Velocity is still certainly at play in these nastier breaking balls: Increased velocity generally leads to an increase in spin rate. (The average curveball spin rate this year is 2,536 rpms, up from 2,315 rpms in 2015). More spin (specifically, transverse spin) creates more of the phenomenon known as Magnus Effect, which plays a key role in determining a pitch’s movement.But velocity hasn’t surged as dramatically as pitch movement has in recent seasons. And it isn’t just that fresh faces with killer breaking balls have replaced older, craftier pitchers: 86 pitchers who threw at least 50 curves in 2017 and 2019 averaged an increase of 1.4 inches of greater vertical break, according to a FiveThirtyEight analysis. Something else must be at work.One possibility is that new methods of training, and new technologies, are playing a role in creating better breaking balls. For example, when Cleveland Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer revamped his slider in the 2017-18 offseason, he wanted a pitch with zero inches of vertical movement and an elite level of horizontal movement. At Driveline Baseball, a data-based training center, he used new pitch-tracking technology, allowing for improved feedback of the pitch-in-progress. Specifically, he wanted to create a certain spin axis, which determines the direction the ball moves, while spin rate determines how much the pitch can move. Breaking balls typically have greater whiff rates than fastballs, and breaking balls are being thrown more frequently.On sliders, pitchers are often looking for more horizontal break — and less vertical movement — than on a curveball. They’re getting both this season: Major League Baseball seems to be on an unstoppable pathway to more and more strikeouts. After a record share of plate appearances ended in a strikeout last season (22.3 percent), this season is winding up to set another record: If the to-date strikeout rate of 23 percent holds or increases over the season, it would mark the 12th straight year of a record set for strikeout rate.Fastball velocity is often cited as the source of the strikeout surge, along with hitters willing to trade contact for power. The constantly increasing fastball velocities of recent years are such a concern that MLB is partnering with the independent Atlantic League next year to move the mound back by 2 feet — to 62 feet, 6 inches from home plate. Still, there may be another culprit behind all of the K’s: Breaking balls have never moved more. According to a FiveThirtyEight analysis of PITCHf/x and Statcast data at Baseball Prospectus, sliders and curveballs this season are darting away from bats at their greatest levels in the pitch-tracking era (since 2008). White Sox left-handed reliever Aaron Bummer became yet another pitcher to look into designing a pitch this winter. In a Driveline-like facility called Dynamic Velocity in Omaha, Nebraska, he created a cut fastball to better combat right-handed hitters. After righties hit .338 against him last year, they are batting .095 this season. Bummer has allowed only one earned run in his first 11⅓ innings this season. His cutter and fastball rank among the best in the game.“It’s actual proof that your ball is moving, not someone sitting behind you and saying, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s a great pitch. That looks really good,’” Bummer said of the tech-aided pitch development. “You have instant feedback that tells you, ‘Did that pitch do what it’s supposed to do?’ To me that was a huge deal. The belief behind it.”While the effort to create better pitches began with curious (and/or motivated) players going outside the game to independent facilities, teams are hiring more and more outsiders to pitch-design roles within their organizations. Over the offseason, the San Francisco Giants hired former Driveline pitch-design guru Matt Daniels, and the Philadelphia Phillies hired another design specialist in Eric Jagers. The industry is so interested in pitch design that the Edgertronic SC1, the most common high-speed camera, is selling more quickly than Sanstreak can produce it. This year, the Edgetronic and Rapsodo devices were seen in spring training bullpen mounds all over Arizona and Florida. The Orioles held “mandatory group spin axis seminars” this spring.Pitchers’ pitches will likely keep getting better, moving faster and with more movement. There is seemingly no end to the increasing frequency of strikeouts. While the home run surge has masked other areas of offensive decline, technology and training is giving pitchers a new edge.Check out our latest MLB predictions. Detroit Tigers starter Matt Boyd, who also designed a slider at Driveline, has quietly become one of the top pitchers in baseball. His slider ranks as the game’s seventh best since 2018, in terms of runs saved compared to the major league average per pitch type. “I’ve worked on it at Driveline a ton in recent years,” Boyd told FanGraphs. “At Driveline, we were on the Rapsodo [pitch-tracking tech] and the Edgertronic [high-speed camera] a lot. … Again, we were working that thing, working that thing.” The technology allowed him to monitor the spin rate and spin axis of the pitch. High-speed cameras showed him how his grip was imparting spin on the ball. The work paid off: In 2017, Bauer saw just 2.83 inches of horizontal movement on his slider, which ranked him 131st in baseball. But this season, he’s up to 11.1 inches, putting him third.
