New Joel

DMZ · August 11, 2005 at 9:59 am · Filed Under Mariners 

It wasn’t the trip to Tacoma, he hasn’t changed breakfast cereals… if you listened to either broadcast for more than two seconds, you know that the New, Improved Joel now holds his hands way up at the start of his delivery.

August 5th: 6.1 IP, 8H, 2R, 2HR, 1BB, 4K, 104p, 67 strikes
August 11th: 7.2 IP, 7H, 2R, 0HR, 0BB, 4K, 98p, 72 strikes

That’s 42 outs recorded, 8 by strikeout… and 15 hits. 2 were home runs, so 47 balls in play. 32% went for hits, which is about normal for this year’s Mariner defense.

If, by some miracle, putting his hands up was the amazing mystery solution to all of Joel’s problems, that would be awesome. This version would put up average starts, a dramatic improvement from the Joel we’ve seen almost all of this year.

That said, two starts does not make a new pitcher. I remain skeptical that after all the work they’ve done with him, all the things they’ve tried, that something like hand position early in the windup has dramatically improved his mechanics, that those mechanics have resulted in a more effective pitcher, and that Pineiro will be able to consistently maintain them.


59 Responses to “New Joel”

  1. Scooter the Mighty on August 11th, 2005 4:06 pm

    I don’t really believe pinero’s improvement is so much mediated by a change in hand position. However, it may be that Pinero is just taking a while to recover from his arm problems and is finally getting there. I do have some hope for Pinero.

  2. Evan on August 11th, 2005 4:15 pm

    49 – Ditto on Cammy.

    Incidentally, how did Jason Kendall score the winning run on “defensive indifference”.

  3. Russ on August 11th, 2005 4:17 pm


  4. DC Mariner on August 11th, 2005 4:27 pm

    51- Looks like K-rod (i believe) missed the throw back from the catcher, allowing the runner on third to score

  5. DMZ on August 11th, 2005 4:33 pm

    Thread on this down the hall thankkkkkksssssssss

  6. Trenchtown on August 11th, 2005 6:07 pm

    Even though it was a small sample size on Joel, I’m still opitimistic about the new wind-up because he looked alot more comfortable and kept the ball lower consistently out of the wind-up last night then he did out of the stretch. When pitching out of the stretch his fastball always seemed to be higher in the zone.

  7. Bela Txadux on August 11th, 2005 9:11 pm

    Velocity aside, the major problems for Joel have been poor command/repeatibility and poor control. The first seems substantially the result of an inconsistent release point, something which may be more physiological in nature rather than mechanical, but that’s just supposing. The second is substantially the result of his opening his body too early while trying to rush the ball for better velocity, strictly a matter of mechanics. His landing off balance as noted by TIF in #18 goes along with this flying open, as do the fat pitches of months past turned around like beebees by the opposing hitters.

    The functions of putting his hands over his head are: a) it _delays_ Joel opening his front sided, since he has to bring his hands down first, b) keeps his weight centered during his wind-up so he comes into his stride balanced, and c) allows him to get a clean hand separation which can only help getting his arm through cleanly to his release point. LS in #39 summarizes this well. To the extent to which this mechanical adjustment works, it should result in Joel opening his body at the right time during his delivery in a properly balanced stride, with better control the result. This refinement should have little or not effect on Joel’s velocity or on the kind of break he gets on his pitches (unless Joel actually does get a better grip on the ball which while separate might improve the action on his pitches).

    So, even if in only two games, what do we see with this adjustment?: 1W in 15 IP, which is good by any measure, but also an improving/improved percentage of strikes, which suggests that the change is not entirely dependent upon facing below average hitters, which undeniably Piniero has (Chicago and Minnestota have little power and don’t make that much contact). OTH Joel’s K9 is still back-of-the-rotation, and he’s giving up plenty of hits. I suspect that against better offensive teams, more of those hits he’s giving up are going to be XBH, and he’ll give up 4-6 runs per game because he won’t be getting the Ks to get out of trouble. In short, Joel is a 3-4 starter with some smarts at best, but heavily dependent upon his defense. A control pitcher whose out pitch is his changeup.

    Why didn’t the Ms ‘try this tweak sooner?’ Well, they have thousands of feet of Joel’s motion when he was throwing reasonably well, and given what a mess Joel’s mechanics most certainly were in, say, May and June, I suspect every effort has been made to get Joel to repeat his optimal motion from those days; he’s probably been drilling and drilling on that motion, and watching film until he sees it in his sleep. —And _still_ his shoulder’s been flying open, and he’s been landing in a twist while his pitches have been all over. The fact that this change in hand position has been implemented is a concession to reality, that a _change_ has to be made in Joe’s motion rather than simply getting him to do again what he did before. Even assuming that the change in hand position has had the effect which I postulate above, it remains to be seen whether Joel can reliably repeat it over, say 7-8 starts, to say nothing of incoporate it permanently. Often, when one makes a change in mechanics (speaking from my experience in squash, & etc.) there is a positive effect at first when ones attention is concentrated on executing the physical change, but over time ingrained neuromuscular patterns reassert themselves under pressure and simply from habit. It’s not so much that the tweak doesn’t work, it’s that ones execution of it inherently erodes in the near term.

    Still, supposing that Joel sustains an improvement in his control for another 4-5 starts, it’s time for those who think Bryan Price is an idiot who ruins pitchers to take a bite out of reality: this change is certainly a change which the _pitching coach_ implements, and exactly the kind of thing Price has been praised for accomplishing by any number of his PITCHERS, past and present. I’m sure that if Bryan could find a way to get Joel’s velocity back up, he would, and manifestly the two of them, coach and pitcher, have been working for five months to do that with limited results. Price has to work with the picher he’s got, and if this tweak improves Joel’s control over in the near term, that result is fully to Bryan’s credit as well as Joel’s.

    Something further on my mind regarding Piniero is this: injuries to the elbow often take two years for full recovery. Velocity is the first thing to come back, but having watched the Year 1 of numerous returning pitchers, now, it certainly seems to me that control and command are very often shaky for ‘elbow’ guys the first year back. The fact that Joel’s velocity isn’t really back, or at least hasn’t been, is very worrisome, yes; that suggests some kind or permanent, or at least uncorrected, damage. However, it is not unreasonable to consider that Joel may have better command and control next year than he’s shown to this point. I’m not saying that ‘I expect that.’ But I haven’t written Joel off, either. If Joel can sustain good control, whether with this mechanical tweak, or just through normal recovery time, he can be an effective mid-rotation guy. Somebody put up his most comparable the other day, and I remember Lynn McGlothen and Richard Dotson. Yes, they were supposed by some to be ‘budding aces’ in their first year or two, only to show a sharp deterioration for physical reasons into #4 starters. Based on past comparables and present circumstances, that is a not unresonable scenario for Joel, too.

  8. GWO on August 12th, 2005 4:49 am

    You know the other common denominator in his last two starts? The opponents suck.

    Damn right. We must not praise Joel until he’s proved himself the best offenses in baseball — the Tigers and the Twins.

  9. GWO on August 12th, 2005 4:53 am

    *D’oh* — I was trying to point out that those are *precisely* the teams that King Felix has faced, and yet some people are quite willing to extrapolate all manner of stuff from those starts.

    “Consistency is the bugbear of small minds”, I know.