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General  | General  | 12/1/2022

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 26

Jerry Ford      Ron Wolforth     
Photo: Johnny Tergo/Truth Baseball
Ron Wolforth probably knows more about the throwing arm and arm care than anyone we know. Many of you may have heard about the famous Texas Baseball Ranch that Ron has been running for many years. We have built a great relationship with Ron and his wife Jill over the years.

It all started a few years back when Ron sent his son Garrett to a Perfect Game event. His son was a catcher/infielder and set some all-time PG records for pop times (1.75) and velocity (89 mph) at the time. He also threw mid-90s across the infield. He is now playing professionally. Being an average-sized kid, this really drew our interest. Once we realized who his father was, it became clear.



Since then we have followed the Texas Baseball Ranch closely. Ron is a very humble man, which is a reason so many speak highly of him. We have never run across a single person that shows any disrespect for him or the Ranch. So we decided to ask him to help our millions of followers.

Over the years he has helped thousands of pitchers, including many that became Major League All-Stars. Yes, he teaches velocity gains, better control and command, and everything a pitchers needs to be successful. However, unlike many others, he is an absolute stickler when it comes to doing it safely. His interest doesn't just involve velocity gains and other improvements, all of which are very important. He wants his students to understand arm care and how to throw and stay healthy. He does this without a cookie cutter program. He understands that all players are different individuals.

Perfect Game's interest in prospects, arm care and keeping young kids healthy is the major reason we have decided to work with Ron Wolforth.

Below is the 26th of an ongoing column he will be doing on our Perfect Game website. This information will be gold for any player interested in improving their throwing ability and staying healthy. Make sure you read every column he contributes and feel free to comment on them.

If you want to attend one of his camps and improve your throwing ability, here is the link to the website:
https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/


Jerry Ford
Founder
Perfect Game

. . .

Article 1: Where the Sidewalk Terminates
Article 2: The Exact Location of Your Arm Pain is Incredibly Valuable Information
Article 3: No Pain, No Problem...Right? Not Quite So Fast.
Article 4: The Secret to Accelerated Skill Development: Hyper-Personalization
Article 5: The Case Against Weighted Balls?
Article 6: The Truth About Pitch Counts, Workloads, and Overuse
Article 7: Velocity Appraisal: How 'Hard' Is 'Hard Enough'?
Article 8: Command Appraisal: How 'Accurate' Is 'Accurate Enough'?
Article 9: Swing & Miss Appraisal: How 'Nasty' Is 'Nasty Enough'?
Article 10: 5 Common Mistakes Baseball Players Make In Their Training
Article 11: The Truth About Curveballs, Sliders, and Cutters
Article 12: What is Involved in Deep, Deliberate Practice vs. Traditional Practice
Article 13: The Truth About Long Toss?
Article 14: The Truth About Conditioning of Pitchers?
Article 15: Simple and Effective Post Throwing Strategies for Pitchers
Article 16: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 1

Article 17: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 2
Article 18: 12 Common (Yet Often Dangerous) Narratives For Pitchers, Part 3
Article 19: Things To Consider When Embarking On A Velocity Enhancement Program This Year
Article 20: Is Your Pitcher Headed Straight Toward An Injury?
Article 21: The Season Has Started And You're Struggling With Command: Here's How To Turn It Around Quickly
Article 22: The Challenges & Dangers of an In-Season Velocity Program
Article 23: One Very Critical Question Every Pitcher Should Ask Heading Into The Offseason
Article 24: Why Limiting Pitch Counts Will Never Solve the Challenges of Arm Issues and Injury
Article 25: Do Not Let False Narratives Wreck Your Off-Season: Part 1

In Part I, I addressed how words, phrases, and certain narratives have actually been repeated so often that they have become accepted as an established truth in some baseball circles. (In my view, these have also often become part and partial of the very arm issues they are trying to avoid.) Terms like “time off” and “shutting it down” in order to recover, recuperate, and regenerate can have wildly different meanings and applications.

I think it is the perfect time of year to have a serious discussion regarding these accepted norms.

Let me start by easing some of the possible angst that may have been caused by reading Part I! It’s, of course, far easier to criticize and point out problems than to give actual, actionable solutions. At The Texas Baseball Ranch®, we endeavor to give practical, commonsense guidance and direction to the throwing athlete and his parents, coaches, and trainers as they design their personal offseason program.

