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General | General | 5/21/2021

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 8

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 eighth 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
President
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'?

It might surprise a certain percentage of the population who have never been to the Texas Baseball Ranch®, but one of the more common phrases used with our athletes is this:
 
“While velocity will certainly give you opportunity…
 
It will be command that will give you more innings in competition…
 
And it will be creating swings and misses on a regular basis that will give you your best chance at advancement…
 
And most importantly, having a healthy, durable arm will afford you the only chance for a long career.”
 
We realized long ago that velocity was actually one of the easier variables to affect. While certainly important, it was not the single most important variable; it simply is the most obvious and talked about. As I’ve alluded to before, health and durability is, by far and away, the single most important variable since everything else is built and then sustained around a robust arm/elbow/shoulder.
 
Next comes recovery – our ability to bounce back and return to full functionality is absolutely critical to consistent performance. So many people miss or glide over the recovery piece with little thought or emphasis, which is nearly always a poor choice. I urge you to take recovery very, very seriously and begin that emphasis even as young as 12 years of age. I promise you it will serve you well.
 
We talked about Velocity and Velocity Enhancement in Article 7 and we will discuss the importance of the “swing-and-miss” stuff in Article 9.
 
In this article, we will dissect command. How accurate do you really need to be?
 
I always ask my clients during our initial video analysis, “Are you a strike thrower?” It has been fun to watch the reactions and responses over the years.  I find if they hesitate at all on the question, they are not a strike thrower.
 
It’s very much like asking a young person if they are a good student. If they don’t immediately respond in the affirmative, they almost always have had some difficulty in a particular subject or subjects.
 
The best answer I ever received on the question of, “Are you a strike thrower?” was from a minor league pitcher who never hesitated and said, “If they’re swinging, I am!”
 
I found that answer hilarious. I literally laughed for days after whenever I thought about the simple brilliance of that answer.
 
The following is a simple truism that ALL aspiring young pitchers must understand:
 
“Every level you go up, the strike zone will get smaller…and the hitters will get better.”
 
I often follow up that factoid with something along the lines of, “And if that doesn’t keep you up late at night, I don’t know what will.”
 
My point to my athletes is this: Whatever degree of command that you have at your current level will likely not be sufficient at your next level of ascension in order to replicate the results that you are achieving now. You must constantly improve your command. This improvement is simply not only a good idea, I would suggest it is imperative.
 
So, let’s dig into the “command onion”.
 
Obviously, no one throws 0% strikes, and no one throws 100% strikes.
 
The full range we are really talking about in assessing command is between 45% strikes to around 75% strikes.
 
So here is the foundational assessment we use at the Texas Baseball Ranch® for grading current levels of command:
 
< 50% strikes. You are currently considerably behind your competitive peer group in terms of command. If not addressed and corrected, command almost certainly will be a primary constraint to your advancement.
 
50-55% strikes. You are currently slightly behind your competitive peer group in terms of command. If not addressed and corrected, command may prove to be a constraint to your advancement.
 
56-63% strikes. You are on track for adequate command at your CURRENT level of play. 
 
64-69% strikes. You are slightly ahead of your competitive peer group in terms of command. Something other than command will be a greater constraint to your advancement. How is your pain, recovery, velocity, and stuff/spin/deception?
 
>70% strikes. You are significantly ahead of your competitive peer group in terms of command. We would recommend that you spend your training time on some things other than just primarily command/accuracy.
 
For some of you, you don’t really know what your strike percentages are per outing. For those of you who don’t, 1) I strongly recommend this becomes something you chart and 2) for initial discussion purposes, I will use walks as an indicator instead. Most players and parents understand and can look up that metric.
 
It is common for you to walk more than 1 hitter in an inning.  You are currently considerably behind your competitive peer group in terms of command. If not addressed and corrected, command will almost certainly be a primary constraint to your advancement.
 
You average about 1 walk per inning. You are currently slightly behind your competitive peer group in terms of command. If not addressed and corrected, command may prove to be a constraint to your advancement.
 
You average about 1 walk every 2-3 innings. You are on track for adequate command at your CURRENT level of play. 
 
You average 1 walk every 4-5 innings. You are slightly ahead of your competitive peer group in terms of command. Something other than command will be a greater constraint to your advancement. How is your pain, recovery, velocity, and stuff/spin/deception?
 
You average less than 1 walk every 6 innings of work. You are significantly ahead of your competitive peer group in terms of command. We would recommend that you spend your training time on including some things other than just pure command/accuracy.
 
Coaching Points
 
As we conclude our discussion on command, I want to touch upon two important concepts.
 
#1 The Concept of “Slight Edge”
 
The difference between command that is woefully inept and command that is world-class is only about one more strike thrown every five pitches. In other words, it’s about improving just one pitch per hitter. That’s it!
 
Let’s use 100 pitches for ease of demonstration.
 
50 strikes and 50 balls in 100 pitches would be very precarious command. But if for every five pitches thrown, we simply improved one strike, our numbers would be 70-30. That’s how thin actual elite performance is.
 
Our pitchers don’t need to make huge improvements in command to really shift the balance in their favor... Keep that in mind. Small hinges swing big doors. It is definitely worth your effort and attention.
 
#2 Command Is An “ALL the Time” Thing, Not A “Sometime” Thing
 
Your bullpen is not a time to “work on your command”, it is a time to “evaluate your command work”!
 
Command matters on every single throw you make regardless if that is long toss, catch play, or even PLYO ball arm care into a wall! Command matters. Every single throw must have a very specific target and deserves attention. Aim small… miss small.
 
“We are what we repeatedly do. Therefore, excellence is not a single act but a habit.”

-Will Durant (summarizing Aristotle’s philosophy)
 
So many young people miss this...
 
Don’t be one of those people.
 
Until next time,
 
Stay curious and keep reaching for the stars.
 
Coach Wolforth
CEO - The Texas Baseball Ranch®

P.S. Our next topic will cover our Swing-and-Miss Appraisal: How “Nasty” is “Nasty Enough”?

Coach Wolforth has written six books on pitching including the Amazon Best Seller, Pitching with Confidence.  Since 2003, 122 of the players Wolforth has trained have been drafted and 458 have broken the 90mph barrier.  He 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, Texas 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.

If you would like a free copy of Pitching with Confidence, go to freepitchingbook.com.
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