Scott Kazmir- Part 2

The Resurgence of Scotty Kazmir

Part 2 of 3

Rebuilding is a process… not a technique… not a tactic.

Most athletes desperately want a silver bullet. 

They want lightning in a bottle.

The last combination number in the lock.

Scotty Kazmir was no different.

He wanted THE magic potion. I knew that was very unlikely. Far more likely, this was going to be a trudge involving the process of laying one perfect brick each day. I secretly hoped it would come back quickly but my experience told me that Scott didn’t get ‘here’ overnight and we weren’t going to get all the way back over night either.

Struggling athletes hoping for a miracle cure is very common and unfortunately they often find themselves bouncing from one quick fix idea to another. I felt the risk of this was fairly high because Scott’s decline was so rapid. Therefore I constantly reinforced the concept of process over outcome..

Here was our process… 

STEP 1. Start with the Pain. Personal Histrionics-

One critically important question we had to start with was:  What were the possible physical contributors to Scotty’s initial downward spiral? While this sounds simple, it rarely is. Athletes are taught to ignore pain and minimize aches, tightness, tenderness and discomfort. This might be a good strategy at times but it is in my opinion always a 100% bad idea when that discomfort is involved with a pitcher’s medial elbow or shoulder. Pitchers must become intimate with their arms.  Their arm is their professional life line.

Pitchers learn very early to prevaricate regarding the status of their arm. There are two primary reasons for this. First they don’t want to be viewed as physically weak or soft. Second, they don’t want to be perceived as making excuses for poor performance.  So they learn to minimize their pain. They learn to play word games when describing their pain, instead referring to it as ‘tenderness’, ‘tightness’ or ‘muscle fatigue’.

I refer to it the “Don’t ask, don’t tell” phenomenon of baseball. Coaches and trainers don’t want to ask and players don’t want to tell. In professional baseball it gets even worse. Players and their agents intentionally hide these things from trainers and coaches…and in many cases for good reason.

So we began with assessments with Scott from Lee Fiocchi of Dynamic Sports training and Andy Arthur from St. Luke’s Sports Performance Medicine, two men I respect greatly. What I needed to know was 1) Did Scott have any current constraints or limitations that was impeding his progress and 2) Were there any issues we needed to correct, stabilize or improve before we began our process and 3) I knew eventually we were going to have to push Scott and if we pushed him was he ready for that or were we going to make the situation worse?

Thankfully Scott received a clean bill of health and we were ready to begin.  However I can’t overstate the importance of going through this step.

Next was our own, in house, Texas Baseball Ranch pain assessment. Scott indicated he experienced various issues from time to time regarding both his elbow and shoulder, which in and of itself is not surprising for a major league pitcher. Following the time line closely looking for possible connections between the discomfort and declines in performance, it appeared the tenderness of his medial elbow was a particular concern.

After viewing video of Scott as a high school senior, as a Tampa Bay Ray in 2007 and a Los Angeles Angel, it was obvious that his movement pattern had changed a considerable amount and not for the better. We could see several things had changed and created extra stress to medial elbow. Our initial efforts were focused upon improving tempo, rhythm and the efficiency of his arm action.

Those initial efforts did indeed reduce the stress to his medial elbow but we saw little change in terms of performance. While the simple reduction of stress to medial elbow didn’t appear at the time to be that significant, in retrospect it was breakthrough number one. It would be the first piece of the puzzle. His arm started to feel better.

Several months went by and just by happenstance Scott was sharing his experiences and told me a story of a groin pull during his All-Star year and how he pieced together the rest of the season utilizing his change-up.  I then went back and looked at footage prior to his groin injury and after his groin injury and we had breakthrough #2.

The body is a system. The body will organize itself to avoid pain. Scott slowly but surely reduced the contributions of his lower half to avoid stress to the groin. The result was a slower tempo, less momentum and less utilization of his legs, hips and trunk.  He asked his arm to carry a higher percentage of the load. Even more detrimental was that the change interfered with his natural synchronization of his arm, trunk and spine. His new organization called for his arm to unravel much sooner creating what Mike Marshall refers to as ‘forearm flyout’.

The results were devastating: Less contribution from the proximal parts of the body (ie: core, pelvis, trunk, glutes, spine) and more from distal parts of the body (ie. Arm) Earlier launch, less deception, added stress to anterior shoulder and medial elbow, more problematic recovery from start to start, reduced command, reduced sharpness of breaking ball.

Armed with this new discovery we moved our focus to the groin and improving the contributions of his pelvis and glutes. This was puzzle piece number two.  Scott immediately went to work and significantly improved his movement pattern in that regard in a fairly short time.

However, Scott’s game-time mound performance still wasn’t where we wanted it …

For the rest of the story, watch your email for part 3! 

Coach Wolforth

P.S. – Just added. New fall and winter dates for the Elite Pitcher’s Boot Camp. Take a look here now before we sell out again

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