One tiny ligament in the elbow keeps snapping and sending teenagers and major leaguers alike to undergo surgery, an issue the baseball establishment ignored for decades. For three years, Jeff Passan, the lead baseball columnist for Yahoo Sports, has traveled the world to better understand the mechanics of the arm and its place in the sport’s past, present, and future.
Every year, Major League Baseball spends more than $1.5 billion on pitchers—five times the salary of all NFL quarterbacks combined. Pitchers are the lifeblood of the sport, the ones who win championships, but today they face an epidemic unlike any baseball has ever seen.
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He got the inside story of how the Chicago Cubs decided to spend $155 million on one pitcher. He sat down for a rare interview with Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax, whose career ended at 30 because of an arm injury. He went to Japan to understand how another baseball-obsessed nation deals with this crisis. And he followed two major league pitchers as they returned from Tommy John surgery, the revolutionary procedure named for the former All-Star who first underwent it more than 40 years ago.
Passan discovered a culture that struggles to prevent arm injuries and lacks the support for the changes necessary to do so. He explains that without a drastic shift in how baseball thinks about its talent, another generation of pitchers will fall prey to the same problem that vexes the current one.
Equal parts medical thriller and cautionary tale, The Arm is a searing exploration of baseball’s most valuable commodity and the redemption that can be found in one fragile and mysterious limb.
The hit-and-run is much maligned as a small-ball tactic, but it’s a surprisingly successful strategy.
Source: Baseball Prospectus | Spinning Yarn: Hit-and-Run Success is No Accident
The hit-and-run play is not highly regarded by the analytical crowd. It is considered a one-run play and, like the sacrifice bunt attempt, it garners derision from people who hate small-ball tactics.
If you are a baseball insider, do check out this analysis – this is a real in-depth study!
The conclusion reads like this: The hit-and-run is far from the worst play in baseball. For a small-ball tactic, it has been quite successful over the past nine seasons, increasing scoring by .06 runs per attempt on average. The value of the hole in the infield defense is real, adding about 27 points to the batting average of the hitter. The double plays avoided by executing the hit-and-run offset the runners caught stealing on the play, and the extra bases gained by the runner when the ball is put in play are enough to move the play into the plus column overall.
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Lorenzo Cain of the World Champion Kansas City Royals (pictured here) makes outfield play look routine. It is anything but easy!
Former major league player, coach and front-office person Jose Cardenal shares some tips for basic outfield defense.
Source: The Keys to Great Outfield Defense Can be Simple
Cardenal emphasized the mental part of the game when providing tips on outfield defense at the Joe Maddon and Friends Coaching the Coaches Clinic earlier this month.
“Is he a pull hitter?” Cardenal said, pointing out the things outfielders need to be thinking about while waiting for their few plays a game. “Is he a little guy, rinky-dink hitter or a power hitter?
“You have to know game situations.”
Cardenal built his knowledge of the game over a lengthy career as a player, coach and front-office person in Major League Baseball. The Cuban-born outfielder played 2,017 games for nine teams over 18 seasons from 1963 to 1980 while hitting .275 with 329 stolen bases.
Concentration through long breaks of inactivity is part of the assignment, he said.
“If your mind’s not right, you can’t do it,” said Cardenal, who was a coach for four MLB teams. “You have to know how to throw to the right base. You have to know how to keep the deciding run from advancing. There’s a lot of things you have to think about.”
Cardenal stressed preparedness. Outfielders must be prepared to hit the right cutoff man if the ball is played to them. They also must know the proper position to be in for each new batter.
“If it’s a pull hitter and the pitcher’s throwing hard, maybe you have to play back just a bit more,” Cardenal said. “You have to know who’s playing next to you. You have to think, ‘How much can he cover? How much can I cover?’”
Think of some of the most respected athletes of our time… Derek Jeter. Peyton Manning. Michael Jordan. Three guys whose careers have represented the best of the best. A huge reason behind their reverence in the sporting world is due to the fact that they all have won humbly and graciously with superior talent.
