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Friday, April 11, 2008

THT: Nyman: A bridge too far

Introducing Paul Nyman, new pitching mechanics analyst for THT…as he looks into the maximilian schellacking Barry Zito has been taking! 

Why compare Zito to Avery? There are several reasons. The two having the most bearing on Zito:

1. The analysis of Avery back in 1997-1998 taught me a great deal about how the body throws the baseball. That analysis produced such concepts as scapula loading and unloading, the effects of arm action and how to use the body to throw the baseball more effectively. It also introduced me to the concept of chaos, the idea that small differences in how the body is used to throw the ball can result in big consequences, good or bad .

2. I see an analogy between what happened to Avery and Zito—early success followed by performance decline, most notably a loss of their fastball with no real explanation.

But I keep encountering the horse before the cart problem: analysis before credibility. I felt that there needed be a foundation laid (establishing credibility) before taking on Zito’s mechanics.

Plus…the Paul Nyman interview.

Repoz Posted: April 11, 2008 at 01:17 PM | 25 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: sabermetrics, scouting

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Greg Schuler Posted: April 11, 2008 at 01:39 PM (#2739329)
Zito got bogged down at the Njimegen bridge, too? Or was he able to press through and get cut off at the Arnhem bridge?
   2. AROM Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:01 PM (#2739346)
I thought Zito would have lasted longer. Comparing Oakland's big 3 to the Braves group from the early 90's, I thought Mulder was the Avery.
   3. Mattbert Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:05 PM (#2739348)
Nyman sure talks a good game. I am looking forward to reading his stuff.
   4. Nasty Nate Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:05 PM (#2739349)
I thought Zito would have lasted longer. Comparing Oakland's big 3 to the Braves group from the early 90's, I thought Mulder was the Avery.


but Avery was never 1 of the big 3

who was the Braves' Aaron Harang?
   5. ChadBradfordWannabe Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:07 PM (#2739351)
Oh, by the way, I am a product of Paul Nyman and SETPRO. IMO, everyone out there, including myself when I was analyzing mechanics and such......well, we think we know what we're talking about. Paul KNOWS what he's talking about.

The follow up Zito article will be quite the breakdown, I guarantee it.

Signed,

CBW
   6. AROM Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:11 PM (#2739356)
who was the Braves' Aaron Harang?


Jason Schmidt?

but Avery was never 1 of the big 3


I don't know if they ever used the phrase before Maddux, but I'm thinking of the 3 homegrown aces in comparing them to the A's group. Signing the reigning Cy Young winner has nothing to do with player development, just cash.
   7. Nasty Nate Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:13 PM (#2739359)
I don't know if they ever used the phrase before Maddux, but I'm thinking of the 3 homegrown aces in comparing them to the A's group. Signing the reigning Cy Young winner has nothing to do with player development, just cash.


ok, I see what you mean.
   8. t ball Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:22 PM (#2739371)
That was a long article just to tell us he was going to say something in future articles, but I'm really looking forward to it nonetheless.
   9. Covfefe Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:37 PM (#2739377)
For the sake of Giants' fans, I would hope they don't ask Tim Lincecum to play Robert Redford -- someone crazy enough to take over the workhorse/ace mantle on the short-term and toss 250 high leverage innings in an operation that's doomed to failure.
   10. amcg Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:53 PM (#2739399)
That was a long article just to tell us he was going to say something in future articles
That's exactly what I thought.

Still, looking forward to it too.
   11. Jon T. Posted: April 11, 2008 at 02:58 PM (#2739403)
CBW,

are you a big believer in the overload and underload training? Do you think that is better than Long Toss for increasing velocity?
   12. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 11, 2008 at 03:42 PM (#2739437)
I don't know anything about pitching mechanics, but Avery's arm action in the clip on the left looks really weird.
   13. Pasta-diving Jeter (jmac66) Posted: April 11, 2008 at 04:29 PM (#2739485)
2. I see an analogy between what happened to Avery and Zito—early success followed by performance decline, most notably a loss of their fastball with no real explanation.


maybe I'm misremembering, but didn't Avery have a very specific injury? shoulder or biceps tendon or some such

that's not what's happened to Zito (at least, he hasn't said anything about it)
   14. bads85 Posted: April 11, 2008 at 04:40 PM (#2739497)
That was a long article just to tell us he was going to say something in future articles, but I'm really looking forward to it nonetheless.


