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Chat: Doug Thorburn

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Tuesday April 08, 2014 2:00 PM ET chat session with Doug Thorburn.

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Talk pitching and early-season results with Doug.

Doug Thorburn: The forecast calls for clear skies and a 100% chance for baseball. Powered by MLB.tv and the O's-Yanks game, let's talk some pitching.

Marcus Stroman (Toronto): Whats stopping me from becoming the ace of the blue jays this year?

Doug Thorburn: Climbing to the top of the Toronto staff is not an overly-steep hill to climb, but asking that of a player with zero IP above Double-A is a tall order. Stroman has elite stuff, but the Jays may want to keep him in check for service time considerations, and it could take some time for him to adapt his arsenal to the highest level. I am not overly concerned with the height limitations, but it does place a greater emphasis on his ability to spot the fastball on the lower shelf of the zone against advanced hitters, leaving him with less margin for error.

On the jukebox: Dredg, "Upon Returning"

Tinstaapp (Maine): Can you give us some player comps (floor/ceiling) for these guys? Aaron Sanchez, Robert Stephenson, Kevin gausman and Kyle zimmer?

Doug Thorburn: I am not a proponent of throwing player comps because it can give a false impression of the pitcher's profile. There are so many variables at play, from mechanics to size and stuff, and these guys are all unique snowflakes in my mind's eye. For example, it is rare to find a pitcher with Zimmer's impressive momentum or Gausman's sharp angles (at the joints) during the delivery, and yet they are not defined by those aspects. They might have certain similarities to past players, but these are typically outnumbered by the differences.

Wyatt (NYC): I know it's too early to make radical moves, but it seems the Brewers have made definitive decision to replace Henderson with K-Rod in closer role. Is it too early to drop Henderson in a 15 team mixed league for a highly skilled RP with a better chance to pick up saves down the road, like Ottavino or Drew Storen? Do you see Henderson working his way back into meaningful end game innings?

Doug Thorburn: I think that Henderson has a better chance for future saves than Ottavino or Storen, so I would hold for now. That does depend somewhat on your bench space, and all the early injuries might be creating a crunch. I think that the Brewers want Henderson in the closer role, but he is not close enough to peak form to trust at the moment. If/when he rights the ship, then he could be 1-2 K-Rod blowups away from getting the job back. Storen and Ottavino could be 3rd in the pecking order for their respective clubs, so I'd keep Henderson and check back in a few weeks.

Dan Rozenson (Washington, DC): Stephen Strasburg's new slider looks pretty good, but I see him still missing with his fastball -- more often to the arm side. What's your sense of his control these days?

Doug Thorburn: Completely agree, Dan. I don't like that Strasburg's balance and posture have gone backwards over the last couple of years, and the downslide is having an adverse effect on his command. That slider could be a huge advantage this year, but everything plays off of the fastball and his rise will be dictated by the ability to harness the heat. The arm-side misses are also indicative of timing issues, in which his arm is behind the rest of the kinetic chain, and his situation is not aided by the new wrinkles that he has introduced with runners on base.

On the jukebox: Thrice, "The Artist in the Ambulance"

Otto (Cleveland): Do you buy Justin Verlander's claim that his core muscle issue was behind his disappointing 2013 season? Would that kind of issue affect his command and velocity?

Doug Thorburn: It could certainly be related, and it supports some of the visual evidence from last season. He appeared to be off-line for much of last year, as if an invisible wall was pushing him to the glove side, an element which compromised his positioning at release point and therefore impacting his pitch command. A core issue would most certainly impact velo as well, given the critical role of the core muscles in generating torque. It is interesting that he improved so drastically at the end of the year, so one has to wonder if the core issue was feeling better or if that element was not solely responsible for the issue (while appreciating the cascade effect of injuries, in which pitchers compensate their mechanics to play through pain).

bb10kbb10k (Erie, PA): Dynasty forever Keeper (W,K,ERA,WHIP). Who do you want: Shelby Miller or Chris Archer? Is it even close?

Doug Thorburn: Gimme Miller, and it's not particularly close.

amac2326 (Florida): Who is the pitcher to own long-term, bundy or gausman?

Doug Thorburn: Long-term that is a tough question, as they both possess the stuff and the mechanical profiles to portend greatness. Give me Gausman for now - I like his repertoire and size a bit better, and I need to see more from Bundy before anointing him as fully "back."

