An In depth article on Fixing Mike Pelfrey - Its a long one sorry
Please Note: This is the dummy down version, in order to fully explain everything it, would be a 400 page book (Currently I have written 225 pages LOL) there is so much more to pitching, where to stand on the rubber, A 2 seam fastball can produce a number of different pitches just by gripping the ball in different positions, or putting more pressure on different fingers, So I wrote this as basic as I could make it.
Fixing Mike Pelfrey- PART ONE - My qualifications
First let me say this, and I don't mean to pat myself on the back, but it is important information as to my qualifications, and background in writing this article.
I have read 100's of books on the subject of pitching, because when I played we did not have "pitching coaches," and very few people actually knew how to pitch, sure you can teach anyone to throw a curveball, but very few actually taught the art of pitching.
At age 12 I started reading every book on the subject of pitching, my major problem was, I would go to my local school, and throw 200 pitches against a wall, almost everyday to master what I had read, and that includes "Screwballs"
I was at one time a very good pitcher, I did have the talent to reach the minor leagues at worst, with a possibility of reaching higher than that. I had very positive feedback at my Mets tryouts, but by the time I was 18, I knew my arm was already shot, I was taking cortisone shots in my right shoulder, and elbow since I was 16 (They were not Dr. prescribed) so by the time I was 18, I knew in my heart my arm was pretty much destroyed.
So when I talk on WFAN, or write an article like this, or just a parent asking questions like "What experience do you have? Why do I think I am smarter than a pitching coach in the major Leagues?" My answer is always the same, 5 operations.
Once I lost the use of my arm for almost 1 year, they took out so much muscle that it took 6 months before my shoulder was able to support the weight of my arm, and I don't mean move my arm, I mean just the weight of my arm hanging by my side. It took a few months more before I had enough strength to actually lift my arm a few inches. So I paid my dues, and then some.
Once any thought of pitching were over, I went back, and started to really study pitching, I viewed thousands of hours of tape, dissected so many pitchers that I lost count, I sat for weeks at a time charting pitches, and after a few years I started to develop my own theories, and my own strategy of how pitchers should pitch.
While I do not possess a piece of paper saying I graduated from some school. I do have enough scars running around my shoulder, and arm to prove I graduated, and I paid more than enough to speak intelligently on pitching.
I was the only one to accurately explain the exact time line Phil Hughes would be going through. I wrote 10 days before it happened that he would be on the DL.
I wrote almost a week before stating that he had more issues than just "Dead Arm" and he would need to go through an extensive examination, and an MRI.
One short story to prove, I paid my dues. One shoulder operation I had a nerve block, because after so many surgeries, I developed a phobia about being put under. When the nerve block wore off later that night, I was in incredible pain, and the pain continued to increase. The operation tore my shoulder up, to remove muscle, and shave down the bone impingement that I had developed. My wife asked the nurse to do something because I was screaming in agony, the nurse actually gave me 2 extra strength Tylenol's, Really I was just cut open, and she gave me Tylenol's
After my continued screaming, my wife, and the guy who was in the bed next to mine pleaded with the nurse to do something. The nurse had trouble trying to contact the Dr. to prescribe me morphine, so the nerve block continued to wear off and the pain just kept increasing.
I was in so much pain I started punching the metal guard rails around my bed, I actually broke one finger, but the crazy part was a small part of my brain that wasn't screaming in pain was actually happy because my shoulder was in such incredible agony, that I was over joyed that I felt pain anywhere else than in my shoulder, I proceeded to keep punching the rail till I broke another finger, and my hand was a bloody mess from all the tearing of the skin. Thankfully the Doctor arrived and injected me and I went under for a few hours. That's the price I paid for not learning to pitch the correct way.
So if you are reading this, believe me I know what I am talking about.
Last edited by mezz1962; 04-26-2011 at 22:22.
Part Two - My Theory on Pitching
Major League Pitching coaches love say "I think we have found a flaw in his mechanics" You NEVER hear them saying "I found a flaw in his thinking," and that is why all pitching coaches are incompetent.
