VIERA, Fla. - One of the main goals the Nationals have for veteran Edwin Jackson this spring is to correct a flaw in his delivery that may lead to the right-hander tipping his pitches, particularly from a full windup. Jackson went through his first side session today, throwing to catcher Wilson Ramos, and manager Davey Johnson says the problem, first discovered by pitching coach Steve McCatty while watching video of Jackson before camp, is still evident.
“He’s tipping his pitches. I did notice that from the windup, he did show more ball,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t real obvious. I actually went down and asked Willie Ramos, ‘Can you see the seams?’ ... and he said yeah, he could pick up the seams in the windup.”
Like all pitchers, Jackson is following Johnson’s early spring edit to throw only fastballs and changeups and avoid breaking pitches. Johnson isn’t sure if Jackson is doing the same thing when he changes his grip and throws a breaking pitch, but the manager will eventually find out.
In his windup, Jackson briefly drops the ball below his glove and above his front - or left - leg. It’s only a second or two, but enough time for an astute hitter to catch a glimpse of how he’s holding the ball. That, in turn, lets them know what pitch he might be uncorking. Looking at how Jackson utilized a behind-the-head positioning of his hands last year, the Nationals think he might have done the same thing: briefly show the ball when his arms were behind him and he separated the ball from the glove.
“That’s why, I think, there was a differential when hitters hit against him in the windup against the stretch,” Jackson said. “That could have been the problem - or it could have been his command or a lot of things. We’re just looking at it.”
Throwing from the stretch would solve the problem easily, but Jackson might not be as comfortable not working out of the windup, Johnson said.
“Some feel more relaxed, going through their windup,” Johnson said. “They feel like they have better rhythm. It’s all an individual thing, and you don’t really want to tell a guy to change something that’s part of who he is.”
In a high-tech era where every pitch a hurler throws is cataloged in video, it’s hard to believe no one noticed the flaw in Jackson’s delivery before. Perhaps they did, and opted to say nothing. Either way, if there’s something happening that tilts the advantage to the hitter, it’s a good bet there’s extensive chatter around batting cages and in pregame meetings among hitters that it’s happening.
“You don’t dissect yourself on what you do because you do it so often,” Johnson said.