The Training Behind the MLB Divisional Series: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies

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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 National League Divisional Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Philadelphia Phillies, uncovering the elite training methods used by two potential impact players: Cards 2B/OF Skip Schumaker and Phillies SS Jimmy Rollins.

St. Louis Cardinals
The "X-Factor" is the under-the-radar player who emerges out of left field (no pun intended) each October and propels his team deep into the MLB postseason. Last year, it was right fielder Cody Ross, a player deemed expendable by his former team, the Florida Marlins, after they fell out of playoff contention. Late in the season, the San Francisco Giants claimed Ross off waivers, and it proved to be a wise move. Ross wielded a power bat in the post-season, slugging five home runs and five doubles and driving in 10 runs in 51 plate appearances. He was named MVP of the NLCS, and he was integral to the Giants' winning the World Series.

Who will be this year's X-Factor? One player who's stepped up all season long for the St. Louis Cardinals is 2B/OF Skip Schumaker.

Whether he's playing second base—the position he moved to in 2009—or one of the outfield spots, Schumaker can fill any gap to help his team. That's because he relies on a comprehensive approach to training, one that transfers performance gains in the weight room directly to the skills he needs on the field. The program applies all of the elements of baseball—hitting, fielding, throwing and running—to nearly every movement and lift Schumaker performs.

To develop his power at the plate, Schumaker performs a dynamic core circuit that simulates the explosive movements needed to hit a baseball—driving through his legs, hips and core to generate force.

Inside the Numbers
This season, Schumaker played 95 games at second base, 31 in right field, six in left field, and five in center field. He even made one pitching appearance, in emergency relief during a 13-2 Cards loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in August. He struck out two and surrendered a two-run home run.

Philadelphia Phillies
There's no denying it: the Phillies' starting rotation is stacked. Roy "Doc" Halladay opens the series; lefty ace Cliff Lee takes the hill for Game Two; and they are followed by Cole Hamels and Edwin Jackson in Games Three and Four, respectively.

The Phillies' pitching staff can bring a murderer's row of hitters to their knees. During the 2011 regular season, they led the National League in ERA (3.02); quality starts—at least six innings pitched by a starter; and WHIP rating (1.17), a measure of the number of base runners allowed per inning pitched.

If you're having a hard time following, allow us to interpret:  those numbers are straight-up filthy.

The Phils' pitching prowess is bolstered by one of the NL's strongest defensive lineups, led by three-time Gold Glove shortstop Jimmy Rollins. He and 2B Chase Utley form one of the best middle infield duos in all of baseball. This season, J-Roll tied for third among MLB shortstops in fielding percentage (.988), committing only seven errors in 145 games.

When a ground ball is hit up the middle or to the left side, Rollins has a split second to react, turn to the direction the ball was hit, and move to where he can make the play. More often than not, he is forced to field the ball while driving forward, exploding laterally, or running at a 45-degree angle—meaning he must be able to move efficiently while maintaining a low body position.

To expand his infield range, Rollins performs exercises that improve his body control and lateral speed, specifically targeting his hips.

Video above.

Inside the Numbers

Rollins has committed no more than seven errors in each of the last four seasons.

St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies

  • Game 1: Saturday, Oct. 1, 5:07 p.m. ET @ PHI
  • Game 2: Sunday, Oct. 2, 8:07 p.m. ET @ PHI
  • Game 3: Tuesday, Oct. 4, TBD @ STL
  • Game 4 (if necessary): Wednesday, Oct. 5, TBD @ STL
  • Game 5 (if necessary): Friday, Oct. 7, TBD @ PHI

Regular Season Series: Cardinals won, 6-3

Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock