Rays Diary

Letter to Tampa Bay Rays:                                             5/27/10

This is the third year in a row in which I am sending you my observations regarding the recurrent batting slumps of Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton.  I have watched almost every game in which they have played in the last two years, either on television or in person only a few rows in back of home plate.  I have recorded (temporarily) several telecasts for review.

Both men have similar flaws in their swings.  If not for their obviously superior athleticism and grace, neither of them would have made it to the major league level.  Noone else could duplicate Carlos Pena's current swing and hit even .100.  Carlos dips his left shoulder towards the plate in an exaggerated manner, delaying his shoulder turn away from the pitcher.  At times, he is left with almost no "cocking of the shoulders" or hands and can only wave at the ball with his hands and arms.  The fact that he is so strong and can hit occasional homeruns without using his body has kept him and his coaches from correcting this problem.  Last year, before his hand injury, his hitting began to improve dramatically because in trying to level his swing, he still dropped his shoulder, but did not seem to lean in as much toward the plate.

Watching B.J. Upton is almost as frustrating.  By rights, he should be a right handed Junior Griffey.  Unfortunately, during his years with the Rays he seems to have lost the ability to use his hips and shoulders to hit a baseball.  Upton's stance is unorthodox, but it served him well for many years.  His swing has changed.  B.J. now stands with his bat upright and tries to shift his weight, but because he fails, most often, to rotate his shoulders away from the pitcher (to "cock" his shoulders), he also fails to use his hips and shoulders.  He either swings and misses or grounds the ball harmlessly foul, left of third base.  On the occasions in which he "prepares" to hit an outside pitch to right field, he rotates his shoulders back, clears his hips and drives the ball to right field or center. 

Most of the time both Carlos and B.J. try to flip their hands at the ball in order to "hit it the other way."  This usually leads to a harmless pop-up.  By arm swinging, both athletes are "committing" their hands too soon, which makes it almost impossible to adjust to a good breaking ball.  Unfortunately, Sean Rodriguez can also be added to the Rays growing list of "arm swingers."

I hope that you will take another look at "films" of the hitters above and others with these observations in mind.  It certainly cannot hurt to look, can it?

Yours truly, 

Allen Finkelstein, D.O./ Rays Fan 


Letter to Tampa Bay Rays:                                Rays Diary:  5/29/10

Last night, I watched the Rays lose to Chicago by a score of 3 to 2.  David Price, undoubtably the most talented and unhittable pitcher on the staff struggled all evening with his control.  None the less, Price pitched seven innings and gave up only three runs.  He gave up a home run to the weakest hitter on the entire White Sox team.  The pitch looked like a fast ball that stayed "up."  The reason the pitch stayed "up" is the same reason that Price had so much trouble with his control.  It is the same reason that Scott Kazmir struggles, so mightily with his control.  Price and Kazmir, like pitchers Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan, and Jerry Koosman before them, are what Rube Walker, famous Mets Pitching coach called "three quarters pitchers."  This means, essentially, that they throw from "two o'clock" if they are right handed and from a "ten o'clock" position if they are left handed.  The trajectory of the pitch is clearly "downward," making even the slowest of pitches difficult to hit with any authority.

When a "three quarters" pitcher drops his arm angle towards either "three o'clock" for a "righty" or "nine o'clock" for a "lefty," he loses his downward trajectory as well as his balance.  His pitches end up wide of their intended target and "up" in the strike zone.  This is precisely what happened to David Price, resulting in a home run by the feeble hitting Castro.

It is almost forty years, I think, since I heard Coach Walker interviewed, but I can still remember him talking about "keeping the elbow in" and "rotating the shoulder and back" to avoid injury to the pitching arm.  Personally, I believe Rube Walker should be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as a pitching coach.  Whether or not this happens is beyond my control, but I don't think it would hurt if the Rays paid attention to the advice of one of the best pitching coaches of all time.

Allen Finkelstein, D.O.      5/29/10


Letter to Tampa Bay Rays:                                 Rays Diary: 6/01/10    

Yesterday, I watched one of the most poorly planned pitching performances of the year.  I hadn't seen such a massive brain spasm since last year when Jim Hickey and James Shield orchestrated a similar debacle against the New York Yankees.  Somehow the two "thinkers" have decided that Shields must establish his mediocre fast ball before his considerably above average breaking balls can work.  Needless to say, both baseball scholars were easily outwitted by first class "first pitch/fastball" hitters.  So, why bother starting these hitters with first pitch fastballs in their wheelhouses?  Why are Rays pitchers constantly doing this?

Last year, after giving up three first inning runs to the Marlins, James Shields went deep into the game, giving up only one more run, a bases empty homer, late in the game.  The Rays tied the game, but later lost a one run decision.  When asked to explain his first inning problems, Shields explained that establishing his fast ball early in the game against fastball hitters was a mistake.  Instead he used hard sliders to establish his change-up and to set up his fastball.  He proceeded to pitch quite well for months, until a game against the Yankees in which he was shelled early on, giving up first ball fastball homeruns to anyone taking a full swing.  "A word to the wise" is supposed to be "sufficient."  I think now now would be a good time to "be wise."

Allen Finkelstein, D.O. /Rays Fan