The Batter's EyeNovember 17, 2006
Restoring the Balance of Tim Hudson
By Jeff Albert

A quick stats check confirms that 2006 was not the best year for Tim Hudson. What is interesting, of course, is to ask why. Random variation? Or was there something else going on?

I am always interested to read or hear what a player has to say about his performance, and luckily, a few different articles cite Hudson as he mentions working on subtle adjustments to his mechanics. The questions are: are these the best adjustments, and are they working?

Here are a couple of excerpts from articles referring to Hudson's mechanics:

From Access North Georgia:

The bullpen's problems aside, Hudson returned the next day to working with pitching coach Roger McDowell on a drill that's attempting to restore his balance on the mound.

McDowell recognized a flaw in Hudson's delivery that begins any time his right foot leaves the rubber too soon. The balancing drill helps Hudson keep his shoulders horizontal and corrects the poor mechanics that caused him to give the ball an uneven release.

From the USA Today on 5/2/06:

"I'm getting a lot more downward movement instead of side to side. That side-to-side stuff gets hit a long way," said Hudson, who is throwing with more of an overhand motion. "It's not rocket science. It was just a little bitty adjustment, but that's all it took."

The quotes are ordered this way because the first one refers to a cause (balance and shoulder angle) that leads to an effect (movement on the ball). The presumed effect that Hudson and McDowell are looking for is more downward movement (sink), which is perhaps one of the reasons for Hudson's success in Oakland. So let's look at video of Hudson when he pitched in Oakland compared to his 2006 season in Atlanta.

The video I have for comparison comes from July 2002 and September 2006. I ended up using pitches from both the windup and the stretch (each taken from the same game), combining the four pitches into one comparison. In an effort to avoid speculation as much as possible, the main topics I will address are balance and arm angle, because these are the things specifically mentioned by Hudson.

For those of you playing at home, here is the full version (in slo-mo) of the comparison:

Which one has better balance? Which is in better position to create the desired downward movement on the ball? Let's see.

Starting from the top, the following picture shows Hudson as he prepares to begin his movement towards home plate:

The yellow vertical line just shows where the head is positioned relative to the foot. What I thought to be more interesting is the angle of the shin on the post (rear) leg. The measurement of the angle is not exact (different camera angles in different stadiums, etc., which is beyond my control), but there is a noticeable difference. The smaller angle on the left may indicate more muscle activation in the upper leg and lower torso region that play a role in balance and stabilization. In other words, the large muscles on the middle of the body may be utilized more on the left, which would help stabilize Hudson as he moves toward home plate.

The picture above is a few frames later where the 2006 Hudson appears to be "reaching" (extending) more with his front leg, perhaps in order to create static balance over the rubber. This deemphasizes the need for active muscle stabilization which seems more apparent in 2002. This difference between static and dynamic balance ("staying back") is rather similar to the difference I noted in Alex Rodriguez's rotation this year compared to years past. In short, weight back and reaching with the stride opens the door for problems with subsequent rotation. We'll touch on that again momentarily.

Now here is a look at the resulting shoulder angle:

Hudson had said he was trying to achieve a more horizontal shoulder angle - mission accomplished. But will this really create more sink? Think of a sidearm pitcher throwing a 'frisbee slider,' nicknamed because the horizontal arm angle creates more horizontal plane for the pitch. This compared to a more vertically arm angled pitcher, whose slider may be referred to as having more 'tilt.'

Hudson also credits the downward motion to throwing with a more overhand motion, but we have to look at how he gets there.

Here is the shot of release point:

The release point for these pitches does appear to be remarkably different, so let me know if you can measure any differences in that picture.

Earlier, I mentioned some potential rotation problems that might result from trying to literally 'stay back' on the rubber, and I was mainly referring to the dreaded opening up too soon. I will not spend much time addressing it, primarily because a good side view would make for better analysis. I have, however, been made aware of a conversation between two individuals who are personally familiar with Hudson in which notice was made of Hudson's rotation causing him to open up too soon (aka pull off, or any other baseball speak you have for it). One indicator from this center-field camera angle is this:

Of course the camera angles are different, but it is interesting that the glove of 2006 Hudson basically disappears. You can decide how much you want to make of that.