After 5 shoulder operations,and with any hopes of pitching again, I actually took the time to learned "How to pitch." I have trained a lot of pitchers in my time, and while I teach mechanics, I focus on the mental aspect of pitching even more than just the correct way to throw a baseball. My philosophy on pitching is similar to Sun Tzu.
Here are just a few of Sun Tzu quotes that I use, and what meaning I derive from each.
All warfare is based on deception. = Set up a hitter, When you are 1-2 throw the next pitch to set up your ultimate 2-2 "Out" pitch
One defends when his strength is inadequate, he attacks when it is abundant = If you do not have pop on your fastball, then defend the inside of the plate, DON'T let him control you because your missing the "pop" on your pitch. Go High and very tight, or Low and make him move his feet
If your fastball is working then attack the inside with the purpose of letting him hit the ball using only the handle of the bat, Attack the zone as if you want to saw off his bat, so all he has left is a useless bat knob as he runs out his weak ground ball to 2nd base.
The best victory is when the opponent surrenders of its own accord before there are any actual hostilities = 3-2 curve balls, make the batter give up on the pitch before it ever gets near the plate, (also see below). Here is the difference in how I teach, compared to the other pitching coaches. I don't teach my pitchers to think "Just throw a strike" I teach them "Buckle his knees" I want my pitchers to have the confidence that they will already know they will throw a strike, I want them to send a message to the other hitters on the team, that they are out matched, so you might as well go home.
The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought. The general who loses makes but few calculations beforehand. = When on the mound...Think. 90% of pitching is thinking not how to get a batter out in 1 or 2 pitchers, before he stands in the batters box ask yourself "How will I get this batter out on the 5th pitch?" If he get's himself out before then, see the above rule.
Supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting. = Never go into a game with the goal of shutting down hitters that game, your goal should always be destroying the other teams moral, there is no better pitching performance than the ones that have the other team in the dugout already knowing they will make an out when the get up next. Defeat them in the dugout, and beating them in the batters box will be child's play. Perfect example is Mariano Rivera. When Mo comes walking out in the 9th inning and your team is losing, 95% of the players on the bench, already know they lost the game.
Pitching is NOT about striking out anyone, Pitching is about throwing an efficient number of pitchers, to get the hitter too hit the one pitch you want him too make contact on, in an area of his bat that will produce the least results for his efforts.
Pitching is about CONTROL, rather than Dominance
Let me explain my theory of pitching
Every batter facing a Major League pitcher has roughly .500th of a second (1/2 second) to deiced, the pitch type, it's speed, it's location, to hit the ball, most people would think that's pretty impossible. You'll be surprised to learn the human brain can accomplish this feat with plenty of time to spare
The mound to home plate is 60 feet 6 inches. In reality the distance is much shorter since the real distance is from where the pitcher releases the ball to where the batter hits the ball. If your facing a batter who wants to pull the ball then he will have to accomplish this by hitting the ball a few inches in front of home plate.
Since the pitchers are different sizes, and some batters stand deep in the box for argument sake lets just say the distance is 56 feet that a pitcher actually throws the ball.
Now you are an average pitcher, You top off at 90-91 MPH, you have three pitches, a 4 seam fast ball, a 2 seam fastball, and one other pitch such as a curveball, slider, Change-up etc etc
I take out a string 56 feet long and lay it out from the pitchers mound to home plate. I immediately cut it in half, since any major league hitter is able to know the approximate location, and speed of any pitch in .250 seconds. (yes even bench players)
Now I have a string 23 feet long, remove 1/2 that for the batter to figure out exactly which pitch you threw, so now a normal batter has roughly 12 feet left to make his minor adjustments that will determine if he hits it hard, or soft, or not at all.
This is a crude, but I'll use it to make a point (when I talk about missing by inches, I mean length wise on the bat)
If a batter can hit the exact "sweet Spot" on the bat at the proper angle he will produce a Home run. If the batter misses this sweet spot by just 1-2" he will hit the ball hard but just missing the "Sweet Spot" he will wind up with, lets just say a hard hit linear in the gap for a double. Move the ball 2" more off the sweet spot and you'll still hit it hard but generally it will be a ground ball.
