Mailbag: Instruction, Halladay, Brown, Lidge, and more…

Before I get started on this week’s entry, I would like to thank everyone for reading my blog and for your kind words.  As a result of your interest and participation in this blog, I have received many good questions.

Since I have received so many questions, I will devote this entry to answering some of them.  Also, in the future, please send your questions to me via email at mschwimer@yahoo.com rather than posting your questions in the comments section of the blog.  This would be very much appreciated.

I received a handful of questions regarding instruction. I picked this one from Jeff in New Jersey.

Hey Mike, I was wondering how much individual instruction you get from either the pitching coach or minor league pitching coordinator? Do they just check in with you periodically or do they work with you more often?

On a day to day basis I work with the Clearwater pitching coach, Dave Lundquist (Lundy).  He is the kind of pitching coach that only speaks up about mechanics when he sees something that needs to be fixed.  This might seem like an obvious thing, but I hear stories from many of my friends in other organizations that have changed their deliveries and pitch sequencing drastically for what they deem to be no reason at all.  Lundy’s “if it aint broke, don’t fix it” mentality is very refreshing for me as a pitcher because I know that when he does suggest an adjustment, it is always correct and will make me better.  For example, during the first half of the season, I had been on top of my game and Lundy did not say much to me about mechanics.  My first outing after the all star break was 6 days after my previous outing.  I thought I could throw light touch and a few bullpens to keep my mechanics in check. I was sorely mistaken.  (Note: I am really ok with making mistakes, especially in the minor leagues because one of my strengths is learning from mistakes and not repeating them.  I figure the more lessons I learn now, the more it will help me in the future) Anyway, I had developed bad mechanics that I did not even realize.  Lundy has helped me make some adjustments in order to maintain good downhill leverage and really get over my front knee.  I would have never been able to figure this out by myself and make the appropriate changes.  In doing so, my velocity has increased from an average of  90-91 and touching 92-93 to an average if 92-93 and touching 94. I attribute all of these increases to my time spent with Lundy.

Gorman Heimueller (Gorm) is the pitching coordinator for the entire minor leagues.  He will stop in about once a month for a series or two to see our progress.  He has been around the game for a long time and knows more about pitching then anyone I have ever come across.  Gorm’s chief concern is that each of us has a plan and a reason for our mechanics and pitch sequences.  For example, the first thing he asked me was why I pitched from the left side of the rubber.  When I replied, “That is just how I did it in college.  I do not know why I do it.” He told me that excuse is no longer valid and that I needed reasons behind my decisions.  After he explained to me the logical benefits from switching to the right side of the rubber I realized he was right and I changed.  Another example came this year when he asked me why I started the number 8 hitter off with a changeup.  I explained that I had faced him in college many times and that he is a first ball – fastball hitter.  He was happy that I had a reason and that I was thinking on the mound.  The last thing you ever want to say to Gorm if he asked why you threw a certain pitch is, “I threw it because the catcher called it.”

I did get to work with Gorm on a day to day basis in the Instructional League.  That month I got more results as a pitcher than any other month of my life.  I was able to command my changeup for the first time in my life.  I was also able to see how uncomfortable a hitter gets after pounding them inside with the fastball.  Both of these lessons are taught to all pitchers at young ages, but it was not until I saw it work for me that I learned to trust it.

Do you notice an increase in scouts due to the Halladay situation?- John from Philly

At any minor league game, there could be a scout from any team at any time and it is impossible for a player to determine what team a scout is from.  However, my family was in town during our 8 game road stand at West Palm Beach 2-3 weeks ago.  My dad likes to sit right behind home plate and he happened to be sitting next to a scout with a radar gun.  He struck up a conversation and he turned out to be an advanced scout for the Toronto Blue Jays.  (Note: Brown was on the DL at that point in the season)

What is your opinion on your teammate Dominic Brown and what do you see of his potential for the Phillies?- Chris

Dominic Brown is the definition of a 5 tool player.  There isn’t anything on the baseball field he cannot do and anyone that follows him knows that.  What you do not know about Dominic Brown is that he is a very humble man (far more humble then I would be if I had his skills).  He has great respect for his teammates and the game of baseball.  Whenever one of us needs a ride or a favor of any sort, we know Brownie will always help us out.  It is very hard to match great talent with such great character which is why I will be completely shocked if he does not have a long and successful major league career.

