Back in November, left Tyler Anderson Signed with the Angels, Ben Clemens A. wrote Very interesting piece about the deal. How did Ben make his article so interesting? by cheating. He was already writing a great article on Anderson, so instead of starting from scratch, he just folded the one into a signature article. It was unfair to the rest of us who struggle to keep up with Ben even when he’s not juicing.
What Ben noticed was that in 2020 Anderson started throwing his match from the underarm hole against the left. Recently, he’s started doing the same thing with some of his cutting tools. Dropping some of his cutters meant hitters could no longer assume that a lower launch point meant a sinker was coming, and it improved cutter performance. In 2022, the left had a wOBA of .268 and an exit speed of 79.5 mph against regular Anderson cutter. The cutoff drop was at .124 and 76.3.
Inspired by Anderson’s new approach, I looked for shooters who would do the same. We’re not just looking for guys who take each other down to throw some pitches; There are a lot of those on the list. We are specifically looking for players who dramatically change their arm angle depending on the hand of the batters they are facing. Once you eliminate position players, who have understandably inconsistent shooting points, there are only a handful of players who meet these criteria. Only six pitchers had a difference of more than three inches between their vertical firing points against right and left:
Vertical Liberation Splits (in feet) – 2022
Source: World Baseball
Ralph Garza Jr. is our headliner, so we’re going to save him till the end. Near the bottom is our old friend Tyler Anderson. Lowering it on its plunger and some cutters lowers its average firing point to the left by four inches.
Rich Hill is a name that probably shouldn’t surprise us either. As the oldest player in the league, baseball tradition requires that the newly signed Pirate be the hardest crafter as well, who is more than up to the challenge. Hill is down 12.6% of the time. He mostly throws his slider to the left, and in 2017, he’s started doing so from an underarm angle occasionally. Also, after more or less giving up the changeup earlier in his career, Hill returns the changeup in 2021. He throws it from a normal starting point against right, but falls on the rather rare occasion where he throws it to left. Both are changes:
Hill’s change is an interesting move. He doesn’t seem to have a lot of control over it, and often uses it as a waste to right fielders, with the catcher setting up away from the plate. Hill threw 86 tackles in 2022, of which 28% were strikeouts and 48% were balls. The pitch only got one whiff last season, but it also gave up just one hit on the field, the dribble.
Right-hander Humberto Castellanos drops to 3am for some of his curves to the right-hander, and that definitely worked for him. Over the course of his career, the righty has a .457 wOBA off his regular curve, and an average exit speed of 92.9 mph. Those numbers are .272 and 81.2 vs. Curve Firearms. However, curved firearms have lost some of their effectiveness in 2022, and have ceased to be used as often. In 2021, 83% of his curves to the right were a sidearm; In 2022, that number will be 63%. Here are two curves from two completely different angles of the arm, both swinging exactly the same in the case of doubles. It’s more fun with audio playback:
Dropping isn’t a dead giveaway that curve is coming, because Castellanos also shifts the point of launching his dive to the right. Castellanos ran in 2022 roughly. He appeared in 11 games for the Diamondbacks before he had Tommy John surgery. He will miss the 2023 season entirely, and Arizona sidelined him in November.
