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What’s Wrong with Jake Peavy?

May 4, 2010 BY ALEX EISENBERG 5 Comments

You have a pitcher with high effort mechanics, three straight years of declining velocity to his fastball and slider, and a spell of injuries the past couple years, though they weren’t all arm related. But either way, it is time to worry about Jake Peavy, as Dave Cameron writes.

But I’m not ready to write Peavy off yet. There is a mechanical element here in regard to Peavy’s struggles. Here is Peavy discussing the mechanical issues he’s been having (and H/T to Andy Behrens for this article)

‘If you go look at my delivery at the start of last year to what it was before my last start, it doesn’t look like the same guy,’’ Peavy said. ‘‘A big part of that is my legs. For some reason, I quit using my legs. It’s pretty easy to think why.’’

‘‘My ankle was hurt, and I pitched three or four games with it in San Diego,’’ he said. ‘‘Probably took my legs right out of the equation subconsciously because I was injured. Then when I came back, I was probably favoring my legs, not wanting to drive off my backside and get out toward home plate. When I came over here and was doing that, [pitching coach Don Cooper] and those guys didn’t have anything to go off of.”

‘‘We all just discovered this delivery when we were watching some past outings. The tough thing about it is I’ve been repeating this delivery since Feb. 10, thinking this is me, this is who I am. The other night [against the Tampa Bay Rays], I certainly felt awkward. But that was my normal delivery. That’s what I had been doing for years, but I’ve been practicing the wrong way for 2 1/2 months. … I mean, we’re talking about almost a foot difference with my arm angle. Those things lead to inconsistency.’’

Now, I’ve gone and looked at the tape of Peavy and I notice only subtle differences between Peavy’s lower body action. However, I don’t think I have the right angle of video to make a detailed analysis about Peavy’s lower body. I’d need to see something from a side angle, something I don’t have.

But there are other differences from the center field camera that I noticed and they relate to his arm action.

Each pitch, Peavy pounds the ball into his glove as a timing mechanism for when to get going. He punches the glove and then breaks his hands. Below, from left to right, we have Peavy in early April of 2010 (fastball at 87 mph), late April of 2010 (fastball at 93 mph), and in 2009 (fastball at 95 mph).


*Credit to MLB Advanced Media

Now, there are two frames where I pause the graphics. The first pause comes at frame 9, which is where the 2009 version breaks his hands. Notice how Peavy is breaking his hands a little more quickly in 2009 than he does in 2010, where his hand still remains in the glove. It’s about a one frame difference here, which is significant in terms of pitching mechanics.

The second pause comes at the elbow’s highest point. Compare the elbow’s position in each graphic. You’ll notice the elbow is highest in the 2009 clip, followed by the late April clip, and then the early April clip. The velocity correlates with the height of that elbow.

What we see in 2009 is a loading of the arm that is more violent, aggressive, and yes, risky.

There are many who are steadfastly against pitchers who have their elbow go above the shoulder. There are many qualifiers here — it’s more complicated than just the elbow going above the shoulder — there are more factors to it. But my feeling is that I’m sure if you ask him how he came about throwing the way he does, he’d tell you he’s been throwing that way his entire life. And he should be doing everything he can to get back to his mechanics of old — and that includes getting back to his old arm action. It’s very possible everything is intertwined and if he fixes the mechanics of his lower body, he fixes the change to his arm action.

But the bottom line for me is that Jake Peavy would not be Jake Peavy if he had mechanics like, Jeff Suppan. Peavy has banked millions of dollars over the course of his career not because he used “safe” mechanics, but because he used mechanics that helped him maximize the quality of his stuff without compromising his command.

Interestingly enough, it’s been Peavy’s command that has deserted him so far this season. Even with his diminished velocity, if he was able to command his stuff, he’d still be able to get big league hitters out. But by Peavy trying to get back to his old mechanics, that makes repeating them difficult to do and when one can’t repeat his delivery or feels uncomfortable and out of sync, command is one of the first things to go. So it’s not only imperative that he find his old mechanics for the sake of his velocity, but also for the sake of his command.

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5 Comments »

  • Mike Ketchen said:

    Great piece Alex, as always. A request if I can, could you break down Harden and his sudden reappearing FBV. I noticed a couple of things different and the pitch fx checks out. Hoping to get a more advanced look from a trained eye like yourself.

  • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

    Yeah, I’ll see what I can find. Can you be more specific about what’s going on with him? You’re saying his velocity was down, but it’s been up recently, correct?

  • Mike Ketchen said:

    Yea,

    He started from the same spot on the mound; however he appeared to alter when he placed his throwing hand into his glove. Almost appearing to slow down and then quickly accelerate his delivery. Rather then one pace through out. I apologize for not being more specific as I am lacking the proper terminology. As for velocity, he had not gotten a pitch above 92 prior to his last start where he hit 95.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work.

  • Alex Eisenberg (author) said:

    No, no — I understand what you’re getting at. I’ll see what I can find.