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A breakdown of DTrain's mechanics


Ramp

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Willis' mechanics are certainly unique. He has always been a pitcher that messes around with his mechanics, changes arm slots, and overall, just does things a little different than everyone else. Admittedly, I have not been following Willis, so I went into this analysis thinking that I wasn't going to find anything significantly different that would make me write an article about it. I was wrong.

 

There are several things that I could point to in Willis' mechanics that have changed over the years, but what instantly jumped out at me is something that I like to talk about often:

 

Tempo

 

Consider this clip comparing Willis in 2005 versus Willis in his July 18 start this year:

 

 

 

As you can see above, I've started both those clips as his right leg passes over his left leg on its way to his knee lift. Willis in '05 is better at keeping his body moving in order to help accelerate his arm. As many of you know, generally speaking, I prefer pitchers who move quickly through their delivery and use momentum to their advantage. I would bet that Willis' velocity is consistently lower now that he's significantly slowed himself down. I would like to point out that the July 18 start is the slowest tempo I've seen from Willis (and his worst velocity as well).

 

That said, here's a clip tracking Willis' tempo throughout the past few years. I synchronized all these clips from the first movement down from the top of their knee lifts. From left to right, they are in chronological order, starting with two clips from 2005, followed by two from 2006 and then three from 2007. I've stopped the animation every time one of the he releases the ball to show you the differences in where each one is, relative to the others.

 

 

 

As the above clip illustrates, the 2005 version is the quickest of them all, with the '06 versions next, followed by the slower '07 versions.

 

Thoughts

 

When discussing Willis' mechanics, the main comment that I hear is how he'll have to revamp his mechanics as he ages. I understand the argument. As he gets older, it will become more and more burdensome and tiring for him to consistently repeat his high-energy delivery. I could argue that this guy successfully lifted his leg up to his face into his mid-40s, but some consider Ryan to be a freak of nature so let's not go there.

 

Most pitchers do tweak and refine their mechanics as they age, and much of what Willis does in his delivery can be considered unnecessary. I vividly remember a start last year in Atlanta (that I saw in person) where he displayed his best velocity when pitching from the stretch and basically "punching-and-going" (a modified slide-step) to the plate. I happen to think that Willis would perform just as well if he were to do something like this:

 

 

 

That said, many will argue that Willis' unique mechanics has a lot to do with his success. I happen to agree with that despite firmly believing that he could pitch just as well by eliminating a lot of the excess noise in his delivery. As I said when I profiled Ryan Pope, the Yankees' 3rd round pick, pitching coaches tend to slow pitchers down who are considered to be "too fast." In Willis' case, it isn't that he was too fast. It is that he was considered to be "out of control." Judging by the July 18 start, Willis seems like he was really trying to "stay back over rubber" longer so as to prevent from "rushing." But he did look like he was more "in control" of his body, that's for sure.

 

Conclusions

 

If you're the Marlins, do you want the slow and controlled 2007 version of Willis? Or do you prefer the "out of control," legs flying everywhere, high-energy, looks like he's rushing, aggressive 2005 version of Willis? I'm not claiming that Willis will instantly turn into 2005 Dontrelle if he speeds his delivery up. There's much more to pitching than mechanics. My question is: Why not start there?

 

Lower the leg lift? Fine. Ask him to not counter-rotate (turn his back to the hitter) so much? That's OK too I guess. Just don't slow him down. His arm, the radar gun, his agent, his fans and the entire organization will be better off if he doesn't slow down. If I'm the Marlins' pitching coach, here's my simple instructions to Dontrelle before his next start:

1) Speed it up

2) Get Rid of it

3) Throw the $!%? out of it

 

Good luck, Dontrelle.

 

Carlos is a retired professional baseball player polluting the internets with a plethora of mechanical jargon. He welcomes questions, suggestions and comments at [email protected]

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Wow. Really great stuff. I blame Rick Kranitz for this, BTW. I hope we bring back Mark Wiley.

 

This is reason #27 on why teams will still give up good value for Dontrelle, and why we should not sell low without a king's ransom in return. Teams believe they can fix him back to his 05 form, and for good reason. They are seeing things wrong with his mechanics. I remember reading an article a few weeks back with a scout saying just that.

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Fun stuff.

 

What the article neglects, though, is that Dontrelle was even more "violent" before '05, that '05 was the first time he was tried to be "reigned" in. My gut reaction, at this stage, rather than trying to recreate his 2005 pace is just to let him go back to his 2003/4 pacing and herky jerk.

 

It's overly evident that Rick Kranitz cannot coach Willis. He cannot come to any conclusion on a effective easily repeated delivery. And he's gotten, arguably, the two worst years out of Dontrelle in his two years here.