I will leave you with a final picture:

This was a bit of an accident in that I dropped a line from the head of each side and just let the clip play through. By the end of the clip, I noticed that 2002 Hudson's head was ending up on the original line that had been drawn. 2006 Hudson was very obviously off to the left. The significance is that it is one more indicator that 2006 Hudson does not have the same balance of 2002. Decide for yourself which one is better, but they are clearly not the same.

Back to those of you playing along at home - do all these pieces match up to what you saw in the initial full version of the clip?


Here is a quick summary:

2002: Earlier muscle activation allows improved dynamic balance in order to set up a better foundation for rotation. Slightly more vertical shoulder angle creates more opportunity direct the rotational momentum towards home plate via forwards flexion of the spine, and improves ability to 'get on top' of the ball for more downwards movement (sink).

2006: Weight back and reaching front foot leaves static balance over the rubber, possibly leads to opening up during rotation. This combined with the horizontal shoulder angle decreases opportunity to transfer rotational momentum into delivery towards home plate. Arm comes across the ball in a more horizontal plane, creating more lateral movement.

There is no way for me to know for certain which drills Hudson is actually doing, why he may choose the particular drills, or if they are producing the results he desires. But now that you have an idea of the general adjustments he is trying to make, what is your answer to the original questions: are these the best adjustments and are they working?

Lastly, it is only fair that I offer my suggestions. Hudson, just like any other player, tries to keep his mechanics simple, and there is no need to get elaborate with drills and solutions. A little more 'sit' as he begins towards the plate rather than trying to 'stay back,' and allow the front arm to work up a little more. That's it from me. If you were pitching coach what would you do?


Excellent work, as always, Jeff. I'm curious if you looked at any difference from 2005 and 2006, or even if you were able to find out when things started to go wrong.

Good work! Based on your analysis, the only thing I'd venture to add is that it appears he's trying to add or maintain velocity while increasing/maintaining movement. Hence the increase in static balance in mid-delivery and the off balance finish. In the 2002 film he looks relaxed all the way through his delivery, while in 2006 he's looking for a little more mmmppphhh.

His problem (mental probably) is similar to a golfer who is slumping. Invariably, the golfer begins to add more movement to the swing by swaying a little more, or rotating more than what is comfortable/feasible for them. In reality the solution is less movement, more balance. Human nature I guess.

Hopefully he'll get back to basics and regain his confidence because the Braves are a great organization, and I'd rather see them winning than those damned New York Mets!


"This deemphasizes the need for active muscle stabilization which seems more apparent in 2002."

I think this is precisely what Hudson is trying to do. He's worried about re-injuring his oblique, an area he's had problems with for the past few years. He might pitch better if he reverted to his 2002 motion, but it's likely he'd pitch less (ie end up on the DL) during the season.

Whether it's to protect his obliques or because his oblique injuries have left him simply incapable of throwing as hard and balancing as well -- it seems that he's overthrowing to regain lost velocity.

It's not clear if he changed his mechanics because he lost velocity or if he lost velocity because he changed his mechanics but it definitely appears that he is overthrowing.

My first thought when looking at the clips from the windup was that Hudson was trying to speed it up - his hands break a little later and his tempo seems a bit faster as the start - so maybe this is an effort to maintain low 90's velocity. Both of the pitches from the windup were 91-92 by the way.

Maybe injuries play a part somehow, but this is what the Access North Georgia reported on injuries:
"Hudson, who hopes to celebrate his 31st birthday with a victory at San Diego on Friday night, insists that none of his problems are caused by injuries. During his final year with Oakland in 2004 and his first season with the Braves, Hudson landed on the disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle.