Source: CHARACTER COUNTS | Coaching Your Kids
Rutgers University coach Fred Hill had a saying that you could only have one jerk in your program at a time, and if he’s a jerk, he better be damn good. What he was talking about was not the kid’s athletic ability, but rather his character and who he was as a person. When one bad seed is surrounded by 34 quality guys, he has no other choice but to get in line with the high moral standard of Rutgers University Baseball. More than one jerk and there is the potential for cancer to spread throughout the clubhouse like wildfire, which we had a couple examples of as well.
So when he went out to recruit a potential student-athlete, not only did he need to be good enough athletically on the field, he needed to fit in with the character of those who make the team who we are off the diamond. With limited scholarship money, their decisions as to who we were going to offer often came down to that player’s personality than how far he can hit a baseball.
He had instances where they brought kids on because we loved WHO they were as people, and we had times where we backed off others because they knew they weren’t what their team was all about.
What REALLY causes slumps, throwing problems and other, seemingly mysterious performance difficulties on the field and the BREAKTHROUGH techniques that can get you unstuck and back on track!
Source from Dr. Alan Golberg: Overcoming Performance Fears and Blocks – Baseball | Competitive Advantage: Mental Toughness
Repetitive Sports Performance Problems or RSPPs, a very common performance issue that lays waste to the careers of many talented ball players across all levels of the game. Occasionally an athlete will successfully work through this kind of problem by himself. More often than not, however, these problems will continually sabotage an self-confidence and ultimately drive him right out of the sport.
These repetitive performance problems are most often caused by past physically or emotionally upsetting events. For example, a physical injury like a collision, concussion, torn ligaments, pulled muscle, getting hit by a pitch or breaking a bone, or the upset can be emotional like committing an error that costs your team an important game, choking away a big performance opportunity, getting cut from the team or being screamed at and humiliated by your coach in front of your teammates and fans.
These upsetting events end up getting memorized and held in the athlete’s mind and body, long after the experience has been forgotten. If they’re in any way reminded of these upsets or the athlete is under pressure, then components from the original experience end up bubbling up into awareness.
What the athlete becomes aware of at that point is a loss of confidence or feeeling of danger inside. This sense of inner danger then triggers that athlete’s nervous system to automatically respond with self-protective motor programs, i.e. fight/flight. Suddenly the athlete can’t get himself to do what he knows how to do. He loses his velocity on the mound and can’t get the bat off of his shoulders!
Looking back on their youth sports careers, college athletes see big problems with the system.
Source: How crazy are youth sports these days? Ask college athletes – The Washington Post
“A major survey of NCAA student athletes released earlier this year reveals what critics of youth sports have been saying for years: The system is really whacked.”
Unfortunately, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone – just look at all of the “competitive” travel and club teams all around us.
College athletes reported specializing in their sports before the word teen is added to their ages. Many regret doing so, the survey found. The athletes think they play in too many games at too young an age. And their parents totally think they are going pro.
The likelihood of anyone playing at the D1 college level or professional ranks is unbelievably slim. But don’t tell that to many parents, they know their kid is going pro!
It’s really the mental game that sets athletes apart – making the good players outstanding ones. As coaches, we focus a ton on the physical, but we generally don’t spend enough time between the ears.
Mental Game Tips to Foster Confidence:
Tip #1: You, first, must understand that you are in control of your confidence. Learn to be proactive with your self-confidence even after performance slumps.
Tip #2: Foster confidence by continuing to prepare at a high level, celebrate your successes, and look for opportunities to improve. Don’t allow mistakes to derail your confidence on the next play. Have trust in your skills and training, that they will pay off.
Source: How to Maintain Confidence During a Performance Drought | Sports Psychology Blog for Athletes and Coaches
Dr. Patrick Cohn (@Peaksports) is one of the “go to” guys on mental preparedness for sports. He is a mental game of baseball expert and works with athletes and teams worldwide from a variety of sport backgrounds including baseball players and teams.
Do you ever wonder what the pros do to prepare for a game? A fair amount of it has to do with visualization.
Patrick Cohn describes former MLB pitcher Jim Abbott’s pre-game routine and how it impacted his performance.
He’d focus on the positive images he’d want to feel on the mound and of course mastering his fastball…
“I’d see my warm-up in the bullpen, my fastball hitting the corners, staying down, the baseball jumping out of my hand, the ball pulled towards the catcher’s mitt.”
This is clearly worth the read, so click on Jim’s picture for the story!
Source: Peaksports and Patrick Cohn