Which pitchers are sliding on the rubber this spring?
My piece on Monday touched on Tim Collins and the league's top rubber shifters last season. The new season hasn't started yet when it does there are already a number of pitchers slated to slide along the rubber. Here's an incomplete index of those pitchers.
Can mechanical changes help explain what went wrong with Dan Haren, Tommy Hanson, Jon Lester, and Ricky Romero this season?
In the medical field, diagnosis is a skill that requires as much art as science. Consider the case of Clayton Kershaw, who was scratched from his anticipated start on BP day at Dodger Stadium due to a hip impingement, with an initial diagnosis that suggested that the ace could be out until May of 2013. Kershaw sought a second opinion from a hip specialist, and eight days later he was lacing up the spikes for a start against the Reds. I had a similar experience when I blew out my shoulder 15 years ago, as the initial diagnosis of “a separated shoulder” failed to identify a torn rotator cuff, requiring a secondary assessment that altered the long-term prognosis for recovery.
Diagnosing the struggles of a major-league pitcher is an imperfect science, considering the lack of reliable data and the multitude of variables that can influence performance. When a pro pitcher is “under the weather,” one evaluator might point toward mechanics as the key symptom while another blames pitch command (though a savvy scout acknowledges the interplay between stuff and mechanics). Other factors may also come into play, including but not limited to pitch sequencing, functional strength, psychology, and luck.
Ricky Romero had a bad start for the ages Tuesday. Are his troubles a simple matter of confidence?
A good result is borne from confidence; or is it the inverse? I never can remember. The closest thing baseball has to a chicken-or-egg debate deals with confidence. Typically, confidence evaluations rest on two variables: how the player plays and how the player acts. In reality, one variable is king. A player can be mercurial, like Brett Lawrie, or stolid, like Mike Trout, and still register as confident. Provided their play is acceptable. Once a player slips into poor play, the confident label tends too as well. This is the spot where Ricky Romero finds himself.
The Blue Jays made Romero the first pitcher taken in the 2005 draft. Despite being a sixth-overall pick, scouts felt Romero’s ceiling was as a no. 3 starter. It was about stuff, not confidence. Romero had a three-pitch mix with the ability to command each, but his fastball was closer to average than plus. He reached Double-A in his second professional season. Those no. 3 starter projections looked optimistic during Romero’s days in Double-A. He spent parts of three seasons at the level before leaving for Triple-A with a career 4.90 ERA and 1.48 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That was in 2008.