OSU quarterbacks, redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett (16) and redshirt junior Cardale Jones (12), and redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller (1) participate in pregame warmups before OSU played Rutgers on Oct. 24 in Piscataway, New Jersey. OSU won, 49-7. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo EditorComing off a bye week, No. 3 Ohio State is set to get back in action against the visiting Minnesota Golden Gophers (4-4, 1-3) on Saturday. Here are five things The Lantern’s sports editors Ryan Cooper and Kevin Stankiewicz will be on the lookout for when the Buckeyes and Golden Gophers square off at 8 p.m. at Ohio Stadium.Will Cardale Jones take advantage?The entire college football universe will have its eyes fixated on OSU’s quarterback Cardale Jones on Saturday night. The redshirt junior is back in the starting role he occupied for the Buckeyes’ first seven games following a one-week hiatus after being benched for redshirt sophomore J.T. Barrett.But Barrett is suspended after being cited for operating a motor vehicle while being impaired on Halloween morning, so Jones, whose performance so far in 2015 has been more unpredictable than Ohio’s weather, has the reins to OSU’s offense for at least one more time.OSU coach Urban Meyer — who said a little tinkering with the offensive gameplan now that Jones is back at the helm has occurred — has reiterated his confidence in the Cleveland native all week long. Jones’ teammates have done so as well.However, the type of performance from Jones that emerges under the lights at Ohio Stadium against Minnesota remains to be seen. The last time Jones, who still boasts an unblemished 10-0 mark as OSU’s starter, played in primetime at the ‘Shoe, against Penn State, he was benched in the third quarter for Barrett, ultimately losing his job after Barrett played well.Jones’ season has not been a complete struggle — he threw for a career-high 291 yards against Maryland — but now, facing off against an inspired Minnesota team coming off a narrow loss against Michigan and the Golden Gophers’ No. 16 pass defense, he will have his hands full.The added fluidity that exists with Barrett in the lineup is noticeable, but for OSU to fend off Minnesota on Saturday, Jones will need to do his best replication of it.Braxton playing quarterbackMeyer said earlier in the week that redshirt senior quarterback-turned-H-back Braxton Miller will back up Jones on Saturday. The depth chart confirmed as much, as Miller was listed as the starter at H-back as well as the backup signal-caller.It will be interesting to see if the two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year gets to relive his former days calling plays for any stretch of time.While Miller has lined up behind center in every game this season, it has been in running packages. The only throw Miller has attempted this season was a pitch only about a foot in front of him.Miller has said that this arm strength is back following last year’s shoulder surgery, and senior left tackle Taylor Decker said the same on Monday. If a game exists for Miller to showcase his abilities to throw the ball downfield, it could be Saturday’s.It is also possible that Meyer continues to only use Miller’s legs, but in an increased role, which brings up…Red zone efficiencyIn the seven games that Jones started before Barrett retook the job, one of his main shortcomings was his struggle to lead the offense in the red zone.In OSU’s sixth game, Meyer made the decision to use a two-quarterback system in which Barrett came off the bench to take over the offense near the 20-yard line.Meyer said Barrett’s skill set better suits the offense inside the red zone than Jones’ because of Barrett’s running ability. He said Jones’ 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame made it harder to find space to operate on the shrunken field.With Barrett sidelined for the game, it is very possible that it is Miller leading the offense in the red zone.Redshirt senior H-back Braxton Miller (1) carries the ball during a game against Maryland on Oct. 10 at Ohio Stadium. OSU won 49-28.Credit: Samantha Hollingshead / Photo EditorMeyer said on Monday that the coaches were “having those conversations now” about the possibility of using Miller in short-field situations, but no decision had been made at the time.If the ability to scramble is as important in Meyer’s red zone sets as he has said, it would make sense for the speedy Miller to take over with Jones watching from the sideline.Can Jack Willoughby be trusted?For the first time this season, redshirt senior kicker Jack Willoughby was listed as the sole starter on the depth chart. Up until this point, the transfer from Duke had an “or” behind his name, essentially listing him as the co-starter with sophomore Sean Nuernberger.Meyer said earlier in the year the player who kicked better during the week in practice would be the guy getting the nod come gameday. But with the depth charts being announced early in the week on Tuesday, the decision to drop the “or” this week must mean that Meyer has seen enough out of