BRADENTON, Fla. – During the lost minor league season of 2020, Vic Black started a new project.
The Pirates’ MiLB Pattern and Throwing Coordinator created a video library that gives pitchers the choice of mechanical tips and training videos. Each pitcher can reference these videos to gain insight on how to implement a desired change.
The project started when Black was taking videos of himself explaining different mechanical drills and development techniques to help players find ways to self-correct their own mechanics during the COVID season.
Ultimately, no matter how much coaching a player receives on their mechanics, they will need to know how to get back on track on their own — such as in the middle of a game when an inning is going bad.
Black started recording videos to send out to the prospects who were working at home. He then had players send in their own videos of their work.
“We realized it’s better for them to see themselves, or other players,” said Black.
Every video in the library is shot of a player by a coach, with Black requiring strict angles to maintain consistency of sight lines across the videos. The videos are all there to assist in player development, but as with anything, they require the player’s buy-in, which can be tough if a player is having success with poor mechanics.
“Typically when a player performs something bad, they know it,” said Black. “They don’t need us to tell them. When they do something good, they want to be affirmed it. We wait for those opportunities, but when they come to us about something, we’re like ‘Okay, they’re to a point where they realize there needs to be an adjustment.’”
Let’s say a pitcher wanted to work on his back load hinge. The library would give them 150 videos to choose from.
“From there, you can make any of those like ten more,” said Black of the library. “So, it allows for this constant change in variability, which is something we want, but it does have to target what we’re trying to accomplish.
The idea is to give the players options, so that they can find a drill that works for them out of a group of drills that all achieve the same end goal.
Want a player example? Let’s look at one of the most unique deliveries in the entire system: Anthony Solometo.
“A lot of what we look at in a delivery, there are different checkpoints, but there are main anchor points that do have to fit with everyone, per se,” said Black. “So, we want these stabilized positions throughout the delivery. So, with [Solometo], we look at those, and if we can firm those up and the others just round themselves off, then we’re in a good spot.”
In Solometo’s case, Black said he creates tension through his core and holding his hinge in the backside.
“That allows him to do the funkiness, and it still works,” said Black.
Solometo is an extreme example, and he also might be too new for the library. The Pirates have a smaller, introductory version for draft picks and new players to the system. Let’s look at this from the perspective of a player.
“Let’s say for example, I’m working on my backside, but one drill isn’t helping me,” said pitching prospect Tahnaj Thomas. “We have 15 other drills now that I can implement in my throwing program.”
This is an era where players can go to any number of offseason training facilities, or even watch tutorials on YouTube. The latter is exactly what Quinn Priester did in high school. He now has a much more customized and trusted resource from the Pirates.
“It’s great to be able to go to somebody who knows, and Vic is definitely one of those guys who understands the movement of throwing, inside and out,” said Priester.
One challenge with all of the competition is making sure the Pirates offered the best resource.
“We knew that they would go find it somewhere else,” said Black. “We believe that we offer the best product to our players. If that’s the case, then we want them here, and they wanted to be here this winter.”
The library concept is being expanded by the Pirates to position players for their throwing movements, which Black explained can be overlooked.
“A big thing is throwing with them, but it’s often something overlooked in the offseason, because they want to hit,” said Black. “It’s way cooler. It’s not as cool to throw.”
THIS WEEK ON PIRATES PROSPECTS
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.