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The Pitching Mechanic
February 2007

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


The Pitching Mechanic - March 2007



Concerns About Adam Wainwright's Shoulder

The season hasn't even started yet, and I'm already nervous about Adam Wainwright's shoulder (again). His Pitching Arm Side (aka PAS) elbow is a little high in the photo below.

Adam Wainwright

I'm concerned that Adam Wainwright might start to experience shoulder problems similar to the ones that Jonathan Papelbon and Cole Hamels have (and for the same reason). This is particularly an issue because Wainwright is looking to move into the starting rotation.
     All of this is too bad because, as you can see in the photo, Adam Wainwright achieves a gigantic hip/shoulder separation. I'd put him at close to 90 degrees in the photo above, which is top 5%.



Down Year For The Cardinals?

As long as I'm at it, let me say something that I've been thinking for a while.
     I am concerned that this may be a down year for the Cardinals, and not just because of the standard post World Series let-down.
     These thoughts started when a couple of guys around town asked me which Cardinals pitchers' mechanics I like. I hadn't thought about it before, but I realized that I don't have a good answer for that question. Now that Jeff Suppan, Jason Marquis, and Jeff Weaver -- all of whom had solid mechanics even if Marquis and Weaver were total head cases -- have left town, there really isn't anyone in the Cardinals' pitching staff whose mechanics I really like. I am hopeful about Kip Wells based on some stills of him that I have seen, but I am concerned that Anthony Reyes, Adam Wainwright, and Chris Carpenter are vulnerable to injury problems (particularly their shoulders).
     I hope I'm wrong, but we'll have to see how things play out over the course of the season.
     I'm glad I that, due to the scouting work I've been doing, I now have another team to root for in case my Cardinals struggle.



Marshall Arm Action

For those of you who, like me, are interested in the ideas of Dr. Mike Marshall, another one of his followers -- whose son has trained with Dr. Marshall -- has posted to the web two videos of his son doing his drills. One video gives a good sense of Dr. Marshall's desired arm action. The other video shows him performing Dr. Marshall's wrist weight exercises.



Don't Show The Ball To Center Field (or Second Base)

I recently had a virtual conversation with a father whose son was having medial (inner) elbow problems. After a little bit of digging, I learned that the boy's son was told that he should show the ball to Center Field (or Second base). I told that boy's father that this was bad advice and that his son should do what the pros do, which is show the ball to Short Stop or better yet Third Base.

Greg Maddux

If you want to understand why I believe that showing the ball to Center Field (or Second Base) is bad advice, then you should read my essays Pitching Mechanics That May Prevent Medial (Inner) Elbow Pain and Pronate Early (And Often).



The Great Long-Arming Myth

I just had a virtual conversation with a father who was convinced by someone, probably a follower of Paul Nyman, that he had to change his son's arm action because his son was long-arming the ball. This person incorrectly believes that it is impossible for a pitcher to throw hard or well if they are long-arming the ball. Instead, this person seems to believe that a pitcher must short-arm the ball, ala Billy Wagner, if they are to throw the ball well. I explain why this is total garbage, by pointing out that Roy Oswalt long-arms the ball in the clip below, in an essay entitled The Great Long-Arming Myth. Oh, and for the record there is no sign of the Inverted W in Roy Oswalt's arm action, which is one reason that I think he will have a long, injury-free career.



What Deception Looks Like

I just finished an interesting conversation with a very experienced baseball scout that I thought others could learn from.
     I know I did.
     We were talking about Wind-Ups and deception and he made the point that many current pitchers' deliveries aren't that deceptive. Instead, too many pitchers' deliveries look the same. I then made the point that if you want to understand what a deceptive Wind-Up looks like, and why it's deceptive, check out this video of Daisuke Matsuzaka on YouTube.
     There are two things about Matsuzaka's Wind-Up that make it deceptive...

  • It's herky-jerky.
  • He seems to change the timing of the jerks from pitch to pitch.

At a minimum, Daisuke Matsuzaka's Wind-Up has to be distracting as heck for the hitter (ala Bob Gibson's sprawling follow-through), and it probably helps to ruin the hitter's timing as well (especially if the hitter has a more complicated swing). With Matsuzaka, you never know for sure when to start your stride or your load because his time to the plate probably varies slightly from pitch to pitch.
     What's more that variation is both deliberate and deceptive.