I coach high school baseball and I feel that high school players are bored by stretching and throwing.  I tell them how long tossing builds your arm up and how important it is but when they get on the field they are so anxious to go out and compete and tend to rush through it.  As a minor league prospect, what advise can you give to a high school pitcher about the importance of stretching and throwing?-Nick

First, I commend and admire you being a high school baseball coach and I encourage everyone to get involved with the game we love in some way or another.  As for your question, the most important thing is they long toss with correct mechanics.  Kids tend to get lazy when they long toss by falling over to their glove side and slinging the ball to their partner.  This can be detrimental to a pitcher because it will increase the risk of injury as well as cause bad pitching mechanics.  In the off season I do pitching lessons and I explain the importance of every throw as part of a continuum.  Each throw they make they are either getting better or worse and it is up to them as to which direction they go.  If they want to rush through it and be lazy then they will get worse as a player.  However, if they take each throw seriously and focus on one or two aspects of their delivery, then over time they will become far more consistent.  In terms of stretching, I am a fan of band work instead of the traditional “arm across your chest” approach.  The band offers ample resistance and really stretches out every part of your rotator cuff.  It is also important to get your legs stretched out as I see a direct correlation in lazy mechanics to tight leg muscles.

As a closer, were you able to get any advice from Brad Lidge when he made a rehab appearance? If so, what kind of advice did he give to you?-Brian

As a minor league player, it is always exciting when a big leaguer comes down.  Not only do you get to see him pitch, but you get to rack his brain and try to get information that will help your own pitching attack.  (Note: For all of you that were against Manny spending 15 days in the minor leagues because it was a “disgrace to the suspension” you are sorely mistaken.  Any time big leaguers come down to the minors it helps the fans, players, and most importantly, the game itself.)  The thing I got most out of the Lidge appearance was his description of his 3 slider variations.  He uses each one differently, depending upon the reaction of the hitter.  I also throw a slider and have 2 variations, but he explained the importance of adding the 3rd variation to keep lefties at bay.  Since his meeting, I have tried it a few times and I have had good success with it.

Last week’s comment of the week comes from Mike,
“And as far as shagging balls couldn’t they get some kid to do it for say a weeks’ time and in turn give them a tour of the clubhouse? I’m sure you’d get plenty of kids to do it as well as many adults too.”


I personally think that would be a brilliant idea that benefits everyone.  A little league team would love to do it, the players would love the break, and the organization would love it because they would be doing a great thing for the community.  The only problem may be one of liability, especially if someone gets hit by a ball.

If I missed one of your questions, there is a good chance I will get to it next week when I respond to your questions about scouts and the process of drafting pitchers.

66 thoughts on “Mailbag: Instruction, Halladay, Brown, Lidge, and more…

  1. Liked all those K’s in your last outing. To me a future set up guy or closer must rack up the K’s or throw ground balls and pound the strike zone to ever hope to pitch effectively in the hitter friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park. For example Kendrick, as an effective starter who garnered NL ROY votes in 07, had few K’s but his GO/FO ratio was 1.47. Last year he had trouble keeping his pitches down and he is now in AAA. Keep up the good work.

  2. Wahoowa Mike. I look forward to you striking out Ryan Zimmerman with the bases loaded late in the game.

  3. Great Q&A. You really provide some great insights. I especially liked the response about instruction.

  4. This is some of the most informative stuff I have ever read as to what REALLY goes on in professional baseball. Thanks Mike!

  5. Mike,

    great stuff on Dom Brown (I was for trading him for Halladay but now i’m second guessing myself)

    Thanks for responding to the comment on having kids shag balls for you. I have a 13 year old and I and he (if we were in Clearwater) would gladly sign a waiver if we got that opportunity and I’m sure most on here would too but I understand the reason for the concern for their safety. They really don’t realize how hard some of those balls are hit.

  6. I agree that having kids shagging BP becomes too big of an issue, even if you have them sign waivers. Even if you don’t get sued, the carnage/delays caused by 11-12 year-old kids taking line drives on the noggins isn’t worth it..

    As for the overall post, great insight once again. Nothing like a first-hand report to get a better understanding of how the system works.

  7. Great contribution to a great site. During the season this is the first place I go after Fantasy Baseball…I don’t comment too much, but the insight that Mike is providing into the life of a minor leaguer is awesome! I love hearing about mechanics and the instruction that guys get down there.

    Keep it coming Mike!

    Thanks PP for setting this up.

  8. Fantastic Mike. As a former Phillie minor leaguer, you’re giving great insight on being a MiLB guy.

    Keep up the great work.

