Tuesday, June 16, 2015

An Analysis on the Problems of Kyle Crick

   "The 2010 World Series champions San Francisco Giants with the 49th selection of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft, the San Francisco Giants select Kyle Crick, a right-handed pitcher from Sherman High School, Sherman, Texas..." 

    Those were the words of the great Gaylord Perry when the Giants selected Crick, a high-risk, high-reward pick in the Supplemental Round in 2011, the club's second pick in the draft after the Giants selected Joe Panik, a shortstop from St. John's widely considered at that time as a "reach". Another notable selection in the really deep 2011 MLB Draft is a guy taken number 21 by the Toronto Blue Jays by the name of Tyler Beede. Beede's the only guy in the first round who didn't sign and after a successful college career, he's selected once again in the 2014 MLB Draft, this time at number 14 by the Giants. Fast forward to 2015, Panik's a key cog when the Giants won it all again last October mostly carried by the country strong back of Madison Bumgarner and continues to be a solid contributor, possibly an All-Star candidate, this year, Beede transformed from an enigma with control issues despite an athletic delivery to a groundball lover with way better command and my top prospect in my top 10, and Crick's has been an enigma with his unresolved control issues ever since he was drafted. I am worried about Crick's issues every since the end of his 2013 season. He continues to baffle me how his status has gone standing still in 2014 and possibly even worse in 2015 which makes me think he's just the top 5 prospect of the Giants. Here's some of the issues that I see on him that makes him the enigma that he is today.

   Before I start, you can find Kyle Crick's basic and advanced stats here.

Mechanics Analysis

   Proper, sound mechanics has been a great indicator of a prospect's future control and command of his repertoire. For Crick's case however, even though with more than 3 years of seasoning in the minor leagues, him and the Giants still hasn't figured out the perfect mechanics for him to throw the baseball consistently and fully utilize his potential as a future ace. Below is a picture sequence of Crick's mechanics and the tinkering the Giants did on him. I am not a pitching coach to say that this fixes will really work but I want to point out here possible fixes on the issues that I see.

2011 (The year he was drafted. Full video here courtesy of MLB.com and I tried to get the best possible picture that I can get.) 

2012 (Full video here. Credits to Mike Newman. Images are color adjusted to have better clarity.)

2013 (Full video here. Full credit to Giant Potential on this. Based from what I see from him, his mechanics is similar up to 2015.)

   There are improvements on the mechanics of Crick ever since he was drafted. First improvement that I see on Crick is on his leg kick. From an imbalanced leg kick in the first two frames in 2011, his leg kick got toned down on 2012 and 2013, making him more upright. There's a guy on Mr. CoveChatter's article about Tyler Beede with the name of Mr. David Sanchez where he commented that Crick's leg kick is too high and it should be simplified (full comment here). I agree that his leg kick is still too high and it throws him pretty off balance throughout his delivery. I think he should be looking at Tyler Beede's fixed delivery. Beede's delivery brings his leg kick only up to his waist instead of up to his chest. I think he should just raise his left leg until it is close to perpendicular to his body. I love the simple movements before Crick's leg kick but he should be more relaxed on his leg kick to make him more balanced on the mound. On the positive side, I love how they lowered Crick's glove arm on his drive to the plate to keep his eyes focused on the catcher's glove all throughout his delivery. 

    Another issue of Crick is an issue in his inconsistent release point and finish. This is an even more pressing issue than his wild leg kick in my opinion. He pulls his pitches, misses his pitches by a wide margin, releases his pitches early or late, you name it. In my opinion, Crick got that east-west finish in his delivery. What is east-west and north-south? In my own definition, it is where a pitcher's throwing arm went from the release point to the follow through. North-south arm path is a norm among most pitchers with possibly the best example of that is the greatest reliever of all time, Mariano Rivera. Below is Mariano's north-south arm path. 

     In my opinion, Rivera got the perfect mechanics even though there's no such thing as a perfect mechanics but if I will have a child and he wants to learn pitching, I'll make him watch Mariano Rivera videos all day. Back to Crick, you can see on the 6th and 7th frame of his 2013 picture sequence that instead of finishing in a north-south motion, he finishes more of an east-west arm path though he sometimes finishes north-south. East-west doesn't really generate great command on pitchers and the only pitcher that have success while doing the arm path is Jake Peavy although his back took all of the beating in his recoil. East-west also doesn't really bode well for a drop-and-drive kind of delivery that Crick possesses. 

