Throwing Downhill vs. Percieved Velocity

Aside from movement, command, and recorded velocity, there are two other aspects of a pitcher’s fastball that scouts do or IMO should, look for. Does the pitcher throw the ball downhill? That is, is the angle of the incoming pitch steeper as opposed to being flat. Also, what is his percieved velocity? I mean this in the sense more as how closely to home does the pitcher release the ball rather than in the respect of hiding the ball and how smooth his motion is. Which of the two, throwing downhill or releasing the ball closer to home plate(percieved velocity) do you think is more important. The case for throwing downhill typically is that it is harder to consistently square up. Whereas releasing the ball closer to home makes the pitch seem faster than if it were released further from home. Obviously the ability to find the perfect blend of both would be optimal. Also a pitcher’s body type will determine the degrees of both.
For examples of both “extremes” if you will, I will use Verlander as opposed to Beckett. Both have similar strikeout numbers in the American League. Both are the same height. Both have the ability to dominate a game for 9 innings. Verlander sits at, from what I have seen, a few mph’s faster than Beckett who, as I will mention in a second, releases the ball closer to home than does Verlander giving them a similar percieved velocity. Both have dirty secondary stuff. Yet Verlander throws on a much steeper angle, but releases the ball, I would say, at least a solid two feet further back than does Beckett. Becket on the other hand releases the ball closer to home but his ball does not come in at the steep angle that a Verlander pitch does. The main reason for these is their stride length respectively with Beckett’s being longer than Verlander’s. So I ask again, which of the two qualities would you say is the more important quality? I would contend that percieved velocity is more important. Just curious to see what others think…

Great question.

If the higher release point is achieved by shortening the stride, then that tells me the pitcher is using less that optimal momentum and, therefore, more arm. I think this is an undesirable trade-off for a more downward trajectory.

If the higher release point is achieved by tilting the shoulders, then not only does that raise the release point but it also pulls the release point back. It probably increases the chances for opening up early. And it may put extra stress on the arm. Also, curves may be harder to throw because it will be harder to get over the top of the ball to put spin on it. So, again, I feel these are undesirable trade-offs for a more downward trajectory.

So, I favor perceived velocity. But I have the impression that scouts prefer the downward trajectory.

A guy that sits on the extreme end of throwing downhill is Aaron Harang. Being 6’7, his stride would be short for Mugsy Bouges i think. Yet his ball comes in at a very steep angle.
A guy like a Tim Hudson or Roy Oswalt on the other hand takes a really long stride in relation to his height body height and throws a relatively flat ball, yet still manages to throw the ball by guys.
One guy that i think does both well and is a fan favorite, it seems, on this site is Lincecum. While achieving an execptionally long stride, especially for someone of his stature, he still manages to drive the ball down hill very well, once again, for someone of his stature.
My argument for throwing the ball closer to home as opposed to downhill is Randy Johnson. He is 6’10 yet throws from a relatively low arm angle, and he does a great job of letting the ball go closer to home than almost any pitcher. No doubt he still throws the ball on a steeper plane than many due to his tremendous height. If it was more important to throw downhill, though, I believe he would have tried to throw from a higher arm slot.

the question of pitching is, can you get 3 hitters out before the other team scores a run. if you can do this most of the time you will pitch for a very long time. the question of perceived velocity and throwing downhill is secondary to can you get the hitter to miss. you can get the hitter to miss with pure velocity, great location, late movement, and changing speeds. greg maddux and roger clemens have almost identical wins, and maddux has about 1000 less strike outs. who is the better pitcher. the answer is neither, they are both 2 of the best the game has ever seen, they just know what they can do better than the hitter and get you out. they go about the same job in very different and extremely effective ways.

i kid has to know what he can do that is special. when he figures that out and works at it until he can do it consistently, he’ll be successful. that’s the beauty of pitching. different ways to the same end.

sometimes we get caught up in mechanics and this and that. just throw strikes and get people out.