Mets Game 104: Win Over Marlins

Mets 4 Marlins 2

In a matter of minutes, Zack Wheeler loses a no-hitter and a decision. But the Mets win.

Mets Game Notes

For someone who didn’t allow a hit until there was one out in the seventh, Wheeler wasn’t exactly electric. He kept the ball near the plate, usually down, and the Fish were swinging aggressively — a good recipe. At times it seemed like the Marlins hitters were trying to see how quickly they could end their at-bats. My guess is that was due to a combination of young hitters being naturally aggressive, and the 95-96 MPH velocity from Wheeler that encouraged itchy trigger fingers. All in all, a nice outing for the young hurler.

However, I have to comment on his “outstanding delivery” — as described by Bobby Ojeda during the postgame. Ojeda made a point to mention that this delivery was not only “outstanding” but also consistent, and harped on the fact that he released the ball while a foot or more in front of the rubber.

Well, this is what I saw from that delivery:


Yes, his back foot is starting to move ahead of the rubber. Not really a big deal — many pitchers do this, usually those with a long stride. Billy Wagner, Pedro Martinez, and Jordan Walden come to mind off the top of my head. The important parts of this picture are the landing (left) foot, the position of the ball / throwing hand, and the front shoulder.

First, the front shoulder: it’s clear that Wheeler is conscious of, and working very hard to, “stay closed.” He’s over-compensating to the point where he’s over-rotating the upper body, which is causing the front shoulder to open too early — ironically, the exact issue he’s trying to avoid. It’s a common occurrence, thanks to numnut pitching coaches who don’t know jack about human kinetics.

Secondly, and much more importantly, is the position of his throwing hand at “foot strike.” It’s far behind where it needs to be — at this point in his motion, the ball should be at a “launching position,” high in the air, ball pointed toward an area between second base and shortstop, with his forearm at a 90-degree angle to the ground. Being this far behind means there is undue stress on the arm to propel the baseball; all that stride and rotation is doing next to nothing (if anything) in regard to velocity. Wheeler’s fastball velocity is entirely dependent on his arm speed. This is not a “great” nor “outstanding” delivery as Ojeda describes — it’s bad, and dangerous. If he “consistently” throws this way, he will injure his arm quickly. His is very, very similar to Mark Prior‘s delivery — trust me, Prior’s injuries had nothing to do with chance, and everything to do with where his hand was at foot strike. That’s not my opinion, it’s the proven fact of scientists who study benign subjects such as human body movement. I’m sure that the Giants had an idea that Wheeler’s motion was dangerous, which was why they were trying to adjust it. Whether they knew exactly what the problem was, and how to fix it, is another story. And no, changing a pitcher’s motion doesn’t mean he’ll lose his effectiveness — IF the adjustment is made correctly. I’ve argued this point in the past too often, and not arguing it again — efficient, safe mechanics are ALWAYS better than the alternative and can only improve a pitcher’s effectiveness over the long haul.

As for Nathan Eovaldi, I like his fairly simple, compact motion — except for his follow-through, in which he remains almost completely erect. He throws really, really hard, but he doesn’t use his trunk and lower half to decelerate his arm — the brunt of slowing down his arm after release is completely on the arm itself, which I surmise is exactly why he suffered from shoulder issues earlier this season. Unless he starts bending at the waist and following through with his “nose to toes” and arm passing low, somewhere between his knee and ankle, he will continue to struggle with arm problems. Most people don’t realize that a pitcher can do as much — if not more — damage to his arm AFTER releasing the ball as he can before. Compare it to a 500-horsepower sports car with drum brakes — very quickly, those brakes will burn out. To slow down a car with that kind of power, you need disc brakes on all four wheels (and maybe a parachute).

Giancarlo Stanton did nothing in this game — he looked similar to the first series of the year between these two clubs: he looked tense, frustrated, angry, and swinging at anything and everything, committing his swing far too early.

Christian Yelich looks like an intense high-school sophomore in his first varsity game. He appears to have a nice, clean swing, but what has impressed me more than anything so far is his knowledge of the strike zone. He seems to have a really good idea on what is a strike and what isn’t. If he can combine that with good discipline, and learn how to isolate zones where he can best handle pitches, he should have a long MLB career. We’ll see.

