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I’ve been performing a lot of evaluations lately, and it made me think this would be a good post to explain my thought process behind it all.

Before any screening, I just ask a lot of questions and do a lot of listening. For example:

  • What is the weakest part of your game?
  • Where are most of your balls hit to?
  • Do you often miss away in the strike zone?
  • How many innings did you throw this year?
  • Do you steal a lot of bases?
  • Is it easy for you to track fly balls?
  • Where do you usually get sore after throwing a game?

The list goes on and on.

This helps me paint a picture in my head of what TYPE of athlete I am dealing with here. I try to determine where they fit in the absolute speed – absolute strength continuum (thanks to Eric Cressey’s brilliant illustration).

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The Bucket Analogy is something I learned from Mike Reinold. Let’s learn about how we can use “buckets” to understand how we can create the ideal baseball athlete.

This is where the movement assessment comes in. Rather than focusing on a bunch of numbers like their broad jump, shuffle test, internal rotation at the hip, I prefer to watch the athlete move.

  • How do they go about producing force?
  • How do they go about reducing force?
  • How do they transition between the two?

Some athletes are usually stuck at somewhere on this continuum. My job is to identify where they are, and get them more towards the “middle” as efficiently as possible.

Although, I do pay attention to the numbers from the tests, but that is after the fact.

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The Buckets – are they filled?

During the movement assessment it’s important to see if someone is “stuck” or “oiled”.

If a joint is stuck, and it’s supposed to move, then we should try and oil it and move around.

If a joint is very oiled, and it’s not supposed to move (too much), then we should try and make it stick a little more.

I’ve seen pitchers across the entire movement spectrum. I’ve seen guys 6′ tall who can move every single joint like it’s no problem, and I’ve seen guys the same height and unable to get their elbows in line with their nose without any discomfort.

In baseball pitching, there is a fine line between needing mobility and stability. This is not just in the throwing shoulder, but in the entire kinetic chain.

If you’re very mobile, then we should attack the problem areas of pitching after throwing so we can reduce the amount of soreness. However, from a training standpoint, we should be working on stability first and foremost.

If you’re NOT very mobile, then we should attack all of these areas together. We should still work on stability and deceleration of the major joints.

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The Buckets – Strength and Power

After determining and studying your movement profile, this is where athletic testing comes in. Where do you fit in the continuum based on your age and sport?

At Infiniti Sports Performance, we have a database of athletes from every evaluation we’ve performed so we can create “norms” for each type of test.

For example, if we see that you’re below average on the broad jump, single leg broad jump, and the MB power throw, we’re probably going to work on your power production.

NOW, while keeping that movement profile in the back of our head, we can watch to see how the athlete moves while performing the test.

  • When they load for a jump, how do their hips look? Knees? Ankles?
  • When they land for a jump, how do their hips look? Knees? Ankles?
  • Do they easily load? Do they easily explode?
  • Do they get stuck in that transition phase of movement?

This is where I refer to the buckets above. Let’s say their mobility is decent enough, but they’re not showing the greatest numbers on the tests so far, that’s probably what their buckets are going to look like.

Now, I know, that we need to get this athlete a little stronger and more powerful.

How does this relate to baseball performance?

  • Are they able to EXPLODE off of one leg?
  • Are they able to ABSORB force correctly on one leg?
  • If you can quickly create force, you could throw harder and hit the ball further
  • If you can quickly transition, you could make diving plays look easy

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The Buckets – Lots of strength, little speed?

Lastly, let’s go over an athlete who is surprisingly very, very strong, but has little rate of force production. This visual becomes important, because strength is usually the prerequisite for power and speed.

Now, what’s the best route for this athlete? Fill that small strength bucket space to the top, hoping that’ll increase the power AND speed bucket?

Probably not.

Rather than focusing on this athlete’s strength, I’m going to utilize more exercises that focus on RATE of force development and plyometric variations to activate multiple type-II muscle fibers.

This is where the training becomes very important for this athlete, because getting stronger really is not the answer. It’s about maintaining movement quality, and understanding how to utilize every joint of the body to produce the most power as possible.

As the training season goes on, we will move from general power exercises to more joint-specific and position-specific exercises after we have created a good foundation of movement quality and power production.

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Again, my job is to bring this athlete as close to the middle of the continuum as humanly possible, and fill as many buckets as possible in the most efficient time possible.

If we become strong, more powerful, able to transition between power production and reduction, and get faster, we will develop the ideal baseball athlete.

Although all of these qualities are critical for every sport, we can see the direct connection to baseball performance.

Here’s to hitting more towering dingers, throwing more cheddar, and swiping more bags.


Jarad Vollkommer, CSCS

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