Paul Nyman: Pitching Coach or Throwing Coach?

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  1. Zita Carno

    October 18th, 2013 at 12:49 AM

    Let’s go back several decades and look at two such people, both of whom were well known to me. Both were with the New York Yankees.
    Jim Turner was the Yankees’ regular pitching coach. As such, he dealt mostly with the mechanical aspects of pitching. Ed Lopat w
    cas an extra pitching coach who concentrated on the mental and psychological aspects of the bump for the most part. But in many respects the two elements overlapped, especially in the case of Lopat; he was especially observant and was very quick to notice when something was not right with a pitcher—whether it be a mechanical (technical) issue or something that was going on between the ears, having nothing to do with repertoire and the like.
    Case in point: Whitey Ford, the rookie. In 1950 he came up to the Yankees, and there was one game he started in which the opposing batters were eating him alive; they were belting him from here to Timbuktu and back, converting every pitch he threw into line-drive extra-base hits. He was taken out of the game after one of the infielders pointed out that the first base coach was calling every pitch Whitey threw! The next day Turner and Lopat took him into the bullpen and had him throw from the stretch, because that was where the problem seemed to be occurring. Turner was perplexed and kept scratching his head—but Lopat spotted the problem at once. Ford, all unawares, was positioning his hand one way for the fastball and another way for the curve—he was telegraphing those pitches, and because he was a southpaw the opposing coach had no difficulty picking up on the signal and relaying it to the hitter. Lopat took Ford aside and quietly told him what he was doing wrong, and the problem was corrected in short order.
    In all, the two men complemented each other.
    Ideally the pitching/throwing coach should be someone who can handle both aspects, but such a combination is almost as rare as hen’s teeth. The problem seems to be that pitching a baseball and throwing from the outfield are two different modalities altogether, with different throwing techniques coming into play. Unless someone comes along who can actually handle these two aspects without tearing his hair out by the roots, we’ll just have to be satisfied with taking each on its own terms. But that’s baseball.

  2. Zita Carno

    October 18th, 2013 at 12:50 AM

    Let’s go back several decades and look at two such people, both of whom were well known to me. Both were with the New York Yankees.
    Jim Turner was the Yankees’ regular pitching coach. As such, he dealt mostly with the mechanical aspects of pitching. Ed Lopat was
    an extra pitching coach who concentrated on the mental and psychological aspects of the bump for the most part. But in many respects the two elements overlapped, especially in the case of Lopat; he was especially observant and was very quick to notice when something was not right with a pitcher—whether it be a mechanical (technical) issue or something that was going on between the ears, having nothing to do with repertoire and the like.
    Case in point: Whitey Ford, the rookie. In 1950 he came up to the Yankees, and there was one game he started in which the opposing batters were eating him alive; they were belting him from here to Timbuktu and back, converting every pitch he threw into line-drive extra-base hits. He was taken out of the game after one of the infielders pointed out that the first base coach was calling every pitch Whitey threw! The next day Turner and Lopat took him into the bullpen and had him throw from the stretch, because that was where the problem seemed to be occurring. Turner was perplexed and kept scratching his head—but Lopat spotted the problem at once. Ford, all unawares, was positioning his hand one way for the fastball and another way for the curve—he was telegraphing those pitches, and because he was a southpaw the opposing coach had no difficulty picking up on the signal and relaying it to the hitter. Lopat took Ford aside and quietly told him what he was doing wrong, and the problem was corrected in short order.
    In all, the two men complemented each other.
    Ideally the pitching/throwing coach should be someone who can handle both aspects, but such a combination is almost as rare as hen’s teeth. The problem seems to be that pitching a baseball and throwing from the outfield are two different modalities altogether, with different throwing techniques coming into play. Unless someone comes along who can actually handle these two aspects without tearing his hair out by the roots, we’ll just have to be satisfied with taking each on its own terms. But that’s baseball.

  3. Goody

    October 18th, 2013 at 5:13 PM

    I believe you have to teach throwing before you even think about teaching pitching. If you do your job in teaching the art of throwing, you have made a giant step forward in creating a pitcher. Pitching to me is someone who has the ability to throw to a spot or spots while adhering to the requirements or rules of pitching.

    As to the comments about outfielders versus pitching, if look at a picture of an OF near release, he will look very very similar to that of a pitcher who is also near release.

  4. Walter Schultz

    October 21st, 2013 at 7:07 PM

    I love this concept! Being a coach in high school, this is a true area where this would be beneficial. It is no surprise that when it comes down to it, hitting and pitching are the two most important things in high school baseball. I don’t believe we spend enough time on these two aspects as we should. From a pitching standpoint, I LOVE the idea of having two coaches working with pitchers. Case and point. Let me use golf as an example. Some of the greatest golfers in the world have multiple coaches: A swing coach, a putting coach, a course management coach, and even a “mental” coach. This is what makes the complete golfer. Why wouldn’t this work in baseball? And why not start it at a level where the player can really benefit?

