Evaluation of the Pitching Mechanics of SI.com's
Baseball's Top 20 Young
Pitchers For 2008
A couple days ago SI.com put together a photo essay entitled
Baseball's Top 20 Young Pitchers. I thought my readers would
be interested in my going through these photos and commenting
Ubaldo Jimenez: Nice photo just after he's released the ball.
The ball was probably some sort of fastball. Notice the index
and middle fingers have just come off the ball. Mechanics are
kind of mixed. I like that his front leg is bent rather than
being locked. I like that his glove is in front of his Glove
Side (GS) pec rather than flying out to the side. I don't like
that he is leaving his Pitching Arm Side (PAS) foot behind on
the rubber, because that limits his hip rotation some.
The Pirates have a number of nice lefties, and Gorzelanny may be
my favorite. This photo shows a combination of Greg Maddux and
Tom Glavine. Notice his PAS elbow just below the level of his
shoulders. Notice how he's showing the ball to First Base.
Notice the nice hip/shoulder separation. Notice the shoulders
mostly level and the eyes locked on the target. Notice the
2-Seam fastball grip. The only thing is that I wish his elbow
wasn't bent right at 90 degrees.
P.S. How can the Pirates have so much solid young pitching
and still suck so consistently? Maybe that's changing, but I'm
not holding my breath.
Matt Cain: Not a great angle, but shows some interesting
things. I like the significant pronation of his PAS forearm
(e.g. thumb down), the fact that his GS knee is still bent
rather than being locked, the bend in his PAS knee, the fact
that his GS toe is pointing pretty much directly at the target,
and the position of his glove.
Nice photo of him at the release point of his 4-Seam fastball.
Notice how his (high)
arm slot is determined by the (large) tilt
of his shoulders, not the bend of his elbow. His elbow is fully
extended due to the rotation of his shoulders. He leaves his PAS
foot behind on the rubber a bit and doesn't have much bend in
his GS knee at this point. Good glove position.
Matt Garza: Not a great photo
in terms of talking about his mechanics. It does show great
hip/shoulder separation. Notice how his shoulders are still
closed but his hips have opened maybe 60 degrees and his belt
buckle is close to facing the target. Pitch is a 2-seamer.
Shows the contortions a pitcher's arm goes through. His shoulder
is at maximum external rotation (just 180 degrees, which is
good) and his elbow is still bent 90 degrees and in the lag
position, which means his shoulders haven't yet started to
decelerate. The load is focused on his UCL at this moment. I
like the bend in both his GS and PAS knees and his glove
I don't understand how -- or why -- pitchers pitch with all of
that crap around their necks. I could never concentrate. I
wouldn't be surprised if that stuff has caused control problems
for at least one pitcher.
Of course, I have ADD.
Anyway, Buchholz throws from a high
arm slot, and he's in the process of tilting his shoulders to
get his hand up there. His forearm is quite pronated at this
point, which is interesting (and potentially good for his
elbow). Compare Buchholz's degree of pronation (palm up) with
the lesser pronation in the photo above of Billingsley. I like
the bend in both his GS and PAS knees and his glove position. I
despise the Red Sox (remember 2004!), but have to admire their
taste in Buchholz.
Jeremy Bonderman: Fugly. That's the
word that pops into my mind when I look at this picture.
First, you've got significant
Hyperabduction which is preceded and/or facilitated by
Inverted W (which you don't see in this photo). Second, he's
scap loading, but his PAS elbow is well above and behind his
shoulders. Third, he's showing the ball to Center Field more
than I like. He's got good hip/shoulder separation, and lower
body action, but that's just increasing the load on his shoulder
(and elbow). Pity.
Sorry, but I can't do much with this picture. It's too late in
the process. He does seem to stride quite closed, which makes me
nervous. I sure hope he gets his glove up and protects himself
in the case of a come-backer. Something about this photo makes
me wonder if he tips his pitches.
Phil Hughes: Change-up
on the way. Strides a little closed. His timing seems decent.
His shoulders don't seem to have started rotating yet and his
PAS arm is almost up and in the high-cocked position. Nice
Jon Lester: I live the guy's spirit, but not his arm action.
He's not a classic
Inverted W, but his PAS elbow gets a little high and his arm
seems a little late as a result. I need to find some side film
of him and see if his PAS drops before his shoulders start
rotating. His hips are just starting to open underneath his
still-closed shoulders. Pitch may be a curve.
