January 28th, 2018
Chad Longworth is the founder of Longworth Baseball, which is data-driven player development facility in Virginia. Chad uses data and numbers as the driving force in fostering his client’s development. Chad’s open-minded nature, willingness to learn and outside-the-box thinking are what differentiates him from many other coaches. I have followed Chad on Twitter (@clongbaseball) and am a huge fan of the approach he uses with his clients and the passion he brings to the game. Chad was extremely excited to share some of his extensive knowledge with the SOTG, and we are excited to share that information with you all!
MD: What made you begin your business and want to start teaching hitting?
CL: I played professionally from 2002-2004. Everything I learned while I was playing professionally was the typical traditional teachings. When I started teaching hitting, I coached the same way, because that is how I was taught, and what I thought was the right way. One day I was messing around, and saw a Zepp sensor, and was curious so I tried it out, and I found it interesting and started wondering if I could coach based on this. Then when statcast came out, and I started looking into all the data I thought I was on the something, and that there was a better way to teach hitting. This data made me realize that what I had always been taught was wrong, and I did not want to continue to steer kids down the path I went. I started looking into the data and realized there was truth in these numbers, and that we could build movement patterns based on them. Concerning how we have grown via the internet and remote clients. I live in a part of Virginia where there are not many professional players, and there were not any gurus in the area. I want to help kids who do not have a local guru to go to feel like they have access to information and can find what they need to get better.
MD: When did you first hear about elevation? Did you immediately buy in or did it take you time to buy in?
CL: I was coached to get on top of the ball, and ‘backspin’ the ball, and stay off the top of the cage. When you hear that from professional coaches you believe that is the way it is supposed to be. You believe that is how professional hitters do it, and you believe that is the way you have to do it, so that is how I did it. I was not getting the results I thought I should have got. My career ended before I thought it should have, so then you get into coaching, and I started teaching the same way. Then I ran into things like a swing sensor, and learn that the swing you are trying to teach, you have no chance of duplicating any sort of swing plane. Matching the plane of the pitch always made sense to me, but I was not sure how to do it consistently. You start to dig around, and you start to find movements, you start to find swing ideas that help you build swing plane consistency. With this happening, more and more balls start flying in the air. By this time statcast was out, so we were getting batted-ball data, and launch angle was becoming a thing. We were able to see that the best players in the world in the MLB, their average launch angle was about 11 degrees. If we were going to try and train the best players in the world, we had to train them to do what the best players in the world are doing. We started using swing plane numbers and teaching if you barrel baseballs between certain swing plane numbers balls will fly in the air. We are trying to do this because that is where the best outcomes are. We switched from what people anecdotally told us to what numbers told us, and they said the best results are in the air. I am not romantic about any coaching delivery; I am just trying to do what is best for players.
MD: Longworth Baseball is run on pure data-driven player development. What success rate have you found with the hitters you train regarding their EV and LA?
CL: It certainly depends. It is hard to say what one individual player will average because you do not know where they are coming from. It depends if they are coming off the bottom, if they have some skill, or are they at the top. If they walk in the door and they average 98 MPH, and you promise them 5%, you just guaranteed them 5 MPH. You may or may not be able to deliver. We average about a 3% increase in EV in our building. That does not mean some kids do not get an 8% increase, that does not mean some kids do not get a 1% increase, and even some kids go backwards. I do not hide behind any of our data. I release all our data, and we had a few kids who did not improve. I try to hit that as head-on as possible and build the whole story. Look at their weightlifting numbers, their power-output numbers, their broad, and vertical jump numbers. Look at all their numbers, and try and see what happened and how did it happen. Look at their hard contact %. So the general average increase we see over a 12 week period is 3%, but I do think we have more guys increasing between 5%-7% then in the 1% increase to regressing category. Some kids work harder than others, and some are more focused which explains some variation, but not all. I just wrote a weighted bat program for a top-15 Division 1 program that has seen excellent results. In 5 weeks their average velocity went up 3 MPH for the entire team. This is a team where guys are averaging over 90 MPH already.
MD: On Twitter, you talk a lot about the Diamond Kinetic Sensor. Why do you choose this over the other sensors on the market, and can you describe the benefits?