Predictions for 2007

I was recently asked to put my money where my mouth was; to identify guys that I think are less likely, and guys that I think are more likely, than average to experience problems with injuries.
     Here is a list of guys that I would expect to be more durable than average (because I think their mechanics are better than average)...

1. Roy Oswalt
2. Freddy Garcia --- SEE NOTE BELOW
3. Dan Haren
4. Johan Santana
5. Justin Verlander
6. Kip Wells
7. Jeff Suppan
8. Beltran Perez
9. Casey Fossum

...and here is a list of guys who I expect to have more shoulder problems (especially Subscapularis) than average...

1. Anthony Reyes
2. Joel Zumaya (especially if made a starter).
3. Adam Wainwright (especially if made a starter).
4. Aaron Heilman
5. Cole Hamels
6. Jeremy Bonderman
7. Shawn Marcum
8. Dontrelle Willis

NOTE 6/22/2007: In the light of Freddy Garcia's recent shoulder problems, I have removed him from the list above of pitchers who I expect to be more durable than average. Recently I stated that I believe that in analyzing Freddy Garcia's mechanics, I may have missed some signs of Hyperabduction.



Death To The Inverted W

As anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows, I have a huge problem with pitchers who take their elbows both above and behind their shoulders (ala Mark Prior, Anthony Reyes, Billy Wagner, Joel Zumaya, and many others).

Anthony Reyes

Anthony Reyes

I believe that doing this, in addition to not being necessary to throw at a high velocity, dramatically increases the likelihood that a pitcher will have shoulder (and in some cases also elbow) problems.
     I have recently learned that there are some pitching coaches, and at least one pitching "guru", out there who are actually teaching pitchers to make the Inverted W as they break their hands. I give my opinion of this cue in a new essay that I wrote called Death To The Inverted W.



Questions About Barry Zito

I got an e-mail question today and I thought y'all might be interested in my response.

Barry Zito's start this past year was horrible. His fastball slowed to around 80. Mills was right when he said that Zito had slowed his stride when compared to time when he had more velocity and was more successful. It sure seems logical that a quicker stride, then rotation, would produce more speed. just as the crow hop does. Doesn't the speed of the stride or the distance matter? Or does your research bear out the fact that hip/shoulder separation is solely responsible for velocity or most of it to the point that stride doesn't matter?

I believe that the stride is over-rated as a source of power.
     I agree with Tom House when he says that 80% of a pitcher's power comes from the hips and torso (which means the hips rotating ahead of the shoulders). I also think that taking too long of a stride can interfere with the process by limiting how much a pitcher's hips (and thus his shoulders) can turn. That's why I believe in relatively shorter strides.
     In terms of what's going on with Barry Zito, I haven't been able to study him too much since I don't have any good film of him. However, I do have some thoughts about him based on an analysis that I did of a number of photos of Barry Zito .
     First, there seems to be a lot of variability in his mechanics, which can cause problems. He was harder to sequence than average.

Barry Zito

Second, as the photo above shows, he's got a horrible hook in his wrist, which suggests tension there (and possibly elsewhere) which can interfere with one's velocity. Third, I don't like how high his PAS elbow gets relative to his shoulder in some of the pictures of him that I have seen, and I wonder if that could be causing him shoulder problems (without his realizing it). His shoulder could be starting to develop problems, and the velocity drop could be a symptom of that.



Roy Oswalt: What Good Mechanics Look Like

Lest anyone label me a nattering nabob of negativism, let me discuss for a second a pitcher that I think has near-perfect mechanics: Roy Oswalt.

Roy Oswalt

The photo above shows several of things, all of which are good. First, the GS foot is just about to plant (to the heel side of flat) and the PAS forearm is just passing through the high cocked position. Second, the GS elbow is just below the level of the shoulders. Third, his hips are rotating just ahead of his shoulders. Fourth, he is bringing his glove into his GS pec. Finally, he is showing the ball to SS/3B, not to CF/2B.
     Roy Oswalt may have the best mechanics of any active major league pitcher, next to Greg Maddux.


The Pitching Mechanic - January 2007

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