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Picture, Imperfect?
2005-05-05 05:53
by Will Carroll
Scott Long is now blogging at
Will Carroll can still be found at Baseball Prospectus.

I've been reading Sports Illustrated more lately as I realize it's become (while I wasn't watching) the smarter alternative to ESPN's coverage. They're also more visual, being, you know, "Illustrated" and all. So, I thought I'd have a little fun with one of their slideshows, this one on the Top 20 Young Pitchers. I won't even debate the rankings. Instead, let's look at what we can see on these twenty pictures when it comes to mechanics.

Obviously, one picture isn't going to give us a complete view, but these are some *great* pictures so there's something to be learned. I get a lot of questions about mechanics, so think of this as thumbnails sketches of that, after the fold.

1. Johan Santana - he's partially obscured, but we have a nice followthrough and his eyes are locked on target. He seems on balance and his glove is in proper position. He does seem to be off to the third base side a bit, but that could be perspective.

2. Mark Buehrle - now that's pronation. You'd think he just tossed a screwball as quickly as he turned over tho I don't think he throws one. Not sure what the pitch is. Don't expect elbow problems from someone with this pronation. Very nice. Head and glove over knee as well. A+

3. Carlos Zambrano - He has his temper under control in this picture. He's very "long in the back" - reaching towards second base. He does come up in his delivery, cocking the elbow before release, but it's something I'd rather see him clean up. He reaches forward with his glove, keeping his front arm out of position.

4. Mark Prior - his head is just a bit behind ideal. His glove looks to be directly over his knee and his head will likely be in great position at release. His arm is in perfect position - upper arm parallel and locked to the hip turn, forearm inside of vertical. The uniform is coming forward as the energy is being transferred upwards.

5. Ben Sheets - great perspective. Sheets leans to the first base side, but keeps his head on line. His back leg is down at release, anchoring him and his stride is a nice safe length. Nice pronation here as well.

6. Jake Peavy - his back leg is up, swinging around in an arc. That's energy not going into the ball and more pressure put on his elbow. He seems leaned to the first base side and a bit upright. He may come up quickly out of the follow through.

7. Josh Beckett - Nice ligaments, Josh. His arm is horribly straight, stressing the elbow and shoulder. He's leaned to the first base side to clear his arm through, forcing his head over. Glove-knee-head is in decent alignment, but his foot is already coming up before release.

8. Dontrelle Willis - Not much to see here. Everyone loves that high knee lift, but the look on his face is pure comedy. Caption contest!

9. C.C. Sabathia - This is nearly the picture that made Jim Andrews cringe at the ASMI Conference. His arm is well back of vertical. The front arm is the same; I'm told it's not that bad, forced back to balance him because he's, you know, fat. He just has to be "Livaning" it, not throwing at full effort on most of his pitches.

10. Barry Zito - a mish-mash of styles, Zito's leg collapses in the back, his back elbow is low, but his posture is great. The curveball's coming. I'd love to see Zito work on a cutter.

11. Rich Harden - The force he gets in his delivery is evident in his necklace. Good external rotation, glove is in decent if not great position and nice stride. The perspective makes it impossible to tell if he's leaning to the gloveside to clear his shoulder but it does show his exceptional late hip turn.

12. Oliver Perez - Nothing to see here. He's good, but has a complex delivery that will often get a bit out of whack. He's still going to get better and better until he understands his delivery - or blows out his elbow.

13. Jon Garland - Interesting. His stride is short, very different from the past or maybe it's just this pitch. Nice pronation, good posture. His uni popping forward shows good solid legs.

14. Brett Myers - I'm not sure what this pitch is. Someone more familiar with Myers stuff might tell me, but it looks like a slider. His head is horrible, his arm overextended, his knee short of 90 and his foot up at release. He's sure pitching well for someone as messed up as this picture looks.

15. Brandon Webb - I'd love to know the perspective on this. I'm guessing it's slightly to the right of home plate. That would make his back arm more in line with the driveline, rather than looking "chickenwinged" here. His scapula is not retracted, so it doesn't look like he really is. He's got a very long, circular takeaway, but note the grip. It almost looks like a splitter from this view.

16. Jason Marquis - His face just screams high effort. His knee isn't very good, well short of 90, leaving his shoulder back. His head is slightly gloveside and he's not getting much external rotation. His shoulder is probably already losing some of its mobility. His hips are also already square to the plate, well ahead of release.

