Yesterday, Alexi Ogando struggled against the Kansas City Royals in his first appearance of the year. While it is not uncommon for a pitcher to struggle during spring training, it was how he struggled which worries me. He struggled with his delivery and maintaining his velocity. His next few outings should be monitored closely to see if he has a possible injury.
Three aspects of his first start lead me to think he was possibly injured. First, he struggled to throw strikes. Here are his Strike% over the past 3 years.
Strike% (Strike/Total Pitches)
In his 1.1 innings pitched, he threw strikes only 54.1% of the time. In all, he stuck out no one, walked 2 batters and gave up a home run to Adam Moore.
“He just couldn’t find his release point,” manager Ron Washington said. “He just looked out of rhythm.”
Said Ogando: “When you can’t find the strike zone, bad things happen. I was trying to work both sides of the plate. I threw my change up. Nothing was working.”
Orgando defiantly couldn’t find his release point as see by this chart from brooksbaseball.net.
His release points varied by almost two feet. The problem with a non-uniform delivery is the injuries associated with them. It is almost impossible to to tell what comes first, the injury leading to inconsistent delivery or a inconsistent delivery leading to injury, but where a person finds one (injury or inconsistency) the other is also around.
The final sign of a possible injury was a loss in his velocity. For the game, his fastball averaged 93.1 mph. In case the radar at the stadium was possibly off, I looked at other pitchers who threw to see if they were also low. It seemed the radar gun was on and if it was reading low, Yordano Ventura and his 99 MPH bullets would have been the game’s main story.
He has never come close to only averaging 93.1 mph. In 2010, 11 and 12 he averaged 96.2 mph, 95 mph and 96.9 mph. Besides just his season averages, which were 2 mph higher than his Friday average, he never threw as slow as he did on Friday during a spring training game where a Pitchf/x system was installed.
Date: Average Velocity
3/4/10: 94.7 mph
3/2/11: 94.6 mph
3/23/11: 95.0 mph
3/5/12: 95.0 mph
4/1/12: 95.9 mph
He may have been at times 1 mph slower in spring training, but nothing close to the nearly 4 MPH drop he is seeing from last season.
Only a few number of spring training games have Pitchf/x data, so I went back and looked at his regular season data. His seven lowest average velocities all happened early in 2011. During the time frame, his fastball averaged 94.0 mph with max value of 94.4 and a low of 93.5. Only twice in his career has he seen his velocity drop under 94 mph
I have no way to tell with 100% certainty if Ogando is hurt or not. He may only know for sure. Some signs do point to him having a possible injury like the loss of control, an inconsistent release point and a velocity drop. I would be extremely cautious of picking him up in a draft/auction until he can throw like he has in the past.