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The Pitching Mechanic
July 2006


Adam Ottavino: Nice Choice

I think my Cardinals made a good choice in drafting Adam Ottavino (assuming he ends up playing for them).

Adam Ottavino

The photo above shows several things that I like.
     First, I like that his hips are rotating well ahead of his shoulders. That means that he throws with his body and not just with his arm, which should improve his longevity.
     Second, his timing seems to be good; his forearm appears to be vertical at the moment that his shoulders start to turn. This should help to reduce the strain on his shoulders.
     Third, I like that his knee is bent in the photo above. While this will lower his release point (which can be problematic), I believe that it should also reduce the stress on his arm by allowing his body to absorb some of the shock of throwing the ball.
     Fourth, I like how his palm is facing Third Base or even Home Plate. I believe that this will reduce the strain on his UCL and should reduce the likelihood that he will need Tommy John surgery at some point.


Good Old Freddy Garcia

I love Freddy Garcia's pitching mechanics.
     Yes, they are unusual. However, I believe they will help him have a long, injury-free career.

Freddy Garcia

The thing to notice about Freddy Garcia in this picture is how early he gets his pitching arm up. Notice that Freddy Garcia's arm is pretty much up and in the high cocked position while his glove-side foot is still at least 6 inches off the ground.
     This is an example of what Dr. Mike Marshall means when he talks about how pitchers should use the crow hop throwing motion. Getting the arm up this early will protect his shoulder by making it virtually impossible for him to have a problem with rushing (and rushing is a flaw that I believe cause both control problems and shoulder problems).

P.S. 7/25/2007: I have since changed my opinion of Freddy Garcia. I believe that he gets his PAS elbow too high, and this Hyperabduction explains his recent shoulder problems.



What Striding Sideways Looks Like

I often talk about how pitchers should stride sideways to the target. This keeps the hips closed as long as possible and enables them to powerfully pull the shoulders around.

Ricky Nolasco

The picture above of Ricky Nolasco is a good example of what this looks like. Notice how he's leading with the side of his glove-side foot and how his glove-side hip is ahead of of his glove-side shoulder.
     I also like how his glove-side knee is bent slightly. This will keep him from landing too hard on his glove-side foot.


How Chris Carpenter (Actually) Throws The Ball

As I have said elsewhere, one common piece of advice that I think is potentially dangerous advice is that pitchers should show the ball to second base as they pass through the high cocked position.
     This advice is based on a very common misconception; that when throwing a baseball a player comes to the high cocked position and, as they rotate their shoulders, their pitching arm stays in the high cocked position (e.g. upper arm horizontal at the level of the shoulders and forearm vertical) as is shown in the picture below...

If this was the case, then showing the ball to 2B would make sense since at the end of the rotation of the shoulders you would be showing the ball to home plate.
     But it's not the case, and that is why Chris Carpenter is not showing the ball to Second Base in the photo above.
     What really happens is that, as the shoulders start to turn, the pitching arm side upper arm externally rotates so that forearm bounces or lays back to a horizontal position. You can see this process starting in the photos below of Chris Carpenter...

...and you can see full external rotation in the photo below...

As the shoulders stop turning, the elbow rapidly extends (or flies out) the 90 degrees that it is bent...

...and ends up like this...

I prefer that pitchers show the ball to third base, as Chris Carpenter is doing in the first photo above.
     If you want to see a more in-depth examination of what happens to the arm as a pitcher throws the ball, go to my web site and read my document...

- How Roger Clemens (Actually) Throws The Ball

You can also see this process happen in most of the professional pitcher analyses that I have posted to my web site.

P.S. 11/5/2007: While Chris Carpenter does a few things are good, they aren't enough. The problem with Chris Carpenter is that he makes the Inverted L, which is the root cause of his elbow and shoulder problems.



Tim Wakefield's Knuckleball Grip

I know that some people think that only wimps throw knuckleballs, but I love any pitch — or pitcher — that's effective. As a result, below is a picture of Tim Wakefield gripping his Knuckleball.

