June 1, 2012
Four of a Kind: Slot Machines
I maintain a list of pitchers to analyze, comprised of equal parts self-indulgence and reader suggestion. The list grows longer by the day, with names being added much more quickly than they can be crossed off, so I figure that I am overdue for a multi-player piece that puts a dent in the pitcher queue.
The idea behind “Four of a Kind” is to select a quartet of pitchers who share a common bond, to break down each player's in-game mechanics, and to grade each one on the six subjects of the Mechanics Report Card (patent pending). The report cards represent single-game snapshots, with the recognition that pitching mechanics are dynamic throughout the season.
Today's cuatro comes to us exclusively from reader suggestions that have arrived via email, article comments, the Twitterverse, or face-to-face interactions. The key link between the four hurlers is a high arm slot, reaching between 10:00 and 11:00 on the Slot Clock (also patent pending) from a right-handed starting pitcher. There are multiple ways to generate arm slot, ranging from the angle of shoulder abduction to the severity of spine-tilt at release point, and the players under today's microscope represent different levels on the spectrum.
James McDonald, Pirates, May 28 vs. Cincinnati
Mechanics Report Card
McDonald has average torque that produces fastball velocity in the low 90's. He directs his delivery straight toward the target, but his momentum is pedestrian at best, further limiting the kinetic energy that is transferred to the baseball and contributing to an extremely shallow distance at release point. He also has issues with dynamic balance, leaning back toward second base during leg lift and finishing the delivery with his weight out in front, such that the drag-foot lifts off the ground prior to pitch release. The imbalance provokes an aggressive spine-tilt at release point, generating an artificially high arm-slot despite an abduction angle that is very close to 90 degrees.