He should have his bridges taken away.
   15. PaulNyman Posted: April 11, 2008 at 08:02 PM (#2739694)
I appreciate the feedback.

That was a long article just to tell us he was going to say something in future articles, but I'm really looking forward to it nonetheless.


I will be the first to say that I could've skipped everything and gone immediately to the one paragraph towards the end of the article and I quote:

"The analysis of Zito can be reduced to one paragraph or less. Zito pushes the baseball. Zito doesn't know how to throw the baseball. Never really did and probably never will. He's a fantastic pitcher who really doesn't know how to throw efficiently."

And maybe that's enough for some (most?). It would be enough for me in terms of understanding not only what Zito's problem is and what I advice I could give him to help him deal with it.

But it still leaves me on the other side of the bridge, and that bridge is credibility of the reader.

And Greg Schuler it is quite correct ("Zito got bogged down at the Njimegen bridge"). There were a number bridges In operation Market Garden, the two major ones were at Nijmegen and Arnhem.

The one at Arnhem being most problematical.

In this this article the second bridge is one of interpretation as in "so he's pushing the ball now what?" Before my article came out I received an e-mail from CBW saying that if I really wanted to take on a hot topic that I should give my opinions regarding Phil Hughes mechanics.

To which I replied no matter what pitcher were talking about there's only three things that affect how he throws the baseball.

1. Injury/physical conditioning.

2. How quickly he rotates.

3. How effectively he stays connected and transfers the rotational momentum to the ball. That's it.

The reference to a Avery's is a valid point. And I will address this at the appropriate time.

Everyone here now knows as much as I do, i.e. the way is now cleared to ross the bridges.... ;-)
   16. AROM Posted: April 11, 2008 at 08:21 PM (#2739711)
Are there any currently successful pitchers right now who you see headed for a Zito-like downfall?
   17. PaulNyman Posted: April 11, 2008 at 08:29 PM (#2739721)
AROM,

No, I don't specifically have anyone in mind. But I don't spend a lot of time looking at major-league pitchers as a whole. What I do look for are the outstanding performers, particularly as determined by physical characteristics as size of the player vs performance. Such as more recently Johnny Cueto. That's because I want to know what make them "tick".

As compared to the number of players throwing a baseball at the major-league level, historically there really aren't that many Zito type happenings. And by Zito type happenings I'm talking about a significant decline in the ability to throw the baseball that appears to have no physical reason (not injured or physical degradation). It's actually pretty tough to lose something that you had for quite a while. Left-handers, in general are more susceptible than right handers for reasons I'll talk about in a future article.

The most susceptible of all of the young players such as Phil Hughes because they haven't established themselves yet and are potentially more vulnerable to "suggestions" then an established veteran.

And in most cases an established veteran falls under the category of "if it ain't broke don't fix it".
   18. JPWF13 Posted: April 11, 2008 at 08:43 PM (#2739735)
2. I see an analogy between what happened to Avery and Zito—early success followed by performance decline, most notably a loss of their fastball with no real explanation.


A LOT of pitchers see their raw velocity peak in their early 20s and then decline
Avery only appears different became came up so young and was effective at an early age, most guys whose fastballs peak when they are 22/23 we don't lose sleep over, because we never see them with a good fastball if/when they make the majors.

You see it all the time, prospect supposedly throws 95, 4 years later, in the show, he ocassionally reaches 92, and you think, "eh so much for the scouting reports".

Avery at 22/23 threw really hard- if you didn't see him pitch and you only see his unimpressive K numbers on BBREF you might think he was a "soft-tosser"- he wasn't, he could bring it, why he didn't miss more at bats when he was young? He threw the ball right down the pipe, no fancy stuff for him...

A little decline in velocity for Avery was devastating, his K rate actually started to creep up when he was losing speed- he was starting to move the ball a bit more- trying to adjust- but he kept losing velocity and just got too hittable.

Zito NEVER had Avery's velocity, and missed quite a few more bats than Avery (and walked a few more batters) what Zito had was that HUGE curveball which seems to be flattening out bit by bit each year.

