The Extra 2% In Pitching Arsenals? | The Process Report

The Extra 2% In Pitching Arsenals?

Wade Davis did a nice interview over at Prospectus today where he discusses the technical side of pitching. He let this response slip and it caught my eye:

On his curveball: “I learned it when I was in my third year of pro ball. I had thrown a slider in high school, kind of a cutter-slider, and they taught me a curveball when I got to low-A. They said, ‘don’t throw your slider anymore, just learn a curveball,’ so I threw 20 or 30 curveballs a game. That’s how I learned.

Davis reached Low-A in 2005 and the new regime took over following that season. I have no idea whether the team still has all or some pitching prospects stop throwing a slider, but it sure does feel like some of them do. When David Price’s wipeout pitch was the slider, now it’s his fourth resort. Jeff Niemann too, although he said a few times this spring he was throwing it again.

Departed starters have seen their slider usage increase according to Baseball Info Solutions data: Matt Garza (from 14 percent in 2010 to 24 percent so far in 2011) and Edwin Jackson (22 percent in 2008 to 27 percent in 2009 and 29 percent in 2010). Scott Kazmir to an extent as well (he threw 9.6 percent in his final full season with the Rays, but 21.7 percent during his injury-hassled half-season in 2009, he has thrown around 15 percent since).

What benefits exist from dumping the slide piece and going to a curve? The curve is a reverse-split platoon pitch while the slider is a pure platoon pitch. In laymen’s terms: The curve is good versus opposite-handed batters while the slider is only good against same-handed batters (some exception apply, like Jackson’s slider). With a pitcher like Price, let’s say, he already had a fantastic fastball to combat lefties, but by adding a curve and change, he gained weapons to face righties too.

Some health benefits may exist and very well could be the driving force behind a philosophy (should it exist). A study back in the day found that curves are less strenuous on elbows than fastballs are (although, Graham MacAree sort of debunked the conclusion) and Kyle Boddy published a piece today that showed a statistically significant relationship between sliders and elbow injuries.

Obviously there is no way of knowing, but the Rays are involved in biomechanics work and you’d like to think that contributes to the relatively few numbers of severe pitching injuries seen under the Andrew Friedman reign. Perhaps sliders are more evil than their name suggests.


  1. kgengler wrote:

    I’m pretty sure there’s something to it. Matt Moore, Alex Cobb, Alex Torres, Alex Colome, Enny Romero, and probably some others I’m missing all throw curveballs. The only guys with sliders I can think of are Chris Archer (justcame from Chicago) and Jake Thompson (just came from college).

  2. […] R.J. Anderson Just how far away have the Rays moved from the slider? To expand on yesterday’s post, I decided to go year-by-year using the FanGraphs team leaderboards. I focused only on […]

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