Mariners Analysis

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Weaver delivery

A few people emailed me regarding Weaver and his "success" on Saturday. The arguments were generally in two camps:
1) They saw a change in his mechanics
2) They saw better stuff

I've gone on record as saying I thought any argument that Weaver was better on Saturday was a crock of shit. Just as we shouldn't judge a pitcher solely on one outing, or W-L record, or ERA, we need to be careful about throwing praise someones way based on 5 innings.

The danger of course is you trick yourself into giving the pitcher more opportunities then he's earned. Hargrove is convinced Weaver is showing progress. Hargrove knows far more about baseball than I do. Yet he is risking his job by continuing to allow someone to fail by putting them in a situation they have no chance to succeed.

Let's address what some people might be seeing in Weaver and why they think he's getting better.


When a pitcher with at least some record of success starts pitching poorly, two concerns in every pitching coach's mind leap out- injury or mechanics.

With Weaver, we have no reason to believe he's pitching hurt. He has gone on record as saying health is not an issue, and his velocity and movement appear normal for him. So let's assume with Jeff it's not injury related.

The next concern is mechanics. Human beings have a funny way of constantly inserting new routines/habits/positions in their routines, often subconsciously. No matter how many times you practice something, your mind and body have a habit of altering it slightly. Any one who's played golf can attest to this- it makes certain activities impossible to master. Tiger Woods is always trying to remove flaws that weren't there, and pro actively eliminate new ones even while he wins tournament after tournament. As your body ages and muscles lose elasticity and strength, your routines need to change as well.

We don't need inside knowledge to know the Mariner pitching staff has looked at Weaver's mechanics over and over, trying to see what changed between now and last years playoffs. We can also be confident they have suggested changes to his mechanics to try and improve his velocity, command and movement.

You don't have a pitcher experience the disastrous results Weaver has and not try to tweak his mechanics. Whether it's pushing off the mound more deliberately, pitching from the stretch differently, keeping your shoulder closed... you need that pitcher to feel something has changed that improves his confidence, whether it's real or imagined.

So yes, Weaver's mechanics were different on Saturday. Which leads us to point number two.

Did it make a difference?

Not from my vantage point. I didn't see increased velocity, increased movement or better command. Jeff Weaver has not been built on velocity anyway, and command in the general sense has not been his problem. He's not walking batters he used to strikeout, his problem is simply finding too much of the plate.

He's serving meatballs every night! The fact he gets away with it for a stretch of a few innings doesn't diminish the fact he's not a very good pitcher. Is there any pitcher worse in the major leagues right now?

As he's gotten older, his pitches have flattened, his velocity has dropped and his ability to get outs has diminished. It happens to 95% of all pitchers soon enough- I believe Weaver is likely done as a pitcher. It will take more than just a tweak to his mechanics to have him be a successful pitcher in the AL. I know the M's management doesn't want to hear it, but I believe it to be true.

If you really saw a different Jeff Weaver on Saturday I really hope you're right. While I think he should have been removed from the rotation two starts ago, the experiment continues.

We'll know who was right soon enough.