But really, there are dozens and dozens of pitchers who are effective for 2-3 years and then slowly lose it, the guys who are effective year after year after year like Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/Mussina are the exception not the rule
   19. PaulNyman Posted: April 11, 2008 at 09:33 PM (#2739792)
A LOT of pitchers see their raw velocity peak in their early 20s and then decline.


Open-ended statements like this drive me crazy. For one simple word/question... WHY? Why does this happen? Physiologically it makes no sense. A player throwing 95 at 20 should be able to a 95 at 28 unless there is some major physical problem.

Relatively speaking there are not that many players who put up Zito are Avery type numbers for the first three or four years and then go into a decline for no "apparent" reason. And by Zito/a retired numbers I'm talking about three or four years of 15-20 wins with good innings-strikeout-walk ratios and reasonable ERA's. You just don't see that many pitchers that go from these kinds of numbers to significant decline especially before the age of 30.

Please name a dozen or so of these pitchers that you see who fit this criteria that have declined significantly in the past two or three years that have not had injury problems.

As compared to the number of kids who may have a season or two A pretty good numbers but then never really do anything spectacular.

There are hundreds of stories of drafted players who do have a 95 mph fastball before the draft end to a three years later are sitting and 88. I said this specifically in one of the articles. The question is why?

Avery only appears different became came up so young and was effective at an early age, most guys whose fastballs peak when they are 22/23 we don't lose sleep over, because we never see them with a good fastball if/when they make the majors.


Again this, to me, is a nonsensical statement. There is no physiological reason for someone to peak at 22 or 23. How do you rationalize the Nolan Ryan's, Randy Johnson's, or any other player who is under 30 throwing 95 mph. And let's not muddy the water by dragging steroid or HTH use into the discussion.

You see it all the time, prospect supposedly throws 95, 4 years later, in the show, he ocassionally reaches 92, and you think, "eh so much for the scouting reports".


I have a different take having been there and observe what happens. My different take is "eh so much for the instruction and coaching at the professional level". It's called making them a pitcher. As in slowdown the delivery, throw strikes, get the batter out, win the game, save my job.

But really, there are dozens and dozens of pitchers who are effective for 2-3 years and then slowly lose it.


What is your definition of a "effective"?

The guys who are effective year after year after year like Maddux/Glavine/Smoltz/Mussina are the exception not the rule.


If exceptions are the ability to throw the skill to pitch with some good luck thrown in (remaining physically healthy) then yes they are exceptions.
   20. Zach Posted: April 11, 2008 at 09:47 PM (#2739804)
I'm looking forward to the series.

I do have one request: if you do have an actual model of the pitching motion, could you please try to put the details into the series? Whenever I read about mechanics, it sounds like someone describing "blue" to a blind man. Oddly enough, Koufax's description of pitching in _A Lefty's Legacy_ (comparing it to a double-armed catapult) is the best description I've read.

There's a lot of dross out there. Sometimes I get the impression that pitching gurus don't really understand the physical principles at play -- *especially* (Mike Marshall comes to mind) when they insist that their theories are based on physical principles.
   21. Xander Posted: April 11, 2008 at 09:50 PM (#2739808)
I'd be interested in a piece detailing to us laymen why pitchers with motions such as Kerry Wood and Rich Harden can never stay healthy. Specifically I'd like to know if it is possible for a pitcher's stuff to be too good?
   22. PaulNyman Posted: April 11, 2008 at 09:56 PM (#2739813)
Zach, Temple....

I think you a pleasantly surprised with what is to come.... ;-)
   23. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: April 11, 2008 at 10:08 PM (#2739828)
Have you read Jane Leavy's recent bio of Sandy Koufax? I'm in the middle of it now. Pretty good book with some interesting stuff about mechanics.
   24. Brian Posted: April 11, 2008 at 11:14 PM (#2739897)
If you're the guy CBW looks up to in this field then I can't wait to read your stuff. CBW's pitching mechanics pieces were probably my favorite analysis pieces I've ever found on the internet.
   25. Gold Star - just Gold Star Posted: April 11, 2008 at 11:44 PM (#2739999)
Operation Market-Garden, and pitching mechanics.
I <3 BBTF.

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