Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thoughts on Phil - Mechanical Issues

Before I start I would like to say that I am NOT panicking. I am still willing to show the patience that I have preached since the offseason and allow Phil the room to grow.

That being said, I believe that there were some worrisome signs in last night's game.

First, for the first time, I believe Phil's stuff was not very good. In prior starts he had trouble finding the zone and hitting spots; last night, however, I think his fastball was unusually hittable. Not only did it seem that he did not break 91 on the gun, but it seemed the pitched lacked the typical late movement that makes Phil's fastball such a great pitch.

Second, in addition to not being able to throw it for strikes for much of the outing, Phil's curveball was 2-4 instead of the usual 12-6. As the curve had essentially the same movement as his slider, Phil basically lost a pitch last night.

There has been a lot of talk coming both from the coaching staff and from Phil himself about his mechanics being 'off.' The focus going into this start was not rushing and allowing his body to slow down and let his arm catch up.

There have been more than one analysis of Phil's mechanics over the past year (one good one here) that show Phil has been employing a much lower arm angle through delivery which would not only costs him velocity, but also add right-to-left drift on his curveball.

The above picture shows Phil in '07 on the left, and in '06 on the right. The arm angle is noticeably lower.

The lower arm angle creates more rotation around the release point. Instead of getting on top of the ball and driving it down toward the zone using the pitcher's legs, a lower arm angle causes the pitcher to rely more on arm speed and the whip action of the arm for power. Instead of driving the body forward there is more pulling the arm through the release point. The result of this is a loss of control and velocity.
Another obvious sign of what I am talking about is here:

Notice the difference - in the earlier picture (left) Phil's left leg is straight, he is completely on top of it and throwing on a downward plane. In the more recent picture (right) Phil's left leg is slightly bent - a result of the lower release point which causes more rotation around the release point and a lower head/shoulder finish. The lower head/shoulder finish is due to Phil pulling his arm through release and having to rely on arm speed rather than leg drive for power.

While I have not done any video analysis of last night's start, I am willing to bet that in concentrating on slowing his body down he allowed his arm angle to drop even further. The result was a lack of control on the curve, and a change in tilt from 12-6 to 2-4.

As the issue seems to be mechanical, I think it might do Phil some good to go to SWB and take 2 turns through the ro there to work on getting his mechanics straight without the pressure of being in the bigs. Again, I am not 'on the ledge' with respect to Phil...I simply believe that at 21 it will be hard for him to get multiple mechanical issues straightened out under the weight of pressure to win.

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