Next Mets Game

The Mets and Marlins do it again at 7:10 PM on Wednesday night. Jenrry Mejia takes the mound against Henderson Alvarez. Since I am also playing, I may not be able to provide a proper postgame, so please pay attention and be prepared to enrich this site with great comments. Thank you.

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. wohjr July 31, 2013 at 3:32 am
    Thanks Joe, this is excellent

    If someone had to break it up I’m glad it was Lucas…. go Big Green!

  2. chris July 31, 2013 at 8:59 am
    I was at the game and even though Wheeler was shutting them down and was in control, it always felt like a 3 or 4 hit, 2 run outburst was coming. Still, I thought it was a good performance. Lagares was impressive, though he probably should have been given an error on the ball he didnt get in the outfield. Tough play but he should have had it. Ike sucks.
  3. Tommy2cat July 31, 2013 at 9:33 am
    Wheeler’s motion appeared quite fluid from his wind-up to his follow-through. For his body type, I don’t perceive long-term risk because his deceleration is quite gradual. Provided he abides an off-season regime designed to strengthen the lats/triceps/shoulder capsule and maintains those areas in-season, he should be fine.

    He was blowing away hitters last night. The Marlins simply couldn’t catch up to his heat and couldn’t time his off-speed offerings.

    Very pleased with Zach Wheeler’s outing.

    • Joe Janish July 31, 2013 at 9:58 pm
      A “fluid” motion is subjective and not really proof of anything. The self-proclaimed “InjuryExpert” — Will Carroll — authored an entire book extolling the “perfect mechanics” of Mark Prior, and Carroll wasn’t alone in believing that Prior’s motion was wonderfully “fluid” / “clean” / “efficient” / etc. But if anyone did any high-speed video and/or biomechanic analysis on his motion, his injuries would have been predicted.

      I don’t know if a conditioning and strength regimen is enough to overcome dangerous mechanics, particularly in the case of someone throwing with Wheeler’s mid- to high-90s velocity. I don’t have enough in-depth knowledge and experience with pitchers like that.

  4. crozier July 31, 2013 at 1:45 pm
    Great column, Joe. That’s as good an overview of Wheeler as I’ve seen anywhere. I’ve done some reading on biomechanics and related subjects, and while I get that there’s a good deal that’s proven, I continue to see polar disagreement from presumed experts on how significant factors such as the “inverted W” are to predicting injury.

    But assuming you’re correct in your assessment of Wheeler’s flawed delivery, how much of an adjustment are you thinking, and do you have any examples at a major league level? The one that comes to mind for me is Tommy John, who changed his grip at the suggestion of Mike Marshall. But that was grip, not delivery, which seems a whole lot more complex. Is it, and who has done it successfully?

    • Joe Janish July 31, 2013 at 9:53 pm
      The “polar disagreement” emanates from those who proclaim themselves “experts” as opposed to those who have the research and education to back it up (i.e., scientists).

      The “inverted W” is a term coined by a knucklehead who must not have an “M” in his alphabet. I won’t mention his name because that’s how much I despise him and his so-called “research” — all of which was based on watching VCR clips. I prefer to trust the knowledge of people who have advanced degrees in body movement / kinetics / biomechanics, AND have applied that knowledge toward extensive research and studies, AND factor in BOTH qualitative and quantitative analysis. Not many people are doing all that, unfortunately.

      Delivery IS complex, which is why it’s not fair to entrust pitching motion analysis to a traditional professional pitching coach — who almost always doesn’t have the appropriate background to understand how the body moves and what adjustments need to be made. I personally am not qualified to make the adjustments Wheeler needs to make, but the people who are, can, and have. Specific examples of “fixing” the type of flaws Wheeler has is hard to determine, because that kind of news/info is rarely communicated.

      • crozier July 31, 2013 at 10:38 pm
        I wouldn’t say “unfortunately.” In the next ten years I’m sure we’ll see significant changes. In the grand scheme of things that isn’t so bad. Think of it this way: at least there’s far more awareness now than 20 years ago. Or 40. I get your impatience because you feel like the solution is there already. But revolutions aren’t quick, or easy.
        • Joe Janish August 1, 2013 at 12:13 am
          Thanks for understanding. It is beyond frustrating. The information has been available for at least 20 years, and it’s gotten better and better as time goes on (and technology improves), yet MLB seems to be the only organized entity that fully dismisses science. It’s baffling, especially considering the amount of money at stake.

