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The Pitching Mechanic
January 2007

Real-Time Illustrations and Analyses of
Proper and Improper Pitching Mechanics


The Pitching Mechanic - February 2007



Francisco Liriano and "Proper" Arm Action

The other day I stumbled across a web site on which a guy did an analysis of a clip of Francisco Liriano. At the end of the day, I think the guy got the analysis pretty much wrong. He loves Liriano's arm action (he labels it "excellent"), and in particular the position that Liriano reaches in frame 20.
     I completely disagree.
     As I said back in September, and at the same time that this guys was singing Liriano's praises, I believe that Francisco Liriano's problems are directly attributable to his arm action, and in particular to what he does in frame 20. Notice how his Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow goes both above and behind his shoulders (ala Mark Prior). Some people call that the "M" or the "Inverted W" and think it's a good thing (and teach pitchers to do it), but I think it's a bad thing and contributes to both shoulder and elbow problems. In my opinion, any pitching coach or guru who teaches young pitchers to make the "M" or "Inverted W" should be banned from the game.



Frame By Frame Analysis: Chris Carpenter

I have been wanting to do a frame by frame analysis of Chris Carpenter's mechanics for a while, but haven't been able to find a clip of him on the Internet. Well, I just bit the bullet and bought a basic VHS to MPEG conversion setup and created a clip from his start in the World Series. From this, I have created an analysis of the pitching motion and mechanics of Chris Carpenter.



Proper Elbow Positioning

I recently received the following e-mail from a confused parent of a young pitcher...

I have a 9 yr. old son who pitches a little. I saw on a site that you mentioned a pitcher should not raise his elbow above his shoulder. Is this throughout the entire pitching motion? I have heard the opposite. That you must raise your elbow above your shoulder. Can you help me?

Because this is a very important topic, I just put together an essay discussing Proper Elbow Positioning.



What The Statheads Are Missing

First, let me say that I am a huge fan of the book Moneyball. Having said that, let me also say that in my brief (one month and counting) foray into the world of professional baseball scouting, I have come to realize that the statheads may not in fact have it all figured out and that the old-time scouts may have a point.
     In my opinion, the pure Moneyball -- stats are all that matter -- approach falls short in two areas.
     The first place where the pure Moneyball approach falls short is makeup. Basically, makeup is the intangibles that help to determine whether a player will be able to take full advantage of the tools that he has given. Now, I would argue that On Base Percentage (aka OBP) is actually a makeup-based statistic; basically, OBP is a measure of a hitter's patience, which is more of a makeup thing than a Five Tools thing. However, there are other intangibles that will determine a player's level of effectiveness and that are hard to isolate using a spreadsheet.
     The second place where the pure Moneyball approach falls short, and which applies only to pitchers, is mechanics. I have spent a non-trivial amount of time studying the concept of Pitcher Abuse Points (both PAP and PAP3) and have come to the conclusion that, while well-intentioned, they aren't of much practical value. Bill James has also come to this conclusion. The problem is that on the lists that the PAP and PAP3 scores generate are both long-lived and short-lived pitchers. In my opinion, neither PAP nor PAP3 have much predictive validity in determining which pitchers are more or less likely to be injured.
     I believe that that is due to the fact that whether a pitcher is likely to be injured or not is due more to their mechanics than it is to their workload. As a result, when trying to judge the prospective value of a pitcher, you have to look at both their statistics, their mechanics, and their other intangibles.



Oh Anthony...

As I have said here and here, I am very concerned about the long-term prospects of Anthony Reyes. I was Googling around for pictures of pitchers today and stumbled across this photo, which shows exactly what I am talking about. Notice how his PAS elbow is both above and behind his shoulders. This is really bad for his PAS shoulder.

Anthony Reyes

Anthony Reyes



Concerns About Cole Hamels

I was thinking today about pitchers like Adam Wainwright and Jonathan Papelbon who I think take their PAS elbows too high above their shoulders and who I believe are vulnerable to impingement problems as a result. I then stumbled across a few photos of Cole Hamels doing something similar, and that might help to explain the problems that he has had with his PAS shoulder.