Kingpin (Grinnell, IA): A.J. Burnett has had control problems this year since the start of spring training. How concerned should we be?

Doug Thorburn: Not too concerned yet - it's early, and timing/command are often the last things to come around as a pitcher gets back into game shape. Keep in mind that Burnett has never been a control artist, was basically a 10% walk guy until he hit Pittsburgh, and it is not out of the question for him to regress back to that level this year.

On the jukebox: Soundgarden, "Rusty Cage"

DanDaMan (Sea Cliff): Hey Doug, are you worried about either Fister or Cole Hamels this year given their injuries? Thanks.

Doug Thorburn: There is always some concern in the early season, so the teams are smart to be cautious in order to avoid the risk of cascade injuries, and it sounds like both injuries were caught early enough. The big thing is that they are behind their normal routines, and the players might be pushing to get back into action, so the teams have to weight need on a long-term vs short-term basis. I am optimistic that Hamels will be ok, as he can survive even if his velo is compromised a bit (shoulder issues typically make a bigger dent on velo than command). I know less about the particulars of Fister's rehab, and a lat strain can be more dicey/unpredictable than something like shoulder inflammation.

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

Ace (PA): Using BrooksBaseball, I noticed Chris Tillman used his cutter a lot more against the Tigers than the Red Sox. His control of the pitch on Sunday was the best its been in his career. In 2013, he only threw it 6% of the time because he didn't know where it was going. If he's able to get the frequency of the pitch above 10%, will he become more than just a solid #3?

Doug Thorburn: The cutter adds another weapon with a different velocity range than his other pitches, and it will be interesting to see if he adjusts his usage patterns. He currently uses the pitch almost exclusively vs RHB's, and I think that had as much to do with his DET-BOS split as anything. Detroit had just three batters from the left side in that game - VMart, Tyler Collins, Bryan Holaday - while the Sawx had a more intimidating 5-pack that included Papi, Carp, Nava, Sizemore, and Pierzynski. I like Tillman's upside, and though his mechanics report card is full of average-ish grades, the guy has an incredibly tall release point (avg of 6.75 feet of height in 2013) that gives him the downhill-plane advantage.

Leo (Milwaukee): Can you please explain what pronation and supination are? What is the importance and how do you look for them when watching a pitcher?

Doug Thorburn: Pronation and supination refer to the rotation (at the elbow) of the forearm/wrist/hand complex. If you imagine that palm facing the plate is a standard/fastball position at release point, then supination involves the palm facing towards the body (like a karate chop) and pronation is the palm facing outward. Supination is key for the safe throwing of breaking pitches, while supination is the root behind effective changeups/sinkers/2-seamers. Also, the throwing arm pronates after release point on every pitch.

I wrote more about it more extensively here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16787

tsweber (Reno): Any word on Braden Shipley? Heard he has biceps tendonitis. Is that serious? TJ? I see him as a solid #2 to Archie. What do you think?

Doug Thorburn: Big fan of Shipley. Dig the stuff and the delivery - he stays back a little bit more than I would like, but the balance+posture are excellent. Tendinitis can be a bit of a wild card, as we don't know the root of the inflammation, and biceps tendinitis can have implications for elbow and shoulder. The D'Backs will be wise to stay cautious in order to avoid the risk of cascade injury (detecting a theme in this chat), and with careful management the minor setback will just be a speed bump in his development. I am not too concerned, so I think that we can back off the TJ ledge.

On the jukebox: Warren G, "Regulators"

Mr. Met (New York): Who is closing for the Mets by June 1?

Doug Thorburn: My guess is that its still Valverde, as their options behind him are few and far between. I'm rooting for Farnsworth, though, because that would be fun.

Matt (NJ): Alex Wood - I know its gonna end badly, but doesn't that guy repeat pretty well for such a crazy delivery? Are you more concerned about injury or decreasing performance as the innings mount with his pitching motion? Would you expect he'll start to see the impact this summer or after a year or two?

Doug Thorburn: He repeats really well for a guy with that delivery. It's uncanny, and very difficult to trust, but I hope that he keeps proving me wrong and just keeps shoving it. He's too much fun to watch. Injury is always a concern with an imbalanced pitcher, but my bigger caution is decreased performance. There is no telling when his glass slipper will break, but he has so many mechanical obstacles to overcome that when he starts to fall it could be a steep drop.

