By Nic Ferreira
The days of doing a few lazy arm circles and then starting to chuck are over, as are the days of simply dunking your arm in a bucket of ice after throwing. The baseball community is smartening up after years of pitchers racking up rotator cuff, labrum, and UCL injuries. While Trevor Bauer was initially discouraged from using Driveline Baseball as his training method, his training has grown into the stuff of legend, and he’s seeing results, too. Bauer pitched to a 12-6 record with a 2.21 ERA this past season. If not for a comebacker that fractured his fibula, he might have won the Cy. Bauer is outspoken about everything, but especially Driveline Baseball’s data-driven pitching training. Lets take a look at each individual product in this training regiment.
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Bauer is all in on today’s technology and analytics. He uses an ultra high-speed edgertronic camera for in-depth analysis of his pitches. Along with the advanced video, he uses weighted balls, resistance bands, a shoulder tube, and more to ensure he can handle a Big League starter’s workload.
He’s so passionate about it that he takes sunset pictures of the Driveline balls. This got our attention. Below, we break down the products of the Driveline program that Bauer so passionately follows. For some more light listening, we did a podcast with Joe Beimel, 13 year MLB vet, about this exact topic, and it was a good one.
PlyoCare weighted balls, or “plyos” for short, aren’t for playing catch–instead, they’re used for arm care drills like pivot pickoffs (the first drill shown in the above video) and reverse throws (0:15 in the above video), and could be a big reason why Bauer’s never had a major arm injury in his time in the majors. These balls are a staple of his program and have a wide range of uses, from improving mechanics, to strengthening the arm, to recovery. They are built with a PVC exterior and filled with sand to allow them to withstand repeated throws against a wall or other hard surfaces, and rightfully so, because if used correctly, they are going to take a beating. PlyoCare Balls come with an exercise guide (through email) to help users get started with the arm care program, with a preview in the above video.
J Bands are the creation of pitching coach Alan Jaeger, who has worked with Bauer in the past. Go to any major or minor league game, and there’s a decent chance you’ll see these hanging on the fence in the bullpen. The resistance training that J Bands offer is used to condition the tiny shoulder muscles that are tough to train in a weight room, and the bands can be used both in the offseason to build arm strength and in-season to warm up prior to throwing. Like the PlyoCare balls, the bands come with an exercise guide to take users through the program (the exercise guide is also available here if you want to preview the exercises). Jaeger recently came out with an elite version of their resistance bands, though the only real difference there seems to be between the elite and the normal J-Bands is that the elite are multi-colored and $10 more expensive; J-Bands also come in a junior version for younger ballplayers.
If you’ve ever seen Bauer’s pregame warmup, you’ve seen him using this thing, and he’s been using it since the beginning of his career (the above video is from 2012). The shaking and twisting motions performed when using the tube are intended to increase blood flow, helping to loosen up the arm prior to throwing and aid in recovery after throwing. Essentially, this tube is a dynamic warmup for the shoulder, just like an athlete would do a dynamic warmup for their lower body. Using it might look wack, but if you throw gas no one’s going to object. Besides, everyone knows the painful feeling of throwing a ball with a tight arm, and anything that can help avoid that is worth a shot.
Driveline’s weighted balls are used for the same activities that a regular baseball is used for (long toss and mound work), hence the leather cover and seams. Throwing off the mound using these balls trains command, because mechanics have to stay consistent despite the different masses to hit a target with repetition. Using the heavier balls for long toss increases arm strength with the hope of ultimately increasing velocity from the mound, and if the video at the top of the post is any indication, long toss has worked for Bauer. At the very least, these balls serve as great props for an artsy sunset pic.
Do you use Driveline? Or any of the other products mentioned here? What are your thoughts on them? We’d love to have you be a part of the conversation!