Knapp ges the WSJ treatment

Rick Knapp has made the big time now. No, not just his job as pitching coach for one of the AL’s best staffs, but he was the subject of a feature in the Wall Street Journal. He was mostly anonymous until the Tigers hired him to replace Chuck Hernandez and now he’s been dubbed a miracle worker. Nice career arc for Mr. Knapp.

Lot’s of good stuff in the article, but one thing in particular caught my eye:

Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and John Smoltz crafted Hall of
Fame-caliber careers with the assistance of split-fingered fastballs.
Mr. Knapp frowned on it, viewing the splitter as a “trick pitch” that
harmed young arms more than it helped them.

“If you spread your first two fingers out and extend your arm as you
throw the ball as hard as you can, that doesn’t feel real good,” he
says.

Interesting in the sense that Bonderman is trying to develop the pitch as we speak. But Bonderman also is far removed from being a rookie.

The Detroit Tigers’ Miracle Worker – WSJ.com

Recapping the first workouts

The beats were busy with the first official workout of the spring. Seriously, multiple stories and blog posts throughout the day, even a live blog from Morosi. A quick rundown of the stories from Tiger Town…

Rick Knapp

After 20+ years in the minors, this was Rick Knapp’s first day as a big leaguer. This got a fair amount of attention and Jim Leyland was pretty excited for him.

“This is huge for him,” Leyland said of Knapp. “All those years in the minors, and now this is his first day in the big leagues. It’s one of the most exciting parts of our first day of camp, to be honest with you.

I’m a fan of the Knapp hiring and am I excited to see what he can do. But Chuck Hernandez looked to be a genius in 2006 before he suddenly forgot how to coach (that’s sarcasm). I do like that he doesn’t seem to have a specific pitch or philosophy (other than throwing strikes) and instead tailors the message to the individual. For Zumaya it is an emphasis on long toss and a change-up.

Dontrelle Willis

Part of Knapp’s plan for Willis is for just to be himself (the successful self from his days with the Marlins, not last year’s version). The early reports are positive, but it is only day 1. Part of that is due to improved conditioning that has him five pounds lighter.

Fernando Rodney and his alligator tooth cr- Roger DeWitt
Fernando Rodney and his alligator tooth cr- Roger DeWitt

Willis, along with Robertson and Miner are all in the mix for the 5th starter spot. It has led Henning to once again speculate a trade could be coming. There are obstacles in the way of course, like those big honkin’ contracts that don’t mesh with the 08 seasons for Willis and Robertston. But… I’ve heard similar rumblings. That’s not to say they’ll come to fruition, but I don’t think Henning is off base with this. The Tigers rotation, while not as strong at the top, matches up well with the rest of the division looking 1-5 (or 6 or 7).

Zumaya and Rodney

Joel Zumaya is trying to gain weight and get back into his 2006 form. Whatever it takes is okay by me. Meanwhile Fernando Rodney is sporting an alligator tooth around his neck. It came from an alligator that was wrestled in a river. Supposedly.

Work in progress

Joel Zumaya and Dontrelle Willis throwing with Rick Knapp watching (2/3/09 credit Roger DeWitt)
Joel Zumaya and Dontrelle Willis throwing with Rick Knapp watching (2/3/09 credit Roger DeWitt)

The official reporting date is over a week away, but things are getting busy at Tiger Town. The fact that Zumaya is on a mound is progress in itself. For more, Roger DeWitt has a nice collection of images from yesterday’s workouts.

Strike Throwing – Part 1 – Lots of Tables

Table of contents for Strike Throwing with Pitch f/x

  1. Strike Throwing – Part 1 – Lots of Tables

The Tigers walked a lot of people last year. Along the way they threw a lot of pitches, and many seemed to be ill advised. The performance cost Chuck Hernandez his job, jettisoned in favor of an instructor whose students have gone on to gain some renown as strike throwing machines. Armed with a season’s worth of pitch f/x data I’m ready to start delving into this whole strike throwing thing. We’ll start today with some general league wide information.

For those unfamiliar with pitch f/x I’ll have some additional links to more information at the end of this article. The short explanation is a couple of cameras measure the direction and speed a ball is moving shortly in front of the mound. From this the pitch’s path is calculated to within an inch of where it crosses the front of home plate. And it draws the trajectory in the MLB.com Gameday application. On to the data…
Continue reading Strike Throwing – Part 1 – Lots of Tables

Tigers name Rick Knapp pitching coach

The Tigers found their pitching coach, and they poached him from the Twins. He is Rick Knapp and he’s served as the minor league pitching coordinator for the last 12 years in the Minnesota organization.

I really like this move. The Twins have a tradition of producing striking throwing machines on a regular basis, and you’d have to think that Knapp gets some of that credit. The Twins have walked the fewest number of hitters in the AL in 4 of the last 5 years.

The trick for Knapp now is to see if he can translate his development skills to pro pitchers and get the Tigers staff throwing strikes. His biggest challenge of course is with Dontrelle Willis, who’s struggles are well known. He will largely be evaluated though based on his work with Justin Verlander to see if he can help Verlander regain his studly-ness.

I am excited about Knapp’s long term potential impact as he imparts his philosophies on the young pitchers in the organization. Plus he won’t be churning out those arms for the division-rival Twins anymore.

Google Stalking

  • Jeff Passan wrote an article in August and Knapp was largely the subject. But one takeaway was that the Twins control strength goes beyond instruction and it is an organizational philosophy that goes down to talent evaluation. It will be very interesting to see what Knapp does with guys who were largely sought out for velocity and stuff.
  • In an article about Kevin Cameron, Cameron mentions that one year there was a rash of shoulder injuries to many Twins minor league pitchers. I don’t like the sound of that, but don’t know enough about it to judge either.
  • Knapp was discussed in reference to some tools and techiniques he used in assisting David Bromberg. (h/t)