How Jonathon Niese’s Delivery Can Be Fixed

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The bad news: Jonathon Niese left Sunday’s ballgame after the second inning with pain in his elbow. The good news: assuming the MRI comes out clean, the arm problems Niese has experienced this spring can be easily fixed by making minor adjustments to his pitching delivery.

Last week, Angel Borrelli and I discussed Jonathon Niese’s shoulder injury. After Niese’s first start last Tuesday, I sent slow-motion video from the game to Angel to analyze, so that we could see how his mechanics looked and what he might need to “fix,” if anything (the name of the podcast is “The Fix,” after all). There are three things to consider with a pitching injury:

1. identifying the injury (and whether surgery or rehab is necessary)

2. allowing the injured body part to heal, and strengthening it

3. identifying what in the motion is causing the pain that sent the pitcher to the doctor in the first place.

The idea of this podcast was to focus on #3 — to examine the video from last Tuesday, and figure out why Niese might be experiencing shoulder discomfort and a drop in velocity. Angel was excited to see that the adjustments that needed to be made were minor — that his issue was easily fixable.

We got on the phone at 11:30 Sunday morning, so keep in mind, we didn’t know he was going to hyperextend his elbow less than two hours later.

I listened to the Mets – Cardinals game on WOR, and the moment Josh Lewin and John Franco reported that Niese had left the ballgame with elbow pain, I called Angel. The first thing that came out of her mouth: “Do you know where in the elbow he’s having the pain? Because it would make sense if it’s in the back of the elbow — that would mean it’s a deceleration issue and what we talked about this morning.”

For the record, we didn’t know for sure it was pain in the back of the elbow until a few hours later. I point this out not to prove that Angel is some kind of a psychic, but rather to help you understand that the human body works a certain way, and properly trained scientists can connect the dots and help prevent these kind of injuries.

If you are interested in learning more about why Niese has been having problems with his arm this spring, and how the shoulder, elbow, and rest of the body work together, then listen to the podcast below. Angel describes in-depth the following topics:

- Forensic analysis of a pitching motion
- Point of acceleration in a pitcher’s delivery (a.k.a., “max external rotation”)
- Leading with the elbow
- Jonathon Niese’s shoulder injury vs. Johan Santana‘s
- How the mechanics of Johan Santana and Bartolo Colon have evolved similarly (and dangerously)

Again, if we hear that the MRI comes back clean — meaning, no major injury with Niese’s elbow — then his arm woes can very easily be alleviated, because thanks to science, we understand where the pain was coming from and how it can be fixed. Once we hear the results of the MRI, I’ll circle back with Angel to learn more of what’s going on from a scientific angle.

In the meantime, listen to the podcast below (and the first one, if you haven’t heard it already), and if you have any specific questions, please post them in the comments — I’ll get them answered for you either here or in the next podcast with Angel.

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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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