Apparently, Zack Wheeler is tipping his pitches, and it’s so obvious that the Mets manager Terry Collins got ten text messages on the subject during the game in Chicago on Tuesday. Is it obvious enough that we can tell?
First, what are we looking for? According to these quotes in the AP Press article on the subject, it’s a difference in speed. And it might be in the glove area, at least according to Terry Collins:
”Guys look for it all the time. It starts with the glove,” said Collins. ”Moving the glove there’s different things to look for and then all of sudden you start to look when he speeds up, when he slows down, what the pitches are. You start to get a read on it.”
The article goes on to suggest that the team was already working on it during the start in Chicago once they noticed. So what we need are some side-by-side deliveries for each kind of pitch Wheeler throws, and hopefully from the first inning. Hey look at that: Wheeler threw a curveball, a two-seam fastball, and a slider, in succession, in the first inning, to the same batter (Alexei Ramirez). Let’s see what we can see, with the pitches in succession left-to-right.
I don’t know about you, but I see three different pitches, three distinctly different resting spots for his glove. The curveball is close and at the letters, the fastball shows more separation from his body at about the same height, and the slider comes to a rest close and a little bit lower than the curve. Each of these GIFs is roughly the same amount of frames, too, so there’s some difference in how quickly he moves through these parts of his delivery — although that is complicated by the runner on second base.
This is the sort of thing that young starters deal with from time to time, and the Mets’ staff is sure that they can fix this quickly. It’s probably just as easy as identifying the one, most comfortable resting spot at each point in his delivery, and repeating this. As long as this is actually where the tipping is happening (and his release point seems fine), then it’s more easily fixed than most other mechanical issues. He’s at rest. Just find a good resting spot. Rinse and repeat.
So Zack Wheeler is tipping his pitches. But it’s probably not that big of a deal. The control? That’s the more difficult problem.
With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.