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08
21
2016

A Pitcher’s Long-Term Velocity Development: The Herbie Good Story

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What follows is a deep look into the training history of Herbie Good, who built himself from a 15U player pulling down in the low-70s into a 19-year-old pitching at 91-93 T95.

In many respects, the story of Herbie mirrors Driveline’s own, and he has been a participant in the many iterations of throwing programs we have been testing since 2012.

The Beginning

Why did Herbie start training at Driveline? A coach told him to quit baseball.

At 15, Herbie was well on his way out of baseball. He was not a big, tooled-out prospect who was sure to grow into his velocity, given time.

He ran a 60-yard dash in 10 flat. Yes, 10.

This was the last push to acquire good baseball skills before I had to hang it up. Driveline was different than anything I had ever tried and I decided to give it a shot.

So, out of options and with the support of his family, Herbie started training.

From a training stand-point, Herbie had huge hurdles to overcome on the strength and coordination fronts. Tall athletes generally present coordination challenges. Doing Herbie’s initial assessment, the two most glaring issues were major general strength deficits and a throwing pattern that did not incorporate his lower half.

Training Begins: Intent First

Herbie is proof positive that you do not need an “optimal” training program at a young training age. Herbie started in 2012. The Driveline Pitching Program looks significantly different than it did then.  In 2012, a significant portion of Herbie’s training included weighted ball holds, heavy bag work, 5+ days of heavy lifting and plenty of other drills and modalities that we have not found to be as effective as what we use today.

But the intent was always there. And that is what truly mattered.

What do I wish every 15-year-old in America knew about pitching? How to train and pitch with intent.

Below is a video of Herbie’s drill progressions over the last 4 years.

Over 5 years, Herbie trained at 3 different facilities, following us from place to place as our business grew. He trained on his own.

The reality is: our pitching program in 2016 is significantly better than it was in 2013. Yet, still Herbie was able to gain velocity over 26 weeks doing “non-optimized” programming. We wrote up his story (as unnamed athlete “Ezekial”).

Why? Because doing a “non-optimized” program at 100% effort will always trump the results generated by half-assing a “100%-optimized” program, if such a thing exists (it doesn’t).

Simultaneously, Herbie was working on improving the way that he moved. Below is a comparison of pivot pickoffs approximately 16 months apart.

Pivot Pickoffs: August, 2013

Pivot Pickoffs: February, 2014

Long-levered athletes have severe coordination issues (especially at a young age) that skill-specific overload training can help clean up.

Herbie absolutely killed pivot pickoffs in an attempt to improve and then internalize a natural arm path. It took 16-18 months to fully groove. And, to this day, still needs to be challenged in order to maintain it.

Such is the plight of being tall, young and uncoordinated.

Many coaches (and many athletes) do not have the ability to look at athlete development over that long of a time-frame.

Teams need to win now. Athletes want “easy”, “guaranteed” velocity.

For natural athletes who are high-responders to training, playing games, doing something on the training front, and letting physical maturity take care of itself can be a viable path to developing an athlete.

Non-athletes or athletes whose development curve has started to underperform their peers (i.e. you aren’t as good as you used to be) need a longer time horizon, less competition, and more focus on general and sport-specific training and fitness.

The Difficult Middle: Dealing with Early Success

For many athletes, success is a number you’ve been dreaming about since you were a young kid watching big league games.

I first thought I could get drafted when I hit 90mph on a pulldown (at 16).

The letdown that happens after you reach that first milestone can create a letdown effect for athletes. Pulling down 90 MPH at 16 means that you are an elite thrower for your age, but it is not elite for the world population. Ultimately, to reach goals of playing baseball at the highest levels, you’ll need to be world-class.

What matters is how you respond to your first taste of success.

Athletes much more gifted than Herbie have come through our facility, hit 90mph (off the mound), gotten a 50% ride to a mid-major D1 school….and done nothing.

Once you hit a number, you always expect it will stick. But that simply isn’t true. The body is a complex system and, to make your velocity stick–let alone improve, you often have to abandon old training habits in search of new stimuli.

That is why environment matters.

Kyle continually encouraged me to keep throwing. So I did.

Who you surround yourself with matters. There is no better training environment than being the second- or third-best guy in the group. You always have a rabbit to chase. For 16-year-old Herbie, he had reached a goal, but had a group of guys in the early days of Driveline who were still better than he was.

He just had to keep working.

In Herbie’s case, doing this work was compounded by an injury.

Injury | Relearning

Diving for a ball at first base, he hyperextended his arm and suffered an avulsion fracture in his pitching elbow and had to sit out his junior year of school.

He had surgery and started the rehab process. Playing catch early in that process was hard. He either had days where he felt great and wanted to throw harder than the prescribed effort, needing to be deliberately dialed back. Or had days where it was difficult to even pick up a ball.

For someone who had spent his last 18 months in the gym, training his heart out to play ball in college, sitting around was excruciating.

What did he learn from that experience?

Don’t take the ability to throw a baseball, or the ability to train for granted.

 

And while training intent is what got him to throwing 90mph in the first place, when he finished his rehab process, that intent was gone.

The most difficult part of the rehab process was being able to maximize intent again.

Again, environment played a large role. At 17, injured and nervous that you will ever get back what you had trained so hard to achieve, it is natural to back off wanting to protect yourself.

However, showing up to the facility every day, Herbie trained alongside older athletes with longer injury histories who served as both role models and rabbits to chase.

Plus, as the gym grew, more and more athletes were showing up. It wasn’t just Herbie, Kyle and a handful of the same athletes week after week.

New athletes meant more guys to compare himself too–and even more reason to keep pushing. His programming changed, focused less on maximal strength gains and more on coordination and speed.

Over the long-term, novelty in programming and environment plays a big role in facilitating adaptation in athletes.

And the intent did come back. Culminating in a 92-94mph indoor pen before draft day.

What’s Next

Herbie was drafted in the 36th round. And his story shows what can be accomplished by looking at athlete development over extremely long time periods.

To reach his next goal of playing professionally, Herbie still needs work. What he accomplished in 5 years is remarkable from mid-70s max effort running throw to 91-94 mph off the mound. But it isn’t the end.

Like he discovered at 16 when he threw 90mph, whether he reaches the next level as a pitcher is completely in his hands.

 

 

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Comment
2
Steve

Way to go Herbie, Great story and I proud to admit that I really dig the circa 1991 John Daly mullet

Michael

What type of surface and drill was used to capture the mph each week? I.e flat ground, off mound…drill-pivot pickoff, rocker, walking wind up, run n gun?

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