  9. Are you saying you used to be a Former Phillie minor leaguer, or were you referring to Mike? Just curious.

  10. Before reading your most elegantly written, sensitively informative comments, I thought I couldn’t be prouder to be your grandfather, I was wrong.
    M looking forward to the next edition. By the way, I’ll not be surprised to learn soon that someone wants you to compile your works for publication. I imagine that a few more editions like the two you’ve produced could be successfully marketed.
    94.1 Wow!

  11. “(Note: For all of you that were against Manny spending 15 days in the minor leagues because it was a “disgrace to the suspension” you are sorely mistaken. Any time big leaguers come down to the minors it helps the fans, players, and most importantly, the game itself.)”

    I respectfully disagree. Of course having star caliber players on the field is good for the game at any level. But I feel having two sets of standards for the majors and minor leagues undermines the credibility of the minors. After all, will Pablo Ozuna be allowed to rehab in Reading after 40 games of his suspension?

  12. if susdorf moves to reading, gets 100 ab’s and hits .275 he’s then a prospect. I don’t think he would have a problem achieving that.

  13. ahaha Jeff ur a nut…and that avatar/pic of the dog taking a dump makes me LOL everytime i see it

  14. mike a serious question. do you play fantasy baseball? and do you know what fip or babip is. we seem to be having a generational debate here. btw thanks for the answer.

  15. All right, great read and you struck out the side last night. I think you need to post more mailbags, it seems to be working for you!

  16. Mike,
    Wow, GREAT stuff – very impressive read.

    Congrats on the 3 k save, equally impressive!

    Thanks for contributing to the site, we readers definitely appreciate it!

  17. Mr. Schwimer: See that you have struck out the last eight batters in a row you faced over your last two outings. How did you do that?

  18. John,
    next weeks entry will be devoted to the scouting and drafting process, in that i will cover sabremetrics and its values

  19. Hey, wait a minute Mike. You said you got up around 11 & noon. You answered John’s post at 9am. Let’s keep to your normal habits and rituals, aye. We don’t want to stop that consecutive K streak. I guess eventually somebody’s got to get lucky and hit a weak grounder to the infield. Let’s hope the infielders haven’t fallen asleep waiting for something hit their way.

    Keep up the great work! I got a couple of Red Sox fans and a Met fan reading your stuff. Their loving it too.

  20. couple things
    first, to 64 survivor, you can call me schwim. Everyone calls me schwim including my parents, which is very weird.
    second, i love the convo about sabermetrics, but sabermetrics has nothing to do with fantasy baseball so if we can keep those two topics mutually exclusive that would be great

  21. Thanks for your views “Schwim”
    Nolan Ryan used to ride the bike after he pitched probably
    helping his arm by pump fresh blood into it. Do you ride the bike at all, or is that impossible in the minors.
    BTW we want more KKKKKKKKKKKKs

  22. Schwim – I’ve always wondered, who supplies your bats, gloves and cleats? Is that the team or do you already have a contract with a supplier at this level or is it out of your pocket? If it’s out of your pocket I’d be dying to know what your per hour ends up being after cost!

  23. Guys, Schwim has an email address that he specifically asked us to use for questions. Please start using it. It is linked at the top.

    mschwimer at yahoo dot com

  24. I believe there are team bats available, but many of the players prefer their own bat, and therefore pay for them out of pocket. Unless, of course, they are sponsored, and I believe they occasionally receive bats from their agents.

    I also think that gloves and cleats are also OOP unless they are sponsored.

    Considering he’s not batting at that level, I doubt he has that as an expense (think about some of those position players though!). That’s my assumption, anyways.

  25. Equipment is shared throughout the organization by everyone. High-draftees ususally pass out the extra gear they receive throughout the year. However, I did have to pay a discounted prices for a pair of cleats, since I was a FA signee.

    When I played, my roommate was a sandwich pick and received gear from every possible manufacturer. So I benefitted, as well as our closest friends in the system.

    Also, there is a dark side of getting gear. Agents randomly send gear to athletes represented by other agencies in hopes of stealing them away. Wasserman Media Group is notorious for doing this – whereas they’ll send cleats/gloves/bats/anything to steal a player away.

  26. PhilLee who was the sandwich pick you roomed with, as it would be interesting to see if he has amounted to anything.

  27. Ehockeyman,

    He’s one of the top prospects in the organization. I’d rather not give his name out, since I’m not too sure if he’d appreciate it, haha.