    While trying to replicate Crick's mechanics for myself, I noticed that I am spinning and i also experienced the east-west arm path in my finish. Then, I noticed a flaw that may be the cause of Crick's inconsistent release point. 

   The ones encircled in image are the flaws that I noticed. It's the left foot of Crick in his drive. I noticed that his left foot is facing the third base side instead of facing in a 45 degree angle or in heading towards the plate. In my opinion, it made Crick over-rotate like I did when I tried his mechanics, causing him to suddenly lost his way and finish in an east-west because when I tried it, it really did made me to have an inconsistent release point and erratic finish. I suggest that Crick's foot or the toes during this portion should be aligned with the direction of his glove to have an easier mechanics to repeat and in effect, he'll find a consistent release point and a consistent follow-through. I also noticed this when I am looking at him encircled by orange. (You can see the whole picture sequence below.)

    I noticed that Crick's left shoulder is already leaking out at the point when his left foot touches the ground causing him to fly open and throw with an inconsistent release point. I also noticed that his left foot is pointed towards the plate which also hakes him even more open which would result to an erratic right arm and the east-west and the spinning that he makes in his follow through. That in my opinion is due to his left foot during the drive. His foot is perpendicular to the plate when he's driving then he'll land his foot pointed directly at the plate. That's 90 degrees sudden rotation can turn the energy created in his delivery into a rotating force that causes his arm to open when he lands, and leaks out the energy created by his powerful body and makes his right arm to go all sorts of ways and ends up spinning or forcing his body to stop itself, causing a bit of recoil. I suggest that his left foot should land closed to make his body closed until the final moment and could make his hand be on top of the ball and drive the ball forward to the plate consistently. 

  There's this video on MLB.com of the great Pedro Martinez about the proper mechanics and there's a great statement from Pedro that could be applied to Crick about landing closed. The statement from him starts at 1:37. (Full video here.) 

"...once you land, you come from here, you want to keep all (of) this (pertaining to his glove arm) in line. And then you go, and you land in a 45 degree angle. Your cleats are designed to actually break the ground (to) keep you in line." 
   There's another video on MLB.com where Pedro Martinez talks about Carlos Martinez about him flying open too early and he suggest that he should be more closed to have him to have a higher release point and drive the ball more forward which is also applicable to Crick. (Full video here and I will say that Pedro has a potential to be a really great pitching coach.)

   I can see some similarities of his pitching mechanics to the great Pedro Martinez when I ran their mechanics side to side. The main difference is that Pedro's height is 5'11" while Crick is 6'4" and as far as I know, taller guys are having more difficulties repeating their mechanics and Pedro is just a genetic wonder with the type of flexibility that most pitchers can only dream of. Even though Crick's athleticism is great and I love it, his mechanics is still something that he still needs to work on and improve. 

Possible Mental Issues

  There are some talk in the inner community of Giants fans about concerns regarding mental issues about Mr. Crick. Well, there's some pretty solid foundations on the concerns regarding Crick. I'll put my points about this issue like it's a mini-debate with two sides. I'll use the letters H for the hopeful side and P for the pessimistic side.

P: Kyle Crick has been playing in the Giants minor league system since 2011. 
H: There are variables to consider like Crick's has just picked up full-time pitching in his senior year in HS so he's lacking in the pitchability and the overall experience portion. 
P: But he's been playing like a bust and I am sure Dick Tidrow has helped the kid.
H: Look at the #5 overall pick at that draft, Bubba Starling of the Royals. Great 5-tool potential but is really raw. Posting awful numbers until breaking out this year. Give him time.
P: But Crick's numbers has been worse this year! His K/9 are below 9 and his BB/9 is more than 7! There's something more than his mechanics at this point!
H: You're right. Okay, I'm joining your side.

---the end---

   I read an article about Crick spent time with Michael Wacha of the Cardinals and Shelby Miller of the Braves in the offseason, and here are some of the words that caught my attention. (Full article here written by Andrew Baggarly.)

