Tag: john maine

Final Tuneup vs. Red Sox

Oliver Perez

Ollie was an absolute disaster from pitch one. Dan Warthen and Jerry Manuel can bitch at him all they want about being in shape and earning his keep, but the bottom line is that there is a mechanical issue preventing him from throwing strikes. Ron Darling suggested that Ollie’s front shoulder was opening too early, but that’s a symptom, not a cause. The SNY camera angles stink if you want to analyze a pitcher’s mechanics, so I can’t figure out what’s going on — I just can see something’s not right. My best guess is that Ollie’s stride is too short (similar to John Maine’s issue earlier this spring). I think he’s landing too early and not giving his arm a chance to catch up, so his release point is too early, leaving the ball up and away to RH hitters. He threw 10 of his first 12 fastballs to that exact spot, yet no one — not Brian Schneider, not Warthen — made a trip to the mound until the bases were loaded. Too late, fellas!

Nelson Figueroa

Some of you have disagreed with me on Figgy vs. Parnell, but today’s outing by Ollie is exactly the reason I prefer a coolheaded veteran long man such as Nelson waiting in the bullpen. It makes all the more sense when you consider that neither Perez nor John Maine are physically ready to start the season, and each may have early exits among their first few starts.

John Maine

Maine looked OK in his tune-up, with sporadic command issues and velocity a little lower than we’d like to see. It may take him until May to get to 100%.

Danny Murphy

On the radio broadcast, Howie Rose compared Murphy to Edgardo Alfonzo, and Wayne Hagin compared him to Will Clark. So, let’s see … Wade Boggs, Fonzie, Clark, Don Mattingly … when is someone going to compare Murphy to Babe Ruth? How about we just let this kid be himself, whomever that is. It’s not fair to put all this pressure on a player who will most likely be a .275 -.285 hitter — which would be a disappointment if you’re expecting Will Clark numbers but is perfectly fine for his role in the Mets’ lineup in 2009.

Marlon Anderson

Marlon started the game in centerfield. Hmm … why? Was it because the plan is to make Marlon the backup centerfielder and late-inning defensive replacement, and Jeremy Reed will be sent down to make room for Gary Sheffield? There is no other explanation, because as long as Reed is on the roster, Anderson would never play center. If you want to experiment with a spot for Marlon to expand his versatility, put him at 2B, where he’s played nearly 700 big-league games but only twice in the last two years. I’d much rather see Marlon spell Castillo at 2B once in a while than centerfield, where he has no range, no arm, and no experience.

Final Word

Not the most inspiring tune-up, so we’ll glaze over it and keep Friday night’s contest fresh in our minds. The real games begin on Monday, in Cincinnati, against a Reds team I think will surprise some people. Buckle up, we have 162 games to go!

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Maine’s Stride Length Explained

We mentioned yesterday that Dan Warthen finally did some tinkering with John Maine’s mechanics, as we’ve been suggesting since last June.

One of the adjustments Warthen is making to Maine’s motion is lengthening the stride:

“He’s cutting himself off, landing too soon,” Warthen said. “In the back of his mind, he was afraid to let go.”

So Maine threw about 50 pitches Monday under Warthen’s intense observation. Maine lengthened the stride his front foot took by eight inches. Warthen seemed pleased with the results. “The ball was coming out of his hand very well,” he said. “Still a golden arm.”

Inquiring minds may want to know what that eight inches can really accomplish. In a nutshell, by lengthening a pitcher’s stride, you accomplish three thing:

1. Allow the arm to “catch up” to the body, and time the release closer to the hip rotation / explosion.
A pitcher who strides too short can end up opening his hips too soon, putting the brunt of the pitch’s velocity on the upper body / arm. Kinesiologists suggest that the the length of the stride should be about equal to the total arc of the throwing arm’s motion, starting from the break of the hands to the release point.

2. Increase the amount of force applied to the ball.
This could be partially explained by Newton’s Second Law of Motion (interestingly, if pitching coaches paid even slight attention to Newton, we’d have less pitching injuries). In short, by lengthening the stride you are also generating momentum and increasing the time that force is applied to the baseball. Think about it this way: if you were going to punch someone, would you start your jab at a few inches in front of your chest, or would you rear your fist back to your armpit before punching forward? The latter, of course, because the increased distance of your fist’s path results in more power generated to your opponent’s jaw (try this at your next bar fight). The same principle works when hurling a baseball.

