SI: David Robertson's Extraordinary Release Point

The big story, of course, is the presumably season-ending and possibly career-ending injury to Mariano Rivera's knee. Rivera's one of few star players beloved by everyone, and he's among the game's biggest icons. But as much as there is to say about Rivera and his career, there's also the matter of the 2012 regular season. Just because Rivera's down doesn't mean the Yankees stop playing, and they're expected to push David Robertson into the closer role to take Rivera's place.

Robertson has been around for a little while, and he's been a dominant setup man. He's struck out more than 12 batters per nine innings. Since the start of last season, he's struck out nearly 14 batters per nine innings. I think people know by now that David Robertson is crazy good. However, given the times, I thought it'd be worth re-visiting something written about Robertson from last April. What is it about Robertson that gives him his edge? One explanation:

Last year Trackman installed its ball flight measuring systems in a handful of major league and minor league parks. The data provided a trove of information that makes the radar gun, a staple of baseball since the early 1970s, seem as obsolete as the typewriter.

Why is Robertson so difficult to hit? According to Trackman's measurements taken in one American League park last season, Robertson, with his exceptionally long stride and reach, released his fastball seven feet from in front of the pitching rubber -- the largest average extension Trackman measured in that park. The average MLB fastball extension was five feet, 10 inches.

Imagine if Robertson moves the pitching rubber 14 inches closer to home plate every time he pitches. That's the kind of advantage he gains over the average pitcher by releasing his fastball with so much extension. The radar gun (and Trackman) clocks Robertson's fastball at an average of 93 mph. But because Robertson shortens the distance between his release point and home plate, his "effective velocity" is 95 mph. It looks like 93 but gets on a hitter like 95 -- thus the illusion of "hop."

That's a big blockquote. You should read all of it, because it'll teach you things. You should read the whole attached article. As much as people talk about pitch velocity, it's the "effective velocity", or "perceived velocity", that's most important. Robertson gets insane forward extension on the mound, so his perceived velocity is quite a bit higher than his actual velocity. That's not the only reason he's so dominant, but it's a big one.

David Robertson has an extraordinary strikeout rate. David Robertson has an extraordinary delivery. We can't prove causation, but we can assume it. Neat for him. Neat to know.

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