10:23 am March 23, 2012, by David O'Brien
March 23rd, 20124:03 pm
you might be right scoots, but he has terrible range at second so it still might be an improvement at third.
I’m not really arguing that he would do well, just saying that the two are different enuff that being bad at one does not necessarily mean as bad at the other
The dreaded “enter your comments” post, instead of a refresh.
I blame nolie. Or Murph, maybe. One of them.
March 23rd, 20124:04 pm
Hello boys! I just thought I’d give all of you a chance to welcome me back for the 2012 season.
Our condolences on your upcoming season Met R Best… keep your chin up and know it’ll get better… eventually.
A lot of people want David Wright,and after seeing his injuries prop up,I would have to say no.
March 23rd, 20124:05 pm
Before people consign Uggla to third, you might want to look up his record playing there, which he did in the minors.
He has not played anywhere but second since 2004 and there is good reason. In a fairly susbtantial sample size, Uggla’s Fldg% (yeah, yeah, whatever) ranged from .867-.941 – Apparently he really was not very good over there. No wonder he’s never played a game there his entire MLB career.
March 23rd, 20124:06 pm
its all Murph’s fault scoots
and like you I do wonder if his hands would be good enough at third. looks like he has a little iron mixed into the composition
nolie will blame me as well. It’s just what he does.
Personally I’d say you need to look a little closer at Ward. Or Samantha. Although Samantha just got beat up by her “employer” and hasn’t been on the blog much.
B**** better have my money indeed.
March 23rd, 20124:07 pm
yeah, yeah, whatever…..
Gil in Mechanicsville
March 23rd, 20124:08 pm
Folks, since I am not the GM nor the President of the Braves, I am not worried about money coming off the books or payroll for 2013. I think that Braves fans have enough to think about with 2012 only a couple of weeks away.
I’m pretty sure the Braves will find someone to fill all the positions on the field after this season. Right at this moment my biggest concern is Freddie Freeman’s hand. It should be a reminder to everyone of how quickly a team’s fortunes can turn. That and how the starting rotation has not looked very sharp to date. Still, things may not be as bad as they seem because I don’t know what a particular pitcher’s game plan is on a particular day.
Since I have not had the opportunity to see Pastonicky or Simmons play in real time, it is difficult for me to favor one over the other but if Frank Wren has made up his mind going into the start of the 2012 season, it is going to take a heck of a lot of difference in the performance between the two prospects to move him off that decision. Remember, he is the same guy who left Cal Ripkin on the runway in California because he was 30 minutes late.
Murph- Closer at what?
March 23rd, 20124:10 pm
Murph, I haven’t blamed you for anything recently, I don’t think. Might just be your turn.
nolie, Uggla to 3B is entertaining conversation, but I think that’s about as far as it goes.
I was at first for the Rev.,but now I’m leaning towards Simmons. if Furcal can make the jump. I think Simmons can.
March 23rd, 20124:11 pm
Don’t act like you don’t know what you did Ward. That won’t work with scoots… he’s way too smart to fall for that.
Just fess up and we can all move on.
March 23rd, 20124:12 pm
Next year,Terd at 3rd, Simmons at SS, Uggla 2nd, Freeman first. I say pretty darn good line up.
I don’t know who will make it at SS, I usually just throw out the other name when responding to a post just to be contrary…
March 23rd, 20124:14 pm
Murph-Don’t know what your talking about…..
prolly right scoots
Different question y’all – If Freddie has to miss sunstantial time with a hand injury, do they call Terdo up to play first?
March 23rd, 20124:15 pm
Now let’s get back to baseball.Only have a few minute,before I have to go to work.
Freeman is fine…just a bruise…stop worrying so much it’s not healthy.
Whatever happened to the Cuban SS signed a couple years ago. I thought he was the next big thing. Apparently not in the big league camp. Is he still with Braves organization?
March 23rd, 20124:18 pm
I think Mejia is the first baseman,when Freeman is hurt.
he’s had two kinda poor years and has slipped a bit as a prospect in some eyes Heisen, but he is still around. He will likely move from SS and he really needs to step up this season and show some skills intead of just flasking his tools
Apparently he doesn’t want to talk to the girls…
Heisenberg – Salcedo is still with the Braves, but got off to a very slow start in pro baseball. Have to look it up, but I think he was somewhat better last year.
March 23rd, 20124:19 pm
The season can’t start soon enough for Uggla and Prado.
Has anyone seen Venters lately? Is he on the shelf til the season starts?
March 23rd, 20124:21 pm
We already have a decent spot starter in the pen. Martinez.
We don’t need another.
Medlen as the 5th starter makes the most sense. Why lose 3 games with Delgado to start the year when it’s entirely unnecessary?
Salcedo’s line improved from .197, .239, .295 in 2010 (54 games) to .248, .315, .396 last yeaLooks like he still has a way to go – still has not played over low A ball yet.
March 23rd, 20124:22 pm
the general consensus in a poll of baseball folks was that Cubans have the hardest time adjusting to American pro ball than anybody else
March 23rd, 20124:23 pm
JJ, Hanson, Beachy, Minor, Medlen.
JJ, you are the weakest link.
noleee- Sure seems to be true of Salcedo. Those are some pretty pitiful numbers. Even his improvement is bad.
March 23rd, 20124:24 pm
It’s good to see that the Braves won! All Have a good one! Be cool,and Peace my friends……”Go!!!!!Braves!!!!!”Talk after work….Peace………………
March 23rd, 20124:26 pm
You’ve had a great career Chipper.
Chipper will probably only play in the field 4 – 5 games per week. What’s the Braves’ plans to replace their future HOF 3rd baseman?
Is there someone on the farm that will be ready to come up, will it be Prado, or will they bring in a free agent?
March 23rd, 20124:28 pm
Re Salcedo, I read somewhere (can’t remember) that he looks as if “he hasn’t played much baseball”. I take that to mean that his baseball IQ isn’t as high as some might like, and that’s not an unknown condition among young Cuban players.
March 23rd, 20124:29 pm
“He has done a lot for the game of baseball and this organization. He is definitely the glue to this family.” — outfielder Jason Heyward
And if you had half of his work ethic and dedication….
Chipper will be sorely missed.
Thanks for the update on Salcedo guys. He has slipped enough I could not even remember the name.
March 23rd, 20124:30 pm
March 23rd, 2012
the general consensus in a poll of baseball folks was that Cubans have the hardest time adjusting to American pro ball than anybody else
Aside from Kawakami….
I can live with that. Have fun boys.
I Like Sopaillas
March 23rd, 20124:31 pm
noleee the general consensus in a poll of baseball folks was that Cubans have the hardest time adjusting to American pro ball than anybody else
why is that? i know its a cultural thing, but what specifically makes it hard? im very curious.
March 23rd, 20124:32 pm
Ed Salcedo is as Dominican as they come. Not Cuban, right?
March 23rd, 20124:34 pm
Hillbillly, is he Dominican? My bad, then. Forget whatever I said.
March 23rd, 20124:35 pm
Maybe KK was actually a Cuban Japanese. A Cubanese, if you will.
March 23rd, 20124:36 pm
MetsRBest, this is for you: http://youtu.be/okXhAC78d4Q
March 23rd, 20124:37 pm
Heisenberg Whatever happened to the Cuban SS signed a couple years ago. I thought he was the next big thing.
yunel escobar is no longer with the club.
Mark Bowman @mlbbowman
Fredi Gonzalez said Freeman could return to the lineup as early as tomorrow. Varvaro left with a right pec strain.
March 23rd, 20124:39 pm
Heisenberg’s fault that I had “Cuban” on the brain. He has a way of instilling me with uncertainty.
March 23rd, 20124:41 pm
Venters out with a sore shoulder. Gulp!
March 23rd, 20124:44 pm
so playing so long thru those injuries wasn’t dedication huh?
My bad on the Cuban thing. But y’all knew who I meant.
DAP, good 1
This team is terrible can’t even score 10 runs…..
March 23rd, 20124:48 pm
ah we all slipped up to some extent on that one Heisen, not paying enough attention any of us.
I blame it on scoots myself….of course I blame most everything on scoots since he is the one who got me hooked on this damn place all those years ago;so whatever goes wrong is ultimately his fault AFAIC
March 23rd, 20124:49 pm
March 23rd, 2012
Venters out with a sore shoulder. Gulp!
Fire Roger McDowell!!
March 23rd, 20124:51 pm
Personally, I let a lot of scoots’ foe paws slide, since he is a Clemson man!
so whatever goes wrong is ultimately his fault AFAIC
bubba, if the only cross I have to bear is having brought you to this forum, I can hold that load. And happily.
March 23rd, 20124:54 pm
Where do you see the news on Venters?
Dropping like flies today.
