by Mike Whitman
Jacob deGrom is a FREAK and there is a trainer out there who is just waiting to ruin him. Now if you don’t know who Jacob deGrom is, he is a 6’4” 180 pound Mets pitcher who has won the last 2 Cy Young awards in the NL and started this season off by giving up one hit, no runs, and struck out 8 batters in 5 innings. Overall, not bad. So why do I think there is a trainer or strength coach waiting to ruin him? Because strength coaches can be idiots, and they can be way too literal about their job title. I promise you someone out there is arguing they could make the best pitcher in baseball even better if he lifted more, squatted more, got his deadlift up another 50 pounds, did more pull-ups, gained more muscle, increased his maxes etc. all the while probably having a better chance of ruining his career instead of helping it.
Obviously I am not against lifting, quite the contrary, but not everyone needs to look like an NFL linebacker to play sports. deGrom generates all of his ridiculous power by separating his upper and lower half and rotating through his hips, leading to an effortless 97+ fastball for an entire season. If you start lifting him heavier, have him gain weight and more muscle mass he may lose some ability to rotate, leading to less velocity and alterations to his throwing mechanics. None of those are good. *Looking at you Noah Syndergaard*
Mobility is the key to his success, anything that hinders his mobility will have a direct negative impact on his ability to pitch. Pedro Martinez, although much more diminutive, is another person whose mechanics relied more on rotation and mobility than raw power. Hell Pedro would rotate so hard that half the time his right foot would end up pointing at first base. Other tall slender flamethrowers that come to mine would be Randy Johnson and Chris Sale. Now does every pitcher have this build, or generate their velocity this way? Absolutely not.
Roger Clemens, Tom Seaver, Andy Pettitte, and Justin Verlander were all big leg drive pitchers, Tom Seaver being one of the more extreme examples of this. Clemens and Pettitte both had lower halves that more resembled a Clydesdale than a normal human. Verlander is an inch taller than deGrom and over 50 pounds heavier. So there isn’t just one way to build a pitcher, which is the entire point. Taking a one program fits all approach to people, even people playing the same position in the same sport, isn’t going to work.
All programs should have some philosophies that they stick by. In this case, if I was working with deGrom, I would start the idea of the program with these 6 things:
1.Don’t do anything that hinders his mobility
2.Everything should be through a complete range of motion
3.Avoid heavy spinal loading
4.Make sure he stays explosive
5.I don’t care about his maxes
6.Have constant communication about how he feels after each and every workout
Stay tuned because I am going to do a deep dive on Bryson DeChambeau in the near future.