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Bullpen Mechanics
— A Scout's View

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Prospect Report: The Mechanics of Steve Palazzolo

Steve Palazzolo is a 6’10” 265 lb. RHP out of Division 2 UMass Lowell.  After pitching in the Division 2 World Series twice in his career and writing his name all over the record books, Steve went undrafted out of college.  He soon signed with the Florence Freedom of the independent Frontier League.  A move to the bullpen jumpstarted Steve’s career in 2005 as he anchored the bullpen for the Can-Am League champion Worcester Tornadoes.  That offseason, the Brewers signed him at a tryout camp in January 2006.  Starting the 2006 season at Low A West Virginia Steve struggled at the outset as the organization had him working from multiple arm slots and continued to tinker with his mechanics.  After dedicating a month at extended spring training to work from a consistent arm slot and add a new slider to his repertoire, Steve joined Helena of the Pioneer league.  He enjoyed a lot of success as Helena’s closer, showing consistent velocity while continuing the development of the slider.  After making some changes to his mechanics in the offseason and pitching well in Spring Training, he was released by the Brewers. Steve joined the Nashua Pride of the Can-Am League, where he is off to a great start. As of this writing, he’s pitched 10 innings, given up 6 hits (all singles), 1 run, has walked just 2 and struck out 13 while sporting a 0.90 ERA.

With a HEAVY, sinking fastball that sits 88-92 mph and touches touches 94, an 80-82 mph slider and a 75-77 mph forkball, Steve is not just a very talented pitcher. Steve knows “mechanics” as well as anyone in professional baseball. He is easily one of the most knowledgeable players I have ever come in contact with and is constantly looking for the latest information and techniques that he can implement into his delivery. BP’s Will Carroll got me in touch with Steve during the past offseason and we have had a mutually beneficial relationship since. We discuss mechanics at length. Steve is constantly asking questions, making very insightful comments and is always looking for ways to get better. He has made me re-examine many of my ideas on mechanics, exposed me to new research, and has helped me become better at what I do. Hopefully, I’ve had at least a little impact on him as well.

Enough talk, let’s look at what this behemoth can do

This clip was taken right before he reported to Spring Training this year.

There’s many good things here, a couple of excellent things, and a few areas where he can improve. Let’s take a more detailed look.

THE GOOD AND IMPROVING

In order to illustrate his offseason adjustments, here’s a clip that compares Steve in ‘07 versus Steve in ‘06.

One of the key improvements that Steve made in the offseason was that he learned to engage his lower body in order to produce a more aggressive move into footplant. As you can see on the above clip, he has increased his tempo (sped up his body) and as a result, he has built up more momentum in order to help him accelerate his arm more aggressively. I firmly believe that with increased tempo and momentum, better velocity is possible. While Steve has yet to see a jump in velocity, I believe that with time and a few other adjustments, an increase in velocity will soon come. There is a magic move that makes this happen that is still considered a little controversial. Here’s a clip of “the move”.....

Notice how ‘07 “drifts through the balance point.” Watch how his butt gains ground towards home plate as his knee reaches its apex while the ‘06 version does not. Disclaimer: I know the angles are slightly different, but trust me on this one. ‘06 is an example of the typical “gather at the balance point first, and then go” idea that is somehow still popular in pitching instruction (and makes little sense to me—Why stop at the top and then start instead of keeping it going?). By drifting a bit before getting to the top of his knee lift, Steve has given himself little choice BUT to be quicker to home plate. This “drift” is a powerful, dynamic and athletic move that engages the legs, hips and butt better in order to build momentum into footplant.

The other major benefit of this move is that it has helped him increase his stride length substantially. This is no minor point. Steve has told me that this year, while his velocity isn’t up yet, hitters haven’t been able to really handle his fastball. He has said that it seems that the ball is “jumping on hitters” better. Hitters who face Tim Lincecum often comment on how his ball “gets on you” quickly. In the Tim Lincecum article that I wrote, you can clearly see how Lincecum also “drifts through the balance point” which leads to a stride that is substantially longer than his body height. I’m not saying that Steve is as efficient as Lincecum with his lower body. What I am saying is that he’s clearly improved in this area and is on the right track.

