Jump to content
Twins Daily
  • Create Account

Fixing Jordan Balazovic


 Share

Entering the 2022 season, Minnesota Twins minor league starting pitcher was considered by many to be a borderline top 100 prospect and by most to be the top pitcher in the team’s farm system. However, a brutal campaign—which was delayed until mid-May due to a left knee strain—has dulled the Canadian’s once glistening sheen.

Image courtesy of Theo Tollefson, Twins Daily

Jordan Balazovic was held to a mere 70 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level where he posted a mind-numbingly poor 7.39 ERA, by far the worst of his career. His peripheral numbers weren’t much better. Below is a comparison of how Balazovic has performed in many key stats over his last three seasons. (He didn’t pitch in 2020 due to the pandemic.)

fENSibudul-jMw2vN975LCnmAVDkxyCg-qRt-jmOIZZGU6kRudvmZdCuiEpXVJwJ2-tCQW4yy1h0v7ZBOP6dX78XV9FLvinmYeR2PIfDqVCXqbMe7vBS4Ukh9ZXgQQc0sSURXx_nj3_5BIxFGCu70qYnQG30lKhMOcPW1b6yhh3zW_7j4bYhjbKWNUqhOw

Like many young arms with natural talent, Balazovic crushed the lower minors. However, as he ascended through the ranks, his performance has dipped, culminating in his forgettable 2022 season at Triple-A. It’s not uncommon for an individual’s stats to decline as he moves up the minor league ladder—each level consists of better and better players, after all—but Balazovic’s represent a relatively steep decline.

What stands out the most is the increase in hard contact he has surrendered, particularly last season. As he has only appeared in the minors, we don’t have publicly available Statcast data for Balazovic, but at a certain point average exit velocities and hard-hit percentages aren’t needed. His BABIP against has increased nearly 40%, while his line drive percentage has gone up 81% and his home runs per fly ball by a staggering 471% from High-A to Triple-A. In short, his pitches are getting hit harder and harder by better and better hitters.

Additionally, his walk rates have increased while his strikeout rates have simultaneously dropped from 2019 to 2022. Balazovic has never been one to have pinpoint command despite respectable strikeout numbers (see his K-BB%), and that lack of command has become more troublesome as the opposing batters’ patience has improved at each level. It would be interesting to see his opposing batter chase and whiff rates at all three levels—almost assuredly they would both decrease—but that data isn’t publicly available.

So that belies the question: What can Balazovic due to improve his stuff and get back on the top prospect hype train?

Well, I don’t know. At least not entirely. Pitching is a complex endeavor, both mentally and physically, so rarely is there a simple answer. But I do have a few ideas that my be helpful.

Potential Option #1: Increase elbow flexion at foot plant
This is something that the team of biomechanics wizards at Driveline has looked into quite a bit. Elbow flexion is measured by the degree of bend at the elbow. A fully extended elbow would have 0 degrees of flexion while a fully flexed elbow—biomechanically impossible—would be 180 degrees. Driveline has found that, on average, their most elite pitchers (i.e. fastest throwers) achieve 107 degrees of elbow flexion when the foot of their lead leg hits the ground. 

nenI_-2-w6d1TOKvEfsrQOyxIkmtgnWp2QxvdS28q89_OzF-uK43GuQmvSI72y83-0zTkyd1U6AHp3HCePQYPUdcLeZ4Vt5kpxnKB0LZYsNi-GZ3QeE-Gt5fiSko-hCUbC3oufBHaP682KDNCeNRFtG3_u60e7HFkSAuGH1zHcGHYe_AUxjfOesKwk27UA

As seen in the picture above, Balazovic frequently fails to reach beyond 90 degrees of flexion, and at times seemingly doesn’t even reach 90 degrees. (Granted, it’s difficult to say with 100 percent certainty from the behind-the-mound camera angle, but this is the best option available to the public.)

Potential Option #2: Decrease posterior trunk lean (i.e. extension) at foot plant
Another Driveline favorite. They have found that most elite pitchers that train with them have, on average, negative 10 degrees of anterior trunk lean at foot plant. In English, that means that the best-of-the-best pitchers generally bend backwards slightly when their foot hits the ground. It’s difficult to put an angle on Balazovic without biomechanics tracking software, but eyeballing it, it seems as though he frequently leans too far back at foot plant. This can contribute to a number of flaws during the throwing motion, particularly making the arm “drag” behind, decreasing command.

Potential Option #3: Increase knee extension power throughout arm swing
All pitchers land with a certain degree of knee flexion (i.e. knee bend) at foot plant. The pitchers who through hardest are able to forcefully extend (i.e. straighten) the knee as they thrust their pitching arm forward. This creates a rigid lever that increases torque and, thus, pitch velocity. 

Last season, Balazovic seemingly struggled with this. Perhaps of note, his lead leg is his left and he was reportedly dealing with left knee discomfort all season. It’s possible that the lingering pain caused him to diminish his knee extension after foot plant, impacting his velocity and command.

