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Chat: Doug Thorburn

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday April 12, 2013 2:00 PM ET chat session with Doug Thorburn.

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Pitching guru Doug Thorburn stops by to answer your questions about the young season.

Doug Thorburn: Thanks for joining me for my first chat of the 2013 season. Giants-Cubs are queued up, a cup o' tea sits to my left, and Carlos Quentin will have run 500 miles if he wants to charge this mound. Let's do this!

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Of Haren, Halladay, and CC, whom should we really be worried about?

Doug Thorburn: I am really worried about Haren and Halladay, and moderately worried about CC. The combination of age and reduced velocity is a big worry, and though Halladay is slowly getting his velo back on track, his mechanical timing is (his greatest asset) is currently out of whack. I also worry about Haren's back issues.

Steve G. (STL): What do you think of Shelby Miller so far this year?

Doug Thorburn: I really like what I see from Miller, and am optimistic that he can translate his success from the second half of '12 into a continued growth pattern in '13. His mechanics were sound in his first start, and harnessing his timing will be a key facet of his performance, meanwhile the development of his secondary stuff will likely determine his staying power in the St. Louis rotation.

On the jukebox: Rage Against the Machine, "Ashes in the Fall"

ares1800jr (San Antonio): Whats the ETA for Wilson? Afetr the break? next year? He just became available in my keeper league, would burn an active spot since he not tecnichally on the DL.

Doug Thorburn: A typical recovery would have him back on the mound this month, but it sounds like Wilson's recovery is lagging behind the normal timeline. This is his second TJS, and it remains to be seen how well his elbow will hold up.

Matt Trueblood (Fridley, MN): How much can a hitter gain from trying to pick up a pitcher's release point changes for various pitches? There's a difference of probably 14 inches in where most pitchers release their fastballs and breaking balls, as I go through Brooks Baseball cards. Is it too hard to judge that in open space? Do batters compromise their focus on reacting and swinging by looking for stuff like this? Or could it be a way for a batter to pick up what's coming even as it leaves the pitcher's hand? If a team could place subtle vicual cues just off dead center in their home park and instruact hitters on how to use them, could their guys pick up pitches more quickly?

Doug Thorburn: Great question, and the answer depends on A) the degree of variation of a pitcher's release points, and B) whether there is consistency to that variation. Some pitchers will "get on top" of the curve moreso than the fastball, and a player who does this consistently can be tipping his pitches to the hitter. Batters are looking for a "visual window" at release point, and a skilled hitter can detect a moving window, especially one that drifts between two disparate release points. But plenty of pitchers are just inconsistent, with no pitch-specific tendencies in their release-point variation, in which case hitters just have to guess.

On the jukebox: Lagwagon, "No One"

Cru Jones (Hell Track): I really enjoy your work Doug. There have been some attempts in the past at looking at the available data on injuries and then trying to predict injuries going forward (ex: Russell Carlton did a piece not too long ago for BP). Have you seen any research you like on the field of injury prediction for pitchers based on mechanics (maybe you have done this)? If so, could you point us to the research? Thank you.

Doug Thorburn: This is a very undeveloped area of pitching research, and one of the biggest challenges is to find a reliable way to objectively evaluate mechanics. We had the tools for such research at the National Pitching Association, using hi-speed motion capture and analysis, and we conducted extensive research on the subject. The issue is made more difficult by the multitude of variables that contribute to pitcher injuries, including workloads, mechanics, genetics, conditioning, and luck. I am currently working on a project behind the scenes which I hope will add to the discussion of pitcher injuries by isolating some mechanical trends, and I began to breech the topic in this BP article from last month: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19842

Here's another primer on pitcher injuries, which I posted last year: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16967

Ashitaka1110 (Houston, TX): Josh Fields was just placed on the DL with a "forearm strain." A few people I know have claimed that that can be a precursor to a need for Tommy John surgery, even though that has to do with an elbow ligament. Any truth to that? How worried should we be about the injury?

Doug Thorburn: There is some truth to that, in the sense that the elbow and the forearm are connected links in the kinetic chain. A forearm strain can be somewhat vague, and the UCL connects to the humerus, so there is some potential with respect to the injury precursor. We must also consider that any weak link in the kinetic chain can threaten the integrity of the system, and pitchers tend to experience cascade injuries when they attempts to pitch at anything less than full function.

