Fangraphs has a Q&A up with Cole Winn today, as David Laurila does a pretty lengthy interview with the Texas Rangers’ top pitching prospect.
I’m not going to try to summarize it but there are a few things from the Q&A I wanted to note in order to expand upon them.
First of all, Winn talks about the work he did last summer in Arizona to refine his pitches, and talks about the use of the Rapsodo, the TrackMan, and the Edgertronic in that work. This is something that less than ten years ago almost no team was utilizing. Now it is everpresent, and part of what coaches have to be able to do is be able to understand and utilize those tools, as well as know how best to provide the information and data from those tools to the pitcher, so that he can understand them and incorporate what they are showing into what he is doing.
Secondly, Winn talks about learning about the importance of consistency in mechanics and release point. We all talk about the importance of command and how pitchers need good command, but until Cliff Lee was a Ranger, I didn’t really understand how that was accomplished. Jerry Crasnick wrote an article around the time of the 2010 World Series that examined how Cliff Lee was able to have such otherworldly command. Command, it was explained (and as you will folks around the game talk about), is about repeating your mechanics consistently. Crasnick emphasized the importance of the tremendous strength Lee had in his lower body, which is what allowed him the necessary body control to consistently repeat his delivery. Here’s the money quote from the piece:
“What precisely is it that allows Cliff Lee to do the things he does?”
The general consensus: a combination of athleticism, concentration, emotional calm and precision mechanics that lead to great deception and control.
We don’t think about athleticism as being tied into command, but lower body strength and athleticism is a major part of being able to consistently repeat your mechanics, and that’s why you see scouting reports for amateur pitchers put emphasis on athleticism or a big butt/lower body. It doesn’t mean that you can’t have great command without great athleticism — see, e.g., end of career Bartolo Colon — but that physicality makes it much more likely that you’ll be able to repeat your mechanics well enough to have quality command.
Going back again to Cliff Lee — because peak Cliff Lee is, at least for me, the gold standard in terms of command — there’s an article from 2011 that talks about how in 2003 Lee worked with Tim Maxey, then the Cleveland Indians’ strength and conditioning coordinator, and adopted a program Maxey worked with him on. Maxey said the emphasis was on hips and legs, which, as we noted above, is critical for command.
Finally, Winn gives the spin rates on his pitches as well as the velocities, and he mentions that “[m]y fastball is around 2,450 [rpm].” To put that into perspective, that’s the same spin rate Lance Lynn is averaging this year — Lynn is ranked 29th out of the 159 pitchers who have faced at least 50 batters this year in spin rate on his fastball. The average spin rate for a four seamer this year is 2,317 rpm. So Winn is another one of the Rangers’ high spin rate pitchers.
Anyway, there’s lots of good stuff in there, so I strongly encourage you to check it out.