Sometimes it's hard to turn off coaching mode, one where I'm constantly evaluating, assessing, watching movement patterns, differences in biomechanics, and just how an athlete operates. Well sitting out in those Wrigley Bleachers, I caught myself deeply studying the two starting pitchers, Travis Wood and Joe Kelly, and their movements and mechanics.
Call me a geek, but I actually took out a piece of paper and pen, and jotted down some notes for this athlete assessment. So here you go, a little analysis of Travis Wood and Joe Kelly.
We'll start first with the opposing pitcher Joe Kelly of the Cardinals. He's listed at 6'1, 185lbs, although I would of guessed he was shorter. He doesn't look very physically intimidating, but when he started cranking up his fastball between 95-97mph, he quickly became so.
Despite his lack of stature he was able to bring such hot, stinky cheese because of his great rotational speeds and arm velocity. He has a really smooth, controlled start to his wind-up, but during his drive off the mound he is very violent and explosive. It's all very controlled and smooth, but you can definitely tell he changes speeds driving down the mound. It's all tough to see exactly from 400 feet away, but Joe did seem to be pretty lanky, and those good levers helped him relay force from his hips to his release.
Kelly is definitely young for pitcher standards. He played outfield in high school, and transitioned to a relief pitcher in college. Today he is only 25, and made his MLB debut just last June. To date this year he has thrown only 77 innings. Pair that with being a relief pitcher through college, and his arm is pretty young.
As you can probably tell Kelly's go to pitch is his fastball, and although I don't have a stat on the percentage he threw it, I would guess it was up around 60+% of his pitches. His fastball has some late bite on it, breaking away from righty's and in on lefty's. With him being so young in the pitching world, he hasn't quite developed a great secondary pitch. He also threw a change-up and slurve in this game, and they were effective enough to keep Cub hitters off balance all game.
This game was a tale of two halves for Kelly. He went through the first 3 innings scoreless, but threw 58 pitches to do so. Cub hitters were falling off balls and taking Kelly deep into counts. Kelly was throwing strikes, but also throwing a lot of pitches. He finished his start with 6 scoreless innings, 6-K's, 3-BB's, and 105 total pitches.
Plus the dude can dance!
Now we'll cover the Cubs starting pitcher on this day, Travis Wood. Wood is similar in size to Kelly, standing 5'11, 170lbs. The biggest difference between the two pitchers, Wood is a southpaw.
Wood didn't quite have the heat that Kelly had, his fastball came in between 88-90mph, but he did have some nice off-speed pitches. His go to is his change-up that comes in at 79-81mph, and he also throws a cutter, slider, and curveball, but is top 3 are his fastball, cutter, and change. He struggles to consistently throw his slider and curve for strikes, but they are nice additions to his repertoire as he usually throws his curve in the mid 70's, giving the hitters another change of speed to deal with.
Wood's mechanics are very smooth and consistent. His arm action is a little unique in that he seems to throw with a straighter arm than most, from a rear view it looks very unique. He didn't have the drive and great rotation off the mound that Kelly has, but he made up for the lack of explosion by his great repertoire of pitches and worked the corners. Wood seems to have been working on his landing mechanics, as he tended to land on a stiff leg in the past, but he definitely was landing in a softer position getting a smooth follow through. Landing on a stiff leg isn't ideal as it usually pushes the pitcher back towards the rubber instead of following through to the plate. It is also very stressful on the hip and hamstring, and has a tendency to lead to asymmetries between the two legs and increase risk of injuries. When you have a pitcher who lands on a stiff leg, it's important to make sure mobility, flexibility, and muscle tone are up to par in the drive leg.
Wood was dominant through his first 3 innings, he was perfect through those first 3 innings and only threw 31 pitches. Then in the bottom half of the 3rd, he got on base when he ripped a base hit. This was great, but he was on the base path the whole 3rd inning, probably around 12-15 minutes. I was interested to see how this would impact the following inning.
Wood started the 4th inning giving up back to back doubles, and just like that it was 1-0. Did being on the base path effect this? You can never know, but it's food for thought.
Wood looks to be a very good athlete. He took some quality swings at the plate, not your average pitcher, and I as mentioned, even had a base hit. He also caught a liner off the mound, and while off-balanced threw a strike to 2nd base to just miss doubling up the runner. It was a very athletic move and he showed good coordination and body control.
After only 31 pitches through 3 innings, he found himself struggling a bit through the next 2. He ended up throwing 93 pitches in 5-1/3 innings, meaning he through 62 pitches through the next 2-1/3 innings. He ended giving up 4 earned runs, despite 1 of those runs resulting from a bone-head play by Starlin Castro forgetting how many outs there were and letting a runner tag-up and score on a blooper just 15 feet in the outfield.
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Go Get 'Em!