Verlander and his arm angle

As has been widely documented at this point, Justin Verlander’s velocity is down significantly. Either it is a systematic change in measurement mechanisms, or it is a real dip. Given the remarkable disparity and the fact it doesn’t seem to be effecting other pitchers the same way, I’m inclined to believe it is real. The question is whether it is by design (slower pitches, more movement, more longevity is one theory), it is mechanical, or it is related to injury.

Verlander recently did a side session in which he was working on his arm slot saying that he had been throwing with a lower arm angle and was working on raising it. While we can’t necessarily look at his arm angle with pitch f/x data we can look at an approximation of his release point.

The pitch f/x system picks up a pitch 50 feet from home plate. The graph below is a comparison of Verlander’s last start of 2007 when he was regularly hitting 97-98mph and his start from April 12th when he was sitting substantially lower maxing out at 93.9mph. I chose these two games because I wanted data from different seasons and from the same ballpark. Both of these starts were in the Cell.

Yes it was a very cold day on April 12th which could have had an effect, but the velocity readings didn’t differ significantly in his other starts.

This data shows Verlander releasing the ball higher in 08 than 07 and more towards the third base side. Now this is far from conclusive, but I do find it interesting. It’s possible that the system was recalibrated from last year to this year. Or maybe the mound is higher. Or maybe Verlander is positioned more towards the third base side of the rubber.

Further investigation will be forthcoming, but this is what I could pull together quickly. We’ll see if it has any effect on velocity. The Tigers don’t seem too concerned with his fastball and they are more concerned with the command of it. And it sounds like the intent of the arm angle change was to address the tilt on the breaking pitch (we can check this with pitch f/x also). But my armchair speculation is that both Verlander’s control problems and lack of break on the curve ball could have been the result of over throwing as he tried to hit those mid 90’s radar gun readings.

20 thoughts on “Verlander and his arm angle”

  1. Bill, do you have If so, can’t you watch archived games? A great wait to check up on this would be to watch him pitching both of these games you used and taking some screen captures of it to see what his delivery is like. Maybe ask around with your connections (I mean, you are on radio as a guest and were in the Hardball Times Annual last year, so you’re a hot shot ’round this here interwebs) and they can either break it down and make it a gif (but with you being tech savvy, I’m sure you can do that on your own).

    I’d be very curious to see some pictorial evidence in side by side pictures of it.

  2. I do have the archived games, but I’m not that good at breaking down mechanics. And unfortunately the screen capture doesn’t work with the video portion (at least I can’t get it to). Plus I had like a half hour to work on the post so I did what I could.

  3. For all the troubles the Tigers have experienced thus far, I’d say getting Verlander straightened out is the #1 issue for the team going forward.

    Am I correct in thinking that Verlander’s statement about his arm angle (that it’s too low) is the opposite of the conclusion the pitch f/x data would suggest (he’s releasing the ball higher than last year)? If so, this is disconcerting.

  4. You know, I’m inclined to agree with Scotsw. I know coaches can only do so much, but to me the fact that Bonderman and Verlander both have seem to hit a wall in their development, as far as becoming elite pitchers, speaks volumes about Hernandez. Where is Roger Craig when you need him?

  5. Did anyone watch Zambrano pitch for the Cubbies yesterday? I nearly fell of my chair watching his control. Every pitch: filthy!

  6. For those curious about the graphs versus Verlander’s comments about his arm angle – I think the graph could be spot on with what he said. Per Bilfer’s post, the pitch fx system picks up the pitch 50 ft from the plate. That’s 10 ft from the pitcher’s hand. So it’s not graphing where he released the ball, but where the ball is headed after it’s left his hand. If he’s got his arm more laid off in ’08, that would surely show the ball further to the left on the graph – which it does. Release point isn’t merely a function of arm angle, but also the time in the delivery when the pitch is released. The graph says to me that he’s got his arm off to the side, but he’s also releasing it earlier, ie. when his arm is higher in it’s arc. Thinking about the throwing motion, it makes sense to me that releasing too early would cause a velocity drop. He’s not getting his arm to full velocity before letting go of the pitch.

    The result – less velocity with less command. Sound familiar?

    This is probably reading a little too far into it. And I’m sure it’s an over simplification, but it’s interesting, nonetheless.

  7. I wish I could remember the source, but a couple of times this year I remember reading/hearing that the Tigers specifically wanted Verlander to throw with less velocity this year to facilitate greater movement on his pitchers. I THINK, one might have been an interview with Leyland, another was an article I read somewhere.

  8. I might add that I’m particularly concerned about the lack of command after two consecutive high pitch outings. Early on, he had an absolute gem going before a defensive comedy of errors led to a blowout. All of his earlier outings he looked fine until the end when they left him in to long. This last outing he did not look good at all.

  9. “Did anyone watch Zambrano pitch for the Cubbies yesterday? I nearly fell of my chair watching his control. Every pitch: filthy!”

    I’m concerned with Verlander’s loss of velocity as well. But last April everyone in Cub land was kvetching about Zambrano’s control and velocity, when in 34 innings his BB/K ratio was 19/25 and era 5.77. He was dominant from May-July, then posted the following in August: 29.1 innings, 17/21 BB/K, and 7.06 era. This kind of inconsistency is not uncommon, even among so-called aces.

    The problem this year is that the entire starting staff is slumping at the same time, something that happened last August as well, when they posted a 6.55 era as starters for the month. They rebounded with a 4.03 era in September.

  10. billfer



    I am at a quandry as to why FOX broadcasters Mario and Rod offer no criticisim on air with respect to Verlander, Bonderman and Robertson. Have they been instructed to hide under the covers? In my opinion all 3 pitchers should be sent to the minors in exchange for some better talent such as Galarraga. Let those boys find their arms in the minors and let’s not sacrifice anymore precious games. It is quite evident these pitchers were poorly conditioned out of spring training. Take away Galarraga’s two starts, and the Tiger’s starting rotation is 2-10.

    Help me understand the biased defense of Verlander, Bonderman and Robertson.

    Jack in Ann Arbor

  11. Jack – (and someone correct me if I’m wrong on the specifics) a player with 5+ years experience can veto a Minor League assignment. As for Verlander, you get 3 options for players with 5- years of experience. I don’t think we’ve ever used our options to assign him to the Minors, so I guess they technically could do so, though he’d never resign with the club after that.

    Though an “injury” would accomplish the same. That said, we don’t have that kind of time, or talent in waiting, to lose those guys.

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