he’s competing against, but highlights Strom, Bleeker, both Wes and Derek Johnson, as well as Paul Nyman and Mike Marshall.

Interesting Links:

Translating Old-School terms with modern metrics

Ken Ravizza - Mastering the Mental Game of Baseball

Additional Strom Podcasts:

The Throwing Zone - Talks about forceplates, touches on being a believer in Paul Nyman with touches of House and Marshall, touches on 2017 World Series, playoffs being a crapshoot, and the world series “hangover”

Fayetteville Woodpeckers Podcast - Starting at 5:20

Art 19 Podcast - talks about McHugh, Cole, Morton (delivery changes - how to rotate around his core) & arsenal, talks about marrying Mrs. America 1979 , previous time with the Astros, coaching in China in the WBC