Pitchers Are Endurance Athletes

Watching the World Series this past week begs a single question? Why can’t pitchers hit? Before you say because of their builds, think about those outfielders who are built like pitchers, and can hit.

Use it or lose it. They simply don’t take much batting practice, and have even fewer plate appearances. There’s obviously some truth here. But I’d argue that you’d never be able to train most of these pitchers to hit over .200. With infinite resources in an environment that rewards nothing but performance, couldn’t we figure this out?

Pitching is about control. It doesn’t matter if you can throw 105 if you can’t throw strikes. And not just strikes. You need to be able to pick small portions from around the plate. It takes a very specific mindset to throw 95 mph and hit spots. Especially 100 times in a row. And the mindset to hit such a pitch is completely different. Think about most of those pitching motions. They’re typically long and loose. It’s the baseball equivalent to a distance runner. Relaxed, predictable, endurance athletes.

Batting is about reaction. It’s the opposite of control. There’s not much time to react to a major league pitch. Most people can’t even see it. To hit a fastball, you need to be able to change your mind after the ball has been pitched. The movements are shorter, faster, and less predictable. A good hitter hits .300. Any pitcher that threw strikes 30% of the time would’ve stopped playing baseball in high school, or found another position.

Why are most professional pitchers so tall? 

The longer levers help them throw harder while relaxed. Meaning more pitches on target, for a longer period of time. Your third baseman may be able to touch 94 on the gun, but chances are great that with his build he couldn’t throw many pitches consistently on target at that speed. It’s exactly this difference that allows the third baseman to outhit the pitcher every single game. The shorter levers and bigger muscles allow for more changes and more acceleration.

What does John Isner have to do with this? 

He has one of the best serves in the history of the tennis. But also one of the worst return games of anyone inside the top 100. It’s just like baseball. These big athletes do very well when they control the action. When they are reacting, they are just slower. More importantly, John Isner is a great example that you can’t teach a 6’7″ pitcher to hit. Why? Because he has the serving game figured out. If he could just return average for a touring pro, he’d make deep runs in majors, so don’t tell me he doesn’t practice returning. He probably spends at least as much time returning as he does on his serve.

What if the same mindset that makes him such a great server is what made him so tall and not vice versa? If that sounds crazy, you may want to read my post about height.

What about the exceptions? 

Turns out most of the pitchers that were good hitters, couldn’t pitch all that well. I’d argue that the mindset that made them bad pitchers in the first place, gives them a better chance behind the plate.

Babe Ruth is the most interesting exception. He was a great pitcher, and one of the best batters in the history of the game. The problem with viewing him as the missing link, is that he only pitched professionally 10+ innings per year until 1919, and these were some of the worst hitting stretches of his career. After that, he focused almost exclusively on hitting.

What conclusions are there here? 

Baseball is about thinking fast and slow. And those that think fast, bat well. Those that think slow, pitch. A reactive mind is faster, but has much less endurance. The controlled delivery of the best pitchers helps them maintain their velocity and accuracy inning after inning. So your most consistent pitchers are going to have the worst batting averages. And if you find a a way to change their minds and time perception, you may can turn them into hitters, but it will come at a price.

Sources:

  1. https://theconcourse.deadspin.com/why-pitchers-will-always-suck-at-hitting-1620184799
  2. https://www.kansascity.com/sports/mlb/kansas-city-royals/article211588729.html
  3. https://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2011/5/31/2199146/hitter-aging-curves
  4. http://www.sportsonearth.com/article/71693338/new-york-mets-bartolo-colon-among-worst-hitting-pitchers-ever
  5. https://sabr.org/research/does-pitcher-s-height-matter
  6. https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/short-pitchers-still-getting-short-shrift/

Hyperhidrosis: Beyond the Sweat

Heavy sweating, if you’re an athlete, can be dangerous or even deadly. So what causes it and can it be prevented?

What do we know about hyperhidrosis?

Some people sweat a lot. This is what we call it. Here’s what Wikipedia says:

Hyperhidrosis is a condition characterized by abnormally increased sweating, in excess of that required for regulation of body temperature. Although primarily a physical burden, hyperhidrosis can deteriorate quality of life from a psychological, emotional, and social perspective. It has been called by some ‘the silent handicap’.

Both the words diaphoresis and hidrosis can mean either perspiration (in which sense they are synonymous with sweating) or excessive perspiration, in which case they refer to a specific, narrowly defined, clinical disorder.

So using our crazy concept of time, can we make any progress? Yes.

Those with hyperhidrosis may have greater stress levels and more frequent depression.

Here is why that shouldn’t surprise you: these people sweat more because they stress more. Time is slower for them, so they are literally in the heat for longer than you. Think about what you’d look like if ran four miles instead of one. They are going to burn more calories, sweat more, cramp more often, and be more fatigued.

So if that is true, how do you prevent cramps?