The following is the official stance of the Texas Baseball Ranch® on the subject of workload and time off for pitchers:

• We do not believe in, and in fact strongly advocate against, pitching in competition for more than 6 months over a calendar year, regardless of the age of the pitcher, but especially in pitchers 18 years of age or younger.

• We believe in recording and chronicling pitch count and innings pitched in competition as one important and valuable objective measure of workload. We believe these are valid individual measures of workload and can be useful for us in customizing an off-season program for an individual pitcher. These MUST be viewed in context and not as a standalone measurement.

• We believe in throwing more and pitching less. It is high-intensity, full-effort throws (what we refer to as “red line efforts”) that we must carefully monitor and manage. It is our opinion that higher volume, lower intensity throws are not only NOT part of the problem, but they are also a very essential piece of creating a healthy, durable arm.

• Injury occurs when the intensity or the volume of the stress exceeds the body’s preparation for the same. Therefore, in our view, we must be focused on preparing our soft tissue for the stress it will encounter during the season, and not avoid altogether the stress that we know our body will eventually encounter in competition.

• We believe in cycling our work week: Ideally with two heavy days separated by a minimum of 48 hours, two light days immediately following the heavy days, two medium days, and one complete day off from throwing.

• Outside of a specific case of injury or impairment, prescribed complete rest for more than 96-120 hours shifts from being part of a recovery cycle to atrophy. For every week in a state of atrophy, it will require two weeks to return to the same level of readiness prior to the shutdown.

• When determining the specific time off for an individual and his customized offseason program, we consider the following 8 factors:

1. Current Arm Health and Durability
2. Current Recovery Ability/Status
3. Previous Injury History
4. The Innings Pitched/Pitches Thrown in the Last Calendar Year (12 months)
5. The Innings Pitched/Pitches Thrown in the PREVIOUS Year (percentage of increase or decrease)
6. Current Performance Status of 3 Performance Parameters Compared With Their Competitive Peer Group

• Significantly ahead of their competitive peer group.
• Slightly ahead of their competitive peer group.
• The same as their competitive peer group.
• Slightly behind their competitive peer group.
• Significantly behind their competitive peer group.
• Velocity
• Command
• Deception/ Swing-and-miss Stuff
7. Other Activities the Athlete Will Be Engaged In During the Offseason
• Pitching in specific high-profile showcases 3-4 times in the winter months (Oct.- Jan.).
• Playing baseball but just not pitching in games.
• Playing competitive football/basketball/etc.
• Playing intramural sports.
• Strength training, speed, and explosiveness, coupled with throwing-related activities such as lower intensity/higher volume long toss and catch play.
• Strength training, speed, and explosiveness, coupled with throwing-related activities such as extreme long toss and velocity enhancement.
• Strength training and conditioning only.
• Strength training only.
• Conditioning only.
8. The Steepness and Length of the Ramp-up to Competition
• Macro 1 (How many days/weeks has this individual been in a state of throwing atrophy prior to the ramp-up?)
• Macro 2 (How many days/weeks from today until the next full-effort throwing off of a mound in front of a decision maker… Scout, Coach, etc.?)
• Micro (How many minutes today has the individual built into his program before he is engaged in full-effort, high-intensity throwing?)

The Inconvenient Truth: The critical factor of “ramp-up” far exceeds in importance to the health and durability of the throwing than does simple workload or volume.

In training pitchers for the past 25 years, we have found that the single most impactful variable to arm health and durability is the quality and duration of the ramp-up prior to competition.

In other words, it will be the preparation of soft tissue leading up to competition, the cycling of the recovery between competitions, and managing the level of fatigue of the pitcher during the season that will be the most consequential factors in the efficacy of soft tissue under the specific duress of pitching in competition over a 4–6-month period.


As I have previously written, the most common months for UCL and labrum tears in professional baseball are March and April; the least common are September and October. So, if workload, overuse, and accruing pitch count numbers were the bugaboo many experts warn us about, then why are injuries the highest when the season is just beginning and at the lowest when the accumulated workloads would have been at their highest?

