KC Royals: Yordano Ventura Harmed By Odd Pitching Motion
By John Viril
KC Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura doesn’t follow through toward home plate after he releases the ball. Instead, he rears back with both his arm and front leg. The move costs him apparent velocity.
Yordano Ventura‘s lack of a follow through drives me crazy every time I see him pitch for the Kansas City Royals. To my amateur’s eye, Ventura seems like he’s giving up both velocity and control when he recoils after throwing a pitch.
Kansas City Star writer Lee Judge addressed this issue in a recent column:
"According to the Royals’ website, the average extension on a major-league two-seam fastball is 6.12 feet; Ventura’s average is 5.56 feet. In other words, Ventura releases the ball farther away from home plate than the average pitcher.Now take Ian Kennedy. He releases his four-seam fastball with 6.40 feet of extension — major-league average on that pitch is 6.19. Both Ventura and Kennedy are 6 feet tall, but Kennedy is releasing his fastball closer to home plate than Ventura"
Judge goes on to explain that the nearly extra foot that Ventura’s ball has to travel as compared to Ian Kennedy gives the hitter more time to react to his pitch. If Ventura extended an extra .84 feet like Kennedy, he would gain an apparent 3 mph on his fastball (by my own calculations).
Could this lack of a follow-through be why Yordano Ventura doesn’t strike out as many hitters as you’d expect from a guy with his average fastball velocity?
I can’t say for sure. But, I doubt it helps. What’s more, Ventura’s recoil seems to have become more pronounced since his rookie season in 2014. Compare the following two video clips:
Ventura in Game 6 of the 2014 World Series
KC Royals Ventura on August 19, 2016
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By the way, Ventura’s ERA has dropped the last three seasons in a row. Ventura went 14-10 with a 3.20 ERA and a 7.8 K/9 in 2014. Ventura posted a 13-8, 4.08 season in 2015 with a 8.6 K/9. In 2016, Ventura declined to 11-12 with a 4.45 ERA and a 7.0 K/9.
Instead of improving, Yordano Ventura has been getting worse since his rookie season.
I know that changing a motion that he’s used for a lifetime is far easier said than done. First and foremost, a pitcher needs to be COMFORTABLE with his mechanics. For this reason, major league pitching coaches will tolerate flawed motions from pitchers who are succeeding. It’s when they have problems that the player might be open to change.
Retooling something you’ve done for most of your life takes a lot of work.
However, eliminating his recoil could allow Yordano Ventura to finally enjoy the dominant season that most everyone has expected from him since his debut. I also suspect that fighting his body’s momentum like that can only increase the wear and tear on his arm.
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I know that I’m just a fan. But I hope that Ventura’s disappointing season in 2016 will cause him to ditch the recoil in 2017.