The Importance of Extension for Pitcher
Extension can be a powerful deception tool for pitchers, as it can add perceived velocity to pitches thrown. Extension refers to the release point of which a pitch is thrown compared to the 60 foot, six inch distance from the mound to home plate. Therefore, a pitcher could actually release the ball 53 feet from home plate. That’s where perceived velocity comes into play. Since that release point is seven feet closer to the batter, a 96mph fastball could actually be perceived as a 99mph fastball. The chart below shows the biggest range between average pitch velocity and average perceived velocity in Major League Baseball this season.
Height was considered because pitchers who are above average height, like Tyler Glasnow or Justin Verlander, will have longer wingspans and thus be able to reach a longer extension than shorter pitchers. However, this does not mean that shorter pitchers cannot sling it with the big boys. In fact, Jordan Hicks is only 6’2” but averages a higher average velocity and perceived velocity than the other three pitchers mentioned. He only reaches those numbers though when he hits an optimal extension ranging from 6.5ft to 7ft. When he fails to reach his peak release points, his average pitch velocity and perceived velocity are two miles per hour slower than his best.
This next graph reveals the average velocities and average perceived velocities among all extension points throughout the MLB this season.
In conclusion, we can see that when a pitcher has a longer extension it can result in both higher velocity and perceived velocity. Timing is key to a hitters success, so anything that can be done to disrupt that is a leg up for the pitcher. Warren Spahn said it best, “Hitting is timing and pitching is disrupting timing.” That’s exactly what’s being done here.