Indians Sign Giambi, Dice-K

The Cleveland Indians have extended spring training invitations to veterans Jason Giambi and Daisuke Matsuzaka.

The Giambino signs a minor-league deal, but will earn $750K if he makes the big club. His chances will depend somewhat on how the Injuns decide to handle Carlos Santana — will he primarily catch, or DH?

Dice-K also gets a minor-league deal, and could make $1.5M if he makes the Indians. The Japanese hurler would seem to have a pretty good shot at going north come April, considering that new Cleveland manager Terry Francona is familiar with him. No doubt, Francona’s presence played into the signing. How many other managers have the patience (and supply of Tums) to sit through one of Matsuzaka’s 37-minute half-innings?

The Indians also made the Brett Myers signing official; it had first been reported in early January.

In other news, the Dodgers continue to stockpile arms for the sake of stockpiling arms — they’ve added reliever Kevin Gregg to their spring training invitation list. Hey, throw enough paint on the wall, and eventually something will stick. I like this strategy by LA, particularly if the veterans who don’t go north agree to hang around in AAA for a while. A team can never have too many pitchers, and I’m an advocate of regularly cycling through at least two
bullpen spots over the course of a season to limit exposure.

According to CSN Chicago, Mark Prior is “in the best shape of his life” (where have I heard that before?) and is hoping someone will invite him to spring training. I don’t care what kind of shape he’s in — if he still has the same rotten mechanics that were praised as “perfect” by mad scientist Tom House and celebrated by “injury expert” Will Carroll, he’ll keep tearing the same shoulder muscles over and over. For what it’s worth, Prior pitched in 19 AAA games and 25 innings last year, striking out 38, walking 23, allowing 15 hits, and posting a 3.96 ERA. According to reports, his fastball velocity was in the 92-93 MPH range.

Finally, Michael Bourn remains unsigned, and the Mets remain interested in the veteran center fielder. Similarly, I remain interested in driving a Lamborghini some day.

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.
  1. meticated February 10, 2013 at 10:33 pm
    Please elaborate on Priors mechanical issues ….what’s the problem….?
    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 1:51 am
      His biggest issue is/was the location of his throwing hand at foot strike — it was far behind where it needed to be. When the front foot hits the ground, the ball needs to be in “launch” position and ready to move forward (also called “high-cock position,” but I feel funny saying that)– similar to a batter needing to get his hands in “launch” position when his stride foot comes down. A batter, though, isn’t going to hurt himself if he’s a little slow. A pitcher, however, puts ALL of the stress of the pitch on his shoulder when the arm lags behind.

      Interestingly, the rest of Prior’s mechanics were pretty good. He got his head out in front, “nose to toes,” he stayed square to the plate with a quiet head, finished in control of his body with good balance, and his back foot flew up, which usually indicates good forward momentum. But all that good stuff was negated by his arm lagging so far behind the rest of his body.

      From the limited video I’ve seen of him with the PawSox last year, it appears his arm is still behind, which suggests to me that he’ll continue to put extra strain on his shoulder and the chronic arm problems will continue.

  2. argonbunnies February 11, 2013 at 1:51 am
    One of Prior’s issues was getting his pitching elbow above his shoulder. Some people, including Rick Peterson, seem to think this is a big deal and bad news for the shoulder. Others don’t.

    Stephen Strasburg does the same thing, but in a recent chat Keith Law claimed Strasburg’s elbow never gets too high and blamed camera angles for the appearance that he does.

    From what I’ve seen of Zack Wheeler, he also does this. Whether it’s too far or not, I don’t know.

    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 2:10 am
      Keith Law doesn’t know squat about pitching mechanics, he’s a hack.

      The high elbow isn’t NECESSARILY the issue — it’s where the ball is when the front foot lands. Often, pitchers who get their back elbow too high (some call it the “inverted W”), it causes the arm to be behind. However, there are pitchers who are able to use this kind of motion and still get the ball where it needs to get to in time. It’s similar to a hitter who may have a weird setup or stance (i.e., Rod Carew or Julio Franco) but manage to get their hands in the right place when their stride foot hits the dirt.

      And you are right about Wheeler — his arm is WAAAAY behind the rest of his body. Unfortunately, that means there is a very good chance he will blow out his shoulder, just as Prior did.

      • argonbunnies February 11, 2013 at 2:44 am
        Maybe that’s why the Giants let him go? They saw a pitcher who could either be healthy (by way of the change they made to his motion) or effective (with the motion he used in high school and again after coming to the Mets), but not both.

        I’m just guessing here; I don’t know what the change to his motion was, or why the Giants made it.

        Man, it’s frustrating that the Mets’ “brain trust” doesn’t have anyone looking at this kind of stuff. If Wheeler’s arm is as far behind as you say, that’s something someone should definitely have tried to fix.