Think about this for a second. While his “radar gun” velocity has yet to increase, the hitter’s perceived velocity is higher since he’s releasing significantly closer to home plate.
This is 6’10” monster getting “out there” better…‘nuff said.

SIDE NOTE: I’d like to some day quantify pitcher’s release point distances from home plate. Really, scouts should pay attention to this. Doesn’t it make sense that this is a big factor in terms of “real” velocity? I believe that this is the reason that Papelbon’s fastball looks harder than 94-96, whereas Verlander’s fastball looks slower than 98-100. Just a thought. Back to Mr. Palazzolo…..

THE EXCELLENT

Specifically, the move that I think is off the charts occurs in these 3 frames….

THAT is how you “finish” a pitch folks. I could go on and on about how good this is. His “intent” and aggressiveness at the end of his delivery is just outstanding. In particular, note how his torso tilts forward at release. LOOK at the extension he gets on his pitches. Remember, this dude is 6’10”. Not only is this excellent from a velocity point-of-view, but it is also helpful from an injury prevention point-of-view. The long path that his arm travels after release gives his arm more time to decelerate which lessens the impact on his shoulder. No short, abrupt finish here folks. This is about as ideal as you can get with one exception, which I’ll cover later. 

SIDE NOTE: Stride length—check out how much ground his back foot gains.

AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT

While Steve has dramatically altered his tempo already, I believe that the way he’ll get to 95+ mph is by getting him to be even faster in the tempo department. From top of the knee lift, ‘06 takes around 30 frames to release. The ‘07 version has cut it to around 25-26 frames. If Steve can cut it further to 21-22 frames, I believe it will have several positive effects.

Arm Action and Tempo

Steve’s arm action is pretty good. However, it can get better. As you can see by this next clip, Steve’s arm doesn’t come to a stop at all, but it does slow down just a tad (frames 2-9) as it waits for his front foot to land. I have compared him with Lincecum once again here as a model of how to do this….

Notice how late Lincecum’s arm shows up to the party. In my opinion, if Steve speeds his body up, he will not only shorten his arm action a bit (which I prefer) but it will improve his arm speed at release because it will lessen or eliminate the very slight deceleration of his arm on his way to release. I want him to speed his arm up through those frames, not slow down. Looking at the video (and making an educated guess), I would say that Lincecum starts to really accelerate the arm at around frame 9, where Steve starts at about frame 11. We have talked about trying to get him to break his hands later, but the more I think about it, this is not really an arm action or “break the hands later” issue. I believe that by speeding up his body, the body itself will “fix” his arm action so that he’ll be able to accelerate his arm for a little longer and a little faster.

Lead Arm/Glove at release

Two things that I believe Steve needs to address in order to “tighten up” his delivery.
First, notice on the side shot how his glove starts out in front and then he pulls it into his hip. I would prefer that Steve “firm up” his glove out in front and bring his chest into the glove instead of bringing his glove into his chest. This will help him to not “fly open,” which is a problem that Steve acknowledges is his main mechanical flaw.

Second, at release, his glove and throwing hand are very far apart. Yes, I realize that someone who is 6’10” has a longer wingspan. However, by keeping his glove closer to his center of rotation, it would help him in terms of consistently repeating his release point, which is an issue that has plagued him as well. I would also like for Steve to work on “cutting under the glove.” I explained the term in my Jonathan Papelbon article. Basically, it means that I want his arm following through and going underneath the glove instead of over it like he does now.

These adjustments are, in my opinion, closely related to each other. If he learns how to better “firm up” his glove and leave it a tad higher, he will be able to “cut under the glove” in order to employ a more north-south, downhill approach.

