Editor's note - Promoting to the front page for those tired of talking about Phil Coke! -Alli
It was pointed out to me that the Tigers are not a defensively gifted team. Yes, Jhonny Peralta has good hands, but so did Edgar Renteria. Problem for both of them is that they have no range so their defensive ability is a little bit deceptive. This goes well with the post because we are about to get a lesson in deception that works positively for us on the defensive end. More specifically we're gonna use Rick Porcello as the man we are going to suggest too because well, this team isn't set up for him to be greatly successful in the coming season.
I say this a lot but mechanics are funny because they are incredibly individualized and tend to make every word I type more idealogical than anything. But I've found over my studies that "ground ball" pitchers tend to lend themselves more to my ideal ways more than anyone else, especially if they aren't incredibly physically gifted in any way. And I say this because good mechanics help create deception.
Now I found this video of Rick pitching. It's essentially the only video I could find and it's of a BP, so for mechanics purposes it does me little good. But the camera angle is similar to what a batter might see which does us good.
Rick Porcello bullpen (2/26/09) (via 321Baseball)
Now heres what I see in the video: There are places where Rick fully exposes the baseball to the batter before the arm is cocked. To understand why this is bad, one must grasp some basic concepts of hitting mechanics.
- The front foot of the batter. It steps forward for a reason. One is to generate momentum. Another is to set up hip rotation. And a third (less obvious reason) is to help set up timing. It's actually the last major step in developing good timing
- Those batters have goofy movements in their stance for a reason. And that reason is TIMING. When dealing with heaters coming at 90+ mph, timing is probably much more important in batting than it is in pitching. If it takes some weird flick of the bat or twitch of the leg to help get that timing than yeah, those guys are gonna do it.
- And what does all this have to do with exposing that baseball? Every extra moment that a Major League hitter can see the ball gives him a point of reference to develop his timing. And for really good hitters, it's extra opportunities to pick up on the type of pitch too. This to me is a big reason why it is important for your lead off hitter to see as many pitches as possible. It gives your big guns in the lineup time to develop a rhythm while sitting down.
So we come back to Rick now and talk about what can be done to A) fix his known issue or B) create deception in other area's. So below are the fixes and or possible changes.
- Alter body position in regards to batter to hide the ball better behind the body. This has lots of problems. Namely it would take some getting used to for Rick and it may not help hide the ball from batter on both sides of the plate.
- Adjust the throwing arms actions before the arm is in the "cocked" postion. There a lot of "if it aint broke, don't fix it" mentality with mechanics and rightfully so because of the individualism associated with it. His big problem comes around where he practices "scapular loading" (the point where his shoulder blades come together). Around this point the ball becomes fully exposed. Now the fixes are to A) adjust how the whole arm acts (the fully corrective fix but probably mechanically damaging fix) or B) turn the hand with the ball toward 2nd base (probably the best fix in this scenario). I say this for two reasons: I don't think scapular loading is necessary to pitching well and is actually more destructive (ex// Joel Zumaya) and turning the hand around actually promotes proper arm rotation prior to cocking. However for Rick I'm gonna say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. His strikeouts aren't broken yet, they just need to be improved.
- Alter the time it takes to get through the entire delivery--from leg kick to release. I hate this option the most and I hate it because I think it's one of Armando Galarraga's biggest problems. It's an asset to him when he doesn't allow it to disturb his own timing but too often it does which is sad because we've all seen what Mando can do.
- Well heres the obvious and most likely to occur scenario--develop a really good strikeout pitch. If you don't know what I mean than go watch a sport for stupid people. Since Rick is young, developing a pitch he already has or adding to his repetoire.
I'm guessing that the Tigers or at least the Tigers pitching coaches realize this and have already started with Rick (probably began last offseason) but it was fun to write about none the less.