Taylor Hearn on His New Sinker

Taylor Hearn has added a pitch to his arsenal. More specifically, the 26-year-old Texas Rangers southpaw has reintroduced a pitch that he’s throwing in a notably different way. Unveiled mere months ago, it’s a potential career-changer.

Recently moved from the bullpen to the Rangers’ starting rotation, Hearn discussed the pitch when Texas visited Boston this past weekend.

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David Laurila: You’ve added a sinker to your repertoire. Was that a simple matter of wanting to induce more ground balls?

Taylor Hearn: “Honestly, I was getting ground balls, It was a pitch I’d thrown before, and I kind of wanted to learn it again but in a different way. I’m always trying to figure out what I can add to my repertoire, whether it’s a curveball or whatever else.”

Laurila: When had you thrown a sinker?

Hearn: “I had it when I came over here, to [Double-A] Frisco [from the Pirates via trade in July 2018]. I wasn’t really throwing it too much, and it wasn’t really even a sinker — it was just a regular two-seamer — and it just didn’t have the movement, because I’d never really had anybody teach me that. This year, I asked about throwing a sinker. They showed me one, I threw it, and we got numbers I’d never had before. I decided to run with it.”

Laurila: Was this in spring training?

Hearn: “No, this was actually during the season. I started throwing it in Minnesota [in early May]. The first game I threw it in was away, against Seattle [in late May].”

Laurila: How does it differ from your old two-seamer?

Hearn: “It’s a completely different grip. Again, the old one was a two-seam, and this one is more of a sinker. It’s almost like a one-seam, basically. And it’s been money for me. It’s a pitch that’s helping out my fastball, which is what I wanted it to do. It’s been clutch for me, keeping guys off my four-seam, and for mixing-and-matching as well.”

Laurila: What was the actual learning process like? You mentioned getting better numbers, so was it basically you going into the bullpen and throwing in front of a Rapsodo?

Hearn: “It was. Our pitching coach, Sags [Brendan Sagara], knows a bunch of grips, so we tried some out. This was actually on flat ground. It was raining. It was the day our game in Minnesota got pushed back, and I was out there throwing in wet rain. And it was moving a lot. The next day, I went out on a mound before the game and threw it. I just needed to get comfortable with it and, from there, see how hitters are reacting to it.”

Laurila: The movement profile is markedly different from your old two-seamer.

Hearn: “Yes. This one is getting more vertical along with horizontal movement. My sinker is averaging anywhere from 15 to 16 [inches], and I’ve had as much as 20.”

Laurila: Did you pick it up pretty quickly?

Hearn: “I did, actually. And the more I threw it in games and started getting a feel for it, the better it got. Like I said, the first time I threw it was in Seattle. That was my first time trying to figure out how to use it. It was running a lot.”

Laurila: Earlier this month, Blue Jays lefty Tayler Saucedo told me that when he was first learning his one-seam sinker, it actually moved too much.

Hearn: “There is such a thing. I know it’s true. I have times where if I’m trying to start it at a certain point, it will run too much. I’ve kind of honed that in by now, but yeah, it’s definitely one of the things where… I mean, the first two or three games, it was running a lot. I was trying to throw it down the middle, and it was covering… the plate is what, 17–18 inches? It was basically running almost equivalent the size of home plate.

“I’ve gotten better at it now, to where I’m back-dooring it to lefties and front-dooring it to righties. I’m not just throwing it down the middle and letting it run. I’ve actually been learning how to add and subtract. Depending on how many [inches] I want, I might move my fingers apart a little bit more.”

Laurila: Your changeup also gets sink and run. How much more do you need to develop that particular pitch?

Hearn: “I was predominantly a fastball-changeup guy coming up, so it’s not really a pitch I need to refine more. I’ve just got to throw it more now I’m facing guys more. The only reason I didn’t throw it much out of the ‘pen is that I was coming in for one or two innings. Now that I’m getting lengthened out and whatnot — facing guys two or three times — I need it. Honestly, it’s my best pitch — I just took more time off it last year to focus on my slider — so it’s definitely something you’ll start seeing more. That, and I’ll obviously be throwing the sinker.”

Laurila: Do you see your new sinker as a career-changing pitch?

Hearn: “100%. I think I could have stayed in the big leagues with just fastball-slider-changeup, but I wanted another pitch… and honestly, there’s the way the game is going now. Guys are starting to make adjustments to the high fastball, and with my velocity being 94, 96–97 [mph], a sinker is hard to hit.”





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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jbrynsvold
1 year ago

Thanks for this David. Interesting stuff for Rangers fans.