Freddy Garcia’s splitter in the above photo had extremely unusual movement, causing Juan Rivera to strike out.
Yesterday the New York Times published an extremely interesting article written by Zach Schonbrun about the uniqueness of Freddy Garcia’s splitter and how it has posed a large challenge to batters as well as physics experts. The author took specific note in the article of a splitter Garcia threw to Juan Rivera on April 29 last year. The unique pitch, instead of barreling straight down like a normal splitter, moved sharply down and to the right against the right-handed Rivera.
The game continued without any mention of the pitch. But Mike Fast, then a writer for Baseball Prospectus who happened to be watching on television, noticed the bizarre movement and reached out to a friend, Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois.
Nathan had published numerous papers on the physics of baseball and pitching. But he, too, had never seen anything like what Garcia had done. This was not simply the Magnus effect — the principle responsible for the curve in a curveball.
“There was something else going on,” Nathan said. “The left-right movement wasn’t determined primarily by the spin; it was determined by something else.”
Over the next months, Nathan analyzed frame-by-frame replays of the pitch to record its spin and looked at PitchF/X data to gather any clues about its movement.
I won’t recap the science behind this unusual instance (you can click on the link at the top of this article to read about what was found in the study) as Schonbrun did but I will say this- Garcia still has the tools to pitch effectively against good American League lineups. Other fans I have listened to seem to think it is simple as: Garcia will pitch well with his mixing up of pitches against the weaker lineups and not fare nearly as well against the good lineups. However, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. The movement he possesses on his pitches, such as the unique splitter investigated in the article, is very good and what it comes down to is whether or not Freddy has his command.
When he’s in control of his pitches, you’ll see that devastating splitter tailing down and away from a lefty. Even the best lefties in the league- Hamilton, Gonzalez, Dunn, etc. will struggle to hit that pitch if he locates it well. Now I don’t know what sort of role Garcia will have on the team in the postseason (probably in the bullpen), but if he can keep good command of that splitter, he should be a very useful piece on that pitching staff, in my opinion. Anyway, I just thought I would share the article with you, as it presents some pretty interesting stuff.
What do you all think about Freddy Garcia: what kind of role, if any, should he have on the Yankees postseason pitching staff? Any thoughts on the article regarding the science behind Freddy’s splitter?
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