A Stiff Neck Could Be Good for Pelfrey

Mike Pelfrey was bumped from his Friday night start in San Francisco due to a stiff neck he suffered on the cross-country plane ride to the Left Coast. Ironically, I would argue that a stiff neck is exactly what Big Pelf needs to return to his first-half form. Well, maybe more a stiff back than a stiff neck.

We briefly touched on the subject of Pelfrey’s mechanical issues prior to the All-Star Exhibition, seeking to dispel the “dead arm” myth. Let’s take a look at more video stills to compare and contrast.

Balance point. See how Pelf is more upright on the left, slightly hunched over on the right.

These next two series of images are frames of a pitch in Pelfrey’s start vs. the Cincinnati Reds on July 5th.

Compare the above to the below, taken from Pelfrey’s start in San Diego on June 1.

So, what do you see?

What I see in the top series is the hunch-over leading to the body moving just a bit too much toward third base and then compensating by turning the upper body in the opposite direction toward first base. (The body innately tries to find a center of balance at all times.) You can see Pelfrey’s head and shoulders twisting toward first base at the release point in the first image of the second row of stills. Because his upper body is moving toward 1B, his release point is just a hair off (and in turn, his command). It’s not that noticeable but if you watch the following frames, you see his glove fall down and out toward 1B and behind his left hip. Why is the glove going there? Because Pelfrey’s momentum is taking him sideways instead of toward home plate. Again, it’s very slight and almost unnoticeable, but that little bit of motion means there is less body behind the baseball. So, either the arm has to work harder to keep the same velocity, or some velocity is lost — hence, the “dead arm” theory.

In the second set of stills, from San Diego, you see Pelfrey start and finish in a more upright — and controlled — position. In the first row of frames, he’s staying “tall” for a long time before “falling”, which means he is able to use gravity and his 6’7″ frame to his full advantage. At the release his head looks like it might be starting to go toward 1B, but the following frames show that his momentum is definitely driving more forward, toward home plate. Evidence of that is his follow-through, where he finishes facing home plate. Contrast that last frame from San Diego to the last frame from Cincinnati, where he is actually taking steps toward first base.

The good news is, this isn’t a major problem, and can be easily fixed. In fact, Pelfrey looked to be staying upright, “tall”, and balanced at least 60% of the time in his last start. You can easily tell at home watching on TV by taking note of two checkpoints: the balance point (is he hunched over or keeping upright?) and the follow-through (is he facing home plate or turning toward the first base dugout?).

Bottom line? Keep your chin up and your back stiff, Mike. Maybe that stiff neck could be a reminder.

Pitching Mechanics

About the Author

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.

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