On the jukebox: Pink Floyd, "Goodbye Blue Sky"

Jesse (CA): When a pitcher struggles does it matter who is the pitching coach?

Doug Thorburn: A good pitching coach can properly diagnose the source of struggle, and relate the proper instruction to the athlete to fix the problem. On the flip side, a misdiagnosis or a different understanding of the pitching process can put a pitcher at greater risk. The decision of whether to put a pitcher out there also plays a role, particularly in the assessment of a potential injury. Some coaches are more honed in on mechanics, while others might focus primarily on approach and sequencing, and still others are experts in the psychological side. It all depends on the individual strengths of the coach and the details of a pitcher's struggles.

BobcatBaseball (Athens, OH): What is harder to project in young pitchers? Velocity or command?

Doug Thorburn: Command is much tougher to project, unless a pitcher already has command of his arsenal. The timing elements that underlie pitch command are so incredibly sensitive, and some pitchers never harness the intricacies of their delivery to the extent that they can repeat the motion 100 times a game. The timing difference boils down to hundredths of a second, and there are many elements that can deter from pitch repetition.

On the jukebox: The Clash, "Four Horsemen"

Dave (Boston): What do you think N. Feliz's role is when he comes back? Is he permanently in the bullpen or do they take another shot starting him?

Doug Thorburn: Given the results of the last experiment, the team will likely choose to play if safe and keep him in the bullpen. Some pitchers are not cut out for starting, and though Feliz may or may not fit that description, the Rangers will likely avoid the risk and go back to where he was already successful.

ganz1080 (CT): who is a better replacement for Aramis until he comes back, Machado or Plouffe? Thanks

Doug Thorburn: I like Machado there, but I am a sucker for upside. Yesterday's performance helped to take some of the fear factor out of his batting line, and his potential is such that he could improve quickly. I also am not buying into Plouffe's power explosion last season, which essentially boiled down to one hot month.

On the jukebox: Dredg, "I Don't Know"

gavstone (UK): Just how sustainable are the A's pitchers this season? Have there been precedents over the years, where a rotation mainly using sophomore arms have continued to make good progress? And what of Colon?

Doug Thorburn: I'm hedging my bets on Colon, and expect that he is just a placeholder for Dan Straily. The A's have an excellent player development team with a deep understanding of pitching mechanics, and the emphasis on mechanical repetition and efficiency helps to mold pitchers with strong command and repeatable release points. These elements can be underappreciated compared to raw velocity and sharp breaking stuff, but a fastball-changeup pitcher with great command can be very effective under the radar by inducing weak contact. So it may be tough to buy into the A's pitchers based on conventional approaches, but I expect them to continue to keep runs off the board.

The shocking thing about the A's this season is an offense that is outscoring the rest of the AL by 35%!

On the jukebox: Santana, "Samba Pa Ti"

Alex (Anaheim): Brawling in baseball: a fun part of the game, or an unfortunate spectacle?

Doug Thorburn: I am not a fan of the current incarnation, but I think that there is a place for it in the game. Batters can be too sensitive, and a major-league ego can lead to injuries like we saw last night. There is less opportunity for a player to take out his aggression in baseball, and a batter needs some recourse against a pitcher that is aiming baseballs at his body, but the whole thing has a bit too much drama for my tastes.

dianagram (NYC): With the Padres going nowhere this year even before losing Headley and Forsythe (and Quentin being stupid), there isn't a rush to bring their young stud pitchers up, is there?

Doug Thorburn: No rush, that's for sure, but there is something to be said for getting use out of your young arms at the MLB level before the inevitable age-related decline in physical ability sets in. Most pitchers lose velocity as they age, and though an inefficient pitcher will unnecessarily tax the throwing arm, I think that pitchers with mechanical efficiency and a developed repertoire are a better bet for quick promotion than a hitter with a similar talent level.

