Rethinking Pitching Philosophies, Derek Johnson, and Carlos Gomez

Cubs Den has a post up drawing attention to a Baseball America article on changes in the Cubs’ organizational philosophy related to developing pitching talent. The BA piece focuses on new pitching coordinator Derek Johnson, formerly the pitching coach at Vanderbilt, which famously produced David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, and many others on his watch. Johnson is of the school of thought that pitchers today generally don’t throw enough, and is an advocate of long toss as a method of building up arm strength. While I don’t know enough to have strong opinions on that matter, it did remind of Carlos Gomez, who in a brief stint writing for The Hardball Times in 2007 meticulously dissected pitching and hitting mechanics from scouting videos.

Gomez is currently the international scouting director for the LAAofAA, having also served in that role for the Diamondbacks. The BA article reminded me of Gomez because it was in one of his pieces that I first became aware of Derek Johnson.

Vanderbilt’s pitching coach, Derek Johnson, and I share many views on mechanics. By the way, Mr. Johnson knows what he’s talking about. Send your kids to Vanderbilt to get the best pitching instruction possible.

What exactly are Gomez’s views?

For the most part, I prefer “athletes who pitch.” Athletes move quickly. Athletes get it and go and don’t think about it too much…I like violence. I like aggressive, twisting sonsabitches who “go after it.”

His scouting breakdowns predictably praised pitchers who drifted through their balance point, took long, aggressive strides toward the plate, and accompanied their approaches with short arm actions. This positive take on Jake Peavy is a typical example, as is this criticism of newly-signed Cub Dontrelle Willis. I don’t think it’s safe to assume that Johnson and Gomez agree on all the finer points of pitching, but I would guess is there is considerable overlap. 

Gomez definitely has some retrospective misses in his prospect evaluation, but on the whole, he does pretty well. Take his top five pitchers from the 2007 draft, for example:

1) LHP David Price, Devil Rays (First overall)
2) RHP Rick Porcello, Tigers (27th overall)
3) RHP Jarrod Parker, DiamondBacks (ninth overall)
4) LHP Madison Bumgarner, Giants (tenth overall)
5) RHP Casey Weathers, Rockies (eighth overall)

He also happens to be the first scout I read who at all criticized Josh Vitters‘s swing:

However, Vitters seems to get “extended” maybe even farther in front than Moustakas, and does not let the ball travel deep into the zone…(Bad in terms of power.)

If you have some free time, it’s worth browsing his archives. They are interesting in their own right, and may indirectly shed some light on the organization’s current take on pitching.

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