"I believe last year was the first actual bump in the road for me in my minor league career," Crick said. "It was more of a mentality thing, not trusting myself. I was just trying to do too much with my mechanics and not just throwing the ball. This offseason I got to a better mental state about baseball."


"They want to see me go deep into games and dominate with my fastball, and whether that's Double-A, Triple-A or the big leagues is up to them," Crick said. "You've still got to pitch, no matter where you are."

   So, what have we learned from the mini-debate and the article? Let's fast forward it to today. Michael Wacha is the ace of the Cardinals now that Adam Wainwright is out of the year, Shelby Miller is the undisputed ace of the Braves and one of the best pitchers in the NL, and Kyle Crick is doing worse in the Eastern League. I ever wonder if Crick really picked up something from the two because if he ever picked up something from the two, he'll be performing much better this year than what he really is performing. I think that he got no confidence in his mechanics and his body at this point. I am not a psychologist to know what Crick is into right now but as a fan, I can see from his stats that he's not okay. He's never fallen below 5 in his BB/9 which is surprising given that he got one of the best pitching instructors in the game in Dick Tidrow. If there's a way to improve his command by tweaking his mechanics, I am pretty sure he'll pick it up right now if he believes in Tidrow but he stayed with pretty much the same mechanics like before. Is he a stubborn person in nature? I don't know. Maybe. I'll never point fingers until it is proven that it's true. Slowly but surely, Crick's mental issues are starting to turn into a fact in my perspective. 

Possible Move To The Bullpen

   So if Crick's mental issues are starting to get really legit, maybe a fresh start is needed to kickstart his career once again. Enter, the bullpen. Yes. The bullpen. More and more scouts are starting to say that he's not a starter material anymore but a bullpen material. I really do think since 2014 that he's not a starter material anymore but a shutdown bullpen guy for the future Giants. In the bullpen, in my opinion, if you got a mid-90s fastball that you can locate and you got a plus breaking pitch, you're have a chance to be a shutdown reliever or even an elite closer. There are a lot of failed starters that are littered in the bullpen and are really thriving in that spot. Let's take a look at a couple.

   Let's start with player A: He is a back-end starter included in a blockbuster deal together with an ace for a top-5 prospect who ended up as the AL ROY in 2013. That's right. He's Wade Davis. Let's take a look at Wade Davis' transformation based on his stats courtesy of FanGraphs. 

2013: 31G 24GS 135.1 IP 5.32 ERA 4.18 FIP 4.15 xFIP 1.68 WHIP 7.58 K/9 3.86 BB/9 .304 AVG .361 BABIP 67.6 LOB% 40.5 GB% 1.4 WAR
2014: 71G 0GS 72.0 IP 1.00 ERA 1.19 FIP 1.93 xFIP 0.85 WHIP 13.63 K/9 2.88 BB/9 .150 AVG .264 BABIP 87.5 LOB% 47.6 GB% 3.0 WAR
2015: 27 G 0 GS 27.0 IP 0.33 ERA 1.88 FIP 2.87xFIP 0.78 WHIP 10.00 K/9 3.00 BB/9 .132 AVG .197 BABIP 95.2 LOB% 45.0 GB% 0.8 WAR

  Here's the rundown. He transformed from a below-average starter with a lot of BABIP bad luck in 2013 to a shutdown reliever for the Royals in 2014 and 2015 and possibly, the best reliever in the game. How did he do it? First, he placed his windup to the trash bin and went to pitch in stretch. The result is that his mechanics is now way simpler, resulting in that reduction in the BB/9 department by almost 1 which is a great job. Second, he's now moved to the bullpen. He can give the 100% of his effort with no worries instead of firing 80% to reserve his energy to the later innings as a reliever. The result is shown below. 

   You can see that his FB velocity went up by 3.6 MPH as a reliever. You can also see him relying on more cutters progressively and abandoned his changeup completely since 2014. In my opinion, it indicates that he's more confident now on just letting loose his best pitch and having more confidence due to him having more margin for error with that plus fastball velocity, great secondary pitches and a plus defense behind you definitely helps too. 

   Let's now have player B: He's a former top prospect of the Yankees with wild control of his fastball and started to find huge success as a multi-inning reliever for them. That's right. It's Dellin Betances. Let's take a look at Betances's stats courtesy again of FG.

