Freddy and his Mysterious Splitter

Freddy Garcia’s splitter in the above photo had extremely unusual movement, causing Juan Rivera to strike out.

Yesterday the New York Times published an extremely interesting article written by Zach Schonbrun about the uniqueness of Freddy Garcia’s splitter and how it has posed a large challenge to batters as well as physics experts. The author took specific note in the article of a splitter Garcia threw to Juan Rivera on April 29 last year. The unique pitch, instead of barreling straight down like a normal splitter, moved sharply down and to the right against the right-handed Rivera.

The game continued without any mention of the pitch. But Mike Fast, then a writer for Baseball Prospectus who happened to be watching on television, noticed the bizarre movement and reached out to a friend, Alan Nathan, a physics professor at the University of Illinois.

Nathan had published numerous papers on the physics of baseball and pitching. But he, too, had never seen anything like what Garcia had done. This was not simply the Magnus effect — the principle responsible for the curve in a curveball.

“There was something else going on,” Nathan said. “The left-right movement wasn’t determined primarily by the spin; it was determined by something else.”

Over the next months, Nathan analyzed frame-by-frame replays of the pitch to record its spin and looked at PitchF/X data to gather any clues about its movement.

I won’t recap the science behind this unusual instance (you can click on the link at the top of this article to read about what was found in the study) as Schonbrun did but I will say this- Garcia still has the tools to pitch effectively against good American League lineups. Other fans I have listened to seem to think it is simple as: Garcia will pitch well with his mixing up of pitches against the weaker lineups and not fare nearly as well against the good lineups. However, I don’t think this is necessarily the case. The movement he possesses on his pitches, such as the unique splitter investigated in the article, is very good and what it comes down to is whether or not Freddy has his command.

When he’s in control of his pitches, you’ll see that devastating splitter tailing down and away from a lefty. Even the best lefties in the league- Hamilton, Gonzalez, Dunn, etc. will struggle to hit that pitch if he locates it well. Now I don’t know what sort of role Garcia will have on the team in the postseason (probably in the bullpen), but if he can keep good command of that splitter, he should be a very useful piece on that pitching staff, in my opinion. Anyway, I just thought I would share the article with you, as it presents some pretty interesting stuff.

What do you all think about Freddy Garcia: what kind of role, if any, should he have on the Yankees postseason pitching staff? Any thoughts on the article regarding the science behind Freddy’s splitter?

*     *     *     *     *

I’d like to take this opportunity to say that I have genuinely enjoyed my time here at YFU as an editor and writer. You guys, our supportive readership and commenters, have been fundamental in making this a fantastic, unforgettable experience for me. Now, I am leaving my position at the helm of YFU for personal reasons, but I do so knowing that the site will be in excellent hands and the quality you guys have come here for will be ever present. I look forward to seeing/talking to you all in the comments section as the Yankees make their pursuit of WS #28.

About Mike D.

Mike D. is one of 2 co-founders of the Yankees Fans Unite Blog. He has been a Yankees fan for as long as he can remember, growing up in a family of huge NYY fans. His knowledge of the game comes from watching baseball his whole life, and playing third base in high school and college.

Posted on August 5, 2012, in Notes & Links, Personal Opinion and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Mike nice article to go out with. Big topic where a lot of fans differ on going with Garcia or giving Phelps a shot.

    Some want to see some youth and what the future can do. But like your article shows sometimes going with a proven guy like Garcia could be the better choice.

    You will be missed.

    Bust of luck in the future. But I know you will still be around commenting and checking in on the blog.

  2. Good luck Mike D.

    TWASP will miss your Jeter loving!

  3. As one of your writers in the early days of this blog let me say, you and Matt S. have done a fine job setting this thing up and guiding it along to what it is to-day…a very fine blog!
    Good luck and keep on keeping on!

  4. While we all say good-by to Mike D, I would like to throw a question out there for Anyone…….

    Has anyone noticed the difference between A-Rods HR swings and the swings of most other HR hitters?

    It seems as though others swing right out of their shoes, A-Rods swing is smoother and easy.

    In the years gone by they didn’t know one could get the same results using a lighter bat (with greater bat speed) instead of those used a few years ago (38+).
    The lighter bats also made it so that a guy like Jeter or Brett could put one over the fence where as years ago, I don’t think they would have half of the HRs they have now, that goes for many players now days.

  5. Ken – why do you include Jeter in the weakling category with Gardner?

    Jeter has averaged 16 home runs per 162…. With a high of 24.

    Gardner has averaged only 5 home runs per 162…..with a high of only 7.

  6. We’re really gonna miss you Mike and hope you stop by regularly to comment.

    TYA did an article on this pitch a few weeks back with some slow motion video of one such pitch thrown this yr vs Boston (see link below). Garcia has huge hands and digs his splitter so deep in between his fingers that when he throws it, it often comes out with little spin – almost like a knuckleball. That accounts for the unpredictable movement and how a pitch can move away from a RH hitter with putting spin on it like one would with a slider, curve or cutter.

    Freddy still has value and can be effective when he keeps the ball down and gets ahead of hitters. If Joba can prove to be a reliable reliever I wouldn’t mind seeing Phelps get some starts this yr to see what he has for next yr but right now he’s needed in the pen. i don’t see Garcia being on the post-season roster right now unless there are injuries. He won’t start and one of Nova or Hughes will likely slide to the pen.

  7. Fish – do you ever post comments at Yankee

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