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March 3, 2014

Raising Aces

Under the Gun 2.0

by Doug Thorburn


When it comes to pitching, velocity is the straw that stirs the drink. Fastball speed provides the baseline for batter timing and sets up every other arrow in a pitcher's quiver, explaining why velocity is the most sought-after commodity in pitchers at every level of play. Consequently, it can be devastating when a big-league pitcher transitions from pumping premium octane to regular gas, as it slows the performance of the whole machine.

Thanks to the bounties of PITCHf/x and sites such as BrooksBaseball.net, we have the ability to monitor a pitcher's stuff over the course of multiple seasons. We expect that velocity will diminish over time, and that a pitcher must hone the finer elements of his game in order to sustain the performance of his youth. With this concept in mind, let's examine the pitchers who cooled down significantly last season and take a look under the hood to better understand the causes behind their downgrades.

First, the ground rules: We are looking at the three-year period from 2011-13. Each of the pitchers in the charts below suffered at least a half-mph drop from each of the previous two seasons to 2013, as well as the loss of a full tick from at least one of the two years under the microscope to 2013. In order to qualify, a pitcher had to throw at least 500 pitches that qualified as fastballs or sinkers in each of the past three seasons. The numbers in the charts were calculated based on a weighted average of the pitch-speeds of four-seam fastballs and sinkers in each season.

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Related Content:  Pitching,  Mechanics,  Velocity,  Velocity Loss

17 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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fawcettb

Interesting stuff, but the 2nd clip on Moore isn't there.

Mar 03, 2014 06:42 AM
rating: 0
 
fawcettb

Whoops. it is now.

Mar 03, 2014 06:42 AM
rating: 0
 
R.A.Wagman

To my untrained eyes, the most notable thing about Moore's delivery is his closed stride. Is it possible his second year has seen him close the stride even more?

Mar 03, 2014 07:24 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Good notes, R.A.

Moore has a closed stride, though it's not egregious. Just before foot strike, his hips rotate to bring the stride leg within a couple inches of the centerline. Considering his starting position on the 3B side, it could be argued that his line to the plate is right on target. The stride angle and positioning look like they are essentially the same in 2012 and 2013.

Mar 03, 2014 12:14 PM
 
Jim ONeill

I would agree with R.A. and would add that the 2012 delivery seems to have a little better trunk rotation.

Mar 03, 2014 07:32 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Agreed on the sheer speed of trunk rotation, but the big question is what;s leading to that difference speed. If his torque was much different, or perhaps he had stronger momentum in '12, then it would explain the preceding links in the kinetic chain that led to better arm speed. It's the causal chain that's missing, which leads me to believe that there could be a loss of physical or structural integrity.

Mar 03, 2014 12:16 PM
 
Priley

His left leg follow- through is much different. Watch how much farther it goes in 2012. Makes him look a lot stiffer.

Mar 03, 2014 07:42 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Good call, Priley. That difference in follow-through takes place very late in the sequence, and the ball is essentially crossing home plate when he stiffens up in 2013, so it doesn't really explain his velo drop in and of itself. Though it is possible that it's an indicator of weaker hip rotation, as he lacks the angular momentum of the hips to continue the progression.

Mar 03, 2014 12:19 PM
 
dkirchg

The hip movement in 2012 is more fluid then 2013. In 2012 the hips seem to be part of the delivery and in 2013 his hips seem to be a litle bit out of sync.

Mar 03, 2014 08:18 AM
rating: 1
 
BP staff member Doug Thorburn
BP staff

Now we might be getting somewhere. Great call, dkirchg, both in terms of the lesser hip rotation and the out-of-sync look of his rotational timing. Priley's suggestion is linked to this in the sense of being an after-effect of the weaker hip rotation.

This could boil down to a physical issue with his lower half, or he could have lost the feel for the hip-rotation portion of the delivery. Both issues are potentially fixable, either through conditioning regimen or mechanical work to regain the timing and feel of hip rotation.

Awesome stuff, everyone. The class participation has been excellent.

Mar 03, 2014 12:23 PM
 
iorg34

Great stuff as always, Doug.

Mar 03, 2014 11:49 AM
rating: 0
 
danrnelson

I wonder if he was dealing with a knee issue in his right leg last year. It almost looks like he's pulling up to avoid striking down too hard on the right leg. It looks like his foot strike is tentative in 2013 compared to 2012. Do you see this at all?

Mar 03, 2014 13:21 PM
rating: 0
 
danrnelson

Thus the decline in hip rotation, since he finishes the rotation after striking.

Mar 03, 2014 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Stuart Wallace
BP staff

Don't know why I am focusing on his hands so much, but he is missing a ball to glove tap prior to breaking his hands now that was there in 2012. Could potentially see that bringing in ever so slight timing offsets downstream, possibly leading him to a little more crossfire and less hip and trunk rotation due to it. I'm not totally sold on that being the primary culprit, but it was nonetheless something that jumped out at me.

Mar 03, 2014 18:28 PM
 
Nathan Aderhold

The missing glove tap was the first thing I noticed as well, and I'm just as skeptical about its importance. Could be something, though!

Beyond the glove tap, it looks as though he isn't driving forward quite as much in the 2013 GIF. When his plant leg hits in the 2012 GIF, his weight clearly shifts over the front leg. In 2013, it looks as though he's keeping his weight back ever so slightly. I'm guessing this is part of the lesser hip rotation everyone has mentioned.

Mar 06, 2014 10:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Stitch24

Right when his foot is striking his arm is in a better position to throw (hand up closer to head level and vertical to shoulders) in 2012. In 2013 at foot strike the hand is still horizontal with the shoulders. Not sure if this would cause a velo drop, but may be a timing issue.

Mar 03, 2014 20:25 PM
rating: 0
 
Stitch24

In 2013 a frame later he gets to the same position as 2012 so it's not huge difference, but still there slightly.

Mar 03, 2014 20:28 PM
rating: 0
 
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