Q&A with ex-Royals pitching coach Bob McClure

From SABR member David Laurila at FanGraphs on November 9, 2011:

DL: Is it ever a blessing in disguise for a pitcher to lose velocity?

BM: It can be, because you learn how to pitch. You learn to locate better, because you have to. With higher velocity, you can get away with more mistakes. A lot of guys don’t really learn how to pitch until they hurt their arm. Not that you ever want to see it happen. What you love to see is guys learn how to go hard-slow when they have their best stuff. Obviously, that happens at different times for different pitchers, and some guys “get it” more than others.

DL: Why do some pitchers figure things out later than others?

BM: If we knew the answer to that question, we wouldn’t have so many guys in the major leagues with good arms who don’t make it. I was fortunate. I had three very good mentors: Ted Simmons, Mike Caldwell and Pete Vuckovich. They were big on feel. Vuck won a Cy Young, Caldwell was second to [Ron] Guidry for a Cy Young and Simmons was my catcher. Learning how to go back and forth was real important to them.

They probably had to teach me to go hard more, when I was throwing soft. They didn’t have to tell me to go soft because I already knew how to pitch backwards. Their point was that I was doing it too much.

It’s very difficult to teach feel. You can teach command, and you can teach repeating your delivery in order to get more command, but how someone’s brain works and how to go slower instead of harder — that’s very difficult. Number one, young pitchers don’t trust that by throwing slower, it’s not going to get smashed. It takes trial and error to get to where you can go slow, then slower, then slower, understanding that you get hitters out in front and mis-hitting the ball. That was their whole point.

Read the full article here: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/qa-bob-mcclure-on-banny-simba-deception/

Originally published: November 15, 2011. Last Updated: November 15, 2011.