Sunday, July 11, 2010
The palm ballPosted by Mike Fast
|Fernando Rodney throws a change-up against the Dodgers on June 13, 2010. (Icon/SMI)|
I knew Trevor Hoffman threw the palm ball, but I wasn't sure about Fernando Rodney or anyone else. I did a bit of research, and it turns out that Rodney does not throw the palm ball. He throws a circle change-up, using a grip very similar to the one that Greg Maddux used. There's another picture of Rodney's change-up grip here.
Rodney wraps his fingers around the ball, whereas the practitioners of the palm ball leave the index finger and middle finger off the ball so that ball sits more on the palm of the hand and doesn't get as much spin from the fingertips.
Steven Ellis has the best site out there for describing pitching grips, and he has a post describing various change-up grips. That post referenced an article by John Schlegel about Trevor Hoffman with a great picture of Hoffman's palm ball grip.
|Trevor Hoffman throws a palm ball against the Brewers on May 27, 2007. (Icon/SMI)||Trevor Hoffman throws a palm ball against the against the Pirates on July 21, 2009. (Icon/SMI)|
The fingers around the ball on the circle change-up grip, like that used by Rodney above, apply sidespin to the baseball as the pitcher pronates his forearm on release. (Thanks to Matt Lentzner for this explanation.) In the palm ball grip, with fewer fingers around the ball and gripping it less tightly, not as much sidespin gets applied to the ball.
Thus we see that the circle change thrown by a pitcher like Rodney has a spin axis that is tilted over by an additional 25-30 degrees relative to the fastball. On the other hand, the palm ball thrown by Hoffman only has its spin axis tilted over by 10-15 degrees relative to the fastball. This gives Rodney's change-up more sinking action due to spin than Hoffman's.
The following graphs, courtesy of the Texas Leaguers PITCHf/x site, show the pitch velocity versus the spin axis angle for the pitches thrown by Fernando Rodney and Trevor Hoffman in 2010. Fastballs are shown in red, and change-ups are shown in purple.
There may be other current major leaguers besides Hoffman that throw the palm ball, but I'm not aware of any. Harry Pavlidis pointed out one other recent palm-baller to me, though: Cody Cillo of Italy, who threw in the 2009 World Baseball Classic. Josh Kalk also wrote about him here at THT.
|Cody Cillo pitches for Team Italy against the Nationals in 2009. (Icon/SMI)|
Is there anyone else who throws the palm ball?
Mike Fast is a Royals fan who enjoys investigating baseball questions using data of many sorts. He is a member of Complete Game Consulting. He welcomes comments via e-mail.