3. Shorten the distance between the release point and home plate.

This is a no-brainer: by lengthening the stride, you also release the ball further away from the rubber, and decrease the distance the ball needs to go. Again, this is simple physics — by decreasing the distance, the batter has less time to react to the pitch — even if the velocity stays the same. This is why Randy Johnson has been so devastating on hitters — because of his height and long arms, his release point is about foot closer to the batter than any other pitcher; his 93 MPH may be perceived as closer to 96 MPH because he’s decreased the time (maybe some math nut can give me the correct numbers, but you get what I mean).

Now the million-dollar question: why doesn’t every pitcher increase his stride?

First of all, a pitching coach worth his salt will indeed lengthen a pitcher’s stride as long as possible, because of the three points above. However, there is a point where pushing more length will hinder rather than help — particularly with pitchers at the MLB level who have been throwing one way their entire lives. Everyone is unique, and everyone throws differently, and I believe biomechanics and kinesiology play a major role in determining the perfect stride length — but I’m not expert enough on either subject to speak intelligently.

In Maine’s case, Warthen apparently saw a shorter stride than Johnny had used prior to his shoulder injury, and it makes sense. As a pitching coach, the stride is one of the first indicators I implore my pitchers to check when they’re having issues — they need to stride the same distance and land in about the same spot every time to pitch consistently. I’d be interested to know if Maine was not only striding shorter, but if he’s striding straight. But that’s for another day.

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Dan Warthen Reads MetsToday

Personally, I didn’t think Dan Warthen even knew how to turn on a computer, much less find his way to the internet to read a blog. But this recent article on Mets.com proves he’s paying attention to the blogosphere (hat tip to MT loyalist “sincekindergarten”). Specifically:

The more simplified delivery Warthen also implemented — with less rotation of the body — is “more repeatable,” in his words, and won’t be compromised so readily by extra effort put forth in moment of duress. Maine should have a smoother, more consistent delivery.

John Maine over-rotatingEmphasis on “… with less rotation of the body …” mine. I haven’t yet seen what is being described, but I’m guessing that Warthen is working on Maine’s over-rotation issue — which was pointed out on MetsToday as long ago as last June.

Again, I haven’t personally seen the adjustment made by Warthen, and not sure when he began adjusting Maine’s mechanics. The last time I saw Maine on TV was at least two weeks ago, and he was still carrying the ball and over-rotating. Part of the problem is that it will take many, many hours of correct repetition to correct the problem, so even if Warthen implemented the fix in February, we may not see the results until May or June. “Old habits die hard”, so the saying goes, and it is perfectly apt in the case of baseball mechanics.

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5 Early Warning Signs from Port St. Lucie

1. Johan’s Elbow

Make no mistake — Johan Santana has a problem with his elbow and it is going to be an issue for the entire season. Santana is a throwback, a tough guy who takes the ball, sacrifices himself for the team, and pitches through pain.

I’m a former player myself, and I can tell you firsthand that badasses such as Johan and myself go to the trainer to complain about an injury only when it’s become unbearable, and only as a last resort. The fact that Johan not only went to the Mets’ training staff to bring up an issue, but that it became public knowledge, throws up a dozen red flags.

I have two conspiracy theories. One, that Johan continues to pitch with pain, but feels he needs to earn his obnoxious contract and grin and bear it. Two, that the Mets won’t send Johan for an MRI because they’re afraid it might show damage, and they’ll have to shut him down. No Johan means no chance in hell that the Mets make the postseason, which in turn means season ticket sales grind to a screeching halt in an already depressed economy, and Citi Field doesn’t enjoy a record-breaking debut.

2. John Maine’s Shoulder … and Mechanics

Maine developed scar tissue and eventually, a cyst, on his shoulder due to a minor mechanical flaw in his deliverya flaw that can be corrected. However, neither the Mets nor Maine did anything to correct the flaw, which by the way also adversely affects his command. Unless someone wakes up and tells Maine to break his hands in the middle of his body instead of behind his right hip, we’ll watch another inconsistent season of 5-inning outings and 12-pitch at-bats.

3. JJ Putz’s Fastball

When the Mets acquired Putz, the scouting report was that this was one of the top closers in all of MLB, with a “filthy” breaking ball and 95-96 MPH heat. In his first appearance as a Met in Port St. Lucie, Putz was barely able to break 89 MPH, and reached that only a few times. He had a similarly underwhelming debut for Team USA. Now, we know it can take a while for a flamethrower to build up his strength, but the fact he’s struggling to reach 90 MPH is a major concern.

