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Pitching Mechanics Analysis
Jason Motte

Updated 2015.8.24

I have updated this piece several times to take into account what I learned as a result of my initial miss on my assessment of Jason Motte's pitching mechanics. However, in the interests of intellectual honesty, I have left that initial assessment up.

2015.8.24 Update

The initial version of this piece was done with Dr. Mike Marshall's ideas about timing in mind; specifically, the idea that it's better to be early than late. However, as my assessment of Jaime Garcia's pitching mechanics and Tommy Hanson's pitching mechanics make clear, it can be bad — and perhaps even worse — to be early than late.

In my initial assessment of Jason Motte's pitching mechanics, I wrote off the pause in his arm swing — how his arm stalls on its way up to the high-cocked position and stops externally rotating for a number of frames — as a good thing.

Video Clip of Jason Motte

Jason Motte

However, and contrary to what Dr. Mike Marshall has said, such a pause is a major problem.

It breaks the kinetic chain.

Lesson learned.

P.S. I am increasingly seeing such a pause, often combined with re-internal rotation, in the arm actions of catchers. While this is often labelled high-level throwing due to the short-term velocity boost it generally delivers, it can have long-term negative consequences for the elbow and the shoulder.

2014.12.15 Update

Arm stalls. Even internally rotates a bit.

2014.02.14 Update

Given the passing of a few years, Jason Motte's elbow blowing up, and my falling in love with Nolan Ryan's pitching mechanics, I've decided to take another look at Jason Motte's pitching mechanics in relation to Nolan Ryan's pitching mechanics.

Comparison of Nolan Ryan and Jason Motte

Nolan Ryan vs. Jason Motte

As is the case with Shelby Miller's pitching mechanics, the thing that really stands out when comparing Nolan Ryan and Jason Motte is the mind-bottling fluidity of Ryan's pitching mechanics in general, and arm swing in particular, compared to Motte's herky-jerky arm swing.

Jason Motte breaks his hands early, glides down the mound, then he has to lift with his elbows in order to try to hold his shoulders back. The result is something that pales in comparison to the fluidity that you see in Nolan Ryan.


I recently read, with combination of amusement and dismay, an analysis of the pitching mechanics of Jason Motte by Alex Eisenberg. I have multiple problems with his analysis of Jason Motte's mechanics, and I explain those problems at the end of this piece.

In the meantime, let's look at the pitching mechanics of Jason Motte using some high definition video that I shot just a couple of weeks ago at Spring Training.

Video Clip of Jason Motte

Jason Motte

Jason Motte's mechanics are generally fairly good and reasonably safe.

First, Jason Motte does a decent job of getting his lower body moving toward the target through the top of his leg lift. Notice how in Frame 29 his hips are out in front of his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) foot.

Second, Jason Motte's arm action is solid. Rather than leading with his elbows, you can that by Frame 45 Jason Motte's hand is above the level of his PAS elbow. You can also see in Frame 56 that Jason Motte scap loads with his elbows just below the level of his shoulders, which is good.

Third, Jason Motte's timing looks decent. His Glove Side (GS) foot plants and his shoulders start rotating around Frame 58, by which time his PAS forearm is mostly vertical.

Fourth, I do think that one reason why Jason Motte's lower body mechanics are a bit conservative, and possibly less efficient, is that they may represent an effort to improve his control. However, I think that effort may be misdirected. From the standpoint of control, the thing that worries me the most about Jason Motte is his disproportionately large head jerk. Notice in Frame 61 how far his head, and in particular his eyes, are off of level. While you do see big head jerks in higher arm slot guys, it's unusual to see such a big head jerk in a guy who throws from a 3/4 arm slot.

Finally, you can also see an excessive amount of lean back toward First Base in Jason Motte's torso as his PAS forearm passes through the high-cocked position, which may be the remnant of a higher arm slot in the past. However, this residual torso lean likely isn't helping him and may be hurting his control. What might be an interesting experiment is to try to lower Jason Motte's arm slot just a bit to low 3/4. That would tend to reduce the severity of his head jerk and would also likely improve the movement of his fastball and could put him in Nolan Ryan territory in terms of both the velocity and movement of his fastball.

The Bottom Line on Jason Motte

The bottom line on Jason Motte is that his mechanics are solid. However, he does seem to have a tendency to rush his throws, which means that his timing may not be as consistent, and as good, as the clip above indicates. I think the biggest thing Jason Motte needs to work on is the stability of his head. If he can learn to get more power from his lower body, and try to do less with his upper body to just muscle the ball with his arm, I could see both his control and his velocity improving.

Jason Motte Needs A Change-Up!

If I ran the zoo, I would make Jason Motte's second pitch a change-up rather than a slider. Given that his fast ball is so hard, but so flat (aka straight), the only chance he has is to mess with a hitter's timing. Hitters are going to start their swings early in attempt to just time out his fastball. The way to defeat that strategy is with a solid change-up that looks the same out of the hand, not a slider that looks different right out of the hand (and that is kind of weak and slurvy as it is).

What Alex Eisenberg Gets Wrong
About Jason Motte

The superficial problem with Alex Eisenberg's analysis of the pitching mechanics of Jason Motte is that he simply gets some things wrong. For example, he says...

It’s straight as an arrow, but it’s sneaky and gets on hitters quick because he short-arms the ball, which dates back to his days as a catcher.

...but video evidence (see Frame 59 of the clip above) shows that Jason Motte does not short-arm the ball. Instead, at the high-cocked position Jason Motte's Pitching Arm Side (PAS) forearm is at a very neutral (neither short arm nor long arm) 90 degree angle.

Alex Eisenberg seems to be in love with the idea that the elbow should pick up the ball...

He lets the elbow pick up the ball... the point where he sees it when it isn't even there.

While some pitchers do pick up the ball with their PAS elbow, Jason Motte doesn't. Rather than leading with his elbow out of his hand break, by Frame 45 Jason Motte's PAS hand is above the level of his PAS elbow and it stays there through his arm swing.

Alex Eisenberg also doesn't seem to understand why pitchers hook their wrists. He says...

He lets the elbow pick up the ball, meaning no hook in the wrist, like you see with Rich Harden.

...when in truth the two are totally unrelated. Letting the elbow pick up the ball will not fix a hook in the wrist, as the example below of Barry Zito demonstrates.

Barry Zito

Barry Zito

Notice how Zito picks up the ball with his elbow but still has a major hook in his wrist. In truth, the hook in the wrist is generally due to either pre-setting a pitch or tension in the wrist or forearm (or both).

What's worse, Alex Eisenberg doesn't seem to understand, accept, or care about, the relationship between a pitcher's arm action and the risk of injury...

He lets the elbow pick up the ball, meaning no hook in the wrist, like you see with Rich Harden. He also efficiently loads the scapula...

In truth, by letting the elbow pick up the ball, a pitcher greatly increases the risk of developing an inverted arm action and a timing problem as a result.

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