A WORD ABOUT MAJOR IN-SEASON ADJUSTMENTS

I spoke to Steve after his last game about in-season changes. Obviously, what he is doing so far this season is working for him. I wouldn’t want him to make major changes to his delivery at this point. Increasing tempo and momentum while still trying to get hitters out is a challenging endeavor during the season. The offseason is for experimenting with major changes. I do believe that he can work on firming up the front side in his daily work (playing catch, long-tossing, etc). As a reliever who is on-call every game, short side bullpen sessions may be few and far between. That said, I believe it would be beneficial for him to work on the front side adjustments we have discussed throughout the year in his side sessions as well.

HERE’S TWO EXAMPLES OF THE LIFE ON HIS FASTBALL

Let’s call it what it is. These pitches are filthy.

CONCLUSION

Steve Palazzolo is an excellent example of a pitcher who REALLY works hard on his craft. With his offseason changes this year plus the changes he plans to make in the following offseason, I fully expect him to increase his velocity into the 93-96 mph range while maintaining his now much improved command. Steve belongs in Double-A now, and with the right adjustments and some well timed performance and luck, he could find himself in the bigs sooner than you’d think. There aren’t many 6’10” pitchers out there that can bring it. There aren’t many pitchers out there that are willing to listen and try different things either. Some team will be smart enough to give him a chance and they’ll be happy they did.

UPDATES

As of 6/27: Palazzolo—- 18 IP, 13 Hits, 1 ER, 5 BB, 19 K’s.  0.50 ERA, .197 BA against.

As always, questions/comments/job offers from MLB are welcome.

ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 10, 2007 at 02:04 PM | 27 comment(s)
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   1. XV84 Posted: June 11, 2007 at 02:14 AM (#2399958)
Arm action reminds me of Jake Peavey.
   2. Live and don't learn. That's us. Posted: June 11, 2007 at 03:59 AM (#2400102)
Is there going to be another analysis of first round pitchers by Carlos Gomez this year? I loved your analysis last year. Is there anyone you love as much as Lincecum last year? Anyone you think was a better or worse pick than most people are saying?
   3. Robert S. Posted: June 11, 2007 at 04:59 AM (#2400131)
Any video of his sinker from behind the pitcher?

(I'd love to hear thoughts on Jarrod Parker, particularly his arm action.)
   4. CraigK Posted: June 11, 2007 at 05:16 AM (#2400134)
Now that's a fastball.
   5. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 11, 2007 at 05:58 AM (#2400145)
#2--

I'll be doing a 5 or 6 part series on the draft over at The Hardball Times this year. Some quick cuts on some of the guys. Do NOT like Poreda at all. Porcello is legit. Not too high on Moskos, Beaven, Savery. Higher than most on Bumgarner, Alderson, Mortensen, Parker. Not as high on some of the top hitters as others are, but probably higher on Mills and Laporta than most. Revere has the worst swing in the history of baseball( a little exaggeration of course). It's safe to say that he might hit less than 5 career home runs. I'll probably write part 1 of the article by Tuesday on picks 40-51 or 1-10.

#3-

I do, and it's pretty sick. Jarrod Parker...I just got off the phone with Steve Palazzolo and we were going over a few picks, including Parker. My comment on Parker--excellent arm action. I'll save more of the comments on him for the article.

#4-

I agree. He can certainly bring it.
   6. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: June 11, 2007 at 12:15 PM (#2400170)
Is there really any point to getting him up to 95? Will all due respect (and I mean that sincerely), that strikes me as wasted mental and physical effort. If he has three effective pitches at different fairly high velocities like you describe, what (and all) he needs is command of them to get major league hitters out.

