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Bud Norris Gets a Whiff (With His Two-Seamer)

This is footage of Houston right-hander Bud Norris‘s second overall pitch — against Alejandro De Aza — from the Astros’ Tuesday night exhibition game against the White Sox. Said footage captures Norris throwing a pitch (a) that, owing to the velocity (91 mph) and arm-side run (about 5.8 inches, according to the game data) looks very much like a two-seam fastball and (b) to which the Astros broadcast team referred as a two-seam fastball.

Why that’s (potentially) notable is because, according to the PITCHf/x data at the site, Norris had no pitches classified as two-seamers in 2011. Brooks Baseball has 7% of Norris’s pitches from 2011 classified as sinkers — i.e. a close relative of the two-seamer — but only four of the 207 (1.9%) he was recorded as throwing induced a swing and miss.

The presence of a dependable two-seamer would likely be of some benefit to Norris, who, despite having posted a totally respectable 98 xFIP- through his first 395.1 career innings, has been very reliant on his slider — throwing that pitch 35.4% of the time, according to PITCHf/x. Only two other of the league’s 90 qualified starters threw their sliders as often as Norris’s 38.1% in 2011: Edwin Jackson (42.8%) and Ervin Santana (38.2%). In addition to potentially handicapping his performance against left-handed batters, Norris’s dependence on the slider could also theoretically put him at greater risk for injury, because of the stress the pitch puts on the arm.

Norris has made multiple references to his two-seamer this offseason, citing it as a pitch on which he’s working — in contrast, for example, to his fastball or slider, which he’s thrown with great frequency over the last three years. This, of course, isn’t particularly unusual: spring training allows time for pitchers — especially established ones — to expand their repertoires. Still, it lends credibility to the idea that what we’re seeing here is, in fact, a two-seamer.

It’s possible — likely, even — that Norris won’t be throwing a two-seamer/sinker with any greater frequency in 2012 than in the past three. Even if that is the case, this post isn’t useless: it captures an event (i.e. Norris inducing a whiff with his two-seamer) that’s unlikely to occur even five more times between now and October!