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May 11, 2012 4:40 am

Raising Aces: Where's Ubaldo?


Doug Thorburn

Wondering what happened to the Ubaldo Jimenez the Indians thought they were acquiring? Look no further than his disintegrating mechanics.

Ubaldo Jimenez is a fascinating example of how a pitcher performance can turn sour due to the influence of mechanics.

Ben Lindbergh recently noted the precipitous drop in Ubaldo's  fastball velocity, which has lost four full ticks since his 2010 breakout, averaging just under 93 mph so far this season. Never known for his control, the right-handed Jimenez has reached new heights with the free pass in 2012, handing out 6.3 walks per nine innings compared to a career rate of four walks per nine. His ground-ball percentage has also suffered a decline, dropping 10 percentage points from two years ago to contribute to a homer rate that is almost double his career average. All of his stats are trending in the wrong directions, with a career-low K rate and an AL-high 25 walks allowed over six starts.

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Breaking down a pitcher's delivery to identify the stages of maximum stress, then recapping the game's recent injuries.

It's well known that pitchers get injured at a higher rate than position players, and it’s also known that they incur a tremendous amount of stress during the delivery of a single pitch, to say nothing of the course of a start or a season. Theories abound as to why pitchers are hurt more frequently, but their tendency to break down is generally assumed to be a combination of fatigue, altered biomechanics, improper strength and conditioning, and sheer repetition. With a slow few days behind us on the injury front, we're going to devote another special edition of Collateral Damage to two key points of the pitching motion where injuries are likely to result.

The act of pitching can be broken down into six major phases: windup, stride, arm cocking, arm acceleration, arm deceleration, and follow-through, which you can see in this video of Justin Verlander.

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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.

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