Relax. Relax your mind, and your body. Once you start straining, time dilates. If you must push yourself beyond relaxed exertion, remember what you’re doing. Refuel accordingly. You’re going to burn a whole lot more calories under constant stress than you would relaxing, so prepare accordingly. As your blood sugar depletes, your body will circulate the remainder faster to keep levels up in your brain. This stresses the body even more, so keep your blood sugar in check. Find a routine that works for you. Take the rest that is given to you in whatever you’re doing. And most importantly, listen to your body. If you can’t focus and are constantly overheated, more exertion is not going to level you out.

What about salt?

It seems like there are a bunch of minerals lost to sweat. The current belief is, that if we replace those minerals, you don’t dehydrate, or at least don’t cramp. I don’t disagree with this. Replace whatever you lose. But know that if you can’t relax and control your perception of time, you won’t be able to eat enough bananas to counteract the strain.

Sources:

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/muscle-cramp/symptoms-causes/syc-20350820
  2. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperhidrosis

 

Is Running the Key to Aging?

As always, let’s start somewhere completely unrelated: adolescence. 

Think about this for a moment: if our brains control our bodies, do we control our own adolescence? We always talk about puberty like it’s some event that “happens when it happens.” Consider for a moment that we play at least some role in our own development. I think it’s more than that, but I want you to keep reading.

We do not know why some people go through puberty before others. We just don’t. There’s a nice age range and we know that girls typically go before guys, but that’s about it.

So let’s make our typical assumptions. If time does not exist, what is the difference between our subject when she’s 10 and when she’s 15? Her mind. So if her mind is the only thing to change, and we know that age of puberty onset is not genetic, how do we control when we hit puberty?

There are disparities in puberty onset of different races. Take a look at this. There’s a significant average onset age difference between different races and cultures. Surely you know by now that I don’t buy into the fact that genetics controls everything we don’t understand. There are other factors at play here, and we should look at them with an open mind.

Puberty begins earlier in African American girls. We’ve looked into black culture a good bit over the past month. You know what else we know about black girls, generally speaking? They don’t workout

Think about this for a moment: Female track athletes almost always look like they’re fifteen, or younger. You pick your definition of the development of women, and you will not find it in these girls.

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See what I mean?

Running is known to help longevity.  This article goes a lot further than that. It’s basically saying that running is the fountain of youth. So I’ve already written about how aging starts in the brain, so if that is true, what does running do to the brain? I found an article about that too, but then I got to thinking: if we don’t know how the brain works, how can we say what running does that will benefit it? Here’s what you should take away from this: aging is not what you want to do. People get ugly and less productive, and less functional as they age. Cancer and most all diseases develop later in life, as we age. So if running is what we say keeps you from aging, you should run. Or pick your cardio of choice.

So if we know that you today is the same as you tomorrow, and is the same as you in five years, what does running to do slow down the aging process? We know now that aging starts in the brain. As the brain ages, the body ages.

Running can change your brain.  This is a great post that explores the mental benefits from running at several different angles. I think it’s simple: running is a stress reliever and the right amount of cardio helps alter our perception of time.

Think about the sports where the athletes look the best. In my opinion, basketball, soccer, and tennis. Three of the most run-intense sports. I prefer to look at the professional athletes, because you’ll get a larger percentage of days and time on court. The NBA players are in a league of their own.

Some of them appear completely hairless. I’m sure they’d shave if they weren’t hairless already. What stage of puberty is ‘getting hairy’? What if that’s just the stage where we throw in the towel on cardio?

So find your venue of choice, and go running. It’s the only thing you can do to slow down the aging process. And the only other healthy way to change your brain. [vision would be the first]

Clutch is a mindset

Steph Curry is a good golfer…a really good golfer. He essentially competed on the professional level, and didn’t embarrass himself.

So how does that connect to being clutch? Bear with me.

Here’s why his golf ability shouldn’t surprise you: he’s the best shooter in the NBA. You could probably argue he’s the best shooter in NBA history. How does that translate to golf? Well in fundamentals, it doesn’t. But the mindset is the same. The state of mind it takes to replicate shots from beyond the arc is similar to that of a professional golfer.

What you’re going to say is that Steph’s dad was in the NBA, so he’s just got good genes. Believe that if you want. Tell your kids they can never shoot like that. They can.

The fundamentals are easy, the mindset is what takes practice. You can teach a kid how to shoot a basketball in an hour. But to have him be able to pull a three with confidence at the buzzer in the NBA finals, there are only a couple people on the planet even qualified to have that conversation.

Think about all the guys you knew growing up that were “naturally athletic.” Maybe you knew that guy that was good at everything. This is not a coincidence. The mind and body work best together at a certain state, and they have just found it. Malcom Gladwell wrote about it taking 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. That may be true, but some people get head starts, and this is how.

Steve Kerr [Steph’s coach] uses the Inner Game of Tennis for psychology in pressure situations. [article] This book is about the psychology of an athlete, and how to separate your thinking self from your playing self, and how to perform your best.

It’s all the same. When you find the infamous zone you’ve found your ground state. When you’ve removed yourself from the equation and let your body do what it already knows how to do.

Don’t let your mind get in the way of your performance. It has no place on the court, whether it be basketball, tennis, or golf. When you start thinking, you start losing.