A comparison of Stephen Strasburg and Greg Maddux’s pitching mechanics – in the style of an airplane-safety card
Independent coach Paul Reddick helps hurlers throw harder and stay healthier. He has scouted for the Pirates and written books with ex-big leaguer and biomechanics guru Tom House. The Mag asked Reddick to compare the flawed delivery of Stephen Strasburg with the model motion of retired legend Greg Maddux.
“Maddux’s lift is very efficient. It brings him only forward. His front shoulder is directly in line with home plate” — denoted above by the dotted blue line. “Strasburg has negative movement toward home plate. He overrotates toward second base; his knee has passed his belly button. Now he has to stop all that energy going back and regenerate it to come forward. He’ll never overcome that wasted movement and misdirection.”
“Maddux’s spine is straighter; he’s stable on his back leg with his head and spine over his center of gravity. Strasburg’s spine is at 11 o’clock, and his back leg is straight. He’s striding too far toward the righthand batter’s box. He then has to literally fight across his body toward home plate. He’s out of sequence: His shoulders are already pinching back to throw, but his front foot hasn’t yet hit the ground.”
“Maddux’s lower half is still tracking toward home plate. His arm remains back as his hips begin to turn. This is the classic torque position. Strasburg’s misdirected stride, mirrored in the tilt of his head” — and reflected by his distance from the blue line — “inhibits his hip rotation. He’ll never harness torque as easily as Maddux and will have to strain his upper half to finally face home, which increases the stress on his arm.”
“The position of Maddux’s chest shows how much farther he is toward the plate. His elbows are in front of his body in a position of strength, with good glove position in front of his knee. Strasburg’s elbows are passing behind his body. This is a weak position, and he’s working to overcompensate for his lower half’s poor position. He’s also pulled his glove back to help him square toward home. A sloppy glove is a sign of sloppy direction.”
“Maddux’s head and shoulders are almost still in line with home plate” — and the blue line. “Strasburg is now leaning way to the left because he’s swung over to compensate for veering too far to the right early on. And he’s still not on target for home. The follow-through is a byproduct of everything that happened before. You can’t have bad mechanics and a good follow-through, and you can’t teach a good follow-through.”
My girlfriend is passionate about keeping a scorecard at the ballpark, but she doesn’t bother with it when we go to Grapefruit League spring training games. There’s so many roster changes and substitutions in the late innings, she says, and keeping up takes the fun out of enjoying beer & sunshine.
Fans more dedicated to transcribing each play were thrown for a loop yesterday afternoon at the Cardinals-Mets game in Port St. Lucie when little-known St. Louis prospect Minor League Guy On Third entered the game as a pinch-runner. That’s to assume there was anyone left in the stadium at all who hadn’t abandoned it for the nearest bar showing NCAA tournament games. But for those who did stay, they observed a rare appearance by one of baseball’s most fascinating players. This is his story.
Of course, Minor League Guy On Third (we’ll simply call him Minor League Guy from here on out) isn’t his real name. It’s a code name, one used to protect his true identity for the sake of national security. Minor League Guy was born in the hills outside of Medellín, Colombia, where his father operated a small coffee plantation.
Like most Colombian children, he regarded baseball as a curiosity, dedicating his athletic pursuits to soccer.
That all changed in 1999, when at the age of eight he and his family were summoned to the palace of newly-inaugurated Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. Chávez had found the coffee produced by Minor League Guy’s father to be especially pleasing, and offered the family a home in Caracas in exchange for his father’s serving as the presidential capitan de la bebida.
It brought the On Third family wealth beyond their wildest dreams, and introduced Minor League Guy to béisbol for the first time. He proved a natural at the middle infield positions for which Venezuela is renowned in producing major league talent, and the national sports organization dispatched him to their top academy.
Chávez, meanwhile, had other plans. As tension between himself and the Bush administration grew, he plotted an infiltration of spies posing as professional baseballers. The grooming of Minor League Guy began early, with the academy teaching him how to hit-and-run during the day and Chávez’s operatives teaching him surveillance and hand-to-hand combat at night.
By now, Minor League Guy’s family had been made full Venezuelan citizens, and he was dedicated to his new country and the egalitarian ideals he believed it espoused.
