Over the weekend, Rays pitcher Oliver Drake broke the internet with this pitch:
And here is what that same pitch looks like through the eyes of Baseball Savant’s 3D pitch visualizer:
Notice anything interesting about the release point? If you didn’t already know it was Drake, would you think this pitch was actually thrown by a righty? Let’s dig into that a little bit more by looking into his delivery and mechanics.
First, notice where his foot is on, or rather, off the rubber when he starts, specifically against left handed batters:
Just the very tip of his cleat is on the rubber, leaving me to wonder whether he wears a bigger shoe on that foot to give himself an added advantage. For most pitchers, this type of positioning would still give them a typical arm-side angle, albeit a more centered one. But not for Drake.
Going into his actual throwing mechanics, Drake does a great job of creating what is known as contralateral tilt:
Contralateral tilt in pitching is defined by tilting your shoulder to your glove side by sitting back in the load. See how Drake’s chin and shoulders are far behind his belly button? That’s what allows him to create his shoulder tilt when he gets to his release point.
Compare that to Rays lefty Brendan McKay, who is much more neutral at the same point:
Refocusing on Drake, take a look at where he lands on front foot strike:
Not only does he start on the extreme glove side of the rubber, he strides even farther in that direction. Oh, and there’s that shoulder tilt I was talking about.
All of these actions lead to Drake’s nearly perfectly vertical release point:
You can draw a perfectly straight line from his arm to his front leg.
But let’s get back to his lefty-like angle, with a look at this chart posted by David Adler on Twitter:
This chart shows his average release point on all pitches, which is over a foot to the LHP side of home plate. Against lefties, he is more extreme, getting closer to two feet:
Here is where he released the pitch in the viral video:
Since we already referenced McKay, let’s put them side by side at release point:
Because of Drake’s positioning on the mound combined with his throwing mechanics, He is able to create even more of a lefty like angle than an actual left-handed pitcher. Here is how Drake compares to the rest of the lefties on the Rays staff:
Perhaps it should be of little surprise that lefties own a microscopic .162 wOBA against him in 2019 in comparison to the .355 mark against righties.
Here’s to hoping that Drake continues to defy traditional pitching mechanics, if not quite the laws of physics.