Podcast No. 15: Brandon McDaniel, Director of Athletic Development & Performance Science for an MLB team

March 20, 2019

Today on the podcast we’ve got Brandon McDaniel, Director of Athletic Development and Performance Science for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Brandon’s methods and philosophies have helped guide the Dodgers to six straight National League West division titles and back-to-back World Series appearances.

We’re also very proud to have the Dodgers as a client of ours at WHOOP.

Brandon and I discuss his background and rise through the organization, how the club assesses new players and determine which training techniques will have success, and why it’s so important to develop programs based on each individual athlete’s needs.

We also explore how he uses WHOOP with his players at different levels, why he feels it’s essential they make a choice to use it on their own, and the various pieces of advice he gives them when they are “in the red” on gameday.

If you’re a baseball fan, this is a great listen. And even if you’re not, Brandon shares a number of training, recovery, nutrition and travel tips that we all can find useful.

Brandon called in from spring training with the Dodgers, apologies for the subpar sound quality, we did the best we could with it.

 

You can listen and subscribe on iTunesGoogle PlaySpotifyTuneInStitcher, even Alexa. Please rate and review as well!

 

Show Notes:

3:27 - Organizational Rise. “Eight years seems like about eight weeks.” Brandon joined the Dodgers as a minor league strength coach in 2011. “The success that I’ve been able to be a part of with the organization has totally exceeded my expectations.”

5:35 - Training Methodology. “The one thing I’ve really bought into is an individualized approach to each athlete. .. If you walked into our weight room at the major league side, you would be able to see that all of the athletes look like they’re doing very similar stuff, but it’s all tailored to them [individually].”

8:40 - Evaluating New Players. “It starts with a simple conversation. … We’ve got to know why you’re here.” He also wants his players to help determine how they train. “We let the athlete have a ton of say in what they do, we want them to own it.”

12:32 - “In-Game Speed” on the field is often not the same as what you see in diagnostic tests. Brandon discusses all the different data points to take into consideration.

14:42 - What Metrics are Overrated in baseball? He says pitching velocity isn’t as important as it’s made out to be. “It’s about putting guys in a position to succeed.” Brandon also isn't concerned with how much weight a player can lift. “I care how they do it.”

17:19 - Why has Pitch Velocity Increased? “It’s the 4-minute mile phenomenon. … It became the new norm in baseball to throw hard.” He talks about how pitch speed turned into a reason to get drafted, and how players are now bigger, stronger and training more for it.

22:09 - Team Using WHOOP. “I want my athletes to want to use this. … For us it’s making people aware.”

24:35 - Dodgers at Forefront of Technology and empowering their players. “We think it’s really important that guys do things because they understand that they need it, and they understand that they want it and they understand that they like it.” Brandon admits he didn’t always have this philosophy.

30:41 - Role the Data Plays. “WHOOP is a conversation starter.”

34:41 - Gameday Recovery. What does he tell a player who’s in the red and has to play tonight? Brandon and Will break down a few scenarios.

37:53 - Things to Do/Avoid Pre-Game. “A hot tub really stimulates you, in some cases I think it’s really great ... in other cases when you get out you’re even more exhausted.”

39:31 - Naps. “It all goes into the day and where we’re at.” The optimal time varies from athlete to athlete.

41:19 - Too Many Carbs in the morning? “I find that when we don’t sleep we create a lot of sugar and carbohydrates.” He advocates a balanced meal after a poor night’s sleep.

42:08 - Caffeine Before Playing? “It’s baseball and we play everyday and I’d be lying if I said caffeine isn’t a part of it.”

43:45 - Players’ Use of Tobacco. “I find it hard to believe you can use nicotine as a performance enhancer.”

46:13 - Best Travel Tip. “I’ve read a lot on fasting and traveling right now.” Depending on the length of a trip, Brandon may try to go a full 24 hours without eating, then have a big meal after arrival and fall asleep. “When I get there I definitely think there’s a benefit to it.”

52:59 - Recovery Modalities. “We feel like we have a pretty good advantage on the way that we treat our players. … We leave no stone unturned, I believe in everything.”

54:01 - Training Older vs Younger Players. “It starts to me with joints. They [older guys] get one time to get ready to go everyday.” On the other hand, younger athletes don’t have trouble warming up multiple times.

58:09 - Supplements he Recommends. “The one thing I personally buy into most is magnesium.”

59:21 - World Series Experience. How did he help players avoid getting too amped up? “It’s about being available. … If a guy needs to do something at 1 am to calm down, I want to be there for him.”

1:02:03 - WHOOP Data in World Series. What did his look like? “I’m a guy that can be in the green with four-and-a-half or five hours sleep.”

1:03:48 - Crash when Season Ends? “It’s never the fall, it’s the landing.” Brandon discusses nagging injuries that reveal themselves in the offseason.

1:04:45 - Lost 70 Pounds in 6 Months in his freshman year in college. What did it do for him?

1:06:40 - Still Learning. “The best continuing ed that I get every offseason is traveling to see players.”

1:09:47 - Optimal Performance, who does he think of? “Chase Utley is probably the person who comes to mind the most. To watch him do what he did for so long…”

1:10:13 Find him Online. “I’m not a big social media guy, but I’m always open to conversation and questions.” Send Brandon an email at bbmac23@gmail.com

 

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Will Ahmed

Will Ahmed (45 Articles)

Will Ahmed is the Founder and CEO of WHOOP, which has developed next generation wearable technology for optimizing human performance. WHOOP today works with everyone from professional athletes to fitness enthusiasts to executives. Ahmed has raised more than $50 million from top investors and has an active advisory board that consists of some of the world’s most notable cardiologists, technologists, and designers. He wrote “The Feedback Tool: Measuring Fitness, Intensity, and Recovery,” which sparked the underlying physiology and engineering for his work today. Ahmed was named a 2011 Harvard College Scholar for finishing in the top 10% of his class and a CSA Scholar Athlete; he captained the Harvard Men’s Varsity Squash Team. He was also recently named to Forbes 30 Under 30 and Boston Business Journal 40 Under 40.

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