Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Big Leaguer Breakdown: CJ Wilson

Before you even say it, I know this video is sideways. I apologize, but the video was the best clip I could find for the pitcher I wanted to profile. I realize there hasn't been a BLB in a long time, but its mainly because I've been so busy teaching pitching lessons and studying pitchers on TV during big league games. I have a new favorite left handed pitching in the MLB and his name is CJ Wilson of the Texas Rangers. His mechanics, especially his finish, are the best in the game; absolutely text book. He's been outstanding all year long and has only improved with the addition of veteran Cliff Lee to the rotation. As of September 1, he is an amazing 14-4 with a 2.88 ERA. He is one of the main reasons (besides Lee and Josh Hamilton) that the Rangers are making a charge for the playoffs. He is our Big Leaguer Breakdown.

Check out this sideways video to study CJ Wilson's pitching mechanics.

You may have to turn your laptop sideways to view it, but the first thing to notice is how compact CJ's leg lift is. I will post pictures of these clips here so you can visualize with me. His hands and front knee are moving in perfect unison and pause at a very high point as his hands are near his shoulders and knee is near his hands. Notice, also, that he hasn't begun moving toward the plate yet. Instead, he is balanced over his back leg and ready to begin the decent of his knee and hands DOWN FIRST before they go to the plate.
In our next frame, we see CJ getting into an athletic position as his glove and front knee work inward and down toward the plate. Young pitchers need to be careful here to notice that he has not rotated his hips too far inward and has not closed his front shoulder off very far. His front hip and shoulder will both still work directly to the target from this position. Also important is the height CJ maintains on his back leg. There is a slight bend in the back leg as he begins to "get athletic,: but he doesn't lose much height has the hands and elbows begin to elevate.

In our next picture, we are focusing on the hips and front foot at the "foot strike" position. His upper half is blurry, but you should be able to tell in full speed that his elbows are up and beginning to rotate forward. What we see in the lower half are the angle of his hips loaded and still closed just before the front foot hits the ground. Keeping the hips closed longer will allow a pitcher to stay on line longer and become more directional when the hips do fire.
Our last clip is the most important. CJ Wilson's ability to explode toward his target and finish with great extension over the his front knee helps him truly attack hitters. He does not walk very many hitters and really prides himself on getting ahead of a hitter and burying him. His explosive but directional finish is what allows him to do this. Observe the final pick and note the position of his chest square to the target and the chin stays on target through release. As the ball is let go, we see his back foot explode upwards. This is key. Many pitchers just turn the hips and let the leg drag behind. This does nothing to help the finish of the pitch. By elevating the back leg (think Johan Santana style) you force the chest to extend at the waist forward. If the chest extends, then the release point gets closer to the plate. If the ball is released closer to the plate then, by default, the movement of the pitch will be closer to the plate and in the zone longer.

Use this video and pics to study CJ Wilson's picture perfect mechanics. Better yet, try to catch him on TV so you can gain a better video understanding of his delivery.

As always, ask any questions you might have and I've got you covered.

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