This is a follow up post about how we were able to use the technology available to us at Post baseball to help develop a new pitch pairing. In the video below, we have a sophomore pitcher throwing a fastball and curveball at the start of the fall that I posted in an earlier blog post. Below the video is the Rapsodo information that we collected on the pitch.
Rapsodo Curveball Data
In the graph above, you can see that his curveball varied between being closer to a slider with the pitches either on the x-axis or just below and a below average slurve for those lower in the cluster. We had always eyeballed the pitch and thought that it didn’t appear sharp, despite having a decent amount of movement. Coupled with the fact that its trajectory was immediately different out of hand, the pitch has not been incredibly effective for him so far.
Making the Change
Subjectively with the pitch not passing the eye test and objectively through Rapsodo data, overlay video and pitch trails, we proposed to this pitcher to try throwing a slider. I was originally hesitant to the idea because I thought it would be a hard pitch to pick up after throwing his curveball for so long. However, our other coaches at Post thought it was worth a try and so armed with the data and video, the pitcher was able to begin trying to throw a slider with the goal of making it look like his fastball for longer. At no point did I tell him how I wanted him to throw the pitch, he was only given what we wanted the ultimate goal to be (mimic the fastball for longer before breaking glove side). Curiously enough, he grips the pitch the exact same way as his curveball but changed his intention behind the pitch to throw it hard. Ultimately, he has developed a pitch that mirrors his fastball a lot longer and has the movement profile we were looking for.
Rapsodo Slider Data
As is apparent in the video, the two pitches look a lot closer than his previous fastball/breaking ball pairing (this is mainly due to his hard work, but also our first attempt at creating our own overlay/pitch trail videos). The slider does not pop out of his hand right away like his curveball did in the earlier video. While there is still so much unknown about pitch tunneling, I am under the belief that having two pitches that deviate paths late on their way to the plate cannot make hitting easier. Being able to generate overlay clips and attach pitch trails to them provides our guys a good visual example of how their pitches move and how quickly/late they separate from each other. Also noteworthy is how this pitcher found a way to accomplish his goal without being given specific instructions about what to think or how to grip the pitch. He was given a goal and a reason why and went about making it happen on his own. Not all guys are going to be able to do this, but it is interesting to note for coaches who feel the urge to constantly “help” or offer their advice. Sometimes all it takes is giving the athlete a goal and trusting that he is going to work on his own to accomplish it. In this case, the pitcher was able to self-organize and create a pitch based on nothing other than making his breaking ball look like his fastball for longer.
Ultimately, while the pitch looks good on Rapsodo and in video, the biggest test still lies ahead when we test to see how our hitters react to the pitch in live-AB’s when we get back on campus from winter break. The biggest thing for us is tracking to make sure improvement is indeed occurring and then deciding whether adjustments need to be made. When he gets back in January, we will continue to track the pitch with overlay video, trails and Rapsodo data while tracking how often he throws it in the zone, how many swings the pitch generates and the pitch’s whiff rate.
We are also currently trying to figure out a way to drill tunneling in catch through adjusting the task constraints and external goal of the drill. The concept was discussed by Trevor Bauer in this article while he was at UCLA. Again, while there is still a lot that is unknown about pitch tunneling, it would be interesting to track to see if focusing on tunneling in catch has an impact on pitch tunnels in game and on command in general.