Saturday, May 1, 2010

A Second Tale of Two Brandons

We Can Dance If We Want To
Adding a wrinkle to a pitcher's delivery is a lot like giving a kid a new toy. He wants to play with it all the time, his TV friends don't want to talk about anything else, and whoever gave it to him is sure he's going to break it in a matter of minutes.

Brandon Morrow, as you're well aware, dropped his arm slot a few starts ago and now everything is sweet naked nectar. Nothing but strikeouts, ground balls, and the occasional half-dozen walk outing. Which stands in stark contrast to his swap partner and namesake — Morrow's results are quite positive. Is there anything to this lower arm slot? Does it help him throw strikes? Is it even real? The nerdmachine will tell us all the answers.

It's safe to say that, yes; Brandon Morrow dropped his arm slot. He's no Quisenberry, but he moved it down and out. I know the release point numbers pitch f/x spits out aren't super reliable from one park to the next, but trust me when I say I looked at outings from Rogers Centre only and they checked out.

But the movement's the thing, right? I know I saw Brandon Morrow toss some filthy tailing fastballs Friday night, really fooling hitters who gave up on fastballs that looked to be headed directly for their front hip. Is that new or just newsworthy because he threw them for strikes?

PitchHorizontal Break - Old SlotVelocity OSHorizontal Break - New SlotVelocity NS
Four Seam FB-2.4193.5-6.893.4
Sinking/Tailing FB-6.2589.9-8.791.6

Dramatic as some of those changes are, they come with some provisos. I ignored vertical break for no good reason. I used the pitch classifications as they came - save one exception. I treated all Morrow's change ups as sinking fastballs. Surely some of these pitches are indeed changes while others are straight up fastballs masquerading as funkier stuff, but I don't have all night here.

The important takeaway here is how much more Bruce Walton has Brandon Morrow's electric fastball moving around. If it isn't astounding, it's close. Whether Morrow can keep throwing it for strikes is one thing (and by my rough count, his new arm slot produces slightly more pitches in "the strike zone"), but he'll miss a shit tonne MORE bats (13.4%) than he already did (7.6% in the higher slot.) And that's a good thing.

If Bruce Walton's next trick is using this lower arm slot to keep Brandon Morrow healthy, I won't know what to do with myself. Make Walton the new manager! NO WAIT &mdash don't change a thing. Fire up the quality starter assembly line and go with a 162 man rotation! A no-hitter every night! The fun we'll have!!

Emasculating image courtesy of Reuters/Daylife. Pitch f/x help from Joey and Brooksie, two people who don't deserve hockey nicknames.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. ^
    Sorry about that, but my initial comment made it sound like I was insulting the Mariners fans when I was trying to indirectly insult Seattle's management.

    Anyway, while Brandon Morrow's success still remains to be seen long-term, the lower arm angle seems to be of great help. The question I have is, short of being completely oblivious, why didn't Seattle's brass suggest this kind of solution for Morrow earlier in his career?

    Maybe I'm taking this far too simplistically, but unless Morrow refused the Mariners' advice due to an irrational fear of shipping related paraphernalia, I would think lowering an arm angle is one of the first steps for tweaking a pitcher.

  3. Life after Arnsberg ain't as gloomy as many thought it'd be. Sounds like Walton's not afraid to roll up his sleeves and work on mechanics, and better yet, that he has an idea of how to go about it. Looking forward to seeing how this young staff develops.

  4. A lower arm angle always means more movement but sometimes a drop in velocity. It also lessens the stress on all of the arm joints. I'm sure you knew this but the reason some don't lower it is because it's worked well and tweaking the delivery can be disasterous.

    Sandy Koufax comes to mind when thinking of a straight over the top guy. It also is responsible for the 12-6 curveball. Lower arm slots create a sweeping curve that sometimes looks like a slurve.

    Most pitchers have different slots for each pitch as well. The best ones have the same slot regardless of the pitch. That could be another reason for the change, an attempt to get a consistent slot. Excuse my explanation if this is all common knowledge...


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