BY KEVIN KERNAN
Help is needed.
The number of injuries to pitchers, their lack of command, and their inability to remain consistent all combine to raise one giant red flag.
There’s something wrong with the system. To that end, former first-round Dodgers draft pick Justin Orenduff believes he has discovered key answers for pitchers in a system that he founded. He’s in the midst of a fascinating journey with his Delivery Value System.
Here at The Story we try to provide answers, as well as question what is going on in baseball. That’s why we’re taking a closer look at DVS Baseball and the DVS Scoring System, created by Orenduff. This system was built as a product of Orenduff’s pitching career and deep research into throwing patterns among pitchers, including testing and validating the scoring system over a five-year period.
If you’re a pitcher, or your child is a pitcher, this is something you should know about. This is the coming together of both data and heartbeat.
“We do it from the functional perspective,’’ Orenduff told BallNIne. “There are things in the game from a core standpoint that will always be there. You are getting to a point now where it is data driven, analytical driven; but we got players out on the field who have heartbeats and some of that stuff you can’t quantify.”
“Whether it was Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Whitey Ford, Satchel Paige, or Warren Spahn, those guys got to 2,000 or 3,000 innings before there was an injury. The human body can do it.”
“I think the thing now in Major League Baseball, the guys who can be on the field who can instill trust in the players, I always use the terminology “move the needle,” which is okay, you got this model and this data that says X; well, I can go out on the field and help that guy and change the course of his metrics. That’s teaching,’’ Orenduff explained. “That’s coaching. So many of the guys have been stripped of that power because they haven’t been able to put their information and knowledge into some sort of spreadsheet and data form, which makes sense to somebody.’’
Orenduff is merging two worlds.
“I was a starting pitcher but now you just don’t have the core group of starting pitchers who stay together,’’ Orenduff said.
That’s for sure. Just over the last few days in the AL East the Yankees lost starter Luis Severino to another injury, a shoulder issue and reliever Miguel Castro (also shoulder); and the Rays lost starter Shane Baz due to an elbow sprain. I counted eight MLB pitchers down with injuries over the last two days.
It’s an epidemic of injuries and no one has the answer how to stem the tide.
“It’s always an up and down transaction game,’’ Orenduff told me of life in MLB. “So when I started looking at this starting pitching angle, you hear stories and you go, ‘Is development really happening?’ Because we have a lot of gadgets, we have a lot of resources, but are they really getting guys to the next step, or is it just the luck of the draw?’’
That is the $300 million question.
Orenduff points out that a lot of pitchers are now using private businesses to help further their skill set and less of the MLB team itself.
“That just makes no sense to me,’’ Orenduff said. “I’m like there is so much more that can happen.’’
Orenduff’s focus is to educate the baseball community on that cycle of information and the movements within the pitching delivery that cause injury; and he was able to do a lot of his work with the United Shore Professional Baseball League.
“We sat every pitcher down and gave them a 30-minute presentation, saying here’s where you are and here is where we can help you,’’ Orenduff said. “My job was to sell the league and sell the program, it was not like everybody listened – but we had about 20 percent of the guys who truly dove in, improved and we could say, ‘Well now you are marketable to an MLB organization.’ It was such a great thing to be a part of and it was great to know you could make a huge difference. So I did that until last year.’’
Here is the DVS System, and you can find out more about it on their Facebook page “DVS Baseball,” on Twitter @DVSbaseball, or at DVS.Baseball.com, and their motto is simple: We Make Pitchers Better.
“A lot of this stems from my career with the Dodgers,’’ said Orenduff, the 33rd pick of the 2004 draft who was a member of Team USA in 2003 in the Pan American Games on a staff that included Justin Verlander, Huston Street, and Jered Weaver. “I was a first-round pick and I had a lot of success early; got to Double-A and then I had shoulder surgery. I tell everybody DVS essentially started when I woke up from surgery.
The surgeon said “this injury is a product of how you threw the baseball.”
“Fast forward, I got back to the Dodgers but I wasn’t the same guy because of what we see all the time now, my movement pattern. I refer to the word sequencing, the time I get the baseball in my hand and what drives my first movement towards home plate,’’ Orenduff said. “It starts that early. I retired, I got my degree in business, and I said, there has to be a way we can look back at the history of the game, whether it was Steve Carlton, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Nolan Ryan, Whitey Ford, Satchel Paige, or Warren Spahn, those guys got to 2,000 or 3,000 innings before there was an injury. The human body can do it.”
“I just started there, I found pictures, video, data, and over five years I slowly built what is now referred to as the Delivery Value System; that’s the biomechanics model that we use to quantify how well a pitcher sequences through the delivery.”
“I’m not looking at speed and torque and time, I’m looking at if you start a movement, this joint is going to cross this joint and we are going to explain what that means. I went to my business partner, Josh Myers, who got his Masters in statistics, how can I quantify this so this is not just Justin Orenduff’s pitching philosophy?’’
Myers also was a pitcher, so there’s heart and soul in this program – as well as data.
“We put out a formal study which is a survival analysis and we had about 450 current and former pitchers and we assigned a DVS Score,’’ Orenduff explained.
“The DVS Score is made up of six components and each component is graded zero to four. So we assign a score to each component and the total components equal the DVS score. For example we can have a pitcher who looks like Justin Verlander, who is an 18 and a Clayton Kershaw, who is a 19. The top score is 24 … The MLB average is 14; 11 or 12 is a danger zone.’’
