Ubaldo Jimenez: perception vs. realityby Kyle Boddy
April 04, 2013
Cleveland Indians' hurler Ubaldo Jimenez has a lot in common with his teammates Trevor Bauer and Scott Kazmir—they're all trying to fix various mechanical issues.
Bauer believes how his back leg operated caused a groin strain, so he's changed how he initiates linear movement. Kazmir's velocity dropped like a stone and he started becoming more methodical on the mound; after visiting the Texas Baseball Ranch and Dynamic Sports Training in Texas, he's regained that explosiveness.
Jimenez' mechanical issues have been well-documented on THT by yours truly (original article, recap article), but he and his coaches don't necessarily agree with my conclusions.
In an article yesterday, Jorge Arangure Jr. wrote:
Jimenez would spend hours watching video of his most successful years and comparing it to video of how he currently pitched. The differences were striking. Who was this guy? The new Ubaldo stopped using his left shoulder to balance himself, which in turn sapped him of all the torque that he used to create to throw the ball at high speeds. The new Ubaldo could hardly muster a ball over 90 mph. His delivery had become slow, deliberate and calculated. It was if he had been trying to deconstruct every movement.
This isn't the first time his front shoulder has been mentioned. Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer wrote:
New pitching coach Mickey Callaway simply asked Jimenez to not pause his windup and to keep his front shoulder pointed toward home plate.
Doug Thorburn of Baseball Prospectus focused on Ubaldo's front shoulder, saying:
I happen to disagree with Kyle's assertion that Ubaldo's struggles have nothing to do with the front shoulder, especially given that the issues with early arm action are mostly harmful if they have the ripple effect of creating early rotation and "shoulder flying open." ... In this case, I had noticed both the early hand separation and the bizarre wrist-flick as the throwing arm reaches its lowest point (in CLE), however I do not consider these to be glaring issues.
Well, it appears that Jimenez has been listening to all this discussion of how to use his front shoulder. To all of that, I have this to say: Be careful what you wish for.
Here's what he looks like in 2010 (96 mph), 2012 (91 mph), and the first start of 2013 (90 mph):
Want to see what he looks like now compared to when he was a fireballing phenom in Colorado—in painfully slow motion?
If Jimenez thinks that what he is doing now is anything like what he did in Colorado when he was at his best, he is... well, obviously incorrect.
Why did he think that he "used his front shoulder to balance himself?" He never used his front shoulder in such a manner; he makes it sound like that he levered it like Andy Pettitte does. Ubaldo never once looked like that. He was more athletic, more fluid, more explosive. His arm action was more efficient; it wasn't forced.
These mechanics below are as close as he has ever gotten to regaining that 2010 tempo, rhythm, arm action, and most importantly, velocity:
Changing arm action without changing arm action
It is widely held that arm action cannot (or should not) be directly changed by manipulating the movement of the throwing arm; that instead, we should use the glove arm and other things in the delivery to make the changes we desire in the throwing arm. That is what Thorburn, Callaway, and others are espousing. Jimenez now has an incredible shoulder tilt, a pitching arm that is pinned to his side during the linear shift, a glove arm that gets no extension, a soft front side, and a stride angle that deflects open by an outrageous amount (which has strong correlation with increased elbow valgus stress).
These mechanics as displayed against Toronto cannot and will not restore his velocity. Will it allow him to be an effective pitcher? Perhaps. But the Cleveland Indians didn't trade for a No. 3 control-type pitcher when they parted with Drew Pomeranz, Alex White, Joe Gardner, and Matt McBride. They thought they were getting a fireballer who could dominate on any given night, a guy who could flash upper 90s heat at-will.
Ubaldo Jimenez will never be that guy again if he continues to throw the way he does——and I believe he will continue to lose velocity throughout the season if these mechanics keep up.
Kyle Boddy is the owner of Driveline Baseball and Driveline Biomechanics Research, both in Seattle, Washington. At his facility, he's melded statistical analysis, strength & conditioning, prehab/rehab, and advanced biomechanical analysis concepts to develop improved efficiency, durability, and fastball velocity of baseball pitchers. He is the author of The Dynamic Pitcher, a comprehensive book and video set dedicated to developing elite youth baseball pitchers.
He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and found on Twitter: @drivelinebases.