CL: I use the Diamond Kinetics sensor because it measures barrel acceleration. Barrel speed is nice, swing plane numbers are nice, but it does not tell the whole story regarding force production. Force is mass times acceleration, not mass times speed. To get the entire scope of how well the player is arriving at impact, you need the acceleration number. We try and create movement patterns that match and improve these acceleration numbers. We use weighted bat training to help swing fitness, but swing and movement quality as well. We are mainly trying to create loading patterns that help players launch the barrel efficiently. If you can load well, and accelerate the barrel on time at a swing plane between 10-20 degrees, that is all you want you can call it whatever you want. If you can do those things, you have an excellent opportunity to succeed in games. Hitting will always be difficult; you have to train yourself to have the best chance of success. You have to go into the box with the presence and confidence to compete.
MD: Who are your biggest influences as a coach, and how have they made you better at your craft?
CL: Two guys I have never met in person, and two I have had the chance to meet. My biggest influence is Hunter Bledsoe. Hunter opened my eyes to a lot of things. Four years ago, he introduced me to a whole different world I knew nothing about. This was even before the numbers and data. Hunter deserves a ton of credit for the success I have had. Kyle Boddy of Driveline from a data and analytics standpoint. He pushes the envelope in training. He is more in the establishment now, but he is an anti-establishment guy. He was doing data and analytics when nobody was. Nobody thought it was important yet he still did it, and look where he is now. Jerry Brewer might have the most in-depth and influential hitting site on the web in eastbayhittinginstruction.com (Jerry unfortunately just deleted the site, but some of it is saved on Dustin Lind’s google drive). The amount of stuff that is on that website, I have read it no less than 100 times. It is incredible. Dustin Lind’s google drive as well. It has tons of hitting video and research. I have done so much digging in that drive, and there are just tons of valuable clips and information to sort through. Jerry and Dustin, I have never met before. Hunter, I have spent a lot of time with, I just met Kyle at the ABCA. Most of my influence from Kyle has come from reading, watching, trying to figure out what, why, and how he is doing things, and challenging my own opinions based on that. Yes, his equipment is far advanced to mine, but from a data and analytics standpoint, he has been incredibly influential.
MD: Hitting Twitter is a great place to go and learn. As it has expanded, it has become more cluttered and harder to distinguish what the best information is. How would you guide hitters through it to try and find the best information they can for themselves?
CL: I encourage everyone to do this, but you have to know your numbers. If you have something as simple as a swing sensor like the Diamond kinetics that will soon give you EV/LA that will help. When you are on Twitter, if you see information that you think will help improve the metrics you are focusing on, then go right ahead and do it. If not, I would leave it alone and not do it. There is undoubtedly some information I would say is useless on Twitter. I have had to block some excellent hitting coaches on Twitter, and great hitting twitter guys because the conversations they engage me in are pointless. We do not need to argue anything over social media. When looking at Twitter, or even things your coaches tell you, you have to be able to decipher whether it matters to your swing or not. I say to our guys in house that all the time. If you were given information that will not help you improve your numbers or swing, then do not do it. If you know your numbers, parameters, and swing and you see something on hitting twitter, you can try it. If it does not work, you can just throw it out. The most important thing I can say to this is you have to know your numbers. I had a college softball player who came home, and when she left back for school, she was in the top 5 in the country in exit velocity. She goes back to college, and she is saying she is 8 MPH less than when she was here. I asked her what she had been doing, and she said her coaches did not like her swing. I responded and said they might not have loved it, but you are a worse player because of the changes they made to you. What they were telling you was not working, and you did not know because you did not measure your numbers at school. You have to always measure your numbers; they do not lie.
MD: A recent trend in baseball seems to be that hitters who are transforming their careers are doing it with private hitting instructors outside the MLB. Why do you think private hitting instructors are having more success than those inside the industry?