Uh...exactly how do you work on command? Consistent arm slot? Mental relaxation?
   7. AROM Posted: June 11, 2007 at 01:13 PM (#2400196)
CBW,

I eagerly await your full draft analysis, but a quick question, what do you think of Matt Harvey? Is he a steal in the third round? (assuming we can sign him).
   8. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: June 11, 2007 at 01:34 PM (#2400209)
how bog a risk would that be, for a guy who potentially be a dominant closer?

You didn't ask me, but if I were running an organization, if he couldn't be groomed to be a starter, I'm not sure I'd bother. Why waste organizational resources on developing a "position" distinguished mostly by guys who were failures at their first options? I mean, if you can take a failure and make him useful...

I do wonder why this guy couldn't be a starter.
   9. Urban Bovine Knievel Posted: June 11, 2007 at 03:14 PM (#2400265)
Clicking on the Nashua Pride link, I see he's teammates with Rich Garces. Talk about a contrast in physical styles...

Love your work, CBW.
   10. More Indecisive than Lonnie Smith on 2nd... Posted: June 11, 2007 at 08:15 PM (#2400546)
I fail to see how signing a guy of this level (plus velocity, three pitches--assuming he can command them in game situations) is at all a negative. Sure, most relievers are failed starters. But look at the trade rumors right now: teams want relief pitching, and might be willing to part with a lower level pitching or hitting prospect for it. Or you can keep it for yourself. Regardless, at $50K signing (if it takes that much, even) and $30K/season pay, how is that much of a risk? To me, you stockpile arms any way you can, and let injury/time/performance/trade dictate what you do from there (see Marlins, Florida for how stockpiling lots of popwer arms can work and more than pay for itself).

That said, I was wondering CBW if his left arm is really the key to getting him cutting under the glove? When I saw the clips--and this is a testimony to your teaching, that I notcied his lead arm right away!--I was wondering if his sinking fastball should really be messed with? I mean, if he's got such good, heavy fastball, why change his arm angle to get the undercutting going? If that's the only thing that's 'broke,' why fix it? Just curious at to the thought process of a mechanics guy.
   11. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 11, 2007 at 08:31 PM (#2400559)
#6--I'm of the opinion that you can't have too much velocity. If he has a few mph's to pick up by making a few adjustments, why not try to get him the extra velocity?

#8---haven't seen him yet. One thing I'd like to ask about the draft. I plan on doing a 6 part series where part 1 is picks 1-10, part 2 is 11-20, and so on to part 5 (41-51). Part 6 I'd like to review some of the picks that slipped to the later rounds for whatever reasons (or really interesting ones of course). So far, I have Harvey and Rike as part 6 players. I'd like to ask the community what players they see past the 1st round that I should take a look at.

#11--Good call on the lead arm. I mention it in the article as a "lead arm/glove" thing. Steve has expressed that he tends to fly open in certain pitches, which gives his pitches a "lazier" run instead of the hard, HEAVY sink that comes when comes "through" the ball instead of on the side of the ball. I believe that by firming up his lead arm, he'll be able to better drive his pitches DOWN, instead of coming around the ball. In that case, I would assume that his arm would be cutting under the glove. Look at the 91 and 94mph pitches. He cuts under the glove there.
   12. NoVaO Posted: June 12, 2007 at 04:42 AM (#2400989)
#8---haven't seen him yet. One thing I'd like to ask about the draft. I plan on doing a 6 part series where part 1 is picks 1-10, part 2 is 11-20, and so on to part 5 (41-51). Part 6 I'd like to review some of the picks that slipped to the later rounds for whatever reasons (or really interesting ones of course). So far, I have Harvey and Rike as part 6 players. I'd like to ask the community what players they see past the 1st round that I should take a look at.


I have three pitchers for you to look at, all guys projected as 4th to 7th round talents.

1. Kyle O'Campo, HS RHP, Drafted #410 (BA ranked him 123)
video link

Video is above. One of my favorite second/third tier pitchers. Has good fastball velocity that his improved the past year or so. Very good tempo (around 22 or 23 frames). He "drifts through the balance point" as you say and employs a step over for more velocity. He starts his hands high...I think lowering them will quicken his arm. I would like to see his take a bigger stride towards home plate as well.

