Does it make sense to change a pitcher’s mechanics after two major league starts?
That’s what pitching coach Dan Warthen did. It was in response to Zack Wheeler’s second start in which he was apparently tipping his pitches. Mets TV analyst Ron Darling noticed that Wheeler was slowing down his motion when he threw his curveball. He made it a point to say he didn’t slow down his motion on his slider, just the curve. So was that worth an immediate mechanical adjustment?
In his start in Chicago’s south side, Wheeler had two strikes on a batter 12 times. He only struck out one of them. His inability to put batters away might have been one of the indications that ChiSox knew what was coming. It’s entirely possible the Mets coaching staff saw Wheeler tip other pitches that day against the White Sox, but is that even worth a mechanical adjustment after two starts?
Wheeler’s pitching motion has a lot of moving parts. Zack is a tall, lanky, elastic guy. Like a hitter with a long swing, one adjustment could set off a chain reaction that compounds whatever problem existed.
And that’s my question. Was Wheeler’s pitch-tipping that drastic and damaging that it merited the risk of changing a young man’s mechanics?
Following yesterday’s 13-2 loss to the Nationals, Terry Collins even questioned the logic of making adjustments this quickly.
“This guy’s been here two weeks, and all of the sudden, we’re trying to tweak something,” Collins said. “That’s not very fair. You’ve got to go let him be himself — try to let him understand that you’ve got to throw strikes, but you’ve got to be yourself out there. The rest of it will end up getting all worked together.” – from NYMets.com
If Collins is saying this now, the thought must have crossed his mind while it was happening. If he felt that way, he should have stopped it. At the very least, it sounds like he may not have been crazy about the idea, but trusted his pitching coach.
Why not give Wheeler a third start against the Nationals – pitching his game – to see if his pitch tipping really was that severe, or just happened to be the result of an off day against Chicago.
Instead, Warthen and Collins may have compounded the problem. On Sunday, Wheeler seemed like a golfer with too many swing thoughts.
I’m not, nor will I ever claim to be, a major league pitching coach, but encouraging a simplified approach with a guy like Wheeler seems to make the most sense.
About the Author
Paul is a freelance writer, blogger, and broadcast technology professional residing in Denver. A New Jersey native, he is a long-suffering Mets fan, a recently-happy Giants fan, and bewildered Islanders fan. He's also a fair-weather Avalanche and Rockies supporter. In his spare time, he enjoys the three Gs: Golf, Guitars, and Games.