What Role Did Pitching Mechanics Play In Aroldis Chapmans' Injury?
How Much Did Chapman's Mechanics Play In His Unfortunate Injury
It was a scary site. The Cincinnati Reds Aroldis Chapman delivered a pitch to the Kansas City Royals Salvador Perez who laced a line drive that struck Chapman in his face.
As scary as it appeared (video below) he never lost consciousness and suffered only a mild concussion.TimKremchek (Reds team doctor) was relieved by the diagnosis and said he considered Chapman a "very lucky guy."
He did have a fracture in his skull that required surgery to insert a titanium plate in his head (post surgery photo below).
Last season both J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays and J.A. Happ of the Tampa Bay Rays suffered serious injuries after getting hit by line drives back toward the mound.
The Chapman incident happening so soon to the other two is going to spark the debate as to the best way to protect pitchers from injury.
In the case of Chapman it is fair to examine his own mechanics as a reason that he, and other pitchers like him, may be more at risk for this type of incident than others.
The television show Sports Science looked at the physics behind Aroldis Chapman's delivery and how it plays in to his ability to deliver the ball at over 100 mph on a consistent basis.
One of the first thing that famed pitching coach Tom House points out is that the average pitcher strides 87% of their height while Chapman strides 120% of his 6'4" frame which equates to 7.5-feet or planting his front foot just 53 feet from home plate.
While most pitcher release the ball over their front foot Chapman releases his 12-inches ahead of his meaning he is only 52 feet from home plate at his point of release.
It is also discussed that when Chapman releases a 105-mph pitch factoring in all the other strides and release point notes from above the ball may actually be travelling 108-mph. Under normal circumstances a batter will have .09-seconds to react to a 90-mph fastball while that numbers shrinks by 66% for Chapman's heater (0.03-seconds).
That same 66% decrease in reaction time also cuts down on the time that Chapman will have to react to a line drive hit back at him. When he returns he most likely will not change his mechanics and as such he will remain in what can be considered based on his delivery mechanics to be a high risk category for the same type of injury occurring again.
If ever there was a prime example of someone who probably should experiment with one it is Chapman.The question to ask is will he have some sort of protective headgear, possibly one that covers part of his face, when he does return to the mound?
Although a protective helmet may not have protected Chapman the incident has sparked debate from pitchers at the lack of progress made in the implementation and design of protective headgear.
Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Alex Cobb who was struck in the head by a line drive last season is disappointed at the lack of urgency to get the new headgear to the players saying that the model introduced this winter as insufficient. "It kind of seems like a gimmick just to cover their end in case of a serious injury."
"It has kind of made me angry about the cap, the topic itself, just in the fact that they kind of behind closed doors made one available, but I don't think you can talk to one pitcher in spring training this year that has really seen one," Cobb said. "Maybe even a handful of guys. I was expecting when we first got here this year that one would be in our training room for us to test out. ... I don't know whether we're supposed to go online and find it on our own or what. But we haven't seen anything yet."
Chapman Hospital Room Photo: