Friday, May 29, 2009

Note to the Giants

Well, I was just strolling through the baseball world today and came across a photo that seemed rather telling. Once in a while, a baseball photo will just jump out at me. Yes, this particular photo doesn't have anything to do with the Reds, but it struck me as being a rather telling photo.

If you have seen southpaw Jonathan Sanchez pitch for the Giants, you know he has electric stuff that allows him racks up the strike outs. However, you'll also know that he struggles with his command. Given his struggles, you'd think the Giants would be looking long and hard at his mechanics and suggest a few changes. They have a highly regarded pitching coach in Dave Righetti, but I know where I'd start if I was making suggestions to Sanchez.

It strikes me as ironic that the Giants haven't identified or remedied the potential problem, despite the fact that it is the same problem that afflicted a young Randy Johnson. Way, way back in the day, when the Expos still existed, they had a young, wild fireballer named Randy Johnson. RJ had yet to unleash his true potential and one day had a conversation with Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan. During that conversation, Ryan suggested to Johnson that he change the way his right foot hit the ground after his stride. Johnson had been landing on the heel of his right foot and Ryan suggested that he land on the ball of his foot.

Landing on the ball of the foot increases stability and helps ensure more consistent mechanics. Johnson had been landing on the heel of his foot, which is more jarring and leads to less consistency in the mechanics. It's difficult to establish any consistency if you don't have a rock solid foundation. The Royals suggested a similar change to Gil Meche when they brought him over from the Mariners. It hardly seems coincidental that both improved their command and started to unlock their potential after the suggestion was made.

To me, it seems like Sanchez suffers from a similar problem. Here is the photo that caught my eye:

If you can overlook the awful red hat, then your eye may be drawn to Sanchez's right foot, which is in the process of being planted. Two things jump out at me: 1) he's landing on his heel, and 2) his toe isn't pointed directly at home plate. Here is a closer look:

To me, it seems a likely reason for his inconsistent command. If you land on your heel, then your foot still has to come down to the ground while your arm is coming forward. Here is a better look at why it may be problematic. In this photo, you can see just how far the front foot has to come down after his heel hits the ground.

In addition, landing on the ball of the foot absorbs and distributes the shock of the impact much better than landing on the heel. The other problem I see is that his toe isn't pointed directly toward homeplate, instead it'ss pointed to the third base side of homeplate. This is probably an attempt by Sanchez to correct another flaw, which is that he throws with a cross-fire delivery, so opening his plant foot is likely an attempt to increase his ability to throw across his body. By doing so, he has to finish falling off to the third base side, which again can only hamper his control.

Sanchez needs to stop using a closed off delivery by landing his plant foot more towards the third base side. In addition to moving the landing spot of his plant foot, his plant foot needs to land on the ball of his foot with the toe pointed directly towards homeplate. These changes would increase the stability of his delivery and help him drive directly towards homeplate, rather than having his momentum bleed off to the third base side of home plate.

Anyway, that's what caught my eye for the day. Sanchez has been inconsistent, but a few mechanical changes might help him develop into a reliable top of the rotation starter.

I have the DVR setup to record the San Diego State game tonight, so I'll likely kick off the draft coverage with a blurb on the famous Stephen Strasburg this weekend and then move into some of the candidates more likely to be selected by the Reds.

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