Ever wonder why pitchers “own” certain batters and why some batters “own” them?
My theory is that when there is a “match” of the batter’s swing arc and the pitcher’s angle of release to the plate, the bat is more likely to intersect with the ball.
In this case we say the batter “owns” the pitcher.
Conversely, when there is not a “match” of the batter’s swing arc and the pitcher’s angle of release to the plate, the bat is less likely to intersect with the ball.
In this case we say the pitcher “owns” the batter.
If you are a Right-handed pitcher you can throw from three basic slots:
- over-hand [from the 12 o’clock angle.]
- three-quarter [from the 10:30 angle.]
- side-arm [from the 9 o’clock angle.]
- over-hand [from the 12 o’clock angle.]
- three-quarter [from the 1:30 angle.]
- side-arm [from the 3 o’clock angle.]
Regardless of which side they throw from, most amateur pitchers use one of the three slots for all their pitches…
"…but they could use a different slot for each pitch on their menu."
Hence, a pitcher with 7 pitches on his menu: fastball [2-seam], fastball [4-seam], curve, change-up, slider, cutter, and splitter could match them all with any of the 3 arm slots.
In theory, a pitcher who could throw all 7 pitches from all 3 arm slots would have 21 “different” looks to confuse the batter. Imagine batting against this pitcher and trying to anticipate—“sit on”—a certain pitch with the odd against you 21-1.
Now, add in another factor; the position on the rubber; if a pitcher moved an inch, he would have about 17 different locations to start his delivery. But, let’s limit him to just three: left side, middle, and right side.
Before a June start against the Rays this season, Clay Buchholz moved on the pitching rubber.
“I wasn’t really doing well and I felt like something needed to change, so I moved from the third-base side to the first-base side,” Buchholz said.
“Buchholz said shifting his spot on the mound has helped with two pitches in particular: the control of his curveball and the two-seam fastball in to left-handed hitters. Buchholz doubled his swing-and-miss rate on the pitch after moving on the mound last season.” http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/red-sox/content/20130920-buchholz-makes-adjustment-and-reaps-benefits.ece
Moving along the rubber—even a slight adjustment–creates new angles for a pitcher.
“[The mound] goes 17 inches and you can be on the outer edge of those. It’s a fairly significant difference in the angle you’re creating with the plate,” general manager Ben Cherington said. “For a certain body type, a certain delivery, a certain form of athleticism, there is a spot on the rubber that works best for them. It’s not the same for every guy.” http://www.providencejournal.com/sports/red-sox/content/20130920-buchholz-makes-adjustment-and-reaps-benefits.ece
If our hypothetical Right-handed pitcher, who could throw all 7 pitches from all 3 arm slots, were to also be able to throw all those pitches from 3 different locations on the rubber, it would give him 63 “different” pitches.
Buchholz and other pitchers on the Red Sox staff — make slight adjustments in their delivery during the games:
“He changed, and now he’s able to move throughout the at-bat. Lackey, same thing,” Saltalamacchia said. “If you’re pulling the ball as a hitter, if you’re too pull-happy, I like to move off the plate to make sure I don’t try to pull it and vice versa. I’ll get close to the plate if I’m a little late…
As a pitcher, you’ve got to be able to do the same thing. You’ve got to be able to adjust.”
The angle that a pitcher releases the ball and the arc of the hitter’s bat–and their intersection–are the 3 factors that may explain why certain batters do well against certain pitchers and how certain pitchers do well against certain batters.
In addition to varying the kind of pitch he throws [fastball, curve, change], a pitcher can increase his odds of fooling the batter, if he adjusts his arm slot or his position on the pitching rubber.
*** The Pitching Professor will appear every THURSDAY here on BSI…Send your pitching questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org