Talent Is Overrated
Earlier today, Chris Archer did a radio interview on MLB Network Radio with Mike Ferrin and Kevin Kennedy (full archive available online to SiriusXM subscribers). In that interview, Archer offered insight to his recent injury, his thoughts on Alex Cobb’s return, his changeup , and how the pitchers on the staff rub off on one another. He also talked about the amount of work he puts in to his craft.
Ferrin asked whether Archer’s routine had changed this late into the season and Archer had a rather insightful response:
The volume in my routine now is cut back. I like to get off the mound two times in between starts and get a fair amount of conditioning and lifting in. I’m in a maintenance phase so I have to work smart and not overwork. I throw on days 2 and 4; 10 low intensity throws over the rubber so it’s not foreign the next day. Being young and feeling good will benefit me more than it will harm me.
Archer throwing off the mound twice in between starts is unique. In a 2011 piece by MLB.com’s Bill Chastain and Anthony Chiang, they described Jeremy Hellickson’s routine as such:
Some of the work the Rays’ starters do between starts can begin with a light upper-body workout immediately following the outing. The following day involves a strenuous leg workout with weights along with approximately 20-25 minutes of cardiovascular exercise — which sometimes entails a three-mile run outside.
Day two is a bullpen day, which involves the pitchers’ only session throwing off a mound before their next start. Normally, they will throw 35 to 40 pitches, though that number can vary based on many different factors. Cardio work of 20 to 25 minutes usually follows a bullpen session.
Day three brings another leg workout with lighter weights than the other workout and a bunch of cardio work that can include “poles,” where they run from one foul pole on the field to the other, or they might run sprints.
The fourth day is the one immediately preceding the starter’s next outing, and most of the pitchers like to run sprints and shag balls in the outfield.
All of the starters play catch every day and play long toss the day before their start.
Archer’s routine is different because it is something that works for him. This is something David Epstein touched on in a recent interview about his book, The Sports Gene:
People need to pay attention to their training plans, because if something is not working for you as well as the next guy, it may be your biology, so you should try another plan. If you’re not taking a trial-and-error approach to training where you’re measuring something your time, you’re way less likely to find a plan that works for you. The cookie cutter approach to training is purely a facet of having a large group of people to train.
Archer mentioned he got his workout routine from reading the book Talent is Overrated by Geoff Colvin. It is Colvin’s belief that success is not simply a product of hard work or natural talent. In fact, success comes from a specific kind of effort, something he terms “deliberate practice.” Archer described how he combined what he learned from Colvin with Dr. Anders Ericcson’s 1990 theory that it takes someone 10,000 hours or repetitions to become an expert.
(The throwing program) is something I did when I was struggling with my command. It isn’t a policy, but is based on feel for each guy. I read “Talent is Overrated” and it talked about how you need to 10,000 hours or reps to maximize your potential at something. Throwing at flat ground is one thing, but throwing off the bump is another. The closer I can get to my 10,000 reps, the closer I can get to my potential. The extra ten throws on those throwing days work out to be an extra 300 throws over the season which gets me closer to my goal.”
I think it gets a little forgotten because people correlate throwing off the mound as being intense & tough on the body. The more you condition yourself the less stressful it is. If you’re there to throw 35 pitches, maximize the purpose of all 35. Be mindful of all 35. Be mindful of the ten on the day before & you will benefit tremendously. I’m mindful of every throw without having to use maximum intensity so it becomes first nature rather than second nature out there on the mound.
With each interview he conducts, Chris Archer continues to demonstrate he is as intelligent as he is talented.