LSU baseball strength and conditioning coach Derek Groomer dives deep into the data for his Bayou Bengals.
When it comes to evaluation and preparation, there are no generalities. Each player’s biomechanics get logged and tracked. No details are left out—Groomer even measures the toe habits in each player’s walking stride.
It’s a tireless approach that yields stacks and stacks of information on each player. But is the juice worth the squeeze? Just ask Groomer, whose subjects are now in Omaha to play in the College World Series for the first time in six years. The answer seems fairly obvious, given the Tigers’ success in 2023.
“We’ve had great luck with [our strength program],” Groomer said before the Tigers’ opening-round matchup with fellow SEC representative Tennessee. “We don’t have a lot of dead arms. We don’t have a lot of guys with shoulder issues. We don’t have a lot of guys with patterning issues. They’ve got strong, healthy arms.”
LSU Baseball Is Peaking at the Right Time
With 63 games under their belts heading into this weekend’s College World Series matchups, the Tiger arms are feeling some wear and tear, no matter how good of shape they appear to be on the field.
College baseball’s lengthy regular season can put life, limbs, torsos, even scapulae through a meat-grinder.
Add three SEC Tournament games, three NCAA Regional and two NCAA Super Regional matchups on top of that, and that’s quite the muscular marathon. The Tigers finished the regular season with a 42-13 record before sputtering slightly in the conference tournament, losing two of three games.
Then, they found a second wind at the perfect time.
LSU won five straight NCAA games in Baton Rouge. Only one of them was decided by fewer than five runs.
World Series Preparation Began in the Weightroom Last Fall
That LSU is playing its best baseball heading into the most important juncture of its season is no accident.
How do you kickstart such a run? Groomer explains that each fall starts with bulking up sessions in Baton Rouge.
“‘Mass can be gas’ is kind of an overused term anymore, but it is true,” Groomer says. “Everyone has that body weight that they play at their best. So it’s trying to master and figure out what is their body weight they play at their best. So for us in the fall it really is about putting on size.
LSU starts baseball practices a few weeks later than many teams in college baseball.
The staggered start seems like it could put the Tigers at a disadvantage.
Instead, that extra time goes straight into the team’s strength and conditioning, Groomer says.
“We get the first six, seven weeks in the fall to really just crank conditioning as the No. 1 priority before we get into fall practices. We actually get into our fall practices heavier and stronger than most other college programs actually do, which helps us in the long run because we have guys putting on anywhere from 12 to 16 pounds on a normal average, to even our ‘Friday-night guy’ who puts on 30 pounds in the offseason.”
And for every player, there’s no hiding the gains—Groomer will be tracking it. And he’ll be letting the Tigers coaching staff know exactly what every single workout did to your body and to your performance on the field.
Even in all those numbers there is nowhere to hide. The goal is for that accountability to pay dividends, well before LSU throws a meaningful pitch or takes a meaningful swing.
“As we start to get into our actual season in the preseason, we’ll figure out what’s functional weight. We may have put on some weight that’s not quite as functional. So we’ll start figuring out if we dropped four pounds of fat here that we put on in excess trying to gain muscle as well, how does that help our hitter? And we’ll look at our numbers, we’ll use Trackman, we’ll use all the different data that the field gives us. But we’ll also use all the data from Force Velocity profiles to Force Plates. It’s all the technology we have in the weightroom as well. We have just a massive dashboard that basically compiles our numbers for us so we can look at our athletes and say, ‘Okay, on the field, they’ve done this in their body, they’ve changed this way.’”
Unleashing the Tigers on the Baseball Diamond
With that core established, it’s game on for LSU’s players and team.
Ideally, all of the preseason workouts, monitoring and data collection yield the best versions of LSU’s players.
“We master that so when we have our preseason meeting, I can look at coach and go, ‘Hey, we’ve made this much jump with this athlete,’ Groomer says. “Something as simple as, ‘Their hamstring duration is now this. Their speed has gone from here to here. Their exit velocity, power on the bat, now it’s this. These are the changes we’ve made,’ so now I can tell you from August to February, I now have the better version of your player available. Even if they were an All-American All-Star, they’re now a better version.”
After an early-season grind, Groomer’s program puts the Tigers’ conditioning and results in cruise control.
“As we get in season, it’s just making sure that we don’t try to maintenance them too early. We’re still pushing for some small things at the beginning of the season. Those first two months are crucial to keep pushing. So therefore when we get in a position like this, we are hot and we’re healthy. We’re playing our best baseball, our bodies are at our best and we’re actually at a healthy standpoint. I think that comes from how much tracking we do, but also understanding, ‘Where was their body? Where can we get it to? And now, where are we?’”
Right now, you’re in the College World Series.
And all of that individual high-tech monitoring may just be the foundation for a special team of humans to do the rest.