2. Tommy Toledo, HS RHP, Drafted #117 (BA ranked him 151)

Link

Good velocity and command of three pitches. Pretty good tempo (25 or 26 frames). Drifts a little bit through the balance point, but it isn't dramatic. Has a nice, long stride to home plate. Uses a step over technique for added velocity. Arm action is solid.

3. Justin Grimm, HS RHP, Drafted 414 (BA ranked him around 180)

link

First off, I love his stuff...the ball jumps out of his hand. Tempo is solid (25 or 26 frames). Of the pitchers mentioned, probably the least aggressive pitcher, but his mechanics are pretty clean, IMO. Only slighty drifts through his balance point and his stride to home plate is ok...I want to see him finish off his pitches more aggressively. His arm is fast, but it sort of recoils.

As I sifted through various videos, these three guys, who weren't rated as top-3 round talents stood out to me in terms of stuff, command, projectability, and mechanics. I'm just starting to learn about the mechanics of pitching and evaluting players based in part on how they look mechanically and your articles have definitely given me some execellent insight. Keep up the good work.
   13. NoVaO Posted: June 12, 2007 at 04:45 AM (#2400992)
Link

The above link for the Kyle O'Campo video doesn't work. The above one should work.
   14. NoVaO Posted: June 12, 2007 at 04:56 AM (#2400996)
And for Grimm, the link to his video is below as the one above is a repeat of Toledo's.

link
   15. joker24 Posted: June 12, 2007 at 06:24 AM (#2401016)
I'm sure there is something to the release point thing in terms of reaction time and applicable velocity, but I'm pretty sure that isn't why they "look" so fast. That I believe has more to do with the vertical movement, or rather lack thereof of an "explosive" fastball like Papelbon's. Gameday now can put a quantitative measure on this (that I don't feel like digging for now), but I would be willing to be that Papelbon's fastball has less drop than Verlanders hence its seeming "explosion". Since we perceive that something that drops less is going faster...well there ya go. Old timers have long talked about a "rising" fastball, but that's just perspective. An explosive fastball seems to rise because it falls less than the eye expects it to...optical illusion. Papelbon with no coincidence is an extreme flyball pitcher.
   16. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 12, 2007 at 11:54 AM (#2401060)
NoVaO---I'll take a look at them.

Alph-Rod--you make a great point about the "hop" at the end, or as we know, less vertical drop. Let me relate a story about my college years.

It was probably '98 or '99 where I saw Jerry Spradlin pitch. I went up to one of my coaches at Purdue one day and just started talking
mechanics because of what I'd seen in Spradlin. Spradlin, even though he was sitting 95-96, seemingly couldn't get hitters to swing under his fastball.
As a low 3/4 release point guy, his ball seemed to sink into hitters' bats, whereas some pitchers, even with less velocity, were able
to get hitters to swing under their fastballs. At that time, I remember saying that if you are able to throw hard,
really hard, then it is to a pitcher's advantage to use as straight a 4-seam fastball as possible because it would drop less
than most pitcher's fastballs.

As a current example of that phenomenon, I would guess that Barry Zito's 86 mph 4-seamer is more effective than Brandon Webb's
sinker at 90 mph when thrown upstairs simply because Zito's fastball is likely to stay up longer than Webb's turbo sinker.

All that said, I DO believe that getting a more "out-in-front" release is at least part of the reason that some pitchers are "sneaky fast".
   17. Slinger Francisco Barrios (Dr. Memory) Posted: June 12, 2007 at 03:48 PM (#2401259)
I'm of the opinion that you can't have too much velocity.

No argument there...it's a question of time allocation.

If he gains command with what he has, he can pitch in the majors...right? But if all he does is gain a few MPH, he's still on the outside looking in.

