Kansas City Royals: Starters encouraged to throw exclusively from stretch

Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images)
Brad Keller #56 of the Kansas City Royals (Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images) /

With a new manager comes new ideas and Kansas City Royals fans are already seeing a change in how the team plans to hit this upcoming season. Mike Matheny is encouraging his pitchers to change their approach on the mound.

We’re already discussed how new Kansas City Royals skipper Mike Matheny is trying to get players like Maikel Franco to hit the ball in the air more; A vast difference on how the team approached hitting under Ned Yost.

Now we’re going to see a difference on how the team will approach pitching, as Mike Matheny wants all of his pitchers to try and work only from the stretch. This is a very interesting approach, but actually makes sense. Mike Matheny’s logic is a bit confusing initially though.

Let’s first help those who might not understand the difference between a pitcher working from the windup and stretch/set position. Most pitchers traditionally work from the windup when there are no runners on base and occasionally when a force out is removed from the equation with a runner on third.

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A couple of examples would be a runner at second and third with first open, bases loaded, or a runner at third with both second and first open. The stretch or set position is typically used when there is a need to hold runners to prevent them from stealing bases.

Refer to the baseball rule book’s rule number 8.01 for a complete explanation.

The windup has just been something baseball has been used to over time. Pitchers have simply just used it and some have even perfected it like former Royals pitcher Paul Byrd and celebrated a bit more by Johnny Cueto. It could be considered intimidation.

The late baseball writer Roger Kahn proclaimed in his 2001 book The Head Game: Baseball Seen from the Pitcher’s Mound that “Most contemporary pitching coaches preach against the elaborate windups. They reason that the more motion, the greater the chance for something to go out of whack.”

Simply put: There is reason to believe that simplifying the mechanics will make it easier for pitchers to master their craft. This should be the primary reason to encourage all pitchers to go exclusively from the stretch. It’s pure replication with less movement. Many of today’s big name starters like Stephen Strasburg, Noah Syndergaard, David Price and Marcus Stroman are already pitching stretch only.

Matheny on the other hand openly said it was “about bases that turn into potential runs that turn into potential losses” when speaking with MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flannigan. Pitchers always work from the stretch to hold runners when the situation dictates trying to prevent extra bases from runners.

If he wants his pitchers to use a slide step with bases empty like what Flannigan stressed, there is the assumption that there will be a reduction in velocity from Royals pitching in the not so distant future. There is research that shows this isn’t the case.

The Royals shouldn’t even be concerned with the imminent rule change that will limit mostly a left-handed pitcher’s ability to make a pick-off move to first. They will now have to break contact with their left foot from the pitching plate (rubber).

This rule change won’t impact a right-handed pitcher. They naturally have to break contact with the pitcher’s plate to execute a pick-off move to first. Matheny believes MLB will adopt this by 2022.

Exclusively going from the stretch will have limited impact on this if it has any at all or an impact on giving up easy bases.

Matheny and Cal Eldred should focus this directly on simplifying the mechanics as well as replication of motion. In a 2008 study by the American Sports Medicine Institute,28 professional pitchers were tested to see if there were differences in elbow kinetics, timing, and ball velocity between the windup and the stretch.

The results showed there were no differences at all. This plays very well into Mike Matheny’s war on the windup. One could also assume that is could also result in fewer arm injuries in the future for Royals pitchers as well.

Repeatable motion could be big for some of the young arms we will be seeing soon. Brady Singer – who already has a very simple windup with very little motion – could very easily transition into stretch only mechanics. Getting more time on the mound than the IL is going to be huge for the Royals future arms.

Baseball tradition tells us the windup will remain a part of the game, but it appears all of the Kansas City Royals staff will be going soon to the simple lift and throw method fairly soon.

Let’s all hope it produces positive results.