Philadelphia Daily News - April 30, 1980
Phils Dissect Rufus’ Woes
By Bill Conlin
NEW YORK – Dallas Green has no bias toward the schedule. He firmly believes the cliche about April games counting as much as September games.
The Phillies' manager does not, however, apply the same weight to April rainouts. He took last night's Shea Stadium washout without a grumble.
Rainouts can be a penalty to a ballclub with a pitching staff cranking out complete games. To a team with a pitching staff having trouble stringing hitless innings together, it droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven.
"This will give me a chance to hold Dick Ruthven back until Friday," Green said. "I'll be able to play when I use Larry Christenson by ear, which I was leaning toward anyway."
Green, Ruthven and pitching coach Herm Starrette spent a lot of time during Monday's open date watching films of the struggling righthander.
"We compared pictures of him when he was at the top of his form in 78 with this season," said Starrette during the bus ride up the Jersey Turnpike. "As far as his motion, delivery and follow-through there's absolutely no difference between what he was doing then and what he's doing now. The only thing we could see is that he's not generating as much arm speed."
Arm speed is as responsible for putting velocity on a baseball as racquet speed is for putting pace on a tennis ball. It depends on several factors. Among them are length of stride and amount of drive generated by the back leg. Until the weight goes onto the front foot, a pitcher's arm does little more than load the round into the chamber, so to speak. Most of the whipping action is generated by the forearm and wrist. Maximum strain on the elbow is experienced on release. The shoulder, of course, is the fulcrum of the entire throwing motion.
A lazy arm – why pitchers have lapses in velocity and trouble keeping the ball down – can be caused, therefore, by one or more components. An injury to either hip or to the lower back could inhibit a pitcher's leg drive. Weakness caused by muscular or skeletal insufficiency could slow the arm action. Green and Starrette are in the position of a race-car pit crew blue-printing an engine which won't put out the horsepower it needs to generate.
"WE'VE COVERED all physical areas," Green say's, "the arm itself, the hip and back areas where Dick has had some problems in the past. They all come up clean, so the only conclusion to draw is that cutting into the elbow has left some weakness in the arm. I had forgotten that both Dick and Christenson spent most of the seasons after previous elbow surgery in the minors. Maybe it's an individual thing. Some guys come back from getting chips removed without too much trouble and it takes other guys longer to regain the arm strength."
Whatever, Ruthven says nothing in his subconscious is telling him to hold back when he throws a fastball. "If it hurt me, then I can see where there would be a tendency to hold back," he said yesterday. "I'd like to see a radar gun on me so I could have an idea of what I'm actually throwing. But I know darn well I threw some pitches against the Cardinals that had some decent velocity. I'm not a power pitcher, but I've always been capable of throwing a selected pitch past a hitter, reach back for a little extra.
"I still think my biggest problem is location, not getting down in the strike zone where I have to be."
There is also a suspicion that Ruth ven has fallen too much in love with his changeup and off-speed breaking ball, that hitters are taking the risk of getting fooled by the fastball for the luxury of digging in against the high percentage of off-speed pitches they will see. No manager likes to tell a pitcher to stop doing something that's helped him win in the past. But it is reasonable to assume that when Dick faces the Dodgers a fastball-hitting team at the Vet Friday night he'll be throwing a higher ratio of hard stuff.
PHILUPS: Tug McGraw is campaigning for a trade back to the Mets. "If they asked me for a list of teams I'd be willing to go to in a trade I'd name only one," McGraw told New York Post columnist Maury Allen yesterday. "I'd love to go back to the Mets if we could work out a deal. I can still pitch, and if the Phillies don't want to use me, maybe the Mets will."... Tug complained last season about being misused by Danny Ozark. This year he doesn't think he's being used enough. It is all part of being 35 years old... Frank Cashen, the Mets' new GM, is already drawing flak for sitting on his hands with a wretched team. Chief gunner lately is catcher John Stearns. "When is the man going to do something?" the former Phil was quoted yesterday.
"He's had 90 days and we haven't made a move. Some heads have got to be chopped here." Cashen says he's trying. And why doesn't Cashen either renew Joe Torre's half-season contract or fire him, so the manager knows how to manage? "Right now I'm managing to win," Torre has been telling friends. "I'd be managing a little different if I thought we were building for the future." Mets haven't hit a homer in 10 games and have just 3 in 15. Where is Bob Horner now that Frank Cashen needs him?... If the Phillies and Mets play tonight – the weatherman says it's up for grabs – Randy Lerch will face Mark Bomback, no relation to Erma Bombeck, who wrote a best-selling book about Shea Stadium called, "The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Septic Tank."