Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Russ Ortiz's Mechanics Improvement Explained

Carlos Gomez has another analysis of a Giants' pitcher's mechanics up again - if you will recall, he covered Matt Cain's and Tim Lincecum's mechanics, in full, just a little while ago - and this time he tackles Russ Ortiz, and while not fully, it is, more importantly, about the different between last year and this year.

It is pretty cool, Carlos points out the exact different thing that Ortiz is not doing: he is breaking his hands earlier. Now, I have no idea what that means and even after he explains it all, I had no idea, but watching the video over and over again, I finally saw what he meant: his pitching arm cocks much faster last year and, while I took physics I am not totally sure what exactly happens, but it appears that the momentum he creates with his arm cock is dissipated by breaking it earlier, and thus he loses that additional velocity and apparently that caused his cut fastball not to cut anymore, or at least not enough to fool major league hitters. As Carlos notes, his throwing motion "this year seems like it's uninterrupted", which I suppose means that the throwing motion builds up the momentum imparted to the pitched ball, rather than just going along for the ride and losing the momentum that the arm can deliver.

But I swear, except for that one little detail, I cannot tell the difference between the two videos. It is incredible to me that just one little detail can be so important to a pitcher. It makes Lincecum's stuff all the more wonderous that he can duplicate that throwing motion over and over again, as even one little detail like this take something away from your velocity as a pitcher. Somebody should give Carlos a job in the professional baseball, this is great stuff, and, you know, it could have been worth, oh, about $22M to the D-backs if they had Carlos around.

I would also note, for long-suffering Giants fans who have a love/hate relationship with Ortiz that if you look at the two videos, Ortiz clearly - though he was never slim - lost a lot of weight between the two videos. I realize that the camera angle might be different and makes Russ looks bigger in the Arizona video, but what I'm referring to is basically how his clothes hang on him, it seems more puffy in the Arizona video than the Giants video.


  1. From what I gather, "breaking his hands earlier" meant that he was pulling his hands out of his glove earlier. Last season, and probably years past, he would pull his hands out of his glove just as his leg kick reaches it's apex (or just before it begins to fall). This year, his hands stay in the glove a little bit longer.

    If I'm understanding right (and it totally makes sense), when you pull your hand out of your glove and start winding it up too early, it is highly likely that there is a point where you arm has to stop and wait for your leg/body to catch-up before continuing it's motion. Thats what he means by "un-interrupted" this season. By pulling his hand out later, his arm doesn't have to "pause" a little during it's motion. Rather, it's all one fluid and continuous motion. This allows the momentum to continue flowing through a pitch, rather than being stopped and having to be (sort of) regenerated again.

    But I agree. It's amazing how the smallest things affect a pitcher's performance.

  2. He also looks much more flexible in the Giants video and the 5-10 extra mph is clearly seen.

  3. Thats what he means by "un-interrupted" this season. By pulling his hand out later, his arm doesn't have to "pause" a little during it's motion. Rather, it's all one fluid and continuous motion. This allows the momentum to continue flowing through a pitch, rather than being stopped and having to be (sort of) regenerated again.

    That is exactly what I meant.
    "breaking the hands"= the point where the glove and throwing hand separate.
    He does this much later and helps his arm continue uninterrupted.

    I also don't want to discount how much thinner Ortiz looks this year. That helps as well...

    aka ChadBradfordWannabe

  4. Hello, Martin? Your take on Winn and Linden? I don't have any stats to refer to to tell me if he is typically a slow starter, b ut he is not even hitting the ball hard - not even foul. And Linden. 8 Ks, I think, in his last 10 ABs. If he is completely powerless against the curve, why doesn't that show up in Fresno? They have curve balls in the PCL - why would a guy be able to hit well there, come up and be completely victimized by the curve? I didn't see the game last night (just listened) but it (curve) was almost all they threw at him.

  5. Frank, from what I remember about the game last night, Wolf's curve was ridiculous at times. Most of them were pretty big breaks, and the pitch was coming as slow as 63 MPH (according to FSN's radar). That's a difficult pitch to stay with when the guy's fast ball registers at 20MPH faster.

    I do agree though, Linden confuses me. I know AAA performance doesn't necessarily translate to big league success, but it should be a pretty good gauge.

    As for Winn, he really doesn't hit the ball hard. You'll see a lot of dribblers from him because he never really makes solid contact. It's been like that since (most of) last season.

