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April 26, 2013 5:00 am

Raising Aces: Throwdown: Mat Latos vs. Jeff Samardzija


Doug Thorburn

Dissecting Wednesday's 1-0 duel.

Midwest baseball fans were treated to an NL Central showdown on Wednesday, as the Cubs and the Reds squared off at Great American Ballpark with their aces on the mound. Mat Latos has been a reliable top-of-the-rotation arm for the Reds ever since his arrival via trade with the Padres in the offseason of 2011-12, and he has assumed the top spot in the Cincy rotation with Johnny Cueto currently on the shelf. The Cubbies countered with Jeff Samardzija, whose 2012 breakout has carried over to this season and who entered Wednesday's contest with the third-highest strikeout percentage in the National League (among starting pitchers).

The pitching prodigies did not disappoint. After a 90-minute rain delay, the two right-handers traded scoreless frames until the Reds broke through with a solo homer by Todd Frazier in the bottom of the sixth. When the dust cleared on the duel, that lone run would stand as the difference in a 1-0 Reds victory. Both players performed exceedingly well, yet a very different approach was at the foundation of each pitcher's success.

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December 21, 2012 5:00 am

Raising Aces: Making the Grade, Part Two


Doug Thorburn

Doug wraps up his visual guide to breaking down pitcher deliveries.

Scouting grades evolve in conjunction with player development, and pitching mechanics in particular can change drastically over time. This is especially true of young players in the minor leagues, who are specifically targeting weak links in their deliveries to address before ascending to the majors. The grades that appear in my mechanics report cards are typically a snapshot of a pitcher's skills, and though some elements can be more pervasive, a player's delivery can also morph throughout the season.

Part One of “Making the Grade” dealt with the first half of the mechanics report card, using visual representations of the 20-80 grades on the scouting scale. The subjects on the report card are arranged in chronological order, following the kinetic chain from the pitcher's first movement through pitch release, and the trio of topics on today's agenda covers the final stages of a pitcher's delivery.

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