Padres MLN: Arm angles dropping

Kyle Stutes

Peoria, AZ-- Change is inevitable. In the San Diego Padres' minor leagues change is common. On the pitching front, arm slots, angles and mechanics are always being tweaked - consistency the ultimate safe haven. Of course, these prospects are in the minors for a reason.

One of the more frequent occurrences for a pitcher these days is dropping their arm angle. Over the top is still en vogue, but pitchers seeking to get more movement on their pitches have muddled the overhand delivery.

For some, the movement isn't enough with a straight overhand motion. The torque their arm creates on a given pitch does not have the necessary drop, tail, or slice.

When these same pitchers move their arm angle down to three-quarters, the lateral movement intensifies and pitchers are more effective.

Sean Thompson moved his arm slot several years back and the results were a fastball that no longer went straight but had movement down in the zone and his curveball was changed to be more of a two-plane hook rather than the lazy Barry Zito style hammer.

These days, several are changing their arm slots – some are even doing it on a pitch-by-pitch basis.

Eddie Pena, a sidearmer, also throws submarine, dropping all the way to underhand so his hand comes up as he releases the ball. It creates natural movement up in the zone from a low release point rather than the more traditional drop of the ball. He also gets good tail on the pitch as it crosses the dish, moving away from a right-hander. It is not that different from his sidearm delivery in its movement away but does offer more upwards trajectory than the side to side and down action of his sidewinder delivery.

"I like to give hitters different looks," said Pena. "The more looks the better I can take advantage of them."

The concern, of course, is the varying release points and constant need to keep mechanics in check. Pena plunked two batters during one spring training game.

Kyle Stutes doesn't have the fastball that others do but the southpaw has done well by hitting his spots and moving the ball around down in the zone.

He has added a slightly less than three-quarters motion to his arsenal to hide the pitch a little more and get increased movement – a similar arm slot to one he had in Fort Wayne.

"I lowered my arm angle some from last year," Stutes said. "Grady (Fuson) had talked to me about it at the end of the year to get a little more deception against left-handers."

Stutes has not lost any command with the change.

Brandon Higelin has been working hard on a different release point – and plans to vary between the two. He still has the more traditional delivery but will drop the arm randomly through the game to keep hitters off-balance.

"It is nothing I want to do all the time," Higelin noted. "Now, you have a new look to throw (hitters) a pitch that he hasn't seen."

As with any change, the result is all that matters. For Pena, times have been a little tough in spring. Stutes and Higelin, however, are enjoying the benefits. The season will tell whether the alterations enhanced their stock.

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