If he doesn't have to spend a lot of time getting those MPH, then that's fine, I would suppose. But I would think command is far more important if your stuff is already pretty ill.

Just sayin'.
   18. Jessex Posted: June 13, 2007 at 02:07 AM (#2402184)
"He can pitch in the majors ... right?"

The guy got cut from A ball and is pitching next to El Guapo.

Whoever wrote this must know a lot more than the Brewers, huh?
   19. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 27, 2007 at 05:11 PM (#2419770)
Update on Palazzolo:

18 IP, 13 Hits, 1 ER, 5 BB, 19 K. 0.50 ERA, .197 BAVG against. Oh, and he's 4-0. Yeah, I know wins are overrated but a 4-0, 0.50 ERA line looks pretty friggin decent.
   20. Dick Mills Posted: July 02, 2007 at 12:51 AM (#2425995)
About Steve Palazzolo and improving his speed of movement (tempo). If he is going to lift his leg up,which I see as unnecessary, as soon as his leg starts down he needs to quickly flex his back leg and immediately begin a strong leg drive...as Koufax would say. Lifting the leg up however, provides no benefit. In order to create more speed of movement a fast action must occur immediately, thus the flexion of the support leg along with a quick leg drive. I would focus my attention there. The video radar gun will provide the results.

I would also make sure he is shifting his trunk back over his support leg as he lifts his leg up, which he is not doing in the offseason shots. This insures that he is starting his body as far away from the plate as possible. The further you move the mass over a longer distance the more momentum is built up.

You can call it a "knee to knee" move where he just brings his lead knee back to his support leg knee and then quickly flexes the back knee then aggressively drives away from the rubber getting the lead hip out as fast as possible. Or he can quickly bring his lead leg back to the rubber and then drive the lead hip toward the plate as far as possible using a strong leg drive and see how far he can get that lead hip out there before the lead leg catches up.

The more linear he can keep this the faster he will move. In some of those offseason shots his lead leg was swinging out and around, which actually slowed him down. Looks like he has fixed that.

His initial movement is a bit too slow. Like a sprinter, that is the most important aspect of developing speed.

Once he figures out how to get going faster sooner, he should be throwing 100 mph.

Dick Mills
www.pitching.com
   21. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: September 19, 2007 at 04:28 PM (#2531934)
Excellent news on the Steve Palazzolo front:

The San Francisco Giants have purchased his contract from Nashua, and he has reported to the Giants' Instructional League.
As always, we wish him the best of luck.

Nashua: Sold the contracts of INF Olmo Rosario and RHP Steve Palazzolo to the San Francisco Giants.
   22. Mash Posted: October 05, 2007 at 03:49 PM (#2561559)
I would just like to say that I think that Doug Davis has possibly the worst mechanics in the Major Leagues. I can't see how people do not hit him harder. Example the Cubs.
   23. Mash Posted: October 16, 2007 at 02:20 PM (#2579239)
Carlos, what makes Fastou Carmona sinker so good? Most guys don't throw that hard with that much sink.
   24. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: May 06, 2008 at 12:21 PM (#2770499)
Wanted to give everyone a brief update on the Palazzolo front:

His stats at AA Connecticut

Walks are a little high, but hitters are apparently having a hard time centering the ball....except for last night when he gave up a 2-run bomb. That's OK though... A 1.66 ERA through his first 21 2/3 AA innings is not too shabby. I keed, I keed.

McCovey Chronicles has an interview with Steve that is worth the read:

Here it is

Steve's gonna make me look like a genius some day....hehe
   25. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: June 09, 2008 at 10:48 PM (#2813333)
Good news. As a matter of fact, GREAT news.

Steve has been promoted to AAA Fresno.

Couldn't be happier for him. Like I said above, he's gonna make me look like a genius some day.
   26. AROM Posted: June 09, 2008 at 11:15 PM (#2813350)
Excellent.

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