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Cabrera's Strides

From Amy in Fort Lauderdale:

Nationals Manager Manny Acta pointed to a host of reasons to be optimistic starting pitching Daniel Cabrera will finally realize his potential with Nationals: Getting out of the American League East, escaping designated hitters, landing at a home stadium with a spacious outfield.
 
The biggest, however, might be the work Cabrera, 27, is doing on his stride.
 
The Nats don't believe Cabrera's infamous inconsistency (he had a 5.05 ERA last year) has a thing to do with his head. They have found physical flaws.
 
The first time Cabrera stepped on the mound for a bullpen session this spring, Acta said Friday morning, Nats coaches noticed that he appeared to be under-striding. This troubled pitching coach Randy St. Claire for two reasons: Too short of a stride can leave a pitcher, especially a big guy like the 6-foot-9 Cabrera, off balance. Even worse, it cuts hitters a break, giving them more time to react.
 
"When you're that tall, you have to use every inch you have in your body," Acta said. "If you're not striding as much as you should, you're short-changing yourself when it comes to releasing the ball."
 
Cabrera is expected to test his work with St. Claire for three innings in today's game against the Orioles, his former team. In his first outing against St. Louis Feb. 28, he gave up two runs (one earned) and four hits in 2.0 innings.
 
"He's a bright guy," Acta said. "He's willing to make adjustments."
 

By Tracee Hamilton  |  March 6, 2009; 11:40 AM ET
 
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Comments

Hooray for Amy!!!

Keep it coming! ;)

Posted by: NatsNut | March 6, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

Five seasons in the majors, and it's a stride issue? Fix that, and he's good to go?

Color me skeptical.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | March 6, 2009 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Guys mechanics can get fouled up slowly over time, looking at guys like Cabrera and Olsen who have seen a precipitous decline in their velocity and productivity that doesn't seem to be because of age (they are both in their mid/late-20's, not 30s) and you probably have either a mechanical issue, a medical issue, or a mental issue. The Nats and St. Claire are doubling down on the bet they made when they acquired these guys - makes perfect sense. You sign them and hope they get better, but hope is NOT a strategy.

Posted by: estuartj | March 6, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Amy for rookie of the year! Way to go, lady! It's absolute Boz-like, but without the additional 1,450 words of verdant green fluffery...

Posted by: jdschulz50 | March 6, 2009 12:10 PM | Report abuse

The Post's rookie is better than most of the Nats' rookies, except maybe Zimmermann, but it's hard to beat perfection.

Posted by: Avar | March 6, 2009 12:14 PM | Report abuse

Hard to imagine a pitching coach like Leo Mazzone never picked up on the "stride" thing. Gotta love St. Claire for all he has been able to do with "has beens" and "re-treads" however I'm in the same camp as Uncle_Teddy.

Posted by: TippyCanoe | March 6, 2009 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Even if DC gets hammered today, there is a lot of time left to work the stride thing out. The O's probably know him pretty well. It's spring.

Posted by: cokedispatch | March 6, 2009 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I second the cheers for Ms. Shipley, though I believe that she falls more into the veteran than rookie category, having written for the Post for years. She's done some Nats time in the past as well.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 6, 2009 12:23 PM | Report abuse

"They have found physical flaws."

... call me a cynic but this kind of comment concerning the arm movements or delivery of any given pitcher, and its parallel in terms of a hitter's swing, always seems far too subjective for my liking. I have never been able to answer the nagging question about why one coach 'this time around' has found the problem, when all others before him have failed.

... I don't say this as any kind of slag against Manny or Randy or Rick specifically. It's just that these pronouncements, when they are made, convey the element of certitude which very often is not borne out later by reality.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 6, 2009 12:29 PM | Report abuse

As I said earlier, they certainly looked at tape and scouted these guys before they decided to acquire them. Maybe the "physical flaws" they found are the reason for their problems, maybe they aren't, I bet 9 times out of 10 they change in mechanics will have negligible affect on their production, but you should still try rather than except them for what they are without attempting to improve them.

