My last blog discussed the basic concept of Perry Husband’s Effective Velocity. It is a truly remarkable theory that can be tremendously helpful to pitchers, but only if they know how to appropriately utilize it. As a disclaimer, in no way am I claiming to be an Effective Velocity guru, or that I understand all of its intricacies. But on the most basic level I want to share how Effective Velocity can be incorporated by a pitcher in order to help his game. There are two important concepts to effectively using the theory: pitch sequence and tunneling. These concepts in some ways overlap.

First, let me address pitch sequence. Pitch sequence is crucial in order for a pitcher to maximize his opportunity to get a hitter out. For example, in my last blog I discussed the zero line and how every 6 inches a pitch moves further away from a hitter it loses 2.75 EV mph, while it gains the same amount of effective velocity for every 6 inches a pitch moves closer to the hitter. Of course, the velocity can be greater or less depending on if the ball is up or down in the zone. This means that if the wrong pitch sequence is used a hitter can actually “accidentally” square up the ball. For example, if a pitcher throws a 92 mph fastball down and away and then follows it up with an 86 mph slider that is up and in, the pitches’ EV readings would be the same: 89 mph.

What is the significance of this? Say a hitter’s swing is timed for an 89-90 mph pitch, then the arc of that hitter’s swing can make solid contact with either the 92 mph pitch down and away (since the ball needs to be deeper in the zone before contact) or the hitter can make solid contact with the 86 mph pitch up and in (since the ball needs to be struck out in front of the plate). Perry refers to this as “pitchers hitting bats.” In fact, I can recall this exact situation happening to me during Spring Training. I had thrown a few good fastballs down and away at the knees and the right-handed hitter fouled them off hard down the right field line. I then followed up with a change-up, which ended up drifting over the inside corner of the plate about thigh high, and the hitter crushed it down the left field line for a double.

I vividly remember wondering how the hitter could be on time with my low-80’s change-up, which he had never seen and no reason to suspect, when he had previously been timing my 90-92 mph fastball.” Looking back the answer is clear: the batter hit my inside change-up by accident. That pitch, although it was slower, was inside and a little higher in the zone, meaning it had an increased EV. Meanwhile, my down and away fastballs had a decreased EV and the result was that the hitter’s timing allowed him to hit either pitch.

However, if EV is taken into account then the number of times a ball is hit by accident can be decreased. The goal for pitchers should be to have greater than a 6 EV mph deviation between pitches. During Perry Husband’s research, he found that elite hitters can handle up to a 6 mph differential, but anything more than that and a hitter’s statistics significantly fall off. A pitcher with a smart pitch sequence can easily obtain this differential. On the most basic level, a pitcher throwing hard inside and soft away will easily have a large EV mph deviation. But for pitchers who have truly embraced Effective Velocity, the ability to throw up in the zone is key, as this increases EV mph between pitches more than anything else. With the ability to elevate, a pitcher doesn’t even have to change pitches in order to have the appropriate EV mph differential. A 90 mph fastball up and in has an EV velocity of 96 while a 90 mph down and away has an EV velocity at approximately 85. That is an 11 EV mph differential with just the fastball.

Unfortunately, the problem is that pitchers today are enamored with throwing fastballs down and away (or perhaps they are afraid of throwing to the inner half the plate and/or up in the zone) and then often follow up with off-speed pitches over the plate, which can tend to end up middle-in. This is hurting Effective Velocity as the down and away fastball reduces the effective velocity while the slower off-speed gains effective velocity by being middle-in.

The second important concept in Effective Velocity is one I have discussed in the past. It is the concept of tunneling. I wrote two blogs several years ago (Pitch Trajectory Blog; Trevor Bauer and Pitch Trajectory Drills Blog) that discussed pitch trajectory/tunneling and Cleveland Indians’ pitcher Trevor Bauer’s use of tunneling to improve his pitches. This concept is relatively simply: a pitcher should make all of his pitches look the same for the first 20 feet out of the pitcher’s hand. Because the majority of pitchers’ repertoire centers around their fastball, this means that all of their other pitches should look as identical as possible to the trajectory of their fastball.

This is because a hitter must recognize a pitch type and decide whether or not to swing in the first 20 feet after release. In order for Effective Velocity to work the most efficiently, a pitcher needs his pitches to all appear the same out of his hand so that the hitter is left guessing as to what is coming. As I mentioned in my previous blog, Bauer went so far as to build a metal frame with a 13-by-10 inch opening that he would set 20 feet from his release point in order to throw his pitches through. This would help ensure that all pitches are coming through the same tunnel.

Much like each pitcher needs to have an understanding of his own pitches and their velocity in order to determine how best to create the appropriate EV mph differential, a pitcher also needs to take the time to know what his pitches look like the first 20 feet after release. Ideally, of course, all the pitches will come out of the same tunnel. But sometimes a pitcher will have a pitch that he can’t keep within the tunnel. Perhaps it’s a big breaking curveball that seems to pop out of the tunnel even though it is thrown hard and with tight spin. This pitch will be immediately recognizable (within the first 20 feet) to the hitter as a breaking ball and the hitter can adjust accordingly.

But this doesn’t mean that the pitcher is simply defeated or has to abandon the pitch. Perhaps, there is another pitch that shares the same tunnel with this curveball. To a right-handed hitter, a right-hander’s curveball might pop out of the tunnel high and a little left compared to his down and away fastball, his changeup, and slider. But what about that right-hander’s up and in fastball? It is possible that this pitch shares the same tunnel as the curveball. If so, then the pitcher can follow up the fastball thrown up and in with the curveball and stay in the same tunnel. For some pitchers, this is what has to be done. Certain pitches need to follow others in order for the tunnel to stay the same. In order for this type of analysis to be performed though, a pitcher must become familiar with his pitches and their tunnels. The simplest way for a pitcher to learn his tunnels is to film all of his pitches from behind the plate and to chart each pitch as they come in.

If a pitcher can increase the EV mph spread between his pitches so that it is greater than 6 and can simultaneously have his pitches in the same tunnel then he has put himself at a great advantage in getting the batter out. The hitter is left to guess as to what pitch is coming and will not make contact by accident nor will he be able to “adjust” to the pitch.

The key, however, to all of the above is for a pitcher to have command of his pitches. A pitcher can’t have an Effective Velocity game-plan if he can’t throw pitches where he intends. Missing spots and unintentionally throwing pitches to the wrong part of the strike zone will potentially destroy the Effective Velocity mph spread. So pitchers need to focus on the command of all their pitches. Oates Specialties' Target Pad can go a long way to helping with this. Further, a pitcher must stay connected in order to be able to repeat pitches. The Connection Ball helps correct inefficiencies in a pitcher’s movement patterns so that a pitcher can delivery pitches in the most efficient and least stressful way possible.

I hope that you will be able to start utilizing effective velocity and tunneling in order to improve your pitching performances. If you have any questions, or I can help in any way, please don't hesitate to contact me.

Until next time,

Brian Oates