Wingman (TX): Is Chris Sale primed for a CY Young caliber season or do you see his funky delivery blowing out his elbow before he gets the chance?

Doug Thorburn: His delivery is full of risk factors, but injury prediction is a dangerous game given the plethora of variables and the impossibility of knowing about elements such as joint integrity, tendon strength, genetics, conditioning, etc. Performance-wise he is already at or near CY caliber, and though his team's offense might limit the W's, I think that Sale is one of the top pitchers in the AL as long as he is on the mound.

On the jukebox: The Clash, "Charlie Don't Surf"

Matt (NJ): Hey Doug, have you seen Nate Eovaldi yet this year? wondering if there's any improvement in the delivery that suggests the improved command #s might continue? Do you think he continue to be successful as a 2-pitch guy? seems like a guy that could benefit from adding a splitter if possible.

Doug Thorburn: I am a big fan of Eovaldi. His stuff is ridiculous, and his delivery is more than sound. I gave him a B grade in the 2014 Starting Pitcher Guide, and the crazy thing is that his weak links are in the power grades (despite having one of the hardest FB's in the game). His stability is awesome, and he even brings the pill from multiple arm slots (with intent). The only thing keeping him from ascending to the next level was ironing out his timing, and he has all of the mechanical baselines to make that happen. Timing is usually the last thing to come around and he is a young pitcher, so I was hedging my bets that he would take a leap forward this year.

I predicted a major breakout for him in this piece that ran prior to Opening Day: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23165

B (Mass): With Kershaw down, or maybe if he wasn't, is Jose Fernandez the best pitcher in MLB right now?

Doug Thorburn: Hard to say no to that. Big Fern is my favorite pitcher to watch - he has some of the best mechanics in the game (one of just 5 SP's to receive a straight A in the SP Guide), and his stuff might feature the best 1-2 combination in baseball. #fawn

On the jukebox: Guns n' Roses, "Night Train"

rsambrook (Sacramento): Doug, I've often heard announcers claiming that a pitcher throws a "heavy ball". Is that just a cliche, or is there any truth to the way the ball feels hitting the bat? Is a heavy ball just a sinker?

Doug Thorburn: There is some truth to it, and any catcher will tell you that two pitches with the same radar gun reading will not necessarily feel the same on impact. It has to do with spin dynamics and release point extension, among other things (weather also plays a factor).

kolbotn (Oslo): Should i be concerned about Verlander's lack of strikeouts? The spring was so promising...

Doug Thorburn: It's two starts, and I'm not too worried. Stuff looks fine for early season, and I anticipate that the K's will come in due time.

Stu (Rhinebeck, NY): In a points league where SP RP dual eligibility is huge I am going with Jesse Chavez Jim Johnson and J Benoit in my 3 RP slots. Would you drop any for Daniel Webb, Cody Allen, Farquhar Ryan Cook David Carpenter or Chris Withrow? Scoring Saves (8) Holds (4) K (2) W (10) IP (2)

Doug Thorburn: I really like Cody Allen as well as Withrow, so I might swap one of them in for Benoit. Withrow is my favorite of the group, but probably ranks last from a fantasy perspective given the longer odds of his finding saves. It depends on the size of your league, but Chavez could have a shorter shelf life of relevance if it's a shallow league, and the A's will likely be cautious with his workloads this year.

Tom Morello (Asbury Park): What's your assessment of Jesse Chavez and how successful will his transition be from the pen to the rotation? I liked what I saw vs Seattle.

Doug Thorburn: I like Chavez. He has a sound delivery, though he tends to get some more lean/tilt on the curveball in order to raise his arm slot (his natural slow is quite low). His stuff is underwhelming yet effective, and I think that he can be a valuable cog in an A's rotation that needs innings, though his overall workload could be limited.

On the jukebox: Ozzy Osbourne, "Over the Mountain"

Ace (PA): What exactly are the concerns with a lower-arm slot and "crossfire", like with Tyler Danish's delivery?

Doug Thorburn: Low arm-slot guys typically suffer from heavier platoon splits, as the incoming trajectory is tougher on like-sided bats but easier to pick up for hitters who carry the platoon advantage. It's why you see so many side-winding LOOGY's, and why so many LHP's have closed strides to exaggerate the angle.

AMetsGuy (NYC): So Jenrry Mejia. What do you think Mets fans should be expecting from him this year and what tweaks should he make to have a chance at staying in the rotation?

Doug Thorburn: I just don't see him holding up in the rotation, and I think that he is destined for the bullpen. His delivery is as high risk as it gets, with big momentum and massive torque, but horrible balance and egregious spine-tilt. His timing issues leave him with frequent bouts of elbow drag, which is a major precursor to elbow injury, so I don't think that his health problems are a coincidence. He also lacks the frame to suggest that he can withstand a starter's workload in light of such mechanical inefficiencies. Basically, he would need a complete overhaul to his delivery for me to feel good about him in the rotation.

The stuff is legit, though.

Mike (NY): Mejia - the Mets will leave him alone & in the rotation correct?

Doug Thorburn: See previous question. I think the decision of 'pen vs rotation has more to do with Mejia than it does the Mets' wants/needs.

On the jukebox: Metallica, "No Remorse"

Drifter (Long Branch): Thoughts about Jordan Lyles 2 and oh start?

Doug Thorburn: (Insert snarky comment about W's here)
I think that he was facing two of the lowest offenses in the game - Miami and the Chicago Sox.

cracker73 (Florida): What is a reasonable expectation for Taillon? A lot of pitchers who have TJ, seem to never be the same as they were before the surgery? Do you think he still has a decent chance to be a # 2 starter?

Doug Thorburn: I like Taillon, but this was a disappointing setback for a pitcher who still had some items on his developmental to do list. It's true that some pitchers don't make it back from TJ, so we will have to wait and see how he responds to surgery and rehab. He is in a good organization to oversee that development, so I will remain optimistic.

Jake (NY): What happened to Matt Moore? I know he's never had great command but the velocity is way down and he looks lost out there. Being a LHP who throws 98-100 with ease was what created the hype, so is there any hope left for him in terms of being an elite starter?

Doug Thorburn: The heavy velo drop is a concern, and the elbow issues are an even bigger worry. His command problems have plagued him for awhile, and though I think that he is a minor mechanical tweak away from finding a consistent release point, the physical factors are beginning to paint a more dreary picture. I do think that there is still hope of him reaching his lofty ceiling, but those odds are getting longer.

Billy (Ocean): Is watching the back foot and when it points toward the plate a good way to tell when a pitcher is flying open?

Doug Thorburn: The back (drag) foot is a great indicator for whether a pitcher is lined up with his target at release point, as the drag foot lines up with the base of the pitcher's spine at that point in the delivery. The time that it turns is dependent on hip rotation, and that will differ from player to player based on signature and their preferred method for generating torque.

From the catcher/batter's POV, it is better to look at the front shoulder to see if it is "flying open" (ie starting trunk rotation too early). From a standard TV feed (CF camera) you pretty much have to look at the entire shoulder axis (imagine a broom handle across the shoulders) and try to assess the timing of rotation compared to foot strike. The best indicator is often the pitch itself, especially on fastballs - "flying open" reliably results in pitches which miss low and/or to the glove-side.

On the jukebox: ACDC, "TNT"

John (Russia): Enjoyed your analysis in the SP guide. Have you noticed any noteworthy mechanical changes a pitcher has made in the early-going this year?

Doug Thorburn: Thanks, John!

I noticed a handful of changes on Opening Day alone, and I wrote about it here: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23225

The biggest takeaways: 1) Strasburg's posture is behind where it needs to be (and where it was at peak), and his new technique to check on baserunners is disrupting his rhythm from the stretch; and 2) Sonny Gray is also a bit behind on timing and balance, but this is common in the early season. I was more intrigued by his addition of a cutter in his first start.

I am also very pleased with Eovaldi's timing consistency so far this year. The biggest mind-blower has been Tyler Skaggs, though ...

Mark68 (A Mile High): Now that Tyler Skaggs has come up with a 2-seamer, how does that effect his outlook? How long will it take hitters to adjust?

Doug Thorburn: I think the biggest adjustment has been to his mechanics. Skaggs has made major improvements to his delivery since rejoining the Angels, and the ripple effect has been a boon to his velocity. His momentum is much stronger and his balance/posture have improved, a combination that has done wonders for what was once an extremely shallow release point. The deeper RP will be a key to the deception of his 2-seamer, and his command will also benefit as he learn a new timing pattern that is easier to replicate.

