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Dissecting Deivi García’s rudderless mechanics

The young righty is stuck in the Scranton wilderness. What happened?

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees Workouts Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Deivi García found some measure of immediate big-league success as a 21-year-old when he burst on the scene during the shortened season in 2020. In his debut, he hurled six strong innings, allowing no earned runs against the Mets. He flashed plus stuff that day and endeared himself to the fanbase over the short season. Results weren’t always perfect, but he logged six or more innings in four of his six first big league starts — what a luxury that’d be in the Yankees’ current situation. He took some lumps, sure, but he looked like he belonged.

Since then, it’s been a frustrating three years for García, who recently turned 24 and has mostly floundered in the minors. He currently owns a 6.6 BB/9 in Scranton in 23.1 innings this year, coming off a season in which he posted a 7.96 ERA at the level, and only made one appearance for the Yankees so far in 2023 despite their pitching depth being stretched to its limits. The command issues just weren’t there in 2020—1.6 walks per nine in 34 innings of work at the big league level. The organization has shifted him to a relief role, but nothing seems to be sticking. García’s troubles confound the organization and fans alike.

His ensuing struggles all stem from severe command issues. Even in his lone big league game in 2023 his command fluctuated wildly. Let’s analyze a couple of clips from separate years and see what may have changed.

Two junctures in his mechanics are the most telling of possible command issues: the back knee at push-off and the glove side at release. Inconsistency in these aspects throws off the rest of his delivery and makes his command at times nonexistent. García has a small frame and uses rotation to generate velocity and movement. Since his levers aren’t long, they must work precisely, making his mechanics extra sensitive to timing changes.

Here’s a fastball for a swinging strike against Miguel Cabrera in one of García’s two 2021 big league starts. The results of the starts themselves are of less importance for these purposes, but rather as a snapshot of his fastball mechanics at their most fluid. His back knee doesn’t sink down at all until his momentum is fully established toward the plate, representing the most fluid, efficient path for his legs to take. He releases with some extension over the front leg.

Comparing fastball mechanics to changeup mechanics usually yields insight, as the pitch demands identical mechanics to be effective. Here in this clip of a changeup from his 2020 debut, he’s almost halfway to his stride before the back knee bends any further. It keeps him on time and his shoulders on plane. If the back knee sinks too early, the ability to extend out toward home plate and repeat fastball mechanics is compromised.

Since García’s back knee moves forward first instead of down, he’s able to get out over his front leg at release and achieve enough wrist pronation to run it away from the lefty. The changeup is especially useful for gleaning useful info — usually, the more extension on a changeup, the more horizontal movement it has, and García turns this one over nicely.

In his lone appearance of 2023, this delivery of a changeup stood out in stark comparison to the previous clip. On the pitch to Conforto, García’s first move from the apex of his delivery is toward home plate. Here against the A’s, though, his first move is to sink his back hip straight down then push off the rubber.

To the naked eye, it’s noticeable that García straightens up on release. It’s rare that a major league pitcher’s mechanics vary this much, but it speaks to García’s profound struggles.

The inefficient movement of the more bent knee means that he has no leverage with which to extend over his front leg. The body has to move straight down THEN toward the plate. It’s as simple as the fastest point between two places being a straight line. García’s back leg makes two separate movements rather than consolidating them into immediate forward momentum.

Any weight sunk into the back knee is weight unable to drive forward toward the glove. This essentially creates a rift between the front and back half of García’s mechanics, and the result is the inability to create movement on the changeup.

A pitcher’s glove hand during the delivery doesn’t look all that important, but it serves as the rudder, directing the angle of the arm path down the mound. Let’s compare still images of García immediately before release.

In 2020, notice the glove hand remains in the framework of his body to prevent over-rotation:

A leaky glove hand is a dead giveaway for rotational mechanics gone awry. The glove side has to rotate, but in his quest to generate arm speed, García compromises his balance at release. The glove hand takes the shoulders down with it, and García’s arm is noticeably late.

His shoulders and glove side at this point look as though he’s released the ball already, but his arm hasn’t even come forward yet. This is what I mean by the rudder — over-rotating the rudder causes the course of the ship to change.

Any motion away from the glove represents wasted efficiency in a pitcher’s delivery. The glove hand is particularly impactful because it controls when the arm goes; they’re two sides of the same lever and must be balanced. Because they’re not, García releases in a more flat-footed position and fails to sink the changeup enough to be effective.

Yes, it needs to be said: he’s still just 24-years-old and three years removed from a precocious MLB debut. The good news about mechanical issues is that they’re fixable. If it’s quantifiable, it can be fixed. The Yankees could use a sharp Deivi García to say the least. A successful major league pitcher is in there, somewhere. For now, though, he continues to adjust to a bullpen role and will likely remain in Triple-A for the time being. 2020 seems like forever ago, but García still has time to prove himself.