Potential Option #4: Increase efficient separation between his trunk and pelvis
Watch the video below. The first frame resulted in a ball while the next three were strikes. See if you can parse a difference between Balazovic’s trunk and pelvis between the three pictures.

 Ok, now here’s a video with my notes.

When Balazovic is able to get his hips pointing toward the plate at foot plant, he’s able to efficiently rotate his torso and throw strikes. When he isn’t his arm lags behind and the result is more often than not a ball. 

In short, in order for Balazovic to improve and become a solid MLB pitcher, I would argue that he needs to not only tighten up his mechanics but improve his motion's consistency. His windup consists of many long levers and moving parts, both of which serve to reduce consistency (and, theoretically increase strain on the low back; he's struggled with back pain at time during his brief career). The options I've laid out above may help accomplish the opposite. 

 


View full article

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Recommended Posts

"When Balazovic is able to get his hips pointing toward the plate at foot plant, he’s able to efficiently rotate his torso and throw strikes. When he isn’t his arm lags behind and the result is more often than not a ball. 

In short, in order for Balazovic to improve and become a solid MLB pitcher, I would argue that he needs to not only tighten up his mechanics but improve his motion's consistency. His windup consists of many long levers and moving parts, both of which serve to reduce consistency (and, theoretically increase strain on the low back; he's struggled with back pain at time during his brief career). The options I've laid out above may help accomplish the opposite."

Nice write up Lucas.

I think you hit the nail on the head here (also, from what little I was able to watch him this year, #2 & #3 were big culprits as well).  I truly think this season was a whose who of mechanical flaws and issues, exacerbated by nagging/lingering injury issues.

As you said, pitching is hard (heck, it's cruel and unforgiving even in the best of times).  I've seen this happen with a lot of young pitchers.  Electric stuff, but they fail to consistently get results.  Why? Mechanical issues are at the root cause of almost every single one.

I think in the end the Blazer Beam was a victim of his own drive and trying to fight through the discomfort/pain (Lord knows I saw this from my own son last season) and it caused him to alter his mechanics, in most likely unconscious ways.  This coupled with the fact that he probably wasn't 100% consistent to begin with and... voila, a recipe for disaster.

Will he bounce back at all next season? I have NO good answer so I consulted the Oracle of Baseball Wizardry, The Magic 8 Ball, and the reply was: "It looks like yes".  ;)  

Link to comment
Share on other sites

His results have been puzzling.  There was a stretch at Wichita two summers ago when he was as good as anyone could be.  Then he wasn't.  Won't even attempt to understand everything written above.  But I expect the truth is that he needs to fix whatever was wrong, maybe it was health, or he will not be part of the Twins organization come next December.  Hope like heck he does, because he could be a good one.  At least I always thought he could.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This write up should be sent to all our top professional coaches that falvey has hired ... 

Let's hope his injuries were the cause of his poor season and he bounces back this season and possibly can help the twins or at least increase his trade value  ...

Balazovic and enlow need to improve this season  for a chance at a twins career  ...

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Great article, Lucas.  I will just add my eyeball observations as I have seen him pitch 4 or 5 times over the past couple of years.  Clearly, his mechanics were messed up this year, and sometimes I think having pitchers continue to pitch if they have a knee or leg issue is the worst thing you can do as they tend to fall into bad habits and have difficulty repeating their delivery.  Whatever the case, he wasn't right this year at all.  I have seen him at his best, and his stuff is super when he is on.  So, first, I hope they are making sure his knee strain is ok and having him build strength and flexibility in PT.  Second, if his knee is fine, I hope they can work on his mechanics in the ways you suggest (you know WAY more about that than I do), and get him back on track.  If they can get him "right", I still believe he can be a big league pitcher, and a good one.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It just seemed that Blaza never got off on the right foot after being injured at the beginning of the season. Just never found his stride. But if I remember correctly I believe he started to figure it our over the last 4 games or so.

Right now I'd just like to see him healthy in camp. If he can't progress healthy then maybe we give him a shot at the bullpen. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He was still young. Probably should've been sent down to AA for awhile, sooner rather than not at all.

And basically has trolled in the Twins system long-enough that he would become a minor league free agent if waived off the roster and someone would openly grab him. For the promise alone.

But 2023 is his final year to put something together for the Twins. A fast start with decent numbers could make him part of a trade package. But right now, even as a throw-in, he doesn't have much value.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If you have a delivery that isn't easily replicated in the first place........and then you add in a knee issue and back pain (first i've heard that with him), it's no wonder he struggled.  You start to over-compensate to alleviate pain in one place and it causes another.  Step one in "fixing" him would be to try to quiet his motion to lessen all of the moving parts.  His windup is all over the place and it's not hard to see that he's not consistent.   

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
 Share

The Twins Daily Caretaker Fund
The Twins Daily Caretaker Fund

You all care about this site. The next step is caring for it. We’re asking you to caretake this site so it can remain the premier Twins community on the internet.

×
×
  • Create New...