Pitching just over 15 innings last season and amassing an earned run average of 8.62, Ball State pitcher Tyler Jordan needed a new wrinkle to his game in order to get more playing time and get more batters out.
It wasn’t adding a new pitch, or improving his arm strength. Jordan made a more radical move.
He changed the entire way he pitched.
Usually an over the top pitcher, Jordan changed his delivery to submarine, also known as sidearm.
“I hadn’t pitched much my first few years so I was up for a change,” Jordan said. “The coaches asked me about it and I said I’d do it, so during the winter I started throwing sidearm.”
So far, the transition has gone well for Jordan. His ERA has dropped to 2.65 and has pitched 17 innings, more then all of last season.
Ball State coach Rich Maloney loves the improvement he’s seen from the junior sidewinder, saying that it adds another weapon to an already potent pitching staff that’s having more success than last season.
“You want to have different looks on your staff. With Tyler [Jordan] giving us a look from as a right handed pitcher, you don’t always have that,” Maloney said. “Maybe we don’t have the velocity, but we can come at you with different angles and it’ll be our way of staying in games.”
Sidearm delivery is a rare form of pitching. When releasing a pitch, the pitcher will bend towards the left or right, depending on his dominant arm. He’ll then swing his arm sideways, and release the ball either at his waist or below it.
The different delivery can be difficult for batters to face, because the ball is coming at them from an angle he isn’t used to.
Ball State junior Cody Campbell has batted against sidearm pitchers before, and said it isn’t an easy task.
He said sliders are particularly hard to pick up, because the pitch doesn’t move vertically. The ball will appear to be headed straight, then suddenly jump to the left or right as the
batter readies his swing.
Campbell also mentioned hiding the ball is an advantage submarine pitchers have. With most over hand pitchers, the ball becomes visible soon after the pitcher begins the pitch, allowing the batter a chance to see the ball. A sidearm delivery helps block the batters vision of the ball.
Depending on how fast the pitches are, Campbell adjusts how he bats.
“If they’re throwing slower I’ll move up in the box, because it’ll balloon and drop back down,” Campbell said. “I just wait until I can see the ball come out of his hand, and try to track it to see if it’ll hit the strike zone.”
For Jordan, hitting the strike zone has been the most difficult part of the transition.
Jordan said the best way for him to become consistently accurate in his delivery is to repeat it as many times as possible. Although he won’t blow away batters with power, he hopes to get outs with the moment on his pitches.
“I understand that I’m not going to beat players with pitch speed,” Jordan said. “I just need to pound the strike zone and get them to swing and miss.”
Although he said it’s been a lot of hard work, Jordan’s glad he made the switch.
“For some pitchers it’s hard to change arm angles at all ... But I was never really an completely over the top pitcher,” Jordan said. “I kind of thought that I could do it, but never gave it serious consideration. It ended up being a pretty good surprise.”