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I am making this comment without research, but after reading this and reading about JJ, Anibel, Nolasco etc., we see that our pitching staff is in shambles through mechanics and/or injuries...

 

A thought occured to me (again not based on research), Kranitz came from the Cubs system. Didn't the Cubs have a great pitching staff once with Wood and Prior? Aren't they now a mess through injuries? Is there a relation?

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Great post Ramp.

 

Like Ive tried to point out to the couple of posters who insist that Willis had a "fluke" season, you simply don't have a "fluke" season. You can have a fluke month or two but not an entire year.

 

He still has tremendous value (more probably before the deadline than in the offseason) but I hope he gets out of this rut and remains a Marlin.

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I am making this comment without research, but after reading this and reading about JJ, Anibel, Nolasco etc., we see that our pitching staff is in shambles through mechanics and/or injuries...

 

A thought occured to me (again not based on research), Kranitz came from the Cubs system. Didn't the Cubs have a great pitching staff once with Wood and Prior? Aren't they now a mess through injuries? Is there a relation?

Dusty Baker ruined Prior

 

Wood was always prone

 

I guess there could be a relation, but I don't think that has anything to do with Kranny

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Can someone confirm the velocity bit?

I hardly qualify as an expert of comfirmation, but I remember saying to myself in one of Willis' starts this year that his velocity is way down. He's throwing an 88-89 two-seamer this year, where as, I remember that two-seamer being in the 92-93 range in years past, while being able to get around 95 when needed.

 

I could be dead wrong, though.

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Can someone confirm the velocity bit?

I hardly qualify as an expert of comfirmation, but I remember saying to myself in one of Willis' starts this year that his velocity is way down. He's throwing an 88-89 two-seamer this year, where as, I remember that two-seamer being in the 92-93 range in years past, while being able to get around 95 when needed.

 

I could be dead wrong, though.

 

According to my MVP '05 game, that is too fast for his two seamer.

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Can someone confirm the velocity bit?

I hardly qualify as an expert of comfirmation, but I remember saying to myself in one of Willis' starts this year that his velocity is way down. He's throwing an 88-89 two-seamer this year, where as, I remember that two-seamer being in the 92-93 range in years past, while being able to get around 95 when needed.

 

I could be dead wrong, though.

 

According to my MVP '05 game, that is too fast for his two seamer.

:lol

 

Then, OBVIOUSLY, I'm wrong.

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I am making this comment without research, but after reading this and reading about JJ, Anibel, Nolasco etc., we see that our pitching staff is in shambles through mechanics and/or injuries...

 

A thought occured to me (again not based on research), Kranitz came from the Cubs system. Didn't the Cubs have a great pitching staff once with Wood and Prior? Aren't they now a mess through injuries? Is there a relation?

Dusty Baker ruined Prior

 

Wood was always prone

 

I guess there could be a relation, but I don't think that has anything to do with Kranny

 

 

exact same analysis was done on prior.

 

 

came to the conclusion that it was mechanical more than anything else.

 

 

if you are to believe this analysis of willis you almost have to on prior as well.

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Great post Ramp.

 

Like Ive tried to point out to the couple of posters who insist that Willis had a "fluke" season, you simply don't have a "fluke" season. You can have a fluke month or two but not an entire year.

 

He still has tremendous value (more probably before the deadline than in the offseason) but I hope he gets out of this rut and remains a Marlin.

 

I think it is more mechanics than anything else and have been saying that for some time. And like an above poster I was sorry to see Wiley replaced. On the other hand Rick did a fantastic job last year, even if it was with a bunch of rookies that no one had actually ever seen before and IMO gives the advantage to the pitcher. Maybe he just isn't the one to effectively coach Willis along the same lines it is becoming apparent Olivo isn't the one to catch him.

But the "fluke season" thing? I have to disagree with you there. Or maybe I am using a different defintion of your phrase. I see it as a career year and all players have them. Did you think CJ had a career year before his return to us or did you think he was going to come back here and put up the same numbers he did that previous year? The list could go on and on with a host of different players.

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Psychiatrist: Alright Rick, lets get right down to it. This all goes back to when you stole that car. You wanted to get caught didnt you? punished. Otherwise you wouldnt have thrown the 0-2 fastball to Fields when everyone knows he'll chase the 2 strike curveball in the dirt.

Rick Vaughn: I already threw him 2 curveballs, the last one he hit 460 feet foul.

Psychiatrist: Better than 520 feet fair!

 

 

I think Wiley will be back next year, as the organization at the time didnt want to remove him. IF willis is still here I would expect a better season with Wiley at the pitching coach, olivo gone and hopefully some better defense.

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