Jameson Taillon‘s turnaround couldn’t have come at a better time, as he’s now pitching the way Drew Smyly and Marcus Stroman were earlier in the season. Too bad those two aren’t still pitching that way. The big righty’s improvement offers hope for his colleagues, though Smyly’s situation has some interesting financial wrinkles to it that could color the organization’s view. For all the specifics on how Taillon has rejuvenated his performance, I’ll direct you to an excellent breakdown by Sahadev Sharma of The Athletic.
The nutshell version is that Taillon had to correct some issues with his pitch shape — particularly his curveball — as well as his pitch usage — particularly his cutter — while ensuring he was throwing with more conviction. But the most interesting aspect of his change to me was a mechanical adjustment to improve his hip-shoulder disassociation for greater deception and better location.
“I was getting almost robotic and too to the plate, which would cause me to pull off quick and I would show the ball a little earlier,” Taillon explained to Sharma. “I got to the point where I felt like I was making a ton of good pitches and why are they getting hit? I’m not used to these pitches getting hit. So maybe it’s a deception thing, maybe some metrics are off, stuff like that.”
Every fraction of a second counts, so Taillon flying open with his shoulders just a wee bit earlier than usual may have given hitters that much more time to identify pitches. Pitching coach Tommy Hottovy also believes landing in a more open position was forcing more pitches to move to Taillon’s arm side, which may have caused control and command issues. We’re talking minuscule differences in movement patterns or timing here, the kind of stuff that might not have been possible to spot without advanced tech.
The Cubs have access to something called Kinetrax, which can be used to identify mechanical differences using stick-figure comparisons of pitchers’ deliveries. That’s really good for seeing those little changes in hip-shoulder separation, but slow-motion video can identify issues as well. Whether it’s hitting or pitching, being able to break down a movement in high definition on a frame-by-frame basis is huge when it comes to coaching and analysis.
And what if I told you all of that tech is combined in an app you can access on your iPhone? While it’s not quite as advanced as what Hottovy and Taillon used, the Mustard app features detailed pitching analysis with a variety of measurements and side-by-side comparisons. The Mustard metric most applicable to Taillon would be “torque retention,” which is simply based on keeping the back shoulder closed into foot strike.
While not quite the same thing, the @TeamMSTRD app allows you to compare pitches with stick figures. The video is actually a comp against Cards reliever Ryan Helsley, which is why it’s moving faster. pic.twitter.com/s98I5ZoLk9
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) August 9, 2023
For what it’s worth, passing torque retention in Mustard is not easy even for high-level pitchers. We’re among the OG users of the app and my son has really enjoyed seeing how his results have improved over time, to the point where he has actually gotten a pass or two. One of those can be seen in the video below, which features a comparison of his motion to a stick figure of Lucas Giolito.
Here’s a comp with a Lucas Giolito stick figure. pic.twitter.com/IJFLxU3YYa
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) August 9, 2023
This stuff isn’t free, of course, but the $7.99/month base rate is a pretty solid value. I find that having the ability to track progress and view results from pitch-to-pitch or session-to-session is really helpful, not to mention how the metrics offer a common language to help communicate with your kid. Maybe you’ve had a different experience, but it’s not always easy for me to be on the same page as my teenage son because we may interpret each other in unintended ways.
Mustard also offers live online coaching options starting at $8.99/month, and these can be a really great addition to any physical training. In addition to weekly mechanical analysis with Tom House, they have regular sessions with renowned mental performance coach Jason Goldsmith. His guided meditations are fantastic. They also have frequent guest interviews with the likes of Giolito, Jose Berrios, and Clayton Kershaw. Just last night, we were on a Zoom call with Joe Maddon.
If this sounds like an ad, that’s because it is. I’m not being paid by the folks at Mustard, I just really like what they’re doing and I believe in their mission to make high-level tech and coaching available to the masses. Pretty cool stuff.
Now I guess we just hope Hottovy and the Cubs can figure out what the hell is happening with Stroman and Smyly posthaste.