March 23rd, 20124:56 pm
March 23rd, 2012
so playing so long thru those injuries wasn’t dedication huh?
The mentally challenged and deranged who knock on Chipper just amaze me. The best we’ve EVER had not on a pitching mound and yet…
March 23rd, 20124:57 pm
At least Venters isn’t fat and out of shape….
Some folks get off the blog when they have to go to work. I get off the blog when it is time to leave work. GA400 here I come.
March 23rd, 20125:18 pm
Great column today Jeff!
Coach (2012 Fredi's beisbol fandango)
March 23rd, 20125:25 pm
Top five third basemen all time : Mike Schmidt, George Brett, Eddie Matthews, Brooks Robinson, Chipper Jones.
Top five switch hitters all time: Mickey Mantle, Pete Rose, Eddie Murray, Chipper Jones, Frankie Frisch.
THE ONLY SWITCH HITTER to hit .300 from both sides of the plate in the modern Era…..Chipper Jones. There you have it, first ballot Hall of Fame slam dunk inductee.
Bay Area Steve
March 23rd, 20125:26 pm
Please tell me Hillbilly confused Venters with Varvaro. Please. Lie if you have to.
March 23rd, 20125:29 pm
Please tell me Hillbilly confused Venters with Varvaro. Please. Lie if you have to.
I dunno, Varvaro hurt his pectoral majorus… joins up to the dorsinus maximus.
March 23rd, 20125:43 pm
First baseman Freddie Freeman is day-to-day with a left hand soft tissue contusion after being hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. Right-hander Anthony Varvaro left with a right pectoral strain. Reliever Jonny Venters has been held out for several days with a sore shoulder.
JESUS , MARY AND JOSEPH……WTF
If it’s Venter throwing shoulder and I’m sure it is, GD SOB. I’ve been concerned about this for two years. 79 games in 2010 under Cox and another 85 game appearances under Fredi last season. Venters has been abused for two straight seasons and chickens might be about to roost.
March 23rd, 20125:50 pm
it could just be a sore shoulder…
McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:
March 23rd, 20125:52 pm
Heavens! Such language on a Friday in Lent…
March 23rd, 20125:54 pm
Pitchers are used less than ever, injured more than ever, yet it’s always abuse, and overuse, and the manager’s fault.
How ’bout the human arm ain’t meant to throw a 96 mph screwball, and dude was bound to have an issue or two. How ’bout he’d already had his elbow reconstructed before he made the bigs. How ’bout pitchers are gonna get hurt, and we’re evolved enough to not have to blame somebody.
And, perhaps my only valid point: how ’bout you not act as if you’re the only one who saw it coming.
March 23rd, 20126:03 pm
Venters arm action throwing that wicked stuff just looks to me like he’s gonna fall over picking his arm off the ground one day. It is pretty violent. Hope he’s ok.
March 23rd, 20126:05 pm
great win by the Braves.
I hope Venters recovers because he is critical for our pen.
March 23rd, 20126:07 pm
It does look like a screwball the way it looks to make a sharp, sudden turn the other way towards a lefty. Guess it sinks so it’s a “sinker”. Maybe Jonny invented the screw-sink or something like that.
March 23rd, 20126:08 pm
McFann :Ô: :Ô: :ô:
Bad language is in poor taste at any time.
March 23rd, 20126:13 pm
Is McFann cussing again? She’s done this before at this time of year when the season is getting closer. She’s ready for it to starts. Using words like DANGIT.
March 23rd, 20126:15 pm
Maybe it’s just a hard screwball since I’m reading depending on the LH pitchers arm angle, a screwball tends to sink in on lefty hitters. Just thought screwballs weren’t thrown in the mid 90s.
March 23rd, 20126:31 pm
Jeffery D..or anyone…What is the league number/ I left it at the office and I know the draft is tomorrow. I know the password, but don’t know the league number.
Murph, you are in there aren’t you?
March 23rd, 20126:35 pm
March 23rd, 20126:38 pm
I’m ready for the draft.
Should be fun.
I hope Constanza is avaliable when I pick.
March 23rd, 20126:43 pm
Jimmy, pick him 1.
March 23rd, 20126:48 pm
UMM DOB….His OPS of .935 is THE HIGHEST or if you will, is #1 EVER FOR A 3rd Baseman. GET IT RIGHT DOB, CJ10 DESERVES ACCURACY ESPECIALLY FROM THE HOME TOWN PAPER!! GET WITH IT AJC! — Clint Northside
I didn’t say anything about third baseman. I said switch-hitters. The sentence, again:
“Among switch-hitters, his 454 homers rank third behind Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, and his .935 OPS ranks third behind Mantle and Lance Berkman.”