2012 in AAA: 16 G 16 GS 74.2 IP 6.39 ERA 5.84 FIP 1.88 WHIP 8.56 K/9 8.32 BB/9 .247 AVG .298 BABIP 66.0 LOB%
2013 in AAA: 38 G 6 GS 84.0 IP 2.68 ERA 2.69 FIP 1.12 WHIP 11.57 K/9 4.50 BB/9 .176 AVG .269 BABIP 77.4 LOB%
2014: 70 G 0 GS 90.0 IP 1.40 ERA 1.64 FIP 1.86 xFIP 0.78 WHIP 13.50 K/9 2.40 BB/9 .147 AVG .241 BABIP 86.3 LOB% 46.6 GB% 3.1 WAR
2015: 29 G 0 GS 32.1 IP 0.28 ERA 1.06 FIP 1.80 xFIP 0.77 WHIP 15.03 K/9 3.90 BB/9 .102 AVG .204 BABIP 84.0 LOB% 48.1 GB% 1.6 WAR

   First thing I'll say, WOW. He's used as a 2 or 3 inning guy last season and he's absolutely phenomenal. Huge credit to that is the transition to the stretch from the windup. Another credit is the Yankees pitching coaches helping him out on his fastball command and simplifying his mechanics at the stretch especially for a guy that's 6'8" tall as he shed his BB/9 by close to 4x than he was starting. His K/9 skyrocketed too. Here's a look at his pitch types since his transition located below.

   Similar story to Wade Davis. His FB velocity improved by as much as 3.3 MPH since his transition as a reliever and his knuckle-curve (the slider written there but I have seen his grip on it and it's a knuckle-curve grip) has been a true plus-plus pitch along with his fastball. Once he located his fastball in the strike zone with the improved velocity as a quality strike, hitters have no chance together with that plus knuckle-curve. 

   Let's put this idea to our guy Kyle Crick. Here's a picture sequence of his delivery in the stretch courtesy of FG. (Full video here and I think this is from an AFL game.)

  His mechanics are now simpler in the stretch. There are some starting pitchers who are preferring to pitch out of the stretch exclusively throughout their starts because they found it more simple. Prime example of that is Yu Darvish of the Rangers. In Crick's case, simplicity in the mechanics is the key. If he wants to pitch out of the stretch, the better but I'm classifying his value as a reliever right now. Here's Kyle Crick's stats right now again thanks to FG.

10 G 10 GS 41.1 IP 2.40 ERA 4.98 FIP 8.71 K/9 7.84 BB/9 1.62 WHIP .208 AVG .271 BABIP 83.8 LOB%

   There are a lot of ugly numbers in his stat line this year but the one thing to take into a positive sign is his LOB% of 83.8 and his ERA of 2.40. So far, he bailed himself out in a lot of stressful situations and high pitch count innings to make his ERA low which is pretty remarkable if you think that he's a reliever. 

  There's a lot of possibilities for Crick if he went to the road not taken (Thanks Robert Frost). As proven by the two guys I listed above, first is that the stretch could allow Crick to be more calm and balanced in the mound thanks to a simpler, more direct mechanics. Second is that he will be not worried about conserving energy unlike when he's a starter which will result to an uptick in velocity. Third is that the Giants can remove less relevant pitches on his repertoire that should improve the feel in his fastball and his plus slider that will result in lesser balls out of the zone. The final and maybe the most important aspect is that his confidence will slowly grow the more his pitches will be in the zone. The more he's confident of his pitches and his mechanics, the more the lower his walk rates will be, possibly in the neighborhood of 3.0 BB/9 throughout the season which is really good considering that he never had a BB/9 lower than 5. The lower his walk rates, the more he'll be more dominant and he could throw in 2 or 3 innings of low-hit, low-walk, high strikeout guy like Dellin Betances' value for the Yankees in 2014. It might sound that I'm trying to sell pizza here but I am. There's a new possibility out there. And I am selling the idea of turning him to be a reliever. Relievers are an integral part of baseball for the past 5 years and especially in the postseason, you need to have a shutdown bullpen to have a lasting chance to give the lineup a fighting chance if the team's behind. Just take a look at the 2014 Royals. They got an average lineup and starting rotation but they have plus speed on the bases, plus defense, and the best bullpen last year and look how far they've gotten. And teams are now paying relievers quality dollars. If he will ultimately fail as a starter, being a high-end reliever is not to shabby.

