Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My Opinions On Scouting: Pitchers

Good day everyone. I'm here to talk about my thoughts about scouting prospects and scouting in general. I am fairly young to say the least for scouting and I have a relatively short experience in scouting but I think that you can learn something from me about scouting in general. 

There are a lot of amateur scouts nowadays. They could be very devoted with all of their full equipment of tools to record everything on a prospect and they could be as casual as a guy holding a radar gun or some kind of recording device. There are some where they feed off the other people's work to make their own work. I think I fall in the third part. Everyone has their opinions about scouting and I have some different opinions on others but also some that shares the same line of thought. Even though I am a guy with just a laptop and Internet connection right now, I am hoping to get to America to fulfill one of my dreams to be a scout for the Giants or just be a freelance scout where I scout guys for a hobby.

This will be separated to two parts: pitching and hitting. In general, I like scouting pitchers more because I love pitchers and how they do their craft. I love how they go through their craft, tinkering their grips and their ways on how to get a hitter out. Hitters are still very interesting to scout even with that. But both have the same unique way of delivering and honing their craft. From throwing in several angles to hitting a well-placed pitch for a hit and so on, the prospects have the same objective overall. They need to find a consistency in their work so that they can treat it as their second nature and not be concerned by it so that they can just focus on hitting the catcher's glove or hitting the baseball on the black.

Opinions on Pitchers

The first thing that you will see from a pitcher is their body. If they are tall and/or muscular. I think that in terms of physicality, height is just not that important. There's a saying that the taller the pitcher is, the harder it is for them to control their body. The good thing about tall pitchers is that they can create intimidation just by their God-given gift. That said, I think that flexibility is much more important by height. Flexibility will allow a pitcher to obtain good to great command of his pitches due to their body coordination. 

In my opinion, the most important thing about the physicality for a pitchers is how well they know they body to the point that when he learns a pitching mechanics, no matter how complicated it may look, he can make it look easy and repeatable. Of course, another big factor is that they are fit. For example, Marcus Stroman, a 5'8" pitcher that can pump low-90s fastballs with command thanks to his incredible flexibility and athleticism. My boy Tim Lincecum as well.

Second is the pitcher's mechanics. Mechanics can be very simple or very complicated. For prospects, most of them have a lot of unnecessary moving parts that needs to be ironed out for them to have better command. A lot of pitchers have been blowing out their UCLs and heading for Tommy John. I think that overuse and overthrowing during their HS years makes their bodies not be able to cope up with the stresses that they put on their developing bodies. Of course, bad mechanics is another factor. 

When looking at a pitcher's mechanics on video, I try to look at two aspects of the mechanics. The first part is I play the video from start to end to see if his mechanics are looking in sync in one full motion. I try to look if there are some twitches or tells that the pitcher shows that can be a red flag moving forward. or example, if a pitcher doesn't demonstrate smoothness in his mechanics like a hitch in his arm motion. The second part is I dissect it by parts from the start to the end while comparing it to the mechanics in full motion. 

At the start, I look at where he stands at the top of the rubber. Sometimes, a pitcher standing in the wrong spot of the rubber is the difference between success and struggle. Then, I look at the leg kick. I look if the leg kick is too high or violent that it disrupts his balance at the rubber, making him off balance and the result of that is developing control issues because he's out of balance. If the leg kick is too low, his potential energy might not be enough that he compensates for it with his arm throwing with more effort than usual. 

Then, it’s on the drive. Once the pitcher starts his drive, I look at his throwing arm if he’s going to have his throwing arm higher than shoulder level. When a pitcher has his throwing arm higher than his shoulders, that'a a big red flag for injury. For me, it's okay that a pitcher has his elbows in an inverted W motion as long as his release point is at a low 3/4 point or lower. It allows the arm to stay below the shoulders and as a result, throwing a pitch doesn't hurt that much or feels like normal. When you take a look at his extension, I take a look if the extension is too long or too short for the pitcher for him to sustain it. Having an extension too long or short can also result to control problems. I also take a look if his throwing arm action is in sync with his drive. Also an important thing for me is that the pitcher hides the ball in his body during his drive. That way, hitters will find it hard to see what pitch is coming if the pitcher hides the ball well. It can only be determined on video by having it taken from the view behind the catcher. 

Then, I take a look at the front foot landing. If the pitcher's arm is late when his front foot drops to the ground at his drive, that's another big injury red flag for me. I prefer that a pitcher lands his front foot closed during landing as it helps find the zone better as they throw the ball, just like what Pedro Martinez said a while back. Pitchers rotate to get their body and arm in line with the plate. Landing the front foot closed ensures the stability of the body once the pitchers throws the pitch rather than rotating altogether. I don't have a preferred release point but I like when the pitcher follows through his motion fully to transfer the energy efficiently. As long as the pitcher extends his arm, pronates the right way and his arm doesnt recoil that much, I dont have a problem with it as long as the pitcher is still balanced enough to field the ball with relative ease. 

