ChrisOLeary.com > About Chris O'Leary

About Chris O'Leary

I never set out to be a pitching and hitting guru.

Instead, I wanted to be Steve Jobs.

My brief baseball dreams were damaged when I hurt my arm trying to copy Dan Quisenberry and Kent Tekulve. They were then finished off when my dad tried to help me with my hitting and bought Charley Lau's book The Art of Hitting .300.

Then, a funny thing happened.

In trying to help my kids and others, I put together a flipbooks analysis of Albert Pujols' swing that caught the eye of a career minor leaguer named Andres Torres. I helped him rebuild his swing and get a World Series ring with the 2010 San Francisco Giants.

Since then, I've worked with a number of major leaguers, including 2016 MLB home run champion Mark Trumbo. I've also helped fix the swings of Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta.

But don't tell anybody.

Some people get angry when their hitters listen to or are helped by Internet Guys.

When Things Changed

When I got back into the game, I hadn't played organized baseball beyond grade school due to a shoulder injury sustained due to throwing and pitching incorrectly and some really bad advice about hitting mechanics.

When my sons started to play baseball, I was just a dad -- who happened to be fascinated by the subjects of innovation and entrepreneurship -- who helped out with my kids' teams but never intended to make a living, much less a difference, doing it.

The moment when everything changed was when my older son showed an interest in pitching, and quickly turned out to be pretty good.

Not wanting what happened to me to happen to him, I decided to educate myself about pitching mechanics. As a result, I read literally every book I could find on the subject.

What was weird was every book contradicted every other book, at least to a degree. One book would say this was the BEST thing you could do and another would say it was the WORST thing you could do.

As a result, I decided to dive into the science and find out what the research actually said. That didn't go any better, but it turned out to be a life-changing experience.

How Innovation Starts

The thing that started me on the path to this point was paragraph in a 2002 article in The American Journal of Sports Medicine entitled, "Effect of Pitch Type, Pitch Count, and Pitching Mechanics on Risk of Elbow and Shoulder Pain in Youth Baseball Pitchers."

In fact, two mechanical flaws, backward lean in the balance position and early hand separation, correlated with a decreased risk of elbow pain. Two other flaws, a long arm swing and arm ahead of the body at the time of ball release, correlated with a decreased risk of shoulder pain.

If you don't understand what I'm talking about, read it again.

I can wait.

Did you notice it this time?

If no, and you like puzzles, read it again. And again. If not, here's the thought that popped into my head the instant I read that paragraph.

If something decreases the risk of elbow and shoulder pain, then how exactly is it a flaw?

That's an important question, but in the interests of innovation, let's take a moment and discuss how I came to ask it.

THe Innovator's Mindset

If you asked me what two books have had the greatest impact on my life, next to the Bible, I'd have to say they were Donald Noman's The Design of Everyday Things and Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

What I learned from Don Norman's book was this.

It isn't my fault.

Entirely.

When I have trouble using a product or device -- even something as simple as a door -- it usually isn't because of a mistake I made. Instead, it's because of a mistake the designer made. The designer didn't know or care enough about how people think and didn't taking that into account.

What I learned from Thomas Kuhn's book -- which to be honest is a brutal, but ultimately rewarding, slog of a book -- is that people can do and say some really dumb things  in order to keep from admitting they are wrong and/or changing a deeply-held belief.

When they are facing an intellectual crisis.

What Crisis Looks Like

And what does this have to do with baseball?

What I immediately recognized when I read that paragraph about pitching mechanics and injuries...

In fact, two mechanical flaws, backward lean in the balance position and early hand separation, correlated with a decreased risk of elbow pain. Two other flaws, a long arm swing and arm ahead of the body at the time of ball release, correlated with a decreased risk of shoulder pain.

...was that the pitching mechanics industry was in crisis and that crisis affected every member of it from top to bottom.

When reading that paragraph, it's all too easy to make excuses for the authors.

While that statement doesn't make sense, the authors are famous and well-educated. They must know what they are talking about. Clearly, they would only label something a flaw if it hurt a pitcher's velocity or had some other negative impact on their performance.

What you find out if you read the study is that there is no mention of whether the "flaws" caused any problems. it just seems that they deviate from the authors' preconceived notions about what proper pitching mechanics should be. Maybe that's because they differ from the conventional wisdom; what everybody knows and teaches?

I don't know.

What I do know is that paragraphs like the one above reflect a problem with how the members of an industry are thinking about a subject.

A problem that creates an opportunity for people who have their eyes and ears open and are listening for flawed assumptions and what Stuart Smalley calls, "Stinkin' Thinkin'."

What I'm Working On

What I'm doing at the moment is working on two things.

First, I'm continuing to research pitching mechanics in an effort to reverse the course of the pitcher injury and Tommy John surgery epidemic. I have put together a number of DVDs, eBooks, and webbooks about pitching mechanics that are based on my study of pitchers who were and are both dominant and durable.

Second, I have put together a number of DVDs, eBooks, and webbooks about hitting mechanics that are based on my experience working to fix problems like Bat Drag with my kids, their friends, and a number of major league hitters including Andres Torres.

Finally, I continue to think about the topic of innovation and have turned what I have learned into two books.

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