Pro pitcher Jose Ledesma, a recent Graduate of the D1 baseball program at the University of Delaware, spent the past off-season training at RPP Baseball. During this time, he worked on just about every aspect of his craft, from improving his velocity to expanding his pitching arsenal. Fast forward to summer of 2023, pitching for the Sussex Country Miners of the Frontier League, he has pitched 50.1 innings with an ERA of 3.75 and 9 Ks/9. A year earlier, pitching for the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League, he pitched 26.2 innings with an ERA of 5.06 and 5.1 Ks/9.
So… what changed?
Often when we review an athlete, we talk about velo gains and Jose had plenty of that this past off-season going from sitting 88-91 mph to 90-93 mph this year. But what’s equally worth reviewing is how he completely revamped his pitch arsenal to better attack pro hitters.
Let’s dive into it…
Initial Pitch Arsenal
Prior to this season, Jose threw a 4SFB, CB, and CH.
The Off-season Plan
His 4SFB and CB played really well off one another in the vertical plane. However, despite having good movement metrics, the CH could use something to counter it in the horizontal plane with movement in the opposite direction. Our plan with Jose was to expand his arsenal as follows:
- Finding a pitch, or two, to compliment his CH within the horizontal plane
- Maintain consistency with his 4SFB and CB
- Add in game-like scenarios to create comfort throwing all of his pitches in various situations
Incorporating a 2SFB and SL – The pitches we decided to add into his arsenal were a 2SFB and a Sweeping Slider.
2SFB – Having the ability to effectively throw a change up with horizontal run means Jose already had the ability to generate side spin on the baseball. This made the development of his 2SFB an easy process. By using the cues “throw the 2SFB like your changeup” and “get to the side of the baseball” he was able to generate significant amount of horizonal movement while maintaining a similar velocity as his 4SFB.
Sweeping Slider – After developing the 2SFB, the next pitch we wanted to develop was the sweeping slider. The main reason for this was that Jose had a pitch that moved in every direction except to his glove side. With his 4SFB having positive vertical break, his curveball having more negative vertical break, and his CH & 2SFB having positive horizontal break, the missing pitch from his arsenal was the sweeping slider. Using cues like “throw it like a frisbee” or “go from 3 o’clock to 9 o’clock” Jose was able to create significant horizonal movement to his glove side. This pitch instantly played extremely well off his 2SFB and CH.
Pitch Tunneling – Let’s review how Jose’s pitches now play off one another. with his expanded arsenal:
- 2 pitches that operate in the vertical plane – 4SFB and CB
- 3 pitches that operate in the horizontal plane – 2SFB, CH, SL
Pitches that operate in the same plane have an easier time tunneling out of the pitcher’s release point and create an element of deception in the early stages of ball flight towards home plate.
Here you can see some examples of this:
- Overlay of 4SFB and CB
- Overlay of 2S and CH
- Overlay of 2S, CH, and SL
After weeks of pitch design sessions, it was time to apply our hard work into competitive “game-like” settings. We wanted to simulate as many situations as we could where Jose either pitched in live ABs or test his pitches within “simulated ABs”.
What this did was allow Jose to gain a feel and comfort for all of his pitches in situations that resembled the high leverage positions he would later throw them in. Once he gained that comfort, throwing each pitch with confidence became second nature.
Rapsodo data on his current arsenal:
- 4SFB: +18 VB, +11 HB, 2300 RPM
- 2SFB: +9 VB, +17.5 HB, 2200 RPM
- CB: -16 VB, -13 HB, 2500 RPM
- SL: -3 VB, -17.5 HB, 2600 RPM
- CH: +8 VB, +20 HB, 1900 RPM
After months of hard work, Jose has developed and mastered an elite arsenal. By working within pitch design, but also a competitive setting during the off-season it has allowed him to trust and execute all of his pitches. Using technology like the Rapsodo and pitch overlaying as given Jose proper visual feedback on what elite movement looks like, and feels like, which helped his execution of each pitch individually and as a cohesive arsenal.
It’s clear that adding multiple pitches in the horizontal plane has opened up his arsenal and increased his success against professional hitters. To reiterate, Jose has pitched 50.1 innings with an ERA of 3.75 and 9 Ks/9. A year prior, pitching for the Trenton Thunder of the MLB Draft League, he pitched 26.2 innings with an ERA of 5.06 & 5.1 Ks/9.
Congrats Jose and keep up the hard work!
By Jake Lebovitch (Pitching Coordinator, Strength Coach at RPP Baseball)
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