Evaluating the mechanics of the US pitchers in last Sunday's Futures Game.
The pitching staff for the U.S. team was stacked for last Sunday's Futures Game, setting up a showcase of former first-round draft picks to satiate the All-Star appetite. The pitching rotations were pre-set on both sides, with starters Jake Odorizzi and Yordano Ventura representing the hometown Royals in a first-frame showdown. Three of the top four picks of the pitcher-heavy 2011 draft were on the U.S. roster, with Trevor Bauer's recent big-league promotion the only thing preventing a clean sweep of the historical top four, and the crew was joined by the top arm of the 2010 draft, Jameson Taillon. The aces-in-training put on a spectacular show, and I was extremely impressed by the mechanical profiles that Team America had on display.
Jake Odorizzi (Royals-AAA)
Odorizzi had a somewhat boring delivery, which is higher praise than it sounds, as the absence of a weak link offset any lack of an elite mechanical tool. Slow early momentum set up a late burst as he shifted gears near foot strike, and the right-hander showcased strong balance as he entered the rotational phases of the delivery. His posture was inconsistent on Sunday, with late spine-tilt that was more pronounced on curveballs than heaters, though the difference was subtle and his posture was respectable overall. Despite the postural inconsistencies, Odorizzi was able to repeat the timing elements of his delivery with a calm approach into foot strike that set up a storm of rotational velocity. The only mechanical issue was a lack of hip-shoulder separation, with late-firing hips that stuttered before rotating toward the plate, triggering the rotation of hips and shoulders in near-unison.
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A look at whether Japanese pitchers, who often get by on deception, get figured out by MLB hitters
Back in January 2002, the Dodgers bid more than $11 million for the negotiating rights to left-hander Kaz Ishii. Los Angeles won the bidding, then closed the deal with Ishii by inking him to a four-year contract worth $12.3 million. Much to the delight of everyone, Ishii’s contract included a number of benefits—from ground transportation, to eight round-trip business class tickets from Japan to Los Angeles, to a $25,000 housing allowance per year. The Dodgers spared no expense in securing the best strikeout pitcher in Japan.
Does White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper know something about injury prevention that no one else does?
A piece of ligament made its way from Stephen Strasburg’s left leg to his right elbow on an operating table in Inglewood, California last month, putting a premature end to the pitcher’s exciting debut season. The impact of that operation on the intertwined futures of Strasburg, the Nationals, and the game itself have been discussed and dissected ever since his diagnosis came down, so his role in this article is nearly at an end; we won’t know much more about his prospects until continued healing and rehab hasten his return to a major-league mound.
Although Strasburg has temporarily exited the stage, a bit player in the Strasburg saga deserves another scene. Two days after Strasburg was scratched from his scheduled July 27 start with shoulder stiffness, White Sox pitching coach Don Cooperappeared on Sirius/XM’s MLB Network Radio to discuss the injury’s significance, and wasn’t coy about his feelings.
A conversation about the art of scouting and drafting, and the mysteries of "The Dodger Way."
Few teams draft as well as the Dodgers, and even fewer do so with a data-driven approach that melds risk aversion with a gunslinger’s bravado. Logan White and company aren’t shy about taking high school pitchers in the first round, nor are they unwilling to take a calculated gamble that a highly-prized sleeper will fall into their laps in a later round. The results have been impressive, with the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Matt Kemp, James Loney, and Russell Martin already in Dodger blue, and Dee Gordon, Chris Withrow, and Ethan Martin soon to follow. White, the club’s assistant general manager in charge of scouting, sat down with Baseball Prospectus to talk about his approach to the amateur draft and why "The Dodgers Way" has been so successful.
The challenge of changing speeds while integrating perceived velocity into the mix.