4. The Back End of the Rotation

Normally we wouldn’t worry too much about the #5 spot in the rotation. However, we’re looking at the possibility of chronic elbow issues from the ace, and inconsistency from #4 man John Maine — which means the back end needs to pick up the slack. So far, Freddy Garcia has looked awful, Livan Hernandez even worse, and Tim Redding has yet to take the mound due to a shoulder injury. The next men on the totem pole — Jon Niese and Bobby Parnell — are at best average prospects and have less than 20 big league innings of experience between them.

5. Jerry Manuel’s Mouth

The honeymoon is nearly over. Manuel has reigned as a media darling ever since taking over the Mets last June. However, comments and cajoling that previously were presented as “zen-like”, charming, and “a breath of fresh air” are starting — though ever so quietly — to be questioned. Manuel has always been known as engaging with the media — much to the chagrin of his players. His loose lips helped sink the ship in Chicago, as his constant calling out of players eventually created a tense and resentful clubhouse.

A similar pattern began in the initial days at Port St. Lucie, when Manuel told reporters that Daniel Murphy was a “better hitter” than Ryan Church. Even if that statement were true, it’s not the type of thing you go around boasting about. Only a week later, NY Post writer Bart Hubbuch compiled a long list of Manuel’s missteps with the media (interestingly, the post was generally ignored by the rest of the media and most Mets blogs). It’s not even mid-March yet, and Manuel’s already marred his managerial tenure with his mouth.

Go ahead, paint me the negative Nelly. But the above five issues could be pebbles in one shoe of the Mets, leaving them hobbling around on one foot through the 2009 season.

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Mets Spring Training Game 5

Johan Santana

He didn’t pitch in the game, but he pitched before the game without discomfort, which was big news. Earlier in the day, it was reported that Santana would be traveling to New York for an MRI due to elbow soreness and forearm tightness. After his 35-pitch bullpen session — when he reportedly was throwing “about 80%” — the trip was canceled.

There’s a blizzard here in the northeast, so not traveling to NYC makes sense. However, why in the world was Johan throwing a day before he was supposed to be getting an MRI? I hope I’m wrong, but this is like Ryan Church all over again.

John Maine

Clearly, neither Maine nor the Mets did anything to correct the flaw in John’s mechanics that caused his shoulder injury. He’s still carrying the ball back behind his shoulder, breaking his hands at his right hip, and in turn opening up too early and throwing the ball to a spot up and in to a RH hitter / up and away to a LH hitter. To spot the ball in any other place requires a significant adjustment in release point and/or arm angle. In other words, his command will again be inconsistent and he’ll continue to have problems finishing off hitters. All those two-strike foul balls are going to continue not because he doesn’t have an “out” pitch, as has been repeated ad nauseam, but because he can’t put the ball where he wants to, when he needs to.

J.J. Putz

Putz broke 89 MPH only once during his one inning outing, which was underwhelming. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt since it was his first appearance of the spring. However, Putz is supposed to be a major power arm, a guy who should be throwing in the mid-90s. We saw neither that power heater nor the jaw-dropping deuce. I’m not panicking, since Billy Wagner would routinely be “only” in the low 90s in the spring through most of May before getting up to his usual 96-97. But there is that slight hint of concern that Putz was struggling to break 90 MPH.

Duaner Sanchez

If Putz’s velocity was a minor concern, then Duaner’s 85-MPH fastball was downright shocking. Like Putz though, it was Sanchez’s first appearance of the spring, so we can give him the benefit of the doubt. At the same time, he was throwing at speeds that resembled a hitter’s ideal BP session.

Soft Hands

Keith Hernandez said, “…you can’t teach soft hands or good hands. If you have bad hands, you’re stuck with them.”

I respectfully disagree. See Mattingly, Don. As a young buck in the early 1980s he was a bat without a position because of an iron glove that was glaring even when hidden in left field. Once he set his mind to playing first base, he became not only a Gold Glove winner but considered among the greatest fielding first basemen of all-time — ironically, his defensive skills were often compared to Keith’s.

I will give Keith this: it’s rare for a fielder to suddenly “discover” soft hands, especially once he’s reached his twenties. But the condition can be changed if the player is committed.

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