Danny Salazar has not been the same pitcher in two starts since returning from the DL. That much we can agree on.
But what is the cause of his issues? That’s the debate Indians fans (and maybe the coaching staff, also) are struggling to understand.
There’s very little we can statistically look at to analyze Salazar’s mechanics, but there are a few things we can discuss.
Arguably the most obvious area where mechanics can go wrong is with a pitcher’s release point. Fan Graphs provides this information, but understand going into this discussion that there’s only so much we as outsiders can take away from this data.
The image below shows three different sample sizes overlayed on top of each other. The largest green image is Salazar’s release point from all of his fastballs thrown this year. The blueish area (seen mostly near the top of the green area) are his fastballs against the White Sox. And the black area are his fastballs against the A’s on Tuesday. [click on the image to see a larger version]
So what does this tell us?
Obviously there is a noticeable difference in his release point from the two most recent starts. My assumption is that this is a good sign. Salazar’s release point is clearly more consistent and appears to be located in the area when he has thrown from most often this season. The blue area from his first start back from the DL is a little more scattered and definitely higher than the majority of his pitches this year.
The consistency from Tuesday’s start lessens the odds that something is mechanically wrong with him, but as I said, this is tough to dissect as an outsider. While it lessens the odds of there being an issue, its entirely possible that Salazar and pitching coach Mickey Callaway are aware of something we’re not seeing.
The other indicator of mechanical issues (and injury) is velocity.
Despite his ineffectiveness in his first start back, Salazar threw more fastballs 95 mph and above in the first inning of that start than in his previous two starts combined.
While the results of the outing weren’t exciting, the fact that his velocity had returned was obviously a great sign.
So considering these two pieces of information, what’s wrong with Salazar?
Unfortunately, this data doesn’t give us an answer. But maybe that’s a good thing. It’s possible the Indians coaching staff simply overestimated Salazar’s ability to quickly shake off the rust from a DL stint and these are normal issues that would usually go unseen by fans down in the minors on a rehab stint.
I’m willing to hold off on worrying about Salazar for at least one more start.