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May 23, 2014

Raising Aces

Going Vertical

by Doug Thorburn


Downhill plane carries substantial weight in the pitcher evaluation game. Poor marks in that area carry repercussions ranging from diminished prospect status to bullpen assignments conceived in order to limit the exposure of a perceived weakness. The driver of downhill plane is the height of the baseball at the pitcher’s release point, an element influenced by various mechanical techniques and tendencies. On the surface, it seems obvious that a player's height would be a major determinant of his vertical release, and while there’s something to that relationship, multiple variables are at play, and physical height is merely a piece of the equation.

Downhill plane can be an effective tool, but the oft-associated costs (to release distance, repetition, etc.) bring the marginal utility of the technique into question. I have often referred to pitchers who employ spine-tilt in the attempt to create an artificially high release point, with glove-side lean that concurrently raises their arm slot, but is that the only way to generate a high release?

Thanks to the bounty of PITCHf/x data available at BrooksBaseball.net, we can analyze the numbers to identify the various methods major-league pitchers use to create high release points. The population of MLB pitchers shows a bell-shaped distribution for release height, and the graph of the vertical-release spectrum is full of intrigue on the extremes.

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Related Content:  Release Points

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

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SlackerGeorge

Good job, Doug. Great use of screen shots to augment the written words. It would be interesting to understand if there are organizational training re Milwaukee's school of thought on spine tilt.

May 23, 2014 05:19 AM
rating: 3
 
Biesterfield

It would be safe to say that higher release points correlate with lower than average platoon splits, and vice-versa, correct?

May 23, 2014 12:21 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Dan Rozenson
BP staff

In theory, yes. It would be interesting to test.

It is probably not a coincidence that relief specialists tend to drop down to the side.

May 23, 2014 17:25 PM
 
oldbopper

In total agreement with your assessment of relief specialists. The percentage of LOOGY's who deliver from a low arm angle is extremely high while many right handed relievers who go low seem to go all the way to the ground. Chad Bradford and Dan Quisenberry were also submariners who come to mind immediately in addition to the pair mentioned in the article.

May 23, 2014 19:13 PM
rating: 0
 
jwbbslo

Downhill plane is a function of pitching down in the strike zone. My guess is there are a lot of pitchers with lower release heights that have more angle to the plate than Collmenter who is basically a high fastball pitcher.IMO the greater the angle, the harder it is to create a swing path to match the pitch path & the harder it is to predict where the pitch is going to go through the hitting zone.

May 23, 2014 13:32 PM
rating: 0
 
quinngos

I wonder what does the data tell you about Blue Jay Marcus Stroman?
Many feel because of his short stature, this top prospect will never succeed as a starter. Your thoughts?

As well I'd point out length of arm ( wingspan ), is a much measured and sought out in the NBA draft. Many shorter players have very long arms and reach ( Derek Rose is 6' 1.5 " barefoot, but has the reach of a 6' 8" guy). Do baseball teams do these measurements?

May 25, 2014 12:33 PM
rating: 1
 
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