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The Strom List: Part 2

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Series of learning from Brent Strom’s go-to experts Part 2

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 Model. 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) to try to learn their areas of expertise / what Strom took from their philosophies.

From there, I was extremely honored as Perry Husband saw the article on twitter, and after a brief exchange of messages agreed to come talk to me to help clarify anything I got wrong. That turned into an excellent 3 hour discussion, which I tried to capture here

Please understand, I’m NOT an expert in these areas, but I figure I will provide a high level recap attempting to simplify the concepts as much as possible as well as providing links for those who want to dig deeper to draw their own conclusions.

My Key Notes:

  • Davis: Coaching centered around movement instead of mechanics. Some beliefs that contradict the commonly accepted (such as being against longer stride length). Strong advocate in power transmission using all 3 planes, and drills focused on progression. Great resource on basically anything rotational for analysis/training.
  • Englishbey: Hitting coach that Strom praises for his work in movement efficiency and applying the theories he uses for training for a consistent throwing program.
  • Fast: Extreme analytics guy, applied innovative new technologies (Raspodo, Catapult, Edgetronic, K-Vest, 4D Motion) to gather data to truly pinpoint areas of training for the team. Some good examples below for more specifics.
  • Gambetta: The founding father of “functional sports training”. High level explanation is arguing against an over reliance on injury prevention workouts that are generalized for injury prevention and isolated to improve strength in a specific way. Focuses on building training regimens that are similar and more applicable to the movement patterns in the sport (this is not a one-size fit all - he explains the differing approaches based on age/ability).

Continuing in the from the last group trend, everyone of these leading industry experts seem to follow one trend. They take an extreme research based approach and based on the results build more individualized plans.

I think the most interesting parts to me were the technologies used in the Mike Fast section. It’s a major technological advantage, instead of us just relying on a very old school look and feel approach.

Through out this overall process, most of the concepts in large once you read them click in your head, and you’re like oh yea- that makes sense. What’s great is even the ones that go in the face of the things you’ve been taught since you were a kid have the scientific research behind them as proof. It allows you to explore the concepts deeper and think through their mindset as it doesn’t mean they’ve always drawn the right conclusion.

From the training perspective, I think there’s a very common theme among his go-to’s that all seem to stress the concept of movements that translate well into the field. Often they attempt to dispel some of the common misconceptions for isolated workouts or certain aspects of old-school training beliefs.

Now onto the more detailed look at the next group of people on the list.

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WHO: Paul Davis

Videos: EBCA seminar - Forget Drills: Use Progression to teach your pitchers, EBCA seminar - Hinge, load, rotate: How Hall of Fame Pitchers moved their Way to Greatness, EBCA seminar - The Anatomy of Throwing, Interview with Peter Caliendo

You may recognize Paul Davis’ name as the recent pitching coach of the Seattle Mariners, but prior to his time with them he served as the Manager of Pitching Analytics for the St. Louis Cardinals. Even more interesting is Paul Davis’ background which likely shaped his perspective and coaching style.

The resounding thing I’ve heard from Paul Davis is that Pitchers are throwers - just downhill. He takes a somewhat non-traditional approach, with less focus on stride or mechanics - but a higher degree of focus on movement and energy transfer.

We are fortunate that 3 of Davis’ seminars from EBCA and the interview with Peter Caliendo give some excellent insights into his beliefs. He shows some specific examples that illustrate the concepts well, and utilizes a lot of scientific approaches based off the engineering wonder that is the Newtforce mound.

Here were some specific notes I took:

  • He talks about analyzing pitchers, and one of the elements he looks for is if their hips going back (or staying back). Best way to think of it would be like a hinge
  • Not a believer in larger stride length being a positive thing. Refers people to Randy Sullivan’s Florida Baseball Ranch. We’ll get into more depth on that in a later article, the Newtforce link above covers it as well.
  • Talks through power transmission and utilizing all 3 planes to maximize effectiveness. (Up / Down, Left/Right, Forward/Back).
  • Does not focus on mechanics. He cares less about where your foot lands and more about the movement aspect (spine positioning, rotation, power transmission through the body). Easiest mental image I can try to paint is he has someone try to jump and do a 360, once with their arms extended straight out and once pulling it in and the one who tucks easily spins - the outstretched arms struggle.
  • From a drills perspective, he puts a focus on progression. His EBCA seminar is a good watch if you want to learn more.