This brings us to Yennier Cano, one of four young pitchers who moved from Minnesota to Baltimore in Trade deadline to Jorge Lopez And Bush died last August. It’s possible that the Baltimore front office saw some ways the Canoes could make use of their time back home New installation lab. A very poor stretch means a 95.3 mph fastball plays like a 94.2. He made it into this article largely because of his four stitching and slider. He shoots the four cloaks up and just throws them to the left. Shoot the slider low, and just throw it to the right. The difference between the two is very stark. You know those pictures we all love Aaron Judge standing next to Jose Altuve? The judge is 13 inches taller than the tuff. Difference between Kano’s average slider and four-sewers? 12.8 inches:
The demarcation between Kano’s pitches is so intense that its launch point diagram looks like it was created by that kid from summer camp who organized each Skittles by flavor before he ate it. I have to imagine Kano’s 11.58 ERA and 5.78 FIP were due at least in part to the fact that his arm angle was announcing any incoming pitch with all the precision of an air raid siren:
Joe Smith, the 15-year veteran who spent 2022 with the Twins before being released at Deadline, has a somewhat similar firing point scheme. 86% of his sinkers come against the left, and he shoots them about nine inches under his four seams. The difference between Smith and Cano is that Smith changes the release point on his slider significantly, so there is at least some overlap with both types of fastball. When it’s a sidearm, the hitter can expect a slide or four seam. When in full sub, the hitter can expect either a slider or a sinker:
Interestingly, Smith’s release score wasn’t always so distinct. Stratification has increased over the past few years, as its speed and overall performance have tended to decline. Whether this change was one of the reasons for Smith’s decline, or a reaction to it, is difficult to say:
The last archer on our list is the real prize. It’s not just that Garza drops against the right, or that he changes the mix of the court depending on his hand. It adheres to both strategies so perfectly that there is absolutely no overlap between who’s on the right and who’s on the left:
Ralph Garza Jr. Stadium usage divisions – 2022
|pitch type||against. LHB||vs. RHB||vertical release point|
Source: World Baseball
Garza’s shooting point against the left is low, but he still has a fairly standard three-quarter delivery. It uses a mixture of three tones and splashes in a transverse curve. Against the right, however, is a fully-armed sliding-action sunken man, with a firing point of over 18 inches. All screenshots below were taken from the same binary theme on June 25th:
Garza was promoting that way since college. He was the 769th pick in the 2015 draft. The Astros encouraged him to keep his double deliveries during their long climb to the major leagues, but in 2021, after just seven appearances, they named him for the job. Minnesota picked him up on waivers (as he missed out on sharing the bullpen with Joe Smith), and he finished the 2021 season with a 3.56 ERA and 4.88 FIP. The Red Sox claimed him on waivers in March of 2022, then waived him the day before the season began, at which point the Rays claimed him. Garza spent the season jumping between Tampa and Triple A Durham before he was fired in August. He once again exceeded expectations, putting up a 3.34 ERA on a 5.17 FIP in six separate big league stints.
By ERA, Garza has been a productive pitcher in two short seasons. He’s already got 0.6 bWAR. I can confidently predict that Garza will continue to outperform FIP. I’d like to see him progress even more next year. It’s so much fun watching him throw back-to-back pitches like these two:
Unfortunately, Garza doesn’t seem like the contact management type. In addition to intimidating walks and strike rates, he gives up plenty of line drives. Of all the pitchers with at least 100 hits in the past two years, Garza’s .361 xwOBA is in the 99th percentile. His exit velocity doesn’t seem too alarming until you focus on where the damage is. On fly balls and line drives, his exit speed is in the 73rd percentile, and his haul rate in the 97th percentile. This is especially important because xwOBA (which doesn’t really like Garza) doesn’t take into account splash angle, and pulled volleys are more than twice as valuable as those out there. in the corresponding field. Garza has a good average for a ground ball to the right, but his current racquetball profile does not qualify him for success.
As you would expect, Garza fares much better against right-wingers. A look at Garza’s move profile and movement gives an idea of how he improves against lefties:
As you can see, the sinker and slider mirror each other perfectly. However, the same cannot be said for the pitches that Garza throws left. The Garza curveball isn’t quite as noticeable with spin or movement, but it reverses well with the four-piece sewing machine. Garza has only thrown 27 curveballs so far, but the pitch was fine on that small sample. Increasing his use of the curve ball, even if it’s just to bury an occasional person in the dirt, will give lefties something new to worry about, and make them come to the plate with a different plan. Finally, I will note that Garza’s walk numbers and strikeouts were significantly better in the minors, so there may be hope for improvement on that front.
Almost all pitchers change their pitch combination depending on their hand, even like the stars Max ScherzerWho is the Fully sliding shelves against leftists. Delivery is another matter. Pitchers work very hard to perfect it and make it as consistent as possible. Few would choose the method of discovering and maintaining two sets of mechanics (and in Garza’s case, six distinct tunes) if they saw an easier path to success. Hill’s long journey from independent ball to MLB has been well documented, but Anderson is the rare pitcher who has been doing more or less well before trying a new arm angle. It’s a move for creators and gamers without better options. Only two of our six players have played a full season in 2022 at the big league level, and only three are on the 40-man roster right now. In the end, the rarity of shooters who are only down for some time is perhaps the best indicator of how difficult it can be to execute successfully.