It's not like Cabrera and Olsen are Sabathia or Santana, these guys have problems, maybe St. Claire can fix them, maybe he can just get enough improvement to make them passable, maybe their arms fall off - its a crap shoot, but you HAVE to do everything you can to make good on the investment you made, and the gamble that they are better than recent production would dictate.

Posted by: estuartj | March 6, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

Mmmmmmmm.....fluffery....gurgle........

Posted by: dstout3423 | March 6, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

"I bet 9 times out of 10 they change in mechanics will have negligible affect on their production, but you should still try rather than except them for what they are without attempting to improve them."

I don't think anyone's not saying don't try.

But there's a level of certitude in the story that's kind of funny.

Now whether that's the reporter running with a few innocuous comments and blowing them up, or whether St. Claire really thinks he's the pope, well... we dunno.

Posted by: Uncle_Teddy | March 6, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Having read some interviews that Mazzone did after leaving Baltimore, I would say that he was not given the kind of latitude here in B'more that he was given in Atlanta, which might have something to do with it. Also, he phoned it in after the 2006 season, and basically checked out completely after Perlozzo's firing.

That being said, I totally agree that it always makes you think when one team gets rid of a player and the acquirer suddenly discovers the mystery flaw...it's not impossible, but it does give me pause.

Finally, I would say that while Manny and Randy hope Cabrera improves, I don't think they're relying just on hope and will work with him to give him the best chance to tap into that potential we hear so much about. They knew Cabrera had problems when they signed him, so they must have had a plan for what they wanted to do with him before that...But now I'm the one relying on hope!

Posted by: pwelshans | March 6, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

I would never except flaws, expecially if they are unexceptable.

Posted by: utec | March 6, 2009 12:44 PM | Report abuse

ESJ,

I'm with you on the "glass is half full" view.

Cabrera and Olsen are young, raw, power arms with potential and if St. Clair can work the magic he has on several other pitchers then we may have something here.

Posted by: Section505203 | March 6, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

Count me as another vote for more updates. No tv in this office. Are you guys hiring?

Posted by: nattaboy | March 6, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Oh great. MASN is carrying the O's brodcast of today's game with the Nats.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 6, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

estuartj

except ≠ accept

... I agree that coaches and team mechanics must do what they can to fix problems, real or imaginary. But I'm looking for a little balance in the commentary that goes along with it. I'd rather have Randy say it might be a problem but we don't know for sure, than to have him say we found a flaw and we have a course of action to rid him of it.

Posted by: natscanreduxit | March 6, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Amy is our own Carlos Alvarez; she's not in fact a rookie but was a baseball beat writer back in her extreme youth, as I recall, covering the Marlins for the Miami Herald.

Posted by: Tracee Hamilton | March 6, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

I didn't pick up on any unexceptable :-) certainty in the posted story. They give a host of reason's why he might bounce back, but then added they've found some technical flaws, like undestriding, that they are working on.

It's not like they said we've fixed his delivery and now he's going to win the Cy Young (although Kasten on the radio this week said he's capable of thowing a no-hitter every time he takes the mound, but I think that was for PR purposes, not as any kind of prediction of future results).

Posted by: estuartj | March 6, 2009 1:06 PM | Report abuse

There are a lot of if's, but here's why I think Cabrera can still reach his pinnacle.

Sandy Koufax.

No-no-no-no-no. I'm not saying he is Sandy Koufax. What I am saying, however, is that he could be.

The Nationals went up against Daniel Cabrera in a pre-season exhibition game at Orioles Park in 2006 and he made the team look absolutely silly. They saw him again during the regular season and pounded him into the dirt.

I wrote the following at my Nationals' website "The Beltway Boys" on June 24th:

"Cabrera's "stuff" looks electric; I mean, how can a 99 mph fastball not be? His curve, his slider, all the off speed pitches, are top-notch. That said, he seems to get whacked around pretty good each time he takes the mound. One day, he may stop being a thrower and become a pitcher, but, it hasn't happened as of yet.

But it might.

When I was a tiny, tiny lad, I went to a game with my brother at the Los Angeles Coliseum, before Dodger Stadium was completed. I don't remember much, but I do recall this slender, stylish lefty who seemed to be able to throw his fastball through a brick wall.

His curve was so good that when he threw it, my knees buckled.

