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I've only heard this discussed a couple of times in the last 50 years and would love to hear some opinions on this. Thanks!
Larry, just for clarification, do you mean which end?
Yes Joel...first base side or third base side.
Everybody keeps talking about this "angle". The angle at which the ball comes in to home plate compared to one thrown from the opposite end of the rubber. But I am the only one to point out that that angle is 1.9...I'll call it 2 degrees. If this were an ink dot test, it might pass MLB specs. Put a protractor on the point on home plate with 90deg pointing to the mound and the back edges of the plate aligned with the 45deg marks. Now extend a line through the 91deg mark and another one through the 89deg mark to the front of the plate. The distance between these two pitches in the hitting zone is...would you believe...less than 3/4". So we are discussing the advantage of changing the angle to home plate by 0.7". What makes Randy Johnson effective is not which side of the rubber he stands on...it is which side he plays for.
Even though I disagree with the angle statement, 3/4" is the difference between a KO, pop up or a line drive.
For me, the angle is where the ball comes out of the hand, not when it crosses the plate. Although different angles approaching the plate can be the difference between a hitter seeing and recognizing a breaking ball and not swinging at it or seeing and recognizing a breaking ball with a hump in it and hammering it.
But the batter sees the ball no matter where it is thrown from. To say that 3/4" is the difference between a line drive and a pop up is true...on the bat. You aren't even talking about the same thing. You assume that the batter is going to swing at a ball thrown from the right side when the pitch was actually thrown from the left. We are talking about how the angle of the pitch is changed by the pitcher moving to one edge or the other. To say that it is where it comes out of the hand and not where it crosses the plate is just a release point, not an angle. How did you do in geometry class? To have and angle, you must have two lines. One line is from the release point to the target and the other line is the other release point thrown from the other side of the rubber to the target. The difference between the two is the angle created which is less than 2 degrees. You can believe that this makes a big difference and you can waste time teaching kids to move from one side to the other but you can't argue with basic math. Ask Miguel Cabrerra if he notices which side of the rubber the pitcher is pitching from and does it make it harder to see the ball on one side. He will say "are you kidding?". You want an extreme angle? Stand on third and pitch to me. What is the difference except I will pull more fouls? The hitter is not focused on an imaginary pitcher standing in the middle of the rubber. When the pitcher moves, he moves, yeah just like that.
To be honest, I don't know how I did in geometry, the last time I had that class was in 1981 as a sophomore in high school. I do remember that I enjoyed the class and the teacher to this day is still a very good friend of mine and I also remember that I made the honor role that year. But grade? I just can't remember.
Now, getting back to where we were with angles or lines or whatever it is we're talking about. I think if you read back on my posts, I never said I'd teach kids to move around on the rubber, but I did say that I would experiment when throwing on the side to see what side is more beneficial for each pitcher. Every athlete and every pitcher is different and each should experiment to find their comfort zone as a youth, and as you get older and have more experience there is no reason why a guy can't move on the rubber from one at bat to another or for lhh's vs rhh's. If it makes the pitcher feel more comfortable doing it, so be it. And if it makes even one hitter uncomfortable then again, so be it. And since Randy Johnson and I have had the same agent for our entire careers, I will give you what it is Randy said about why he pitched from the left hand side of the mound. And I quote. "Because I felt it gave me a better angle against the hitters and that is why I moved from the center early in my career" Again, I'm not going to argue with an expert that won 300+ games in the big leagues.
I'll do my best to see if Miguel Cabrera would say, "are you kidding". But give me time, today is waiver wire day for my fantasy teams and I really need a TE and maybe a WR. Looks more like a blockbuster trade than a wire move.
I didn't get to find out what Miguel Cabrera thought about different sides of the rubber but I did talk with 3 ex big leaguers that had very successful careers and one said he never paid any attention to where the pitcher stood on the rubber and the other 2 said they always paid attention to it. To me, it would be no different to a pitcher watching where the hitter is standing in the box, where he is holding his hands, is it a closed stance, open stance or straight up.
It's all a part of the poker hand.
That's what I thought. They see where he is before he pitches so they can pick up the release point but they don't have a problem hitting no matter what side the pitch is coming from. They are going to struggle against great pitchers and hammer average ones. So my point on all this is that the focus for pitchers should be: Movement, location, change of velocity, and deception. Maybe I am over analyzing this to say don't over analyze. Whenever a question comes up about a little adjustment a pitcher can make to be more successful, I like to look at it from a hitter's point of view. I have stood in the batter's box enough times to realize that a two degree change in the balls path to the plate is not going to matter. Like I said, throw it from third which is a 45 degree offset and as long as you have to throw it over the plate, I will hit it. Unless it is comming at 106mph and then you back it up with a nasty yacker. Your going to K me with that 100 times out of 100 no matter where you stand.
Both said they prefer the pitcher to be standing on the left (left for the pitcher) because the angle is less to them as a hitter. And even the guy that said he never looked to see where the pitcher stood said he'd rather face a pitcher that threw the ball as straight down the middle as possible with as little of angle as it could be.
Why is it that almost every hitter has a higher career batting average against the opposite side they are hitting. RHH vs LHP & LHH vs RHP?
And if the degree of angle is no big deal why is it managers platoon a lot of hitters because they don't hit as well against left or right?
Michael, I have one other question for you. If I were to set up 3 pitching machines, 1 set up splitting the pitching rubber. One 2 feet to the right of the edge of the rubber and one 2 feet to the left of the pitching rubber. Are you saying that you would hit the same against all 3 equally?
Kip, I knew you would come up with a good question. I was thinking the same, but didn't want to ask.
I am glad you asked! I love Baseball pop quizzes!
Q. Why do righties hit lefties better and vice-versa?
A. Fastballs run away from the hitter and breaking balls move in. That is what makes the change up most effective against opposite side batters; however, the change does not move like a slider, so a pitcher that has a good fastball and breaking ball combo would rather face same handed batters. There are more right handers in this world so lefties are more comfortable hitting them and for that matter, so are right handed batters. That is why left handed pitchers (that don't throw 95+) always have a good change up for all the right handed batters. I have a question for you. Why are left handers considered "low ball hitters" and right handers "high ball hitters"? It is because right handed batters struggle with the pitch breaking down and away and that same pitch comes down and in to a left handed batter and he can hit it more often. Since there are more right handed pitchers, it appears that lefties are "low ball hitters" because sliders and curves are thrown low.
Q. If the degree of angle is no big deal why is it managers platoon a lot of hitters because they don't hit as well against left or right?
I have three reasons for choosing a starting point on the rubber.
Footing is the reason I choose the left side. This is not so much a problem in pro ball because of the well manicured mound.
Consistency is important for control. Another poster pointed this out and I think for younger pitchers it is important to have them find a spot and stick to it.
Confidence is a huge factor when challenging hitters. If you feel more confident in a crossfire approach, then use it if you believe it gives an advantage.