This articles was written by former Driveline trainer and now Head Coach at Lake Erie College, Cam Castro, detailing how to individualize programming to a players needs over the different parts of a season.
Around this time last year, and in my first blog post, I wrote about how we were training our pitchers over winter break and the best way to execute Driveline programming for athletes who don’t have all the necessary equipment at home – the question was, what can we send them home with? And what kind of programming can we build around that?
Prior to winter break though, we tried some new programming assignments. Breaking our athletes down into four different categories/focuses. Some programs shared components of the others, and only one stood alone in its focus. They were:
- Velocity Focus
- Velocity/Command Focus
- Velocity/Pitch Design Focus
- Pitch Design/Command Focus
We wrote these programs to run from one week after our fall season ended up until the week prior to Opening Day, approximately 12 weeks. That includes their four week ‘winter program’, which is very similar to what I outline in Winter Break Training Program for Pitchers.
For the most part, it was our freshmen and first year players that were put on the velocity focus. This was to ensure that they got the most out of their offseason time as some of them had very little experience with any kind of ballistic training prior to the fall – they stood to benefit the most from a more dense velocity based program.
This program was based on two velocity days per week, one pulldown and one plyo velo day, for three consecutive weeks followed by a de-load week. Once these guys get back from break, they’ll trade pulldowns for mound velos and plyo velos for plyo mound velo. A similar template as talked about in Blending to the Mound.
These athletes will get eight weeks of velocity work before throwing their first ‘live bullpen’ leading up to Opening Day.
Ideal Athlete for Velocity Focus: Freshman with average fastball velocity below 85 MPH
Velocity and Command Focus
Our Velocity/Command group followed almost the exact template as our velocity group, but the key difference in their programming is what they will be doing post-winter break. After getting back on campus, they will do some baseline command work in conjunction with their mound velos.
We selected these athletes based on velocity development potential but also a need a more command focused program – based either on performance this past fall and/or last spring. After taking their baselines, we’ll introduce a differential component with 6 and 4 oz leather weighted baseballs. All throws are made from the mound, as we have transitioned away from flat ground work especially for command. A good indication of why is found in Comparing Flat Ground to Mound Elbow Torques.
These athletes will get eight weeks of velocity and four weeks of command work before throwing their first ‘live bullpen’ leading up to Opening Day.
Ideal Athlete for Velocity/Command Focus: Sophomore with average fastball velocity below 86 and K:BB Ratio below 2:1
Velocity and Pitch Design Focus
This group has the shortest velocity component of any of the velocity comprised programs, they will only tackle five weeks of velocity work. All of it done pre-winter break, once this groups gets back on campus they are diving entirely into pitch design work.
Using Rapsodo, marked baseballs, and high speed video we’ve taken each athlete and designated a pitch of his that we’d like to either improve, fine tune, or even create. In the heart of the programming post-break they will be taking on two pitch design days per week. This was a group picked more over stimulating the velocity improvements they’ve shown to date while trying to improve their repertoire on the mound. Essentially, okay you are throwing harder now let’s figure out the best way to use your stuff.
These athletes will get five weeks of velocity work and four weeks of pitch design before throwing their first ‘live bullpen’ leading up to Opening Day.
Ideal Athlete for Velocity/Pitch Design Focus: Returner with average peak fastball improvement of 2 mph and lack of quality secondary pitch (most likely a bullpen guy)
Pitch Design and Command Focus
This program was designed with the athletes in mind who have made some nice strides with velocity development and now need to work on being the very best pitcher possible. Stimulate some command development and try to improve a secondary pitch or even develop a third.
These athletes will get three weeks of velocity work and 9 weeks for both pitch design and command before throwing their first ‘live bullpen’ leading up to Opening Day.
Ideal Athlete for Pitch Design/Command Focus: Upperclassman with average peak fastball velocity of 87+ and more than 50 career innings pitched (looking to fill major role on staff)
Now the next question we had to answer after segmenting the staff into one of the previous four focuses, what are they doing over break? What can they do and what kind of equipment do they need? Keep in mind each athlete already has his own set of Jaeger Sports J-Bands.
In addition to one of the four programming focuses, we had to assign each athlete to winter break group:
Group A: Recovery Concentration
- Black/Green PlyoCare Balls
- 7-4 oz. Weighted Balls
- 5 lb. Wrist Weights
Group B: Hybrid Concentration
- Blue, Red, Yellow, Gray PlyoCare Balls
- 11 and 9 oz Weighted Balls
- 10 lbs. Wrist Weights
Here’s an overview of each programming focus and their concentration:
Our goal this year for our offseason training was to look objectively at each of our athletes and determine what would put them in the best position to succeed come spring. For some it’s to push the boundaries of physical development straight through until we open up, and for others it was dial them way back and start to look at the big picture.
I think it is important for us as coaches to understand that we cannot train everything all at once, eventually we must sacrifice development in one area to further that same thing in another. It’s not logical for us to assume we can provide equal development opportunities and write legitimate programming to advance an athlete along all of these categories (Velocity, Pitch Design, Command) but we do feel capable of addressing two of the three (at the most).
Coaches and athletes can ask themselves the same question. What’s missing? Our job is coaches is top help these athletes be successful, determine what’s holding them back from that – isolate it and attack it.