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Chat: Doug Thorburn

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Welcome to Baseball Prospectus' Friday July 25, 2014 2:00 PM ET chat session with Doug Thorburn.

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Doug Thorburn, like the NSA and time travelers from the future, sometimes knows more about pitchers than they know about themselves.

Doug Thorburn: Thanks for joining me for some Friday afternoon baseball chatter. Lots of great questions in the queue, so let's get rolling.

MKPJ (chicago): Tell me anything you'd like about Jake Arrieta. I'm a huge Cubs fan and desperately want him to become a pillar for us. How good can he end up being? P.S. Put some Kyuss on the jukebox and start the weekend ROCKING!!

Doug Thorburn: I am impressed by the adjustments that Arrieta has made, with a smoother transition through the lift phase of his delivery and more consistent timing. The guy has big stuff and the 95-mph FB is a true weapon if he can command the pitch well. JP Breen wrote about it here, and I dropped my thoughts on Arrieta's mechanics: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24037

On the jukebox: Kyuss, "Hurricane"

Chris Sherwin (Windsor, Ontario): I saw Daniel Norris pitch at the Futures Game. This was the first time I've seen him other than some old video from 2012. I noticed he has reduced his trunk tilt and lost his closed stride. With changes to JA Happ and attempted changes to Ricky Romero, do you see this a philosophy shift in the Jays development process?

Doug Thorburn: Can always count on Chris for a thought-provoking Jays question. Balance and posture are traits that many young players improve over time as their round into their physical peak, so it's tough to credit an organizational shift from one player's adjustments. The previous emphasis on short strides with certain pitchers (ie Sanchez) was an overall negative, IMO, so any movement away from the philosophy would be a good thing.

eamuscatuli15 (Nebraska): hey Doug..Love your work here at BP. I know Jake Arrieta has been a popular topic this year and i'm coming at you from a fantasy perspective. I'm contemplating making a trade that would bring me back Arrieta. With the work Bosio has done with him would you feel comfortable calling him a solid no. 2 (fringe ace) level pitcher for the Cubs moving forward? has he shown you enough to warrant that label?

Doug Thorburn: He is definitely a high-3, but I would have to see it for a longer stretch to give him the level-2 label. Timing can be fickle, and sometimes pitchers lose it in a hurry (or as quickly as Arrieta gained it).

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Hi Doug I believe in your book you state that a pitcher can attain 80% of his full velocity from his knees when done properly. Have you ever tried to determine how much of a pitchers velocity comes from the wrist and fingers snap only?

Doug Thorburn: We did not isolate those specific components, but there is certainly intrigue there. There are certain caveats there, especially in interpreting the results, as the interaction of elements in the kinetic chain would be a barrier to truly isolating various rotational aspects.

On the jukebox: Jimi Hendrix and the Band of Gypsys, "Machine Gun"

bloodface (NE MPLS, MN): Thoughts on Urias' pitching mechanics? The Dodgers are bringing him along slowly. Is there anything about him that portends a future injury risk outside of age?

Doug Thorburn: Urias' mechanics are very advanced for his age. He lacks any standout grades, but he also lacks any weak links. I graded him out over the winter in this piece: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22458

Paul (Denver): Eddie Butler hasn't been striking guys out this year, has had injury issues, and hasn't performed well in general lately. Should Rockies fans be worried?

Doug Thorburn: Butler still has some items left on his developmental agenda, and the contrast between last season's breakout and this season's break-in exemplify how quickly things can change for a pitching prospect with volatile mechanics. It is too early to worry, and he strikes me as the type of player that could take some time to iron out the wrinkles - contrast this to Jon Gray, who could move very quickly once the reigns are loosened.

CyOld (Cooperstown Retirement Home): Thanks for reading all these questions, Doug. Have you seen Hunter Harvey in person or on film? The stuff looks good. He comes around the corner a little bit, but doesn't seem to cut himself off. Do you see any red flags?

Doug Thorburn: Hi Cy. I would like to see a better burst and a long stride, as Harvey seems to put his foot down too early to reap the full benefits of the lift+stride phase. The stuff is definitely legit, though, and he has time to hone his delivery and discover the pitch command that will make the most of his repertoire.

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Is it proven that a tilted head reduces command? It's that it would to me. And would you say Lincecum tilts his head toward the batter slightly while his left hip is just finishing its turn away from batter? Doesn't he do something unusual with his head or neck? It seems like the head tilt is the start of motion toward the plate. Of course I could wrong on this.

Doug Thorburn: "Proven" is dicey, because each pitcher is unique in his ability to work with and around certain mechanical inefficiencies. The essence of late tilt is rooted in imbalance, and it is a general rule that pitchers struggle to repeat their mechanics when imbalanced. In fact, that's pretty much a truism for any athlete in any sport - a lack of balance will have volatile ripple effects on mechanical consistency.

This is easy to see from an anecdotal perspective, but the statistical detection is more dicey - pitchers with extra tilt tent to miss up (late arm) or down (early arm) instead of inside/outside, and it is much easier to generate strikes on pitches that are up/down than those that are in/out, so walk rates can be very deceiving.

On the jukebox: Tool, "Sober"

Chris (HCMC): When does one give up on Appel or at least his previously viewed ceiling?

Doug Thorburn: I don't think that the ceiling has changed, but he has a long way to get their after moving backwards a bit this season. It is never a good time to give up on a pitcher with legit stuff, especially one as young as Appel, but I would expect his ranking on prospect lists to slide.

traindoggah (belfast): Have you had a chance to lay eyes on Mauricio Cabrera? What do you think of his odds to remain a starter and what is his ceiling?

Doug Thorburn: I have not been able to check out Mau-Cab yet, so I would look to the prospect crew to learn the specifics. (the nickname will catch on, just give it time)

Chris (HCMC): Hi, I can keep one of the following 3 from 2015-2018. Starlin, Buxton, or Samardzija. What would you do? Thanks

Doug Thorburn: That is a quandary given the window. You have the right-now (Shark), the "safer" 3-year guy (Starlin), and the sexy ceiling who might not have an impact until 2016 (Buxton). It's the boring answer, but the choice really comes down to your ballclub and its position on the success cycle. I'm a risk/reward guy for fantasy, so I would go Shark if expecting immediate contention, otherwise I would go the Buxton route.

On the jukebox: Aerosmith, "What it Takes"

Shawn (Cubicle): Hey Doug, I'm going through withdrawals, where has TINSTAAPP been? I thought I saw something on twitter that you and Paul have a podcast on Rotowire? Has that replaced TINSTAAPP or is that where we can find it now?

Doug Thorburn: I apologize for the dry well of TINSTAAPP lately, as Paul and I have had very different schedules and difficulty carving out the time and preparation that the pitching pod deserves. We do a fantasy 'cast on Rotowire on Fridays, so I encourage folks to check it out. It is not nearly as long/detailed as TINSTAAPP, so it has been easy to squeeze it in.

I am with you on itch to scratch with TINSTAAPP - I miss it and hope to jump back on the horse ASAP (the AP being most pertinent).

Thanks for listening!

On the jukebox: Metallica, "Fade to Black"

JobuNeedsARefill (The I): Love your work, Doug! You weren't crazy about Strasburg headed into the season, and he's been up and down despite some impressive numbers. What's your read on him moving forward?

Doug Thorburn: Stras has been frustrating. Most pitchers improve balance and posture as they age, sometimes trading power for stability, and I pinpointed Strasburg's instability in his return as something that could improve quickly. Instead, he has gone the other direction, with inconsistent balance, volatile posture, and a distinct tendency to veer glove-side from foot strike through release. There are many pitches on which his body is going left while the ball goes right, and it is troubling to see a pitcher with so much going for him continue to struggle with the basic elements of stability.

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): This may seem like a silly question. I prefer to think outside the box. Why is it Dangerous to have the arm create too much of the energy? You called it putting too much burden on the arm when referring to KC's Zimmer's changed motion, where is using less body, etc. If I threw ALL arm, no hip/shoulder torque, no pitching mound, no linear motion, no stride wouldn't my arm be safe because of the lack of arm speed? (Obviously it would be an ineffective way to pitch) I wonder if having the most powerful body motion would place a tremendous amount of stress on the arm joints because of the tremendous arm speed it creates

Doug Thorburn: Arm-speed is the result of the entire kinetic chain, and raw velocity stems directly from that arm-speed. It's how a pitcher generates that arm-speed that can be more or less efficient. Legit arm-speed has the desired effect no matter how it is generated, but a pitcher who uses the whole body will take kinetic toll off the throwing arm by utilizing a cohesive transfer of kinetic energy that takes advantage of momentum, torque, etc. Increasing that power requires more energy to be expound by other body parts - ie the core and the legs - but I would rather that the kinetic toll be spread out between non-sensitive joints and muscles than have it tasked entirely to the fragile throwing arm.

On the jukebox: Motley Crue, "Same Ol' Situation"

CJ (Cleveland): Thanks for the chat, I love these things!! What's holding Danny Salazar back from succeeding at the MLB level?

Doug Thorburn: Timing, timing, and timing. His power is excellent, and when he's on Salazar has plus balance. But he loses his stability after foot strike and has had issues this season with finding a consistent pace of momentum in his stride. His ability to hone that momentum and repeat his timing will ultimately determine his level of success.

On the jukebox: Beatles, "Wait"

Nick (work): Any thoughts on Dylan Bundy's post-surgregy progress so far? Do you think his velocity will rise a little from the current 91-93?

Doug Thorburn: Bundy is now 13 months out from his TJS, and pitchers can be very different with respect to their rehab progression, in terms of both time and how much of their previous ability they can rediscover. The fact that he is on a pro mound and throwing is the most important sign, and I would exercise patience with his progress this season. If Bundy is still throwing 91-93 next April, then there will be greater concern about his ultimate ceiling.

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Thanks for reply on my Head Tilt question. Do you have any comments about Lincecum related to head tilt?

Doug Thorburn: Lincecum's head-tilt appears to be more of a blatant manipulation than a lack of functional strength. The head starts to sell out once the rotational elements kick into gear, immediately after foot strike. Sandy Koufax did the same thing, and given that Lincecum patterned his delivery after Koufax, I think that the tilt is an intentional movement designed to elevate his arm slot.

On the jukebox: Dredg, "Information"

Blinky (Maze): What's the deal with Tyler Danish? Are there any comps out there for successful starters with those kind of mechanics?

Doug Thorburn: Danish has incredibly short arm action that has a lot of whip to it, along with a very low arm slot. He also has a lot of rock n' roll during the stride phase of his delivery. It is not a totally unique delivery, in the sense that I have seen other amateurs and young pros with similar traits, but he would definitely stand out on a MLB mound - or he might just blend in with a Chicago staff that is led by Chris Sale.

Alex (Wis): Not sure if you've witnessed or seen video of Alex Reyes, but can his massive walk rate be traced to mechanics, pitches that he doesn't yet have command of, or a combination?

Doug Thorburn: I have not seen Reyes yet, so I will lean toward the BP prospect team for an evaluation. As a teaser, here's what JP and the crew said about Reyes' weaknesses in the Cards Top 10 List:

"Weaknesses: Needs general refinement; still transitioning from thrower to pitcher; needs to sharpen up command; work on sequencing; PFP refinement; holding runners; changeup is third offering; can overthrow the pitch; more deliberate in release."

On the jukebox: Sepultura, "Ratamahatta"

Dick Grande (St Louis): What's Alex Reyes' ceiling? Striking out tons of guys in the midwest league

Doug Thorburn: I will point to the aforementioned article from the prospect crew ( http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=22759 ).

Another teaser, his listed strengths: "Prototypical size; room for physical projection; electric arm speed; easy action and smooth release; fastball already works plus; projects to be plus-plus; 92-98 mph with late action; curveball could be second well above-average offering; hard breaker with tight rotation and heavy vertical bite; feel for changeup; could end up playing above average; delivery conducive for command projection"

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): When zito changed his windup, prior to first year with Giants, did it severely affect his command? As I recall he went from the full over the head windup to the more modern method of not putting hands over the head. I remember watching him and thinking his command had deteriorated. Can't a significant change like that mess up a pitchers timing? That's when his career went downhill.

Doug Thorburn: The over-the-head strategy should not have a major impact on pitch command, generally speaking, but a pitcher could potentially affect the start of his upper-body rotation with an early-phase adjustment. He never had great pitch command, but his strategy of pelting fastballs up-in (above the zone) to RHB's and then following with the big hammer was hampered by a general loss of velo that exposed the command issues.

On the jukebox: Sublime, "40 oz to Freedom"

Matt (Austin): Thanks for the great work you do here, Doug. What are you seeing when you watch Chris Tillman and Kevin Gausman? What does each do well and what could improve?

Doug Thorburn: Gausman has an insane change-up, and he can play off the change-fastball combination given his elite raw velocity, though his breaking stuff lags behind and will likely impede his chances of hitting K-related ceilings. There is great power in Gaus' delivery, and he has the upside for plus stability but is still a bit volatile as he continues to mature physically.

Tillman has an exceptionally tall arm slot, releasing the ball at heights of 6.75 feet or higher. His ultra-high release stems from a combination of physical height (he's 6'3"), a tendency to stay tall in the delivery (high center-of-gravity with minimal flex in the knees), and a spine-tilt that artificially raises his slot. The power grades out as average, and Tillman has room for improvement in the balance department, but downhill plane is not an issue.

On the jukebox: Pantera, "Cemetery Gates"

James (Toronto): Aaron Sanchez's MLB debut went pretty well. Since he's had command issues his whole career but has wipe-out stuff, should the Jays consider keeping him in the bullpen long term?

Doug Thorburn: If the command continues to be an issue then the Jays always have that fallback option. I have not been a fan of the mechanical adjustments thus far, with a slowed pace and a short stride that were designed to help him find a repeatable release point, but the results have been quite the opposite. He still has a lot of mechanical wrinkles to iron, and the show is not the place for a young pitcher to refine his delivery. The Jays might have contention needs that supersede his immediate development, but his long-term role is murky.

Cleon (Flushing): Is Stroman already a really good pitcher?

Doug Thorburn: Yes. The pressure will be on him to be good at all of the little things (pun not intended) in order to overcome the perception of his size limitations, but his stuff and mechanics form a solid baseline for optimism.

Harry (The Lou): Shelby Miller. Uff. What's going on with him? Can he regain his #2 status or is he just broken?

Doug Thorburn: Please see my article today for answers: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=24249

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Hope you don't mind my sending so many questions Doug. Here's a short one. Why does a pitcher stride farther when doing the towel drill?

Doug Thorburn: No mind at all - this is great stuff, Lefty, and I appreciate the detailed questions.

Ideally his stride should be the same, and that is the goal with heavy repetition of the towel drill. When first doing the drill, many pitchers suddenly have a perspective/goal of trying to extend release point in order to hit the glove, and they will do things such as extend the stride in order to achieve that goal. For some pitchers, it's the first time that they have even thought of release-point distance. The idea for the drill is that a pitcher will hone mechanical sequencing while finding the stride length and pace that results in strong extension, all while maintaining balance in the delivery. With lots of repetition, the pitcher's in-game delivery undergoes these improvements thanks to the muscle memory involved in the towel drill.

On the jukebox: Van Halen, "You Really Got Me Now"

Doug Thorburn (Behind you): There can be only one

Doug Thorburn: Wait... if there's only one, then who is that looking over my shoulder?

(Paging Ghost Hunters)

Kingpin (Grinnell, IA): I coach Little Leaguers ages 9-12. While I am personally against kids that young pitching from a mound, those are the rules we play by. Any advice on how to develop these youngsters without creating too much stress on their young arms?

Doug Thorburn: Sure, a couple of quick tips:

1) Emphasize balance and repetition. It's all about throwing strikes at that age, and velo+break can wait until they're older.

2) Let everyone pitch. This takes away the stigma that is often attached to pitching, and it allows you to spread out the workloads among your entire team. The expectation should be that everyone is throwing a bullpen during practice, not a select few who get pulled out of other drills.

3) Fastballs only. This is related to #1, but also incorporates the reality that many coaches teach harmful strategies for secondary stuff, and many kids can't get a feel for the proper methods. Stick to straight stuff and hitting targets, and the kids will find success while minimizing harm.

On the jukebox: Vivaldi, "Summer"

Frank (Olympia): Thoughts on Zach Wheeler? Do you see him as having front of the rotation potential?

Doug Thorburn: Wheeler has quietly stepped it up over the past several weeks. He has front-of-the-rotation stuff and the mechanical baselines to reach ceiling, and though Matt Harvey may have created some unfair comparisons/expectations, I think that Wheeler can develop into a good #2 with time and improvement.

johnhoag (Seneca, SC): Are Minor and/or Masterson salvageable this season?

Doug Thorburn: I have been down on Minor for awhile, as his stuff is not effective enough to cover for inefficient mechanics, especially when those mechanics fall off track. I think that his season is salvageable, but only in the sense that I always saw him as more of a 4.00-4.25 ERA pitcher than the 3.21 that he posted last season.

Masterson's fate likely depends on the condition of his knee, which has supposedly been bothering him since April. Masterson is a big guy with a crazy-low center of gravity, with tons of flex in the knees, and his ability to repeat is tarnished if the physical foundation is compromised.

thomas (new york): Are you a believer in tanner Roark going forward?

Doug Thorburn: I'm not a believer in the ERA, which I think is artificially low. He is a late over-the-top guy, so his command is not quite as good as the walk rate would indicate, but he does have better command than your average over-the-top guy and he also reaps the benefits for strike generation. Basically everything that he throws comes down a tunnel, and that can be good so long as he is hitting spots high and low in the zone. The stuff is just not good enough to cover for off-track mechanics if his timing goes off the rails.

On the jukebox: Thrice, "Cold Cash and Colder Hearts"

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Thanks for answer on Zito. I never watched him much until he came over to Giants. I just recall he pitched an excellent game against Santana in the playoffs. I believe that occurred the year before Giants got him. Is there a way to find the F/X Pitch data back in 2006 (I think that's the yr?) for that playoff game? I'm not sure how far back F/X goes?

Doug Thorburn: The f/x data only goes back to 2007, unfortunately.

Levine Perry (CT): Is Danny Duffy for real? Can he keep this up the rest of the year and beyond?

Doug Thorburn: Lefty's that throw that hard have a huge advantage, and the curve has been unhittable this year. We'll see if he can continue to bury the curve and keep batters on their toes with the heat, as they could make adjustments now that the book is out on him. He has a solid delivery that lacks southpaw-related quirks, so that's another point in his favor. I don't see a 2.50 ERA ROS, but I could see him settle into the 3.25-3.50 range and be very effective down the stretch.

Brian (Mass): In a deep fantasy league with virtually nothing on the wire for starters. Who would you take a chance on going forward, zach mccallister or worley? or is it a question without an answer?

Doug Thorburn: McAllister's stuff and K potential give him better upside, but Worley's control of the strike zone is a safer option. You are probably looking for someone that won't kill your ratios, and for that I would favor Worley. If you need more of a lottery ticket for K's, then roll the dice on McAllister.

On the jukebox: Primus, "John the Fisherman"

Brian (Mass): With your mechanics reviews of deGrom and Hahn, where do you think they slot in hypothetical rotation hierarchy? Both no. 3s?

Doug Thorburn: The hypothetical hierarchy is just that, hypothetical. The safe answer here is a "3" for both, though "3" also has the widest range of hypothetical outcomes. They are both better than I thought coming into the year, with high-3 upside, but how they develop will dictate whether they fall down the hierarchy.

jamesmcevoy (San Diego): Are we starting to see Zach Wheeler fulfill his once lofty prospect status? Does he have ACE type ceiling?

Doug Thorburn: See previous thoughts on Wheeler. We have to be careful, because Harvey-inspired expectations were unrealistic. I don't see an ACE, necessarily, but I do see a legit #2 if we want to stay on the hypothetical hierarchy.

Nostradamus (The Future): CJ Edwards is Rich Harden.

Doug Thorburn: I see that vision as a potential outcome for Edwards, though it sounds more like a statement than a prophecy, Mr. 'damus. I guess I missed the quatrain pertaining to baseball, but now I will go searching for those lost scrolls.

Ron (Texarkana): I don't think there is a large-enough sample size to even point to, but does Giolito's TJS prevent him from years upon years of MLB-level success? Also, I've read here on BP that TJS is good/effective for 8 or so years down the line, but how long can a guy this good now, last in MLB?

Doug Thorburn: Samples are a big part of the issue with injuries, no doubt. Every pitcher is different, and there is a multitude of variables at play, so even a general rule (ie 8 years) falls apart when applied to individuals. It's like the theoretical aging curve with hitting performance - it might work when applied to the population of ballplayers, but it fails to capture the nuances of individual player development.

On the jukebox: Prodigy, "Breathe"

Dick Grande(yes that's my name) (St Louis): How scared should I be that my cardinals will be overtaken by the cubs in the coming years? Also, chances jorge soler ends up the best of their prospects? I say 60% Thanks for the chat man

Doug Thorburn: A lot has to go right for the Cubs to leap that far, and the Cardinals are one of the best organizations in the biz when it comes to talent procurement and development, so I would trust the system.

I'm not as sold on Soler, but that has more to do with the ceilings of Bryant, Russell, and Baez than any knock to Soler. I would put the number closer to 10%, personally.

Shawnykid23 (CT): I know repetition is the most important grade of the delivery, but are there stages of the delivery that are significantly more important than others (ex. where the pitcher is at: foot-strike, top of the delivery, start, etc.)?

Doug Thorburn: Great question, Shawnykid. The short answer is yes, and I think that the most critical stage is just prior to trunk rotation. It's like a hitter's load and the importance of getting into a repeatable position to hit. The initiation of trunk rotation will ultimately decide release point efficiency, velocity, and strain on the joints during the hi-energy phases of the delivery.

jjackhammers (Victoria BC): Will Springer be a top 20 outfielder in head to head going forward with 6 points for a home run ?

Doug Thorburn: It depends on any point penalties for K's, but I could see him slotting in around #20-25 among OF.

MJ (E-town): What do you see from Liriano going forward for the rest of the year? Think he can return to the successes of 2013?

Doug Thorburn: The success of 2013 is unlikely to be repeated, especially for a pitcher with as many mechanical/stuff inconsistencies as Liriano tends to exhibit. I think that he is an interesting bet for ROS, but he epitomizes feast or famine. If you have the intestinal fortitude to withstand the swings, then I say go for it.

On the jukebox: Lagwagon, "Coffee and Cigarettes"

Frank (Toledo): BP has Robert Stephenson ranked as one of the top minor league pitchers, but the results haven't been there lately. What's your take on his recent struggles and his future?

Doug Thorburn: I haven't dug into his 2014 performance yet, but I look forward to diving deeper into the MiLB.tv archives in the near future. So I hope to have an answer for you soon, maybe in article form. In the meantime, I will defer to Jason Parks and the prospect crew.

Leo (Olney): What is the one thing you look for in HS pitchers? Repeatability and an understanding of sequencing? Or his flat out stuff regardless of delivery?

Doug Thorburn: Stuff is paramount, especially from the coaching standpoint that elements of mechanical efficiency, repeatability, and sequencing can be taught more easily. Those advanced elements are certainly important, and they dictate the shape of a player's likely development curve, but I defer to those pitchers with elite raw that can be molded and refined. Risk/reward FTW

Nils (CT): Love all the coverage of Arrieta taking his next step forward. In similar fashion, is Danny Duffy's great start to the year something he can keep up the rest of the year and beyond?

Doug Thorburn: Please see previous response on Duffy.

Shawn (Cubicle): Thanks for the chat Doug! Nick Minnix at Fangraphs brought up something interesting on Alex Cobb. He has a K-BB% of 20.4% with bases empty and 5.4% with men on base, and his HR/9 rate with men on base, is double what it is with bases empty. Wanted to see if you see something in his mechanics that would account for why he seems to be so much worse this year with when pitching from the stretch?

Doug Thorburn: From the windup, Cobb has a big leg lift and a painfully slow delivery, especially during the lift phase. But he goes slide step from the stretch, and though he is still a bit slow, the timing of his windup and stretch deliveries are very different. Throw in a shallower release point due to a shorter stride, and you have the ingredients for a big split with runners on base.

On the jukebox: Judas Priest, "Green Manalishi"

The Dude (Office): Miggy made comments over the ASB suggesting that Justin Verlander may not be fully recovered from off-season surgery. Do you see anything in his delivery that confirms this? He still seems to be able to go out there every 5th day, he's just not his usual dominant self. Could this explain the decreased velocity, as he just is not able to have as much power/momentum as usual? Wouldn't that show up when watching him? He doesn't appear to be hurting on the mound...I guess I'm just curious as to how he can go out there every 5th day, not look like he's hurting, perform ok, yet still be hurt without people noticing?

Doug Thorburn: I wrote about Verlander about a month ago: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=23949

The off-season surgery could be negatively impacting his torque, and therefore velocity, but the velo concerns about Verlander have been largely overblown. He has lost about 0.5 mph per year over the past few years, so this year's 0.7 mph drop is not an anomaly so much as a continued trend.

This does bring up the point that player's are not have the same functionality every day, and that performing at something less than 100% is part of a ballplayer's reality. This is why I eschew the term, "True Talent," because a player's talent level is continuously dynamic due to health (both physical and mental), coaching/training/conditioning, and more.

On the jukebox: Pink Floyd, "Sheep"

jamesmcevoy (San Diego): What are your thoughts on the struggles of Tyler Skaggs? Will the Angels leave him in their rotation?

Doug Thorburn: Skaggs has made some positive mechanical improvements since coming back to the Angels' system, but he still tends to fall back on bad habits from time to time. That results in inconsistency, especially when he starts manipulating his release angle (closed stride, elevated arm slot). The Angels have a lot on the line but also need IP in their starting rotation, and his fate could be tied to whether they pull anything else out of the hat before the trade deadline.

MKPJ (chicago): Do you have any observations or reports on Jen-Ho Tseng? Jukebox:Misfits "Where Eagles Dare".

Doug Thorburn: I haven't seen him yet, so will have to pass that one on to the BP Prospect crew for now.

Dig the jukebox. If I ran with a list of all Misfits, then I would have a song for every question that I answered ... at least until "Come Back" hit on shuffle.

HeftyLefty (San Mateo): Since i know how too much "analysis can cause paralysis" I wonder if a student pitcher would be better off never being aware of mechanics and instead just have a good coach say do this with no explanation? Any thoughts on this?

Doug Thorburn: The wondering has merit, though it really depends on the coaching environment. A young pitcher today is often playing with multiple clubs throughout the year, cycling through different coaches during development. These coaches will have different ideas, and it behooves a pitcher to know his own delivery in order to understand how various techniques have an impact.

But if the pitcher is in a development bubble with just one knowledgeable instructor, then sure.

Cal Guy (Cal): Hi Doug, From what you have seen or know, how far back to "normal" is Giolito, 80%, 90%, or other? Can he show even more advanced stuff than he has already shown?

Doug Thorburn: The reports are that the stuff is almost all the way back to pre-surgery levels. The key is whether he can solidify the mechanics in order to allow that stuff to play up to potential.

The Dude (Beach): With all of the hype around Joey Gallo, what is your opinion of him? Are we looking at a superstar?

Doug Thorburn: Gallo mashes baseballs, and he think that he has legitimate superstar potential. The key to his development will be pitch recognition and reaction to advanced secondaries as he climbs the ladder.

jason (NY): Do you think that Matt Harvey's superior mechanics and the fact that his problem was probably in pitch usage allow him to hit the ground running as opposed to other TJ/Inverted W guys like Wainwright(who took a year) and Strasburg(who still isn't the same)?

Doug Thorburn: It really depends on the specific aspects of his physical progress. His mechanics are a buffer, but they also allow him to produce the crazy velocities that simultaneously up the risk. I do think that he has the ingredients for a smooth rehab, and his mechanics should allow for superior repetition and consistency of movement. Mechanical volatility is more of a health problem than many people realize.

On the jukebox: Rage Against the Machine, "People of the Sun"

MJ (e-town): Marcus Stroman looked great yesterday; has he exceeded your expectations since moving into the rotation or did you always envision him doing something like this if given the chance? Odds that he has sustained success (ie low 3's ERA) going forward?

Doug Thorburn: The stuff was never a question, but Stroman's transition to the highest level has been smoother than anticipated. I like his chances to continue being a force in the Blue Jay rotation, but every eye in Toronto will be looking for fatigue down the stretch. Here's hoping that he stays strong.

Leo (Olney): What is hip-shoulder separation? And is torque just the severity of the pitcher's delay in trunk rotation?

Doug Thorburn: Imagine a broom handle that is set on a pitcher's shoulders, and then imagine another broom handle that goes through the hips. Hip-shoulder separation is the angle formed between the broom handles (which form an "X" of vertical angles) as the hips open into/after foot strike, but before the shoulder-axis fires with trunk rotation. A delay of trunk rotation allows the hip-broomstick to continue rotating and thus increase the separation prior to when the shoulder-axis fires.

A pitcher can also increase separation via a torso-twist with the upper-half that rotates away from the hitter - scapular loading is yet another way to increase hip-shoulder separation.

On the jukebox: System of a Down, "Sugar"

Chris (KC): Another question on Appel: BP has an article about him up today, and it mentions excessive spinal tilt in his delivery now that he didn't have before. Your thoughts?

Doug Thorburn: He has had more tilt in some starts this season than he had as an amateur, but I have not seen enough of him in action to determine whether that tilt is related to functional strength and proper balance, or whether it is a more blatant manipulation to get a higher arm slot. It could be a blip on teh radar, or it could be a long-term issue if the tilt is by design.

jamesmcevoy (San Diego): You are a chat machine..I give you an 80! That is all!

Doug Thorburn: Thanks, James! I quite enjoy these opportunities to banter with fellow baseball addicts.

Doug Thorburn: And with that, I'll pull a Castanza and close shop for today. Thanks for the excellent questions, which seem to get more intriguing with every chat. Keep 'em coming! @doug_thorburn


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