In an era of baseball where the home run is king, and the three true outcome player is becoming commonplace across Major League Baseball, many fans have forgotten the importance of pitching. However, those surrounding the San Diego Padres have made it clear that elite pitching is something they value. General Manager A. J. Preller has demonstrated his affinity for high caliber hurlers by trading for all five of the 2022 Padres starting pitchers.
Despite the plethora of talent that makes up San Diego’s pitching staff, those around the team are constantly searching for new ways to improve themselves and their results on the diamond. Pitching labs, such as the one at Point Loma Nazarene University’s Balboa campus, are being utilized to gather information that can help pitchers improve the way they move their bodies when on the mound.
In an exclusive interview with The Point, Padres pitching coach Ruben Niebla explained that pitching labs provide valuable information to players who have “more disruption in their kinetic chain,” yielding a means to make up for physical limitations, such as a lack of mobility or range of motion.
Niebla said that pitching labs track both biomechanics and ball flight in order to match the two, leading to better results in-game.
“It’s a combination of both the biomechanical aspect of the lab and ball flight,” he said. “We are trying to match good body movement with good ball metrics.”
Niebla credited PLNU’s lab for helping the Padres with the creation of offseason regimens for their pitching staff.
“The pitching lab has definitely helped us set offseason programs for our pitchers. Some of the information we can interpret to try to get pitchers into better movement patterns,” Niebla said.
According to the University of Nebraska at Omaha, pitching labs can also be employed to help reduce the risk to players by taking injury history into account, as well as data provided by visits to the lab.
“We really look at the whole athlete for a baseball pitcher and try to understand their injury risk and their performance, how they move, and how we can help them get better,” associate director of biomechanics at UNO Brian Knarr told Brandon Bartling of UNO News.
Niebla said that since the number of labs nationwide is limited, having a relationship with a lab in San Diego provides the team with an invaluable utility.
“Labs have been around, but as for major league teams being involved, it is a new thing. Having one in our backyard is a huge benefit to the team,” he said.
He went on to say that the team’s goal is to use the lab again this offseason, potentially prior to Spring Training in February.
“Our goal is to do it twice an offseason,” he told The Point. “We plan on doing it again right before Spring Training.”
As San Diego continues to prepare for another season, PLNU’s Balboa lab will serve an important role in preparing, equipping and improving the already dominant Padres pitchers.
Written By: Cade Cavin