28 April 2008

Breaking Them Down: Daniel Cabrera (Part 1 of 2)

If you're an Orioles fan, you've come to find lines like this familiar over the past few seasons:
Game A
5.0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 7 BB, 4 SO

Game B
5.0 IP, 4 H, 4 ER, 7 BB, 6 SO

Can you guess the starting pitcher? Okay, it's a trick question. These were actually lines posted this past Thursday night by Tom Gorzelanny and Dustin McGowan, respectively. Of course, no one would hold it against you if Daniel Cabrera was the hurler that came to mind. In fact, Daniel started the season much like the Daniel Cabrera of old:

April 2 vs. TAM
4.0 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 2 SO

April 7 vs SEA
6.0 IP, 5 H, 4 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO

Since then, however, Cabrera has strung together three straight solid outings, with an impressive combined line:

20.2 IP, 16 H, 5 ER, 5 BB, 12 SO

That is an incredible 2.23 ERA and 1.04 WHIP for the normally combustible D-Cab. To quote MJ, a good friend and co-owner of a fantasy team with both McGowan and Gorzelanny, "The only pitcher not pitching like Daniel Cabrera is Daniel Cabrera!" So what has been the secret? This 2 part piece breaks down two starts -- April 2 and April 23 -- taking a look at Daniel's mechanics to see if there are any clues as to the reason behind his apparent turnaround.

Let's start by looking at April 2, a start in which Cabrera struggled to keep runners off base, allowing 6 hits and 5 walks in 4 innings.

Two things jump out. First, Cabrera was very consistent with his release. He's finding the same arm slot and release point in each of the pitches shown. Second, periodically he tends to slip into a little extra movement at the end of his motion -- essentially forcing his follow-through on his back leg all the way across his plant foot and to the left side of the mound. Let's take a look at each of these one at a time and talk about their significance.

One of the most difficult tasks for a tall pitcher is to find a consistent arm slot and release point. Often times, younger pitches will struggle to achieve consistency in this area, which is a huge reason why a "repeatable" delivery is one of the more important characteristics a pitcher can show a scout. Cabrera seems to be much more consistent this year in his motion, and as a result is finding a consistent arm slot and release point. Curiously, as you'll note in the video, the resulting pitches are not necessarily improved. That brings us to point number 2.

Ideally, a pitcher wants his motion focused towards home plate once he starts toward the catcher. Cabrera isn't bad in this regard. At the end of his release, however, his right leg will swing around and land anywhere from directly in front of his plant foot (left foot) to two to three feet to the left of his plant foot. These inconsistencies translate to erratic pitch location -- namely, in Cabrera's case, elevation in the strike zone. The 1st follow-through is generally less exaggerated than the 3rd inning follow-through, and likewise the 5th. Cabrera seemed a bit out of sync towards the end of his motion, and simply lost command as a result. This is still a large improvement from the more serious issues D-Cab has had with his mechanics in the past, but one would expect it to be difficult to find consistent results if Daniel can't work to conform the last bit of weight transfer towards home. It looks like his ideal motion drops his right foot almost directly in between the left foot and home plate (see 0:27 and compare with the two pitches following).

So, you might guess correcting this is the key to his success over the last three starts? Well, take a look in Part 2...


Crawdaddy said...

Sorry, this is off topic, but I love how the audio sounds normal. I mean, you have to really pay attention to realize that it is just a collection of sentence fragments.

Maybe it is just me.

Anyway, nice first part on Cabrera's mechanics.

Hitman said...

Very cool post. Makes me wonder, though - why didn't you grab him in your auction league? He was there for my taking this morning, before I even knew about this post.

Stotle said...

Wow, glad to have your comments, Hitman. Did MJ pass along the site?

If you read Part 2 you'll see I'm not sold on Cabrera having "turned it around". Worse (to me, at least) I don't think there's any real way to determine whether or not he'll be April 2 D-Cab or April 23 D-Cab. Hopefully I'm proven wrong and you end up with a stud on your fantasy team.