Feb 26

Tinker tailor pitcher spy

I had hoped to do a big pre-Spring Training piece on Chad Billingsley, but that got lost in the ongoing shuffle of my life. But Tony Jackson of ESPNLosAngeles.com has a good lidlifter on Billingsley, whose mechanics continue to be a work in progress.

… After throwing his second bullpen session of spring training last week, Billingsley spent several minutes talking with Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, who at one point could be observed manually adjusting Billingsley’s front foot in midair while Billingsley stood frozen at the apex of his delivery.

This is what spring training is for, obviously, to iron out little things. But this is a fairly big change for Billingsley, who is trying to stop kicking his front leg out during his delivery — which often results in his body getting ahead of his arm and sometimes allows gravity and momentum to affect his motion — and start keeping that leg underneath his body.

“I don’t know if it’s major,” Billingsley said. “I’m just working hard at smoothing out my leg kick. When my foot gets out away from my body like that, my timing has to be just right. If it’s not, then I start drifting toward the third-base side and stepping across my body when I deliver the pitch.”

And that results in the pitch being off line, maybe no more than an inch or so — but in the big leagues, that can be the difference in a game. Billingsley is hoping this adjustment will allow him to stay on line more often, giving him a little more margin for error with the rest of his delivery because his timing will be right and his momentum won’t cause him to fall off to one side of the mound.

“You can’t be perfect all the time, even though that is what you strive for,” Billingsley said. “There are going to be times when I’m still going to be too quick (with his body). But this should allow me to be more consistent.”  …

  • One of the more positive assessments of the 2012 Dodgers you’ll see comes from Ben Reiter of SI.com.
  • Steve Soboroff regrets getting on Team McCourt last year, he tells T.J. Simers of the Times, and advises McCourt to sell the Dodger Stadium parking lots with the team.
  • Not surprisingly, the Dodger Sims lineup simulator and Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness find it best – for the Dodgers to bat A.J. Ellis leadoff and Dee Gordon eighth – but not so much better that we need to stew over it. (My post about the Dodger batting order came last week.)
  • The Dodgers’ annual open tryout at Camelback Ranch is March 1. Potential prospects can call (323) 224-1512 for details and instructions.
  • Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. ran down a typical day at Spring Training the other day.
  • Stephen also passes along Don Mattingly’s initial thoughts from Camelback about Dee Gordon: “It’s a time issue with Dee. I don’t think we can say, ‘We want you to walk.’ I think we want to let him hit, let him be himself, and let him progress into the role.”
  • Jacob Peterson of Beyond the Box Score has an interesting post about extremes involving the ages of baseball Hall of Famers.
  • The departure of Tony LaRussa as Cardinals manager is the only thing that paved the way for Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith to rekindle his relationship with the team, writes Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
  • Sportsthodoxy offers “Your Handy Ryan Braun Conspiracy Theory Guide” (via Rob McMillin at 6-4-2).
  • If you know in advance that you’re going to limit an ace pitcher to 160 innings in a season, as the Nationals plan to with Stephen Strasburg, how would you do it? David Pinto of Baseball Musings and Tom Tango (in a blog post and the comments below) contemplate the question.
  • An excellent story of how sabermetrics – not to mention FireJoeMorgan.com turned around the career of A’s pitcher Brandon McCarthy is told by Eddie Matz of ESPN the Magazine.