Stephen Clyne was the third college reliever the Mets drafted in 2007, behind Eddie Kunz and Brant Rustich. The theory was that one or all of the hard throwing hurlers would ascend rapidly through the system and be ready to help fill middle relief roles in short order. Clyne had an encouraging debut in Brooklyn in 2007, striking out 30 in 26 innings, but walking 19. When I talked to a scout in August of 2007 who had seen the Cyclones, he liked Clyne as much as the other two, praising both his hard sinker and slider.
Coming into the season, Baseball America ranked Clyne as the Mets 13th best prospect suggesting that “if he comes out throwing strikes in 2008, Clyne could speed through the system.” He hasn’t thrown enough strikes and thus hasn’t sped through the system. More alarming perhaps was that he experienced a significant dip in velocity. Now back in Brooklyn, Clyne thinks he’s discovered part of the answer.
With the Brooklyn coaching staff, he compared video in 2007 with 2008 and noticed a change in his set position. In 2008, he had raised his hands as demonstrated in the pictures below.
|Low Hands (07, Good)||High Hands (08, Bad)|
What impact did this have on the rest of his pitching motion? When a pitcher, like Clyne, starts with his hands higher, his arm must travel down further, creating a longer distance before he can release the ball. There’s nothing wrong with this for guys with the tempo in their delivery and armspeed to make such an arrangement work. However, Clyne felt that from the higher hand position, he was rushing his arm stroke in the back, artificially shortening it, as illustrated below. Notice on the left that his right hand is nearly even with his right hip. On the right, his hand is 1. in front of his body, and 2. closer to nipple level than hip level. This shortening sapped his fastball of velocity and movement.
|Full Arm Stroke (Good)||Abbreviated Arm Stroke (Bad)|
Pitching from a set position with his hands lower on Monday night, Clyne was dialing his sinker up to 92-93 with nasty movement. Brooklyn manager Edgar Alfonzo said of Clyne’s performance on Monday, “that’s the way he pitched last year,” a fact that made the skipper “happy.”
Clyne concurred, saying of himself on Monday, “I was the regular Stephen and it felt pretty good.”