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Article: TX 8, MIN 1: Circling the Drain

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:44 AM
One run. Three hits. Another devastating out recorded on the basepaths. Yep, just another drop down the drain in this 2018 Twins season.O...
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Ex-Twins in the Box Scores

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:43 AM
Baseball games are being played again! I know it's only spring training, but I'm a box score junkie and once again I can get my daily fix...
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Article: What's the Deal with Matt Magill?

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:38 AM
Spending time with my in-laws by choice. The Minnesota Twins stealing a base. Paul Molitor using Matt Magill out of the Twins bullpen.The...
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Game Thread: Twins vs. Texas 1:10 PM CT 6/23

Minnesota Twins Talk Today, 09:37 AM
  ANNND Welcome! To Minnesota Twins Whine Line: Daycare Edition! I am your host and CEO of Minnesota Twins Daycare, Vanimal. Home o...
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Article: Twins Minor League Report (6/22): RUNS, RUNS, RU...

Twins Minor League Talk Today, 09:36 AM
Byron Buxton went deep in Rochester and Miguel Sano went hitless for Fort Myers. Fort Myers and Elizabethton both put up football scores...
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Can Ryan Pressly Put It All Together?

In five seasons since being selected in the Rule 5 Draft by the Twins, Ryan Pressly has oscillated between very good (2016 version), and so-so (2017 version). This will be an especially pivotal year for Pressly. He's out of options, the front office added significant major league talent this offseason and relief talent is also present in the high minors. For a Twins team hoping to challenge for the AL Central, a poor start may mean the end of Pressly's tenure in Minnesota.
Image courtesy of Troy Taormina - USA Today Sports
On paper, Ryan Pressly is everything the Twins want to help anchor a bullpen which has lacked dominant arms in recent years.Stuff-wise, Pressly is the kind of arm the Twins have needed to stick at the major league level. He can throw five pitches (fourseam fastball, cutter, slider, curve and sinker) and has well-above average velocity (his fastball averaged 96 mph in 2017).

Pressly also generates a ton of swings and misses, with a 12.4 swinging strike %. For context, this was 38th in MLB for relievers who threw at least 60 innings, sandwiched right around Brad Hand and Bryan Shaw. So why hasn’t Pressly managed to produce more consistently excellent results, given his impressive arsenal?

Variable Release Points
I’m about to do something extremely unfair to Ryan Pressly; compare him to Clayton Kershaw. That’s not really reasonable. Kershaw is perhaps, the greatest pitcher of his generation, a starter and left-handed. Pressly is none of those things. The comparison is useful, however.

In the table below, you’ll see Kershaw’s vertical release points for all his pitches charted throughout the 2017 season. Notice the consistency in release points for his pitches (how clustered together they are). The result of this is all his pitches are coming at hitters from an extremely similar height, increasing the likelihood of deceiving the hitter. Pitchers typically go through subtle variations in their release points throughout the season. When Kershaw’s vertical release dips or increases in one pitch, the rest follow suit.

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*Data courtesy of BrooksBaseball.net

By contrast, Pressly has wide fluctuations in his vertical release, both throughout the season, and in between his pitches. There are two months worth noting in his 2017 season: May, and August.

In May, there was a much greater range in the vertical release points of Pressly’s fastball and slider (his primary two pitches). In August, he brought those two release points (although lower) much closer together. Pressly managed an ERA of 11.00 in May with a .324 BAA, and a 1.13 ERA in August with a 0.96 BAA. When he's able to release the ball from consistent vertical coordinates, regardless of the pitch, he has the velocity required to dominate opposing hitters.

Slider Command
Pressly employs both a curveball and slider as breaking pitches. 2017 saw a significant reduction in the amount Pressly used his slider (dropping from around 25% to around 18%). Both of Pressly’s breaking pitches have fairly minimal vertical break and are both above average in velocity. When throwing breaking pitches without a ton of break, command is everything. Below are two charts mapping Pressly’s slider and curveball location in 2017.