CL: I can speak to my own experience from both sides of the fence I suppose. When I was playing in the early 2000’s, the information was not great. Ideas were not out there as freely as they are today, and we did not have computers in our pockets. I cannot imagine what a Minor League player can do with Dustin Linds drive on a long bus ride. Guys are now able to access information from outside the establishment. When I played, we did not have access to that only the information that was inside the establishment. Several organizations are still in the dark ages. There are other organizations whose player development has taken massive steps forward to get the information those outside the establishment are providing and figuring out. Players want the answers, so teams or the players themselves are doing what it takes to find them. Coaches can share information over the internet which is one reason why I think the internet is such a great place. If you are not getting information and are seeking it in 2018, and do the necessary research, you will find it. I think for players it is just better to have access to as much information as possible. If you do not feel like the information you are getting within the establishment is matching what you want to do or who you are as a hitter, then you can go outside of that and find it. Fifteen years ago I would have had no clue where to go to find guys, so for better or for worse that is what it is.
MD: What do you think the future of Longworth Baseball is?
CL: That’s a good question. I had someone ask me that at the ABCA as well. I want to continue to help develop as many players as I can. I will continue to help make programs and product research to help players grow and develop. Outside of that, I do not know. I just want to help players of all ages to be better. I do not want players to feel like if they are not geographically fortunate enough to live near a guru, feel like they cannot develop. As we continue to write and do our online programming, and create more tools and do better to help players. I hope that measuring and assessment products become more affordable. I am excited about the new Diamond Kinetics launch stuff; Blast Motion has done something as well with your phone, hit trax is going to do one. You will be able to dial in your training to go after what it is you feel like you need to do. As far as other things we have talked about doing our own advanced scouting department for professional organizations that need it, that maybe do not have advanced analytics in scouting reports. Kind of similar to Fangraphs. We had a Major League guy, we broke down his heat maps, his pitch tunneling because he did not know any of that. His pitch tunneling was off, and he did not have a great year so we were trying to give him answers through data and I think a lot of professional players need that and we need to provide them with that. If we can help players be better and have better answers, then that is what I want to do.
MD: What of Ido Portal’s training methods do you use?
CL: We use his squat routine. The Ido squat routine for hip mobility work. We use his scap mobility which is fantastic. Outside of that, to get a lot of baseball players to think in the ways that Ido thinks is quite difficult. To take stuff that looks the least ‘silly’ is probably really difficult for baseball players. Pride is a real thing in baseball players. Ido’s squat routine is basic but difficult. We use his hip mobility, scap mobility, and t-spine mobility because of how critical these elements are in rotational athletes. If you are not focusing on mobility in those three areas, you are probably going to have some movement deficiency creep up on you. It could affect full shoulder rotation, side bending to a low pitch, or whatever if you have movement deficiency it will affect your swing, and you will compensate somewhere else. I stumbled on him through Hunter Bledsoe. He introduced him to me, and I did not know what he was talking about, but I looked into it, and was like this is incredible stuff. I am constantly looking for ways to help guys improve, and think outside of the box to do so. Even Ido’s most basic stuff will be super beneficial for baseball players because it is probably harder than anything they have ever done. It makes our guys ability to move much better.
MD: What are the most significant benefits you see from having your guys to do this mobility work? Do you see better injury prevention and movement out of your guys?
CL: Hitting in baseball and all things are all about your body’s ability to adapt to movement in space. If you have less deficiency and less compensation and your sensitive areas do not have to take on as much compensation as they would in deficient movers, it does wonders in preventing injuries. Where a small joint or something that is not supposed to be stabilizing the force you put on it, but it has to because of a deficiency somewhere else can cause injuries. The injuries that you see all stem from movement deficiencies in other areas. We do not know precisely where they come from, or can accurately pinpoint them, but they are real. We just try to eliminate that as best as we can. With as much as we know about rotational athletes, we try and reduce as much forced compensation as we can.
MD: You told me instead of using Ido’s ring workouts you use TRX for them. What exercises do you use, and why not use the rings when Ido calls them “the ultimate upper-body builder for strength”?
CL: It is just what we have. We do not do a lot of the crazy stuff. We focus on rows and pushups and things like that. The TRXs we have work fine. You get back to mobility, stability, the rings or TRX you have is just that extra piece of having to stabilize things you otherwise would not have to stabilize and adapt your body in space. The better you get at adapting your body in space, the better hitter you are going to be, the better thrower you are going to be, the better fielder you are going to be: it all ties together. Rings, TRX, whatever you have to stabilize your shoulder joints and core much better than if you are laying on a bench.