The further away from the sweet spot the less power. That is why this 12 feet is so important, because any batter can figure out, location, speed and most can figure out the pitch type. In 100% of the cases using muscle memory a batter can guide the bat to pretty much the exact area where the ball will be, but if he does not have this 12 feet to make minor adjustments, the ball will rarely hit the perfect spot on the bat, and that is my philosophy of pitching. Never let him hit the ball on any part of the bat that can hurt you.
The difference between a 300 hitter and a 270 hitter is one hit per week, that's all! 1 measly hit a week can turn you from an average hitter to a hall of famer. Just making the batter miss hitting the ball a few inches off the sweet spot will turn Barry Bonds into Doug Flynn. The reason there are great hitters is not talent, but the ability to recognize, speed, location and type of pitch faster leaving them more time to make these crucial adjustments, so the ball will meet the Sweet spot of the bat with more regularity, than an average ball player.
So every pitchers goal should be to make this adjustment Zone as short as possible, giving the batter as little time as possible to make these crucile minor adjustments.
There are basically a few ways to accomplish this goal of removing this adjustment zone.
#1 - Throw a variety of pitchers.
This will keep the hitter guessing as to which pitch you are throwing. There have been some pitchers that have accomplished this feat, but generally not many people can throw them all for strikes. If a batter knows you have a slider, but it continually just sails wide, he can cross that pitch off his list of pitchers to worry about. So throwing 3 quality pitches, is much more preferable than 5 less reliable ones.
#2 Pinpoint accuracy.
Mariano Rivera basically throws one pitch, he might as well hang a sign on his neck saying, "Here comes the Cutter" but with his pinpoint accuracy, even if you know it is coming, even if you know what speed, you still can't hit it on the sweet spot, because when he pitches he can move the ball just 2" further outside, and instead of a line drive all you wind up with is a broken bat, slow roller to 2nd. These Mariano Rivera, Gregg Maddux type pitchers are so rare, it really cannot be taught. It is something you are born with or learned at a very early age, so it's impossible to teach it once you are older.
Different arm angles, pauses in your delivery etc.
If you can accomplish a combination of this type of variation, you'll generally be a good pitcher. David cone was very good at changing arm angles, so instead of just watching a spot where the pitcher normally releases the ball, that split second wasted now having to pick up the ball waist high instead of his normal 3/4 angle is enough to throw off the batter. This is a bad method, to teach because you can only use changing arm angles a few times in the game. I do teach the pitch, but the rule is you can only use it, after the 7th inning and only when you are ahead of the count. I use it to set up the real pitch, if the batter waves at it, great. My real goal is just to getting the batter thinking about what you will be throwing next, so for the next pitch your back to your regular motion, but you accomplished your goal of delaying his thinking.
A pause in your delivery, Always messes up most hitters timing just enough to ruin his day. He has seen countless number of pitchers in his lifetime and no matter what they threw, or what angle they released the ball, 99% of them all had one thing in common. One fluid motion from the start of the wind up to when they release of the ball. Look at any game and you'll see the batter has already starting his swing while the pitcher still has the ball. These pauses mess up the hitters timing just enough to screw with his muscle memory timing.
Last edited by mezz1962; 04-26-2011 at 22:29.
Part three Fixing Pelfrey:
First I do not think anything will make Pelfrey a true #1 pitcher, but if he learns to correct his mental, and mechanical flaws he will make an excellent #2 Pitcher
Beside teaching him the mental aspects of pitching that I have laid out above, there are some mechanical things as well that needs to be done before he can actually make use of the talents he possesses.
Pelfrey does not use his legs...AT ALL!