On the jukebox: Ratt, "Lay it Down"

Frank (Dallas, TX): What can you tell me about Trevor Bauer, his continued struggles, and what you think his future holds? Thanks

Doug Thorburn: Bauer is a smart kid with an advanced understanding of mechanics, yet his in-depth knowledge might be acting as a barrier to instruction. He has a complicated delivery, and his high levels of kinetic energy and severe drop-n-drive continue to disrupt his mechanical repetition. He has many elements to develop in order to hone his delivery, and he will need to have respect for his coaches in order to make the proper adjustments. I am still buying on the upside, while acknowledging that he has a ways to go before he gets there, and his journey could easily be sidetracked.

Ben (Boston): Did you see anything of note yesterday from Josh Johnsons start yesterday that would raise red flags? velocity was down from his previous start. Would this be a result of his mechanics...or mentality or weather

Doug Thorburn: I think it had more to do with the cold, wet conditions, then any fundamental flaw in his delivery. Cold weather will have a negative impact on pitch velocity, and any deterioration in his grip on the baseball would disrupt his pitch command. He also appeared to be struggling with his footing on the mound, so I would chalk that one up to the weather, and I will be starting him in my fantasy league for his next start.

On the jukebox: Iron Maiden, "Run to the Hills"

ganz1080 (CT): Thoughts on Jarrod Parker? He was dropped in my 12 team H2H league. Worth the pickup? I would only be dropping a marginal bench hitter to get him. Thanks

Doug Thorburn: Yes! Pick him up, and quickly!

We'll still be here when you get back.

Jim Clancy (Exhibition Stadium): Is Jose Fernandez really here to stay?

Doug Thorburn: I think so, at least until he hits his inning limits. The Marlins are saying ~150 IP, and though they might get creative to spread out the workload, I think that his performance will keep him in the majors for the season. I was extremely impressed with what I saw in his debut: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=20209

Seth (CA): Kris Medlen's ERA this year will be...

Doug Thorburn: I'll say 3.40 - 3.60. He's a great pitcher, but Medlen will have a tough time replicating the incredible command that was on display last season.

Todd (Boston): Mike Minor has looked pretty spectacular in his first two starts, but one was against Miami. If you were to take the under/over on 3.6 ERA, which would it be and why?

Doug Thorburn: I am not a fan of his delivery, but it is hard to argue with the results since July of last year. The Braves are excellent when it comes to pitcher development, especially the elements of pitch selection and approach, so I give them credit for getting the most out of their pitchers. My head says over on the 3.60 ERA, but my gut takes the under.

On the jukebox: Snot, "Tecato"

Jared (LA): Who has/had the best/worst mechanics you've seen?

Doug Thorburn: The best is probably Randy Johnson. He was elite with everything, and he made the most of his biological advantages. Extreme dimensions are typically a deterrent to pitch command, but Randy was able to own his delivery.

The worst? That's tough. I gave Yovani Gallardo an "F" in the SP Guide, so he would likely get my vote of the current crop of MLB pitchers.

Jim H (Sphinx Park, CO): There was a lot of "blah blah blah" about Rick Porcello this spring (out with slider, in with curve, lots of K's, etc.), but the results look pretty familiar to the untrained eye. Has your trained eye had a chance to see him? Any reason for optimism?

Doug Thorburn: Lots of Porcello questions. His hype is fueled by his rare combination of youth + experience, along with an overall trend of increasing velocity that inspires optimism. But the velo this season is still short of previously established levels, and the early returns look similar to the past. I am optimistic, but realistically I will have him on my fantasy bench until I see concrete evidence of improvement.

On the jukebox: Long Beach Dub All Stars, "Rosarito"

Matt (Albany, NY): Quentin clearly has an issue crowding the plate, right? Why doesn't he just move back a couple inches?

Doug Thorburn: He has been an HBP-machine his entire career, making Quentin a perpetual injury risk. Hitters tend to set up based on their strengths - batters who crowd the plate typically like inside pitches, and thus want everything to "feel" like it's on the inner half, so Quentin's setup is likely a planned approach to emphasize his strengths. This is something that we teach our pitchers, in order to overcome the desire to "exploit" a batter who crowds the plate by coming inside. Pitchers used to make this mistake with Harold Baines all the time - he stood miles from the plate, because he liked to stride toward the dish and extend his arms, so he invited pitchers to attempt to throw outside.

