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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Rany Jazeryli: In Praise of MLB’s Submarine Wizards

Everyone is Chad Bradford Wannabe.

The true submariners — the guys who would come close to scraping their knuckles on the mound — share much in common besides the angle of their throwing arm. And while Ziegler shares those traits as well, he’s taken the craft to places it’s never been before. He’s simultaneously the archetype of a submarine pitcher and a new iteration entirely. Consider:

They were all effective: There’s obviously a selection bias going on here, because submarine pitchers who are not effective are not going to last long enough in the majors to be remembered in pieces like this. Still, it’s imperative to note that every one of the pitchers I just listed had a well-above-average ERA for his career, from Myers (112 ERA+) to Quisenberry (146 ERA+). Ziegler, with a 171 ERA+, has been more effective than all of them.

Of course, their effectiveness is all the more noteworthy because …

They were all completely overlooked as prospects: Tekulve and Quisenberry, two of the 20 best relievers of all time, were not drafted at all. Neither was Leach or Reed. Eichhorn was a second-round pick,7 but he was actually drafted as a conventional pitcher and converted to submarine pitching after a shoulder injury. Myers was a fourth-rounder and Neshek was a sixth-rounder; no one else listed above was drafted prior to the 10th round.

Ziegler, as mentioned, was a 20th-round pick who was released about eight minutes later. These guys were nobodies, because …

They all threw really, really slow: For his career,8 Bradford’s fastball averaged 80.7 mph, which is a tick faster than Myers’s 80.6. We don’t have velocity data for the 20th-century guys, but they didn’t throw much harder. Tekulve probably threw in the mid-80s; Quisenberry probably threw in the low 80s. Of Eichhorn, The Scouting Report: 1987 wrote, “The most veteran hitters say they have never seen a major league pitcher throw a pitch as slow as Eichhorn does.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 20, 2014 at 04:21 PM | 22 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: submariners

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   1. Johnny Sycophant-Laden Fora Posted: May 20, 2014 at 05:56 PM (#4710345)
Terry Leach... pitched well in '81, started '82 in the minors, came up in June, pitched well until he got hammered at the end of July, 85 runs in 1 ip is bad when you are a reliever with on;y 30 IP...

Very end of the year was allowed to start a game- I watched that game, he won 1-0... he pitched a 10 inning one hitter to get that win. He headed into 1983 with a career ERA of 3.46 in 82 IP, the 1983 Mets went 68-94 with a team ERA+ of 99, they had no room for Leach who spent all of 1983 in the minors... then all of 1984 (but he the Mets went 90-72 and had GOODEN...) Of course the Mets had traded him to the Cubs at the end of 83, who traded him to Atlanta who released him in June 84, and the Mets picked him back up)
He was now 31, pitched lights out in AAA in 85, 1.59 ERA in 45 ip, was promoted and put up a 2.91 EAR in 55 MLB innings
so 1986 comes and... he spends 2 weeks end of April, beginning of May in the Majors, 2.70 EA but only 6.2 IP, 80 Ip in AAA, 2.49 ERA (To be fair to the Mets, the 86 team was loaded, but...)
So Leach enters 1987, 33 years old, 3.21 MLB ERA but only 143 IP- which took him from 1981-86 to accumulate

He goes 11-1 3.22 (118 ERA+) the Mets actually let him start 12 games because Gooden was out...
He would make just 6 starts the rest of his career, for his career he ended up with 700 IP and an ERA+ of 120 (130 IP as a starter, 570 as a reliever)
His minor league career saw him go 61-37 2.89 in 950 IP (mostly in relief)

He was effective when he started, BUT the announcers kept saying, submarine guys can't start....
   2. Greg K Posted: May 20, 2014 at 06:01 PM (#4710350)
He's not a full on submariner, but Darren O'Day seems like an under-appreciated reliever. He was hurt in 2011, but in his 4 full seasons his highest ERA was 2.28. Oriole fans, was there any discussion of him taking over closing duties when Jim Johnson left? Or do left-handers hit him too well? Or is it plain side-armer intolerance?
   3. Zach Posted: May 20, 2014 at 06:20 PM (#4710360)
Really interesting article.

