Everyone on the outside wants to analyze pitching coaches, yet nobody can. Not knowing the coach’s instructions to his staff leaves an information gap between the numbers and anecdotal evidence. In return, there are two choices for evaluating a pitching coach: defer to the organization or take the anecdotal evidence at face value. The problem with anecdotal evidence is how it tends to pop up post hoc. Whenever Leo Mazzone turned a journeyman hurler into a quality pitcher, the explanation bordered on circular reasoning.
Beyond banality, this information doesn’t do much for analysis. There is no incentive for pitching coaches to make their tweaks public, and that leaves the knowledge-seeking public to scope out every aspect of the latest breakout, in hunt of the fix. Often, the answers are unsatisfactory. Ryan Vogelsong went from forgotten journeyman to legitimate major-league starter, and the best reasoning out there is that he realized he needed to pitch inside. The simplicity of that fix borders on inanity and that’s what makes it so good. The best fixes are the most obvious ones, the ones that everyone sees, but only a trained eye observes.
Proponents saying throwing at long distances builds pitchers' arm strength and increases velocity.
Major League Baseball is more or less a standardized industry. Everything a player does can be quantified in some manner. Since the dawning of the information age, teams have trended toward statistical analysis as it gives more definite, calculated answers rather than general feelings that can often lead to overvaluing a player. Unfortunately, that precision hasn’t translated to on-field performance, as gut instincts still rule when it comes to pitcher conditioning. For pitchers, those gut instincts have led to an epidemic of pitching-related injuries. According to statistics compiled and confirmed by Baseball Prospectus' Will Carroll, Major League Baseball has spent more than $500 million in salary on injured pitchers the last two seasons. It is apparent that the majority of teams are just following the herd rather than researching methods to keep pitchers healthy. The result of this lack of exploration has led to the epidemic that Carroll describes.
Allan Jaeger, of Jaeger Sports, believes he has the program that can save pitchers from injury while increasing their velocity. Jaeger’s program is rooted in a traditional baseball exercise, long tossing. Since the early days of baseball, players have been long tossing. Most performed long tossing because they believed it strengthened their arm. Jaeger agrees. "If muscles are inactive for a long enough period of time, or aren't used close to their desired capacities, the life is taken out of them. When muscles are given proper blood flow, oxygen, and range of motion, they are free to work at their optimum capacity. A good long-toss program is the key to giving life to a pitcher’s arm."
The rest of this article is restricted to Baseball Prospectus Subscribers.
Not a subscriber?
Click here for more information on Baseball Prospectus subscriptions or use the buttons to the right to subscribe and get access to the best baseball content on the web.
Manny Acta looks to get the Indians off to a better start, Ruben Amaro Jr. explains why he couldn't keep two aces, and other news and notes.
When Manny Acta holds his first team meeting as manager of the Indians later this month at the beginning of spring training in Goodyear, Arizona, he will be armed with some numbers. Anyone who knows Acta isn't surprised by that. He is a firm believer in the value of statistical analysis and has based part of his approach to managing from things he read in Mind Game, a book published by Baseball Prospectus, that explained how the Red Sox used brainpower to build their World Series-winning team in 2004.
The highest high-profile free agent pitcher left on the market may have an arm that's older than his 29 years would suggest.
Barry Zito was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in the 1999 out of the University of Southern California at age 21. That season in college, Zito had 154 strikeouts in 113.2 innings, and earned Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year honors. He was previously drafted by the Mariners in 1996 and then the Rangers in 1998, but declined to sign with either, as I'm sure both clubs have tried to forget every time Zito has taken the hill against them in one AL West stretch drive after another.
Zito would start his professional career at High-A Visalia, but found himself in Triple-A Sacramento before year's end:
The Cubs take a big step toward making the playoffs. The Red Sox make a deal for the wrong reasons. The Expos and Devil Rays land nifty prospects for expendable veterans. The Giants fail to help themselves much. These and many more trade deadline happenings in a special weekend edition of Transaction Analysis.
The White Sox get hurt by the Hurt's hurt. The A's need better luck for Dotel. The Phillies get much-needed bouncebacks from Bell and Burrell. These and other news and notes out of Chicago, Oakland and Philadelphia in today's Prospectus Triple Play.
The Very Big Hurt: The White Sox got terrible news on Sunday, learning
that designated hitter Frank Thomas would miss another eight
weeks with a broken bone in his left foot. At 36, the future Hall of Famer was
having his best season since 2000, batting .271/.434/.563. His .334 EqA leads
the Sox and ranks fifth in the American League.
Dr. Glenn Fleisig is the Smith and Nephew Chair of Research at the American Sports Medicine Institute, an organization founded by noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews dedicated to improving the understanding, prevention, and treatment of sports-related injuries through research and education. Fleisig has worked closely with players and coaches at all levels, from youth leagues to the big leagues, teaching performance optimization and injury prevention methods. With the 22nd annual "Injuries in Baseball" course starting Jan. 29 in Orlando, Fleisig chatted with BP about the growth of ASMI, warning signs for pitching injuries, and the challenge of generating awareness among major league teams.
Baseball Prospectus: What first attracted you to working at ASMI and studying biomechanics in general?