  Here's a Brooks Baseball profile of Crick that tracks velocities, vertical and horizontal movements, pitch types, and more though this numbers is from 2013. 

   You see that his average is at 96 MPH (though 2013) and I am pretty sure his velocity sits 92-96 MPH as a starter and if you put him as a reliever since he loves to throw 100% every time, he could experience an uptick somewhere between 95-99 MPH in short stints and he could partner that with his slider and make him a two plus pitch guy. He just need to locate his fastball where hitters are going to respect him. Once hitters are going to respect your fastball, even though his slider will be off, they can chase his slider and he can blow by hitters with his fastball. His fastball also got great movement and sink on it, giving him another advantage over hitters. He got a lot of advantage over hitters. He just needs to harness it.

  Imagine a lineup of bullpen guys with Okert, Osich, Broadway, Strickland with Crick leading the way as the closer or as the setup guy for Strickland. Even though only Broadway and Strickland are on the Major League club right now, age of the bullpen will make us promote these guys sooner than later given that they develop nicely. I know you can build a bullpen out of scrap heap, but the Giants are living on continuity and the Core Four of the bullpen are great examples of that and we have the pieces to replace them soon.  

TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)

   Mechanics issues (leg kick needs to be lowered, left foot during the drive needs to be toned down for more control and possible north-south finish or he needs to land closed to prevent his left shoulder and leg to leak out too early), mental issues (lack of confidence, frustrations, possible stubborness), possible shifting to being a reliever which could be a positive turnaround to his career proven by Wade Davis and Dellin Betances' success stories.

The Bottom Line

  This all started as a comment on DrB's blog about my rants on Kyle Crick about his mechanics issues and his poor release point, that he's spinning and having a poor follow through and that video analysis. Well it's not a video analysis but I think it will do to justify my points. This also started on Mr. ogc's on about Crick as a reliever possibility and I expanded it here on this post and my inspiration for the format of this blog post comes from him.  Again, I am not a pitching coach to conclude that my suggestions regarding his mechanics are a sure-fire success and I am not a psychologist to say that he got a mental disorder. I am basing it on the observations that I see on Kyle over the past 3 years and these are all my opinions. I still have hope for the guy and he's just 22. There's still a lot of guys that improved and contribute greatly yet they'll older than Crick and for him, age is still his friend but time is slowly running out for the guy to reach his ace potential. It's becoming more of a reality that his ceiling is just a high-end reliever if he can't reduce his walk numbers which is still pretty great of value especially from a guy picked high in the draft. If he could contribute in a big way for the Giants in the future, I will consider him as a development success. I hope you enjoyed my analysis. Cheers!


  1. Nice post about Crick. Way more technical on his mechanics than I can comment on, but I can appreciate a tour de force anytime!

    I'm not too worried right now about his wildness, given that his K/9 is so high generally and his H/9 is generally so low and that he is so much younger than the competition. For example, this season, he has a huge walk rate and yet low ERA. I think he just needs experience and challenges. Pitchers can be wild as long as they can strike out a lot of batters, as that helps prevents hits (each extra 3 K's reduces a hit, roughly).

    And look at his game by game record. He has a lot of games where he has good control, with low BB and high K's. Except for this season, since the 4th start, as I get into below. I think he's been battling something physical and pitching with it instead of healing it 100%. I was told in a comment that it was wrist soreness for the skipped start.

    1. I also posted this on another site regarding Crick:

      I still believe in him

      He actually started the season off good, his second to fourth starts were excellent progress for him, and continued the progress he had been making in prior seasons, where he roughly alternated good and bad starts. This season is much different, in that since that fourth start, he has not been able to strike out anyone regularly.

      Ah, there we go, after his May 1st start, they held him out from his next start for some reason, and he hasn’t been the same since. Don’t know what happened after that start, which caused him to his start on May 7th, but I’ll bet that he’s not fully recovered from that, or just been pitching with it, and clearly has not been able to perform with this physical problem.

