September 7, 2012
The Ace-Time Continuum
There is no overstating the importance of timing. It can be the difference between meeting your future spouse and just missing the taxi cab, or it can separate a well-executed strike from a mistake pitch that is deposited into the bleachers. Timing is the most critical variable in the pitching equation, particularly as it pertains to the sequencing of events within the kinetic chain. Gameday performance is heavily influenced by a pitcher's ability to harness his timing and sequencing, factors that determine the command, velocity, and movement on his pitches.
Of all the grades on the mechanics report card, the score for repetition is not only the most difficult to evaluate—since hundredths of a second can separate the haves from the have-nots—but it is also the most volatile element during the season. Case in point, a number of pitchers that were covered by Raising Aces in the spring have since experienced large changes to their timing patterns, adjustments that could alter their individual outlooks for performance down the stretch.
Darvish took longer than expected to find his time signature, displaying inconsistency throughout the summer that limited the utility of his explosive stuff, piling up strikeouts and walks by the truckload. He also toyed with his mechanics, at one point introducing a distinct pause in his motion as he reached maximum leg lift, a technique that is popular in Japan and that has been popularized stateside by Daisuke Matsuzaka, but the strategy only exacerbated the timing issues by opening the window for error while halting his progression.
Darvish wisely ditched the stutter-stop after his start on August 6th, and after another disaster outing on August 12th, the right-hander re-discovered his fluid timing. The pitcher who walked more than four batters per game in July and early August has allowed just four total free passes against 26 punchouts in his past 21 innings. He has done a much better job of repeating the delivery overall, but Darvish still takes awhile to find his timing in-game. To quote Rangers team President and former ace Nolan Ryan, “I've seen him struggle in some early innings before falling into a rhythm.”