WHO: Steve Englishbey

Learning Resource: Englishbey’s Blog, Hitting Videos, Direct Training by Steve

Videos: 20+ Hitting Instruction Videos

Some of you out there may remember Englishbey’s name as the Astros #9 Pick in 1972, but this Houston native has become an industry expert in the field of hitting. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pick out exactly what Strom looked to him for. Luckily, I was able to find the quote from Brent Strom himself:

“Steve Englishbey teaches hitting the way I teach pitching. He goes beyond the basic layer of conventional teaching and understands and can teach how the body can work efficiently to provide consistency and power in the swing. That is exactly what I hope to do in the throwing motion. Steve has given me a deeper understanding of movement efficiency. And while an inefficient swing might result in a poorly hit ball, the repetition of a poorly thrown ball can have much more serious consequences. That is why Steve is such a valued resource. He understands the swing in its’ entirety and because of that the information transfers cleanly to the discipline of throwing. Excellent information, excellent teacher. Enough said.” - Brent Strom

WHO: Mike Fast

Learning Resource: Baseball Prospectus Articles, Fangraphs Articles, What the heck is PITCHf/x

Videos: 20+ Hitting Instruction Videos

Another name that I think many people on here will be familiar with, Mike Fast. Now the Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Braves, he was previously the Director of Research and Development for the Astros. Hatter would probably be upset if I didn’t mention that he’s one of the leading experts on pitch framing. Not surprisingly, his background matches many on this list - someone with an Analyst type background that can apply that data onto the field. Fast was able to help the Astros implement some new technologies and then using that data, build training programs to eliminate the flaws that were noted. So let’s look at the technology and how he put it into use.

Technologies: Edgertronic , K-Vests, 4D Motion, Catapult GPS

The edgertronic video is worth a watch for an explanation of the technology and how it’s used to link with raspodo, and this clip gives a them the chance to analyze AND present the information in an easy to understand visuals. Here is a clip that can demonstrate a type of spin from it.

The K-Vest, 4D Motion, and Catapult seems like an ideal tools when you’re looking at Paul Davis’ theories above. It allows them to measure elements that are extremely difficult to capture just by video such as posture, angles of the body, rotation. They can use this data to find what elements are limiting the player (does tightness in his back limit his ability to rotate - so they implement a program to stretch/increase flexibility as an example).

There was a good example in the Ringer article, where Fast said previously, a coach would say something along the lines of “Work on your command”.

“How’s a pitcher supposed to go into the off-season and improve his command? He needs a drill. He needs to know how to measure if he’s getting better.”

Another example

““Saying his arm isn’t 100 percent sounds like an excuse for bad performance,” one former front-office member explains. “Saying, ‘Your arm is late getting up after stride-foot contact,’ and working on drills for that specific thing and not having them help, can give him an avenue to say, ‘I can’t do that because X hurts.’” - Mike Fast

WHO: Vern Gambetta

Learning Resources: Books, Blog, Interview, EliteTrack Posts, HMMR Media Posts, podcast

Videos: Interview , Gambetta’s Youtube Page

Gambetta is considered to be the founding father of functional sports training. His resume of success across the gamut of sports, and more specifically in the MLB, speaks to why Strom has him an industry expert. And I believe his studies into javelin throwers are some of the key elements Strom implements.

5-Step Process

“Prepare for the demands of the sport & positions/events in the sport

Meet the needs of the individual player

Have a detailed plan

Have a system to implement the plan

Objectively evaluate the results and adjust accordingly” - Gambetta, Interview with Complimentary Training

Driveline Baseball has an entire article on the topic, but I’ll use a quote to summarize and an example to build upon it:

“Intermuscular coordination, multi-joint, and multiplane exercises are the best way to build the base of any training program – including any program that aims to reduce injury risk.” Driveline Baseball

That sounds complicated, but it boils down to - getting players to do very muscle specific exercises can actually lead to more injuries instead of less. He places an extremely high emphasis on movements that recruit multiple parts of your body in a more realistic movement that translates into the field.

Example: Instead of doing dumbbell work-outs specifically targeting a shoulder muscle to prevent injuries for pitcher’s shoulder as a generalization, Gambetta would build a highly individualized approach that focus on movements that more accurately translate or where the players weaknesses/tightness are (or general conditioning if they’re not at a point for sport-specific movements).

5 Basic Rules:

“• Build the pitcher from the ground up. You can’t launch a cannon from a canoe, build strong legs.

• Train toe nails to fingernails–train all the links in the chain to produce and reduce force.

• Train for power and explosiveness, not endurance.

• Train the core as a relay center. The trunk positions the arms and transfers force from the legs.

• Focus on the big picture–recognize that that the shoulder and elbow are the last links in the kinetic chain.” Article on Gambetta,- Training-Conditioning.com

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While doing some of this research, I also found an excellent in-depth article from The Ringer that I highly recommend, but I took some quotes out that continue to support the EV and hear it directly from the player’s mouths.

“[The Astros] have a way of sprinkling pixie dust on pitchers,” - Charlie Morton

“‘Guys, just tell me what to throw and not to throw.’” They told him his two-seam fastball to lefties was ineffective but that they loved his curve and hoped he’d throw it more. They also suggested he elevate his four-seam fastball and throw his slider slightly more to make his fastball more effective. - Discussion with Pressly

“It’s not ‘high-spin breaking ball equals good,’ but ‘high-spin breaking ball is the raw material, along with the delivery, to turn that into an effective weapon,’” Fast says.