The simplest explanation for the lack of submarine pitchers is probably that professional pitchers are unwilling to radically change their mechanics unless they absolutely have to. If you get drafted for throwing 92 and promoted for throwing 95, why would you switch?
   4. shoelesjoe Posted: May 20, 2014 at 06:43 PM (#4710369)
Oriole fans, was there any discussion of him taking over closing duties when Jim Johnson left? Or do left-handers hit him too well? Or is it plain side-armer intolerance?


Some talk on the fan boards, but we all knew it wasn't going to happen long term. Hunter was pretty much anointed from day one. Tommy looks like a closer, Darren doesn't.
   5. Nats-Homer-in-DC Posted: May 20, 2014 at 06:45 PM (#4710371)
I guess we can't count the submarine pitchers we maxed out to 15's in Baseball Stars (NES)
   6. puck Posted: May 20, 2014 at 07:42 PM (#4710399)
Tommy looks like a closer, Darren doesn't.


That's funny, given what some closers have looked like (BH Kim, the Quiz, Tekulve).
   7. bjhanke Posted: May 20, 2014 at 07:45 PM (#4710400)
Just to ask, is this thread about submariners or Knuckleball throwers. Just based on the arguments, I can't tell. - Brock Hanke
   8. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 20, 2014 at 10:22 PM (#4710515)
Interesting so many of those guys - well three at least (Abernathy, Quiz, Leach) pitched for the 70s/80s Royals. They also had a guy named Steve Shifflett who pitched well as a submariner for one year, and I want to say Andy McGaffigan was a submariner as well. I wonder if they were just more willing to give those guys chances or if its just a coincedence.

Here's Posnanski on Quiz:

His college coach recommended him to Kansas City, and Quiz signed with the Royals for — he always said — $500 and a bag of chewing tobacco. He then proceeded to pitch unbelievably well in the minor league, and I used the word “unbelievably” literally here. Nobody believed it. He pitched in Class AA Jacksonville, Fla. four years in a row, though his ERA there was 1.88. The numbers did not match the eyes. They never did in Quiz’s baseball life.

He was a sidearm pitcher then and also when he finally got the call to the big leagues in 1979. His manager, Jim Frey, famously took him out to a bullpen session and asked him to throw fastballs and curves. Frey’s decidedly profane scouting report after that disastrous tryout was that Quiz could throw neither. But Frey then did one of the great favors of Dan’s life — he got Quiz together with a submarine pitcher named Kent Tekulve during spring training. Tekulve taught Quiz how to throw submarine style. Quiz took the style, added a couple of wrinkles, and in 1980, Quiz had a great season.


“Have I told you about my agreement with the ball?” he asked Roger Angell. “Our deal is that I’m not going to throw you very hard as long as you promise to move around when you get near the plate. Because … I want you back.”

   9. OCF Posted: May 21, 2014 at 12:44 AM (#4710569)
How big were the platoon differentials for these guys?
   10. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 21, 2014 at 09:47 AM (#4710622)
That's the elephant in the room - lower arm angles are correlated with bigger splits (one reason to have these guys as relievers).

Career:
Quiz vR: .245/.263/.335; vL: .289/.325/.393
Kent vR: .220/.260/.296; vL: .280/.375/.384
Leach vR: .233/.281/.322; vL: .294/.352/.409
Reed vR: .225/.281/.346; vL: .292/.381/.488 (first player I ever heard called a ROOGY)
   11. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: May 21, 2014 at 09:55 AM (#4710626)
I was kind of annoyed that Showalter basically handed the closer job to Hunter because he throws hard. I didn't expect Hunter to be this bad, but I thought O'Day was a much better choice, especially since Hunter has his own problems with lefties. (And I was hardly alone.)
   12. JoeC Posted: May 21, 2014 at 09:57 AM (#4710627)
Fun read, thanks. Rany makes a point about how hard it is to hit HRs off of these guys. I wonder if extreme uppercut hitters do worse than expected against them? And if so, is it possible for a hitter to change his swing plane for a given pitcher, or is that too much of an adjustment to make without screwing up your timing?
   13. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 21, 2014 at 09:57 AM (#4710628)
Eichhorn vR: .223/.281/.315; vL: .283/.350/.402
Myers vL: .219/304/.332; vR: .300/.399/.476
Frohwirth vR: .229/.298/.311; vL: .285/.377/.399
Neshek vR: .175/.248/.304; vL: .233/.324/.418 (not a true underhander, but an underrated pitcher)
Bradford vR: .245/.281/.304; vL: .315/.404/.451
and on and on...

