The Training Behind the MLB Divisional Series: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

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STACK will be providing one-of-a-kind coverage leading up to and during the 2011 MLB Playoffs. Here, we preview the American League Divisional Series between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees, uncovering the elite training methods used by two potential impact players: Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander and Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter.

Detroit Tigers
Pitching wins championships, and lucky for the Tigers, they've got one of the best in the business in Justin Verlander. The ace right-hander was 24-5 during the regular season—that's 24 wins and FIVE losses!

Words can't begin to describe Verlander's historic season, so we'll let the numbers do the talking:

  • 12 straight wins, dating from July 21 to Sept. 18
  • ERA of .92 in the month of June
  • Undefeated in the months of May (3-0), June (6-0), August (5-0) and September (4-0)
  • Pitched no less than six innings in all 34 starts, throwing 100+ pitches in every outing
  • Allowed no more than 10 hits per start, with only one nine-hit game

Equally impressive, Verlander, who is undoubtedly a lock for the AL Cy Young Award, pitched a career-high 251 innings, yet he posted career lows in the following categories:

  • Hits (174)
  • Runs (73)
  • Earned Runs (67)
  • Walks (57)

Verlander's raw and lasting power originates from his powerful lower body, which he builds with exercises such as the Dumbbell Walking Lunge. Says Tigers strength coach Javair Gillett, "This works glute and hip strength. The glutes are where a pitcher generates his power. If they're not strong, the hamstrings are at risk of injury."

Exercises that build power and prevent injuries are the cornerstone of a well-rounded baseball training program. Obviously, an injury to Verlander in 2011 would have derailed the Tigers' playoff hopes.

Inside the Numbers
Neither dominant nor battered, Verlander started two games against the Yankees this year, and both counted as no decisions. New York was the only team he faced against which he recorded neither a win nor a loss.

New York Yankees
First came free agency, then the alleged contract dispute, followed by the reported rift with team ownership. That was back in December 2010. Now, nearly 10 months later to the day, Derek Jeter is back in familiar territory, doing what he does best—leading the New York Yankees on another World Series title run.

This will be the 15th playoff appearance in 16 seasons for one of the greatest Yankees of all time. In 147 career playoff games (to date), Jeter has 20 home runs, 57 runs batted in, and a .309 batting average. Those are Hall of Fame numbers. But the value of his playoff experience and veteran leadership might count for even more, as Jeter maintains the steady presence he displayed throughout the season in the always-feared Yankees lineup.

Count on Jeter to get on base and expect the big bats of Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to drive him home. On the year, the Yanks ranked second in the AL in on-base percentage (.343) and runs scored, and Jeter was a key contributor in both categories, ranking second on the team in hits (162) and fifth in runs scored. (Learn how Granderson gained more power at the plate with his revamped swing.)

At 37 years old, Jeter can no longer rely on blazing speed to steal bases and score runs. According to Jason Riley, his off-season performance coach at the Athletes' Compound at Saddlebrook, Jeter instead focuses his training on exercises that replicate movement patterns he performs on the field, such as driving out of the batter's box or moving laterally to field a ground ball. "The synchronization and firing the motor units, and getting all of his muscles to work together, is what makes his movements more powerful and more explosive," Riley says.

For a more powerful first step—which helps him in nearly all areas of his game—Jeter performs Single-Leg Mini Hurdle Hops, outlined below:

Single-Leg Mini Hurdle Hops

  • Place five mini hurdles approximately two feet apart
  • Balance on right leg in front of first hurdle
  • Hop over hurdle; hold landing for two counts and repeat for remaining hurdles
  • Return to start position and repeat with opposite leg

Sets: 2 each leg

Coaching Points: Land as softly as possible with slight bend in knee // Keep core tight and maintain control of upper body // Stick each landing

Inside the Numbers

Moderate success: In his career, Jeter is 9-for-25 (.360 average) with seven strikeouts against Tigers ace Justin Verlander. All nine of his hits were singles.

More numbers: Captain Clutch is 22-for-49 (.448 average) in Game 1 of an LDS. The last two times the LDS opened in Yankee Stadium, he went 5-for-5 (in 2006 vs. Detroit) and 2-for-2 with two walks (in 2009 vs. the Minnesota Twins).

Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees

  • Game 1: Friday, Sept. 30, 8:37 p.m. EDT @ NYY
  • Game 2: Saturday, Oct. 1, 8:37 p.m. EDT @ NYY
  • Game 3: Monday, Oct. 3, 8:37 p.m. EDT @ DET
  • Game 4 (if necessary): Tuesday, Oct. 4, TBD @ DET
  • Game 5 (if necessary): Thursday, Oct. 6, TBD @ NYY

Regular Season Series: Tigers won, 4-3

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock