A close look at the mechanics of two starters who've taken steps forward in 2014.
Pitcher breakouts are one of the most exciting aspects of each baseball season, but it’s hard to get riled up about them until we have a healthy chunk of the season in the rearview mirror. The halfway mark of the 2014 campaign has revealed a handful of players who have made great leaps in terms of value, both to their teams and on the stat sheet. Two of those pitchers are particularly intriguing. The Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Angels’ Garrett Richards have ascended to a higher plane of pitching performance this season, so let's dig into the components of each player's improvement.
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Looks at the mechanics of two of the Astros' surprise successes, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.
The Astros have unearthed a couple of legitimate All-Star candidates in their rotation this season, and though neither pitcher fits the “high-ceiling prospect mold” that has become characteristic of the franchise, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have quickly ascended from afterthoughts to valuable assets for the organization. Is their performance merely a blip on the radar, with regression looming to take each of them down a peg, or are there legitimate reasons to get excited about either of these two pitchers? Let's dig in.
The best of times for Clayton Kershaw coincide with the worst of times for Justin Verlander.
Just 15 months ago, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander were neck-and-neck in any discussion of the top pitchers in the game. The Motor City right-hander owned the American League, and the west coast southpaw ruled over the senior circuit, with each having finished first and second in their respective Cy Young races from 2011–12. They entered the 2013 campaign as the unquestioned aces of competitive clubs, poised to stage another season as kings of the mound, but their careers have taken dramatically different trajectories since then.
Close looks at the mechanics of first-round picks Kyle Freeland, Kodi Medeiros, Sean Newcomb, and Brandon Finnegan
We wrap up our mechanical look at the draft's top pitchers this week, and after tracing the BP mock draft for the first twoeditions, this time we will shine the spotlight on the top selections who were drafted ahead of expectations.
Mechanical looks at four more first-rounders selected in the first round of the amateur draft.
The first round of the 2014 draft was saturated with arms, as teams popped pitchers with 13 of the top 19 picks. It may have been the result of an arm-heavy draft class, or perhaps teams are stockpiling moundsmen in the wake of the UCL epidemic of 2014; either way, the plethora of pitcher names called on day one of the draft was anticipated by the BP Prospect Staff in their “whom would you draft” mock that was conducted throughout the month of May. The exercise produced a match with reality at the top of the draft, nailing the identity and order of the first three players (and pitchers) picked: Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, and Carlos Rodon. I tackled that big three last week in Part One of the “Under the Hood” series, along with Jeff Hoffman, whose recent trip under the knife did little to drop his stock, as the Blue Jays snapped him up ninth overall.
Mechanical looks at big-time pitching draft prospect Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, Carlos Rodon and Jeff Hoffman.
The 2014 first-year player draft is loaded with arms who are projected to fly off the board in the early going. The BP prospect crew recently conducted a mock draft of next Thursday's action, with each evaluator answering the question, “Whom would you draft?” The first edition covered the top 10 picks of the draft, and when all was said and done, the participants had chosen pitchers with eight of the first 10 selections, including the top four players overall. The only time in the history of the draft that the first four names announced were pitchers was in 2011, with the quartet of Gerrit Cole, Danny Hultzen, Trevor Bauer, and Dylan Bundy, and the early indications are that the arm-saturated draft of 2014 could match that tally.
Downhill plane carries substantial weight in the pitcher evaluation game. Poor marks in that area carry repercussions ranging from diminished prospect status to bullpen assignments conceived in order to limit the exposure of a perceived weakness. The driver of downhill plane is the height of the baseball at the pitcher’s release point, an element influenced by various mechanical techniques and tendencies. On the surface, it seems obvious that a player's height would be a major determinant of his vertical release, and while there’s something to that relationship, multiple variables are at play, and physical height is merely a piece of the equation.
Breaking down the mechanics of high-octane setup men Chris Withrow and Dellin Betances.
One of the more visible signs of change in today's game is the reshaping of the bullpen, which has led to an increased emphasis on stockpiling ace relievers. Baseball has become saturated with strikeouts, and the solution becomes more concentrated as a game gets to the late innings and the leading team trots out a conga line of pitchers who specialize in whiffs. Today's ’pen is mightier than it’s ever been before.
Examining Homer Bailey, Danny Salazar, and Justin Masterson.
Last week we studied a trio of pitchers who have enjoyed breakouts in performance over the first month of the season in order to distinguish legitimate improvement from potential mirage. This week, we examine the other side of the coin. There are a handful of pitchers who entered the season with high expectations yet have been knocked around the yard this April, and the most perplexing of these players are those whose peripheral stats are in line with last season but whose batted-ball profiles have taken a dive. It might be tempting to dismiss any vulnerability due to the vagaries of balls in play over small samples, but in some cases there are functional underpinnings to suggest that something has gone awry.
Is Doug buying or selling three starters who've had success so far this season?
Evaluations of player performance during the first month of the season come with small-sample caveats, but we can try to separate the flukes from the real improvements by identifying meaningful changes in mechanics, approach, or repertoire. Some of the gains are legit, while others are merely a numerical mirage, so we must look beyond the stats in order to tell which players will continue to impress over the coming months of the season. Let's take a look at some of the more surprising April performances by pitchers and attempt to determine whether it's too soon to swoon over their skills.
The Yankees' new starter appears to have the most important attribute of them all: the ability to make adjustment.
When I wrote about Masahiro Tanakaover the winter, my analysis was limited to the piecemeal footage that could be found across the interwebs, which led to a lot of caveats about what we could expect of his performance in the majors. There were many reasons for caution when projecting the state-side translation of his skill set, ranging from his workloads and pitch selection to his mechanics and statistical profile. With a trio of big-league starts now under his belt, we have a much clearer picture of his talent.