At 17, Minor League Guy earned his first professional contract, and Venezuelan authorities rushed his training to prepare him for entry to the U.S. What they didn’t count on was the CIA’s having full knowledge of the operation; within weeks of his arrival in Jupiter, Florida, U.S. intelligence flipped Minor League Guy, brainwashing him of his allegiance to socialist ideals and turning him into an informer for other Venezuelan players whose aim was to bring down the American government through the practice of baseball fundamentals and spray hitting.
It was at this point Minor League Guy On Third earned his nom de guerre. It’s an unfortunate one, as it leads to considerable confusion when he reaches first or second base. He’s tailored his game to target the corners and use his speed to leg out triples whenever possible, but it still gives announcers and scorecard-keepers fits on occasion.
But the biggest fear for U.S. intelligence is that Minor League Guy will someday prove his worthiness to the big club and get called up. Will they change his codename? Would it compromise his mission? This all remains to be seen. For now, Minor League Guy On Third, we appreciate your dedication to the United States of America.
What the…? One friggin’ run, Seattle? One?
I know. I know. It’s a spring training exhibition game. Versus a JPL team.
It has been well chronicled that the Seattle Mariners offense for the last few years hasn’t just been bad, it’s been historically bad. Like the kind of bad that makes grown men in the greater Seattle area lose sleep at night, wondering “how could this be possible?” sorta bad.
Last year they became the first team since the mound was lowered to post back-to-back sub-.300 OBP seasons as a team and hit a mere 109 HRs.
To put this further in persepective, The Phillies‘ much ballyhooed & insanely deep rotation limited its opponents to an OPS of .642. The Seattle Mariners’ OPS was .640. A year ago, the Mariners’ OPS was .637.
Yes, on your average day versus your average league pitcher the Mariners offense was so pathetic it was like they were facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and/or Cole Hamels.
As Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing put it, talk about downright offensive:
We know that the Mariners’ offense was bad. We lived through that offense. These offenses. It did not and could not escape daily notice. And there are a lot of ways, countless ways, to express just how bad it was in both 2010 and 2011. But this way might be my favorite I’ve seen yet.
True, the Mariners’ numbers were hurt by having to spend half the games in Safeco Field. If you adjust for park, their OPS figures should be a little higher. But then, the Phillies got to face NL teams and NL lineups with pitchers in, so if you want to account for that, it kind of balances out.
Look at it like this and the inconceivable is revealed as truth. For two years in a row now, the Seattle Mariners have hit about as poorly as teams hit against the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies’ starting rotation. The Phillies’ starting rotation that ranked among the best ever built. When people would joke that the Mariners could make any opposing starter look like a Cy Young winner, they weren’t wrong. On average, that’s basically what they’ve done for two straight seasons.
There are other comparisons you could choose to make, of course. How about Randy Johnson? Over Randy Johnson’s career, which admittedly took place in a different era, opposing batters posted a .650 OPS. That’s higher than what the Mariners have done.
So it probably should not come as any surprise that they could only muster a single run, one they could only manage to score in the ninth inning with the game hopelessly lost.
Suzuki, who went 1 for 4, drew huge cheers from the crowd of 42,139 when he hit a single down the left field line in the top of the first inning.
“I felt a lot of tension so that was quite a moment,” Suzuki said of his hit in the first inning. “It didn’t feel like an exhibition game and there was a different atmosphere.”
Suzuki grounded out in his next three at-bats, but the near-capacity crowd on hand didn’t seem to mind.
“Ichiro has been on a different level for all these years and when you saw those flashbulbs going off when he came up to bat in the first inning that says it all,” Seattle manager Eric Wedge said.
The Mariners are in Japan to open the season against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday and Thursday.
Hanshin scored three runs in the bottom of the second. Takahiro Arai scored from third on an infield single by former Mariner Kenji Jojima and Tomoaki Kanemoto hit a two-run homer to right off Seattle starter Hector Noesi, who took the loss after giving up three runs and six hits in five innings.
The Tigers added two runs in the seventh on Kohei Shibata’s double to center and a Takashi Toritani single to left.
Seattle’s run came in the ninth inning on a home run by Casper Wells.
The Mariners had a chance to score in the top of the eighth when Munenori Kawasaki led off with a double and advanced to third on a Suzuki grounder to second, but Alex Liddi popped out and Jesus Montero struck out to end the inning.
Wedge said he continues to be impressed by Kawasaki.
“Mune has been fantastic for us all spring,” Wedge said. “He had to compete to be on the ballclub and he has done what he needed to do. He brings a lot more to the team than what he does on the field.”