On the jukebox: Thrice, "All That's Left"

joel (Texas): McCutchen, Ryan Howard, Jose Fernandez for Giancarlo and Allen Craig. 12 team mixed roto

Doug Thorburn: Unless this is a keeper league, then I would give an emphatic "no." I dig Fernandez, but his innings-count will be limited this season, and he is likely to go through some growing pains. I am still waiting for the intimidating Ryan Howard to show up, as right now he is scarier in the Subway commercials than at the plate. Giancarlo and Craig are heavy bats that can carry an offense - gimme the two over the three.

Stevs (South Pasadena, CA): I know you've covered the art of pitching mechanics plenty of times...But what are some things you look for in a hitter? KLaw always mentions hip/head drift etc. What are some other key things to look for in hitting mechanics?

Doug Thorburn: I admit that I am still honing my skills as a hitting evaluator, but some of the things that I look for are similar as with pitchers - namely balance and timing of rotation. The head-drift is related to balance, and I prefer to see a batter who stabilizes the head over the COM. I also watch the hitter's hands, to see how long it takes for him to get into the ready position to swing, and am mindful of exaggerated hitches (or loads) in the swing that can make the hitter vulnerable to off-speed stuff. The shorter the load and the quicker the trigger, the easier it is for a batter to adjust to the pitch type.

On the jukebox: Beatles, "Day Tripper"

delatopia (San Francisco): Some years ago Bill James theorized that we would see more submariners because the motion was less stress on the arm and it was a different look, among other things. Instead of a time in the '80s where we had (the effective) Steve Olin and (the not very effective) Todd Frohwirth, now we have no one that I know of. Why did submariners disappear, and is there a chance that style will be resurrected, ever if not anytime soon? Is there anyone in the minors to carry the torch for this very different style?

Doug Thorburn: The true submariner seems to have all but disappeared (paging Chad Bradford), but I think that we are seeing many more pitchers who adopt a straight sidearm slot. The emphasis on platoon splits and LOOGY's has created a tendency toward closed angles and low trajectories to maximize the lateral movement on pitches, particularly with relievers. I would have to defer to our killer prospect team to uncover any hidden subs in the minors.

Matt Trueblood (Fridley, MN): Do you think a part of the rise in strikeout rate over the past 20 years is due to changes in pitcher mechanics? I watch quite a bit of 1970s-1990s baseball, in various forms, and it always strikes me that the pitchers have much less scapular load and much lower-elbowed arm action than the guys who do it today. That approach probably reduced injury risk, on the whole, but it probably also limited velocity and sheer stuff. Or did it?

Doug Thorburn: The emphasis on velocity has changed the game, and it is important to keep in mind that pitchers who throw harder are naturally at higher risk for injury (more kinetic energy flowing through the system). The love affair with the radar gun, in addition to the popular development of secondary pitches such as sinkers and cutters, have contributed to the rise in K's to be sure, and an emphasis on scapular loading is one of the elements underlying the uptick in velocity. I think that there was more of an emphasis for pitchers to stretch themselves out in the past, with the expectation of a nine inning start (rather than today's 6-inning expectancy). The trend is toward fewer innings of higher intensity, which is likely contributing to the higher K rates.

On the jukebox: Led Zeppelin, "That's the Way"

Jared (LA): What are some red flags in a delivery that can be fixed? Are there issues that can't be fixed?

Doug Thorburn: There are many, but the first element that I look at is balance, followed by posture (which is tied to balance). All of the grades on the Mechanics Report Card can be fixed, some of which can be fixed relatively easily, but the adjustment period comes down to a case-by-case assessment. I have seen some pitchers who fix posture or momentum in a single day, and others who lack the functional strength to coordinate the delivery, and thus take weeks or even months.

The toughest thing to fix is "arm action," because you have to deal with a pitcher's natural signature, and it can be extremely difficult to encourage an arm path that defies the player's ingrained, biological tendencies.

