The Wisdom(?) of Paul Nyman

The following is taken from an article written by Paul Nyman
http://blog.baseballdigestdaily.com/blog/PaulNyman/_archives/2008/5/9/3683154.html
and referenced on this site by the author with links to said article. My question: Does what he concludes (specifically, the information in red) make sense to you?

It is my opinion that Hughes knew how to throw baseball more efficiently when he was drafted as compared to the way he is currently throwing. When he was drafted it appears that Hughes:

  1. Knew how to rotate more effectively and efficiently specifically as defined by rotation around the front hip joint.
  2. Allowed his body to stay back more effectively giving him more time to rotate and throw the baseball.
  3. These changes also help explain control problems i.e. any change to mechanics that you been using for years requires a period of “relearning”. This is why I say that no team should ever draft the player thinking that they are going to change the players mechanics.
  4. Possibly the pressure performing at the highest levels (i.e. major-league versus minor-league) has caused Hughes to become more “control” conscious (i.e. painting the corners) and in so doing has unconsciously altered his mechanics.
  5. Another possibility is that well-meaning pitching coaches, who really don’t understand the throwing process, have used the age-old theory that comes out of staying on top of the ball, getting extension, etc., etc. In the process, they have compromised Hughes’ abilitie to throw the baseball.

It is foolish to think that one can make any conclusive decisions based on such meager video information, but then again that’s what this is all about. It’s been my experience that the higher the level of competition and gray the demands on performance, the more the pitcher will push the ball in attempt to guide it to home plate. This pushing and guiding is also encouraged by many pitching coaches who mistakenly think that slowing the delivery down, getting on top of the ball, getting extension, keeping everything on a straight line, etc. etc. will improve the chances of the player getting the batter out. It will only help if the pitcher can maintain or enhance his throwing ability at the same time. Most often what happens is that the pitcher’s abilities to throw efficiently are compromised by this well-meaning advice.

I guess the shoe drops when we hear what he suggests as a remedy.
Nyman has consistantly used harsh or near demeaning terms in relation to how he views other coaches…I think he thinks hes being excrutiatingly honest…for me I’d rather hear what he has to offer and not what he thinks of others. My opinion of him is that he really does understand mechanics at a very high level but that he makes it difficult to discern what he thinks because he spends so much time trying to convince you how wrong the other guy is. I’ll say this much, Lankylefty spent a great deal of research time looking into his Set-Pro program and came away completely convinced of its worth and value. To me that validates my previous statement…because I respect the value of Lanky’s research which is at least of a quality of the KC’s and the Centerfields on this forum.

I appreciate the vote of confidence for LL, but I’m not interested in buying Nyman’s program. My belief is that a qualified professional pitching coach is going to be able to accomplish a lot more with my son than I can with a “program approach”.

My concern is that Nolan’s present pitching coach seems to be an adherent of the linear, extend to the plate, get on top of the ball approach to pitching (he was a ML pitcher for 12 years and worked with House). Funny thing is, my son had a better year the two years prior when working with a coach without ML experience than he did after working with his present coach for a year. He seemed to lose velocity and was getting hit a lot more. In fact, Nolan didn’t have a homer hit off of him in 4 years prior to this year. This year, he was taken yard 5 times.

I’m concerned that Nyman may be right, and may be describing my son’s present coach. He slowed down Nolan’s tempo and Nolan seemed to have less “intent to throw hard” as Nyman terms it. Nolan seems to be trying to throw strikes instead of throwing hard strikes if you know what I mean.

Anyway, bottom line is that this past year has had a negative affect on Nolan’s velocity. He’s always been a power pitcher and this year seemed to be less explosive, and consequently less competitive.

Hose

Hose,

What you’ve brought up is not black or white. There are many shades of grey. You need to consider the possibility that the batters are getting bigger/stronger/better and also that Nolan’s body might be changing in a way that affects his body. (I don’t know Nolan’s age but puberty can really change kids.)

It’s not clear what you mean by “program approach” but it sounds like you’re implying Nolan’s instructor uses a “cookie cutter” approach. If that’s the case, then I would agree it’s time to find a new instructor.

FWIW, being too linear while slowing down the tempo sounds like a great recipe for reducing tempo. Does that mean you need Nyman’s emphasis on rotation? Not necessarily. I believe for every pitcher there is a proper combination of linearity and rotation. The trick is to figure out what is appropriate for Nolan.

By the way, what does “get on top of the ball” mean? Sounds like one of those old conventional wisdom thingies.

Thanks Roger.

[quote=“Roger”]
You need to consider the possibility that the batters are getting bigger/stronger/better and also that Nolan’s body might be changing in a way that affects his body. [/quote]
I understand the differences in size, strength, and ability factor in. However, my concern is that at the beginning of this season Nolan was actually throwing more slowly than at the end of the previous season while having grown a little over an inch and gained 5 lbs. I sped up his tempo and he started throwing in the 80’s again, but didn’t hit his peak velocity from the previous year until late in this season. I don’t claim to be any kind of baseball expert, certainly not as it pertains to pitching, but i do have an eye for differentiating the mechanics of athletic movements, and Nolan’s delivery was as I said, less explosive and much less effective than in his previous season - both in velocity and control.

