A Baseball Weblog

Friday, August 6, 2010

Release points (focus on sidewinders and submariners)

I've started taking a more detailed look at release points. That's usually the first identification when watching a pitcher on television, before we can make any judgments on his stuff --- does he come from over the top? Three-quarters? Side-winding? Submarine? But while noting this when watching games, I for some reason didn't really take much time to observe release points as catalogued by PITCHf/x data (which, clearly, I am fascinated by). So, I will dedicate this post to data representations of release points. Before I get into the graph stuff, I'd like to note that what we consider the release point in the data to be is an approximation based on where the PITCHf/x cameras first detect the ball out of the pitcher's hand. So while it's not an exact representation of where the pitcher's arm is, it's the closest thing we have now.

The above chart (my apologies for the cluttered-ness) shows the release points for the pitchers who have thrown in 2010. It's from the catcher's perspective, so the points on the positive side of the horizontal axis are from left-handers, and the points on the negative side are from right-handers (with what is to my knowledge one exception, which I'll get to in a bit). There are also some stray marks outside of the clusters, which represent the arm-angles of the sidewinders/submariners. For the right-handers, the guys that are outside of the general cluster are Cla Meredith, Darren O'Day, Peter Moylan, Sean Green, Joe Smith, and Brad Ziegler. Green throws from about a foot more to the side than any of the other righties. Ziegler, who appears to be the only true right-handed "submarine" specialist, has the lowest vertical angle but releases the ball only about two and a half feet from the side. For the lefties, the outliers are Randy Choate, Javier Lopez, James Houser, Pedro Feliciano, Joe Thatcher, and Mitch Stetter. Choate looks like a submariner, while Stetter comes from a higher angle but releases the ball a remarkable four and a half feet away from the center of the plate.

The cluster to the right is for left-handers, and the cluster to the left is for right-handers, with the one exception that I alluded to before. This exception is Hideki Okajima, whose release point PITCHf/x picks up as being to the side of home plate where right-handers work from. As far as I know, Okajima works from the extreme 3rd base side of the rubber; he also has a straight over-the-top delivery, which would probably account for this anomaly. By the way, at the end of this post I will include links to video clips of Okajima and the other pitchers I've mentioned here.

One other thing that's important to note - this post was pretty "quick 'n' dirty," as the release points on the chart were determined simply by taking the average release point on all of the pitcher's pitches. That means that the pitchers who have at least one distinct release point (Jose Contrereas, for example) or pitch from both sides of the rubber (Ben Sheets) will be misrepresented. There are only a few pitchers I know of that vary their release points significantly, but at some point I'll go back and do some refining.

Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLB Advanced Media, and can be accessed easily via Joe Lefkowitz's site. Here is some video, courtesy of mlb.com and YouTube, of the sidearmers and submariners I identified (as well as Okajima):
James Houser (limited MLB experience - the video is from YouTube and is of poor quality)


  1. Fascinating! Looking at the scatterplot with outliers makes me imagine looking out at the pitcher from the batter's box, focusing on the empty point in space from where the ball will soon emerge. Thank you, LAA.