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General  | General  | 9/30/2022

Wolforth Thrower Mentorship: Article 24

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 24th 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'?
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

Almost every single week, it seems I’m visiting with absolutely wonderful people who love to tell me about their son the pitcher. They proudly proclaim that he never exceeds a specifically prescribed pitch count and only recently was he even allowed to throw a curveball. Their inference, of course, is that they have really taken care of his arm and he is therefore, in a matter of speaking, inoculated from an arm injury.

I almost always politely change the subject and attempt to move on to the primary reason they called or stopped by to see us. It’s not their fault, they simply do not know what they don’t know.

In this period of what I call, “The Covid Era,” it has become very clear to me that common sense, personal autonomy/responsibility, and rugged individualism are quickly being replaced by a “tyranny of expertise” in which we are told in no uncertain terms of what is safe and appropriate. Unfortunately, even when they are proven wrong by the very “science” they forward as unassailable, often the flawed conclusions remain sacrosanct.

Baseball is certainly not immune to this trend.

Workload, pitch count, and “overuse” have been forwarded for several years by the “experts” as the primary reason for throwing-related injury.

But the facts simply don’t align with the presumption.

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 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 answer: The causes and contributors to injury are obviously far more complex than simply managing pitch count.

In my opinion, in an effort to reduce or eliminate arm injuries, the modern competitive baseball universe has become hypnotized by the thought of a strict limitation to pitch counts as being the solution to the Tommy John and labrum surgeries. They have lost their collective ability to think clearly and to use common sense.

Oh, if only this “pitch count equals injury” were actually true, I would have the opportunity to play so much more golf.

While a very intoxicating notion, the concept of strict pitch count limitation being a fail-safe for reducing and/or eliminating arm problems in pitchers is not only severely flawed and overly simplistic, but also, in my opinion, absurd. In fact, at the end of the day, it is a detrimental and counter-productive concept. Although I’ve been discussing the concept of pitch counts and workloads with coaches and parents since 1995, it occurs to me that many of you may have never had the opportunity to be exposed to what I think is a deeper level of reasoning on this hot-button topic.

Let me begin with finding places where I agree or concur with the sentiment and process itself. Here is what I believe is useable or salvageable from the basic utilization and management of workload for pitchers.

For the record, I’m 100% in favor of recording and monitoring the pitch count for each pitcher throughout the year and throughout his career.

Pitch count is an objective measure of individual workload. That workload can become important to each individual pitcher on their journey. Therefore, I strongly endorse the recording of it on each and every individual.

That is about as far as I can go in regard to agreeing with standard practices, both in amateur and professional baseball, in terms of the philosophy of counting pitches. The rest of the story revolves around the interpretation of that measurement.

Let me give you an example of how incredibly flawed and shortsighted many of the interpretations, and subsequent applications based upon those interpretations, really can be.

Let us use a non-baseball example to help everyone understand my utter disdain for this intellectual laziness and lack of logic and wisdom.

Together, let’s interpret another set of data.

My simple question to you: Is 72 inches considered tall?

Simple question, right? What’s the correct answer?

The answer: It obviously very much depends upon the subgroup of people to whom the question is posed.

If you asked an executive in the NBA, 72 inches would be considered incredibly short. If you are from Sri Lanka or the Island of Timor, at 6-feet tall you would be considered incredibly tall. If your subset was American females, you would, at 72 inches, be considered quite tall. If your subset was American males, you would be considered slightly above average. If your subset was American males at 12 years of age, you again would be considered tall.

The data didn’t change… 72 inches was the same metric for every single group. What changed in our interpretation was the context of the question. In other words, context really, really, really matters.

As human beings, we frequently seek out specific, detailed, explicit, and profound answers to general, universal questions. That rarely goes well, and the downstream effect of such expectations is that our athletes begin to doubt the competence of their teachers, the efficacy of their efforts, and/or the effectiveness of the process.

We ALL lose when this happens.

Every single month at the Ranch, I see young people come to us defeated and beaten down. They are told they will NEVER do X, Y, or Z. Based upon the “data”, they are inferior and incapable.

I hate that perspective with everything in my being. I think it’s one of the greatest scourges in our society… to be judged by some hypothetical data points interpreted by someone who often has an agenda in how this all plays out.

Back to pitch count.

What could possibly be the “context” that we should consider regarding pitch count?

Pull up a chair, there is much we need to discuss.

Example: Pitcher A had a pitch count of 110. Pitcher B had a pitch count of 55. Which one had the heaviest workload?

