Early last month, I looked into the disastrous end of Paco Rodriguez‘ 2013 regular season. The most common question that I received after posting the article was “was Paco tipping his pitches?” It’s a natural question, given his unorthodox delivery (pictured above).
On Monday, this question re-surfaced, when Ken Gurnick reported that Rodriguez has made a mechanical tweak in his delivery:
Paco Rodriguez and the Dodgers’ staff believe they’ve found a mechanical flaw … [the flaw], noticed when he breaks his hands at the start of his motion, grew progressively worse last year.
“Once I figured it out, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s how it feels,’” said Rodriguez. “I was pitching so well, but my arm slowly came up and it took away from my ability to hide the ball. It’s like night and day… I was showing the ball more than I normally do. Just one outing and it feels better.”
“Mechanical fix” is used almost as frequently as “best shape of his life” during spring training, but luckily it’s pretty easy to look for changes. We’ll start with two games from last year. On the left is a pitch from Rodriguez’ first regular season outing of 2013, which occurred on April 2nd. The delivery on the right is from September 15th (Rodriguez allowed a home run later in the atbat). Both pitches are cutters to right-handed batters, played at 25% speed.
The changes are pretty easy to spot. Rodriguez’ glove hand dropped away from his body a lot more quickly in the September delivery. In September he reached the apex of the wind-up (the point when the ball is at its highest behind Rodriguez’ head) faster and held the ball at the apex for longer. It appears that the ball might be a little bit higher in the September delivery, but the difference is extremely minor.
Gurnick’s article reports that Rodriguez first put the fix into place on Saturday, so let’s add that into the comparison.
While the different camera angle makes the changes a little more difficult to compare, the results of adding in the spring training game are interesting. When I only had the comparison between April and September, I thought the glove staying “in front” of the ball might have made the ball less visible to hitters and might have been a portion of the mechanical change. However, the glove fell away as quickly in the spring training pitch as it did in September. It’s also pretty hard to see much of a difference in the actual breaking of Rodriguez’ hands, which was specifically mentioned in Gurnick’s article.
However, there are some visible differences between the spring training delivery and the delivery from the end of last season. The ball reached the apex more slowly during the spring training wind-up than it did in the September wind-up. Despite the change, the spring training delivery reached the apex point of the wind-up slower than it did last April.
After visual examination, it can be concluded that there are some very small delivery changes present. It’s hard to know what this actually means until we get a meaningful sample of regular season pitching. It does give ups something else to point to if Rodriguez returns to normal. The reduction in fatigue, as described in my article earlier this year, will also have a positive impact. There are still plenty of reasons to be optimistic about Rodriguez’ chances to contribute next season.
The big news for today’s spring training game is the return of Zack Greinke to the mound after missing nearly two weeks with a strained calf. Greinke won’t be ready for Australia, but if he feels well after today’s start he’ll be on track for the series against the Padres. Greinke started the regular season on time last season after missing a significant portion of spring training due to elbow issues. The rest of the line-up looks pretty similar to what we’ll see on opening day, other than a day off for Juan Uribe.
In other news, Red Patterson was cut from the spring roster. He was cut before yesterday’s game, so it was a bit odd that he was not included with the other roster cuts on Monday. Patterson looked somewhat impressive during his limited spring training outings, giving up one run in 6.1 innings of work. Patterson is not ranked on Dustin’s prospect list, and will likely reprise his role as Albuquerque’s spot starter and long reliever.