Luke Gregerson on His Slider

Luke Gregerson isn’t as slider-heavy as he was once was. The Astros reliever threw his signature pitch 41% of the time last season. Since he broke into the big leagues in 2009, his 54.4% slider rate is the highest among pitchers who’ve recorded at least 350 innings.

He’s been effective. Gregerson boasts a 2.79 ERA and 2.97 FIP in 500 career appearances. He notched 31 saves last year, and while he’s more about ground balls than punch outs, his K/9 is a more than respectable 8.81.

Most of the questions the 31-year-old righty has fielded this spring have revolved around Houston’s offseason acquisition of Ken Giles — a closer with the Phillies — and their roles going forward. On Wednesday, I approached Gregerson with a different subject in mind: his hard-to-square-up slider.


Gregerson on what he considers ideal fastball-slider speed differential: “That’s a good question. I’ve never really thought about that too much. I just want it to move. That’s the biggest key for me. For guys who throw really hard, having a straight change that’s a slower speed is definitely a good thing. But for somebody like myself who’s not very overpowering… I’d say I’m looking more for late, hard movement, not a change of speed from my fastball.”

On changing speeds and shapes with his slider: “I’ve always varied the speed of my slider. It depends on which angle I’m trying to make it break at. I’ll change the speed depending on the hitter and where I’m trying to put the ball. I’ll slow it down if I think a guy is on it. Sometimes I’ll throw a really slow one in there, just to get him off balance. If you can keep a guy on his front foot instead of his back, or his back instead of his front — anything you can do to keep a hitter out of his comfort zone is good.

“The grip is always the same, I just change my arm angle and my wrist angle. I’ll make it break 12-6. I’ll put an angle to it. I’ll throw it flat sometimes; usually the flatter one is a little slower.

“I couldn’t tell you the secret behind my slider. It’s just a pitch I’ve always thrown. I’ve always had it, and I’ve thrown a lot, so I guess there’s a lot of muscle memory involved. That’s what’s telling me how I can move it around and to different spots.”

On his fastball and missing barrels: “I’ve tinkered around with my fastball grip for the last seven years. I think last season was the first time I found a really comfortable, consistent spot on the baseball that helps me get a lot of good depth on it, more up-and-down movement than lateral movement. That’s harder for a hitter to recognize.

“A guy can stay on a ball longer when it’s moving side to side, so I kind of focus on getting that up-and-down movement. When it’s going up and down, it messes with their eyesight. It’s harder for them to react to depth. Our natural reaction time is something like 0.3 seconds, so if you see a ball up here and then it drops… you miss a lot of barrels that way. You get a lot of ground balls, and once in awhile, some swings and misses.

“I’m sinkers, pretty much. The arm angle is pretty much the same. If I want it to drop more, I’ll try to stay a little taller, maybe get a little higher on it. That’s more of a feel thing, I guess.

“I don’t really get much higher than 90 [mph] on my fastball. Power isn’t just velocity, but in the context of how hard guys throw… a lot of guys these days are in the mid- to upper-90s. I’m definitely at the low end of the spectrum.”

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.

No Responses to “Luke Gregerson on His Slider”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. Yergecheffe says:

    Awesome interview. Any way to quantify how effective his various slider types are? In other words, can we see from the data whether the more vertical-dropping ones actually get more swings and misses than the slower, lateral one he throws? Does Pitchf/x pick them all up as sliders?