When a pitch begins its flight towards home plate, the radar gun registers a specific velocity-one that correlates quite strongly to the start speed component of PITCHf/x-which unfortunately becomes the gospel as to how hard the pitch was thrown. Various factors, like the natural loss of velocity as the pitch reaches home plate, the true distance of the release, the actual flight time, the location, when the batter picks the ball up, and what pitch the batter initially anticipated all work together to alter a hitter's perception of velocity.
Sometimes it's not just a matter of how fast you throw, but from how close to the plate you're throwing it.
Few pitchers utilize their fastballs more frequently than J.A. Happ of the Phillies does, as he throws his four-seamed heater 71 percent of the time. Unlike Max Scherzer, who throws his fastball at a similar rate but routinely registers 95+ miles per hour on the gun, Happ averages a relatively modest 89.7 mph with rather pedestrian movement. Despite these facts pointing towards the idea that Happ's chief pitch is thus somewhat average or below, his plate discipline data has trended in the opposite direction: Happ ranks amongst the leaders in zone percentage yet has very low rates of both swings induced and contact made on pitches in the zone, performance characteristics that portend an ability to deceive hitters when coupled with his velocity and movement marks. Unless we accept that Happ's numbers are fluky, something about his delivery is preventing hitters from picking the ball up and reacting in appropriate fashion, whether that's a question of his hiding the ball well, or having a release that's closer to home plate than hitters are accustomed to seeing.
An in-depth discussion about mechanics with the motion analysis coordinator and coach of the National Pitching Association.
Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA's motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.
David files his final column of the calendar year with a sampling of the best quotes from 2007.
The Prospectus Q&A series became a regular Sunday feature in 2007, so as the year comes to a close it seems appropriate to finish with a "best of" collection of quotes from those interviews. While "best" may not be the optimal word--these choices are purely subjective--they are representative of what 50 personalities from within the game of baseball shared with the readers of BP over the past 12 months. Being the primary author of this series, I hope that you found them to be an entertaining and informative group. From January to December, here are some of their best quotes:
Last season, John Farrell moved from the front office to the field, taking over as the Red Sox pitching coach. David spoke with Farrell about his shift in priorities, the importance of a fastball that hits both sides of the plate, and more.
David Laurila: Warren Spahn famously said that you only need two pitches to get a hitter out: the one he's looking for and the one he isn't. Is that a simplification?
With almost 30 years of major league scouting experience, Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken has plenty of wisdom to dispense. He spoke with BP's David Laurila about draft philosphy, Jeff Samardzija, and how Nomar got away.
The Seattle Mariners hired Bill Bavasi as their new general manager Nov. 7, replacing Pat Gillick. Bavasi spent 19 years with the Angels, working his way up from his first job as a minor league administrator. As general manager from 1994 to 1999, the team finished below .500 in four of six seasons. But the farm system that Bavasi presided over during that time would generate much of the core for the Angels' 2002 championship team, including Troy Glaus, Troy Percival, Darin Erstad and others. Bavasi spent the last two years overseeing the Dodgers' farm system as director of player development. He takes over the Mariners coming off four straight years of 90+ wins, with Gillick staying on as a consultant. BP spoke to Bavasi about the team's off-season signings, the risk of long-term contracts, the changing nature of major league talent and more.
The Seattle Mariners hired Bill Bavasi as their new general manager Nov. 7, replacing Pat Gillick. Bavasi spent 19 years with the Angels, working his way up from his first job as a minor league administrator. As general manager from 1994 to 1999, the team finished below .500 in four of six seasons. But the farm system that Bavasi presided over during that time would generate much of the core for the Angels' 2002 championship team, including Troy Glaus, Troy Percival, Darin Erstad and others.
The American Sports Medicine Institute kicks off its 22nd annual "Injuries in Baseball" course Jan. 29 in Orlando. Today we continue from Part I of our discussion with ASMI's Smith and Nephew Chair of Research, Dr. Glenn Fleisig.
Baseball Prospectus: Do teams tend to send more major league pitchers or minor leaguers? What are some of the differences between the two groups?