  6. Thanks sfgfan and Carlos for your clarifications on the "hand breaking". I still don't see it, they seem to come out at the same time, but last year it was a quick jerk out, whereas this year it was a smooth motion coming out of the mitt. Maybe one day I'll see it...

    I have no answers on Winn. It is frustrating but he seems to be our next Edgardo Alfonzo unless he starts hitting. I know others didn't like the signing (and I think I was upset at first), but the size of the contract was in line with other OFs who were about as good as he was before. He can be a valuable contributor to the offense if he could just hit like he used to, forget about 2005's abnormality. I've also noticed that hitters just seem to go into the tank when they get placed in the 8th spot, at least from my research on Giants hitters from recent years, like Cruz Jr., Shinjo, the catchers. Just keep your fingers crossed.

    About Linden, thanks for sfgfan's comments. I would also note, if he was that bad against the curve, he wouldn't have done so well (relatively) last season, the news would have gotten out one would think, as Jon Miller said in yesterday's broadcast (oops, I just gave away a description of the game from the broadcast, will the MLB and KNBR come after me? :^).

    However, given sfgfan's description of Wolf's curve, no wonder he couldn't hit it, that's what has enabled Lowry to be successful before, that velocity separation between your fastball and your breaking pitch. Most hitters cannot hit when the separation is so large. I would tuck this under the hat as something to look for in the future, but nothing to worry about yet, as he did hit last year, but hitters can regress and maybe that's what happened. Or it could have been just a bad night for him, it happens.

    Plus, it was a wacky night, Feliz hitting an off-field homer, when the broadcast crew noted that on a cold night like last night, it is pretty impossible to crank one out.

  7. Regarding hitters tanking after being placed in the 8th spot, it could be somewhat understandable. If you're batting before the pitcher, chances are, you're not going to get much to hit (unless there are people on base). Thats probably why Bochy has been reluctant to throw Feliz into the 8th spot.

    Couple that with the theory that Winn may still be trying to justify his extension, it could provide for some bad result. You put good "bad ball" hitters in the eighth spot. Winn isn't that kind of guy. He's more likely to hit a grounder than he is something in the air, so putting him in a position to only receive balls low or in the dirt is not really the best place to put him.

  8. I appreciate your comments SFGfan. I am in the general LA TV area and, thus, MLB is blacked out when the Giants are in LA. So, yes, a really big curve ball could have been the problem.
    I just don't understand what is going on with Winn, tho. The 8th place hitter syndrome makes some sense. He is too young to have just lost it. I cannot see how he would be so far under his career average. And, his BA is reflective of how poorly he is hitting, because he is not hitting the ball hard at all.

  9. What a gritty, determined effort by Russ last night, by the team, too. I couldn't believe the abuse heaped on this signing by know-it-alls who only read stat sheets. I thought then it was a great, no risk signing. AS much as i like Sanchez and would like to see him succeed in the rotation, it is gratifying to have my confidence in Giants management rewarded - and gratifying to have their assessment that he looked much improved in Winter ball be shown to be correct. Man, what a performance of will.
    BTW, Martin, every time I post I have to do the entire registration on the blog site. Any shortcuts?

  10. Yep, gritty and determined, I was ready to yank him out early but he finally settled down and did OK overall.

    I can believe the abuse because there are a lot of people who want Sabean's head. They will jump on any excuse to bash him or to justify letting him go.

    The thing is, basically the past losing seasons were re-building seasons despite the old players added because our pitching staff has almost totally turned over: only Kline and Benitez are over 30 and Zito is 29. Short-term vision is the sure recipe for perpetual churn and losing, a la the Royals all these years, or even the Pirates. If you cannot appreciate a young pitching staff like this...

    Sorry about blogger, that's the price of "free". I find that once you log in while your computer is up, you can stay logged in, at least on my home computer. When I'm using my work computer, sometimes it remembers and sometimes it don't, not sure why. Sorry, not technical enough to give better suggestions.

    The only thing I can think of is how strong a security setting you have for the internet and whether you allow cookies on your computer. Not that my home computer is that safe but I can share my settings on them if you like. However, if you turn your computer on and off everyday, then I just think you are out of luck.

    I'll try to get some help on blogger and see if they can recommend anything. Best I can do.



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