In fact with his motion, it is hurting him! Where was Mike Pelfrey's pitching coaches in the Minors, and now the Major leagues? This is NOT just a simple mechanical problem that needs hours of tape to figure out. This is one slow motion replay away from saying "Hey Mike, why the hell are you doing any running?" Since his back foot is up in the air BEFORE he even releases the ball, he gains nothing from his lower body. It make no sense that not one person in the Mets organization has fixed this major problem.
Did anyone wonder why a person 6' 7", 250lbs power pitcher, who was a strike out pitcher in college, now only averages just 4.7 k's in 9 innings, last year? I hate using comparisons, but it is strange that Josh Johnson who is the exact same 6' 7", 250lbs power pitcher, with similar pitches is able to throw 5 mph faster, and strikes out 10.8k's in 9 innings. The answer is pretty simple he uses his entire frame when pitching, including his legs.
I hate using comparisons because the first thing you hear is "Pelfrey is no Josh Johnson" which is true, but my point would be. "How do you know? Pelfrey is losing 3-5 MPH on his fastball because he is not using his legs at all, so has anyone actually seen the real Mike Pelfrey pitch?"
Solution: In bullpen sessions, In one smooth motion, have Pelf walk off the mound after the pitch is thrown. If he is lifting his back leg he will not be able to do this. It's almost like walking, and throwing the ball without missing your stride, their are two reasons I teach this.
One- it teaches to use you bottom half and not lose the momentum built up during the windup. It also helps develop a pitcher to follow through. So many pitchers release the ball, and then stop their delivery. In order to be an effective power pitcher you must complete a full and complete follow through.
Two - it teaches the pitcher where his body is headed after the pitch is thrown. If his body is walking off the mound toward the first base side, that will indicate he is losing even more power, because his momentum, and body weight is going someplace other than where the ball was thrown. It also means his arm has to make the adjustment for his body falling off to the side, so not only do you lose velocity, but you also lose control.
Extend and lengthen Pelfrey's motion.
Pelfrey stands 6' 7" but pitches as if he was 6' 2". He needs to lengthen his stride, to take advantage of his 6' 7" body. As I said above your not actually pitching from 60' 6" one of the factors is the exact point where you release the ball. That is where the distance starts.
Normally a persons arm length is around the same as his height, If Pelfrey actually pitches using his legs, and lengthens his motion, he can shorten the distance by almost a foot, Using his present motion, if his fastball is clocked at 91 MPH in realty with his shortened delivery it would look as if he threw a 89-90 MPH picth. If he used his legs and lengthened his stride we would throw a 93 MPH pitch, that to the batter would feel like he threw it 95 MPH due to the shortened distance. The longer stride will produce a lower release point and this will produce a later break on his splitter, and sinker and would also fix Pelfrey's problem of his pitches being up in the zone.
Using his Curve-Ball, and Change-Up more
Pelfrey does have a curve-ball, and something he calls a change-up, but he uses it so sparingly he might as well not have it at all. I can't even tell if they are good consistent, quality pitches, because you can't accurately judge a pitch when seeing him throw it only three times a game. In his last game he did not use his curve-ball till the 5th inning. When pitchers were supposed to go 8 or 9 innings this would be a great plan. Normally I would teach this method of using only power pitches (2 and 4 seam fastballs, splitter etc) for the first time through the order, Add the change-up through the second, and introduce the curve the third go round. Problem is this was when pitchers routinely threw 135 pitchers and were expected to get through three and sometimes four times through an order.
Now a days with this obnoxious, and completely idiotic pitch counts, you rarely see a third time through the order. So Pelfrey should use the curve-ball and change-up at least once in the first and second innings just to show the team, he is willing to throw it. Again it's about delaying the batters thought process in determining what pitch he threw and wasting as much as of the adjustment zone as possible.
Use all four corners, and work off mistake pitches.
One of the major problems I have seen in Pelfrey is his inability, or unwillingness to use all four corners of the plate. On each batter he tends to either stay inside, or outside. From my observation, he tends to stay away from the hitters more frequently. He also tries to stay middle to low as far as height of pitches, and you just can't continually pitch like this and be effective.
