Andy Sonnanstine's Release Points 2008 – 10

Last night, something weird happened to the Rays, they lost, and frankly I kind of forgot what it feels like.  It stings a little, but I think we’ll be ok.  I try to participate in the GDT at DRaysBay as often as I can, because it’s a good group of passionate fans that are more intelligent about the game than most of my friends in reality.  The reason I bring this up is because it’s also a great way to get ideas for things to write on.  Last night CubsFanRaysAddict posted these comments:

Any pitchfx data on Sonnys release points this year?? Has he continued to make them more consistent (2009 form) or kept them varied?

And then added this a couple of minutes later:

…but it seems that in his more successful years that his release points were more varied. IIRC 2009 was the year he tried to stabilize his release points, but his results were absolutely horrible (coupled with bad peripheral numbers). I think comparing his release points and amount of success might be interesting.

This turned out to be a great topic to look at because the data does show a pretty substantial conclusion and give us a couple more questions that could be pretty interesting to watch play out.  Here’s a table that has his average release point for each of his pitches:

Click the jump to see this explained and more pretty pictures.

These numbers are measured in feet, so for instance, in 2010 the release point on his four-seam fastball has been -0.8 feet inside to a right-handed batter (0.0 feet, or the origin, would be the exact center of the plate) and 5.7 feet above the ground.  Looking at this, the most readily apparent thing to stand out should be how much more closer to the origin he is releasing the ball.  These numbers are pretty tough to visualize so here is a chart for the three years for each pitch (Click on each to open in a new window):



FASTBALL (For this graph, all fastballs have been lumped together, I normally don’t recommend doing this)


As you can see in each instance he’s throwing his pitches from a release point that is closer to the origin that either of the two previous years.  Let’s not forget that Andy was pretty dang good in 2008, while 2009 was not quite as nice.  This year has seen an in between Andy that’s a passable fill-in starter and probably a league-average long man out of the pen.  The two questions that come immediately to mind is, “What if the people that chart the data made a fundamental change in how they track this stuff?”  That should be a pretty easy fix to get the opinion of those folks and something that I will try to do in the coming week or so.  The second question would be, “Does this account for a guy moving along the rubber?”  To see that much of a change in the horizontal component without a corresponding rise in the vertical component, my hunch is that Andy is starting closer to first base than in the prior two years.  This would be pretty hard to track without going back and looking at the video, but it does seem to indicate that however it’s happening, Andy has changed his release point from last season and seems to be finding more success, relatively.  Please chime in in the comments if anyone has anything to add either visually, or statistically, as I haven’t really noticed a difference in his position on the rubber, though I don’t think that would stand out much if you’re not looking for it.

This seems like a good stopping point, but it makes me want to see this more in depth to see if he’s indeed having better results with his new release point, and if this is a common thing for most pitchers.  Many thanks to Joe Lefkowitz and his outstanding database.  If you would like to download my workbook to a .XLS please click HERE.


About Jason Hanselman

Rays fan.
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