Find Out How a High Sinker Could Catapult Brayan Bello to Elite Status - footballivenews
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Find Out How a High Sinker Could Catapult Brayan Bello to Elite Status



If you’ve ever dedicated a significant amount of time to playing games like League of Legends, you’ve likely come across the term “meta.” If, like me, you gave up quickly due to its complexity, you might benefit from a bit more explanation. In gaming, the meta refers to a set of optimal and advantageous strategies based on the game’s rules. As the game evolves with updates, the meta shifts, and new strategies become effective.

Similarly, baseball operates within a meta, though not discussed in the same terms. The dynamics of the game are changing rapidly, with pitchers adopting new approaches and hitters adapting in response. A notable element of the current baseball meta is the prevalence of high fastballs. While the high fastball has always been in fashion, its popularity has surged, and hitters are adjusting accordingly.

Eno Sarris provided insights into the latest pitching trends and strategies for throwing pitches at the top of the strike zone before last year’s World Series. Although I recommend reading his detailed breakdown in The Athletic, the gist is that hitters are adjusting to the rising effect of four-seam fastballs by swinging higher. In response, pitchers are countering with more sinkers at the top of the zone, resembling high fastballs but without the same upward movement, leading to more swings and misses.

After delving into Sarris’ analysis and witnessing instances like Corey Seager hitting a rising fastball for a home run in the World Series, I became intrigued by the relationship between high fastballs and high sinkers. While conventionally, the emphasis has been on keeping the ball down, the current thinking challenges this notion, suggesting that the high sinker may have merit.

So, what makes a high sinker effective? Sarris mentioned that using both a four-seamer and a two-seamer is akin to a “cheat code” since the two fastballs look and travel similarly. Analyzing data from pitchers who threw at least 50 sinkers in 2023, those primarily using a four-seamer saw higher swing rates, swinging strike rates, and lower “Ideal Contact Rates” compared to those relying on a two-seamer.

Pitchers using certain types of pitches, like high sinkers, experience lower “Ideal Contact Rates,” a metric for measuring play results. The performance of a pitcher’s high sinker depends on whether their main fastball is a four-seamer (FF) or a two-seamer/sinker (SI). Although the results aren’t extraordinary, a significant distinction is evident in a substantial sample. Essentially, if a hitter anticipates a rising four-seamer but encounters a sinking pitch instead, they are less likely to make contact or may hit the ball poorly.

To delve deeper into the relationship between the four-seamer and the high sinker, an analysis of a pitcher’s fastball intent was conducted. This involved categorizing four-seamers based on their height relative to the batter, with a 60% hiLoc threshold indicating intent. Pitchers employing four-seamers higher in the zone show improved swing and whiff rates against the high sinker, suggesting that the elevated two-seamer complements the four-seamer well.

Exploring platoon splits reveals similar outcomes with increased swings, whiffs, and worse contact. Notably, the elevated sinker performs better against opposite-handed hitters when a pitcher has a four-seamer. However, ICR rates are higher, as expected with all sinkers against the opposite hand.

There is a noticeable decrease in ICR rates against same-handed hitters when the pitcher has a four-seamer, potentially leading to jam shots. This aligns with the idea that the interaction between four-seamers and two-seamers impacts same-handed hitters.

The content then shifts to discuss pitcher Brayan Bello and his performance against right- and left-handed hitters. Bello’s struggles against lefties are attributed to a high fastball approach, particularly when ahead in counts, leading to poor outcomes. Suggestions for improvement include developing additional pitches like a cutter or experimenting with the four-seamer.

Unfortunately, that didn’t bother hitters, as shown by those horrific numbers above. If hitters are going to continue to try to punish those high fastballs, mixing in more two-seamers could solve some issues. The two fastballs have similar spin out of his hand, but very different movement profiles. As we saw, if hitters are reading high four-seamer, and instead get high sinker, they may swing right over it and either whiff or make poor contact.

While I don’t have the analysis to back it up, I also wonder if a willingness to throw the high sinker can keep hitters off the four-seamer; it’s all one big game of cat and mouse after all. Perhaps that’s a research topic for midseason as more pitchers adopt the approach. Any edge matters in pitching, and Brayan Bello needs to find an edge to truly become the ace some believe he can be. The elevated sinker may not be the answer for Bello, but the numbers suggest it’s worth a shot.

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