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The Resurgence of Franklin Morales

September 23, 2009 BY ALEX EISENBERG 3 Comments

I don’t live near Colorado nor do I root for a team that plays them, so I hadn’t noticed the resurgence undergone by Franklin Morales this year. The velocity and the life on his tremendous fastball are back, so I wanted to compare his mechanics now to his mechanics from his disastrous 2008 season.

If you remember, I wrote about Morales last year in an effort to explain what went wrong, specifically from a mechanics standpoint. There were a few points I made, but I felt the most important one was Morales’ use of a kick out motion to initiate an aggressive rotation of the hips. Here’s what I said:

My third observation is the most important in my view: the front leg kick.

At the Futures Game, we see a front leg that kicks out forcefully. You can see how the front leg “firms” or straightens up; look at the ripple in the fabric of Morales’ pants as his front leg becomes fully extended and view that as an indication of the kind of force Morales uses. This leg kick triggers an aggressive turning of Morales’ hips into foot plant.

Now lets compare the 2008 Morales (right) with the 2009 Morales (left). Take note of the front leg action:

*Credit to MLB Advanced Media

Morales in 2009 has a forceful, aggressive kick out. Notice how the front leg turns wobbly — see the action of the front foot. That’s an indication of the kind of force he puts into that kick out.

Here’s what I said about Morales’ back leg positioning:

The first observation I have is of Morales “sitting” more in 2007, while he is more upright in 2008.

Compare the 2009 version with the 2008 version and you’ll notice he’s again “sitting” more in 2009. In addition, I noticed his posture is better. His torso is a little more slouched in 2008.

Morales’ timing is worlds better in 2009. I’ve mentioned scap loading is a critical component in velocity. The timing needs to be on point for it to have an effect. It’s a crucial part of the kinetic chain that links the thorax (or chest) to the shoulder and when it’s timed correctly, power is transmitted from the torso to the shoulder and the result is a whip like arm action.

Here’s the comparison between the two at this critical sequence…

*Credit to MLB Advanced Media

Look closely…notice the arm of 09′ Morales is more stretched and the back becomes arched…that’s a process of scap loading (or pinching the shoulder blades together). That’s the stretching of all these elastic tendons and muscles in the shoulder region that are about to be unloaded, similar to when you stretch and let go of a rubberband.

Watch how the hips explode open just before foot plant. The front shoulder stays closed and significant torque is created between the hips, the torso and the shoulder. Finally the torso is uncoiled forward and as I said, it’s like a chain. The arm is brought along for the ride in a whip-like fashion.

Notice the 2008 version doesn’t possess that same back arch. The rotation of his hips and torso occur in more of a together fashion, meaning they rotate almost as a unit instead of achieving good separation. As a result, the torso doesn’t uncoil as forcefully it should and the arm loses power.

Usually in 30 fps video, you notice the high velocity throwers go from a point where their arm is at or near that L position and into release in three frames. The 2008 Morales takes four frames to get to release.

In wrapping up, it’s nice to see a pitcher be able to bounce back from what was an extremely difficult season and if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, he should have plenty of future success.

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    • Baseballbriefs.com said:

      Baseballbriefs.com tracking back The Resurgence of Franklin Morales…

      Baseballbriefs.com tracking back The Resurgence of Franklin Morales…

    • Benjamin Rice said:

      You didn’t mention it, but do you think this has something to do with him moving from a starting role to the set-up role? Perhaps last year he was concerned with the toll that throwing that hard took on him over the course of a game, and this year knowing that he’s only responsible for one inning, he can go back to throwing? Or perhaps pitchers at this level don’t have that mentality?

    • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

      When a pitcher goes from starter to reliever, it is true that they get to go all out. There is more effort used and they dial it up more. But for Morales it’s different because even as a starter, he should of been able to dial it up when he wanted to and he wasn’t able to do that. The changes in his mechanics stemmed from trying to improve his overall command, but ended up making things worse because he became so conscious of his mechanics, overthinking things…overthinking is the last thing you want to do on the mound so it just kinda snowballed on him.

      In addition, he was a starter prior to last year as well and didn’t suffer the same kind of velocity loss he had last year.