Actually I was talking about pitching programs with a DVD and a notebook and no hands on instructor, ala Setpro or Mills. I don’t think his present coach uses a cookie cutter approach, though I have a limited number of pitchers to judge from.

His pitching coach works with the whole team in small groups. I’ve planned to take a more involved role this year to determine whether his coaching is adequate or whether Nolan needs a different/private instructor to achieve his goals. And as to linear v. rotation, that’s exactly what my concern is, i.e., that Nolan has sacrificed rotation for a more linear movement.

Fingers on top of the ball at release rather than behind it I guess. Seems to me the fingers on a fastball must be somewhat more behind the ball at release in order to propel the ball in a forward direction. The inevitable snap of the wrist at release will bring the fingers to a point of pointing toward the plate, but I’m not sure they ever get “on top” of the ball.

Hose

I understand what you are saying Hose, my point was that Paul knows mechs…not trying to get you to buy Set-Pro. It would seem to me that you’ve found your own answer, the guy isn’t developing your boy in the way you think would be benificial…One of the ironic things I’ve seen as Andy has had several people look and advise, is that some with great resume get nowhere, where others who may not be as “schooled” see a bit or a wiggle and it clicks. Going yard isn’t all that bad if it’s mistakes and you see Nolan adjust, if on the other hand Nolan is being dominated from the plate it’s a whole different story…My rule of thumb is this, if the instructor is just trying to do x because x is what he thinks a good pitcher does…walk away. If on the other hand he sets about taking what is offered and works to maximize the efficiency I’d consider making a long term comittment to the guy.
I know I sometimes get to the point in a round about fashion…just my stupid way of logic…but bottom line is, that is the way I look at it.
I wouldn’t spend a whole bunch of time on it either…Nolan is in a spot where comfort and consistancy aids growth and inconsistant start and stop stuff is just worthless…Major Leaguer or not.

Hose,

Just because your son’s coach worked with House doesn’t necessarily mean he fully understands or correctly represents House’s methods.

I was pretty surprised to hear that someone who worked with T. House would coach your son to do things that may slow down his delivery. For the past 5 years that my son has worked with him, one of House’s primary teaches has always been, “early weight shift toward the target, no “stop at the top”, get that booty going to the target”.

The stuff about ‘linear vs rotational’ delivery has been discussed in other threads recently, and I really think these terms are usually taken out of context and then incorrectly pitted against each other, like saying “yin is bad, yang is good”, if you know what I mean.

In fact, every good delivery has both rotational and linear components and both are necessary in their time and place.

Part of House’s approach includes optimization of first things first, i.e, a balanced, athletic starting position is crucial and this affects everything else that happens in the delivery.

Then, the hips should thrust forward as weight is shifted toward the target…at the same time as leg lift is commenced. House’s approach does not include “stay back”, “don’t rush”, or “stop at the top”–he wants pitchers to develop as much early momentum directed to the target as possible, and he does not want this momentum to be interrupted after it has commenced.

In his stride forward, House would coach your son that he should have a consistent stride and landing spot. I think he’d also say that your son’s starting posture and his ability to generate early momentum during leg lift will greatly influence whether or not he is able to stride 90 to 100% of his height while maintaining good dynamic balance.

A few years ago House’s research showed very convincingly that about 80% of a pitcher’s velocity comes from the energy stored in his core musculature as a result of hip-shoulder separation during the delivery. He teaches that the hips and shoulders should be anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees separated after footstrike and shoulder rotation (opening) should be delayed as long as possible after footstrike…this is clearly rotational mechanics.

As the shoulders open up, releasing the potential energy stored by hip-shoulder separation, the throwing arm obviously sweeps through an arc-shaped path and the release of the ball will be on a line that is tangent to the perimeter of this arc. Since every traditional pitcher must use this rotational event to generate velocity on a ball, but this velocity must be directed in a straight line to a target in front of the pitcher, there is also a linear component to every good delivery. That is, the pitcher’s eyes and head should be directed straight at the target during launch of the ball, the glove side should be stabilized out in front of the pitcher near the release point, and the pitcher’s torso should track straight forward toward the target after the shoulders are fully open (before the ball has been released). Pulling the glove in, or letting it swing down to the side before the release, can make it very difficult to find and maintain a consistent release point during the violent shoulder rotation that leads up to release of the ball. If the torso is not squared up to the target near release, that can also cause the pitcher’s release point to be inconsistent.

Neither the rotational nor the linear components of an efficient delivery can be safely overlooked.

If you son’s coach was NPA certified recently, he should be aware of the these issues and many, many more. I know kids can often ‘plateau’ developmentally for stretches of time, but obvious regression can mean underlying physical problems, bad coaching, or good coaching with a real need to step back and take some time to correct a serious mechanical flaw. If it is anything like the latter, your boy’s coach should be willing and able to tell you exactly what flaw he may be working on, and why he thinks it is a flaw…

Thanks, flip. Great post, helps me alot. I’ve got some questions to ask, and I hope I get the right answers.

Hose

Excellent post, Lee!