Tim Wakefield

There are a couple of things to notice in this picture.
     First, he's only holding the ball with four fingers; the ball is held between his ring finger and his thumb (and both of these fingers are on a seam) and his pinkie is sticking up in the air. Second, he has the tips of his index and middle fingers dug into the seam.
     I tried this grip out myself and it did allow me to throw the ball with very little spin.



My Opinion of Jon Lester

If you've ready any of my stuff, you know that I am a big fan of pitchers whose hips rotate well ahead of their shoulders. I believe that this enables them to generate lots of power using the large muscles of their body; to throw with their body more than their arm.

Jon Lester

This photo of Jon Lester is a great example of what this looks like in action. Notice how his belt buckle is facing the plate while his shoulders are facing 1B (and how the buttons on the front of his jersey curve sharply down and to the left) in both the photo above and the one below.

Jon Lester

However, my opinion of Jon Lester isn't uniformly positive. In the photo below, you can see that he brings his elbows both above and slightly behind his shoulders.

Jon Lester

While he doesn't do this as much as Anthony Reyes and Mark Prior do, I believe it is a cause for concern about the long-term health of his shoulder.



What I Like About Kip Wells

So that I don't start this blog out on a totally down note, let me balance out my low opinion of the mechanics of Anthony Reyes with a good evaluation of the mechanics of Kip Wells. The photo below is an example of very good timing.

Notice that Wells' glove-side foot is just about to plant on the ground and his pitching-arm-side forearm is vertical and in the Ready position. You can also see, by looking at the line of buttons down the front of his jersey, that at this moment Wells' hips are rotating well ahead of his shoulders. Wells is also landing pretty much flat on his glove-side foot.

Contrast Kip Wells' timing with that of Kerry Wood in the picture above. At basically the same moment, Wood's pitching arm side forearm is in a much lower position (below horizontal). This means that Wood is most likely rushing his delivery to the plate, which will cause both control problems (balls up in the zone) and will increase the level of stress on his shoulder. You can also see that in the photo above that Kerry Wood lands more on his heel, which can cause control problems.

The photo above also makes it clear that Kip Wells does a good job of keeping his front hip closed as he strides toward the plate. Notice how he his striding toward the plate with the side of his glove-side foot, and not his toe.

P.S. 11/5/2007: After watching Kip Wells struggle during the 2007 season, I still think his mechanics are solid. He also a very good movement on his pitches. The problem is that Kip Wells seems to have a problem with the yips. He's great when the pressure's off, but is prone to falling apart when the pressure's on.



My Concerns About Anthony Reyes

Let me get this blog started by talking about the mechanics of Anthony Reyes and making a prediction about his future prospects.
     I know that a lot of people are extremely high on Anthony Reyes. However, I believe that I see a flaw in his mechanics that may very well make him the Cardinals' Mark Prior (and that's not a good thing). By that I mean a pitcher who shows tons of promise but ends up with continual injury problems.
     The problem that I have with Reyes' mechanics is that, as you can see in the photo below, he takes his elbows both above and behind his shoulders, which I call Hyperabduction.

Anthony Reyes

Anthony Reyes

While some people call this making an "Inverted W", and think it's a good thing, I think it is a bad thing because it excessively stresses the muscles of the rotator cuff.

Mark Prior

Mark Prior

As the photo above shows, Mark Prior of the Cubs also Hyperabducts his PAS upper arm. I believe that this is related to Prior's recent shoulder problems.



Getting Started

I have begun to develop a decent-sized following of people from around the world who are interested in my ideas about baseball, pitching, and pitching mechanics. As a result, I am starting this blog to share with people what I am currently thinking.
     One thing that I plan to do in this blog is to do more real-time illustration and analyses of the pitching mechanics of major-league pitchers. Of course, I still plan to continue putting together my detailed analyses of the pitching mechanics of pitchers, but those analyses take a lot of time. I hope that this will be a way that I can share my knowledge with people in a way that addresses both your needs and mine.
     Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions for me or suggestions for topics that I should address in this blog.

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