May 22, 2013
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Following are the one hundred most recent articles for the category Pitching .
05/22/2013: The daily grind: 5-22-13by Brad Johnson
05/22/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/22/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 8, Vol. IIby Jack Weiland
05/22/2013: The hardest thingby Derek Ambrosino
05/22/2013: 20th anniversary: Blue Jays mascot ejectedby Chris Jaffe
05/22/2013: Currently historic: A plethora of new stuffby Jason Linden
05/22/2013: BOB: Owners’ meeting updateby Brian Borawski
05/21/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/21/2013: The daily grind: 5-21-13by Brad Johnson
05/21/2013: 50th anniversary: Jim Maloney: a star is bornby Chris Jaffe
05/21/2013: Diamonds in the rough: starting pitchersby Noah Woodward
05/21/2013: Profar could be on a Cingrani-esque scheduleby Jeff Moore
05/21/2013: Is 5/125 the new 5/55?by Greg Simons
05/21/2013: The Verdict: keep your trade secrets to yourselfby Michael Stein
05/21/2013: THT Awardsby John Barten
05/20/2013: Closer watchby Karl de Vries
05/20/2013: The daily grind: 5-20-13by Brad Johnson
05/20/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/20/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/20/2013: AL Central: state of the divisionby Chris Jaffe
05/20/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 8, Vol. 1by Karl de Vries
05/20/2013: Louisville slugging in 2013by Frank Jackson
05/20/2013: 5,000 days since Eric Milton’s no-hitterby Chris Jaffe
05/17/2013: The daily grind: 5-17-13by Brad Johnson
05/17/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/17/2013: Gems without whiffsby James Gentile
05/17/2013: 40th anniversary: Bobby Valentine breaks his legby Chris Jaffe
05/17/2013: Strength of schedule: Adjusting hitter valuesby Moe Koltun
05/17/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. IIIby Jack Weiland
05/17/2013: Card Corner: 1973 Topps: Mike Andrewsby Bruce Markusen
05/16/2013: The daily grind: 5-16-13by Brad Johnson
05/16/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/16/2013: How Scott Kazmir got his groove backby Kyle Boddy
05/16/2013: Three more for eternityby Don Malcolm
05/16/2013: Not exactly definitiveby Don Malcolm
05/16/2013: The all-decade team: the ‘40sby Richard Barbieri
05/16/2013: Of Uggs and Ugglaby Derek Ambrosino
05/15/2013: The daily grind: 5-15-13by Brad Johnson
05/15/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/15/2013: Running hot and coldby Shane Tourtellotte
05/15/2013: The Phillies should retool but not rebootby Brad Johnson
05/15/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. IIby Karl de Vries
05/15/2013: Currently historic: 300 strikeouts?by Jason Linden
05/15/2013: Mike Moustakas’ holeby Noah Woodward
05/15/2013: BOB: How bad is the Marlins’ attendance?by Brian Borawski
05/14/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/14/2013: The daily grind: 5-14-13by Brad Johnson
05/14/2013: How much do hot/cold starts matter?by Greg Simons
05/14/2013: 25th anniversary: The Jose Oquendo Gameby Chris Jaffe
05/14/2013: Jonathan Schoop and the value of role playersby Jeff Moore
05/14/2013: THT Awardsby John Barten
05/13/2013: The daily grind: 5-13-13by Brad Johnson
05/13/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/13/2013: 30th anniversary: Reggie’s 2,000th Kby Chris Jaffe
05/13/2013: NL Central division update: May editionby Jason Linden
05/13/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 7, Vol. Iby Jack Weiland
05/13/2013: Last remaining teammatesby Chris Jaffe
05/13/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/12/2013: The curious case of Vernon Wellsby Matt Filippi
05/12/2013: 60th anniversary: Whitey Ford’s near no-hitterby Chris Jaffe
05/10/2013: The daily grind: 5-10-13by Brad Johnson
05/10/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/10/2013: Cooperstown Confidential: What really happened with Fritz Ostermueller and Jackie Robinsonby Bruce Markusen
05/10/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. IIIby Karl de Vries
05/10/2013: Still life, after allby Azure Texan
05/09/2013: Oh Dustyby Pat Andriola
05/09/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/09/2013: 40th anniversary: back-to-back first homersby Chris Jaffe
05/09/2013: The Roto Grotto: rates versus opportunitiesby Scott Spratt
05/09/2013: Swing rates: the John Farrell effectby Moe Koltun
05/09/2013: Winning, TWTW, and the purpose of baseballby Matt Hunter
05/08/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/08/2013: The daily grind: 5-8-13by Brad Johnson
05/08/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. IIby Jack Weiland
