A Conversation With Philadelphia Phillies Southpaw Bailey Falter (Who Is Unique)

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Bailey Falter is unique. As erstwhile FanGraphs scribe Devan Fink explained when he wrote about the 24-year-old Philadelphia Phillies left-hander last summer, Falter features a 92-mph fastball that is, for all intents and purposes, a 95-mph fastball. The effective velocity comes courtesy of extreme extension. A 6-foot-4, 195-pound native of Chino Hills, California, Falter has a delivery that puts him seven-plus feet off the mound when he releases the baseball.

Projected to be a valuable part of the Phillies bullpen this year — some evaluators feel he’ll ultimately secure a spot in the starting rotation — Falter is coming off of a rookie campaign where he logged a 5.61 ERA and a 3.79 FIP over 33.2 innings. He’s been impressive this spring; with the caveat that Grapefruit League performances need to be taken with a large grain of salt, the southpaw has been sharp, allowing just five baserunners in seven innings.

Falter discussed his delivery, and the repertoire that comes with it, following a recent game in Clearwater.


David Laurila: You’re known primarily for your delivery, particularly the amount of extension you get. Have you always thrown that way?

Bailey Falter: “Yes. I’ve had the same delivery and extension ever since I can remember. Honestly. I had a pitching coach back home, when I was growing up, named Steve Lefebvre. He tried to tweak me up a little bit — kind of shorten me up — because I was a guy that was never going to light up a radar gun, and we thought it could possibly be due to me having such a long stride. I ended up throwing the same speed.”

Laurila: How old were you at the time?

Falter: “I think I started going to him when I was eight [years old]. I remember my dad taking me to my first session and it was an absolutely terrible time. I didn’t like it at all. We got back in the car, he asked me how it went — did I want to go back? — and I said, ‘Dad, that was one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.’ He immediately got out of the car, went back in, and signed me up for 15 more lessons.”

Laurila: Who is Steve Lefebvre?

Falter: “Local guy back home. We went to him out of the blue, and we’re very loyal people, so we stuck with him. I was with him all the way up until high school baseball — even a little bit in high school, but during that time it was just showcase after showcase. I was always traveling around, trying to be at the right place at the right time to get eyes on me.”

Laurila: When did you learn that the extreme extension actually made you more effective, as opposed to it simply being how you throw?

Falter: “I believe it was in 2018 or 2019. I was either [in Clearwater] for single-A, or it might have been in Reading for Double-A. I was just so far. I think it was anywhere from 7-[foot]-4 to sometimes 7–7 extension. But I’d kind of always known, because I’d had multiple hitters from live BPs telling me, ‘Dude, it gets on you pretty quick.’ You look up the radar gun and it’s 91-92-93, but with that extension… we did the calculations a couple years ago. If I throw a fastball at 93, it looks 96 to the hitters. That plays. And with my extension, the ball plays pretty well up in the zone, too. It’s always a really good weapon for me.”

Laurila: Do you have good spin efficiency up in the zone?

Falter: “I actually do not. I think I am below average on spin rate, too. Baseball is a crazy game. I don’t really understand it, but when I grip it and throw it, I snap down and it gets a little rise at the end.”

Laurila: So the spin efficiency isn’t all that great.

Falter: “When I throw in front of the Rapsodo it’s always around 94% — maybe up to 97% — so it’s still decent. It’s just not the Wheeler/Nola spin.”

Laurila: When did you know that attacking up in the zone was effective for you? While it’s obviously changed somewhat in recent years, pitchers have long been taught to keep the ball down.

Falter: “With the Phillies, we’ve always preached low-and-away; that’s what we like to do. But they even came up to me and said, ‘Hey, we would like you to throw up in the zone a little bit more, because with your extension and your ride, that’s going to create some swings-and-misses.’ We really started hitting on that about two years ago, and it’s something that we continue to play with and get better at.”

Laurila: You said, “continue to play with.” It’s still a work-in-progress?

Falter: “Correct. And then I’m also working on four-seam. That’s another pitch I’m trying to get down.”

Laurila: The fastball you get good ride with isn’t a four-seamer?

Falter: “Correct. They’ve tried to get me to switch up my grip, but I’ve always thrown two seamers — that’s what I threw, growing up — and it’s what I’ve felt more comfortable with. So they want four-seams in there too, which I’ve been working on. But as far as how as my [two-seamer] moves… it’s hard to explain.”

Laurila: Is your primary breaking ball a slider or a cutter?

Falter: “It’s a slider, but some days it will be a cutter. Other days it will be a slider, just depending on my grip and how the arms feel on that day. More than likely it’s going to be a slider. But it’s the same pitch.”

Laurila: You said “depending on my grip.”

Falter: “I learned a slider about three or four years ago, so it’s fairly new to me. And I’ve always noticed when I separate my hands, I would always try to form my wrist on my comeback, and it wouldn’t work. It would just stay straight or it would be up in the zone. The one thing I’ve figured out is having my wrist cocked when I separate my hands through my motion — [the wrist] is preset — I get a little bit more action and run, which is what we’re looking for. That’s what I was working on the hardest over the offseason.”

Laurila: What about your curveball?

Falter: “It’s a spike curve, and your typical 12–6. It’s the same thing as my slider in that it’s cocked, but with a different grip. It’s not [spiked]. But it’s the same focus, the same motion, the same arm speed.”

Laurila: Where did you learn a spiked curveball?

Falter: “There were a couple of guys. Damon Jones would always mess around with me. JoJo Romero, he would always mess around with me. Also Aaron Brown. We were all looking for more spin. When I first started throwing it, it wasn’t too comfortable — it was a new pitch that didn’t really feel that good — but the more reps you get, the more it comes along. Now I’m in a pretty good place with it.”

Laurila: Are you throwing a changeup?

Falter: “I am. It’s a circle change, but I’m so over the top that when I try to pronate the ball, it doesn’t work for me. With my arm slot, that’s not going to work, so [pitching coach] Caleb Cotham and I came up with… it’s a circle change, but it’s a little offset. I throw it kind of like my slider a little bit; I put the most pressure on my middle finger, and [it has] just a little sweep, a little tail. It’s slower than my fastball with a little of run on it. That’s all we’re looking for.”

Laurila: Is it a low-spin or a high-spin changeup?

Falter: “Honestly, I think all of my pitches are low spin — average to below-average spin. Along with the extension, that’s just kind of how I am.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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