Many think I’ve actually lost my mind even asking this question. Pitcher A threw exactly twice the number of pitches as Pitcher B.

Most would even respond by saying something along the lines of, “Pitcher A was getting up there and really putting his arm at risk. Pitcher B is probably very safe.”

What is your point, Coach Wolforth?

What if I added this bit of context: Pitcher A’s outing was 110 pitches over 9 innings and Pitcher B threw 55 pitches in 1 1/3 innings?

If most people are honest, they would immediately and intuitively respond, “Oh yea, that does change things.”

Sure it does! Pitch count per inning is simply much more impactful than pitch count per outing.
Don’t see how this matters? Let me help.

I will do 110 push-ups. You will do 55.

I will do 15, then rest for 20 minutes, do 15 again, and repeat the 15 push-ups and 20-minute rest until the 110 are finished.

You will do all 55 in a row.

Let’s see who struggles more.

Again, most people would say, “Yea, that also changes things,” because it definitely does.

In the real world, and if everything else is equal (which is rarely the case), if the pitcher can stay between 12-18 pitches per inning, he will have a far better chance of staying healthy than if he exceeds 30 pitches in any one inning.

Therefore: Pitches per inning is in fact more important and impactful to arm health than pitches per outing.

The second bit of context: 2 pitchers throw 110 pitches. Pitcher A throws 110 pitches in his first start of the season and in temperatures that are in the mid-40s. Pitcher B throws 110 pitches 3 months into the season in temperatures that are in the upper-70s.

Once again, a vast majority of people would say, “Yea, that also changes things.” Again, because it obviously does.

The third example of context: Pitcher A throws 110 pitches in the first start of his rookie season coming back from a UCL strain during spring training. Pitcher B throws 110 pitches in his 15th start of the season, in his 15th year of pitching in professional baseball, and with zero history of arm issues.

Are those 110 pitches equal? Almost assuredly not.

The fourth example of context: Pitcher A throws 110 pitches tonight but 5 nights ago, he threw 127 pitches in 7 innings of work. Pitcher B throws 110 pitches tonight but 5 nights ago, he threw 67 pitches in 6 innings of work.

Again, are those 110 pitches equal?

Probably not.

The fifth example of context: Both of these pitchers threw 110 pitches. In this example, for argument’s sake, let’s intentionally disregard the obvious age difference and focus solely on the position of release.



I believe most people can see the considerable additional valgus force the pitcher on the left creates on his medial elbow and anterior shoulder. In fact, I seriously doubt the young man on the left could last 110 pitches.

Ergo, the 110 pitches were definitely not the same.

Finally, the sixth example of context: (I could easily give you 6 more examples, but I hope my point is made.) Pitcher A threw 110 pitches from 45 feet in batting practice today at 50 mph. Pitcher B threw 110 pitches in a game from 60.5 feet away and averaged 88 mph.

Obviously not the same, right? Yet both threw 110 pitches.

Conclusion: Context matters. A lot.

Takeaways:

• Numbers seem absolute but in fact, they are often very relative.
• Pitch count per inning matters more than pitch count per outing.
• The pitcher’s history and current status of arm health matter a great deal.
• The pitcher’s ramp-up and throwing foundation matter a great deal.
• The pitcher’s mechanical efficiency matters a great deal.
• Even the weather he pitches in matters.

In short, pitch count, in our opinion, shouldn’t ever be viewed as a universal measure. It is best utilized as an individual measurement with all important contexts included.

When we have arbitrarily decided, for example, that everyone who is 72 inches is either tall or short, we at that very moment run the risk of missing the forest for the trees.

On topics related to pitching, I urge you to always keep common sense at the front of your decision-making process. If it doesn’t sound right or it seems to be overly broad or unusually sweeping, I would trust your instincts. I remind you that since the beginning of man, no group has been more routinely wrong about things than have the “experts.” In 2022, that remains to still be true.

-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® Fall/Winter Events

• 3-Day Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camps for pitchers ages 12 & up. Five camps, one per month, between October and February. More information at https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/elite-pitchers-bootcamp/

• The once-a-year “Youth” Pitchers camp for players ages 8-11. This year’s event will be October 15th & 16th. Space is limited. Details at https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/events/youth-elite-pitchers-bootcamp/

• Elite CATCHER’s Boot Camp December 9-11th for catchers ages 14 & up. Learn more at https://www.texasbaseballranch.com/catcher. “Early Bird” $500 savings ends Sept. 30th.

To Learn More About the Texas Baseball Ranch, go to:
www.TexasBaseballRanch.com