March 23rd, 20126:54 pm
bigchiefrg: thanks, man. I appreciate that.
put a biG C in chipper’s uniform this upcoming season…he’s definetly a true captain…so it’s time to move on, I saw the 2013 free agent list and a figured out that it will be better to send down prado to 3rd. base and make a run for two outfielders (remember the posible depature of bourn) so there is my 2013’s options:
1st. josh hamilton to play lf. and try to resign bourn (in case we havr a lot of monney…I know…but let me dream on it…
2nd. trade some pitching prospect for jose bautista (can play 3rd. and outfield…like pradao but with cuality) , (a risk move considering trade young arms, but…give some to get some) and sign angel pagan to play CF………or
3rd. let prado on LF and try terdo for 3rd. base the next season, and…(forget to be competitive in 2013)
March 23rd, 20126:56 pm
Thrillhouse44, Venice Jim, Bravefaninok, Bravesgrl4life, BravePack, Rick Vaughn, matthlane, et al: Much thanks for the kind words.
March 23rd, 20126:58 pm
oh if you haven’t note we won’t be competitive this upcoming season….sad to say godbay to chipper like that, but there’s so many flags over the LF wall to be proud of…
March 23rd, 20127:00 pm
bravesgirlnc, Good grief Charlie Brown, Bat Masterson, Ease, dap01: Thanks. I’ll be back on the case tomorrow. Flying back now.
March 23rd, 20127:01 pm
Soph, Claude Bass: thanks. Big Earl: Ben Stiller, really?
March 23rd, 20127:06 pm
DOB I kinda worry about the braves’s pitch health…hudson out for the 1st. month, jjj it’s obvious pitching injured or worst (lost of confidence), the hanson’s throwing motion hasn’t change a lot neither and ever body knows about vizcaino…what do you thonk on…there’s reason to be fearfull?
March 23rd, 20127:09 pm
CB – Constanza Number 1…come on man!!!
You do know that Ross could start for any of the other 32 teams, don’t you?
Ross is my catcher.
CB, you know nothing about baseball, you maroon.
Draft at 2 EDT…log in early and be prepared to be crushed by the Teeterville Nine!!
Later good people!
March 23rd, 20127:29 pm
I wonder if the Braves will get a noticeable bump in attendance for Chipper’s final season?
they added 3 more teams?
March 23rd, 20127:31 pm
After buying tickets to the last regular season game that Chipper will play in (assuming he won’t be hurt) Pittsburgh…. my boss told me she wasn’t sure I would be able to take the day or two off.. hmm I think I’ll be getting the chills and have a slight cough on Oct 2-3ish. Pittsburgh isn’t a very exciting city to visit, but I’ll make the trip to represent.
March 23rd, 20127:36 pm
as I’ve mentioned B4 I am not a fan of ESPN the Rag, but this was their MLB issue and the had a pretty good article on pitching mechanics, what often goes wrong, the way that clubs do or often don’t do anything about it.
This is very long but I think it is an insider article that some may not get to
EVERY PITCHER no matter his age, generates enough force on each pitch to rupture the ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow. It’s a scary thought, for sure, but also an easy one to forget in the idyllic, emerald-grass setting that is Viera, Fla. Though Washington Nationals spring training has only just begun, a healthy crowd has turned out to watch fireballer Stephen Strasburg throw today’s bullpen. It’s been 18 months since the Nationals star underwent Tommy John surgery — the reconstruction of that oh-so-delicate UCL — at the age of 22; note the four-inch scar on the inside of his right elbow. Strasburg, who’s known for touching 100 mph, doesn’t disappoint. The fans, with their noses pressed through the chain-link fence, are thrilled. The Nationals, with their $15 million starter back on the mound after a year on the disabled list, couldn’t be happier. He looks exactly the same as he did before his elbow blew up.
And therein lies the problem.
Thirty-seven baseball seasons have passed since orthopedic surgeon Frank Jobe performed the first UCL reconstruction on Dodgers southpaw Tommy John, whose name would become synonymous with the procedure. At the time, John was 31 years old with 124 wins and 11 seasons under his belt. He never threw heat like Strasburg, instead relying on a bottom-out sinker that forced ground balls. But the two pitchers — as well as many others who have undergone UCL reconstruction — have one thing in common: a mechanical flaw in the timing of their deliveries that causes the arm to lag behind the rest of the body, putting extra stress on the shoulder and elbow.
