Jimmy Nelson: Success and Failure From the Release Point

With one hundred forty-six games played, the season is nearing its end. The Brewers are thirty games back with only sixteen left to play. They have been mathematically eliminated from the postseason. For everyone invested in the organization, the end of the season cannot come any quicker. With the offseason fast approaching, our beloved team will have the opportunity to fine tune their mechanics and return next season in sharper form, especially Jimmy Nelson. While 2015 was far from a bust for the 26-year-old hurler, the offseason will give Nelson the chance to work on finding his optimal release point.

The 2015 season marks the first full year of major-league ball for Nelson. As a result, this season, he has pitched the most innings of his career — 177.1 as of yesterday. The issue that plagued Nelson off and on throughout the minors had been his command. It was an issue that paid the young righty a visit again this season.

Date Opp IP H Pitch Count
04/27 at Cincinnati 2.1 7 69
06/03 at St. Louis 5.0 7 76
06/13 Washington 5.0 10 89
06/18 at Kansas City 5.0 11 88
08/26 at Cleveland 3.1 4 83
09/06 at Cincinnati 5.0 9 95

There were six games in which Nelson truly struggled. Listed above, in each of these six outings, Nelson either lasted less than 5.0 innings, or allowed more than seven hits, or both. Along with mirroring statistical traits, there lies a similar trend when looking at mechanics.

Nelson’s first run-in with command issues took place against the Reds (the fourth point from the left). Lasting only 2.1 innings, Nelson was chased off the mound after throwing sixty-nine pitches and giving up six hits and seven runs. The problem Nelson faced that game was a horizontal release point that was slightly left of the plate, from the catcher’s point of view. For a right-handed pitcher, that can be disastrous since a pitch is likely to find itself breaking directly over the plate instead of breaking further away from or further in on a batter. Interestingly, in his starts immediately preceding and immediate following, Nelson’s release point was about an inch to the right of the plate. In his April 22nd start, Nelson made 94 pitches over 8.0 innings, gave up three hits and struck out five batters. In his May 3rd start, Nelson lasted 6.2 innings and gave up six hits, but also struck out six batters.

The next three starts in which he wrestled with his command was in June. In his first start of the month, against St. Louis, Nelson’s horizontal release point was now significantly to the right of the plate.

Because he was unable to change the release point throughout the game, Nelson was compelled to stick with his fastball and his curve. Thus, compounding the poor command was also poor pitch selection as he only threw one slider. The rest of his pitches sat on the left of the plate — an area that Nelson must avoid unless he wants to see the ball hit for extra bases. Unfortunately, this issue reared its ugly head once more on June 13th.

Facing the Nationals, Nelson’s release point was once again considerably to the left of the plate. Yet again, Nelson shied away from his slider, instead sticking with his sinker and curve. The pitches resulted in ten hits as they lingered around the left side of the plate.

While Nelson was able to stabilize his horizontal release point to an extent, it was the vertical release point on his sinker that doomed him against Kansas City.

From the start of the season through his June 13th start, the average height on his sinker’s vertical release point was 6.4 feet. Against Kansas City, the vertical release point on his sinker averaged between 6.5 and 6.56 feet. Consequently, the subtle change in release point resulted in a sinker that would not sink. In fact, against the Royals, out of thirty-six sinkers thrown, only six landed lower quadrants of the strike zone. The remaining thirty landed in the middle and upper quadrant.

I examined Nelson’s command issues in his start against the Indians in the August 26th recap. The quick and dirty — should you need a reminder — was that Nelson’s horizontal release point was, once more, further to the right. As I stated in the recap, Nelson’s pitches were breaking in, and oftentimes outside of, the lower right quadrant of the strike zone.

Finally, looking at his start against Cincinnati, Nelson’s release point was — wouldn’t you guess it — further towards the left of the plate.

As I had stated in the Game 140 recap. Nelson was leaving pitches hanging on the left-hand side of the plate. This is an area that has historically plagued the young pitcher. In his start against the Reds, Nelson pitched five innings but surrendered nine hits.

Each time he was promoted in the minors, Nelson dealt with command issues. Of course, if he were not a resilient pitcher, his time in the majors would not have come. With a full season under his belt, undoubtedly, notes have been made about where his mechanics has its flaws. Heading into the offseason, this is one area in which it will behoove the young pitcher to improve.


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