Overall, I prefer mechanics where a pitcher's arm is loose and quiet in his drive rather than moving stiffly then firing it quickly. I prefer a mechanics that utilize the lower half of the body more than his upper half for less effort on the arm. I like drop and drive pitchers more than tall and fall as it invokes more athleticism. I prefer that the pitcher has good arm speed so that it helps his repertoire to be more effective. 

After the mechanics, I take a look at the repertoire. First and foremost is the fastball. A good fastball needs to have some sort of tailing movement in it. A straight fastball will not cut it in the Majors with the hitters that are well experienced in handling fastballs. I prefer movement and command over velocity so some sort of movement that a pitcher can generate sink and cut on his pitches to keep hitters honest. Great curveballs tend to have some sort of rise first then halfway, drops steeply. The same can be said true to great sliders, but the difference is that sliders tend to break in a 45 degree angle. A good changeup needs to have the combination of movement and velocity differential, moving like a screwball while having at least 10 mph differential. 

I judge every fastball based on it's velocity, how it moves when it was thrown by the pitcher. Does the fastball have some zip to blow by hitters? Does the fastball has enough tailing movement to generate weak contact? Does his fastball plays up with his mechanics, like it has a tendency to jump on hitters? Does he hit his spot more often than not? That's the kind of questions that I have when looking at fastballs. For curveballs and sliders, I ask myself if it has the right shape to be called curve and sliders, does it got enough sharp break for hitters to miss it, and does he disguise it like a fastball? For changeups, does it break hard? Does the velocity differential is wide enough? Does he telegraph it by slowing his mechanics or does he throw it like a fastball?

All of the things will be put together on the command. If the pitcher has a lot of raw velocity but he misses a lot at the plate, that will never break the Majors. Command is the most important thing to have. With sound mechanics, blessed body frame and enough velocity and movement on his pitches to go through, any pitcher can play in the Majors if he has command of his pitches, especially the fastball. A pitcher needs to command at least two pitches to become serviceable in the bullpen but needs to have a third pitch to go by if pursuing to be a starter because of the number of times that the opposing hitter will see you.

I'll give some examples of pitchers that I find to be intriguing. First is Taijuan Walker of the Seattle Mariners. Scouts said that he was a top 10 prospect in all of baseball due to his plus-plus athleticism, easy mechanics and premium fastball, and ace potential. But all this time, I have been speculating. Sure his super athletic, but I can't really see him translating his athleticism on the mound. His mechanics sure is quiet but he has a lot of stiff actions on the mound, like arm action. He utilizes his upper body much more than his lower body which is pretty mindboggling considering that he can dunk a basketball and that he is using his legs more. His mechanics is pretty questionable, part from his mostly upper body mechanics, his arm action is not smooth or clean enough and he is not exactly finishing his pitches with athleticism in mind. Sure, his fastball as lot of raw velocity but his other pitches before were lackluster. Good thing he has found a changeup good enough for his fastball. He is still experiencing command issues now and there but he's starting to come around legitimately. But still, his overall movements on the mound doesn't scream athleticism and flexibility that we expect of him in his basketball background.

Another is Marcus Stroman. He's 5'8" yet he throws mid-90s with his fastball and his command is good. His secret is that he repeat his mechanics well, a lot of God-given gift and immense flexibility and aggressive mechanics. 

Last is Chris Sale. He is considered like a modern miracle by a lot because of a lot of flaws in his mechanics as well as his rail thin body yet he is as healthy as ever. Consensus doesn't like Sale's mechanics at all as it got pronounced inverted W. Contrary to that, I actually like Sale's mechanics. I tried it myself and it's pain-free. His mechanics has great amounts of deception in him. Sure he got the inverted W but he throws his pitches in a true sidearm motion, causing less stress on the arm and looking like it's natural. It's just like an infielder getting a groundball barehanded. His mechanics is actually smooth at my opinion and couple that with his filthy stuff, he's secured himself as the filthiest pitcher to face. 

I love scouting pitchers because pitching is a deep science and I love how pitchers go through their craft, developing new pitches on the go when faced with pressure situations. He himself is the best defensive player on the team and a great pitching staff can carry a team to a championship because good pitching beats good hitting. I hope you have learned something out of this about how I scout pitchers and how can it help you scout for yourself. Next time, I'll talk about me scouting hitters. Hope you are waiting for it!

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