John wasn’t told any of that in 1974, but he did learn the UCL connects the ulna in the forearm to the humerus in the upper arm and acts as the elbow’s primary stabilizer. He also knew from fellow Dodger Sandy Koufax, who had retired in 1966 at age 30 after a short but brilliant career, that a damaged UCL meant you were done. What Jobe proposed to John sounded both crazy and simple: replacing his torn left UCL with a tendon graft from his right wrist. Though the physician gave him only a one-in-100 chance of returning to baseball, John liked the slim odds better than the idea of working at his buddy’s car dealership back home in Terre Haute, Ind. So the surgeon sliced through the muscle on the inside of the pitcher’s left elbow to expose his shredded UCL, drilled holes in the ulna and humerus and threaded the graft from John’s opposite wrist through them in a figure-8 pattern. Then he sutured the remnants of John’s original UCL to the graft for added strength, whispered a few words of encouragement and closed up.
Eighteen months later, John defied the odds and returned to baseball. Jobe’s procedure soon proved so successful that it became the norm. Today, about 50 active major league pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery — around one in seven.
Despite the inevitable yearlong stint on the DL that rehab from the surgery requires, teams and pitchers seem to barely flinch at the diagnosis of a compromised UCL. “It’s become an accepted side effect of the job,” says George Paletta, the Cardinals’ head team physician and orthopedic surgeon. That’s because the surgery works; 92 percent of elite pitchers with reconstructed UCLs return to their prior level of competition for at least a year.
As miraculous as that sounds, it masks a loaded situation. To understand the epidemic of UCL injuries, The Mag interviewed dozens of biomechanics experts, pitching coaches, coaches for hire, pitchers and front office personnel. (Only a handful of major league pitching coaches accepted our interview requests.) The picture that emerges is of baseball at war with itself over the health of its arms. In one corner stands a cottage industry of scientists and biomechanics-promoting coaches who study motion for a living and have determined, through high-speed video analysis, that the sport’s ignorance of arm-saving science is a shameful oversight. In the other is major league baseball, which, with rare and fleeting exceptions, clings to a deep-rooted tradition: If it ain’t broke — or can be fixed after a year on the DL — don’t fix it.
“The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” — multiple biomechanics experts interviewed for this story
Stephen Strasburg, drafted No. 1 in 2009, has yet to pitch a full season. Some biomechanical experts see his strained motion and worry he never will.
To throw a baseball properly, a pitcher must get into the right position at the right time with the right succession of movements, like dominoes falling. Disruptions in this kinetic chain, as experts call it, cause problems at the weakest link, most often the elbow or shoulder.
Problems usually begin below the waist. The most telling moment in a pitcher’s delivery, for instance, is the foot strike. When the foot makes contact with the mound, the pitching arm must be up and ready to throw. A righthanded pitcher should be showing the baseball to the shortstop, a lefty to the second baseman. (Among active hurlers, Cliff Lee is a good example.) But if a pitcher’s elbows come higher than his wrists and shoulders, with the ball pointing down, he’s demonstrating an “inverted W” — a sign that his sequence is off and he’s fighting his own body. Such poor timing leads to arm lag, evident when the throwing elbow trails the shoulder once the shoulders square to home plate. Strasburg exhibits both problems, forcing him and others like him to rely more on the arm’s relatively small muscles instead of the more massive ones in the legs and torso. Throw after throw, the shoulder and elbow are under extra stress. The higher the pitch’s velocity and the worse the flaw, the more the arm suffers. And the more a pitcher throws, the worse it gets.
Arm lag and improper sequencing were likely to blame for Strasburg’s UCL tear, as well as for those of almost everyone else knocked out by the injury. “The timing is subtle,” says the American Sports Medicine Institute’s Glenn Fleisig, who has analyzed more than 2,000 pitchers and is one of the world’s foremost authorities on pitching biomechanics. “It’s the difference between good and great and healthy and injury-waiting-to-happen.”
Strasburg was probably in trouble from the get-go. He didn’t rupture his UCL on one pitch with the Nationals — even if a pitcher feels a pop on a particular pitch, his UCL was anything but pristine before the incident. Like a rope, Strasburg’s UCL probably started to fray the moment he began pitching off a mound, the extra height of which can compound the stress of each pitch. It likely got worse not only because of his mechanics. Kids who throw the hardest pitch the most: They get hitters out. Famed orthopedic surgeon James Andrews, who founded ASMI in 1987, says he has seen a five- to sevenfold increase in high schoolers requiring UCL reconstruction since 2000.
