Thursday, May 28, 2015

Grizzlies LHP Tommy Shirley vs. Ben Zobrist

Visiting Fresno this past weekend, I had the opportunity to see LHP Tommy Shirley pitch in person for the first time in quite a while. It occurred to me that I should video him to capture his unconventional delivery. Carson Cistulli of FanGraphs was somewhat fascinated with Shirley last season and featured him several times as one of his Fringe Five, and cited these remarks from my interview with Corpus Christi Pitching Coach Doug Brocail regarding Shirley. Part of Shirley's fascination is his funky delivery and the success he's had with that delivery.

So, I readied my video recorder just as the rehabbing Ben Zobrist came up to bat with two outs in the first inning. It took only three pitches for Shirley to dispatch Zobrist and send him on his way.

I pulled out the recorder again in the third inning. Again two outs. Again Zobrist. Again a strikeout.

One final time. Sixth inning. Again two outs. Again Zobrist. Again a strikeout, Shirley's 7th and final K in six innings of work.

The following day I spoke with Ace Adams, Pitching Coach for the Fresno Grizzlies. I asked Adams about that delivery. "It's funky, isn't it?" When asked how Shirley makes that delivery work, Adams told me, "Well, he times it up right. It doesn't look pretty but he times it up perfect."

Adams continued, "He's a great competitor and he's starting to throw his changeup more, starting to get his curveball over a little better than he did. But the big thing is his fastball has this cutting action that jams a lot of hitters. He's got a lot of deception in that delivery so hitters see all that quickness and they don't feel comfortable up there."

Shirley has been used as both a reliever and a starter in his minor league career, but Adams would like to see him continue in a starting role. Adams concluded by saying, "He's just got electric stuff and he's such a great worker. I just love everything he does. He's just really a pleasant guy to have around. I really enjoy him a lot."

I think everybody enjoys Tommy Shirley, with the possible exception of Ben Zobrist.

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