On the jukebox: Pink Floyd, "On the Turning Away"

Leifer (nj): so someone in my league dropped billy butler, so i grabbed him but had to drop kole calhoun to get him, did i make a mistake here??? im feeling buyers remorse

Doug Thorburn: It really depends on your team's roster makeup (ie positions and stats) and the league construction, but I like it in a vacuum.

Shawnykid23 (CT): Are you concerned at all about Lucas Giolito's mechanics (mainly momentum) keeping him from reaching his ace ceiling?

Doug Thorburn: That is exactly my trepidation. His mechanics are pretty solid outside of the ridiculously slow pace to the plate, and his torque is insane. Therein lies the concern, as he is heavily relying on his upper-half and brute arm strength to create power, and the slow delivery opens up a wide window for timing errors - he will also need a very different pace and timing pattern from the stretch, will throws a wrinkle in his development. He might have the functional strength and flexibility to endure despite the risk factors, and his stuff is so sick that I think that he will be successful regardless, but I think that he will need to make some adjustments in order to hit his theoretical ceiling. Keep in mind that said ceiling is in the stratosphere.

gatz75 (Tampa): I know it was only Houston but Skaggs looked good. Looks like he cleaned up some mechanical issues that is upping the velo a bit. Do you agree?

Doug Thorburn: Completely agree (see earlier question). Great eye, gatz, and I am excited to see what Skaggs can do with the new delivery.

Chuck (Baltimore): How soon until Gausman starts for the O's? Gonzalez is junk.

Doug Thorburn: I expect that it won't take long, because Gausman is better than most of their rotation right now. I respect that the org has a thorough assessment for his development plan, and Gausman has some things to work on before he can maximize his performance, so I expect that he will be up and starting as soon as he is ready.

On the jukebox: Pantera, "The Sleep"

Daff38 (Sheffield, UK): Hi, thanks for taking time out to do the chat. I've got 2 questions for you please: Albero Tirado - what do see as his ceiling, and what do you think he'll settle in as? Justin Verlander - how worried should we be about 5 Ks in 14 IP? Cheers, Daff

Doug Thorburn: My pleasure, Daff. I really enjoy these chats - it's one of the perks of the trade.

I wish I could go in-depth on Alberto Tirado, but I haven't seen him pitch yet so I'll have to defer to our awesome prospect team. I'm also not too worried about Verlander - he has the stuff, the delivery, and the track record to feel confident going forward. Small sample caveats aside, if there are still things that he is honing then I trust his ability to make those adjustments, and he can be effective even while at something less than peak form.

Chris (MO): Would you address Madison Bumgarner's delivery please? It screams "future problems" to me, the way he goes so far back laterally, but I'm far from an expert.

Doug Thorburn: I love Bummer's delivery (he is one of the 5 straight A's from the SP Guide). He succeeds using the same template as the successful pitchers of 100 years ago, and I dig it. By "(going) far back laterally" I assume that you mean the big upper-body twist and long arm extension that are part of his torque, and I think that his method is far more efficient than most pitchers. He is a bit on the slow side with his momentum, but he more than makes up for it (in terms of extension) with his strong stride, excellent timing, and 80-grade posture. He also repeats that deep release point as well as any pitcher in the game.

Any pitcher could have "future problems," but Bumgarner is as low-risk as they come with respect to mechanics. His slider frequency could be a concern, though he utilizes the relatively-safe methodology of supination (as opposed to a wrist-twist) to throw the pitch, so it lessens the concern.

On the jukebox: Led Zeppelin, "Going to California"

NightmareRec0n (Boston): Any idea when the new TINSTAAPP will be out?

Doug Thorburn: We are getting on a more-regular schedule starting with this next episode, and the kickoff episode for the 2014 season will be available later this week. Our Game of the Week was Sonny Gray vs Erasmo Ramirez on Sunday (4/6), so you can get a jump-start.

doog7642 (Blaine, MN): Aside from a short stint from Byung-Hyun Kim, has there been a submariner who has had any success as a starting pitcher? Is there health benefit to a submarine motion?

Doug Thorburn: The low-abduction of the shoulder (under 90 degrees) is a much more natural motion, so sidewinders do have a functional advantage. That said, true submariners tend to endure a section of very poor balance during the stride phase, and the ever-changing center-of-gravity creates other potential implications of the motion. I think that the main reason we don't see starters is that submariners tend to have extreme platoon splits, making them vulnerable to lineups that are stacked with opposite-handed bats.

chris (phoenix): Is there a large enough sample of pitchers that had a second TJ and came back to about the same level of pre injury perfomance?