On the jukebox: Megadeth, "Hangar 18"

coach53 (CT): HEY DT What's going on? In a yahoo league rotisserie standard 8 team league. Standard starters C-all infield with 3 outfielders with a utility player. We use 2 SP,2RP 3P in general. I really need to make a couple of adjustments. Need to add another pitcher and solid bar to this line up. This league is tough with trades! Who should we ditch and is there anyone we should be tracking or picking up? Here is the squad, 1. (6) Albert Pujols 1B 2. (11) Joe Mauer C,1B 3. (22) Jacoby Ellsbury OF 4. (27) Evan Longoria 3B 5. (38) Matt Holliday OF 6. (43) Cliff Lee SP 7. (54) Shin-Soo Choo OF 8. (59) Jose Altuve 2B 9. (70) Jimmy Rollins SS 10. (75) Roy Halladay SP 11. (86) Huston Street RP 12. (91) Addison Reed RP 13. (102) Anthony Rizzo 1B 14. (107) Jason Grilli RP 15. (118) Tim Lincecum SP 16. (123) Alex Gordon OF 17. (134) Carlos Marmol RP 18. (139) Dan Haren SP 19. (150) Kenley Jansen RP 20. (155) Rickie Weeks 2B 21. (166) Alejandro De Aza OF 22. (171) J.P. Arencibia C Guys who are available. SP: Lance Lynn Doug Fister Josh Beckett A.J. Griffin Brett Anderson Trevor Cahill Homer Bailey Tommy Hanson RP Shelby Miller John Axford David Phelps Andrew Cashner Hitters: Melky Cabrera David Freese Norichika Aoki Angel Pagan Coco Crisp A.J. Pierzynski Matt Carpenter Daniel Murphy

Doug Thorburn: Wow, there is a ton of talent on the FA list. I would certainly target Lynn, Anderson, and Miller on the mound, especially since your pitching is hurting with Lincecum, Haren, and Halladay. That would be my #1 priority, no doubt.

Among the hitters, I like Freese, Crisp, and Aoki. But you are pretty solid in the OF and 3B already, so that would be a secondary concern.

Old professor (New york): 12 team keeper h2h, with 12 man minor league rosters. Allen Craig for Zunnino and Jose Fernandez?

Doug Thorburn: I tend to think that young players are overrated in keeper leagues, and I'm saying that as someone who has overrated them in my keepers for years. There is so much that can happen between AAA and the majors, and though Fernandez already looks like a keeper, we are comparing 5 innings against the body of work for Craig. I find that prospects often cost roughly 80-90% of what we think they are capable of, yet in reality very few of them will reach their ceiling, and it could take years for that to happen (at which point they could be on someone else's roster). So I prefer the bird in the hand to the two in the Bush Leagues.

On the jukebox: Judas Priest, "Green Manalishi"

edwardarthur (Illinois): Do we need to worry about long-term effects of injuries to non-pitching arms (e.g., Weaver, Greinke), or should those be non-issues once they are healed?

Doug Thorburn: In general it's a non-worry, but in the short term I always look to see if the pitcher is compensating once he comes back. A pitcher's glove-side arm plays a role in balance as well as finding an ideal release point, and a pitcher who favors the non-throwing arm will often struggle to coordinate the delivery.

On the jukebox: Metallica, "Fade to Black"

Mike (NYC): Have you had a chance to check out Zito recently? Anything new or notable behind his recent streak of good results?

Doug Thorburn: I think the biggest difference is a change of approach. He used to pelt fastballs above the zone, reaping the advantage that it masked his big breaking ball by leaving the hand on a more similar plane, and the elevated pitches helped to make his FB feel faster. That worked at 89-91 mph, but his current velocity isn't fooling anyone, so he had to make an adjustment. He has continued to throw 4-seamers above the zone this season, but Zito is aiming his 2-seam/sinker variety toward the bottom half, and I think that the multiple eye levels are keeping batters somewhat in check. That said, expect the league to catch on soon, and an ensuing correction to Zito's ERA/WHIP.

On the jukebox: Jimi Hendrix, "Voodoo Chile"

Joe (C-Town): 14 team league, 15 keepers, points league, I'm rebuilding from scratch. Trade Howard+Brett Anderson+Luis heredia for Wil Myers+Billy Hamilton?

