Russell’s Different Fastball


Adam Russell has appeared in two games for the Padres thus far, throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings.

There’s only so much you can do in analyzing that sort of small sample.

Still, sometimes a trend or a stat is so shockingly different from what it used to be that the small sample size goes out the window.

The movement on Adam Russell’s fastball is one such case.

Last year, Russell’s heater tailed about three inches in to righthanders and dropped about three inches.

This year, the lateral movement is the same, but the pitch is exploding up in the zone two inches.

The movement of a pitcher’s fastball can’t just change five inches in one direction in a small sample. It’s clear that Russell’s fastball has different properties this year.

I mentioned in an article yesterday that the big righty threw out of a variety of arm angles last year, from sidearm to overhand, and decided to ditch the lower angles and throw straight over the top.

That makes a lot of sense–it gives him more consistent mechanics while allowing him to take full advantage of his 6’8″ frame.

Furthermore, throwing sidearm usually puts more sink on the ball. Former Padre Cla Meredith, for example, had a tenacious sinker from his sidearm release.

It could be that Russell’s new, more consistent release point simply produces less sink than his other release points.

For an illustration of his release point difference, check the top right graphs in his last game of 2009 and first game of 2010.

Ordinarily, less sink on the fastball would be a bad thing, but Russell has the velocity to pitch up in the zone, and Petco Park is a good place to be a flyball pitcher.

Even if the net effect is negative with the fastball, the control Russell gets from his more consistent mechanics and the break on his curveball from his over-the-top release should make him an overall better pitcher. The early returns are promising.