Doug Thorburn: Awesome question. I haven't done that research (yet), but it sounds like a very interesting topic for discussion among the BP crew.

Madison (Jimmy): Whose version of WAR should I lean towards? I don't know what to believe.

Doug Thorburn: It really depends on what you are trying to examine with the numbers, as different versions place disparate weight on the statistical inputs (and none of them incorporate valuable data such as PITCHf/x). Personally, I shy away from single-category stats that are meant to encapsulate a player's "true value," and my reasoning is two-fold:

1) There is much more to be gleaned from the component stats, and you can get a much better idea of a players strengths, weaknesses, and skill set.

2) I believe that "true talent" is dynamic, constantly evolving, rather than a targeted mean that the player is always regressing toward.

WAR can be useful with post-hoc analyses, but understanding a player's present and future abilities is much more nuanced than any single statistic can measure.

Josh (BK): odds in 10 that grady sizemore can play 130 games at an above average level?

Doug Thorburn: I might as well be playing a roulette wheel with this one. Ok...

(spin wheel, roll roulette ball ... bounce ... bounce ... bounce ...)

My answer is "4" (black)

On the jukebox: Alice in Chains, "Angry Chair"

LA Mike (Motown): Speaking of Kershaw - how soon until he returns? He was throwing the day after being put on the DL - it can't be May as some are projecting can it?

Doug Thorburn: Very difficult to say with an injury to the teres major, which is a huge muscle. I am not sure if the injury is closer to his spine or his rear-side shoulder, and that will be a complicating factor. The Dodgers certainly don't want to rush their ace back too soon and risk cascade injury (we have an official meme of the chat: #CascadeRisk)

Ned (cubicle): Do you think Trevor Bauer will ever reach his ceiling?

Doug Thorburn: Very difficult to say what his ceiling is at this point. There is a massive gap between his theoretical ceiling and his floor, and the ability to climb the developmental ladder depends on his adjustments and physical progression. His hyper-awareness of mechanics and over-complicated repertoire open up the gamut of possibilities, with the potential for wild swings in his performance over time.

margo (fenway): Can Jered Weaver be successful with an average FB velocity around 86?

Doug Thorburn: He has figured it out so far, and his favorable home-team combination of a park that favors flyball pitchers and a fly-catching outfield (plus a delivery that creates a release point which works in concert with Pride Rock in the background) has done him a lot of favors. I have my doubts, but Weaver has been trumping doubters for years.

flashtheleather (Ranging to shallow left): Trevor Bauer is likely to make a start in tomorrows double header. Have you seen anything from him that suggests he's ready to harness his stuff and be a quality big leaguer? Does he still have TORP potential?

Doug Thorburn: Back to Bauer for a second, because I forgot to mention the adjustments that he has made since last season. He has quieted the drop-n-drive in his delivery since last year, with better balance and improved posture, though his momentum has also been compromised. I think that it will take time to harness his new timing pattern, and the adjustments should have both good (repetition) and bad (RP depth/deception) ripple effects on his performance.

Bill (New Mexico): Do young major-league pitchers consciously tweak their mechanics to imitate the aging stars on their teams? Specifically, do you see any evidence that Michael Wacha has fine-tuned his mechanics to be more like Adam Wainwright's? Whatever he's doing, it sure seems to be working...

Doug Thorburn: That's not really the motivation, but it's not necessarily a coincidence that young pitchers will look more like their team's veteran stars. In the case of the Cardinals, they have a strong developmental paradigm with respect to pitching mechanics, and they allow for players with different signatures but similar efficiency. Wacha is more similar to Wainwright than the other pitchers on staff in terms of arm angle and desired pitch trajectory, so it makes sense that he would follow a similar path of development (as opposed to someone like Miller or CarMart), and the Cards P-Dev staff is likely encouraging that path.

On the jukebox: Sepultura, "Roots Bloody Roots"

Cleon (Queens): You still down on Cingrani this year?

Doug Thorburn: Love the adjustments that he has made so far, going slider more often and doubling his rate of cambios when compared to last year. That was the key heading into this season, that Cingrani could make adjustments before the league adjusted to his deception and his FB-heavy ways (they have gone down fro m82% last year to 73% so far in 2014). I have much higher hopes for him if he can continue to effectively mix his pitches and have effective sequencing.

