Ubaldo Jimenez: perception vs. reality

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):

image

Want to see what he looks like now compared to when he was a fireballing phenom in Colorado—in painfully slow motion?

image

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:

image

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.

Print Friendly
 Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter0Share on Google+0Share on Reddit0Email this to someone
« Previous: 25th anniversary: George Bell’s big Opening Day
Next: And That Happened »

Comments

  1. Jim said...

    He probably developed these bad habits during the second half of 2010 in Colorado around June 23, 2010, fourth inning.  Sure he had a few good games the rest of the year, but he had some mighty bad ones also.  Nobody on the Rockies was smart enough to find or care about it.  They blamed it on workload and pitching at altitude, easy excuses that let you keep your coaching/managing job.  Probably had a lot to do with it, but not the whole picture.

  2. Chuck said...

    His delivery was quieter in Colorado than n Cleveland.  He did not have as much as a jerk in his motion then.  The way he throws now makes his plant foot point too much towards first base.  His foot throws open and his pitches sail high or very straight and very hittable.  By speeding up is delivery, his balance stays better and his plant foot moves more toward the plate than toward first.  If this happens, his follow through and momentum help him throw down and his pitches are lower in the zone and less hittable.  Saw this last night in his start against Toronto.

  3. David said...

    It looks to me, and I will admit I don’t have a well educated eye, that one major difference is that his back arm is right against his body in the bad years and far further away in his good, this seems to me like it could explain a lot of the other problems because of how it affects his balance, when it’s that close to his body, it makes it far harder to balance, making him pause slightly to find it, not allowing him to rotate as much and not allowing extension of the front arm…it also could make it relatively easily fixable, just think that arm away from the body a bit and maybe everything else begins to fall back into place…not sure if there’s any merit to that…or if it’s what you said more precisely but I didn’t quite understand…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Current ye@r *