Doug Thorburn: If on a full rebuild, then I like it. Hamilton has the potential to alter your team's draft strategy for years, eliminating the need to draft SB's, and Myers has the bat to replace Howard by next season. I am a big fan of Anderson, but his trade value is tied to his health, and it might be wise to deal him early in the season.

Frank (Denver): A lot of recent raves about Matt Harvey. both for his stuff and his mechanics. What do you see for him?

Doug Thorburn: I really like the mechanics, and I love the stuff. He has a great combination of natural arm strength and excellent torque to hit the high 90's. I really like his delivery, with above-average grades across the board on his Mechanics Report Card. Nothing stands out as elite, mechanically, but nearly every element is plus. He is a gem.

On the jukebox: Michael Jackson, "Smooth Criminal"

G Money (Atlanta): If Garrett Richards performs the way he did in the minors over the last few years, can he hang on to a rotation spot or will the Angels keep Blanton in there when Weaver comes back?

Doug Thorburn: Well, if Richards does what his minor-league numbers suggest, that makes him ... Blanton? Their skills sets are basically the same, as contact-oriented pitchers with solid control but a lack of bat-missing skills. Richard's mid-90's velocity provides optimism that he has a higher ceiling, but the Halos are paying Blanton $6.5 million, vs the league minimum for Richards. So my money is on Blanton keeping the spot.

On the jukebox: Lou Reed, "Perfect Day"

Steve (Milwaukee): You gave Yovani Gallardo an "F" in the Starting Pitchers Guide and had issues with the mechanics of a few different Brewers pitchers. Is it an organizational philosophy of high arm slots in an attempt to get downward plane on the ball?

Doug Thorburn: That certainly appears to be the case, as all of their top pitchers are over-the-top guys with poor posture and shallow release points, including Gallardo, Estrada, Fiers, and Peralta. The trend even applies to former Brewer stud Ben Sheets. I had hoped that story was over in Milwaukee after they hired Rick Peterson, but now Peterson is gone and the trend persists.

Great observation, Steve. I wrote about the details, contrasting it with the Rays organizational philosophy, in this article: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=19895

Marlow Green (The lonesome, crowded west): What can we expect from Greinke when he comes back? Does a collarbone injury have any long-term effects on pitching? And do pitchers take less or more time to recover than other players?

Doug Thorburn: There no reason why a pitcher would take longer to recover from a non-pitching injury. The demands of pitching mean that they take longer to recover from elbow and shoulder injuries as compared to position players, but a collarbone injury should be relatively straightforward in rehab. The key is whether the injury creates a cascade effect with the pitcher's delivery, and in some cases it can take a pitcher to reconfigure his timing, but really that is not much different than a batter who needs to see some live pitching before he is game-ready.

On the jukebox: Soundgarden, "Spoonman"

MetsFaithful5 (Syracuse): Do you think the Mets have enough prospects talent rise to make a trade offer to Miami that could net them Gincarlo Stanton? I mean a trade that doesn't include d'Arnaud and Wheeler.. Do we have enough to make a reasonable trade or no? I think one with Noah S, Montero, Flores and another player could be considered.. At least I hope so we don't have to trade Zack or Travis.

Doug Thorburn: The Marlins have no incentive to deal Giancarlo unless getting a mind-blowing package of prospects in return, so there is no way they talk to the Mets without Wheeler/D'Arnaud in the conversation. If you want the best young talent in the game today, then you have to give up the guys that are your best options for the future.

Shawnykid23 (Newington): Of the top Minor League arms, who's mechanics impress you the most/least?

Doug Thorburn: We are really in a renaissance of young pitchers right now with respect to mechanics. I usually have many reservations with prospects, but the top arms right now are legit.

I really like Bundy because of the combination of stable baseline + room to improve. Taijuan Walker is fascinating, and though he is currently more volatile than Bundy, his peak delivery is even more impressive (I also dig the frame). Jameson Taillon has an incredibly advanced delivery for his age, and while Gerrit Cole has excellent mechanics and might have the higher ceiling, I believe Taillon will enjoy more immediate success when he is promoted to the bigs.

The one delivery that drives me nuts is Tyler Skaggs. He is completely inefficient in the effort to create deception, and I think that MLB hitters are going to expose his weaknesses.

