The whip, the deceit, the heat

How Edwin Diaz hits triple digits

By Ryan Divish
Seattle Times staff reporter
Published March 31, 2017

The first should not be forgotten.

Edwin Diaz emerged from the bullpen of Safeco Field and jogged to the mound on June 6. No one was quite sure what to expect from the young right-hander who looked to be all legs and arms and missing a backside on his 6-foot-3, 165-pound frame.

Diaz had been called up two days earlier and manager Scott Servais waited for the right time to bring him in for a “soft landing” in his debut. With the Mariners trailing 3-1 and getting shut down by Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer, Diaz entered the game in the bottom of the seventh in relief of James Paxton to not led the lead grow.

After getting the first batter, Chris Gimenez, to gound out to third base, Diaz exhaled as he circled the mound. Now he could relax. And what came next was special.

His first pitch to the next hitter — Tyler Naquin — was a 99 mph fastball on the bottom part of the zone for a strike. It was an almost unhittable first pitch.

Feeling the adrenaline surge, Diaz went back to his heater — again at 99 mph — this time painted on the inside corner for strike two. Naquin could only shake his head.

It was the third pitch of the at-bat where Diaz inserted himself into the Mariners’ fans hearts. And it was the third pitch where it became evident that this kid that was all arms and legs and no backside might be something special.

With no hesitation, he went to the fastball again. Diaz knew Naquin would be prepared for it. And he didn’t care. Why? Because it didn’t matter. Diaz went into his awkward delivery that seems fitting for his Gumby-esque frame. And as his bullwhip of a right arm rocketed through and released the baseball toward home, sending it on a hissing, riding path of fury, it was over for Naquin.

The fastball that he knew was coming wasn’t going to be hit. He swung, missed and walked to the dugout, looking at the stadium radar gun, which read 100 mph. It drew oohs from the few fans there. Many stood and cheered for Diaz’s first big league strikeout as he stalked around the mound.

Kyle Seager stood at third base watching it all unfold.

“I don’t remember ever seeing him throw before that, but you certainly remembered afterward,” he said.

Steve Cishek and the rest of the bullpen watched intently.

“You are thinking, ‘OK kid, just try and throw strikes,’” he said. “And then all of the sudden he’s throwing 100 mph, blowing the doors off everyone and painting with that fastball. And you are like: ‘Holy cow, what is going on? This is crazy.’”

That first strikeout with three fastballs — 99 mph, 99 mph and 100 mph — was only the beginning. But how has Diaz continued to replicate these results with mechanics that invoke the word “funk” from Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre?

“His arm is loose like a whip,” Stottlemyre said. “He’s got a funky leg kick. … There’s definitely some deception in there. Sometimes when guys have that little bit of funk and they do things the way that they do … as pitching coaches you’re not sure where to go.”

But the heat, the deception, the movement — it all comes naturally to Diaz.

“We spent very little time talking about his delivery,” Stottlemyre said. “For a young guy, he knows where to go.”

Now, it’s just a matter of how far he can go.

Breaking down the mechanics of a 100-mph fastball

With his slight frame and lanky arms, Edwin Diaz is not your typical 100-mph hurler. So how does a guy that weighs 165 pounds sling a baseball that fast? We asked Mariners pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre Jr. to break down his mechanics.

"This is what we call the load position. At that point, the (front) leg has reached its highest point over the rubber and he's got separation -- meaning hand out of the glove. You can see the leg is up around the belt area, he's got the glove out and he's got a nice strong front side. It's a good position."
"Here's where he gets a little funky. In this position, when he initiates his move forward, he leads out with his heel, which is good. A lot of times, he'll get quick and pull his front side out. But he's got his front arm up in a strong position when he throws the glove out. That's part of the funk and deception that he creates. It's really not a bad position. And once he gets down to foot strike, you'll see he's in a really good spot."
"He's starting to leave the rubber. He's down at foot strike with his chest out. You can see the hand and the elbow are out over the front side. That’s what we call our power position and that's where he gets real violent from that point on with his movement forward before foot strike."
"That's just his finish. That's actual a good finish for him. He doesn't always finish like that in a game. You'll see his head and chest out over his front side and a lot of the times he finishes off to the side where his head and chest have worked around the front leg. But that's a good position there."