He lost the game something like 9-1. My brother told me that if he ever learned how to pitch, he'd become great.

Sandy Koufax certainly did.

Koufax "did it" by easing up a bit on the fastball and letting that rainbow curve become his out-pitch. Cabrera has got all the tools to be dominant, but does he have the desire to change his style?

Time will tell.

So far, nothing has changed.

But it could.

For those who don't remember, Sandy Koufax is a hall of fame pitcher who went 165-87, 2.76 before arthritis cut short his career at 32.

During his first five years with the Dodgers, however, he was...well...Daniel Cabrera-esque. Koufax averaged thirteen base runners per game, the same as Cabrera. Cabrera, who is considered perhaps the wildest pitcher in the game, has a career strikeout to walk ratio of 1.5:1 (anything below 2:1 is pretty bad). Hall of Famer Koufax was even worse at 1.3:1.

For the remaining seven years of his career, however, Koufax averaged right at one base runner per inning, and had a strikeout to walk ratio of 4:1, both unbelievable numbers.

Sandy Koufax became a success because he stopped being a 99 mph thrower and became a pitcher. He stopped relying on his fastball and developed a dominating curve. The rest is history.

No, I'm not saying that Daniel Cabrera can become the next Sandy Koufax. But I am saying that Cabrera, at just 27, has "stuff" similar to Koufax, and if he can reduce his base runners by 20 percent (half of what Koufax did), Cabrera could have seasons where 15-10, 3.50 are the norm.

Or, he could be a day laborer by the time he's 30.

Posted by: rushfari | March 6, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

i don't care if he's breathing through his eyelids! dcabby can dominate like few others when he's clicking.

Posted by: longterm | March 6, 2009 1:13 PM | Report abuse

@longterm

With a record of 48-59, he hasn't clicked often enough. And, BTW, there's a new post.

Posted by: leetee1955 | March 6, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

Sounds like he's not clicking...1-0, Orioles, bottom of the 1st, no outs and a man on second.

In his defense, it literally is the O's "A" team against Syracuse's "B" team (lineup has been Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Huff so far...)

Posted by: combedge | March 6, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

great, we got Cabrera straightened after so many years of mismanagement by other folks who don't know a thing about the game...wait, we lost 102 games last year...with this problem solved, maybe only 101 this year...and there is absolutely no way this guy can be compared to Koufax...Koufax was the best leftie in his time...Cabrera's not even the best in his rotation....

Posted by: outrbnksm | March 6, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

I love the back and forth about Cabrera!

First, Amy great work 'ma lady.

There is one line of thinking I keep coming across in regards to Cabrera. A lot of baseball commentators keep making parallels with Randy Johnson and this kid. I keep hearing that it took Johnson a while to figure out his body and to feel the right mechanics. I think you couple mechanical problems with declining attitude precipatated by years of systematic pushing you've got a recipe for bad pitching. St.Clair, who we've got to trust can diagnose the problem, has found flaws, so we can only hope they figure it all out. I'm in the glass half full gang i guess.

Posted by: Berndaddy | March 6, 2009 1:26 PM | Report abuse

A couple things are obvious from watching the first inning.

1) Cabrera has a hitch in his delivery and has his left leg planted before his arm swings toward HP

2) The MASN crew can't stop the verbal fluffing

Posted by: Wooden_U_Lykteneau | March 6, 2009 1:42 PM | Report abuse

So, the Orioles and the rest of major league baseball all missed this from a 27 year old pitcher with that much promise?

OK, I believe the Orioles had just run out of patience after 5 years.

But there didn't appear any other teams immediately interested either.

Are the Nats coaches just that good?

Posted by: leopard09 | March 6, 2009 1:47 PM | Report abuse

He has potential no doubt, it was fustrating watching him pitch one outing he'd look like Bob Gibson then the next he'd look like Bob Jones it will be interesting to see what if anything he will accomplish with the Nats I for one hopes that he can.

Posted by: dargregmag | March 6, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

natscan, just FYI, the except/accept mix-up is a running gag that sprang from a misuse by a commenter.

Posted by: natsfan1a1 | March 6, 2009 4:18 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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