The obvious answer: The causes and contributors to injury are obviously far more complex than simply managing pitch count or taking time off from throwing.

As my friend, Randy Sullivan is fond of saying, “Soft tissue does not have a mind of its own, and that’s a great thing.” Soft tissue has no choice but to do exactly what our Creator designed it to do, which is adapt to the environment, and thereby, accommodate the loads placed upon it. Soft tissue adapts and modifies itself based on the stress that is applied to it.

In case you read into this as my philosophy on this subject leans a little too much to the “spiritual side,” I assure you it does not. It is a well-known and long-standing physiological precept referred to as Wolff’s Law.

Wolff's Law, developed by the German anatomist and surgeon, Julius Wolff in the 19th Century, states that bone in a healthy animal will adapt to the loads under which it is placed. If loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel itself over time to become stronger to resist that sort of loading.

What does this mean to us as far as the development of a throwing athlete?

Several things:

1. Stress is an absolute prerequisite for growth and the robustness of soft tissue. Complete rest or shutdown is, for the most part, atrophy. Atrophy is actually degeneration, deterioration, and regression, and is decidedly not repair, rejuvenation, or recuperation.

2. Injury occurs when the intensity and/or volume of the stress exceeds the body’s ability to mitigate and/or attenuate that stress. Therefore, to avoid injury we must first prepare the soft tissue as much as we can for that strain, and then manage the stress throughout the season.

3. Soft tissue not only requires a very specific level of stress to spur growth, but just as importantly, soft tissue needs time to adapt and modify itself.

4. When we push an intensity that is considerably past our threshold, we can in fact place ourselves at unnecessary risk for injury. On the other end of the spectrum, when we have too little stress, we will not develop the specific adaptation we are looking for. This is the first reason why the ramp-up is so very important. We need to get the dosage and frequency of the stress as accurate as possible.

5. Skeletal muscle is a highly adaptable tissue. Connective tissue is less adaptable. Therefore, connective tissue needs time to catch up to the increased strength gains of skeletal tissue. We use 10-12 weeks as our standard ramp-up to give our connective tissue time to catch up to skeletal muscle and prepare/organize for the intensity it is about to face. While we would prefer 14-16 weeks of ramp-up, we realize the chaotic nature and schedule of competitive sports and life in Western Culture. Therefore, we settle for 8-10 weeks of a minimum ramp-up prior to the season.

6. We advocate the reverse engineering of your ramp-up to make certain your soft tissue has its best chance to survive and thrive. So, for example: If your first full-speed bullpen will be the first week of February 2023, then you should begin your throwing ramp-up immediately after Thanksgiving and no later.

Reverse Engineering Schedule:

Approximate Week of First
Date of Full-Speed Intensity
Ramp-Up Start Date
8 weeks 10 weeks 12 weeks
January 15 Nov. 21 Nov. 7 Oct. 24
January 29 Dec. 5 Nov. 21 Nov. 7
February 12 Dec. 19 Dec. 5 Nov. 21
February 26 Jan. 2 Dec. 19 Dec. 5
March 12 Jan. 16 Jan. 2 Dec. 19
March 26 Jan. 30 Jan. 16 Jan. 2


-Coach Wolforth

Coach Wolforth is the founder of the Texas Baseball Ranch® and has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence. Since 2003, The Texas Baseball Ranch® has had over 524 pitchers break the 90mph barrier, 186 have topped 94mph or better, and 129 of his students have been drafted in the MLB’s June Amateur Draft. Coach Wolforth has consulted with 13 MLB teams, dozens of NCAA programs and has been referred to as “America’s Go-to-Guy on Pitching” and “The Pitching Coaches Pitching Coach”. Coach Wolforth lives in Montgomery, TX with his wife, Jill. They are intimately familiar with youth select, travel baseball and PG events as their son Garrett (now a catcher in the Cincinnati Reds organization) went through the process. Garrett still holds the PG Underclass All-American Games record for catcher velocity at 89mph which he set in 2014 at the age of 16.

Upcoming Texas Baseball Ranch® Winter Events

• 3-Day Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camps for pitchers ages 12 & up. Our December Camp is sold out but there is still space in our January and February camps. More details and a free information package can be found at https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/elite-pitchers-bootcamp/