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*Data courtesy of FanGraphs

It’s immediately noticeable that Pressly leaves far too many sliders over the heart of the plate. By comparison, Pressly locates his curveball more consistently down and away to RHH (down and in to LHH).

His slider command struggle is reflected in the effectiveness of both pitches in 2017. Pressly’s curveball had a .194 SLG against in 2017 (with around 21% whiffs), compared to .463 SLG for his slider (around 15% whiffs). In other words, when Pressly left his slider over the plate, the break he generates is not enough to save him, and excellent professional hitters tend to have their way with it.

For one final comparison, the last chart here shows Pressly’s slider command in 2016, his best full season with the Twins. His ability to cluster slider location down in the zone is noticeable. In 2016, Pressly gave up a .375 SLG on his slider, and .089 ISO, compared with .256 ISO in 2017.

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*Data courtesy of FanGraphs

On looking into Pressly’s numbers more closely, there’s only one conclusion to draw: He’s never established a great enough level of consistency in his mechanics throughout his tenure with the Twins. Variations in his release point and command struggles have diminished the impact of his incredible arm.

If Pressly is going to stick in the Twins’ pen long term, mechanical consistency is the key element that needs to improve to capitalize on his excellent arm.

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34 Comments

Excellent article, Mr. Cameron. The data you showed does indeed match what we see when Pressly is on the mound. I wonder if he has tried VR training. The instant feedback on his release point might be invaluable. 

    • diehardtwinsfan, Riverbrian, Jamie Cameron and 2 others like this
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LimestoneBaggy
Mar 20 2018 01:16 PM

Do you have Pressly's vertical release charts from 2016? It would be interesting to compare that chart as well. 

    • Sconnie and Jamie Cameron like this

Sounds to me that he needs to back off the gas on his breaking pitches which should help them break more effectively.Similar analogy would be a bowler that throws too hard and the spin of the ball is not able to overcome the overall speed and therefore does not hook as much as it could.  

    • DocBauer and Jamie Cameron like this
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Kelly Vance
Mar 20 2018 02:38 PM

Excuse me, is it required now to have a reliever capable of giving up a 3 run homer in the 8th inning?

    • Vanimal46 likes this
His August sinker and curveball are 3 - 4 inches apart? How does that even happen if your not Hildenberger??
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 20 2018 02:53 PM

Great article!

    • Kevin, dbminn, Jamie Cameron and 2 others like this
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Original Whizzinator
Mar 20 2018 03:29 PM
This is a great article. It's amazing to me the amount of data now available ( and maybe even to the twins now :) ). I wonder how much time must go into these articles? All you have to do is look at my golf swing to realize how hard it must be to put this info into practice.
    • LimestoneBaggy, Jamie Cameron, CUtomorrownight and 2 others like this

I never understood why Pressly's stuff never matched the results he got. Great article.

    • Jamie Cameron, Tom Froemming and MN_ExPat like this

At this point I would say it is unlikely he can figure things out.Unfortunately he may need to bounce around a bit before he will listen and learn. 

    • TNTwinsFan likes this

Really good article, Jamie!

    • Jamie Cameron and Tom Froemming like this
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yarnivek1972
Mar 20 2018 04:26 PM

At this point I would say it is unlikely he can figure things out. Unfortunately he may need to bounce around a bit before he will listen and learn.


Keep in mind, his previous inconsistency was with the previous regime basically ignoring this kind of information. Working on consistency with his release point is something a quality pitching coach should be able to do. After all, he CAN do it. He’s shown he can have a consistent release point in stretches. He just needs to do it all of the time - or at least most of time.

Just goes to show analytics isn’t just about player evaluation. Like everything else, it is a tool to help get the most out of the players you have too.
    • Oldgoat_MN, MN_ExPat and Original Whizzinator like this
Are in-game analytics and release point data available to coaches? Or, do they just have to eye-ball it and obtain it afterward to coach?
    • Jamie Cameron likes this
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Brock Beauchamp
Mar 20 2018 05:48 PM

Are in-game analytics and release point data available to coaches? Or, do they just have to eye-ball it and obtain it afterward to coach?

