A former player of mine recently made his college debut and threw in front of a Yakkertech for the first time. It had been a year since I had watched him throw so I was excited to see how he would do and was eager to see the metrics of his arsenal.
While watching his outing I noticed something different with his breaking ball. It seemed like he threw two different ones, one that had more depth and one that had more sweep. The velocity was the same on the scoreboard so I didn’t think he added a new pitch, and I couldn’t tell if it was just the TV angle making them look different or if he actually threw two different pitches.
The start went well and he held the Power 5 school to just one run over five innings. After sending him a congratulatory text and telling him he’s a badass, we started talking about his outing. He brought up how he started throwing his Curveball two different ways. In the text exchange below, you see that he mentions he likes throwing the more vertical hammer for a strike and use the sweeper as an out pitch. I was happy to hear this and confirmed what my eyes saw while watching him throw, so I had him send over the data file to see what the difference was between the two pitches.
In total, he threw 26 Curveballs and seven of them were different from the rest. In the table below you can see the metrics of the two pitches. While maintaining the same velocity and spin, the biggest difference came with the tilt and break metrics (LHP by the way).
His “vertical hammer” came out of the hand with a 5:00 spin direction, which creates more topspin and gives it more depth; compared to his “sweeper” which left the hand with a 3:45 spin direction creating more, you guessed it, sweep. We can quantify how much more depth and sweep these pitches have by looking at the differences in the vertical break, induced vertical break, and horizontal break. You can see the sweeper getting 10 fewer inches of drop on average, induced vertical break cut in half, and getting a couple more inches of horizontal movement along the way. Enough talking about all these numbers though, let’s get to the visuals and how everything applies.
You can see the differences between these two pitches above. The hammer on the left has much more topspin as it spins down towards that 5:00 value, and the pitch on the right has more sidespin as it spins across to the 3:45 value.
These Curveballs are thrown with the exact same grip, same velocity, and same spin. All that is changed is the intention of what he wants to do with the flight path and what he is trying to execute on the mound for the given situation. This is an example of how pitchers can get creative with their arsenal and manipulate how they use their pitches. This idea is not new with pitchers throwing a Curveball that they can flip in for an easy strike, but now it can be measured and visualized with the tools coaches have available to them.
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