Understanding Pitch F/X: Release Point Chart
It’s a common problem in pitching to see pitchers experience difficulty due to improper arms slot. Either they never had a very good one or something is happening earlier in the motion to throw their arm slot off. Poor arm slot is generally indicitive of a poor mechanical process elsewhere. Poor mechanics lead to rushing which not only throws a pitch off, it can hurt a pitcher as well.
For today’s little tutorial we are going to look at a single game from Justin Verlanders 2011 MVP/Cy Young/Better Than You Could Hope To Be season. Our data set will come from his May 7th start against the Toronto Blue Jays. (hint: It was a really good game.)
So first off, lets decipher what we are looking at. In the charts key we see indicated JV’s pitch types. On the X and Y axis we see distances from the catchers perspective (in feet). The box in the center of the graph denotes a generic strikezone. Strike zones by definition can vary from batter to batter so the one shown is more or less just an average and should only be used to create a perspective, not a truth.
There is something about how this data is gathered that is very important to note. It is not gathered at actual release. It is gathered at the 50ft. from home plate. This is important to note because looking at actual release points (aka video) can tell us so much more than any pitch f/x chart ever could. However, given the absence of solid video sometimes the release point chart serves as an integral part of my work.
What we want to see when we look at these charts is consistency. In determining consistency, you must first determine someplace to work around. There is generally going to be at least one good sized clump on the chart. The center of that clump is going to be where you determine the consistency of the release from. Deviation from that main point is the determing factor here. The more pitches that deviate and how far they deviate from the main point, the worse the release is.
Looking at JV, I’d pick (-1.75, 6.25) as his general release point. All his pitches are being picked up within approximately a foot of that point. Given the nature of the data collection, magnus effect (pitch movement), and any other immeasurable factor I’d say that this a very good release. It’s very deceptive to come around with so many different pitches, but have them all fly at you from the exact same spot.
For general purposes I’d have to say that falling within that 1ft deviation is very good. The rating gets worse the larger that number gets and by the time you hit 2ft, you should probably be hitting up the minor leagues for some mechanics work in my opinion.
So when I see a bad release point, I know that there is a larger mechanical issue at stake here. It’s at this point that I hope to find some video so I can play amateur pitching coach and tell the Big Leaguer what exactly he’s doing wrong. All from the comfort of my couch of course.