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 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.
Sandy Koufax on constantly learning as a coach.— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 16, 2019
[Avoid: "Because I told you so"] pic.twitter.com/DUc0bMOueU
- Koufax: Possibly the greatest pitcher of all-time. Koufax is an idol and mentor of Strom’s and you can see a lot of the elements that made Koufax great within Strom’s teaching. From high “rising” 4-seamers to unconventional windups focusing on kinetic energy, Koufax provides a lot of the background on where Strom’s beliefs came from prior to the analytics to prove his theories. Noted as most coaching advice starts with “One time Sandy told me...”
- Lee: I did see that Lee gave a presentation at the Texas Baseball Ranch back in 2010, but I wasn’t able to get access to it yet. With that said, not a lot of information, so I will continue to research.
- Lehman: Lehman hosts an excellent website breaking down tough scientific topics into “Lehman’s” terms. The pun does it justice though with excellent visuals and analogies. His top theory is related to his thesis paper finding the highest correlation between lateral and medial jumps and their future velocity. Also a big believer in customized training and mechanics - largely based on anthropometrics (measurements of the individual components of someone’s body).
- Leveque: Tim Leveque is the pitching coordinator for the St. Louis Cardinals. He worked closely with Strom and Luhnow during their Cardinals days and it’s interesting as you can hear him talk through the transition from advocating low sinkers to high fastballs. He primarily worked in studying of film, focusing on biomechanics that are likely to be future indicators (whether it’s increase/decrease in velocity, injury risk, etc).
Overall, this was a really interesting section of the list. Koufax’s legend comes from one of the most storied pitching careers in baseball, but it’s intriguing to see the elements of his pitching that were incorporated into Strom’s methodology, and likely hints where a lot of the theories are rooted.
While we have some insight on Leveque through word of mouth of others, we don’t have a lot of his own personal presentations or discussions on theories. His background in analyzing film, focus on biomechanical research for future indicators, and the elements he spoke to seem to lend credence to him being a subscriber to Nyman’s theories.
Lehman to me was the most interesting of this group, opening up my eyes to the customization of a players routine, workouts, and even ideal delivery based on anthropometrics. Additionally, his work with the lower body is ground breaking and I truly appreciated the solutions he presents for coaches without some of the advanced tools.
“The people that throw sinkers are those that cannot throw fastballs”
Of all the names on this list, this one probably sticks out even to those who aren’t following innovative pitching coaches. Koufax pitched from 1955-66 amassing a 165-87 record with a 2.76 ERA (2.69 FIP). His pitching career is highlighted by 3 Cy Young awards, an MVP and an awards list (7x All-Star, 5x leader in ERA, 4x leader in strikeouts, 2x WS MVP, 3x triple crown, having pitched a perfect game) that all show why he was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1972. There are many out there who would argue Koufax was possibility the greatest pitcher of all time. For those of you who haven’t read it, Jane Leavy’s book - Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legend is an excellent read about one of the legends of baseball.
But there’s another take-away from her book. It references a 4-seam fastball that gave the illusion of “rising”, and an overhand curveball that played off of it but dropped 12-24”. It actually helps to illuminate a lot of the “proof” behind Strom’s theories even before the scientific research was there to back it up for him. It turns out that, in some ways, Strom’s drive towards the “cutting edge” is gaining the data and insight to prove out and drive the best elements from Koufax. In fact, during his coaching, Strom is well known to start most of his coaching sentiments with “Sandy (Koufax) once told me...”
One minute of Josh James’ first bullpen session. Brent Strom offers some advice after the first pitch that starts with “Sandy (Koufax) once told me ...” pic.twitter.com/tSRhT3Qx7t— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 14, 2020
In the article about Strom on the NY times, they highlight Strom’s work with Koufax back in the Dodgers minor league system in the 1980’s, referencing ”He still has a napkin covered with Koufax’s stick-figure drawings that crystallize the proper pitching mechanics, something of a hieroglyphics of the craft. “
If you watch the video above his name, it quickly becomes apparent that Koufax does not follow a majority of the “traditional” coached elements of a wind up. With that said, he’s highlighted by Paul Nyman as one of the best in baseball at maximizing the contribution from both transverse and sagittal planes.
This is a major factor in Nyman’s work, but takes a deeper look at tempo. Highlighting the importance of being able to derive as much momentum out of the leg lift at the right time.
Ultimately, it’s easy to see the elements of Koufax littered through Strom’s work, and a large number of Koufax’s theories have now been proven out scientifically - from broad brush strokes to honing in on specific elements.
Sandy Koufax on teaching Pitching via static "Positions" vs. the natural act of throwing. pic.twitter.com/PA02pIQAZ8— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) December 16, 2019
Admittedly, I’m not 100% certain on this one. The only thing I could find was that he did a presentation at the 2010 Ultimate Pitchers bootcamp, but unfortunately I couldn’t find a way to access it. My understanding is that Lloyd was Brent Strom’s accountant who developed a passion for body movement, and dedicated a lot of research to it.
I will keep digging to see if there’s anything more I can find - but if any of our commenters know, please don’t hesitate to add in.
“My goal is to take the hard to understand Scientific jargon and translate it into Layman’s terms. This was too easy of a play on words with my given last name not to pass up.”