Clearly anything below 11 is a major problem. The goal is to get danger zone pitchers to 16 or 18 within three to six months. The higher the number, the higher the number of pitches a pitcher can handle.
“Verlander and Kershaw look different but their scores are close,’’ Orenduff said. “The core things that relate to injury risk and or longevity, they have in common. Those are the core things we focused on. I didn’t care how hard they threw. I didn’t care about how much vertical break or horizontal break they have on their breaking ball, I was just truly saying, if you sign a pitcher on average is he going to be more at risk than that guy, and how long will he be able to go so he gives value to your organization?’’
That is some breakthrough information.
DVS Bullpen Instruction
“My next question was: ‘What if we improve a pitcher’s DVS score, what happens then?’ I’m a 12, what if I go to a 15, what if I go to a 17? So we went up to this league in Michigan and we were in control of all the pitching and what we basically did was we put guys in the program if they wanted to do it. You have to build trust. We were looking at it from a health perspective first and foremost; improve recovery, get rid of your soreness, get rid of your pain, and help you be more efficient with this sequencing. All of a sudden by improving how efficient you are we started to get gains in ball velocity. But we are not out there promoting velocity; and over the next several years it just became a part of what we do.’’
That is some amazing result. Scouts noticed too.
“All of sudden those guys became reliable and marketable to an MLB organization,’’ Orenduff said. “Granted most of our guys are going to Rookie Ball but that’s okay, that was our mission.’’
The program works for any age, and obviously you want young pitchers using proper mechanics.
“We started working with youth players, college players, professional players,’’ Orenduff said. “Ultimately we are trying to get you to a point where the timing is good enough where you can execute ball flight in the zone and let the movement of the pitch do the work for you, pitch to contact and let’s get back to moving the game along.’’
Count me in on all that. Just watch one MLB game with nibbling pitchers, four-hour games and wild pitches galore.
“If you can control the flight of the baseball across one pitch, two pitches, three pitches, you are going to be successful in the zone,’’ Orenduff said. “If you got great stuff behind it, all those metrics that we try to quantify, will be there. And we are going to be able to monitor your health, your recovery, and allow you to keep doing it for hopefully as long as you can. That’s really our whole process, that’s what we want to do for you.’’
We Make Pitchers Better.
Justin Orenduff at the USPBL Championship
All that is fascinating and is much needed throughout baseball. Orenduff is in touch with a lot of people in the game as well, including pitchers, so he is constantly seeking new information. There is an App, too, for DVS Baseball.
My friend Dave Dagostino, a former pro player and head college baseball coach, runs a successful youth program out of Myrtle Beach, S.C. called 1-on-1 and he operates a variety of camps and clinics, and he’s involved with the Triple Crown Summer Nationals this month. He is impressed with the DVS program.
What makes it particularly interesting, Dagostino said, “Is they are trying to educate the parents how to be the first educator of their child when it comes to pitching or throwing – and to arm them with the information and the know-how, to a degree, to just monitor the player.’’
It’s all about the kinetic chain.
“In the beginning, it’s a lot of dry work, 80-20, so it’s teaching the body to move the way it is supposed to move without the stress of the ball,’’ Dagostino explained. “Once you learn, it flips, 80-20 the other way, 20 percent dry work and 80 percent with the ball.
“It‘s dealing with the long-term health of a young athlete and it’s bringing about awareness, instead of overhaul,’’ Dagostino said. “Health and function are priority No. 1, that’s what I like. It’s also teaching pitchers how to get outs; it’s pitch to contact.
“Everybody keeps throwing more information out there without trying to figure stuff out.’’
DVS Baseball wants you, the pitcher, to figure it out.
The DVS Twitter page also has some interesting information, including an article entitled: “New Case Study: The Decline of MLB Starters.”
The DVS mission statement says the system was created in light of the current epidemic of throwing related injuries in the game of baseball. The surgery rate among pitchers has continued to rise over the past decade due to various culture-related factors, including an increased emphasis on throwing velocity, college scholarships, and year-round playing. Among these a pitcher’s mechanical pattern plays a vital role in either placing more or less stress on a pitcher’s throwing arm. That pretty much says it all.
“Whether or not somebody sits in a room and agrees with everything about sequencing that we come up with, the goal should be the same,’’ Orenduff said about Major League teams. “We’ve got to get value and we’ve got to keep them healthy. We want to see how well they start to fulfill the investment we put in them.’’
It’s not just about the hand break in the delivery, it’s about “what’s attached to the ground,’’ said Orenduff, who officially began this DVS journey in 2014. The back foot and ankle are key.
“At the end of the day, it’s sequencing,’’ Orenduff said. And it’s more than just holding an iPad in your hands to show the way. “Pitchers want to know how they can maximize what they can do,’’ Orenduff said with passion in his voice. “But rarely are they going to have that trust for a guy who’s just standing behind the iPad giving them data. Show me, let me feel it, let me experience it.’’
Orenduff has the data experience and the pitching experience to show pitchers.
“I’m going to talk it and walk it,’’ he said, “and I get the same motivation working with a 12-year-old who is super excited and passionate about pitching as I would with a 30-year-old guy that is in the big leagues. I’m rooting for you. I just want to help.’’
Pitchers of all ages need the help.