Steve (Milwaukee): Follow up: A friend claims that the Brewers have suffered fewer arm injuries in recent years and that the mechanics taught by the org. must be sound. I think he's making a leap in logic to justify poor mechanics. Does the high release point put less stress on shoulders and/or elbows and prevent injuries?

Doug Thorburn: Actually, it's quite the opposite. We identified two major mechanical precursors to injury when we studied the subject at the NPA, and on the list was poor posture (high arm slots) as a precursor for shoulder injury. Glenn Fleisig at ASMI found a connection between high angles of shoulder abduction and injury, and the two major components of arm slot are shoulder abduction and posture. So multiple studies have found a link between high arm slots and injury risk.

I wrote about it in the injury article linked earlier.

On the jukebox: Drist, "Stripped"

Marcus (Oakland): What do you make of Parker's troubles early on this season? Something to worry about or will he work things out?

Doug Thorburn: I am not worried. His baseline mechanics are solid, but he has struggled with timing and finding his ideal release point. From what I have seen, he is triggering trunk rotation just a bit too late in the sequence, resulting in a lot of pitches that miss above the catcher's target. He is not off by a whole lot, but it has been persistent. I think that he will be fine once he irons out that small wrinkle.

Christopher (TN): I've been a hardcore baseball fan for over 35 years, yet I still can't follow what people are talking about when they say that a hip or shoulder "flies open." It all looks the same to me, and it always has. Is there any hope? (And it seems that "flying open" is at the heart of all mechanics.)

Doug Thorburn: Great question. The "flying open" phenomenon is nearly impossible to see from a standard TV feed, but it is the easiest way to describe a pitcher from the hitter/catcher POV. Specifically, it means that a pitcher has begun upper-body rotation too early, as indicated by the lead shoulder "opening up" before the lower body is positioned properly. You can see this from a TV feed, but rather than focus on the front shoulder (very difficult), just watch the shoulder-axis and the timing that the pitchers triggers his rotation (like a hitter triggering the swing). If the pitcher triggers prior to foot strike, then he is opening up too early, and a catcher will see it as the front shoulder "flying open."

On the jukebox: Modest Mouse, "Doin' the Cockroach"

ares1800jr (san antonio): In a 6X6 H2H keeper league is Parra($1), Bonifacio($1) and Veras ($1) enough for Kimbrel($17)? they would replace, ackley (2B) and Jaso in (util) in his lineup. We start two CF and three OF. If not is it to much for Wilhelmson($1) (i own Capps) or Street($5)? Thanks!

Doug Thorburn: I don't think that package is going to get you near a Kimbrel, and to be honest you might not be able to pry any closer with a job by trying to upgrade on Veras - the 'Stros are so bad that the save opps will be limited, and Veras is not exactly a lockdown guy, so he could be dealt (if successful) or replaced (if ineffective).

There are only 30 save-gigs, making it an impacted commodity, and teams are hesitant to deal saves in April. You will have a better shot once the standings are somewhat established and you can isolate teams that are selling, at which point someone like Wilhelmson would be a good target.

On the jukebox: Pantera, "Hollow"

Jim (Seattle ): You mentioned top minor league arms but didn't talk about Danny Hultzen, who might be the closest to the majors. What's your take on him?

Doug Thorburn: Complete wild card. He lost it last year, and his exaggerated closed stride wreaked havoc on his release point. Watching his minor league games from last year, there were deliveries that were aimed behind the LHB batter's box, and the pitches followed that path to the backstop. If that problem re-emerges, then it will be another disaster.

That said, he has the raw components for success, and he could be great if he learns to direct his energy at the target and finds some semblance of consistency.

I wrote about Hultzen here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=18643

coach53 (CT): You would drop Halladay, Lincecum and Haren (marmol) For Lynn, Anderson, and Miller?

Doug Thorburn: No, not a straight drop. Those guys are worth waiting on, but I was just pointing out a team weakness that I would personally address. I would drop Marmol and one of De Aza/Arencibia to pick up Lynn and Anderson, in your situation.

On the jukebox: Led Zeppelin, "Night Flight"

MetsFaithful5 (Syracuse ): As a follow up to your response... Do you Think Wheeler, d'Arnaud, Familia and another throw in would be a good offer? That's two possible star players and another one, who if he can improve his comtrol, can solidify a 7-8th inning spot in the pen..