  5. Don Ervin

    October 22nd, 2013 at 4:35 PM

    Hey Goody.
    Yes sir, as you said the outfielders throwing body movement certainly {is,} or {should be} comparable with a pitchers body movement from the mound once each one gets the body’s glove side hip, shoulder etc squared up with their target, I say {should be} comparable due to the fact that from what I view during many practice and game throws from various throwers is that some throwers change this perspective by dropping the elbow which causes them to short arm and push the ball during the throwing movement, I notice this mostly with pitchers, outfielders and other position players who are not really familiar with throwing from a mound although they do go to the mound from time to time, I find that a great number of these particular throwers are not taught the difference between the throwing arm route out of the glove to release position of outfielders and pitchers verses catchers and infielders and that pitching is just a refined element of good throwing movements in addition to starting from the rubber without the forward movement such as an outfielder has, consequently they are at a loss as to how to initiate momentum therefore they tend to change body actions etc. instead of just letting the body simply move forward and flow as it wants to do, like, step forward and throw, then again with the throwing side coming on through following the ball in hand and arm while stepping forward, I view many throwers who hold the throwing side back.
    Nuff said.
    Great baseballin.
    Don Ervin
    dfervin32@yahoo.com

  6. Don Ervin

    October 22nd, 2013 at 6:09 PM

    My question is, how can players have respect for their coaches when they have to figure things out for themselves due to the fact that coaches simply cannot figure it out? Pro or amatuer.
    Such as Barry Zito had to do when he nearly dropped out of sight during his period of nearly falling apart , He went back to viewing his past video’s when he was very successful, he immediately noticed where he was during his great pitching times verses when he was falling apart, started making some much needed and constructive adjustments in his pitching repertoire went to spring training and had Righgetti tell him that he couldn’t pitch that way, needless to say the rest of his story is self explantory.
    I think that it is evident that baseball people, coaches, parents and, or anyone else who deals with aspiring young pitchers in particular desparately need to climb out of their box of old out dated, conventional and opinionated way’s and get themselves baseball educated so as to enable our young players to be able to be taught their overall team and individual skills.
    As one coach told me recently, When I played we did this and that, I told him that what we did when we played is not good enough, he then said, well you have a minor league home record don’t you? I said yes and again reminded him that teaching on the basis of our former play of yester year, yester day etc is not good enough.
    As far as I am concerned those who deal with players at any position need to study and become keen students of player team fundamentals and individual player skills at all positions.
    Our players desparately need experienced and knowledgeable coaches etc who are capable of teaching them how to play to the best of their abilities, this is not happening due to the fact that , I would say, is because teaching is being directed to players by opinionated non experienced, non knowledgeable and non baseball students of the game.
    Most people in general understand, realize how important on going, continuing education is to further one’s learning process, curve but baseball people coaches, parents, players etc tend to stay ignorant to the importance of this very important fact of one’s life long learning process.
    Great baseballin to all.
    Don Ervin
    dfervin32@yahoo.com

  7. Zita Carno

    October 23rd, 2013 at 6:03 AM

    And here’s another aspect of the whole thing that is too often overlooked and even ignored.
    Ed Lopat, who besides being a key member of the Yankees’ Big Three pitching rotation was also one of the finest coaches anyone could ever hope to work with, told me that when a pitcher steps off the rubber, whether in completing a pitch or throwing to a base in a pickoff attempt, s/he becomes a fifth infielder and has to be able to do all the things infielders do. At one point he invited me to participate in an afternoon-long PFP (pitcher’s fielding practice) workout with some of the Yankees’ second-line players, and believe me, I was all for it! I got more out of that three-hour session than most pitchers do in a month or even a season; we covered every possible fielding situation, handling comebackers, fielding bunts, throwing to bases (which gave me an opportunity to practice the devastating snap-throw pickoff move he had taught me earlier on), bang-bang plays, backing up particularly when the fielder was out of position, you name it, we did it and often in simulated game situations. It was a terrific workout and a lot of fun.
    Lopat was one of those rare creatures—an active pitcher who could also coach and teach and as such was way ahead of everybody else. I wish there were more like him; what I learned from him was nothing short of priceless, and I became a better pitcher because of this. I wonder why more coaches are unable to do what he did when he wasn’t beating the Cleveland Indians to an unrecognizable pulp!

  8. Don Ervin

    April 3rd, 2015 at 7:46 AM

    Hey Zito,
    Great article, you really spelled it out.
    My experiences tell me that the main reason that most coaches are unable to teach the fundamentals you speak of is that the only place these types of fundamentals are taught are at some of the top D-1 programs due to the fact that the majority of baseball coaches at all levels of the game simply have not, do not study the game deep enough to allow themselves to become baseball educated enough to become keen students of all around team and individual player skills therefore their teaching skills are zilch and our players suffer dearly.
    Many moons/seasons ago I played minor league ball for a former major league player, Johnny Hopp, he told us that to become an excellent coach we would need to become a keen student of team and individual player skills at all positions plus mental aspects also and to learn such skills we would need to seek out the best of the best mentors to learn the best of the best of the game, when one does so one basically has to revamp one’s whole outlook concerning what one thinks he/she knows.
    I teach and as Buck Show Walter said on CNN, when the ball is put into play every defensive player including pitchers have a place to go whether it be to field the ball or whether it be to back up someone which coincides with what you say about pitchers becoming a fifth fielder.
    I once had an umpire tell me that school coaches do not have the time to spend on a bunch of fundamentals due to the fact that coaches have to get their teams ready for games, how can players be ready to play games without first being able to play with some reasonable facsimile of the basic fundamentals?
    Great Base Ball-N
    Don Ervin
    dfervin32@yahoo.com

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