        • Izzy February 11, 2013 at 8:48 am
          I can’t buy your line argonbunnies that the Met organization doesn’t have anyone looking at this kind of stuff. As much as I dislike Alderson and warthen, baseball orgs live and die by reviewing tape of what every player does. The Mets know all about every pitcher’s mechanics and they may or may not have been trying to alter it. they may have tried and the player won’t change, or they didn’t like the results and decided to roll the dice and hope he stays healthy or a myriad of other things, but to say they aren’t even looking at such things is an indictment so great that even I couldn’t accuse this org of that.
        • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 1:13 pm
          I’m sure the Mets are monitoring the mechanics of their young pitchers closely. However, watching and knowing what to watch for are two different things. I have no idea whether the people watching the Mets pitchers include scientists and/or people trained in biomechanics; if they do, then they should be well aware of Wheeler’s mechanical flaw. Whether or not he’s coachable enough to fix it is a different issue entirely.
        • argonbunnies February 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm
          I dunno, the variety of quotes I hear from front offices to coaching staffs around baseball makes me think that mechanical analysis varies greatly from team to team. I honestly have no idea at this point whether any given team leaves analysis of a AAA pitcher’s motion up to:
          - James Andrews’ biometrics lab
          - some intern tape-reviewer who only sometimes gets listened to
          - the AAA pitching coach
          - a cabal of scouts
          - some executive(s)
          - a combo of all of the above

          Like Joe, I have my doubts about whether the right eyes are looking for the right things. Leaving it to a AAA pitching coach who only knows about mechanics from having been a pitcher… this would count, in my book, as “not having anyone looking at these things”. Perhaps my wording wasn’t the best, though. “Not having anyone with a voice in the organization looking for specific mechanical red flags in the minors” was more what I mean.

          That said, you might be right, Wheeler might just be stubborn.

        • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 12:11 pm
          I think that’s part of the reason why they were comfortable giving him up in the Beltran deal over another prospect. I doubt it was a case of them believing he’d be a bust and in turn were actively shopping him. I think it was more a case of, “well, the Mets want player X, Y, or Wheeler, and of the three, we think X or Y has a better chance of long-term success as they don’t have a red flag in their mechanics.”

          I also have never and will never buy into the idea that a pitcher will be less effective by improving his mechanics. We’ve had this argument before over Chris Young and it’s not worth trying to convince me otherwise — it would be more fruitful arguing politics or religion. But, that doesn’t mean the Giants feel differently. A better guess is that Wheeler resisted the changes and was unhappy with them. He was too quick to throw his former organization under the bus when he joined the Mets and given the opportunity to “change back.”

        • argonbunnies February 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm
          I think Lincecum is a great case study here. His arm is well behind most pitchers’ through the start of his motion, but then he catches up by whipping his hand up to the cocked position by the time his foot lands at the end of his long stride. This could be interpreted as extra stress on the arm, or not. Enough coaches and scouts thought it was a problem that Tim’s dad demanded “don’t alter his mechanics” language in his contracts.

          What is clear is that batters can’t pick up the ball from him the way they can from pitchers who get the ball from the glove to the cocked position in a slower and more direct fashion. Even as Lincecum’s velocity and control have declined, hitters still swing and miss in droves because they have trouble seeing the ball in time. I’ve heard quotes to that effect from Mets hitters, anyway.

          Is something about Lincecum’s motion causing him to decline prematurely? If so, was it worth it regardless, after being possibly the best pitcher in baseball for 4 years?

          Not that Zack Wheeler is Tim Lincecum. I just think the equation can get complicated, that’s all.

      • meticated February 11, 2013 at 6:51 am
        Very precise …this is invaluable insight and begs the question WTF is thevreason this goes uncorrected? ….why don’t you email the asst trainer in St Lucie…Jeff who used to be with the parent club….write me at XXXXX and I will give you his details
  3. Dan B February 11, 2013 at 10:57 am
    If Wheeler truly has flawed mechanics, would it behoove the Mets to trade him while his value is high? I don’t value prospects as much as some here, especially pitching prospects, so I wouldn’t mind moving him for outfield help. I draw the line, though, at Victor Sombrano.
    • Joe Janish February 11, 2013 at 1:16 pm
      In my mind, yes, he should be traded while his value is high and he’s healthy, but I don’t think there is any possibility of Wheeler being traded for someone less than Troy Tulowitzki. The team has fully invested in the buildup and hype of Wheeler / Harvey saving the franchise. And there’s a definite possibility that Wheeler gives the big-league team a year or two of greatness — at the MLB minimum salary — before blowing out. Perhaps that is the strategy — rolling the dice that they’ll get enough out of Wheeler before he makes big bucks and before he has a major injury.