Seeing Rudy Owens get called-up came as quite the surprise for a few reasons.
1. We didn't hear the circumstances in which it was happening until after.
2. Owens hasn't found much success this season while pitching at AAA Oklahoma City.
We've come a long way since the trade deadline of 2012 when Owens came over from the Pittsburgh Pirates in the Wandy Rodriguez trade. It was immediately assumed by many, myself included, that Owens would slot right into Wandy's rotation spot. However, that wasn't the case and he stayed in AAA.
Last season was a lost cause for him as he had a fracture in his foot that limited him to just 17 innings in four games.
This season, his ERA and has looked quite bad, 6.05. His strikeout rate (6.91 K/9), well it's bad but is still the best of his career.
However, his walk rate is 1.73 BB/9 and is also the best of his career. The ground ball rate of 43.5% is the second best of his career, behind only last seasons short stint.
Mind you, this is the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League as opposed to his 2012 numbers in the pitcher friendly International League.
To add another twist to this, Tim and I were at Owens' last start in Nashville on May 17th. This is what we saw.
Notice a lot of pitches from the stretch? That's because he had to work almost exclusively from the stretch, in that game. He was hittable against an older lineup that was primarily constructed with what we refer to as quad-A hitters.
However, notice the nice tailing action on his fastball. If spotted well, that can be a deadly weapon for a lefty, look at Dallas Keuchel. But, that pitch has to be spotted well, especially when the hardest I ever saw on the gun (actual radar gun, not stadium) that night was 91 and most were 87-89.
Location was a challenge for Owens that night as his mechanics were not very consistent. He seemed to have issues with timing his trunk rotation which can make a night very hard on a pitcher. Coming from the stretch for the majority of the night doesn't make it any easier.
I was going to wait to show this next stuff off for next week, but here's a teaser for what I have started doing. I have my own high speed camera now and was able to get high speed video of Owens. I'll give a brief review of his mechanics.
Despite not having a real strong leg drive, Owens has a very long stride to the plate, at about 69-70 inches. That is around 92-93% of his height which is a few percentage points above what research refers to as "elite pitchers." His lead knee angle at foot strike is 150 degrees, which is about 10 degrees above elite pitchers as well. This suggests that he may be over-striding to the plate and appears to be doing so as his momentum comes to an abrupt stop and it takes him a while to get over his lead leg in his delivery and is evident by his hip flexion of 85 degrees at release point. That angle is 7 degrees below elite pitchers and suggests that his stride is blocking is momentum forward. This also makes it difficult to decelerate the arm as it cuts down the trunk movement that can increase the range the arm can slow down in.
At the major league level, Owens will have to be spot on with his location for success. His stuff just is too average to not be. Although, I see some mechanical tweaks that could help pump his velocity up a few clicks and make his margin of error a little larger.