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Articles Tagged Slide Step 

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June 21, 2013 5:00 am

Raising Aces: The Cain Madness and a Troubled Helix

9

Doug Thorburn

Searching for the source of the struggles of Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson this season.

Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson are similar pitchers, with a likeness that extends to stuff, mechanics, and stats. Both pitchers have fastballs that average 91-92 mph on the gun, with plus command of great off-speed stuff to keep opposing batters off-balance. Each uses a 77-mph curveball around 12 percent of the time, but while Hellickson uses an 80-mph changeup at a 30 percent clip, Cain is a 15 percent cambio guy whose off-speed pitch comes in at a heavy 86 mph on average. He also adds a slider with the same frequency and velocity as his change. I have touted both pitchers for their excellent balance and strong posture, the underlying ingredients of top-notch pitch repetition, although the hurlers also share an affinity toward slow momentum.

Hellickson might be lower on the totem pole and several years Cain's junior, but the negative connotations associated with his profile are eerily reminiscent of those that Cain endured early in his own career. Armchair analysts who choose to focus solely on certain stats and eschew batted-ball numbers due to their inherent volatility have screamed “luck” in a reach to explain the consistently low BABIPs of both pitchers, with constant calls for regression to the league mean. Those same analysts can now be found basking under a cloud of smug, as both Hellickson and Cain are currently in the midst of the worst seasons of their respective careers.

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June 22, 2012 5:00 am

Raising Aces: A Slide Step in the Wrong Direction

15

Doug Thorburn

The slide step is intended to help pitchers, but would they be better off without it?

The classic Greek sabermetrician Plato said that necessity is the mother of invention.True to form, the slide step was borne from the need to suppress stolen bases at a time when the game was experiencing a record surge of thievery, but I submit that the strategy carries heavy costs that fail to outweigh the perceived benefits. The slide step invention is in dire need of an intervention.

The slide step is an artifact of the 1980s, a time when players such as Rickey Henderson and Vince Coleman were surpassing 100 stolen bases with regularity, terrorizing pitchers with constant distractions on the base paths. Since the Dead Ball Era, there have been 18 player-seasons that surpassed the 80-steal threshold, and 15 of those performances occurred in the 10-year stretch from 1979—1988. Henderson and Coleman were the last players to accomplish the feat, having tallied 174 steals between them in the '88 season, and were responsible for 10 of the 80-steal seasons between them, but the base-swiping explosion was hardly a two-man show (see accompanying chart). Today's top rogues of the base paths typically top out around 60 to 70 steals, with Jose Reyes' 78-steal tally of 2007 sticking out like a hitchhiker's thumb on the decade's SB leaderboard. For example, Michael Bourn has led the National League in stolen bases for three straight seasons, though his career-high is “just” 61 steals (accomplished twice). As Henderson told Harold Reynolds after the Mariner second baseman stole 60 bags in the 1987 season, “Rickey stole 60 at the break!”

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