Todd Redmond’s Invisi-Ball – Partially Explained!

“We always give him (grief) because he’s got the invisi-ball,” said Kris Medlen, who played with Redmond in Gwinnett this year and Double-A Mississippi in 2008. “He always goes seven or eight innings, but he throws these belt-high to belly button-high 90 mph (fastballs). If I threw them they’d get crushed but it doesn’t. Some things you can’t explain.”

— David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 17, 2012

Todd Redmond‘s major-league debut this past Saturday wasn’t what even the most forgiving of Mr. Redmond’s supporters would describe as a “rousing success.” The 27-year-old right-hander allowed four runs and seven hits in just 3.1 innings before getting relieved by Alfredo Simon. Nor were his defense-independent numbers any kinder: with his 2:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio and mere five grounders induced (of 15 batted-balls total), Redmond posted a decidedly poor 9.06 xFIP for the game (box).

Despite all his problems, however, it’s notable — one might even say “shocking,” were one in the appropriate mood — that Redmond finished the game with an above-average run value (+0.6 total, +0.9 per 100 thrown) on his fastball, a pitch he threw 65 times and constituted 71% of his 91 total pitches for the game. Conversely, Redmond’s change and slider — which he threw just a combined 25 times — were worth about 3.8 negative runs.

Indeed, Redmond induced swinging strikes on 10 of those 65 fastballs (15.4%) — this, while the league-average swinging-strike rate on four-seam fastballs sits at just 7.0%.

Perhaps even more notable is that Redmond’s whiffs weren’t due to batters chasing pitches out of the zone. In fact, seven of the whiffed-upon fastballs actually fell within the strike zone*, as illustrated here:

*Or, a rough approximation of the zone — which is to say, the area between -1.0 to 1.0 feet on the x-axis and 1.5 to 3.5 feet on the y-axis.

In the end, Redmond induced whiffs on seven of the 30 fastballs he threw in the zone, or 23.3%. The league-average swinging-strike rate on fastballs in the zone is considerably lower, about 7.5%. By way of reference, no pitcher in the league this season has thrown as many as 30 fastballs in the zone while whiffing batters at the rate Redmond demonstrated on Saturday. Teammate Aroldis Chapman is next on the list (at 22.5%), and he, of course, has thrown the fastest pitch ever recorded in the game — much different than the 89-90 mph at which Redmond sits.

The success of Redmond’s fastball might be less exceptional — and the author much more willing to discard it as a product of randomness — if not for Kris Medlen’s comment regarding same at the top of this post. Nothing about the velocity or movement on Redmond’s fastball, however, suggests that it’d be a plus offering. It is the case — as Ben Duronio exhibited in late March with regard to Trevor Bauer — that fastballs high in the zone receive more whiffs than those lower in the zone. Possibly, that’s all we’re seeing here.

Is deception part of it, maybe? Perhaps. Unfortunately, the Cincinnati center-field camera isn’t the best for determining that sort of thing, as one can see here:

If pressed, I might suggest that Redmond obscures the ball with his body more than other pitchers — or perhaps tosses it in a more “dart-like” fashion — but that’d be more an example of me grasping for explanations than an actual instance of “analysis that’s worth anything.” Ideally, it’d be possible to watch Redmond pitch in front of a straight-on center-field camera. (Ideally, it’d also be possible for the author to have been born with more native intelligence.) For the moment, the mystery of Redmond’s invisi-ball will remanin unsolved, however: he was demoted to Triple-A Louisville after his 3.1-inning effort and is unlikely to return major league-ward until rosters expand in September.

Credit to Jeff Zimmerman for help on data.

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Carson Cistulli occasionally publishes spirited ejaculations at The New Enthusiast.

23 Responses to “Todd Redmond’s Invisi-Ball – Partially Explained!”

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  1. Peterborough Jays says:

    Almost looks as though there’s some change in velocity while on route. Is that physically possible?

