After Jake Odorizzi’s first six starts of the season, he had a 6.85 ERA and it was clear he was struggling after the first couple of innings.
We took a look and noticed that it may have had less to do with pitch selection and comfort of the batters and more to do with Odorizzi getting tired and losing his mechanics. Specifically, his release point was consistently dropping and his pitch locations were going up later in games
One thing we didn’t discuss last time was the difference in release point between his two main pitches, his fastball and splitter. Here is that chart again. Notice in the first inning there is ~0.2 ft difference in release points. That’s nearly 3 inches.
In addition to tiring as the game went along, maybe Odorizzi was tipping his pitches by having significantly different release points.
Let’s take a look at those release points over his last two starts and how those compare to the first six starts.
Did you see it?!
The purple lines (splitter) are more or less unchanged. Meanwhile, the release point on the fastball (blue lines) has been lowered significantly and now looks almost identical to the splitter.
What is interesting is that the difference in release point is only noticeable if we look at it by inning. Since he may have also been tiring and the release point was dropping as the game went along, the overall release points overlapped.
That is, the release point for the splitter was lower than the fastball. But the release point for the splitter early was equal or even higher than the fastball late. So looking at data from an entire game showed overlap.
Here are the release points for his fastball and splitter from his the first six starts.
That looks pretty normal and it looks like his fastball and splitter have nearly identical release points.
It is also interesting to note that Odorizzi moved the fastball release point down instead of raising the release point on the splitter. This may get back to the issue of tiring as the game goes along. Instead of trying to keep the release point up, he is starting lower and keeping it there.
Of course, it could also just be that the release point is more important on the splitter than the fastball.
I don’t want to dwell on this too much, because it is a small sample size, especially in the sixth inning. But if this holds up, it is an interesting change and could show that batters could recognize pitches by where the ball was being released, something that may have become easier the second and third time a batter faced Odorizzi.