Jenrry Mejia has been a solid ground-ball pitcher in 2014. But since developing a sports hernia on around July 22, Mejia’s already solid 45.0 percent ground-ball rate has spiked to an elite 57.9 percent level. Given the 12.9 percent bump in grounders, is it possible Mejia is actually pitching better with the sports hernia? It’s difficult to pinpoint for sure, but according to Bleacher Report’s injury expert Will Carroll, pitchers do tend compensate for pain. “[…] There [will be] some adjustment,” Carroll said in an email interview. “Any adjustment [could] create problems both of force and control.” In Mejia’s case, the reliever seems to have made positive adjustments. Mejia’s change up has accounted for 67.9 percent of his induced ground balls in 2014, per FanGraphs. And whether it’s a coincidence or not, his change up’s release point has noticeably differed since July 22. According to Brooks Baseball’s release point charts, Mejia’s vertical arm slot (in terms of feet from the ground) has dropped slightly—specifically, at about a 0.14-foot difference on average since July. Similarly, the closer’s horizontal angle (in terms of closer to third base versus first base) has too witnessed a change: about 0.25-feet more toward first base on average since May (when he began relieving). In addition to Mejia’s release point, his change up’s movement has also, well, changed. As The Hardball Times’ Matt Lentzer pointed out in his November 2008 article, arm slot affects movement—so Mejia’s case, while unique given his injury, isn’t surprising on the surface. Again, per Brooks Baseball’s movement charts, the right-hander’s change up has been dipping (vertical) at about 1.67-inches more on average since May. Mejia’s change up has also steadily moved more toward the right of the strike zone, from the catcher’s perspective (horizontal). Assuming Jenrry Mejia’s pain is actually manageable—and the Mets’ medical staff has been closely monitoring his health—the team could continue to use the reliever when needed. But if you’re of the belief that players—and young pitchers, in particular—should not play through pain, then perhaps the Mets should just be precautionary in a dwindling, insignificant season. (a more full article on this can be found on MetsBlog)
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