Fred Outman studied biomechanics and kinesiology for more than two decades, applying what he learned to the mechanics of pitching. He developed a distinct theory to pitching that involved a rather controversial delivery that was designed to take wear and tear off the pitcher's shoulder. He published his theory and how to adjust a pitcher's delivery in his book Overpowering Pitching and had his sons Josh and Zachary as models of how it should all work. "I get more movement and hitters seem to have more trouble picking the ball up out of my hand," says Josh Outman of his controversial delivery. In fact, the delivery is so controversial that it's legality has been challenged by other coaches. "I've had to learn the rule book pretty well to defend myself," said Outman.
Josh Outman perfected his father's approach and wound up at Central Missouri State. There, the coaches insisted on doing some tweaking, but left many of the elder Outman's principles in place. The result was that Outman pitched well and could have returned for his senior season at CMU if not for being drafted by the Phillies and deciding to pursue that route. Once the Phillies got a hold of Outman, they too, tweaked his delivery and are getting Outman to use more of his arm strength to gain velocity. The results started slowly, but by the end of his first pro season, Josh Outman was pitching well for the Batavia BlueClaws.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of Outman's somewhat freakish motion is that if in fact it does save wear and tear on a pitcher's shoulder, than he has more miles left on him than he might have normally had with a routine delivery. The fact too that he's willing to let coaches work with him to reshape what he's doing is a good sign. It's interesting too, that the Phillies didn't just throw out everything that Outman was doing to try to completely reinvent him. Instead, his motion is now a combination of the "normal" way of pitching and some progressive quirks that he still maintains. The future will tell how it will all work out.
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Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies out of Central Missouri State in the 10th round of the 2005 Draft.
Repertoire: Outman throws primarily a fastball, slider and change-up. His fastball has good movement and tends to sink down low in the strike zone, keeping hitters pounding the ball into the dirt. His slider and change aren't as advanced as they'll need to be and need more work. Like his fastball, the change-up dances down and moves away from left-handed hitters. His velocity is generally in the low 90 miles per hour range after the changes that the Phillies made to his delivery and he figures to be able to add a couple more miles per hour to his fastball. Even now, it's not unusual for Outman to be able to hit the mid 90s a few times per game. Developing the slider and change-up will be absolute necessities for Outman. Outman keeps the ball down in the zone and throws strikes, which is the most important thing.
Projection: The Phillies had Outman pitching primarily from the bullpen early in the New York - Penn League season, but moved him into the rotation in time to get him three starts in a row at the end of the season. He responded by going 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA in those three starts and finishing the season with a pair of five inning, no-run outings. It's likely that the Phillies will look to get Outman into a starter's job, but if his slider and change-up don't develop as well as they hope, he could be forced to pitch out of the bullpen. Outman held left-handed hitters to just a .148 average, so if nothing else, he could have a life as a left-handed specialist.
ETA: Just how quickly Outman will develop is tough to gauge. He needs to find a little more velocity and work on his secondary pitches. That's all going to take time. It's very possible that he'll start 2006 in extended camp and then return to Batavia after working on things in the safety and comfort of the minor league complex in Clearwater.
Comparison: His delivery certainly doesn't compare to anybody around. How do you draw comparisons for someone who had their delivery custom designed by a student of biomechanics and kinesiology?