Cole Hamels

Notice how high his PAS elbow is in the photo above. It looks to me like Cole Hamels could have a problem with Hyperabduction.

Cole Hamels

The photo above shows that his elbow is just as high just a moment later.

Cole Hamels

The reverse angle above is from the same moment in time and shows the same thing.

Cole Hamels

Add this on top of the problem with habitual rushing that this photo shows, and that I have talked about before, suggest that Hamels will continue to struggle with injuries.



Frame By Frame Analysis: Mark Prior

While many people have liked it, I have caught and incredible amount of flak for the analysis of Mark Prior's pitching motion and mechanics that I did based on a large number of still frames. I had to do it that way because I didn't have a good clip of him throwing. Well, I recently found a good clip and have just completed a frame by frame analysis of the pitching motion and mechanics of Mark Prior. It reinforces everything that I have said in the past and even points out a few things that I didn't catch back then.



How To Choose A Pitching Coach

I recently received an e-mail from a parent asking me to help him choose the right pitching coach for his son. People at my son's school have been asking me this question as well, so I decided to put down my thoughts in this article about how to choose a pitching coach. The idea is for this to serve as a kind of buying guide for pitching coaches.



Like Swallows To Capistrano...

I can tell from the e-mails that I am getting, and the traffic on the discussion boards that I participate in, that people are starting to get ready for the upcoming baseball season. I am certain that I will soon see an uptick in inquiries from people with shoulder problems and medial (inner) elbow problems. To try to nip this in the bud, let me point you to three things. The first is an article that I wrote called Pitching Mechanics That May Prevent Medial (Inner) Elbow Pain that describes what I think are some mechanical tweaks that pitchers can make that may help to protect their elbows. The second is a workout program called The Throwers Ten (.pdf)  that I believe is both safe and effective. The third is a new book called Tuff Cuff that Steven Ellis just published and that describes a full-body workout plan for pitchers.
     Of course, as with any workout or exercise routine, you should consult your physician first before following this advice.



Football Quarterbacks and Rotator Cuff Problems

One reason that I think I have a good understanding of the injury mechanism of baseball pitchers is that football quarterbacks throw differently and, I believe as a result, experience different problems. One thing that football quarterbacks do is always keep their elbows below the level of their shoulders.

Tom Brady

They are pretty much forced to do this by the shoulder pads that they wear.

Peyton Manning

What I find interesting is that, I believe as a result, they experience far fewer problems with their shoulders. When they do experience problems with their shoulders, these problems tend to result from acute stress -- from being sacked and landing on their shoulders -- rather than from chronic stress.



Full Disclosure: Freddy Garcia's Sore Shoulder

In the past, I have said that I am a fan of Freddy Garcia's pitching mechanics; I believe that they will reduce the likelihood that he will experience a serious shoulder problem.
     However, in the interests of full disclosure I have to point out that Garcia apparently had some Tendonitis in his shoulder at the end of last season.
     This evidently wasn't serious and in my opinion more than likely was a result of his being overworked. He pitched late into the 2005 season as a result of the World Series and then got off to an early start in 2006 due to the World Baseball Classic. All of that put more strain on his arm while at the same time giving him less time off than he is used to.
     It will be interesting to see if these problems persist in the 2007 season. I don't think they will.



I Got The Call!

I'm sorry that I've been quiet of late.
     In part, it's because I was on vacation with my family on the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
     It's an amazing place.
     However, the bigger reason that I have been quiet is that I have started working with a major league baseball team (sorry, but I can't say who it is). I am helping them evaluate pitchers that they are interested in drafting or signing and am helping them identify pitchers with problematic mechanics who should either be avoided or regarded with caution.
     It's pretty interesting work.


The Pitching Mechanic - December 2006

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