Brandon Webb—Hook, Change & SINKER
Brandon Webb, owner of perhaps the nastiest sinker in MLB.
2004: 5.15 BB/9
2006: 1.91 BB/9
Can a change in mechanics explain his improved command? Or is this just a case of a pitcher “learning to trust his stuff?”
DISCLAIMER: I wasn’t very open-minded when it came to Brandon Webb. I didn’t think I was going to find anything different in his mechanics. In my mind, Webb had just finally put it all together. I thought that he had just simply learned how to pitch with his stuff. Baseball people say that sinkerballers just need a little time to figure it all out, that nibbling at the corners isn’t necessarily the best plan of attack. Before I say anything else, let’s go to the video….
NOTES ON THE VIDEO:The clips are roughly synchronized to release. I say roughly because the frames are slightly off (maybe 1/2 a frame at most). You’ll notice that ‘04 Webb releases on frame 23, whereas ‘06 Webb releases in frame 23 1/2 or so. That said, I don’t think that in Webb’s case it makes much of a difference. The angle also seems to be slightly different and I will be careful to not let that influence what I see. Both pitches are sinkers on the outside corner to lefties.
OK, here we go. First, I’ll let you watch the video. Let it loop a few times. What do you see?
OK, you might have caught the one big difference. No? Check out the release points (frames 23-24). There’s other minor ones. As I’ll explain later, some of the minor differences are related to the change in release point.
You all know that tempo is a biggie to me. ‘04 and ‘06’s tempos are nearly indentical. If anything ‘06 is a wee bit quicker to the plate from knee lift to release. On frame 1, you may have noticed that ‘06’s left knee is starting from a slightly higher point. Since they release at the same time, it would indicate that he’s a little quicker. In Webb’s case, I doesn’t sem to make much of a difference. However, it doesn’t hurt that he’s a little quicker to the plate.
Let’s go frame-by-frame, shall we?
‘06 Webb looks “more compact” to me. He looks like he’s bringing his torso and his lower body and “sandwiching” it better in ‘06. Notice his shoulders/torso hunched over more in ‘06. ‘04 seems to be leaning back more. From early on, he’s put himself in a position to bring his body together in a more powerful and controlled manner.
Here they are at 18 frames before release.
Slight difference. ‘04 has a little more of “sit and swing the leg” to footplant. ‘06 just a tad more compact and more of a “bring everything together” type.
Do you see ‘04’s lead arm/shoulder? It looks like he’s telling himself “stay closed. stay closed.” As someone who struggles with staying closed, I understand what he’s trying to do, although this isn’t always the best remedy. Plus, it’s another thing you have to think about while in your motion. Remember…Less think, more throw. Contrast it to ‘06’s lead arm. He’s still closed, but he’s not jamming his front shoulder to his jaw like in ‘04.
FRAMES 8 & 10
Again, reinforcing what we talked abouton frame 5. I guarantee you that ‘04 is thinking (or really worked at) “stay closed, stay closed, stay closed.”
Remember, we talked about release point as the biggie. I’ll go more in-depth as to why later, but in order to create the higher release point that he shows in ‘04, he has to get his head out of the way to make room for his arm. ‘04 looks like his head is already leaning towards 1st base, whereas ‘06 looks like he’s more leaning towards 3rd. If I were to draw a straight line through the center of their bodies, you would notice his body more to the right of that line in ‘06. More on this later…..
At release. ‘06 has a lower, more natural release point. To me it seems like ‘04 has created his higher release point. More on this later…..
Also, notice that his lead arm in ‘06 looks a bit different. You hear me talk about about a firm, front side. Throwing to a firm front side reduces shoulder injury risk AND makes your release point more consistent.
Where the throwing arm ends up is a good indication of the path that it has traveled. ‘06’s arm is a little above ‘04’s because the lower release point makes the arm path flatter.
Let’s talk about arm action/ arm path, release point. Why do I think that his lower release point makes his control better?
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned arm action until now. OK, I’m not a huge fan of Webb’s arm action. He straightens out his arm on the backswing. He takes the ball out of the glove a little earlier than I like it. Let’s talk about what I do like. I like that he loads his arm horizontally. IOW, his arm goes towards 1st base.
Webb has a “flat” arm path. Generally speaking, the lower your release point, the more horizontal your arm path is. His arm action in ‘04 and ‘06 are almost indentical. What differentiates them is that ‘04 creates a high release point from an arm path that should lead to a lower release point.
Think about a golf swing. You will be more efficient by bringing the club down on the same plane as the plane that you brought the club up in. In other words, you match your backswing plane to your downswing plane. Not many people (save for maybe someone like Jim Furyk) are able to make a correction mid-swing and bring it upright, yet not “come over the top” of it.
Same principle here. On the backswing, the ‘04 and ‘06’s arm swings (on the way back) are going to the same spot. ‘04 has to make a correction (starting with his body) on the way to release, in order to create a higher arm slot. Some pitchers can control their pitches even though they move their heads out of the way. It is easier to control your release point if you don’t have to coordinate that aspect of your motion. I’m certainly a believer in letting pitchers throw from wherever they are most comfortable/efficient. However, in Webb’s case, it seems like his lower release point has been beneficial in allowing him to be more consistent with his release point, and thus, control the strike zone better.
I talked about the lead arm and his more compact body position. The lead arm issue to me is more an issue of a pitcher thinking too much. That said, to me, it is very uncomfortable to basically jam my lead shoulder into my jaw in order to “stay closed.” ‘06 seems to be looser and more free with his motion.
I believe that he is more compact in ‘06 because he lets his arm travel to where it wants to travel. In order to create a higher release point in ‘04, he begins his motion by being in a more leaned back position. Some pitchers are better at sitting back and swinging their leg into footplant like ‘04 demonstrates. I prefer bringing the body with the torso together into footplant as in ‘06.
Why do I think his control is better? I believe it is a mix of several factors, mainly confidence and mechanics. Certainly, Webb is blessed with one the best sinkers in MLB (more on this in a bit). With all the movement he gets on that sinker, just throwing that thing down the middle and letting it do its thing (especially early in the count) is probably the best plan of attack. Certainly, trusting your pitches is a big factor. However, from a mechanics point-of-view, I was surprised to find these differences. His mechanics now are better, more efficient, and more conducive to throwing strikes than the ‘04 version.
HOW TO THROW A SINKER..by Brandon Webb
Get on the inside of the baseball….PRONATE….REPEAT
JUST FOR FUN
The sickest sinker that ever sank….
As always, feedback/comments/questions are welcome
Posted: October 02, 2006 at 02:32 PM | 27 comment(s)