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Changes: The Mechanics of Jameson Taillon

June 26, 2013 BY ALEX EISENBERG 4 Comments

See my two previous articles, the first of which scouted Pirates pitching prospect Jameson Taillon and the second of which scouted the Cleveland Indian hitting prospects Taillon went head-to-head with.

This article delves into the mechanical changes undergone by Taillon this past off-season.

Lets start with the two side-by-side views of Taillon. On the left you see Taillon during a 2012 Spring Training game. On the right you have Taillon during a 2013 Spring Training game:

*Credit to MLBProspectPortal

The main thing to look at here is the arm action. I slowed the two graphics down during the key sequence.

It’s a significant because you don’t often see a pitcher’s arm action change that dramatically, especially when his stuff is not in question, his control is not in question, and when he has no history of injury. Not to mention, it’s risky business to mess with a kid’s arm action.

Now, all the standard caveats apply: as long as Taillon’s comfortable with his arm action, and he wasn’t pushed into this change by the organization, then I’m OK with it. I’m for natural mechanics — whatever feels right for the pitcher.

Old or New?

If you were to ask me which arm action I prefer, I’d tell you his old one. Taillon’s new arm action is probably seen by some as “safer” than his old one, though I’m not sure if that’s what actually led to the change. Some argued Taillon made an “inverted-W” with his old arm action, but I’d point out the maximum point of stress occurred with Taillon’s elbow below shoulder level, meaning his elbow comes slightly above the shoulder and then drops back down before external rotation.

Plus, I’ve never been a big believer in the Inverted-W theory anyway. Too many other variables. Too few actual studies done. Too many counterexamples. I don’t dismiss it, but it is what it is: a theory.

Now, putting aside what this change might do to Taillon’s long term arm health, there are a couple of reasons I prefer the old arm action…

    1. His old arm action was the whippier arm action. Without that whip-like action, he loses some life on his fastball; some of that late explosiveness.

    2. He’s now showing the ball to the hitter earlier in his wind-up. Before, hitters wouldn’t see the ball until he released it. Now it’s high up over his head, making it easier for hitters to pick up his release point. So he loses out on some deception.

You can see this in the two graphics above. You can also compare video of Taillon from back in 2011 to the video from this year, provided in the article published a few days ago.

If I were to make an argument for the new arm action, Taillon’s arm isn’t as late to the party as often as it used to be. When his arm was late, the ball would sometimes sail on him. Now he’s down in the zone on a more routine basis.

It’s also worth mentioning the fact that his velocity hasn’t been impacted much, if at all. He’s been reported to being around 92 – 95 mph this year, which is similar to last year, though maybe a touch slower.

What Else is New?

*Credit to MLBProspectPortal

Look closely at the 2013 version and you can see as Taillon’s front shoulder starts opening, his glove stays firm out in front of his chest. His glove is a little less stable in 2012, firming up a little more to the side, which makes him more susceptible to flying open. If you want to throw strikes on a consistent basis, it’s important to keep that front side firm so you don’t go flying open. This change hasn’t translated into better control for Taillon yet, but it should over time.

The other adjustments are better seen from a side view of Taillon (2012 is on the left, 2013 is on the right):

*Credit to MLBProspectPortal and to ScoutingTheSally

First thing is that his hands start lower, maybe trying to be more compact around his core.

He also adjusts his stride into foot plant. Notice how much shorter his stride is. You don’t get that aggressive step over move where it looks like he’s stepping over an imaginary object. The reason for the shorter stride could be that the Pirates organization is trying to get him to pitch more downhill, resulting in a heavier fastball.

I personally like the longer stride, as long as it’s within reason, because you end up releasing the ball just a bit closer to home plate, increasing the perceived velocity experienced by the hitter.

Not to mention, hitters react to the aggressive lower body action, which can help play up one’s breaking ball.

Performance Impact

It’s impossible to say what kind of impact Taillon’s mechanical adjustments have had on his actual performance. I’ll point out his numbers look pretty much as they should based on what he did last year.

As far as my long term outlook for Taillon, it’s changed a bit from what it was last year. His stuff wasn’t quite as good as I’ve seen it, and it’s possible the changes to his mechanics are a cause of that. He looks more like a potential No. 2 instead of the No. 1 I saw last year.

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