Doug Thorburn: That is certainly a legit offer, and one that the Marlins would definitely consider. With the industry-wide awareness that they are playing for the future and with a commodity to move, the Marlins are in a powerful bargaining position, and a trade will likely come down to the highest bidder.

Shawn (CT): Thoughts on Ross Detwiler? I keep seeing he throws one of the hardest fastballs in MLB for a lefty, yet he doesn't rack up many K's? What is holding him back from jumping to the next level, or his is secondary stuff simply not that good?

Doug Thorburn: Detwiler does throw hard for a lefty (91-95 mph), but the Nats palce an emphasis on efficient at bats and generating weak contact. Detwiler might be able to up the K rate if that was his singular goal, although his slow curve does not have the bite that one would like from a wipeout pitch, and he is probably best served by going with his current approach. The same is true of Jordan Zimmermann, who could almost certainly up the K rate with a change of approach, but his other ratios could very well suffer.

On the jukebox: Cream, "White Room"

Lincecum's Fastball (High to the Arm Side): Any wisdom on the freak's inability to command the fastball? During his last start, he could throw the off-speed stuff reasonably well hence the decent K rate. But he couldn't hit the side of a barn with the FB, and by the end of the start was even ditching it for a slider when he needed a strike. Has this ever been seen before (pitcher can command off speed, but not the fastball)? And what's the cause? He's always missing high and right... Trying to reach back for too much velo, or just consistently wrong release point?

Doug Thorburn: Excellent observation. When he misses high and to the arm side, it's generally because Lincecum triggers his rotation too late, often due to reaching foot strike too quickly. Timing has been the bane of Timmy's existence for the past year+, and it is all related to his crazy stride and momentum. It could be that he is slowing things down just a touch on the off-speed pitches (a common scenario), and that timing allows him to line up the gears to get the ball down, but that he is too quick with the FB and thus unable to reach extension. Back in the day, Lincecum's best timing signature was related to a stride with ridiculous momentum, but it seems that he can no longer support such high levels of kinetic energy on a consistent basis, as his balance and especially posture suffer on those pitches where he ramps up the intensity. I don't think that he will ever be the Freak that we used to know, but he can be an above-average pitcher by making some adjustments.

On the jukebox: Yardbirds, "Happenings Ten Years Ago"

Kevin (Syracuse): Hey Doug, Thanks for the chat! As a Tigers fan, I'm hoping for a new closer to emerge and I'm wondering what the argument against Al Albuquerque is? His stuff looked pretty good yesterday IMHO. Do his mechanics still pose a big injury risk after the elbow surgery?

Doug Thorburn: I don't think that is has anything to do with mechanics - Alburquerque has a relatively simple delivery that doesn't throw any flags, and I am no more worried about him than any other pitcher coming back from injury. But this is a guy who has throw 58% sliders for his career(!!), and that is a huge concern with respect to his durability. The key is whether he can gain command of his FB, and rediscover the mid-90's velocity that he had pre-surgery. Right now he is behind by a couple of ticks on his peak velo, and his FB command has been horrific.

Frank (Denver): What, if anything, do you think the Rockies should do differently than other teams or than what they currently do to develop and use pitchers given they play half their games at a mile high?

Doug Thorburn: Due to their unique environment, the Rockies have the greatest challenge in the game from the standpoint of player development, in-game management, and roster construction. I wish I had an answer for this question, but to be honest, I think that "Rockies pitching coach" is possibly the toughest job in the game. The fact that they alternate between high-altitude and sea level creates an enormous barrier to managing a pitching staff. Not only are there biological challenges to hi-altitude pitching, but the physical challenges of thin air impact a pitcher's repertoire (breaking pitches, etc). A central theme in pitching instruction is to find consistency and repetition, and it must be exceedingly difficult to pitch through such volatile conditions throughout the season.

On the jukebox: Tool, "Parabola"

Doug Thorburn: Thanks to everyone for all of the great questions today. The Giants-Cubs game has reached full bedlam and it now requires my full attention, but we'll do this again soon. Cheers 'til next time


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