Photo courtesy of AthleteTypes
By: Jonathan DeMarte and Matthew Haines
How it Began
When I first met with Matt Haines to discuss his new role with SOTG, I didn’t think our conversation would take us to the baseball heights that it did. Matt showed unmatched levels of intellect on any topic mentioned, and as always, our conversation transitioned to training, development, optimal positions and paths for a ballplayer to reach his, or her fullest potential. At the conclusion of our meeting, Matt sent me his “weighted ball routine” he had been working with in the offseason. I watched all of his videos from his plyowork and saw common themes and misconceptions unintentionally developed by throwers. I pointed these out to Matt in screenshots side by side with Justin Verlander, who I believe displays one of the cleanest deliveries in all of baseball. Comparing Matt’s positions to Justin’s, I explained to Matt while I believe some of the positions he was putting his body in are harmful and how I would recommend a fix. Matt analyzed for himself and we decided to spend a day working together before he returned for his freshman spring semester. In the following piece of SOTG material, you will see Matt’s original videos paired with the videos in his day with Jonathan. You will see commentary from Matt and Jonathan’s point of view on the adjustments that have been made. Enjoy your viewing and please, do not hesitate to reach out with DMs and comments for feedback.
JD: When Matt initially sent me videos of his weighted ball routine and pulldown throws, I made sure to stop the video at two of the most important points in the delivery. I noticed that Matt possessed weak core control, no lead leg block and minimal “push/pull” movement with his hips. I also noticed his head drastically pulled off to the side as he released the ball with his shoulder very tilted, where the ultimate goal should be having your shoulders level, as seen in Verlander’s example. From my understanding, these mechanical positions are a result of physical deficiencies in Matt’s body and a misconception of where his body positions should be when throwing weighted balls.
MH: These initial pictures showed a lot. Here is where I saw that a flat shoulder plane, as well as full extension and good lead blocking was something I was really missing. Through video, I saw that I was not getting into my back hip/glute/hammies good enough through a “back leg bend”, so I tried focusing on that throughout all of my throws.
JD: I noticed Matt’s lead knee would collapse and internally rotate too early. As Matt loaded up to reverse throw, he brings the ball across his body rather than starting from an arm “extension” position out front and retracing a more natural arm path. I told Matt to think about reaching and extending, then using that momentum to fire back into a row and throw while fighting internal rotation with his knee as long as possible.
MH: When I do reverse throws now, I try to focus on two main things: Keeping a tight core with efficient rotation about the spine, as well as a more lateral pull. This is achieved through beginning the drill at extension, and essentially “rowing” the ball into the throw while keep a lateral shoulder plane through my throw.
JD: I noticed Matt throwing with drastic lumbar extension and no control over his lower half. As you can see, Matt does not use any force from the ground in the video on the right, and even springs his body upwards to throw rather than out towards the target. I explained to Matt how I like to see guys create separation, or positive disconnect between their thoracic spine and lower back in this drill, not lean backwards in order to generate more power. We also worked on arm speed here and firing his arm up into his slot as quickly as possible so he can feel his hand up quickly and forcing separation between his upper and lower half. Besides firing the arm up quick, I asked Matt to think of keeping a tight, braced core. This should help him fight lower back extension and keep his eyes fixated on the target while creating separation and tension in his body.
MH: For this drill, I tried focusing on having a clean turn and getting through to extension. Focusing on a tight core and quick turn was essential, I used to just try to get the arm lose with this drill. I continued to focus on my positive disconnection as well, but instead of thinking, “pull glove down” I thought, “get arm out of the way.”
JD: I noticed in Matt’s videos that his lead leg never provided a strong base to allow his arm to get extension towards home plate after release and decelerate. Matt would fall very violently towards first base as his lead leg would collapse and externally rotate at the hip and knee. Putting Matt uphill should help mold his front side into a position with his left hip pulling backwards and lead leg straightens out and stays pushed into the ground through his heel. The rockers are also beneficial because Matt is working on feeling his weight shift into his right hip/glute to help him create more power, force, and momentum going towards home plate.
MH: There were numerous changes I tried to make during this drill. I noticed that in the previous clip, I was not getting into my legs, so for this drill, I overemphasized the rock forward and back in order to get into my back hip and glute. I also focused on achieving efficient lead leg blocking for counter-hip rotation. I was getting more comfortable with my shoulder plane, so I decided to lower my hands’ starting position in order to achieve a more natural flow into my arm slot and into extension. Again, as with all drills, I also focused on keeping a tight core, neutral spine, and level shoulders in order to rotate in the most efficient manner.
MH: Most of my focus on this drill was centered towards slowing down my initial movements in order to ensure their efficiency and cleanliness. A lot of my arm swing is again eliminated in order to feel my arm get into slot early and through rotation. This drill was essentially a culmination of all my previous ones, so again, I was trying to keep a tight core, get into my back hip, get efficient lead leg blocking, as well as clean extension without rotating out of the throw. One major difference I notice is the change in walk in. At first, it was more of a “fall” into the throw, while now it is a much more sequenced approach in terms of activating the kinetic chain one by one, starting with the initial back leg bend.
JD: Matt said it perfectly! Here you will see a combination of all of the cues Matt and I worked on. Keeping a tight core and neutral spine to promote separation rather than lower back extension. Making sure he doesn’t allow his hips to fly open as he approaches his delivery. Thinking of firing his arm up quickly with his hand facing third base rather then a long arm swing with his hand facing second base. As Matt walked into this motion I wanted him to feel his weight stay over his backside for as long as possible before firing forward. In this movement I wanted Matt to work on his arm speed and quickness of his overall body. By moving Matt quicker he was able to feel his arm get up quickly rather than fall behind and forcing his arm to play catch up while his body falls to the first base side.
MH: All in all, this was quite the learning experience for myself. As a newcomer to the pitching world, Jonathan presented problems that I had no idea I had, then quickly followed up with lucid description of why movements were faulty and how they can be improved. By the end of the day, I not only improved my overall movements, but learned of my deficiencies as an athlete. As a result, I not only move better as an athlete, but have the knowledge to know when I am moving inefficiently and how to improve.