This really comes down to having a plan and setting up hitters. As I said above, I teach my pitchers not to try to strike out people in three, or four pitches, but rather five pitches. The key of course is the first pitch strike,
My goal for all my pitchers is to get the count to 2-2 and that next pitch is your strike out pitch. Typically we develop at least 20 different plans, lower or higher depending on the age of the pitcher. By the time they get into college, they rely less on straight forward plans, because after a few years of learning, they should be able to produce them in real time.
A typical plan would be: Again for this article's purpose this is simplistic
Pitch #1 - Outside, mid high strike, since rarely do players ever swing on the first pitch you MUST throw a strike.
Pitch #2 - Outside low cutter or sinker, If you have screwed up and threw ball one, then throw this one for a strike. If you did what you were supposed to do, and threw strike one, then try to place it at least 2" off the plate for a ball, hoping the batter swings at it.
Pitch #3 - If the count is 1-1 throw the inside fastball on his hands, Only good things happen, strike great, Too far inside for a ball, I drove him off the plate. But no matter what you want to do with this pitch, throw a ball or strike, make sure you throw it with the purpose of setting up the 4th pitch.
Pitch #4A - If the count is 1-2 I go for the inside curve-ball, if he is on it all he has seen is fastballs and his swing will be too fast and he will hit it foul
Pitch #4B - If the count is 2-1 I go for a 4 seam fast ball outside corner going for the strike. You drove him off the plate on the last pitch, so his swing will be short.
Pitch #5A - If the count is still 1-2 because of the curve hit him again with the inside knee high fastball, followed up with an outside, mid high slider (Cutter)
Pitch #5B - If the count is 2-2 because of the 4 seam outside fastball then go with the inside curve or Outside change-up
I use these methods with high school kids, it's not really for college level and up, but if your just starting out then, yes I would tech them this method, but much more complex.
I want my pitchers thinking, not throwing. One thing I learned in coaching is if the pitcher does not believe in what he is throwing, that pitch will suck, and in more cases then not be hit hard.
I teach change location and speed on every pitch, at worse change one, speed or location. You must keep the batter guessing, and never care what the batter is thinking. you are the one with the ball, you MUST be in control, never pitch something that a) you don't believe in and B) never throw something because you think the batter maybe suspecting it is coming. A great pitch will always beat any hitter, even if the hitter knows it is coming (again see Mariano).
Use your mistake pitches! No pitcher is perfect, instead of throwing a low outside pitch, it sails high, and inside...then use it to your advantage. Wherever the ball went, use it's location to determine what you will throw next. If it sailed high and he swings, then throw the plan for the batter out the window and work the ladder up, if he does not swing, then follow up with a curveball low and outside. I teach this "using your mistake pitches" to teach my pitchers never get frustrated, instead of have a flustered pitcher on the mound wondering, "What the hell did I just pitch?" He is now thinking "How can I use that wild pitch to my advantage" He is thinking like a winner, instead of a loser.
Never comeback with the same pitch if the first one was perfect, example if I throw a nasty curveball, a lot of pitchers try it again thinking the will get the same results, and in 99.9% of the cases it doesn't even come close to being as good, and now the batter will be on it.
If you throw a crappy curveball, and the batter swung and missed, or it was called a strike, and you KNOW with out a doubt that you threw it terribly, double up on it, If you throw a nasty one, he will be frozen, if you throw a crappy one as you did before, well that's your damn fault and you get what you deserve.
There is a lot more things that Pelfrey needs to do, and learn before he could become a solid #2, but if he makes these adjustments, then some of his other faults may fix themselves, but the above MUST be done, in order for Pelf to become the pitcher he is capable of being.
By Dominick Mezzapesa
Last edited by mezz1962; 04-26-2011 at 22:52.
Well i will give you more of a benefit of the doubt after reading this. You know more about the stuff then i do for sure. A lot of these kooks that call wfan like to pretend they know something when they dont
It helps when you paid the price in pain and suffering, I laugh at some of these callers, because the reason why I was hurt, was because of the simpleton things they suggest LOL