If you watched the Cardinals game last night, you may have heard broadcasters Rick Horton and Dan McLaughlin making remarks about Jason Motte‘s appearance in the 9th inning. Under normal circumstances, a closer coming into the game to protect a 3-run lead would not generate a significant amount of conversation. Motte’s appearance certainly merited no special treatment or increased level of excitement….that is until he actually had thrown a few pitches.
Thanks to the technical miracle that is PitchFX, we can go back to both quantify and potentially qualify the source of the kerfuffle. Motte started JD Martinez off with a 4-seam fastball over the heart of the plate at 96.8 mph for a called strike. On the next pitch, Motte repeated the 4-seam fastball this time at 96.7 mph that went high for a ball. Motte then used 3 more fastballs to finish off Martinez. No big deal.
No big deal, except the second 4-seam fastball in the sequence was delivered from a release point that was a lot different than the release points for almost all his other pitches. The only other pitch that came from nearly the identical release point as the second 4-seamer? Another 4-seam fastball that also rode high and above the strike zone.
Fire up the magical internets magical stuffs from BrooksBaseball.net…..
Motte has clearly made some kind of conscious effort to move his release point down. To demonstrate how significant the change is, compare the above magical picture thingy to the one below which contains the release point data from his appearance exactly 1 month prior to last night’s.
The difference appears so obvious to the naked eye that even a Corey Hart could notice it. In the game against the Pirates on August 18th, Motte threw some seriously straight heat.
- average 4-seam fastball at 97.42 with -7.17 H-Break and 8.77 V-Break
- average cutter flew at 92.63 mph with -0.13 H-Break and 4.47 V-Break
- average 2-seam fastball went 96.40 with -9.99 H-Break and 5.47 V-Break
Last night was completely different.
- average 4-seam fastball at 96.41 with -7.57 H-Break and 10.23 V-Break
- average cutter flew at 92.03 mph with -1.93 H-Break and 5.35 V-Break
- average 2-seam fastball at 94.26 mph with -10.70 H-Break and 6.08 V-Break
- 1 single changeup at 80.90 that basically dropped my jaw
I normally agree with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach, but Motte may be on to something here. Of course, that’s assuming he doesn’t have some kind of minor injury causing him to look for ways to make up for a loss of velocity. However, the possibility that he can take a bit off of his pitches and generate more movement intrigues me. Can he become more effictive/efficient? Could this approach reduce the stress on his arm and shoulder? Could he really throw that 80 mph changeup with the game on the line?
Inquiring bloggers want to know.
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TIDBIT: According to PitchFX, Motte has thrown exactly 20 changeups out of 847 pitches this season. Of those 20 changeups, only 1 was a called strike, and 2 generated whiffs.