Pitch Movement Changers

Movement

Pitch movement is simply measured by vertical and horizontal movement. Some websites do differ in the number of inches as some include gravity while others don’t. Movement on a pitch can mean everything. Think about it – of course the more a pitch moves the harder it is to hit. But on the other end, that also means it is harder for the pitcher to command. Below are two pitchers who have seen an increase in movement on one of their pitches. So what does this mean for these pitchers moving forward? Check it out below!

Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer has been like a sour patch candy the past two years. In 2018 he was sweet and put up a 2.21 ERA with the underlying metrics to support it. In 2019 he turned sour and put up a 4.48 ERA and again had the underlying metrics to support it. Coming into 2020 it was impossible to make rhyme or reason on what the heck happened to Bauer. Personally I thought his four-seam seemed to over-perform in 2018, thinking his 2020 wouldn’t be far off from his 2019. Boy was I wrong.

In three starts he has been beyond impressive producing a 0.93 ERA, 1.89 FIP, 40.6 K-BB% (wow), and 14.7 SwStr%. A small sample size of course, but still impressive. One major reason is that four-seam fastball I stupidly questioned. Bauer has thrown this pitch 176 times, and hitters facing it have only produced a 0.65 batting average and .162 wOBA. The major reason being its vertical movement. In 2019, Bauers fastball averaged a 9.41-inch rise and currently, it is at a 10.39-inch rise. How does one create more movement on a pitch? One way is to increase your revolutions per minute (RPMs). Well in 2019 Bauer’s RPMs on his fastball were at 2,418 and in 2020 his fastball is sitting at 2,797 RPMs.

Bauer’s four-seam fastball was without a doubt his downfall last year. Just in terms of pVAL, which describes how well a pitch was utilized, last year his four-seam pVAL was -4.7. This year it is already at 6.7, reminiscent of his great 2018 season where it reached 12.8. If you take his fastball and pair it with his already impressive cutter, curveball, and slider Bauer now has four above-average pitches. That is impressive and Trevor Bauer seems to be well on his way to a great season. 

Spencer Turnbull

Spencer Turnbull came into the 2020 season as an afterthought. He plays for the Tigers who just aren’t very good and he was anything but great last year. So far 2020 has been a different story, albeit he’s only had four starts but posting a 2.78 ERA with a .236 wOBAcon isn’t something to disregard either. To start the year, Turnbull is inducing a ton of weak contact as he only has a 3.3 Barrel% against him and a well above average 54.2 GB%. This all stems from his slider that seems to be taking a step forward.

Last year Turnbull’s main strikeout pitch was his slider which had a 15.3 SwStr%. That isn’t the greatest number to have as your main swing and miss pitch. He already has a really good four-seam fastball so pairing it with a true swing and miss pitch was the key to Turnbull having a better 2020 season. So far this season Turnbull’s slider has a 26.5 SwStr%. It also has a higher O-Swing%, better wOBA against, and better ISO against. But again, small sample size so we have to look deeper to make sure this is indeed legit.

To start, Turnbull increased his sliders RPMs. It has gone from 2,438 RPMs in 2019 to 2,533 RPMs this season thus resulting in more movement. His slider movement went from having an overall movement of 3.3 inches to 3.9. He did this mainly by increasing its horizontal movement. Something he seems to be working on in the past three years. Its movement in inches starting in 2018 went from 2.29 to 3.07 and now to 3.51. 

Turnbull has gotten off to a hot start and his slider is a major reason why. With a plus four-seam and finally a valid strikeout pitch we could expect Turnbull to be a quality pitcher moving forward. One of the best things about Turnbull is his deep arsenal, which gives him five options to go with. In fact, in a recent start against the Pirates he said he didn’t have his stuff but yet he still performed well. That is because with a deep arsenal you can move on to other pitches when one pitch isn’t working.  Now don’t expect a sub-three ERA but an ERA hovering in the three’s is feasible at this point.

We hoped you liked reading Pitch Movement Changers by Michael Simione!

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Jackie T.
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Jackie T.

Interesting and actionable stuff, good piece.