"It's almost like the better I feel physically the worse I get," Hudson said of his mechanics. "I feel good, but everything's fast and quick and hard as opposed to staying nice and calm and staying back. I'm trying to stay level as long as I can and keep my shoulders horizontal instead of leaving the rubber quick."

It seems like he is on the right track as far as what the problem is (getting quick, horizontal ball movement), but has not clicked with the "solution" yet.

His 2006 delivery seems like it would be less stressful on the left oblique (horizontal shoulders may stretch is less), but if he really is 100% healty, he should be able to get back to "normal". Perhaps better than normal if he can continue strengthening that area now that he knows it is a potential problem.

But maybe it's not something he can correct. Maybe, as he aged (or had injuries) he lost the ability to deliver the ball as he used to. I find it hard to believe that a pitcher as successful as Hudson was could simply "lose" his mechanics for no reason. If he did, it obviously is no simple thing to get them back because his struggles started (although not as extreme) before 2006.

Hudson's recent attempt(2006) to create a more horizontal shoulder angle causes him to hold his glove lower throughout his delivery(very evident).His 2002 delivery clearly shows his glove much higher along with a sharper shoulder angle.The higher position of the glove allows Hudson to tuck his glove from a high level to a lower level when pulling his glove under his left armpit.This creates an over the top response due to the re-direction of energy(from high to low).His 2006 delivery niether elevates nor lowers the height of the glove.This creates a constant energy from right to left with no glove pull down to redirect the motion.As a result there is nothing stopping him from drifting off balance to the left.

At the high point of Hudson's 2002 windup his right elow is directly above his right hip.The last set of pictures clearly show this. This is an alignment that can only be achieved by having a closed off upper body. The high point of Hudson's 2006 windup shows that his right elbow is extended more toward his left knee.This is because his shoulders are starting from a more open position. He is simply not closing off as much as he used to,causing him to open up too soon. Also,the higher leg lift in his 2006 windup may have increased his leg speed when opening up. A pitcher who flies open too quickly will lose control and balance and end up "reaching" forward with his front foot.


I dug up a shot from 2005:

Does Hudson look heavier and perhaps more muscular in the 2002 shot or is this my imagination or some artifact of the camera shots?
I seem to remember some comments in July-August about Hudson tending to get dehydrated while pitching. Also, I thought I had seen comments that Hudson had concluded his winter workouts had become too extreme and that his already low body fat had gotten too low. He also said he needed to cut back on the winter regime but I can't remember now whether this implied that he had cut back in the prior winter or whether he was going to cut back this coming winter.

In 2006, he ends up left of the line shown in 2002 because he is 'posting' his landing heel and stopping his momentum forward. His heel post stops his forward motion and he spins around his body rather than continuing forward. He's probably suffering from knee or hip problems precluding him from getting out in front at release.

1. The two clips are from different camera angles. Therefore it is difficult if not impossible to extract any meaningful data based on attempting to compare angles/verticality.

2. Static balance is just that static i.e. doesn't move. Dynamic balance is another way of saying controlling one's movement. This is not a balance problem is a movement problem. Whether the problem is due to an injury i.e. has altered a movement pattern or simply modifications that have occurred over time I doubt if one will ever know.

3. The goal of any ballistic activity where transfer of momentum is from body to an object such as a baseball is to transfers must momentum from the body to the object is possible. In 2002 Hudson appeared to have more efficient transfer i.e. was more efficient transferring all of the bodies momentum into the ball. Whereas in 2006 it appears that residual momentum after release must be channeled somewhere i.e. appears to lose "balance" toward first base. which in reality is is simply a matter of redirecting residual momentum.

4. Possibly this is a result of the Hudson attempting to be more aggressive in using his body to throw the ball i.e. make up for something else. this is quite common and use results in a more linear component (pushing off the rubber) of momentum toward home plate which in most cases compromises/inhibits rotation resulting in inefficient slashed unused momenta.

5. Barring any nagging/ongoing injury, it is as Hudson says "tweaking" the movement pattern. the real question is does he know what to tweak??

6. This commentary and five dollars might buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks. ;-)