“The No. 1 risk factor for UCL injuries is poor mechanics,” he says. “The No. 2 factor is overuse. And if you overuse with poor mechanics, you’re doomed.”
God-given genetic superiority and freakish athletic ability often help those with less-than-ideal pitching mechanics make it to the majors, which is why you will find shockingly few exemplars of pitching mechanics on Sunday Night Baseball. “Everyone knows smoking is bad for you, yet people still smoke,” says Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild. “It’s the same with pitching. I’ve seen guys who don’t have great mechanics pitch for a long time. The body adjusts.”
Until it doesn’t.
“You have to be open-minded. Closed minds don’t make progress.” — Rangers president Nolan Ryan
ESPN The Magazine
Regular-season days MLB pitchers recovering from Tommy John surgery have collectively spent on the DL in the past five years. MLB teams have spent $193,503,317 on their salaries during their recoveries.
To anybody involved with the biomechanical analysis of pitching, it’s difficult to imagine a world without it. To anybody even half interested in baseball, it’s also difficult to understand why it’s not more accepted at the sport’s highest levels.
For more than a hundred years, pitching mechanics have been evaluated at 32 frames per second — the best the human eye provides. A pitcher’s delivery, from first movement to ball release, can take as little as 1.4 seconds. In that tiny window, coaches, scouts and fathers try to assess dozens of variables, such as “hip and shoulder separation” and “pitching arm external and internal rotation.” It’s a tall order, if not an impossible one. “What the eyes see and what actually takes place are two different things,” says Tom House, a former big-leaguer-turned-pitching-coach who now heads the Rod Dedeaux Research and Baseball Institute at the University of Southern California. “You see reality when you see what happens at 1,000 frames per second. It’s a humbling experience.”
The baseball community that makes a living off analyzing that reality is a quirky lot. Some are mechanical or biomedical engineers, like Fleisig. Some are retired pro pitchers, like House and Cy Young winner Mike Marshall, who has a Ph.D. in exercise physiology. Some are kinesiologists. Some are even self-taught, like coach-for-hire Alan Jaeger, who helps clients “merge the mechanics of the Western athlete with the insight of the Far Eastern mind.” Their approaches vary, but they all believe that by addressing a pitcher’s biomechanics and physics, they can improve performance and decrease injury. Not that they always agree. For example, Marshall advocates an ultrahigh arm slot. Jaeger is an advocate of long toss to build arm strength and stretches pitchers out as far as 380 feet. They find each other’s untraditional approaches controversial and often fail to present a completely united front. While the small particulars they disagree on nearly bring them to fisticuffs, all agree that any flaw that disrupts the timing of a pitcher’s kinematic sequence is problematic.
Collectively, their research can be as persuasive as it is cutting edge. A total of 2,000 pitchers — including six future Cy Young winners — have visited Andrews and Fleisig at ASMI’s lab. Using a camera-and-computer system that three-dimensionally tracks data from reflective markers affixed to a pitcher’s body as he throws, ASMI takes 41 measurements; think of it as an MRI of the pitching delivery. Afterward, Fleisig compiles a detailed report called a Biomechanics Evaluation about the pitcher that diagnoses problems with annotated video stills and recommends solutions. “When pitchers are young, they’re receptive and willing to fix problem areas,” says Reds minor league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins, who made several trips to ASMI while working with the Cubs. Crucially, the packet compares the pitcher to the exemplars in ASMI’s database who threw the hardest without injury.
And yet despite the stature of Andrews and Fleisig, only about one-tenth of ASMI’s clients played pro ball at any level. When pros do visit, they often find the screening advantageous. Braves pitcher Tim Hudson spent the early part of his career in Oakland, where pitching coach Rick Peterson, a biomechanics guru, took him to ASMI for mapping. “I think it’s a great test,” says Hudson. “You can do it when you’re pitching really well, and then, if you struggle or have pain” — Hudson himself later had Tommy John surgery, from overuse — “do it again. Instead of trying to eyeball it with regular video, you can actually use the science to compare the two.” Fleisig also recalls CC Sabathia and Cliff Lee visiting in the early 2000s as promising young Cleveland Indians; he’s mum on the details, but they soon became two of baseball’s most dominant pitchers.
