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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

C.J. Wilson on Spin Rate, Arm Angles and Exploiting Weaknesses

Man, the Diamondbacks would trade him for talking all this crap.

You’re trying to create the illusion of a white baseball. The faster it spins, the whiter it’s going to look. Most hitters assume that if it’s white, it’s a fastball. Therefore they’re going to swing at the very top of where that ball is going to go – in their mind, where they think the ball is going to go. A perfect curveball is going to have exactly the opposite spin of a fastball, but if it comes out white the hitter is going to react to it like it’s a fastball.

Some guys will throw a changeup that has side spin. Good hitters, once they recognize the ball has a little side spin, kind of freeze… you want all of your spin axis to be as parallel as possible.

My data is harder to get information from than other guys’.

I throw five or six pitches and it’s all shades. Literally, my spin axis is… I cover something like 270 degrees. I don’t have under spin, because I don’t throw underhand, but I create different kinds of spin from different types of angles. I’ll throw a sidearm curveball and an overhand curveball. Those are 90 degrees away from each other. If someone is trying to scout me off my spin data, they’ll be like ‘aah, I don’t know.’ One thing I’ve seen is that my offspeed pitches spin harder than my fastball does. It has a higher RPM. That’s what the data showed when I looked at it a month and a half ago.

PITCHf/x sometimes doesn’t read my pitches accurately.

I’ve been filming my side sessions with my GoPro to make sure my body position is the same with everything. Earlier this year I was tipping my pitches. I found that out by watching video… If you have guys who have walk rates that are preposterously low and all of a sudden they’re in 3-2 counts and taking super-close pitches, they know what’s coming. There’s no other explanation. You don’t spontaneously get a Ted Williams concept of the strike zone, mid-season, when you were basically swinging at the rosin bag before that. I looked at video and thought, ‘there’s no way that guy should have taken that pitch.’ Then I watched the video again with a more analytical mind and saw I was doing something different with my changeup.

I throw everything. I’ve thrown everything in a game, now that I’ve thrown a knuckleball. I’ve thrown a screwball this year. I learned it from watching a Pedro Martinez video on YouTube. He threw an opposite side spin changeup. If you watch his arm angle, it was low enough that he could curve over the top of the ball, and flick the top of the ball. He threw a changeup with topspin, which is a screwball by definition.

You practice every day. This is my life.

The District Attorney Posted: August 27, 2014 at 07:35 PM | 27 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: c.j. wilson, rangers

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. RollingWave Posted: August 27, 2014 at 08:20 PM (#4780397)
good god.

I guess now I know why my no spin curveball never fools anyone ;)
   2. toratoratora Posted: August 27, 2014 at 09:15 PM (#4780450)
This is a great interview.Lewis is a sharp guy. I learned a new word,Pronate.

He even throws in a money quote:
"You have to understand where you are on the continuum. I feel I have to be the criminal mastermind on the mound if I want to win."
   3. ursus arctos Posted: August 27, 2014 at 10:10 PM (#4780501)
Great interview indeed.

Wilson would be a terrific pitching analyst.
   4. theboyqueen Posted: August 27, 2014 at 10:48 PM (#4780541)
This is awesome stuff. Anyone catch MGL's comments? Man what a colossal a-hole.
   5. theboyqueen Posted: August 27, 2014 at 10:51 PM (#4780544)
The worst (best?) part is him opening the comments by saying CJ Wilson is full of himself.
   6. theboyqueen Posted: August 27, 2014 at 10:54 PM (#4780547)
Seriously, we have a guy writing from his mom's basement trying to use CJ Wilson's mediocre performance as evidence he doesn't really know anything about pitching. For some reason this is making me very angry.
   7. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 27, 2014 at 11:00 PM (#4780549)
Wilson is clearly a man who takes his professional work very seriously, and that's a really good thing.

   8. Meatwad in mourning Posted: August 27, 2014 at 11:36 PM (#4780573)
Awesome interview. Worth the time spent reading it.
   9. Bote Man Posted: August 27, 2014 at 11:44 PM (#4780581)
I find it incredible that C.J. is revealing this much intelligence while still playing. Loose lips sink ships and all that rot.

As for MGL, I find that my life is much easier if I just ignore almost all so-called journalists and analysts.
   10. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 27, 2014 at 11:56 PM (#4780591)
I've noted it before here, but it's worth mentioning. C.J. Wilson called Garrett Richards' slider the best in the major leagues two years ago, when Richards was still struggling in middle relief. Wilson really knows his craft, and he's really good at articulating what he does.
   11. PreservedFish Posted: August 28, 2014 at 01:13 AM (#4780620)
Is that really MGL?

Also, funny that he said he learned to throw a screwball from watching a Pedro video. His teammate Hector Santiago is the only guy in the majors that regularly throws a screwball.
   12. the Hugh Jorgan returns Posted: August 28, 2014 at 01:25 AM (#4780621)
funny that he said he learned to throw a screwball from watching a Pedro video.