We are fortunate for anyone that wants to learn about Graeme, he was the author of his own blog! His credentials could fill a page by itself, but to give some quick highlights, he build a foundation around his Masters in Science in Exercise Physiology and supported by certifications of CSCS - Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and FMS - Functional Movement Screen. Since then he has coached in a wide range of environments from West Vancouver Baseball Academy, to College Leagues (Central Florida College), to the Premiere Baseball League.
I highly recommend his blog for anyone interested in continuing to dig deeper. His goal is to put everything into “Lehman” terms, and he does just that. With excellent visuals, from pictures/gifs demonstrating to the scientific data presented in a palatable format - with easily digestible graphs and visuals and apt analogies that help reinforce what he’s presenting.
From a theory perspective, Lehman is an avid believer in the necessity for customized training plans for each athlete, that there is no “one size fits all” type of theory that should be applied to all athletes. Instead his focus looks at different elements of a pitcher ranging from the differences in their ability to harness elastic energy utilizing a series of 5 different types of long toss and enhanced training on the weakest performance), to the actual measurements of their body parts and how well they can move them.
Limb Length & Throwing - This is a vital yet relatively unknown topic when it comes to pitching. Here's an article I wrote a couple of years ago that I will be talking about at #Palooza19https://t.co/JgHLVzRP9d— Lehman's Baseball (@GraemeLehman) November 14, 2019
While a lot of people evaluate a pitcher by height and having the “classic” workhorse build, Lehman takes it a step further. His studies into Anthropometrics (which is defined as “the science of measuring the size and proportions of the human body”) take a deeper dive into the measurements and corresponding impact, as pitchers at the same height could have vastly different measurements (from shoulder width, to forearm length etc) - all of which have an impact on their potential velocity, to ability to control pitches, and the proper way to harness it.
Additionally, Lehman does a great job - not only taking this information and applying it, but finding easier ways for coaches to look at some of the metrics and identify where the focus needs to be. In his article on Lateral power, he talks about force plates being an expensive tool, and utilizing a set of tests (lateral jump from both sides, distance they can stretch like a split without using their hands, etc) that help determine not only the force the pitcher is able to generate without the tool but potential red flags for injury (disparity between the distance they can jump on right vs left), as well as data on physical limitations.
His article on the importance of deceleration highlights the importance of all 3 elements of strength (eccentric, isometric, and concentric), and gives some tests and training that are definitely worth while. And I enjoyed his article looking at the differences in mechanics based on arm slot of a pitcher as well.
Ultimately, his primary claim to fame is most likely based on his thesis paper which found the closest correlation to predicting future velocity by measuring a pitcher’s lateral and medial jumps. This opened a lot of eyes both from an ability to scout future value as well as identifying some key areas for training.
I’m happy to announce that Graeme agreed to do an interview so I can get a more detailed break-out for our readers in his own words!
Tim Leveque worked closely with Brent Strom with the Cardinals, performing all video and analysis of pitchers with a focus on rehab and injury prevention. With Strom’s departure, Leveque stepped up into his role.
In an interview with Baseball Prospectus, Leveque said the following which does provide some insight into his thought processes. “ “We really try to individualize. Timing, space, tempo, and rhythm are universal pitching principles, but you have to know a guy’s mental approach to pitching, his age, his routines.”
Additionally, the insight from Assistant GM Michael Girsch with Fangraphs talks a bit about the hiring of Paul Davis and Leveque’s work. “We also just had Tim Leveque be promoted to pitching coordinator. Tim has been helping us with mechanics-analytics for several years, and with him taking over the pitching coordinator role, Paul Davis is going to sort of backfill the pitching analytics role. What it is, basically, is trying to formalize a way of evaluating mechanics.”
“It’s not like we have a secret sauce and know the right and wrong way to do mechanics. It’s more of wanting to have a systematic way of evaluating mechanics — a number of quantitative and qualitative ways to look at mechanics. That’s whether we’re measuring angles, lengths or distances, or timing. We have experienced scouts and pitching coaches evaluating deliveries in a more qualitative sense. We’re recording those things in a very specific way, to try to make sense of which of those metrics might be predictive of future velocity gains or losses, elbow or shoulder injuries, or overall performance. We’re trying to see what we can find by having a formal process for collecting that information.”
Although there’s less written on Leveque’s philosophies and the theories he subscribes to, I was able to find an interview with Daniel Poncedeleon, where he talks about Leveque advocating to eliminate his 2-seamer and utilize his 4-seam fastball. And how he’s never looking back. Additionally, Cartoonist Michael Witte specifically mentions Leveque as having bought into his theories (same as Strom), and his mentions of customization and tempo seem to indicate him subscribing to some of the theories we’ve seen as common across Strom’s experts.
I did find that Leveque gave a few presentations at the RFEBS Coaching convention including Pitcher Throwing Routines, Pitching Mechanics: How to teach the proper/athletic delivery, Pitching Fielding Practice, and Pitching Development: Grips and movements - unfortunately I couldn’t seem to find a way to access them. Will come back and update if I find a way to do so.
Interesting Links -
Inside Hook on Cool Story about Cartoonist (Michael Witte) that introduced Luhnow and Strom. With this quote about Strom:
““Strom is one of the brightest people out there in terms of his approach to pitching. He’s unafraid to approach something new—he’s constantly considering something new every minute.”
And of course, how could we end without some clips of the greatness of Koufax!
Sandy Koufax, Fastball & Curveball, Individual and Overlay (w/ tails). pic.twitter.com/D2ZPPOR5Az— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) May 3, 2020