05/08/2013: What nobody is talking aboutby Greg Simons
05/08/2013: Currently historic: A truly rare achievementby Jason Linden
05/08/2013: Craig Anderson’s greatest dayby Frank Jackson
05/08/2013: BOB: Stadium updatesby Brian Borawski
05/07/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/07/2013: The daily grind: 5-7-13by Brad Johnson
05/07/2013: Fun with minor league leader boardsby Jeff Moore
05/07/2013: 90th anniversary: Casey Stengel goes bonkersby Chris Jaffe
05/07/2013: THT Awardsby John Barten
05/07/2013: A.J. Ellis: hardly swinging, hardly missingby Noah Woodward
05/07/2013: Baseball Press: a fantasy secret weaponby Jack Weiland
05/07/2013: The Verdict: keeping it on the DLby Michael Stein
05/06/2013: The National League Graph, 2013by Dave Studeman
05/06/2013: And That Happenedby Craig Calcaterra
05/06/2013: The daily grind: 5-6-13by Brad Johnson
05/06/2013: AL East division update: May editionby Nick Fleder
05/06/2013: The Hot Seatby Scott Strandberg
05/06/2013: Last living linksby Chris Jaffe
05/06/2013: Fantasy Waiver Wire: Week 6, Vol. Iby Karl de Vries
05/05/2013: The American League Graph, 2013by Dave Studeman
05/04/2013: 50th anniversary: Braves balk-a-thonby Chris Jaffe
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April 04, 2013
Ubaldo Jimenez: perception vs. realityCleveland 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.
Posted by: Kyle Boddy
March 22, 2013
The Chapman saga has deeper meaningThere has been a lot of talk about Aroldis Chapman lately after Paul Dougherty wrote that the Reds intended to move him to the bullpen. No one else confirmed what Dougherty's unnamed source told him and the announcement certainly hasn't come down (Reds brass denied there was even anything to announce), so there's still a great deal of uncertainty.
Much has been written about Chapman, but I thought it would be a good idea to toss together a summary of all the issues at play.
1. Chapman's performance—You can place me firmly in the camp of those who believe Chapman should start (or at least undergo a genuine transition to starting), but we shouldn't deny his value as a reliever.
Last year, in 71.2 innings, Chapman generated 3.3 WAR. Much has been made of the unchanging frequency with which teams entering the the ninth with a lead win, but that is still a lot of value from a relief pitcher. Chapman finished tied for 34th in fWAR among all pitchers. He should provide serious value no matter what the Reds do with him.
2. Mike Leake—The forgotten man in this discussion is Mike Leake, who stands to be the fifth starter if Chapman closes. Leake is probably an average pitcher who's been a bit unlucky and plenty of teams would be thrilled to have him anywhere in the rotation. The Reds will likely hold onto him either way so he can slot into Bronson Arroyo's place when the latter leaves at the end of this season.
3. Expensive bullpen—Chapman officially makes only $2 million this year, but he got a hefty signing bonus and his real cost is more like $5 million per year. Sean Marshall will be paid $4.5 million this year and Jonathan Broxton, who was signed explicitly to allow Chapman to start, makes $4 million.
All three players are signed through 2015 and all will receive substantial raises over the next several years. That is a lot of money to spend on three players who are probably good for only as many innings in one year as Johnny Cueto will throw on his own. The Reds have shown a consistent willingness to overpay for relief talent.
4. Bob Castellini—Two things have been made abundantly clear this spring. Dusty Baker wants Chapman to close. Walt Jocketty wants him to start. Given that Jocketty is higher in the pecking order, it should be easy to figure out what happens. But it isn't. The reason, I have to believe, is Reds' owner Bob Castellini.
No Reds fans can complain about how the team has been run lately, but if the owner is going to start meddling in baseball operations, it's only going to add to confusion about who, exactly, is running this team. What is taking place right now is a organizational power struggle between Baker and Jocketty and who wins might tell us a lot about how the team is going to be run and who is most likely to be around over the next several years.
Posted by: Jason Linden
February 06, 2013
Seeking surplus value: Risk-free winsAt every level of every organization, baseball teams have a group of players they call "organizational players," or more accurately, "non-prospects." At best, they exist to provide depth for the team, and at worst, they exist to put a team on the field so the prospects can get plate appearances and innings pitched.