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  2. Cus says:

    I would vote for a combination of hiding the ball well and strong arm-side run like Frieri minus 5 mph.

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  3. Bryz says:

    Combine this with Earl Grayson’s stopball from Maniac Magee, and baby, you got a stew going!

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  4. Alex says:

    His fastball seems to have a bit of late giddyup on it ala Matt Cain.

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  5. Impossibles says:

    Its possible some players throw balls with massive differences in spin rpm, which could result in different decelerations from different pitchers.

    Hmmmm….now I look at brooks baseball, and Redmond’s fastball max speed was 91.1mph and the avg speed is 89.33, a difference of 1.77mph.

    Just a quick look through the other pitchers in that game and the avg speeds and max speeds are generally within 0.5mph.

    Redmond somehow makes his ball slow down faster??????

    Does not compute. Maybe he excretes gas that increases the air friction.

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    • James says:

      My totally unfounded theory based on that isolated .gif and the numerology above is that something about his delivery/arm movement/release gives it a deceptive cut motion/look initially perceived by hitters while the spin of the ball straightens it back out and makes it hard to square up. You know, like a knucklefastball.

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  6. Bryz says:

    More seriously now, Redmond’s delivery in that GIF looks similar to Anthony Slama, and Slama’s got the same story… underwhelming fastball, but he seems to have enough deception in his delivery that minor league hitters can’t hit it.

    Slama video:

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    • Bryz says:

      Should have included this in the original comment, but it would be interesting to find other pitchers with arm actions similar to Redmond/Slama and compare them with their fastball velocities and run values to see if they have similar success. However, we’d need pitchers with more major league innings, as Redmond and Slama clearly don’t have enough to be meaningful.

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  7. snoop LION says:

    actually if someone can post a .gif of pedro he threw at a very similar arm angle.. kinda similar action too now I look at it

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  8. Tim says:

    Most pitchers try to throw their changeup to look like a fastball. Redmond’s fastball looks like a changeup.

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    • Ken K says:

      This. He looks like he’s about to throw a 77 mph curve or something and out comes a fastball.

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      • Jim Lahey says:

        I agree, I read curveball with how his motion is on that pitch. I think it’s his follow through/ throwing across his body? Seems like he plants his left foot at a wierd time then just kind of hangs onto the ball while still finishing his delivery

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    • Ken K says:

      This. He looks like he’s about to throw a 77 mph curve or something and out comes a fastball. He also seems to have a hitch in his delivery/timing before he rotates his shoulders, which could cause problems with batters’ timing on the fastball.

      My explanation: small sample size, but also mlb batters aren’t familiar with his delivery.

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  9. siggian says:

    J A Happ was doing a similar thing in his last start for Toronto. That is, pitching high in the zone and somehow getting Ks with a 90mph fastball that should have otherwise been crushed. At one point, Happ got 6 Ks in a row.

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  10. payroll says:

    Hamilton was behind on that pitch. Sneaky fast 91 mph?

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  11. Walter says:

    Short arming it and hiding the ball behind his head during his delivery?

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  12. tz says:

    What was his veloicity on his other pitches? If he repeats his delivery real well, the hitter might be expecting low 80′s and can’t adjust in time to catch up to the 88-90 mph fastball.

    Keith Foulke seemed to do this a lot in his prime, getting swinging Ks on letter high 86mph fastballs after a string of 77-82mph sinkers and sliders

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  13. Bigmouth says:

    Hoodoo, plain and simple.

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  14. Antonio Bananas says:

    Is there any way to judge “perceived velocity”? I was watching the LLWS and they do the “if this were from 60’6″, it’d be this fast” thing and I was wondering about pitchers. It’s a reaction time thing. The actual amount of time a batter has to recognize the pitch is really the “velocity”. Obviously, if you throw hard anyways it helps. Deception is another thing I think it’d be cool to be able to measure.

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  15. baseballvt says:

    Wow we need to see that in slow motion

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