Adam Conley is surprising some with his sophomore effort, just by seemingly repeating what he did in his debut last year. His velocity, ERA, WHIP — even his swinging-strike and ground-ball rates — are all about the same as they were in 2015. But he’s different! In important ways.
Late last year, in the midst of a decent debut with the Marlins that saw him hitting 94 on the radar gun and shutting out the Mets on their way to the World Series, the lefty starter saw a picture of himself and froze. “I really didn’t like what I saw,” Conley told me a few days before he no-hit the Brewers for seven-plus innings this year. “It didn’t look like what I thought I looked like.”
Maybe the image was something like this one from his start against the Nationals late last season. “I could see in the picture that my front side was gone completely and my foot wasn’t down,” Conley says. “My foot is floating through the air and I’m trying to throw the ball.”
But once he saw that thing, he was convinced. He had to get back to the things he’d heard growing up, when he took the drive to Pete Wilkenson’s camp to work on his pitching mechanics. He had to get away from results-oriented development — “throughout the minor leagues, they would talk about results a lot,” he said — and get back to making sure his process was good.
The effort was two-pronged. He had to make sure he was getting his power from the right places, and he had to make sure his pitches worked together. The results brought him back to where he was, in a more sustainable way, with differences that appear once you look under the hood. And as he describes it all, you start to hear all of the things that we’ve been hearing recently as the new numbers have caught up to the pitching coaches.