Tim Lincecum: The poster child for good hip/shoulder
separation. That's got to be close to 90 degrees. That's why a
guy as small as he is throws as hard as he does. The pitch looks
like a 2-seamer, although I'm not completely sure since he's
holding it quite off-center (which would make it move/tail a
lot). Let's hope his borderline
Inverted L doesn't catch
up with him. People worry about Lincecum's back, but I don't
really. He never gets to the jackknife position that Chad
Bradford or Mark Worrell do.
I will always love his brother Jeff for 2006, and Jered seems to
have a better head. The Weaver boys' mechanics are a little
funky. See this
high speed film of Jeff Weaver. They are long-armers with a
slightly funky arm action. This photo, which was taken a
millisecond after the release point, doesn't show that. Notice
how his arm slot is driven primarily by his shoulder tilt. Seems
to be throwing back across his body quite a lot. Pitch
is a 4-seam fastball.
I can't say for sure, but I think the pitch is a cutter or
slider (which I don't like). Notice how the rotation is half way between a 2-seamer
and a 4-seamer. Notice the steeper should tilt driving the
higher arm slot (3/4 to high 3/4). I like that his PAS knee is
bent at the release point, and I don't care that his foot is way
up in the air at the release point, but I don't like that it
looks like his GS knee is locked to locking. I like his glove
Francisco Liriano: Oh the humanity! Such incredible,
statistics. Such crappy mechanics. He's also one reason why I
hate the slider.
Back to the photo.
This is a very generic view that tells us little to
nothing about the root cause of his elbow problems.
Looks like he's throwing a change-up. Notice the 3
fingers + thumb on the ball. The only thing that's a little
funky about this photo is how he seems to be falling off to the
Third Base side at the release point. That may be due to the
tremendous horizontal forces he generates due to his (really
bad) arm action. By the time this photo has been taken, most of
the really bad stuff has already happened. I give him a year
before his arm rips apart at the shoulder.
Such a waste.
Kind of a pointless photo. I like King Felix, but I really can't
explain why using this photo. A couple of things to notice are
that he strides pretty much directly at the target and gets good
shoulder rotation. Also, his falling off toward First Base is
more good than bad.
Scott Kazmir: I have to admit that Scott Kazmir baffles me.
Every other year he breaks down and I look at him, don't see
anything major, and scratch my head. He may be the thing that
converts me over to the concept of PAP and the Year After
Effect, although it's not like he went straight from college to
the bigs the same year. He did have some ramp-up.
Does his conditioning program suck?
In terms of the photo, his hips are fully open and are
pulling his shoulders around. His PAS upper arm is externally
rotating, and his PAS forearm is laying back, but not too bad.
His forearm also seems fairly pronated at this moment, which
would make sense given that the pitch looks like a 2-seamer.
I'm not a fan of Cole Hamels, but not because of anything I see
or don't in this pretty much useless photo (although I will say
that Hamels is SOL if Albert sends that pitch back up the
middle). As I have said before, Cole Hamels has a problem with
Hyperabduction, which has
contributed to his elbow and shoulder problems. Adam Wainwright
and Freddy Garcia have the same basic problem.
Carmona's a gangly guy whose mechanics are a bit hard to read as
a result (which always makes me cautious). I like the
hip/shoulder separation. However, he's showing the ball to
Center Field (which is bad for the elbow), his PAS elbow is a
little high, and his timing is a bit suspect. Notice how his GS
foot is about to plant but his PAS arm isn't vertical. My gut
won't let me be very positive about such a flailing, gangly guy.
Yes, Bob Gibson flailed around, but after he release the ball.
Justin Verlander: So we finish on an up note.
As much as I'm NOT a fan of Jeremy Bonderman, I am a fan of
Justin Verlander. As I have said before,
Justin Verlander's mechanics are solid. I wish his elbow
wasn't bent 90 degrees at the high-cocked position, but that's
about it in terms of the negatives (and I'm not sure that's a
When it comes to the photo, notice how his shoulder
tilt is driving his arm slot (which is low 3/4). I wish he
didn't lock his GS knee, but I like the 90 degree bend in his
PAS knee because that implies good hip rotation. I like the
position of his glove at his GS pec and how he seems to stride
pretty much directly at the target. Looks like the pitch was a