    From these clues, you can take wild guesses:
    - Batting .300+ over his last 100 ABs.
    - His overall numbers would suggest he’s struggling this year, but from my sources he’s been unlucky.
    - Plays a premium position.
    - Projected to be with the big club in 2011 or early 2012.

  28. cmon PhilLee you know its your duty to put a buddy call in to him and get him to blog…Getting a catcher to go along with Schwim would be an awesome contrast to everyday life, not to mention his first hand scouting reports on some of the pitchers hes caught…Duty calls Lee

  29. although i know i’d be a tad intimidated(grammatically) to post after Schwims well written articles

  30. Schwim is a college guy – not to mention apparently well-spoken too.

    I’ll see what I can muster up during the offseason.

  31. Another great writeup. Congrats on your success and I hope to see you moved up to Reading soon.

    PhilLee, after some minor research, I would like to submit a guess that you are former Phillies farmhand Liam Shanahan.

  32. The Artist – and to the rest,

    I rather not disclose my full name since many minor leaguers do check this site out frequently. But if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to e-mail me at eric@seminarasports.com.

    So, as you can see.. I’m not Liam. However, I played AAU baseball with him when we were 14 – By the way, hell of a team… Liam, myself, Jeff Allison (Marlin’s 1st Rounder in 2003) and Matt Antonelli (Padres 1st Rounder in 2007).

  33. Just wondering if you work for that company PhillLee?

    Also, maybe I missed the post, but Schwimm had 3K’s Tuesday night in an inning of work.

  34. response to equiptment,
    I would estimate that 80% or more of the players on the Threshers have agents. Agents keep us in supply of pretty much anything we need that has to do with the game of baseball. Also, a few people have actual contracts with companies, so they wear that companies stuff and get paid a small sum of money. The vast majority of us are just happy that we do not have to pay for anything baseball related.

  35. been reading this blog for awhile without commenting, but had to step up and speak for this post–it’s absolutely fantastic, big thanks to Schwim. Great to see this site growing and evolving.

    As for PhilLee–I figured out who you must be, but will respect your choice to stay anonymous except to say that if others really want to know, he’s given us enough info to figure it out thanks to the magic of the internet.

  36. “since many minor leaguers do check this site out frequently.”

    That is beyond awesome.

    PhilLee thank you for stopping by and sharing some info.

  37. PhilLee, you have to get D’Arnaud on here, like mentioned above it would be awesome to see the pitchers we can’t stop talking about critiqued from the catchers point of view.

  38. Ehockeyman,

    Only issue with d’Arnaud giving thoughts on pitchers is that he still plays with these guys and to critique them to the public may not be the best.

    I really struggled in the first half of the season I played and was out of my mind frustrated, eventually I figured everything out in the second half.. But I’m not sure if I would have been pleased that my buddy was openly sharing info during that time.

    I think Q&A with little information on prospects is the way to go. And Schwim (whom I never met) is doing an excellent job.

  39. PhilLee,
    not necessarily critiqued them, but give us a report from the catchers point of view. Perhaps something like, was able to locate fastball well, which set up his changeup. Basic stuff like that, not saying that the pitcher had a terrible day or needed to change things.

  40. E,

    Fair enough. But these guys get so little time between games, etc.

    So for the fact Schwim is doing this is incredible.

  41. Any amount of “reporting”, no matter how edited for content, can be taken the wrong way – a catcher, no offense to Schwimer here, has one of the hardest jobs in having to earn the trust of all the pitchers on a given squad; even talking about what they do well can easily be perceived as what they didn’t do well, for example.

    Pitchers have to have mound presence, and confidence, and I would guess that thinking their catcher is analyzing their performance to be deseminated to the public could potentially damage that pitcher/catcher relationship.

    Maybe a “day in the life of a top prospect” could be possible, but I certainly wouldn’t blame him if he turned down commenting on any of the pitchers’ ‘stuff’, or danced around giving any particulars.

  42. plus D’Arnaud may not even be with the organization come next week as Toronto has had their eye on him (heard they wanted to draft him originally?) for part of a Halladay trade.

  43. PhilLee,
    you are right after reading Schwims column he seems to have a pretty busy day along with the fact that catchers need to gain the pitchers trust. Pitchers are kind of like goalies in hockey. Being a goalie, your whole team relies on you just like a pitcher is relied upon.

  44. PhilLee,
    By the way, congrats on making it as far as you did. Most of us, if not all, would have loved to get the shot you did. You must have real talent. The call from Gene Schall must have been awesome.

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