Philosophy

Hardball Times- The Paul Nyman Interview

I don’t talk about pitching or hitting mechanics. What I talk about are swing and throw mechanics. Pitching is doing everything to defeat the batter and win the game. Hitting is doing everything to defeat the pitcher and win the game. I prefer the terms “throwing mechanics” and “swing mechanics.”

My biggest breakthrough came when I started looking at the swing and throw as systems problems. And by systems problem, I mean that most discussions regarding swing mechanics and throwing mechanics are based upon a reductionist approach—if you break the swing or throw down into small enough pieces, then eventually you’ll discover the secret of how the body swings and throws most effectively.

In my opinion, much of what is purported to be pitching or hitting mechanics is an inability to see the forest because of the trees, the trees being the treatment of symptoms of throwing or swinging as opposed to understanding the overall process.

A systems perspective is based more on the belief that the whole is greater than some of the parts … that the body is composed of a large number of what might be called subsystems. And that the systems can be combined in a synergistic fashion to yield in optimum swing or throw performance. No better example of this synergy is in understanding that much of what the body does to swings or throws is based upon the principle of cracking the whip—that somehow the large, slow-moving body parts get transformed into very fast small moving body parts and, ultimately, the ball or the bat.

In terms of how the body swings a bat or throws a baseball, I see very little difference in terms of the physics and physiology. To throw a baseball 100 mph the same physics are applicable no matter who throws the baseball. The same physics that explain how an arm can throw a baseball 100 mph also explain why a hitter can swing a bat 100 mph. The bottom line is that there is that there is very little difference between swinging a bat and throwing a baseball when it comes to moving an object through time and space.

And my opinion is that the differentiation between hitting coaches and pitching coaches really only applies to how to get batters out or how to get base hits off pitchers. It has very little do with how the body swings and throws.

Last, but not least, is that the greatest opportunity for understanding how to develop high-level performance lies in a better understanding of how the body acquires and creates movement skills.

I don’t want to use the word “science” to describe our philosophies. Far too many people have attempted to differentiate themselves by using the word science or by implying science in their methodology. If anything, much of their science is pseudoscience and has done a great disservice to the word science and to those who are really trying to understand how the body optimally swings and throws.

Also critical to the process is the ability to measure and quantify. This comes from my track and field background. The two sports most responsible for improvements and breakthroughs in training science are track and field and swimming, for one simple reason: You can, more than for any other sports, measure cause-and-effect. When you can measure fractions of an inch and hundreds of a second, you are better able to understand what works.

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