Mitchell Boggs and the Consistent Delivery

by on April 18, 2012 · 1 comment

I love it when post titles double as a band name.  And vice versa.

As long ago as Spring Training 2010, Mitchell Boggs was searching for a consistent, repetitive delivery that would bring him success in his newfound role as a relief pitcher.

From that post at Matthew Leach’s blog, Dave Duncan had this to say about Boggs at the time:

“Boggs has a funky delivery that takes a while to get in a good rhythm with good timing to get good results. His stuff is great. He’s kind of like [Rich] Hill, his command is not what it needs to be yet. Both guys have deliveries that are troublesome. He’s got a lot going on. Got a lot of movement in his delivery. I think he just finds a rhythm, and in spite of the fact that he’s got all these things going on, he’s able to get to a consistent release point. That’s why it takes him longer to get there.”

Fast forward to 2012, and two-plus full seasons into a role as a reliever, and Boggs and his coaches are still tinkering with his delivery and approach on the mound.

I first noticed the difference in Boggs’ motion during the Cardinals’ April 8th win in Milwaukee, specifically:

Mitchell Boggs‘ mechanics looked different to me, like he’s standing up straight when he releases instead of driving over that front leg. Is this new? Yesterday was the first time I noticed it, or at least that pronounced.

Thankfully, Dan and Al were happy to oblige my question on the following broadcast:

Dan and Al mentioned on the broadcast last night that the Cardinal coaches have Boggs coming more over the top in his delivery this season, which may explain my observation from Sunday that he looked like he was “standing up” in his release.

So what’s the big difference? Well, as I’ve mentioned already, visually Boggs is releasing the ball differently – higher. The body, the trunk, is more vertical, almost to the point of seemingly standing up as he drives forward onto the front leg. Additionally, his arm angle is much higher, which seems to follow with the more upright body and drive position from the rubber.

Here is Boggs’ release point in October 2011:

Hinged at the waist, falling a bit toward the first base line, three-quarter sidearm.

And now Boggs from the Milwaukee series earlier this season:

You can see a less-pronounced angle in his front (drive) leg toward the first-base line, far less (and seriously, watching this live he looks like he’s standing up on his front leg) hinge at the waist, and the arm angle is much higher.

The results? They’re after the jump…

Well, small sample-size warning assumed and forewarned, they’ve been really positive.

Year W L ERA G GF SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO BF ERA+ WHIP H/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2011 2 3 3.56 51 20 4 60.2 62 27 24 4 21 2 48 260 103 1.368 9.2 3.1 7.1 2.29
2012 0 0 1.29 5 0 0 7.0 4 2 1 0 0 0 7 25 296 0.571 5.1 0.0 9.0
5 Yrs 9 11 4.24 141 45 4 227.0 239 115 107 17 103 4 166 1002 93 1.507 9.5 4.1 6.6 1.61
162 Game Avg. 4 5 4.24 61 20 2 99 104 50 47 7 45 2 72 437 93 1.507 9.5 4.1 6.6 1.61
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2012.

That’s all fine and good – more strikeouts, fewer walks, fewer hits. But the real impact lies within the individual pitches more than the outcomes.

Boggs is exhibiting improved command and control over his repertoire in higher leverage situations (aLi of 0.730 in 2011 versus 1.079 in 2012). Remember a quote from Mitchell at the Cardinals’ Winter Warm-Up in January? From B.J. Rains of Fox Sports Midwest:

Boggs … said at the team’s annual Winter Warm-Up that he felt he could compete with anyone in the league and expected to be “really good” this year.

I would consider his results so far to be “really good.”

Year PA Pit Pit/PA Str% L/Str S/Str F/Str I/Str AS/Str AS/Pit Con 1st% 30% 02% L/SO 3pK 4pW
2011 261 971 3.72 61% 24% 16% 28% 32% 76% 46% 79% 52% 7% 18% 17% 7 8
2012 25 92 3.68 68% 25% 17% 29% 29% 75% 51% 77% 68% 4% 28% 0% 1 0
5 Yrs 1006 3754 3.73 59% 26% 15% 26% 32% 74% 44% 79% 55% 6% 17% 16% 30 25
MLB Averages 3.81 63% 28% 15% 27% 30% 72% 45% 79% 59% 5% 23% 25%
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 4/18/2012.

The stat table reads like a pitching coach’s dream. Fewer pitches per at-bat, more strikes, more first-pitch strikes, fewer 3-0 counts, and more 0-2 counts. Anything else Boggs can do? Balls in play per strike are down because of more strikes, pitches swung at are up because of more strikes, and ultimately more outs are made.

It’s early. Plenty of poor pitches yet to be made. Yet Mitchell Boggs appears to have found a tweak in his delivery that is working for him. In the life of a relief pitcher where any success, regardless of early and/or fleeting, is welcome – the difference and hope for continued results is noteworthy.

As manager Mike Matheny noted from the previously linked Rains article:

“I think he’s a valuable piece. I think so and I know so. For him to get out there and continue to make good pitches and have good results, I think is a big part of our bullpen. … I wanted to encourage him that what he’s doing differently is going to work.”

For both the manager and the pitcher, so far so good.

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Writing about the Cardinals and other loosely associated topics since 2008, I've grown tired of the April run-out only to disappoint Cardinal fans everywhere by mid-May. I do not believe in surrendering free outs.
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