The Pittsburgh Pirates had what has been described as a “cookie cutter” approach to player development under the leadership of former general manager Neal Huntington and former player development executives Kyle Stark and Larry Broadway.
This approach would largely focus each player on the same drills and development requirements, even if it didn’t make sense for their individual careers, or lead to negative results with their body and game. The approach would lead to also to rules that would restrict a player’s appearance on the pitch, as well as the amount of outside development assistance incorporated into a player’s plan.
To get an idea of ââhow things have changed, here are three examples of changes from the old developmental system to the new individualized system.
Strength can be weakness
Ji-Hwan Bae is not a great player. He’s 6 â² 1 â³, 185 pounds, and strength and power aren’t a big deal in his game.
Bae was one of the many players who saw the negative impacts on his body of the old universal strength program the Pirates had as part of their old player development system.
âGuys used to say ‘You have to get bigger and stronger and focus on hitting the ball harder,’â Bae said through a performer. âRight now it’s ‘You have to strengthen your strengths.’ The speed on the bag, the base, and things like that.
The concept here is simple. Bae shouldn’t be a heavy hitter. It was always expected that he would be a quick and quick infielder at best. Getting him to focus on a binding program that wasn’t designed specifically for him isn’t a way to ensure that he becomes that fast machine on the base.
Bae’s workouts helped him lose weight, due to a tireless cycle during the season. Bae would find himself tired after returning from an away game, feeling unable to lift. He would continue to lift and feel more tired after this session, rather than letting his body recover.
âEverything is now optional,â Bae said. âWe can do whatever I want. If I feel tired, I can rest. If I feel good, I feel good to go.
The irony of this is that Bae added more strength in 2021 as part of the new development approach, possibly because he had more time to recover. He’s hit seven home runs at Altoona this year, with an ISO of .135. He followed that up with two home runs and an ISO of .130 in the Arizona Fall League. And he’s used the time normally spent in weightlifting to focus on other areas of his game, including plenty of field exercises this year with Altoona coach Gary Green.
âIt’s much more satisfying,â Bae said of the current development approach. “I feel more comfortable playing.”
Dress as you want
The Pirates viewed individual uniform choices as the exclusive right of MLB players as part of Kyle Stark’s development system. Each player had to follow the same rules on how to wear their socks, pants and facial hair. Only MLB players had the option of choosing individual uniforms.
âThere were rules [in the old days] where you had to be clean shaven and wear tall pants in the game, and now you can be anything, âAltoona outfielder Matt Fraizer said of the old dress code. “I feel like it definitely helped let the players be themselves, and let the players be a little more loose and have more fun, which will get the best out of each player.”
The Pirates focused on developing their players to play the game more implicitly, which means relaxing and trusting their instincts. It is difficult to do this when you are wearing a restrictive uniform, unable to make adjustments for your comfort or self-expression. The Pirates removed some of this approach at the end of Stark’s race overseeing player development, but the new dress code is much more free for players.
Bring your own information
In the past, I have spoken with players who worked with personal trainers or who got new tips and approaches during the offseason. This was encouraged by the front office, but was not always a priority in the player’s development plan over what the development team had planned.
The new development system incorporates so much information from the hacker side, but allows players to have more voice and to implement techniques from outside the organization.
Greensboro starting pitcher Michael Burrows noted the difference between the old and the new system.
âIt just felt like you couldn’t really bring much to the table,â Burrows said of the old system. âAll that was on the table was what they were going to feed you. It was tough, but it’s so much better now. I’m really excited in the direction we’re going.
In an age when pitchers can watch instructional videos of other pitchers on their phones and one-on-one baseball development camps are emerging with all kinds of technology to help players understand their game, it should be encouraged. for players to go the extra mile. It is difficult to encourage this process when this external aid is not integrated into the development plan. Fortunately, this is no longer the case.
This week on hackers’ outlook
Hackers implement an individualized and collaborative player development system
Three examples of individual player development and how they’ve changed in the Pirates system
Players drive the bus, but pirate development coaches are the GPS
Looking to the Future of the Pirate System 2022: Bradenton Marauders
The Forgotten Prospect: Cody Bolton ready for revenge tour in 2022
Electric Jared Jones ahead of the curve in season one
Randy Romero shows better results with consistent play and more focused approach