Spin rate. It’s something that’s popped up a lot in conversation over the past few years. There’s a lot of things that go into spin rate, what makes it effective, or not effective, and why the rate itself can be misleading. And for some pitches, spin rate is far more important than on others.
On Monday night in Cincinnati, Tejay Antone took the mound in relief of Wade Miley, who allowed six runs in 1.2 innings in his Reds debut. It wasn’t exactly a good showing for the new Reds left-handed starter. Antone, though, came out and had the kind of debut you probably couldn’t dream up much better given the circumstances: 4.1 IP, 1H, 1ER, 1BB, 5K.
With the switch over to the Hawk-Eye ball tracking system in 2020 from the previous system used, Trackman, getting all of the data this year is taking longer than it used to. With that said, the spin rate data finally showed up and well, Tejay Antone’s spin numbers leap off of the page at you.
Let’s take a quick look at how things stack up, via Statcast numbers for Tejay Antone in both velocity and spin rate, when compared to the Major Leaguers in the 2019 season. We do need to understand that we’re comparing one outing to a full season of data and the data on Antone could move in one direction or the other.
Let’s start with the fastball. Tejay Antone’s sinker has more spin on it than any other sinker in baseball did last year. From a velocity standpoint he’s not at the very top, but he’s also in the top 15% of that group, too. But let’s put into perspective where he falls at on the velocity and spin chart for 2-seamers/sinkers in Major League Baseball by dropping his data into the grouping of the 2019 season:
There are a few dots that really stick out on this chart. Tejay Antone, whose dot I replaced with his face, is one of them. He’s got a large gap between himself and the next closest guy on the spin rate axis. Of course, he’s also pretty high up on the velocity axis, too. The other dot that really stands out is the one up top on the velocity axis, which is Cardinals closer Jordan Hicks, who has a huge advantage on everyone with his sinker in velocity.
But let’s also talk a little bit about the breaking stuff. With those pitches, velocity is important – but it’s less important than it is on a fastball where there’s a clear correlation between velocity and swings-and-misses. Spin rate is important on breaking balls. The higher the spin rate, the higher the swinging strike rate and the higher the ground ball rate is on contact (the gap on this is larger for curveballs than sliders, but does apply to both).
For Tejay Antone, his curveball has the 16th best spin rate in baseball when compared to the other 299 players who threw it at least 5% of the time in 2019. That puts him in the top 8% in baseball. The slider came in with the 54th highest spin rate. That would put him in the top 15% in baseball when it comes to spin rate on that pitch, too.
To recap: Tejay Antone has the best sinker spin rate in baseball, he’s in the top 8% in spin rate on his curveball, and he’s in the top 15% in spin rate on his slider. It’s just one outing, and things can certainly change a little bit – but the signs here are very promising. Antone can spin the ball, and he does so at an elite level.
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