Wednesday, September 1, 2010

'Flying Open' and Other 'Prior' Offenses

I always get a kick out of hearing pitchers--and pitching coaches and managers, for that matter--describing the mechanics of pitching. Typically they are forced to discuss pitching mechanics when a pitcher is doing poorly. The usual culprit is concentration, but when the concentration seems fine, it's mechanical.

Then you hear a lot of talk about shoulders and legs "flying open".

Wrote about mercurial hurler Fausto Carmona:

By not rushing to the plate, he cuts down the chances of flying open with the lead leg. Flying open was a huge problem the past two years, especially when working from the stretch. The more open he got, the more command suffered. Plenty of hits and walks resulted.

Of course, the solution to flying open is staying closed.

Wrote of Josh Beckett, back when Beckett could actually go six innings and get people out:

Beckett is leading with his shoulder toward home plate, and is keeping his shoulder closed in until the last second...

Yet yesterday's NY Times, in a compelling story on Mark Prior's attempted comeback, offered the first true nomenclature of pitching mechanics I've ever seen: Scapular Loading and The Inverted W.

Both appear to have been responsible for Prior's quick demise from fireballing pitcher with what were considered picture-perfect mechanics, to sore-shouldered bust.

Writes the Times:

Scapular loading (pinching the shoulder blades together) and an inverted W (having the elbows higher than the shoulders when striding toward the plate) have been identified as possible culprits.

So that's what pitching coaches talk about when they visit the mound! I always thought it was something simpler, like, "Uh, let's get this guy out."

The Times story also featured the first time I've seen a shorthand version of the infamous Tommy John surgery, which wunderkind Stephen Strasburg--and countless other young pitchers--is to undergo.

Said Prior of Strasburg:

Hopefully, because the Tommy Johns are a better success rate coming back, he’ll be fine...

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