I think this is one of the big movements in MLB front offices right now (figuring out how to communicate and create data channels between coaches and analysts). You need some kind of bridge in most cases: the analysts don’t know how to coach and the coaches don’t know what to ask. I think Pickler is likely that bridge for Minnesota.
    • TNTwinsFan, Jamie Cameron and MN_ExPat like this

Pressley is not capable of throwing three curves for strikes.Everyone knows he has a good fastball and they sit on it.He also gets behind to many hitters, so again they sit on the fastball. Why swing at the curve if he can't throw it for a strike, just wait for the fastball. Hitting is much easier when you only need to look/swing at fastballs. 

    • beckmt and Vanimal46 like this
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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:09 PM

Thanks for the kind words!, much appreciated!

 

Excellent article, Mr. Cameron. The data you showed does indeed match what we see when Pressly is on the mound. I wonder if he has tried VR training. The instant feedback on his release point might be invaluable. 

 

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The Wise One
Mar 20 2018 06:13 PM

Don't other teams have relievers with varied results later in their careers? Good one year, bad anther. Pressly could fit that mold if he ever had another good year.

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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:16 PM

 

Do you have Pressly's vertical release charts from 2016? It would be interesting to compare that chart as well. 

 
Here is 2016. I think the noticeable difference is as you follow the season long adjustments to his delivery, there is consistency (generally) i.e. when the release drops on one pitch, the rest follow suit. The difference in 2018 is that when one went down another went up, that's the type of difference that can result in tipped pitches. I actually don't think Pressly is very far from being a very good and consistent bullpen arm.
 
Pressly 16

 

    • diehardtwinsfan, LimestoneBaggy, Tom Froemming and 1 other like this
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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:18 PM

This is super interesting. I would offer that Pressly is probably spinning the ball as much as he can whilst containing some level of consistency in the rest of his mechanics. Would have to look at his spin rates on breaking pitches. Some folks just can't generate the same level of spin others can.

 

Sounds to me that he needs to back off the gas on his breaking pitches which should help them break more effectively.Similar analogy would be a bowler that throws too hard and the spin of the ball is not able to overcome the overall speed and therefore does not hook as much as it could.  

 

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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:18 PM

They have everything we have access to, plus a factor of at least 10, I'd argue!

 

Are in-game analytics and release point data available to coaches? Or, do they just have to eye-ball it and obtain it afterward to coach?

 

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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:19 PM

Thank you for reading!

 

Great article!

 

    • Brock Beauchamp likes this
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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:21 PM

Thank you for reading. The data is truly amazing. It's really fun looking for patterns and stories in it. That is much more work than the actual writing itself. This took me 1-2 hours, but it was fairly limited in its scope.

 

This is a great article. It's amazing to me the amount of data now available ( and maybe even to the twins now :) ). I wonder how much time must go into these articles? All you have to do is look at my golf swing to realize how hard it must be to put this info into practice.

 

    • Sconnie and MN_ExPat like this
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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:21 PM

Thank you! I definitely think he has the ability to be a good reliever, mid 3s ERA, lots of Ks.

 

I never understood why Pressly's stuff never matched the results he got. Great article.

 

    • MN_ExPat likes this
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Jamie Cameron
Mar 20 2018 06:22 PM

Thanks for taking the time to read it!

 

Really good article, Jamie!

 

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diehardtwinsfan
Mar 20 2018 06:46 PM

This was a great piece...Makes me think that Pressley isn't too far away from being a good pitcher. Release points are correctable. 

    • DocBauer, Jamie Cameron, Tom Froemming and 1 other like this
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tarheeltwinsfan
Mar 20 2018 06:55 PM

Thanks for a thoughtful article. Very interesting. Can you please send it to Pressly!

    • DocBauer and Jamie Cameron like this

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