By Rob MacDonald, AngelsWin.com Contributor
We learned that Doug White, the Astros bullpen coach in 2018, will replace Charles Nagy as pitching coach on Brad Ausmus staff. I had mixed emotions about the news. I liked Nagy’s knack for rehabilitating pitchers that other teams gave up on and I really liked the fact that a visit to the mound wasn’t going to pour gas on the fire like in the Butcher era. Besides the note from Jeff Fletcher that Doug White may be a surf bro’ of Ausmus, a possible reason given for his selection was to find a way to keep the staff healthy.
LA Times’ Maria Torres tweeted about White’s expertise in Z-Health. Per bengreenfitness.com, Z-Health is a training method that strengthens the nervous system through efficient movement patterns which in turn maximizes the body’s efficiency. My optimism on White’s selection was the fact that he was coming from the Astros organization.
For the past four years, I was an assistant coach at Catalina High School (Tucson, AZ), where my son played. Our program made arm health a priority using a mix of the Driveline’s weighted baseball and Jaeger Sports J band and long toss programs to protect our players’ arms.
In 2017, Ben Fife joined the Catalina coaching staff and gave our program something invaluable, access to a major league resource from the Astros organization. Catalina baseball benefited from the insights and approaches taken by the Astros and it was an education for all the coaches. (For the record, Ben did not have time to ask permission and out of respect for that friendship, I am not including the name of his friend in the Astros organization.)
The Astros resource is someone well versed in their pitching philosophy. Based on the tips shared with Ben over the past two years, I think I can provide some insights on what Doug White may bring to the Angels in 2019. First there will likely be an increased focus on mechanics. The Z-Health method will likely be used to help pitchers maintain control of their body throughout their delivery. I expect a renewed focus on core strength and flexibility in support of that goal. Another clue this may happen comes from Brandon Sneed’s article “How Kate Upton Saved Justin Verlander’s Career.” Beside the relationship between Verlander and Upton, the article covers how Justin Verlander regained his flexibility to use his whole body correctly. The adjustments he made reduced the strain on his shoulder allowing Verlander to regain his form – damn it. We were advised to use short, twenty pitch bullpens that focus just on mechanics. Points of emphasis we received were hand separation, alignment, and using full arm rotation in the delivery. Separate bullpen sessions focused on pitch control and spin rate. The Astros are big on maximizing spin rate to add movement to pitches. Good movement on pitches reduces the need to go maximum effort on every pitch while still getting swings and misses. Fewer max effort pitches will likely prolong the life span of the UCL. Our use of the Driveline program was encouraged and Ben was told to track pitch movement and speed in the bullpens to ensure the program was effective.
The tips received from our source, helped Catalina to a 24-6 record. We made a run in the state championship tournament losing to the eventual champion. Most important, all of our players made it through the season without arm issues. With any luck, Doug White will be able to keep the Angels staff healthy and all the noise about Mike Trout not being the playoffs will go away.