Justin Verlander’s New Slider

Justin Verlander has turned in 3 remarkable outings in a row amassing 31 strike outs as hitters can’t catch up with his heater or their knees buckle with the curve. But very quietly Verlander has added a slider to his repertoire.

This pitch received significant attention from Rod Allen and Mario Impemba last night when he picked up a swinging strike with it against Kelly Shoppach. But he actually began throwing it as early as the April 27th Yankees game. The pitch was first noticed by Eric Cioe (who comments here on occasion) and he posted about it at Motown Sports.

Eric and others weren’t sure what to make of the pitch at first. It only showed up a handful of times against the Yankees and we weren’t certain rather it was in fact a new pitch, some pitch f/x funny business, or simply Verlander mis-throwing a pitch. After the pitch turned up again during last Sunday’s start against the Tribe it was pretty clear it wasn’t a fluke. But the pitch seemed to be used primarily as a “show-me” pitch. However last night it took on a more prominent role.

Let’s turn to some pitch f/x graphs to show you the characteristics. Each of these graphs are a compilation of Verlander’s last 3 starts (April 26th, May 3rd, May 8th).

Figure 1. Horizontal and Vertical Movement

Verlander Pitch Movement

There at least 3 distinct groupings here, but that doesn’t tell us much because we knew that Verlander’s repertoire included a four seam fastball, a change-up and a curve ball. We know that the lower right cluster is the curve ball, and that the fast ball is included in the upper cluster.

Figure 2 Pitch Speed and Horizontal Movement

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Now we can visualize 4 different clusters. The fastball is of course the upper most grouping and the curve is again the lower right bunch. The change-up is centered around 84-85mph and has a little more right hand bearing action than the fastball. With this in mind you can look at Figure 1 and see what is actually a 4th grouping to the left of the fastball grouping.

But, look at that little cluster in the middle. The pitches are thrown 88-91mph and with a horizontal movement component that is completely unique. These aren’t underthrown fastballs or overthrown change-ups.

Figure 3 Speed and Vertical Movement

image

Taking a look at velocity and vertical movement the fastball group is still the fastball group and the curve is easy to identify as well as the only group with downward movement. The change-up can be identified by the velocity and vertical movement that is less than that of the fastball. But at that high 80’s range we see pitches that just don’t fit anywhere else. But they also are a fairly unclustered cluster so perhaps he is still trying to find consistency with the pitch.

Verlander has only thrown this pitch about a dozen times over the last 3 games total so this isn’t a frequent pitch or something that Verlander is likely to rely on. However, with Verlander’s fastball electric and sitting in the high 90’s, the last thing opposing hitters need is one more thing to think about. As long as Verlander keeps the pitch down and doesn’t hang his 4th best pitch, it can only help.

17 Comments

  1. David

    May 9, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Very interesting…The one that Marod was commenting on last night was a nasty pitch.

    What is he Satchel Paige now? Where is the 50mph knuckler? Or the 70mph slurve?

    Hey Bill when do you think Bonderman is going to return? Mid to late June sound about right? or is that when he’ll begin a rehab at Erie or Toledo?

    Is he still working on the change piece?

    I haven’t heard much.

  2. billfer

    May 9, 2009 at 3:36 pm

    Last I heard he was close to beginning a rehab assignment. I believe he’s been throwing side sessions and in EST. I don’t know how much emphasis the change has gotten as I believe the focus has been arm strength.

  3. Dylan

    May 9, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Great stuff. If he can add a fourth pitch it will only make him that much better.

    That being said I still think it comes down to locating his pitches. If he does that like he has the last three games, as we have seen he is pretty much lights out.

  4. Eric Cioe

    May 9, 2009 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for the shout, billfer. I still would call this a cutter, but it doesn’t much matter.

    One thing I like about this pitch is that he hasn’t thrown one up in the zone yet. It’s pretty much only been worked at the bottom of the zone. If it’s just going to be a hanging slider, then there’s no point in adding it. But if he’s got a plan with it, then it’s fine. And it’s apparent that that plan is working it almost exclusively to the low glove side of the plate, in on lefties and away from righties. If that allows him to cover a part of the plate he couldn’t cover with his fastball, great.

  5. David

    May 9, 2009 at 6:47 pm

    thanks!

