Consistency in technique is important in just about every sport to be successful. A basketball player with a consistent release at the free throw line will have a higher free throw percentage, a quarterback with a consistent drop-back and release will perform better, and a bowler who releases the ball consistent each time will have a better score. Likewise, in baseball, pitchers who have identical and consistent release points will show more success on the mound. A consistent release point helps the pitcher in 2 ways: 1) it allows the pitcher to disguise pitches so a hitter has a tougher time distinguishing a fastball from a change-up or any other pitch, and 2) the pitcher will have greater command of all his pitches, being able to locate the ball better. That being said, pitchers differ in their release points as some pitchers such as Josh Hader have much lower release points than others. Over the course of seasons, due to adjustments or maybe just on a change in feel, a pitcher may change their release points. Here we will look at a couple Brewer pitchers who threw over 500 pitches in both 2017 and 2018 and notice the change in release points. Note: X denotes horizontal distance in feet while Z denotes vertical distance in feet. In addition, the X values are either positive or negative depending on if the pitcher is left handed or right handed. For example, a left-handed pitcher will have positive X value whereas right-handed pitchers will have negative X values.
Hader’s breakout in 2018 may have been in part to his more consistent release point. In 2017 he had a larger cluster compared to in 2018 when his release points were very compact.
The table above shows the difference between the maximum and minimum release points for each of the two seasons. We can see how much smaller the values were in 2018 compared to in 2017. While this may be a negligible difference while watching him on TV, this indicates how much more consistent Hader was in 2018 and how this may have been a contributing factor in his 2018 success.
While Davies did not show quite the same success that he had in the past, he, like Hader, became much more concentrated in his release:
He especially showed more consistency in his curveball release. As with Hader, below the table shows the difference in the maximums and minimums for both X and Z in each season. We are ignoring the pitch out in 2018.
He cut his X difference by 50% in 2018! While he had an injury plagued 2018 this shows optimism for his 2019 if he can continue his consistent release point.
These are just two instances of many in all of baseball. It is very difficult to remain consistent in releasing the ball. While these differences may not be apparent to the fans watching TV, these small changes may have substantial impacts on the performances of the pitchers.
*Plots used are from Baseball Savant Statcast search.
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