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Pitcher Picks And Pans

In an effort to put my money where my mouth is, let me put down in writing my sense of who I think the best pitchers are. This list is based on mechanics and is sorted in descending order, with my favorites at the top.

Cliff Lee 11/26/2008: Cliff Lee is one of may favorite left-handed pitchers. Not only is he effective, but Cliff Lee's pitching mechanics look solid. Between his pitches, his pitching mechanics, and his higher arm slot, Cliff Lee strikes me as a kind of left-handed Mike Mussina. That should make him a fairly low-risk, high-reward pitcher for a number of years.
Roy
Oswalt
7/4/2007: Roy Oswalt pretty much single-handedly convinced me that the prejudice against long-armers has no basis in fact.
Mark
Buehrle
7/17/2007: While I haven't seen enough of Mark Buehrle to render a verdict on his elbow, from what I have seen of his arm action (IOW his lack of Inverted W), I think his shoulder should hold up.
David
Price
7/4/2007: Deserved to go number 1 in the 2007 draft. From the little I've seen of him, his mechanics are similar to those of Greg Maddux.
David
Kopp
7/4/2007: Possibly my favorite RHP in the 2007 draft. Very similar to Greg Maddux and Dan Haren. Great arm-side run on his fastball, which means he knows how to pronate his pitches and should protect his elbow. Great arm action, which should protect his shoulder. Only question is whether his command is what it needs to be.
Daisuke Matsuzaka 7/4/2007: I like the pitching mechanics of Daisuke Matsuzaka. He's got some Inverted W, but not too much. His ball has tremendous movement; perhaps the best in all of baseball. And no, he doesn't throw the gyroball.
Felix
Hernandez
7/4/2007: A little max-effort, but I love his arm action. Had some forearm problems in 2007, but were muscular and were probably related to a lack of conditioning.
Justin
Verlander
1/15/2008: Justin Verlander's pitching mechanics are solid and he is very smooth. He also has great tail on his fastball.
3/3/2009: While I am still a fan of his arm action and timing, I recently revisited his pitching mechanics of and discovered a possible inefficiency in his lower body mechanics that may explain his velocity problems and that make increase his risk of shoulder problems.

Joe Blanton

3/30/2011: Joe Blanton has an extremely linear stride. I have a theory that this makes a pitcher less efficient, and more arm-y, so I will be watching to see how his shoulder holds up.