On the jukebox: System of a Down, "Deer Dance"

Mark (OK): Is there a reason that Drew Pomeranz isn't getting a starting shot? Seems like he could be more useful as a starter than what they are using him at now

Doug Thorburn: My understanding is that Pomeranz has some work to do before the A's feel comfortable unleashing him with the exposure of a starter's workload. There are likely to be some developmental adjustments that reflect the A's tutelage, whether with his mechanics, approach, or preparation - I think that he will be up when he is ready.

Steve (Philly): If you could add a 6-grade pitch to any pitcher's repetoire in baseball, who would have the biggest improvement as a result? Ideally, I'd like to know the pitch and the pitcher who would be the happiest marriage.

Doug Thorburn: Such a cool question, Steve.

There are so many guys who could be nuts with a 6-grade changeup. My favorite example is Jordan Zimmermann, who is already there with command of the fastball and both breaking pitches. Give him a cambio and he could be deadly.

Nathan Eovaldi would probably see the greatest gain from adding a changeup, and he was working on refining his change in the off-season, so it will be interesting to see how that pitch develops.

Oh, and can you imagine what Kershaw could do with a 6 CH?

Dylan (DC): Who have you noticed serious steps forward mechanically this season? Any steps backwards?

Doug Thorburn: I have alluded to most of these already, but biggest step forward has been Skaggs. Also, Bauer could fall into this category given the overall change, but whether its a sidestep or something better is yet to be determined (leaning towards a step forward).

It's early, so a lot of pitchers are still rounding into shape. But I'm not happy with Strasburg's mechanical backtracking.

On the jukebox: Bad Religion, "A Walk"

Kyle (MN): What should we be watching for in the Kluber-Ross matchup tonight? Both guys struggled in their previous starts.

Doug Thorburn: Timing, timing, and timing. Kluber's mechanical baselines are awesome, but his pitch location is completely dependent on consistent momentum and repeatable timing of trunk rotation. He has very big momentum and huge torque (60- and 70-grade, respectively), but it can take a bit longer to align the gears with such large power components.

I really like the adjustments that the Padres have made with Ross, but he still has a slow delivery and a lot of "stay back" in his motion, elements which conspire to disrupt timing and limit release-point extension. There is a lot of potential volatility there, and he has a low arm slot that mitigates his big height and upright stature; it is critical that he finds full RP extension in order to realize the potential of his slider and fastball.

Fonz (Milwaukee): So, Yordano - starter or reliever? And what do you expect from him this year?

Doug Thorburn: Before the season started, I foresaw a reliever future because of his high power grades combined with lower stability, but he has looked much better thus far in terms of balance and posture at release point. If he can hold those improvements while pitching at full function with his stuff, then he can definitely stick in the rotation. The question will be if he can hold up physically to maintain mechanics as the season progresses.

On the jukebox: Rolling Stones, "Under My Thumb"

D-Mo (Houston): Pitchers like Kyle Crick and Tyler Glasnow have big fastballs but shaky command. Do you prefer to see swing and miss stuff or good control for young pitchers? Which is easier to develop?

Doug Thorburn: Command is easier to build and hone, but velocity and break are tougher to teach, which is why they carry the discussion on draft day and in prospect land. I also prefer the pitcher with present stuff but little control, because that is a pitcher with a much higher ceiling even if they have a greater distance to reach it. You need some good-command pitchers in your rotation and fastball command is the top priority for most minor-league pitchers - the quality of their stuff will likely determine whether their future is at the front or the back of a big-league rotation (or in the bullpen). So command-now guys are the high floor yet low ceiling types, and the stuff-now guys have the huge gap between present and future potential. The coach and scout in me both say to take the stuff guy first and mold their command over time.

On the jukebox: Drist, "Stripped"

Matt (Cambridge): So I sent a behemoth of detailed question on Jon Lester for the podcast.....

Doug Thorburn: It was a great question, Matt, and I really appreciated the details + background info/analysis that you included with your question. We will definitely be using it on Episode 20 of TINSTAAPP.

Dan (VA): Which young power arm will take the MLB by storm this summer?

Doug Thorburn: Nathan Eovaldi.

