Monday, April 29, 2013

Natstown Newsletter: More Curly W's and Less Inverted W's

Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but Stephen Strasburg is a special pitcher.  I know that’s not exactly earth-shattering news like a professional basketball player coming out of the closet (BIG KUDOS TO YOU JASON COLLINS!), but it’s a fact. 

For the better part of the month of April, Stephen Strasburg has not looked right, nor has he put up the numbers we in Natstown are used to.  It has been obvious to anyone who has watched him pitch this season that he has struggled commanding his fastball. Unfortunately this goes a little further than his inability to command his fastball, and it has to do with his faulty mechanics.

Stephen Strasburg is doing what those in the baseball world call “flying open.”  This does not mean that he forgot to zip up his jeans, but rather he is letting his front side open up towards the first base side. 

Lets sift through this jargon so we are all on the same page.  When a right handed pitcher throws to the plate he wants his left shoulder and left elbow to stay facing the third base side and aimed directly at home plate until his left foot (lead foot) lands and plants.  Once he plants then his torso and right side of his body can rotate through.

Strasburg, however has let his left shoulder fly open causing his whole left side to fall off towards the first base side of the mound, hence why he has been throwing a lot of fastballs into the left hand batter’s box.  It only seems like he is doing this mechanically when he throws fastballs, which may mean he is trying to overthrow his fastball or throw it harder than he is capable of.  Which if that’s the case, is just absurd because he still throws 96-97! Trust me, hombre, that is plenty fast enough.  

Our concern with Strasburg’s off-kilter mechanics is the fear of injury.  Poor mechanics (scap-loading, the inverted “W”, and a leading right elbow) have already led to Tommy John Surgery.  Flying open can lead to unnecessary torque on the throwing shoulder, as it has to work harder to get across the body as it all falls off towards the first base side.  It’s almost like he’s pulling his right shoulder across his body. That can cause some strain on the old bazooka, cut to Strasburg’s rotator cuff nodding in agreement.

But what makes Strasburg so special, is the fact that despite this obvious mechanical flaws, he is still able to cut outs and turn in good starts for the Nationals.  He has been dominating at times, but not as consistently as someone with his talent should be.  He is the best pitcher in a talent-laden rotation, despite his 1-4 record.  

Hopefully a little McCatitude can get Strasburger’s mechanics ironed out and he can get back to the dominating right-hander that he is.  Until then he will just have to navigate through lack of command, high pitch counts, and the never-ending threat of injury. However, if there was ever a pitcher who could cut Major League Batters up while working through poor mechanics, it’s the special and talented Stephen Strasburg.

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