MD: What do you think the future of Ido Portal’s methods in training in baseball in general is?
CL: I don’t know. It is such a pride and ego thing. There are some players you can throw anything at them, and they will do it. Other players are self-conscious about things. I think if Ido himself walked in as Conor McGregor’s movement coach, a lot of guys would pipe up and listen. If it were just me trying to implement some of his moving stuff they would be like, “dude I am not doing that, get out of here.” So pride and ego certainly would get in the way. His approach to injury is excellent (click here for more on that), but you are going to have team doctors involved, trainers, I don’t know. There is that liability there, doctors and trainers are going to get in the way. I certainly think of his most basic things, that those things, will be and if not already applied will be applied. I’ll tell you who would do it is golfers. There is so much limited space at the top of golf they are willing to do anything. Baseball players are different. Hopefully, if you are a player and stumble upon this, you will look up Ido. I share Ido’s stuff with the hope to create curiosity for people to look into it. Ido’s gross mentality approach is maybe his best attribute. His mentality stuff, you can disregard the movement stuff, his mentality stuff is even better. I tweeted a quote from him the other day that he said he has gotten to a place where he can practice, and train with complete detachment from the result. That is a great quote and an excellent approach to baseball. If you can just practice, pursue your craft with complete detachment from the outcome that is what it is about.
MD: Hypothetically speaking, if we developed baseball players to be movers like how Ido develops his athlete’s, do you think that would lead to an increase in performance and health for players? Or do you think this is something we might not be able to do?
CL: It would be interesting. It would be because, just thinking out loud you look at an athlete like Conor McGregor, who has to do what he does in an instant in combat fighting. There is a lot of rotational power in that. I do not doubt in my mind, the better mover you are, the more adaptable you will be in your swing. Swinging and hitting are not black and white at all. It is almost entirely gray. So your ability to adapt will largely help if you can hit an 89 MPH slider down and away. Can you move and adjust to get the ball in the air on the two-seam down and away? Can you side bend and move your body in a way to make contact, and do damage with it? I don’t think there is any doubt you would get better players because you would get better movers who are more adaptable. That does not mean that you are able to get power and get force from the ground because you have those attributes. The better mover you are and the better joint mobility you have, you are just going to be able to play sports, any sports. It is all about adaptation and how well you do those things. You have to produce power, we talked about exit velocity, but on top of exit velocity, one of the things I battle with on a lot of days is: we have built a better engine to go a 100 MPH, how do we create real-time adaptability. To do anything at any time with any pitch, in any location against anybody. Starting from a moving foundation, not even swinging a bat, beginning from a movement foundation.
MD: The way that Ido and his followers attack injuries head-on you mentioned above. What do you think the baseball world can learn from his approach to dealing with injuries?
CL: I think that we treat baseball players like they are made of glass, and Kyle (Boddy) has said this a lot, baseball players are not made of glass. Baseball players should lift heavy weights. Your ability to produce force and lift heavy weights off the ground and your ability to grip and hold those things are essential. With that being said, we miss time for ankle sprains, and simple stuff, and if you attack that stuff head on you would reduce your injury time to a couple of days, not a couple of weeks. I think we treat not just baseball players, but athletes, in general, like they are made of glass. A guy stubs his big toe now all of a sudden he has to sit for two weeks because of medical liability or whatever. I am not talking about brain stuff, but forearm strains, and calf strains, and quad and hand strains. Injuries like that I think an approach like Ido’s would undoubtedly be beneficial. I played a professional schedule; there are aches, pains, dings every day that every day you get up and think I wish there were a way I could just attack this problem. To where it is maybe not cured, but able to deal with better. Baseball would be more pleasant for an individual player if we could do this. You are going to get bumps and bruises and get hit by the ball which is not fun at all but instead of missing two weeks for getting hit in the quad. Attacking that injury with movement principles would undoubtedly be beneficial. I think there is a significant difference in injuries like UCL, ACL, Achilles tendon, and those things versus a minor strain.