Ok, we have a second meme #EovaldiEvolution

Jack (Mass.): Thoughts on Martin Perez. Doesn't seem like he'll ever be the top of the rotation arm many thought he would be, but seems to have settled in as decent mid-rotation guy. any projection left or is this who he is?

Doug Thorburn: Still lots of projection left for him. He made some great improvements to his mechanics last season, and still has room for growth in the departments where he made gains (especially balance). The timing and repetition is the biggest dent in his armor, and those elements tend to get better as a pitcher progresses - the kid just turned 23 years old. Love the repertoire, so once he learns to repeat his timing (which should come with better balance) and find a consistent release point, then he will be able to take full advantage of his 4-pitch mix. He's just getting started.

On the jukebox: The Doors, "Soul Kitchen"

Bilbo Baggins (Middle Earth): More of a hitting question but when people say a batter doesnt properly transfer his weight what does that mean/what is an ideal weight transfer?

Doug Thorburn: Weight transfer has to do with a hitter's stride and momentum (if using a pitching analogy), specifically how he maintains (or shifts) balance, and timing is intertwined with weight shift. I will defer to hitting guru Ryan Parker for the meaning and implication of "ideal weight transfer" - his hitting series of "Going Yard" is must-read material:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23017

On the jukebox: Beatles, "Day Tripper"

Nick (Southern California): Who is one pitcher that you expected more out of based on their mechanical profile but never quite succeeded?

Doug Thorburn: Another fun one. I really thought that Phil Hughes would be more successful than he has been, but hard to fault a guy who will have at least 10 years of big-league service on his resume.

Kirk Saarloos was a guy that I thought would make an impact but fell short. Yusmeiro Petit is another one.

Scott (LA): Among the pitchers showing early losses/gains in velocity, it seems like the media has pounced on Jonathan Papelbon even though the numbers show him to be throwing the same (mediocre) stuff as last year. Any other pitcher who you predict could have significant changes in effectiveness based on velocity alone? Too early to worry about Stephen Strasburg missing 1.5 MPH? Will Brandon McCarthy's uptick help him longterm?

Doug Thorburn: Totally agree on Paps. His key is FB command, and 3 innings is not enough to judge where he's at there.

Stras is somewhat worrisome because it comes paired with a weaker mechanical foundation than in the past. Low velo's are common in April, and I was very encouraged by the overall jump in velo in his last start compared to his outing on Opening Day (nearly +2 mph). It's too early to jump off the bridge, but there is some mechanical basis to calm our previously-held enthusiasm.

McCarthy's uptick is encouraging, though more kinetic energy in the system could be a double-edged sword for a player whose scapula doesn't hold under the rigors of pitching, so the question of "long term" is still wide open.

On the jukebox: Colin Hay, "Overkill"

Jason (NY): Does(Did) Matt Harvey have the best mechanics in the mlb to you? Does that offer more of a chance that he fully gets back to where he was before the surgery?

Doug Thorburn: Love Harvey's mechanics - he was one of the 5 A's in the SP Guide. That helps to increase his odds of a full recovery, though it should be noted that his injury may have been exacerbated by the uptick in velocity that came along with his improvement in the categories of mechanical power. It will be interesting to see if he eases off the gas pedal a bit when he returns.

chris (phoenix): I am probably in the minority at this time that still believes that the Royals should have given Crow a real chance at the rotation based on his prospect profile. Think the Royals may ever go down that road with him?

Doug Thorburn: You might be in the minority, but I am right there with you. That said, the lack of development of his changeup was likely behind the decision, and he might be best-suited for the 'pen for now. It then opens up the question of whether he should have spent more time in the minors in order to build that particular skill before cracking the big club.

Mark (St.Louis): C.Martinez - any time in the starting rotation this year, or strictly bullpen duty? Also, another young pitcher I'm holding out hope for starting - Gausman, how patient are the O's with that make shift rotation?

Doug Thorburn: I would love to see him in the rotation, but the Cards have a lot of incentive to keep him in the 'pen until the need arises. I think he'll make some starts this year when the need arises.

I really like Gausman, and I expect him to explode back onto the scene at some point this summer.

Doug Thorburn: Thanks for all of the great questions this week - feel free to send anything that was unanswered to the TINSTAAPP email at pitchingpod@gmail.com or on Twitter @doug_thorburn. Baseball is back, and we can finally breathe again. Catch ya the next time around, and there's a new TINSTAAPP en route to fill the air in the meantime.


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