17. Erik Bedard - Name! That! Pitch! Bedard has extended the arm a bit ahead of release, not terrible. His glove and head are in good position and while we can't see the knee well in this, the uni popping is a good sign. His back foot is up slightly, making me think he'll bring it up and around. Throws slightly across his body, something his posture takes care of.

18. Jeremy Bonderman - Nice extension. This reminds me a lot of Clemens with the retracted arm, the solid back leg, and the head slightly behind but whipping forward. (At release, he's over the knee.) Great late hip turn gives him the velocity. I don't like the retraction a lot, but we'll assume Bob Cluck has him doing it properly. Look at his back leg - that's perfect.

19. Cliff Lee - he's slightly off to the gloveside, clearing for a two-seamer. Great external rotation and posture. His elbow looks extremely high, something I haven't noticed, so it may be just the picture.

20. Jeff Francis - Love this kid. Slight overrotation out of the driveline. Nice knee lift and a very smooth lefty delivery from the little I've seen of him. Eyes locked on the target, which is a key.

Wow, this was fun, at least for me. If you see interesting pictures like these, send me a link and we'll do this some more. I know we have some pitching gurus reading this, so tell me what you see.

2005-05-05 08:18:50
1.   JTK
Here are some photos from the ESPN Website.




Chris Carpenter:

2005-05-05 13:44:44
2.   photogirl
Whoo hoo! Thanks Will! I've been waiting for this.

Kerry Haas :-)

2005-05-05 13:52:33
3.   Vic
Great post, Will. As I read the article a few days ago, I wondered what your thoughts would be on the pitchers' various styles, so I greatly appreciate the effort.
2005-05-05 14:29:52
4.   MikeKane
Great post!

What about this one from Bronson Arroyo:

2005-05-05 16:14:09
5.   Pseudonym
Frank Menechino:


2005-05-05 17:20:19
6.   Smed
Good way to pass the time at work, Will. Thanks!
2005-05-05 22:59:43
7.   Wrigleyviller
Dontrelle Willis caption:

"Did I remember to take my shin guard off after batting?"

2005-05-06 00:11:27
8.   Joe
Awesome Will, just plain awesome. I could spend all day just reading pitching analysis. I hope this becomes a reg. feature.

As for submitting photos, I'd love to hear your analysis on these three:

2005-05-06 06:58:12
9.   FoulTerritory
How does pronation help prevent elbow injury, or conversely, how does not pronating lead to elbow injury?
2005-05-06 13:38:36
10.   LoneChicken
Wow, I can't believe this guy isn't somewhere in the middle of that list and rising:

2005-05-08 18:21:33
11.   deadteddy8
I have high hopes for Noah Lowry.

2005-05-09 11:14:50
12.   Doug
(Another) Johan Santana

Pedro Martinez

2005-05-14 11:28:27
13.   Sky
Thanks for that! I spent the past half hour going through pitcher by pitcher. As someone who's starting to coach baseball and softball more and more, I need to learn more about the mechanics side of things. Keep the analysis coming, and I'll have to go re-read Saving the Pitcher.
2005-05-18 07:05:47
14.   brett5
A couple of comments.
First, about pronation: EVERY pitcher pronates EVERY pitch. The difference is when the pronation occurs. The arm pronates quickly after release on a fastball, and shortly following supination on sliders and curveballs. The pitch that Buehrle threw is probably a curveball. Really. Look at the trajectory out of his hand; his hand passed over the ball rather than staying behind the ball and releasing it downward as he would on a fastball. Pronation is not only good, it is necessary. Problems occur when pitchers don't train their elbow to pronate 150 times every 5 days.
Second, the comment on Beckett is misleading ("His arm is horribly straight, stressing the elbow and shoulder"). Every pitcher releases every pitch with his arm straight; that is, every pitch is released from a straight line from the opposite shoulder blade to the ball. You can draw a straight line from shoulder to shoulder and up through the arm to the ball at release for EVERY pitcher in the major leagues. Beckett is not unique in his "straight arm" release. The "slot" that pitchers release the ball from varies only by the tilt pitchers get on their spine at release. Pitchers who release "over the top" (Curt Schilling, for example) tilt their spine so that their non-throwing shoulder is down and their throwing shouder is up. Pitchers who throw from the side (Jeff Nelson, for example) have no tilt.
Thrid, a pitchers follow through is a function of the actions that occurred up to release of his pitch. That is, if a pitcher falls to his glove side (Bob Gibson, Kerry Wood), he is compensating for releasing the ball on his throwing arm side and pulling his arm across his body. If a pitcher posts his heel and spins around it (Mitch Williams, Jared Washburn) his stride is too long and he is preventing his body from moving forward after release.

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