However, when organizational players make the leap to prospect status—or even major league regular—it's seen as a huge surplus value for the organization. Turning 30th-round draft picks into average major leaguers is something that not only the Tampa Bay Rays and Houston Astros can get jazzed about. For each cost-controlled player produced in this way, the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers can spend that many more millions of dollars on free agents, draft compensation and international pool spending.
Surplus value drives everything that front offices do when it comes to player acquisition and retention. However, while teams continue to pour money and understanding into the scouting and analytical departments, player development continues to lag. As I mentioned in my previous articles about how baseball failed two non-prospects, players who are no longer considered to be part of the pipeline to the big leagues tend to get shoved to the wayside.
Two anecdotes follow about my experiences with training baseball players:
An acquaintance of mine was a top-five-round draft pick as a pitcher out of college, and he earned a significant bonus as a result. However, after a few years of declining velocity, he began to fall out of favor in the organization. Desperate for help, he found out that the organization had a very expensive biomechanics facility where multiple high-speed cameras could film and digitize his pitching motion. Not knowing much about this, he tracked down the pitching coordinator and arranged to go through the lab.
After he did so, the researchers handed him and his coaches a printout with the relevant mechanical data (kinematics, kinetics, joint loads, angular velocities, etc) and he inquired on how this data could be used to improve his pitching performances. The coaches had no idea, and basically trashed the report, leaving him with a stack of paperwork that required an advanced understanding of kinesiology to grasp.
A current client of mine has been in the minor leagues for some time, having already been involved in a trade for another non-prospect. He sought out our program to improve/maintain fastball velocity, and despite having been in two "progressive" organizations, he said that the information I passed on to him was completely lacking at the professional level. He will be attending his first big league camp in an attempt to break into the parent organization's bullpen, and he felt he needed to look outside the organization for a reasonable fastball development program.
In a blog article I wrote titled Making the Sabermetric Argument for Increasing Fastball Velocity, I discussed what it would be worth to an organization to increase a replacement-level pitcher's fastball velocity from 86 to 90 mph (a common drop in velocity in journeymen pitchers—a great example being Scott Kazmir). The not-so-surprising answer is that it's worth a heck of a lot!
And so, I propose a basic risk-free model to adding surplus value: Take the group of pitchers you plan on releasing from baseball due to declining fastball velocity (this is a large group in any organization, I promise you), and offer them the chance to go through an experimental program in extended spring training or another venue to improve their arm strength. If they refuse, release them. If they accept (and many would, knowing the writing was on the wall), test out a six-to-eight-week program designed to improve their velocities. What do you have to lose?
Posted by: Kyle Boddy
December 12, 2012
Trevor Bauer needs to be left aloneTrevor Bauer has been traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of a three-team deal. Over the weekend, I was fortunate enough to have presented at Ron Wolforth's Ultimate Coaches' Bootcamp in Montgomery, Tex., with Bauer, who spoke at length on using the lower half in the pitching delivery (with Eric Binder).
Bauer on the left, me third from the left
It's no secret that the Arizona Diamondbacks had issues with Bauer's workout routine, which involves a 60-plus minute warmup using implements like the Oates Shoulder Tube:
As well as "extreme" long toss prior to games:
Jerry DiPoto sought Bauer while he was the director of scouting in Arizona. However, after Kevin Towers replaced GM Josh Byrnes, DiPoto eventually moved on to Anaheim as the GM. It's been said that DiPoto was one of Bauer's last allies, needing to step in to prevent the player development department from further infringing on his workout routines, which include daily throwing in-season.
Let's look at his mechanics—he was kind enough to upload tons of high-speed footage on YouTube:
His deceleration pattern is extremely efficient: He rotates his throwing shoulder forward into the target significantly farther than most pitchers. This pattern allows force to be applied to the baseball in increasingly straighter lines, which is naturally more efficient and less injurious on the elbow and shoulder. Force is best applied parallel to the direction of acceleration instead of perpendicular to the lever arm. For a stark contrast, look at Stephen Strasburg's release point, which is much earlier in the delivery:
Bauer also trains and exhibits solid use of pronation through and after release of the baseball, which theoretically reduces stress on the elbow by engaging the muscles of the medial forearm (pronator-flexor mass). This and the deceleration pattern, are mainstays of the teachings at Ron Wolforth's Texas Baseball Ranch.
Bauer's training: Leave him alone
Bauer's training includes plyometrics, medicine ball training, wrist weights, rubber tubing, and a host of other things (for more information, check out The Athletic Pitcher for a basic overview). However, one thing stands out: It includes tons of throwing, often with weighted baseballs. While major league clubs are afraid that more throwing equals more injuries, we've enacted tons of pitch count and innings restrictions with no evidence that they work.
