CURED

In unison, everybody, doing your best Bryan Price:

Silva has been working all year to figure out why his sinker isn't working the way he'd like. It isn't sinking much. That's a big reason why he needed 100 pitches to get through five innings against the Tigers last Thursday.

It turns out, Silva made a between-starts mechanical adjustment. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, an ex-sinkerballer himself, felt Silva was squeezing the ball too hard. So, instead of holding his hands up near his chest as he began his windup -- which Silva felt caused his arms to press together and his fingers to grip the ball tighter -- he held them at waist level tonight.

Photographic evidence of this striking transformation:

Silvahands_medium

One little adjustment and Silva goes from five runs in five innings to two runs in eight. Remarkable! This hand position thing sounds like the real deal. Stottlemyre sure does know what he's doing.

So just what kind of difference did Silva's shiny new sinker make, anyway? With 25 non-bunted balls in play tonight, it's probably pretty safe to assume that he was generating a bunch more groundballs than before. After all, that's what a sinker's supposed to do, right? Let's have us a look see:

GB FB LD
First 18 Starts 45% 35% 20%
Tonight 36% 32% 32%

Buhh. Maybe we're getting some extra noise in here from his changeup and slider. How about we isolate the balls Oakland put in play against his sinker?

GB FB LD
Tonight 14% 50% 36%

Well that doesn't make any sense at all. It's almost as if...it's almost as if his sinker was actually worse tonight than it had been before. Save us, PITCHf/x. In your infinite wisdom, at least show us that Silva's sinker did indeed have more sink tonight, and that the A's just so happened to put it in the air. Let's do a movement comparison between tonight and Silva's 100-pitch/5-inning start against the Tigers last week, the start over which Silva's so embarrassed:

pfx_x pfx_z
7/3 -9.5 5.8
7/8 -9.3 6.6

Wait. So you mean to tell me that Silva's sinker actually had 0.8 inches less vertical drop than it did against Detroit? Impossible! Getting more sink is why he made the whole change in the first place! Something fishy is going on. Something fishy is going on, and I don't like it one bit.

-----

...I'll stop playing around and get to the point. Carlos Silva may have made a little mechanical adjustment, but that isn't why he just threw eight solid innings of two-run baseball. Carlos Silva just threw eight solid innings of  two-run baseball because the A's can't hit. Not because of some improved sinker. Because the A's have a bad offense that runs into trouble when it faces a guy that throws a lot of strikes. Simple as that. It's the exact same thing we're hearing about Jarrod Washburn right now. Washburn will tell you he's built off a little change he's made since taking the advice of his collegiate pitching coach, but really, he's just been facing bad lineups. Pitchers don't like to hear that sort of thing, though (as you can imagine), so they point to something they did a little differently as being the reason behind any success. Correlation and causation and all that. If a pitcher makes a minor tweak (which they do all the time anyway) and then goes out and throws a heck of a game, he'll credit the tweak, even if it wasn't responsible for the success in the least. It's up to us to pick out what's real and what's just a fairy tale.

You want to know the truth? Silva's sinker has had a little more drop recently than it used to. His season average pfx_z is 8.3 (the same as last year, incidentally, even though he only now feels he isn't getting enough sink), but again, today he was at 6.6. So in that regard, he's right, there is a difference. However, he was at 5.8 a week ago against the Tigers and sucked hard, so what do we make of that? How do we reconcile these two data points?

(1) The hand position didn't do anything. Silva only lowered his hands today and his sinker sank less than it did against Detroit.
(2) Therefore what's going on is either (A) nothing, or (B) due to some other change he made earlier. Baker quotes Silva as saying that he and Stottlemyre have "been trying so many things" over the weeks, so I guess it's possible they did something before the Detroit game to give his sinker more drop, something people don't want to talk about because the Detroit game was bad.
(3) Pitchers don't talk about mechanical adjustments when they fail. Silva's sinker clearly dropped more against Detroit than it did on average before, but because he sucked, he didn't say a word. Reported mechanical adjustments are therefore selective for success. You don't read too many stories about guys making changes and not making any progress, and when you're only getting one side of the whole thing, it kind of negates its usefulness. Discussing how Silva's theoretical little changes may or may not have made a difference tonight does us no good if we don't also discuss how it may or may not have made a difference last week, but seldom can we ever know when a pitcher made a change that didn't work, so what's the point?

Remember how Silva was supposed to throw a splitter this year to combat tough lefties? Yeah. Safe to say I'm getting pretty sick of these things. They sound good on the surface, but there's so little actual substance in there that it's almost impossible to separate the wheat from the chaff, and...and now I see that Dave just put up a post about the same freaking thing. Uh. Son of a bitch...

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