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The Pitching Mechanic
June 2008

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


The Pitching Mechanic - July 2008



Pitcher Analysis - John Smoltz

His recent shoulder problems have lead me to do an analysis of the pitching mechanics of John Smoltz. It turns out that John Smoltz has had an Inverted L or Inverted W in his arm action throughout his career. This has created timing problems for him which have led to serious elbow and shoulder problems.



Updated Tim Lincecum Analysis

A month or so ago I came across some super slow motion video of Tim Lincecum. As a result, I have updated my analysis of the pitching mechanics of Tim Lincecum. Based on what I see in this video clip, I am somewhat less optimistic about Tim Lincecum's long-term prospects.



Should The Elbow Pick Up The Ball?

I recently came across a piece entitled Pitching Prospects to Watch in 2008 by Alex Eisenberg. In it he shows a clip of Chorye Spoon.

Chorye Spoon

Chorye Spoon

About what he sees in the clip above, Alex says the following...

Spoone's arm action is his best mechanical quality. He breaks his hands late, lets the elbow pick up the ball and has a clean elbow rotation into release. Frame 25 gives a nice shot of Spoone's scap load, which you can get a full explanation of here. The short version is that scap loading is the horizontal "loading" and subsequent "unloading" of the shoulder and is a major factor in generating arm speed and therefore velocity.

These are prototypical Paul Nyman ideas that I have a gigantic problem with, especially the idea that breaking the hands late and letting the elbow pick up the ball are good things.
     They are not.
     First, the problem with breaking the hands late is that it isn't necessary to throwing either hard or well. What's worse, it can lead to timing problems. Second, letting the elbow pick up the ball is one way that pitchers get to the Inverted L and Inverted W positions.
     Why anyone would want to emulate the timing and pitching mechanics of frequently-injured pitchers like Mark Prior, BJ Ryan, and Chris Carpenter, and not emulate proven pitchers like Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, and Nolan Ryan, completely escapes me.
     To throw salt on the wound, in his related essay A Tale of Two Arm Actions: Oswalt and Manship, Alex Eisenberg tries to make the case that Roy Oswalt picks the ball up with his elbow.

Roy Oswalt

Roy Oswalt

To try to make his case that Roy Oswalt picks the ball up with his elbow, Alex Eisenberg shows the clip above and says the following about it...

Oswalt's elbow is picking up the ball. By this, I mean you should be able to draw a straight line connecting the elbow to the wrist/ball.

The problem with the statement above is that it makes no sense. The reason you can draw a straight line from the elbow to the wrist is that there are two bones there (the Radius and the Ulna). Only if those bones were broken or missing would you not be able to draw a straight line from the elbow to the wrist.

The ball should not be higher than the elbow until the elbow is ready to rotate into release

This is absolutely miserable advice. What's more, no pitcher, not even the longest long-armer like Roy Oswalt, actually does this.
     A better definition of the elbow picking up the ball is that the elbow stays above the level of the hand and the ball until just before the shoulders start to rotate, as you see in the arm action of BJ Ryan (who has arm problems as a result of his arm action).

Roy Oswalt's Arm Action

Roy Oswalt's Arm Action

Of course, as the video clip above shows (and let me say that a Third Base view is a much better angle to use when looking at a pitcher's arm action), Roy Oswalt doesn't pick up the ball with his elbow.
     That's why I like his arm action.
     Instead, as you can plainly see, the ball gets up to the level of Roy Oswalt's elbow relatively quickly and then goes above it a couple of frames before his shoulders start to rotate.

Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux

Video clips of Greg Maddux, who is one of the most durable pitchers in history, show that he also doesn't pick up the ball with his elbow. Instead, his elbow always stays quite low, and his PAS hand quickly gets above the level of his elbow, during his arm swing.

Jeff Manship

Jeff Manship

Because he is evidently so enamored of the ideas of Paul Nyman, Alex Eisenberg also doesn't understand good pitching mechanics when he sees them. About the clip above, he says this...

As Manship completes his arm circle, the ball ends up above the elbow. You can't draw a straight line from Manship's elbow to his wrist.

First, because Jeff Manship's forearm is intact, and not broken or missing the Radius and Ulna bones, you can of course draw a straight line from his elbow to his wrist. Second, the arm action you see in the clip above is actually good and resembles the arm action of Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens (which of course is a good thing).

When the ball/wrist picks up the elbow, it places unneeded stress on a pitcher's elbow.

This is simply wrong, as the fact that Greg Maddux and Roger Clemens have been free of elbow problems makes clear.

It's bad enough when people like Alex Eisenberg advocate dangerous ideas like picking up the ball with the elbow, the Inverted L, and the Inverted W. It's worse, and bordering on irresponsible, when they tell people to not do things that are demonstrably good (because they are what the majority of Hall Of Fame pitchers did).



Pitcher Analysis - Barry Zito

A lot of people have been talking about Barry Zito and why his velocity has been dropping over the past couple of years. I just completed an analysis of the pitching mechanics of Barry Zito that suggests that the root cause of his problem is related to our old friend the Inverted L.



A Great Picture Of Johan Santana

I just came across a great picture of Johan Santana just before the release point.

Johan Santana

Johan Santana

Some things to notice in this photo are the change-up grip, and how the added skin on the ball will slow it down just enough, how his PAS elbow is in line with his shoulders, how his shoulders are tilted to create his 3/4 arm slot, and how he lands with his toe pointed at the target.



Pitcher Analysis - Lance Lynn

The St. Louis Cardinals selected Michael Lance Lynn with their second pitch. I think that was a very good pick because, as I explain in my analysis of the pitching mechanics of Lance Lynn, he bears a number of points of resemblance to Greg Maddux.



The Tragedy Of Mark Prior

During the off-season between the 2007 and 2008 Major League baseball seasons, I did two analyses of the pitching mechanics of Mark Prior, one in December 2007 that looked at Mark Prior's pitching mechanics in isolation and a second one in February 2008 that compared Mark Prior's pitching mechanics to those of Greg Maddux and Nolan Ryan. In that second piece I said this...

Mark Prior's pitching mechanics were never as good as people thought they were (and) Mark Prior's pitching mechanics are largely responsible for his injury problems. As a result, I would not be surprised if the fans of the San Diego Padres find Mark Prior to be as big of a disappointment as the fans of the Chicago Cubs have found him to be.

Unfortunately, I turned out to be right.
     Mark Prior just underwent season-ending shoulder surgery and it turns out that the Padres will get no value for the money they paid him.
     While on the one hand I am happy that I was right (again) about the fate of a pitcher with problematic mechanics, I also view Mark Prior's story as quite tragic. Here is a guy with tremendous ability whose pitching arm, I believe, may have been destroyed in a terribly misguided attempt by Tom House to apply an unproven theory of Paul Nyman's about pitching mechanics. That theory is the Inverted W and the result is that Mark Prior's pitching mechanics are literally unprecedented.

Mark Prior

Mark Prior's Inverted W

No other pitcher in history of baseball has Mark Prior's arm action and, despite what the Tom House apologists will say, I believe that Mark Prior's arm action -- and not his collision with Marcus Giles or anything else -- is the root cause of the problems with his pitching arm.
     The only hope that Mark Prior has for salvaging his career is to rebuild his pitching mechanics from the ground up and, in particular, by changing his arm action. I would be glad to work with Mark Prior should he, one of his representatives, or one of his friends be interested in contacting me.



Pedro Martinez's Screwball

So I'm watching the Mets play the Dodgers and Peter Gammons just came on and said that Pedro hopes to be able to throw his screwball as well when he comes back as he did before. I have long suspected that Pedro threw the screwball, and I hope that the fact that Pedro Martinez throws one helps to put to an end the myth of the evil screwball.



Pitcher Analysis - Jess Todd

Jess Todd is currently tearing up the minor leagues, so I thought people would be interested in an analysis of the pitching mechanics of Jess Todd that I put together for the 2007 draft.


The Pitching Mechanic - May 2008

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