One of the big mysteries last season was the struggles of freshman sensation Nate Kirby. Prior to arriving at Virginia, Kirby was billed as one of the top pitching prospects in the country, and Virginia was getting its next great arm. But Kirby struggled to settle into a role on the team, and it was Brandon Waddell who rose to prominence as a freshman. Does that mean it’s time to give up on Kirby entirely? No, not at all. Kirby’s struggles are based on his adjustment to the mechanics taught by Coach Kuhn. Have you ever notice how every single pitcher we have does that crouch before they start their windup. That is very different from the conventional way pitchers are taught in America, and if you’ll allow me to get really nerdy for a minute, I’ll explain why.
This is Tom House, legendary pitching coach for the USC Trojans, and the father of the mechanics that Coach Kuhn teaches at UVA. The mechanics are based off of changing one very drastic thing that makes it very controversial in the baseball community, how to properly use the mound. Traditionally, pitchers are taught to stand tall on the mound and use the added height on the mound to throw the ball downhill, generating extra torque along the way. Torque is the key for this method, and it is generated by increasing the amount of rotation your body goes through delivering the ball to the plate. The House method is completely different. This method employs the “drop and drive” technique which all but eliminates the height of the mound from the equation. The House method is all about getting all your momentum going towards the plate linearly, instead of rotating about your plant foot to generate torque. That being said, there is still a good deal or torque involved in the House approach, but it is not the focal point that it is in more traditional approaches.
So back to UVA, I think it is appropriate to compare Nate Kirby, and really most of our staff, to international students. They’re making a tremendous adjustment to a completely different way of pitching, a different culture if you will. Some will pick it up faster than others. But does that mean that those who adapt slower still aren't talented? I have four years in engineering school that can tell you that isn't the case. If there is one person I think you can expect a huge jump in production from this season, it’s Nate Kirby. Because once that light comes on mechanically, he’s still got all the lights out stuff he came in with.