          At this point, I don’t really give a rat’s tookas about the pro pitchers who are throwing themselves into injury — it’s the kids who are getting all the horrendous hand-me-down info from the top ranks — it’s a perpetual cycle that is showing very few signs of improvement.

          Science knows MUCH more than Ron Darling or Bob Ojeda, but science never played MLB so no one will listen. It’s an incredibly barbaric, and stupid perspective, yet it perpetuates. Baffling and sickening at the same time.

        • Amazin' No More August 1, 2013 at 10:43 am
          Well-reasoned, informative posts about pitching mechanics as usual Joe. Thanks for speaking up on behalf of analytical thinking.

          There is one other organization that rejects science as consistently as MLB, and that would be the Republican Party – with slightly more important consequences (with all due respect to Zach Wheeler’s arm).

          Not to turn Mets Today into the Op Ed page of the NY Times.

  5. crozier July 31, 2013 at 1:51 pm
    Wheeler aside, there was a game last night. Of course no one gets any credit when they beat the Marlins (although they’re playing well now, their overall record notwithstanding), but taking the first two games is an improvement (or a statistical inevitability, whatever).

    Mostly good news as usual from Lagares, and Buck contributed in a big way again. He wasn’t supposed to be full-time at this point, and his overall numbers certainly aren’t terrific, but as an upgrade over last year’s catchers, I have few complaints. And as long as Recker starts two games a week, Buck should play decent ball through August. With any luck, we’ll see some of D’Arnaud after that.

  6. DaveSchneck July 31, 2013 at 1:52 pm
    Very interesting column. Not to be picky, but it is a little unclear whether Wheeler’s foot is on the ground or just before it. It would be real interesting to see a post with similar side by side (or stacked) shots of Wheeler, Harvey, and a guy like Seaver, Clemens, Ryan…power pitchers that threw a long time without significant arm problems.
    • Jon C July 31, 2013 at 6:21 pm
      nice column and I agree with dave would be nice to see side by side…I also like to look at the side by side shots of a pitcher from each inning of a game.

      any advice on a good site or resource to learn more about pitching and biomechanics? Or batting for that matter. Maybe one with lots of pictures/videos on how things are “supposed” to look. I’d like to be able to spot things better while I’m watching the game…and one day teach my son 😛

      • Joe Janish July 31, 2013 at 9:38 pm
        Jon, thanks for the comment. The ONLY trustworthy place online that I’ve seen is Angel Borrelli’s website — There may be other scientists who specialize in pitching mechanics, but they don’t appear to share their knowledge. My guess is they are under contract by MLB teams and keeping everything a secret — which is a damn shame for the kids.

        If/when I have some time I will do some comparison photos.

    • Joe Janish July 31, 2013 at 9:44 pm
      DaveSchneck — I’m 99.9% sure that Wheeler’s foot has landed at this point, though it may not be that clear from my iPhone photo of the TV screen. Further, this photo is consistent with other stills I’ve studied of Wheeler since he joined the Mets organization two years ago, as well as video I’ve seen of him as an amateur.
  7. argonbunnies July 31, 2013 at 9:07 pm
    Wheeler’s young and flexible. He’ll be fine right up until free agency approaches and the Mets give him a $100M contract. Then he’ll shred his shoulder and end his career.

    As for his pitching, I thought last night was the best I’ve seen him. Not much of a repertoire, but the fastball location was excellent. The velocity may have been excellent too; hard to tell, with the SNY readings showing 96 or 97 for every pitcher in the game.

    • Joe Janish July 31, 2013 at 9:40 pm
      Maybe. Or he’ll follow in the footsteps of Mark Prior, who enjoyed exactly one magical year — at the tender age of 22 — before his arm issues began.

      I have a really bad feeling that 2-3 years from now, we will be comparing Wheeler’s career to that of Prior’s, and see a mirror-like image.