We've discussed this many times, but Pedro is just a joy to listen to when he talks pitching fundamentals. Looks like Wilson has taken a similar cerebral approach; after all pitching is a craft that one needs to hone over a considerable period. Very few hurlers can just chuck it up there at 95mph and get natural, unhittable movement. The come back with a 79mph change that corkscrews away from the batter.

It's great that he's willing to try new stuff. The Pedro screwgie he learned on youtube is just a great bit. Sure, WTF, I'll give this a go and see if it works! That's just fun stuff.
   13. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 28, 2014 at 01:27 AM (#4780624)
Is that really MGL?
It is. The dickish way he expresses himself gives it away.
   14. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 28, 2014 at 01:36 AM (#4780627)
I'm thinking that Wilson is a future MLB pitching coach.
   15. JimMusComp likes Billy Eppler.... Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:04 AM (#4780633)
It is. The dickish way he expresses himself gives it away.

Holy hell, was he an ass in that comment section! Wow. I've been reading the lore of MGL the a-hole, but I haven't read much of his stuff (if any?) and kind of expected there to be some exaggeration based on jealousy when it got down to the reality of his demeanor. Nope. Not at all. He was a Grade-A Ass on the FG site. It's only one data point, but man if it didn't support all the talk about his sickish 'tude
   16. Bourbon Samurai, what price fettucine? Posted: August 28, 2014 at 07:25 AM (#4780656)
What a great piece.
   17. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: August 28, 2014 at 09:39 AM (#4780688)
Wilson would be a terrific pitching analyst.

He really would be. This interview is well worth all of the praise it is getting. Fascinating stuff.
   18. Scott Ross Posted: August 28, 2014 at 12:16 PM (#4780837)
CJ Wilson is a gift to the rest of us:
   19. Tom Nawrocki Posted: August 28, 2014 at 12:48 PM (#4780873)
It is. The dickish way he expresses himself gives it away.

It's kind of impressive just how wrong-headed he is, too. Wilson isn't worth listening to because he's not a No. 1 starter? Maybe he'd be out of the league by now if he weren't such a student of pitching. Wilson even talks about how his arm isn't as good as a lot of other pitchers', which is why he has to rely on his knowledge.

Of course Wilson is a better pitcher to listen to than Clayton Kershaw. What's Kershaw going to say, "Bust him on the hands with a 97 mph fastball"? It's like the old Steve Martin joke about how to be a millionaire without paying taxes. Kershaw's first rule of pitching: Get a 97 mph fastball.
   20. Ron J2 Posted: August 28, 2014 at 01:46 PM (#4780912)
#19 I remember the bit in Ball Four about the scouting reports they got on the Cardinals. A number of hitters supposedly had problems with the high fastball. Problem being that the report was based off a Sandy Koufax start.
   21. villageidiom Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:05 PM (#4780928)
It's kind of impressive just how wrong-headed he is, too. Wilson isn't worth listening to because he's not a No. 1 starter?
If anything, he is consistent. He's basically saying "Wilson's claimed abilities don't show up in my numbers the way I would expect them to, therefore he doesn't know what he's talking about."

MGL has become the very fanboy critic he hates. He belittles anyone telling him something he doesn't want to believe is true, rather than consider his desired belief is misinformed.
   22. LA Podcasting Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:10 PM (#4780933)
#20 I believe it was also "Ball Four" when he snarks about how all the pitcher/catcher meetings end up with "bust'em in hard" then "soft away," and for the good hitters, hard away at the knees. Gee, really? Thanks, because that applies to pretty much every hitter in the league.
   23. Obo Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:39 PM (#4780961)
"Smoke him inside."
   24. DKDC Posted: August 28, 2014 at 02:42 PM (#4780964)
David Laurilia has been getting great quotes from interesting people - prominent and obscure - around the league for a long time now.

He's really unique among baseball writers who actually talk to baseball players/managers/coaches/executives in terms of the wealth of information he gets. Given the quality of the quotes he gets, his prompting is evidently superb, but he stays invisible in his published work and lets the subject do the talking.

Others have covered the deserved MGL pile-on, so I just wanted to express some gratitude for what David does.
   25. Zach Posted: August 28, 2014 at 04:15 PM (#4781058)
Yeah, let's get a David Laurilia dogpile going! This was a great choice of interview subject and (apparently) great questions.

The last guy on the roster is frequently a more interesting person than the big star. Does anybody remember the Banny Log, chronicling each and every start by Brian Bannister?
   26. Rally Posted: August 28, 2014 at 04:32 PM (#4781081)
Kershaw's first rule of pitching: Get a 97 mph fastball.

Strasburg's strategy:

1. Blow him away with a 100 MPH fastball. Strike one.
2. Freeze him with a knee bending curveball, strike two.
3. Finish him off with a fade away change, strike three.

Seems so simple, why don't pitchers use his strategy?
   27. villageidiom Posted: August 28, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4781090)
Others have covered the deserved MGL pile-on, so I just wanted to express some gratitude for what David does.
Laurilia and Sullivan are who make Fangraphs articles great. Or great Fangraphs articles. However you wish to put it.

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