As the article notes, Ziegler has made a big dent in his platoon split in recent years (new CU grip), making him deadly for the A's.
   14. CFBF Is A Golden Spider Duck Posted: May 21, 2014 at 09:58 AM (#4710630)
When O'Day was in college, he pitched in the same bullpen as a reliever named Conner Falkenbach, who sort of split the difference between a submariner and a sidearmer. He was the sort of reliever you see in college but not the majors any more: a multi-inning relief ace (he once threw a complete game as an emergency starter) who barely cracked 80 with his fastball. He was my favorite player on that team, both because of his bad-ass name and his pitching style. Between Falkenbach and O'Day (who could go three innings himself at that point), that was a fun bullpen.
   15. Accent Shallow Posted: May 21, 2014 at 10:34 AM (#4710660)
When O'Day was in college, he pitched in the same bullpen as a reliever named Conner Falkenbach, who sort of split the difference between a submariner and a sidearmer. He was the sort of reliever you see in college but not the majors any more: a multi-inning relief ace (he once threw a complete game as an emergency starter) who barely cracked 80 with his fastball. He was my favorite player on that team, both because of his bad-ass name and his pitching style. Between Falkenbach and O'Day (who could go three innings himself at that point), that was a fun bullpen.


He did at least get to pitch in the minors, although he stalled out at high A or so.
   16. The kids disappeared, now Der-K has too much candy Posted: May 21, 2014 at 10:37 AM (#4710662)
Not for lack of effectiveness (in A, not talking the 18 really rough innings in AA) - just not much stuff and not so young.
Heck of a college pen, though.
   17. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 21, 2014 at 10:48 AM (#4710671)
Add Steve Olin (RIP) to the list of submariners who couldn't get lefties out. Career: .221/.283/.302 vs RHB, .319/.386/.408 vs LHB.

He was my favorite Tribesman, but he struggled mightily against left-handed hitting.
   18. Mike Webber Posted: May 21, 2014 at 12:30 PM (#4710762)
I wonder if these guys' September splits go to heck too, when all of a sudden there are three extra left-handed pinch hitters available?

Career:
Quiz Sept: 268/291/367 Career: 267/294/363
Kent Sept: 238/295/317 Career: 244/307/330
Leach Sept: 268/342/339 Career: 259/311/359
Reed Sept: 244/300/377 Career: 249/319/398

I guess not. Maybe a AAA LH pinch hitter isn't that big of an issue? Maybe these guys are too old and the splits weren't as well known?

Bradford Sept: 286/349/362 Career: 266/321/348

So Bradford shows it a little,
Are there other more recent guys where it shows up a little bit more?
   19. Dan Lee is some pumkins Posted: May 21, 2014 at 01:08 PM (#4710779)
Just for giggles, Jeff Innis's career numbers: .227/.279/.314 vs RHB, .290/.372/.407 vs LHB.
   20. PreservedFish Posted: May 21, 2014 at 01:17 PM (#4710786)
I don't have a good feeling for how unusual those splits are.
   21. Zach Posted: May 21, 2014 at 01:37 PM (#4710796)
Now that we've got a few years of PitchFX data, it would be interesting to look at righty/lefty splits as a function of the angle a pitch breaks at.
   22. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: May 21, 2014 at 02:41 PM (#4710862)
The true submariners — the guys who would come close to scraping their knuckles on the mound — share much in common besides the angle of their throwing arm. And while Ziegler shares those traits as well,


He doesn't really share the true below-sea level trait that the others do. As the video shows, he's closer to a traditional sidearmer than a knuckle-scraper.

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