Doug looks at what pitching experts mean when they call a delivery "violent," and why this violence can be inextricable from success.
Baseball is a funny sport. We live in an age when athletes are paid handsomely to challenge the physical boundaries of competition, and when pitcher velocity is paramount, yet the most damning label that a baseball hurler can earn is of having a “violent” delivery. Developing pitchers face a natural dichotomy where an increase of velocity essentially requires an associated uptick of kinetic energy, and the resulting mechanics run the risk of being perceived as violent, and as potential red flags for injury. The ingrained link between fastball velocity and injury risk was echoed in Dr. Glenn Fleisig's interview with Ben Lindbergh last month, and the time has come for the baseball-viewing public to appreciate this connection and to accept that the athletes with the most extreme skills will naturally run the greatest risk for injury, and are therefore dependent on mechanical efficiency for their survival.
Professional pitchers must endure some mixed messages as they adjust to the demands of playing ball across many levels, dealing with coaches whose advice can seem contradictory at times. One minute a pitcher is being told not to “rush” his delivery from the windup, and the next minute he is listening to the coach tell him to use a slide step from the stretch in order to hurry the motion with runners on base. Pitchers are being drafted, signed, and acquired with an increasing emphasis on fastball velocity, but teams are hesitant to sign off on a pitcher whose mechanics appear to require considerable effort to achieve that velocity.
Roundtable discussion of the pressing questions facing the NL East teams as we approach the start of the season
1) After a disappointing sophomore campaign, what can we expect of Jason Heyward going forward?
MJ: Jason Heyward had an injury-riddled sophomore season in Atlanta, but there is a lot to like about his chances at a rebound campaign in 2012. His offensive line was deflated by a .260 BABIP, but his peripherals were once again stellar. His 11.6 percent walk rate represented a regression from 2010 but cannot be considered poor, and his .162 ISO likewise dropped from the previous year but did not experience a precipitous fall.
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With the saves record set, will he repeat his 2002 heroics in the postseason? And will his arm eventually fall off, or won't it?
Francisco Rodriguez has easily been one of the top closers in baseball since he was handed the full-time job back in 2005, and before that he was one of the game's top relievers, period. This is why it's no surprise that he's at the center of the discussions as to why the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were able to win 100 games this year-but was 2008, the year he set the record for most saves in a season, the best year of his career, or should we be worried that this isn't the same K-Rod we watched grow up in front of us on national television?
Jeremy Reed had the best year of any player in the minors last year and has a very high probability of being an excellent player. I think a top-five ranking would be a just reward, and consistent with our emphasis on performance rather than tools. I absolutely do not understand why Reed would rank below Alexis Rios. He is Rios' equal in every attribute except for plate discipline, where he has a substantial advantage, and his PECOTA profile is considerably better. I don't think a couple of good weeks in Puerto Rico are enough to overcome that. Weeks is a stud and I think the objections to him are a bit overstated. I would like to get a scouting report or two on his defense, since his numbers were quite bad. I'm also not on board with the fear of ranking pitching prospects highly, though I'm sure there will be advocates for the opposite point of view. I think the *top* tier of pitching prospects is unusually good this year as compared with the top tier of hitting prospects, and I think we should make adjustments accordingly. If you want to get a bit more analytical about it, I don't think it's a matter of our overrating the risk associated with pitching prospects so much as it is our *underrating* the risk associated with offensive prospects, especially offensive prospects who have yet to reach Double-A. I like Marte a lot, and he has no real negatives, but placing him as high as #2 implies a scouting judgment of sorts; his numbers were good, but not overwhelming.