I was sure Hunter Strickland would be the chosen one. I was hoping he would be an older, wiser, less obnoxious Francisco Rodriguez. Oh, how the Giants could use someone like that, another bridge from the starting pitcher to Santiago Casilla. Except Strickland has allowed four home runs in four innings this postseason, some of which burned up upon reentry. The consensus: Strickland can't get left-handers out.
Which bothered me. This isn't Steve Reed, dropping down and florping in sliders. He throws 97. His breaking ball has snap. He commands his pitches well (usually.) It didn't make sense. So in a way, this made me feel a little better:
Bochy indicated staff thought Strickland was tipping pitches. He tweaked his mechanics during bullpen session.— Alex Pavlovic (@AlexPavlovic) October 16, 2014
Well, that just makes a lot more sense. Now, I'm not the scoutiest fella on the planet, but I figured I'd make some GIFs to see if I could Encyclopedia Brown the heck out of this case.
Here's his breaking ball at normal speed:
Now his fastball at normal speed:
Breaking ball slowed down:
Fastball slowed down:
Oh, yeah. I totally see it now. You see it too, right? Well, he certainly has to see that.
Alright, I don't see it. At least, nothing that is worth staking my reputation as an ace scout on. That is, I'm not seeing a butt wiggle or toe tap or glove waggle, and his eyebrows don't go up and down like he's Piston Honda about to throw a punch. If you're looking for a tipped pitch in the classical sense, it doesn't seem to be there.
But you can really tell the difference between the deliveries. The breaking ball looks easy, low effort. Like he's just playing catch. The fastball looks like he's raring back for extra power. On the slowed GIFs, the timing mechanism of the glove-tap comes at the same time, but the arm action of the fastball is a little behind the breaking ball, possibly because he's slowing down to get more power coming forward.
It's at this point that your eyes roll in the back of your head and close the tab. Wait! I know I'm a terrible scout! I'm just writing as a layman who's seen the above GIFs 300 times, and I figured I'd present the GIFs for your edification. If Strickland gets into Game 5, look at the breaking ball. See if he's trying to make it look a little more like his fastball. Or look at those GIFs and tell me what I'm missing. Or be rude and mean to Strickland and complain about him when he enters the game, even if he doesn't deserve it. Root however you want, I don't know.
The idea that Strickland might have a positive effect on the 2014 postseason, though, is a dream I'm not quite willing to let go. Maybe they can rebuild him. They have the technology.