Such an analysis reveals, for example, an issue late in the delivery — such as a tilted head position — that biomechanics-minded coaches address much earlier in the pitching motion, just as an engineer would need to right a listing skyscraper at its foundation rather than at the 15th floor. The pitching coach also creates a full program of mechanical drills tailored to correct nearly all woes, even a habit like arm lag. “With an approach that includes strength training and mechanics, there’s not much you can’t fix,” says independent pitching coach and former scout Paul Reddick.
“I’m not going to let new-school ways get in the way of my old-school thinking. I don’t need biomechanics. I have experience. I have my eyes. I just watch and look.” — White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper
Independent coach Paul Reddick compares pitching mechanics of the near-perfect Greg Maddux with the near-disaster Stephen Strasburg. Read »
Baseball, it’s been said, is the only thing besides the paper clip that hasn’t changed. And in the case of MLB pitching mechanics, the status quo is stickier than pine tar. Whether you’re a pitcher, scout, coach or GM, the goal is to keep your job and win baseball games — not shift paradigms.
Take major league pitching coaches. They’re paid to get outs. They spend hours looking at pitch charts, spray charts and video of opposing hitters. They develop a plan of attack for each batter and help their pitchers execute that game plan. They work with trainers on a throwing program, preside over bullpen sessions and manage workloads. Occasionally, they’ll make adjustments to a delivery or change the mechanics of a certain pitch to make it better or more deceptive, but their main priority never changes: Send the man at the plate back to the dugout.
As such, they’re more equipped to assess an opposing lineup’s tendency to chase the low-and-away fastball than to address the effects of vectors and valgus stress on their pitchers. The vast majority of MLB pitching coaches, who don’t have scientific backgrounds, don’t speak biomechanics — and it doesn’t speak to them.
According to Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan, the president of the Rangers, MLB pitching coaches can find the new scientific knowledge threatening. “Maybe they don’t know how to approach it,” he says. “So they just don’t.” When Ryan began pitching for the Rangers at age 42, House was his pitching coach; the aging ace quickly became a biomechanics believer and worked with the coach, whom he later thanked in his Cooperstown induction speech, to constantly refine his mechanics. “I had to because of age and because of new info,” Ryan says. “If I thought it would help, I’d put it in my routine.”
It’s practically an unwritten law in baseball that the majors are not the place to make big mechanical changes. The rare times coaches push for them, it’s in the minors. “When you’re interviewing pitching coaches,” says former Reds and Nationals general manager Jim Bowden, who’s now with ESPN, “if they’re mechanically oriented, you hire them for rookie ball or Low-A ball, where they can make tweaks before pitchers succeed.”
But the more success pitchers have, the less incentive anybody has to correct their approach. “Once they reach the majors, they’re pretty set into their deliveries,” says the Reds’ Riggins. “With big leaguers, I don’t talk much about changing mechanics.” If a coach risks changing a pitcher’s mechanics and he gets hit or hurt, it’s the coach’s fault; if he leaves a pitcher alone and he gets hurt, it’s because the pitcher already had a bad arm. If a team can win in the interim, like the Giants have done with Tim Lincecum and his radically tilted delivery — which critics view as a time bomb — it’s managed to get its money’s worth. “That’s exactly the theory,” concedes Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail. “It works until it doesn’t.”
Experts with biomechanics backgrounds find this approach painfully illogical. “Baseball is a game of failure coached by negative people in an environment of misinformation,” says House. Not surprisingly, pitching coaches who preach biomechanics rarely crack the bigs. They say what they think, which is often that pitchers need to change the mechanics they’ve been throwing with since grade school.
In MLB’s defense, the research has yet to reach a level at which it can predict and prevent every UCL blowout. “There’s a lot of data,” says a skeptical Bowden. “But even with all the research that’s been done, you still can’t perfectly articulate who will get hurt and when it will happen.”
So teams are hesitant to stick their toes in the pool — and few, if any, want to really swim. At ASMI, Fleisig estimates that in the past decade, 20 of the 30 teams have brought at least one player to be mapped, but they usually bring only prospects. Even then they don’t always use the information. Fleisig tells the story of a team that brought a major league pitcher to see him in 2005. After the evaluation, Fleisig told the team that the pitcher’s mechanics increased his risk of injury; his elbow was above his shoulders when he squared to home plate. But the player, who later had labrum surgery, claims the club never told him about his analysis or helped him make adjustments. Only after he was traded did his new team finally address his delivery issues.
It would require a risk-taking franchise to explode the status quo. A GM would need biomechanics experts, coaches who listen to them and an owner who believes the forward-thinking approach will save his pitchers’ arms — as well as millions in payroll. Baltimore GM Dan Duquette may be that man. In January, he hired Peterson as the Orioles’ director of pitching development.
“I really think our industry is behind the times,” says Peterson, who believes his tenures with the Mets and Brewers were short-lived because of his propensity for applying biomechanical analysis to change his pitchers’ deliveries. During spring training, Peterson invited ASMI to map 37 Orioles pitchers, including the team’s major leaguers. “This is now the philosophical path this organization is going in,” he says. “The format of those reports is so vital. What do you do with the pitcher after you get the report? That’s where I come in. Other teams get the reports and go,’Now what?’”
In the meantime, as we all know, the rest of MLB’s teams aren’t doing nothing. They count pitches. The Nationals announced in late February that they’d limit Strasburg to 150 to 160 innings this season. Other pitchers who have had Tommy John surgery, such as Brian Wilson and Kerry Wood, work out of the bullpen to extend the life of their arms. Pitch counts are important to the biomechanics community — Fleisig and Andrews championed the Little League decision to limit pitch counts nationwide in 2007. But pitch counts alone, they say, can’t protect UCLs from poor mechanics.
At best, they prolong the inevitable.
“I’ve been throwing this way my whole life. I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel.” — Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg
Tommy John never did work at that car dealership back home in Indiana. His surgeon saved him. But it wasn’t only the scalpel that made him — to this day — the most successful pitcher following UCL reconstruction.
During rehab, John hooked up with his teammate, Mike Marshall. “The surgery worked for Tommy because I made him put his hand under the baseball,” Marshall says. John acknowledges a change in grip. “If you move it to the side, the ball is pointing back when your hands break and you can come up nice and high,” says John, who pitched another 14 years, won 164 games and retired at age 46.
The Nationals hope that Strasburg, at 23, has an equally long career ahead of him. After all, he’s brilliant. Following his yearlong rehab, Strasburg made five starts last September. He pitched 24 innings, with 24 strikeouts, just two walks and a 1.50 ERA. His command was good; 224 of his 328 pitches were strikes, the prettiest of which was a 99 mph, letter-high, 0-and-2 fastball that fanned Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton in the top of the first inning on Sept. 17.
But earlier in the game, Nationals TV analyst F.P. Santangelo recalled a one-inning stretch six days earlier when Strasburg was hitting only 92 and 93 on the radar gun, causing some concern inside the Beltway. “He’s getting out front, and his arm was dragging,” Santangelo said, referring to Strasburg’s habitual arm lag, which takes more of a toll when the pitcher tires. Play-by-play man Bob Carpenter piped up a few innings later, relaying what Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty had told him: “‘I don’t want to be the one that screws the kid up.’” And then: “He’s scared to death every time Strasburg goes to pitch.”
He should be. Tommy John surgery isn’t nearly as successful the second time.
March 23rd, 20127:39 pm
Just skimed the current blog. Did FREDDY FREEMAN get hurt? I saw something about a broken hand, but DOB has not said anything, as a matter of fact he never posted any updates on the game. VJ deserves everyones thanks for his fine work.
March 23rd, 20127:43 pm
I agree George, VJ has been aces just about all spring training
March 23rd, 20127:44 pm
Also saw VENTERS out with sore shoulder. FREDI is trying to ruin BRAVES pitching staff.
March 23rd, 20127:45 pm
Do you know anything about FREDDY F?
March 23rd, 20127:48 pm
The Braves announced Friday that Terdoslavich, Bethancourt, first baseman Ernesto Mejia, left-handed pitcher Dusty Hughes and right-handed pitcher Adam Russell had been reassigned to Minor League camp.
March 23rd, 20127:50 pm
no George I am not sure of anything happening to FF
March 23rd, 20127:51 pm
Outta here for now. Please post more comments on a Captainship for CHIPPER, just in case anyone in BRAVES management reads the blog. Have a good one or two tonight y’all.
March 23rd, 20127:57 pm
George – A bruised on the fleshy part of his hand. Not serious.
March 23rd, 20127:59 pm
bruised hand day to day
March 23rd, 20128:01 pm
I am still here, raining hard here in Franklin NC, putting off takeing Peanut out.
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