      Of course, that’s not good news that he’s probably injured, but at least that explains why he hasn’t been any good since his May 1st start. Given his wildness, he has to be battling something physical, just DL him, citing a recurrence, and get him 100%.

      People are so down on him, but he was 21 and pitched OK last season though much younger, almost 4 years younger, than the league, and remember, most are much more experienced than he is because he started pitching full time as a HS senior. He has maybe 5 years experience, most have double or more of that experience, in terms of the number of years of pitching. Even if he lingers for two years in AA, he’ll only be 25 YO in 2018 if he can figure it out by then.

      Also, the Giants could decide to bring him up earlier as a reliever, so that Righetti can work with him, then move him back into the rotation later. That is what they did with Dirty. There is still a lot of ways the Giants can get value from Crick.

      So the reason I still like him is that he has had a lot of good starts like that May 1st start, few walks, lots of K’s, all through his pro career. Plus, when you are a high K guy like him, the main thing to look for is his ability to keep his K/BB above 2, and even last season, if you look for starts above 2.0 K/BB, that’s roughly half his starts. He hasn’t been as good in AA as he was in San Jose, but that’s a lot to do with the improvement in hitters in this league.

      Another way to look at this is the rule of thumb is that the best prospects reach AA by age 22. He reached last year at age 21 and is still only 22 YO. And as wild as he has been this season, despite all the walks, his ERA is still only 2.40, he’s been pitching out of the trouble that he set himself up with, and that’s a good still to have as he rises, and hopefully finds control.

      And that’s the thing, he has found control before. It is not he’s been wild each and every game. It’s that he has it in spades in some games (like May 1st) and is totally lost in others. The key is him finding a way to do it most games. He did it in starts 2-4, it took him 12 starts to reach that point last season, but he was pretty good from starts 13-19, before losing it again. And he basically had it in 2013 after he returned from his long DL stint, he ended with a great finish to the season after returning.

      And perhaps that has been his problem, not being healthy enough to keep his mechanics going well. It will be interesting to see what the Giants do with him the rest of this season. Maybe it’s one of those physical problems which is not dangerous to pitch with but which is still bother him significantly. Still, he hasn’t reached 60% strikes since start #5, and has struggled to reach 50%. It might be better for his confidence to just sit this out until whatever is bothering him is healed.

    2. Hello, Mr. ogc! If wrist soreness is the problem, it could've affected him especially in throwing his slider and curve which uses some wrist flick. That's maybe the cause of the reduction of the Ks recently while maintaining the usual BBs.

      I agree with you that age is not an issue for Crick especially that most college guys last year are just now entering their first full season. The problem for me is that he's surrounded with the great guys in the Giants minor leagues and his BB/9 stays the same, north of 5. His mechanics is pretty tough to find out what's wrong. It's just like Beede before but the Giants toned it down to a positive outcome. They tried to toned down Crick's but the results is still inconsistent so I said that I am not saying that my opinions on his mechanics are a surefire positive. But I really love the LOB% which is a testament to his mentality in tight spots. Cheers!

  2. Great analysis of Crick's game.He also needs to understand that when instructors are making adjustments to your delivery.That it's not a knock in your talent.It's just part of the development process.Posey in spring training said the same thing Crick said.He can tell he has no confidence right now.Another comment that got my attention was Crick saying the Giants want him to dominate with his fastball.You don't have to strike everyone out to dominate with your fastball.Fastball domination has to do with challenging hitters and eating innings.Sometimes you win sometimes you lose.Your job as a pitcher is to throw strikes and compete.You can't compete if you don't throw strikes.Does he have the guts to compete.Can he overcome his lack of confidence.We'll see.Dope write up Wrenzie.Keep up the good work.Peace.

    1. I never thought you'll take a good look from here Mr. David. Thank you for the compliments! I'll write up something about Crick in my next blog post. I don't really know if he's fighting with what the coaches are preaching to him but right now, his mind is definitely in peril and the bullpen will give him the breath of fresh air.

  3. Something I noticed about Cricks delivery.From High School to the present.It hasn't changed much.The leg kick is not as extreme as it was when he was drafted.That HAS to change.So it looks like the organization hasn't made any changes with his delivery.Which is surprising given our track record with pitching.Or maybe they have and he's fighting it.No reports of that though.