  6. JOE Z

    May 10, 2009 at 3:44 am

    glad someone else caught verlander needing a 3rd pitch (outside a changeup). i mentioned it a week ago or so. im sure a lot of it is just throwing more strikes, esp the curve, but having just those two pitches (fastball curve) allows you to sit on the fastball , ya know. (esp when u cant get the curve in the zone)

    he needs that 3rd pitch to maintain the success hes had imo

    • billfer

      May 10, 2009 at 7:24 am

      Joe – This is actually a 4th pitch. He already had a 3rd.

  7. Johan

    May 10, 2009 at 3:54 am

    How is a guy named Eric Cioe getting credit for “discovering” this pitch? It’s been in the repertoire longer than one may think.

    • billfer

      May 10, 2009 at 7:22 am

      Johan -

      Eric was the first person that I saw mention it. I looked at his other games from this season and I don’t see where he threw it. In what other games has he thrown it?

    • Eric Cioe

      May 10, 2009 at 12:37 pm

      He may have had it in college. Lincecum had a slider in college but didn’t start using it as a pro until last season. That happens sometimes. Porcello has a slider but hasn’t thrown it much at all in his pro career, and not really at all as a major leaguer.

      Pitch f/x didn’t track a single pitch like this in his major league career until this season, though. I’ve certainly never seen him throw it in games until this season. You may be thinking of the harder curves that he throws at 83 mph or so that tend to flatten out and get lots of lateral break. But this is a completely distinct pitch, thrown much harder at 88-91 mph. I’m not sure where you got the idea that he’s been throwing this hard slider before the last couple of starts, but I’d be happy to be shown that I’m wrong here.

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  9. Mike R

    May 11, 2009 at 12:40 am

    I’m not finding it Bill. I just went back on gameday to find the pitch and both of the ones he threw to Shoppach to K him were 83 MPH curves.

    I think, AT MOST this is a cutter but I’m skeptical of that. I saw one he threw to Jeter in the 3rd inning on April 27th that Gameday listed as a slider at 83 MPH and 9 inches of break. The ones against Shoppach were both 83 with 11 inches of break and listed as curveballs. He threw one to Cano as well, but it was an 89 MPH “Slider” in the dirt (a.k.a. I’m thinking fastball), with 6 inches of break.

    I think they’re just curveballs with varying degree of break, and I didn’t see the others that were 88-91 MPH aside from a couple that were up in the zone or in the dirt, that gameday listed as ‘sliders.’

    • Brian P

      May 11, 2009 at 1:48 am

      Mario and Rod, if I remember correctly, were talking about the swinging strike to Mark Derosa, not Kelly Shoppach. Look at Derosa’s at bat in the eighth inning. Gameday considers it a slider at 91 mph.

    • billfer

      May 11, 2009 at 5:10 am

      A few that I observed, and Gameday recorded were the 2nd pitch of Shoppach’s at in the 6th, the 4th pitch of Cabrera’s ab in the 7th, the 4th pitch of Cabrera’s ab inthe 4th, and the 4th pitch of DeRosa’s ab in the 8th.

      It may be a cutter, but it is a distinctly different pitch than the others he throws. The spin direction is about 175 degrees and he doesn’t throw anything other pitches like that.

  10. Eric Cioe

    May 11, 2009 at 1:47 am

    Mike R -

    Try this: http://www.brooksbaseball.net/.....revDate=58 . That’s the data from his shutout. You can clearly see six 89 mph sliders in the middle of that chart. It’s not a choked fastball. The break is all wrong for that. You can’t throw a curveball that hard. He’s got a distinct fourth pitch now.

    EDIT – Further, here: http://detroit.tigers.mlb.com/.....8;c_id=det

    The 11 strikeouts came on the following pitches:
    1 – fastball at 96
    2 – fastball at 97
    3 – slider at 89
    4 – curve at 84
    5 – curve at 83
    6 – curve at 83
    7 – fastball at 97
    8 – curve at 83
    9 – fastball at 97
    10 – slider at 91, and this is the clearest picture of the new pitch
    11 – fastball at 99

    Go to 0:50 in the video and watch the 10th strikeout. It’s clearly a pitch at 91 mph moving away from the right handed hitter. That’s a very hard slider, or a cutter. Hope this helps.

  11. scotsw

    May 11, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Fantastic stuff guys. I don’t have enough expertise to add much, but it’s really interesting to see this info. Obviously, Justin lives and dies by the fastball. It’s been good to see him get back up to 99/100 on some of his hardest stuff, and I think that only makes the curve, change and now the slider more effective.

    What a pitcher. Let’s hope he’s through his doldrums.

  12. Ryan P.

    May 11, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Yeah, that’s definitely something different. Interesting.