Representatives from the Cleveland Indians (including their minor league pitching coordinator) were in attendance over the weekend to hear Bauer speak. So were many other coaches who strongly believe in constant throwing year-round. Ken Knutson, pitching coach at Arizona State, has implemented a similar training program at ASU. Total number of surgeries on his pitchers over the last eight years? Zero. Only 180 days of injury time in that span, with 100 coming from a single player who didn't even play at ASU (he committed but went to pro ball).
There is room for concern when it comes to the Indians, however. One of Knutson's pitchers when he was at the University of Washington was Nick Hagadone, the fireballing lefty in Cleveland's bullpen. Hagadone credits his workout routine with getting him from the mid-80s his junior year to the mid-90s his senior year. Despite this, the indians reportedly curtailed much of his workout program after he was traded to them from the Red Sox in the Victor Martinez deal. Will they treat Bauer the same way?
To those in Cleveland's player development group, I humbly suggest this: Let thse two pitchers do their thing for one full year without interfering. Simply let them do what got them to the big leagues in the first place and made them first-round draft picks. It makes no sense to change that.
Moneyball and Oakland have had a profound effect on professional baseball with regard to statistical evaluation of players and the quantification of runs scored and wins credited. It will be another low-budget team that initiates the revolution in player development, and there's no reason it couldn't be Cleveland.
The Indians fan in me sure hopes it will be.
Posted by: Kyle Boddy
November 14, 2012
How baseball failed Phil CokePhil Coke played a major role in Detroit's rise to the World Series in 2012: Tigers manager Jim Leyland turned to him as the closer over the unstable Jose Valverde. However, his career in the big leagues almost never happened. According to Jonah Keri's column in Grantland, Coke was heading down pink slip lane:
Coke made his short-season debut in 2003 in the Gulf Coast League, returned the next season, and ran into the first of his bouts with elbow trouble. He finally got a clean shot at starting the next year … and was terrible, posting a 5.42 ERA, giving up 122 hits, and striking out just 68 batters in 103 innings in Class A at Charleston of the South Atlantic League. He wasn't throwing hard enough, wasn't hitting his spots, and above all else, was trying too hard, letting his wrestler's mentality affect his emotions and his pitching.
Coke's velocity was too poor to get advanced hitters out, and the lack of velocity made him nibble instead of challenging guys, which tends to reduce your velocity, which means you have to hit your spots... it's a never-ending cycle that leads to being released rather quickly. (Read Dirk Hayhurst's books for evidence of the same phenomenon: the mental adjustment from level to level is huge.)
Coke had to turn to outside help for assistance—finding an alternative trainer who dared to think outside the box:
His career at a crossroads, Coke sought the help of a training guru named Adrian Crook. Crook's teaching was grounded in Shaolin kung fu. For Crook, the goal of Shaolin was to develop flexibility, balance, and core strength as the pillars for training athletes in any sport. By becoming more flexible, Crook believed athletes could recover from even the most intense workouts and dramatically lower their injury risk. In training baseball pitchers, the focus would be on dissecting every element of throwing mechanics, right down to what the fingers and the wrists do. Crook's pitcher pupils would use weighted balls to exercise each part of the arm and hand, via what he called "ridiculously high reps." Coke loved these ideas and was eager to start training with Crook immediately.
The sentence that stuck out for me was the "ridiculously high reps" quote. Modern baseball pitchers are taught that "you’ve only got so many bullets in your arm." (Former Blue Jays' GM JP Riccardi)
As Peter Brand (yes, I know who it's supposed to be) from Moneyball says, "baseball thinking is medieval. They are asking all the wrong questions." Questions like: "How many pitches has he thrown? How far did he throw his long toss? Did he touch weighted baseballs in the offseason? How much does he bench?"
Overuse isn't the problem; undertraining the arm is the real issue. Coke's velocity went from 87-88 mph to 94-95 mph after he exposed his arm to "overuse" through "ridiculously high reps" and he's been extremely durable, going to the DL only for a bone bruise on his foot.
Baseball definitely needs to preserve the arms of its most valuable assets—cost-controlled studly pitchers—but wrapping them in plastic and curtailing their throwing programs isn't the way. Think of it this way: Throwing a baseball is the only activity where we tell people to do less of it to get better at it.
It's not overuse. It's undertraining. Asking your best pitchers to step up in the highest leverage situations without adequately preparing them is the best way to abuse their arms.
Posted by: Kyle Boddy
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