Dan
Haren
7/4/2007: Dan Haren is a near clone of Greg Maddux and may be my favorite young pitcher as a result. Has an above-average chance of being a 20-Year guy.
12/21/2008: I dropped Dan Haren a number of notches because of a number of suggestions that he may have a slight timing problem.
Andrew
Miller
7/15/2007: I haven't seen much of him, so I don't know how his ball moves and how his elbow will fare, but from what I have seen his arm action is good, which should help to protect his shoulder.
Joba Chamberlain 8/20/2007: Like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain has a lot of Roger Clemens in him, which I think is a good thing.
9/19/2008: I just found some video of Joba Chamberlain and just did an analysis of the pitching mechanics of Joba Chamberlain. He makes me a little nervous due to what looks like a timing problem.
Cole
Hamels
7/4/2007: Cole Hamels has a prior history of shoulder problems, probably related to some Hyperabduction. 9/11/2007: I have also seen a hint of a problem with rushing in Cole Hamels' mechanics, which may help to explain his recent elbow problems.
3/30/2011: Based on Cole Hamels' relative durability, I think it's obvious that Hyperabduction isn't a primary problem. He is one of the people who led me to focus on the importance of timing.
Freddy
Garcia
7/4/2007: Freddy Garcia used to be one of my favorites until his recent shoulder problems made me take a second look at him. I realized I had overlooked some signs of Hyperabduction. I still like how early he breaks his hands and gets his PAS forearm up and into the high-cocked position.
Jonathan Papelbon 7/4/2007: He has had some shoulder problems, probably related to some Hyperabduction. He may not last if he leaves the bullpen.
Barry
Zito
8/8/2007: He breaks his hands with his elbows which puts him in a classic Inverted L position. While he hasn't had serious problems to date, he may have experienced a recent drop in his velocity (which is why he played around with his mechanics in 2007 Spring Training) which may indicate an impending shoulder problem. Of course, his arm action also resembles that of Chris Carpenter, which means his elbow could also be at risk. The bottom line is that I would be surprised if his big, long-term deal turns out to be a success.
3/30/2011: To be honest, I can't believe Barry Zito has lasted as long as he has. His Inverted L, and resulting timing problem, make him a ticking time bomb and likely go a long way to explaining his diminishing velocity and effectiveness. The question is whether his arm will blow up before the Giants simply give up on him.
Ian
Kennedy
9/11/2007: I've never been a big fan of Ian Kennedy. He combines a significant Inverted L with major reverse-rotation. The curse of USC (Tom House?) strikes again!
Jonathan Broxton 10/2/2008: As I say in my analysis of the pitching mechanics of Jonathan Broxton, he has an Inverted V or Inverted W in his arm action, which is always a cause for concern because they tend to create a timing problem. He wouldn't last as a starter and still faces an increased risk of elbow and shoulder problems as a reliever.
Jeff
Francis
10/10/2007: While I haven't seen enough of Jeff Francis to render a verdict on his elbow, from what I have seen of his arm action (IOW his lack of Inverted W), I think his shoulder should hold up.
3/30/2011: Jeff Francis has the same problem as Mark Mulder and Brandon McCarthy. He pulls back with his GS elbow too soon. That creates a timing problem causes his arm to drag.
Tim
Lincecum
7/4/2007: Same as Felix Hernandez. He's a little max-effort, even more so than King Felix, but Tim Lincecum's pitching mechanics and arm action look mostly good, which should help to protect his shoulder.
3/17/2008: I still like Tim Lincecum's mechanics, but I have to acknowledge that he's got some Inverted L in his mechanics, which makes him riskier. However, it doesn't affect his timing as much as it does someone like BJ Ryan.
6/15/2008: I recently came across some high speed film of Tim Lincecum's pitching mechanics which makes me a bit nervous about him. As I mentioned above, I see some Inverted L in his arm action, and I'm concerned that it may be creating some timing problems for him. Combine timing problems with a guy who's max-effort and you get a guy who's relatively higher risk.
3/30/2011: I am nervous about the health of Tim Lincecum's shoulder, especially given that he seemed to lose a few MPH last year. I am concerned that he could be the next big name to go down.
Johan
Santana
7/4/2007: I like a lot of things about Johan Santana's mechanics, but I have to admit that I am somewhat concerned about his shoulder. He has some Inverted W in his motion. It's hard to say whether he'll be able to succeed in spite of it as John Smoltz and Pedro Martinez have. I also haven't seen his ball move, so I'm not sure what the prospects are for his elbow. He's certainly better than Francisco Liriano, but I'm not sure how much better.
Jake
Peavy
7/4/2007: I'm not a fan of Jake Peavy's arm action, due to his borderline Inverted V, and it makes me concerned about his shoulder. But if I'm correct then his tremendous arm-side run (aka tail) means his elbow should hold up.
10/18/2008: I think that Jake Peavy's arm action is better characterized as an Inverted V than an Inverted W.
Jensen
Lewis
9/10/2008: I'm not sure what his timing looks like, but Jensen Lewis has a significant Inverted V in his arm action, which is always a cause for concern. He wouldn't last as a starter.
Adam Wainwright 7/4/2007: Significant Hyperabduction combined with some Inverted W. I'm not hopeful about his long-term prospects. He needs to be moved back into the bullpen if he's going to last.
3/30/2011: Recently blew out his elbow. I explain why in my new piece on Adam Wainwright's Inverted W.
Stephen Strasburg 3/30/2011: As I explain in my piece on the pitching mechanics of Stephen Strasburg, he has an Inverted W and a timing problem. His shoulder is next.
Kyle Blair 11/3/2008: Significant Inverted W which hurts his timing. The only way he'll last is in the bullpen.
Aaron
Heilman
7/4/2007: A virtual clone of Billy Wagner. Major Inverted V. Needs to stay in the bullpen if he's going to last.
AJ
Burnett
9/10/2008: I'm not a fan, due to his arm action. He's got some Inverted W and Inverted L and timing problems as a result. I hope my Cardinals don't pick him up in the off-season.
Shaun
Marcum
9/19/2008: way back in August 2006 I expressed concern about the pitching mechanics of Shaun Marcum. Well, I just heard today that he has to undergo Tommy John surgery. I'm not surprised given his Inverted L to Inverted W.
Joel
Zumaya
7/4/2007: A virtual clone of Billy Wagner (if not worse). Major Inverted V. Needs to stay in the bullpen if he's going to last.
Jeremy Bonderman 9/11/2007: Back in December 2006, I said that giving a long-term to Jeremy Bonderman was a bad idea. The problem is that he has a significant Inverted W and some Hyperabduction. Now Bonderman has been shut down for the rest of the year with an elbow problem that I think is much more serious than people believe.
9/10/2007: Bonderman has been shut down for the year with a problem that I think is related to his Inverted W and Hyperabduction. His arm action simply puts too much stress on his arm and the structures around it.
Francisco
Liriano
8/17/2007: Very pronounced Inverted W. Is currently out with a torn UCL. I wouldn't be surprised if his shoulder lets go next, probably a year or two after he recovers from his elbow injury. I think he could be the Twins' Mark Prior. This is such a waste because his stats are absolutely incredible (e.g. superior to most HOF pitchers). The only way he's going to last is as a reliever ala Billy Wagner.
Chris
Carpenter
7/4/2007: An example of a guy who has been successful despite his mechanics. I'm tempted to wonder how good he could have been but for his poor mechanics. As I said back in December 2006, I can't believe that Cardinals signed him to a long-term deal. He may come back strong in 2008 but I'll bet he'll fall apart in 2009. That's been his pattern so far. Oh, the humanity!
Kerry
Wood
7/4/2007: An example of a guy with a problem with habitual rushing (ala Robb Nen) due to some Inverted L. 9/11/2007: I don't see any significant improvements in Kerry Wood's timing or mechanics, the only thing that might protect him (for a while) is improved conditioning and pitching out of the bullpen. All bets are off if the Cubs try to turn him back into a starter.
Anthony
Reyes
7/4/2007: Anthony Reyes is almost a clone of Mark Prior, and I am not hopeful about his long-term prospects as a result (I think he could be the Cardinals' Mark Prior). Tons of Inverted W and questionable timing as a result. I hope the Cardinals trade him before he falls apart.
Aaron
Crow
6/5/2008: I'm not a fan of Aaron Crow. He's got a significant Inverted L in his arm action and he throws the slider. I would be surprised if he lasts.
Mark
Prior
7/4/2007: Despite what Tom House says, Mark Prior's pitching mechanics may be the worst ever. Tons of Inverted W combined with very poor timing. Stick a fork in him. He's done.
6/4/2008: Mark Prior's season, and I believe his career, is over.
BJ Ryan 1/15/2008: I thought it was going to be hard to top Mark Prior, but BJ Ryan's pitching mechanics are even worse. Tons of Inverted L resulting in the worst timing I've ever seen. Stick a fork in him. He's done.
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