Willoughby to mint him the sole starter. Despite Meyer’s move, Willoughby has been far from a sure-fire kicker this season. The former kickoff specialist for Duke has not missed an extra point through eight games (41-of-41) but it’s on field goals that the redshirt senior has been struggling. Willoughby has split the uprights on seven of his 10 attempts for a .700 clip, which ranks in the bottom half of the country. All three of his misses have come from at least 40 yards out. But last season, Nuernberger wasn’t much better, converting on just 13 of his 20 attempts.Fortunately for the Buckeyes, they often find themselves getting into the end zone, which takes a little emphasis off the placekicker. But as the season progresses and the meat of the schedule arrives, it will be interesting to watch Willoughby’s success rate on field goals, namely those outside of chipshot range.If OSU would ever need a game-winning field goal, could it trust Willoughby knock it through?Can Webb rescue the depleted secondary?OSU’s secondary is in the cream of the crop nationally, sitting at No. 2 in the country behind San Jose State, allowing just 149 per game. The injury bug, however, has infiltrated the unit as of late. Two safeties — junior Cam Burrows and sophomore Erick Smith — are now lost for the season. But seemingly on cue, one of the secondary’s key contributors will be back in action on Saturday against Minnesota. Meyer announced on Tuesday that sophomore cornerback Damon Webb is back practicing with the team after a six-game absence for a foggy reason. Following fall camp, Webb was the team’s starting nickel corner and played well in the role against Virginia Tech and Hawaii, registering eight tackles. The defensive backfield was able to make due without the Detroit native during the six games he was out due to the play from Burrows and Smith. But now with the said duo sidelined, Webb should slide back into his old role, helping the secondary’s smothering season continue. Webb might not get that many snaps against the Golden Gophers because Meyer will probably want the 5-foot-11 sophomore to ease his way back into the flow of things, but also because Minnesota’s passing attack is nothing to write home about. Nevertheless, Webb will prove to be a boost for Meyer’s Buckeyes over course of the final four regular-season games.
England managed to win their last preparation game for the upcoming World Cup in Russia as they beat Costa Rica 2-0 at home and Marcus Rashford was the main star as he scored the winner.The Manchester United attacker put a great performance in this last friendly match before the team will head to Russia – and he admitted that the expectations will be really high this year on the national team.Rashford spoke about the upcoming tournament as he said, according to Sports Mole:Crouch: Liverpool could beat Man United to Jadon Sancho Andrew Smyth – September 14, 2019 Peter Crouch wouldn’t be surprised to see Jadon Sancho end up at Liverpool one day instead of his long-term pursuers Manchester United.“I feel in good physical form leading up to the tournament. I still need to get in the box a bit more to finish off chances. It means a lot to be involved but going to the World Cup and playing a major part in my main aim.”“We have got a good chance. Anything is possible and we have to go there with the highest expectations.”
“We are really looking forward to the spring and building off what we did to close the fall,” Trimble said. “We made it to the national championship finals last year and most of that group is back, so they’ve tasted that and I am really excited to see how far we can go.” Press Conference LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Head coach Courtney Trimble, junior Lauren Hartlage and freshman Mairead Martin spoke to the media at Monday’s Spring Sports Media Day. Story Links The 2019 spring season begins on Sunday, Feb. 10 for the Cardinals, looking to build off the fall season that saw UofL play in five tournaments, taking third at the Minnesota Invitational and Cardinal Cup before closing out 2018 with a wire-to-wire victory at the Alexa Stirling Women’s Intercollegiate. The Cardinals enter the spring ranked No. 28 in the Golfstat Rankings after the fall season. Louisville will play head-to-head with Kentucky in the Battle of the Bluegrass State to kick off 2019. The event will be played at the Hoover Country Club in Birmingham, Ala. Louisville is coming off a 2017-18 season where it advanced to the NCAA Championship for the second time in school history. The Cardinals earned their highest finish at an NCAA Regional Championship, placing fourth, and captured three team titles. The 2017-18 squad set the school record for four-player team scoring, boasting a 293.61 average. Hartlage leads the Cardinals into the spring with a 72.57 stroke average and three top-10 finishes in the fall, while Martin made an immediate impact in her first season with two top-10 showings and a stroke average of 73.57. Louisville is set to play in six events this spring prior to the ACC Championship April 18-20 in Greensboro, N.C. Print Friendly Version