There used to be a poster that hung on the walls at Pirate City.
This poster displayed the differences in the eye of an MLB hitter versus a minor league hitter, as they were both waiting for a pitch to be delivered.
The MLB hitters had quiet eyes. Their eye would focus on the pitcher’s face, up until the ball was released, at which point their focus would shift to the ball.
The minor league hitters were all over the map on the pre-pitch, and had a more scattered approach at picking up the ball out of the hand.
There’s a reason MLB hitters are MLB hitters and minor league hitters are minor league hitters. In a game where you only have 400 milliseconds to react to a pitch, the person who can pick the ball up sooner is king.
The MLB approach is to maintain a soft sight focus, switching to a hard focus on the ball coming out of the hand.
It’s got to be difficult to accomplish that approach against Pirates’ left-handed pitcher Anthony Solometo.
The Pirates took Solometo out of high school this year, paying him nearly $2.8 million as their second round pick. One of Solometo’s key advantages is the deception in his delivery.
Solometo posted a video to his Instagram, which displays this deception in pro ball. Here’s a clip of the video:
Anthony Solometo's delivery is ridiculous. Imagine being a hitter, trying to track the ball. Then, watch how many times he flashes the ball in how many different areas, before delivering a pitch that continues with ridiculous movement of its own. #Pirates pic.twitter.com/G2lRkMcd5e
— Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsPBN) September 20, 2021
Let’s break that delivery down further, keeping in mind that an MLB hitter is going to have a soft approach, shifting to a specific focus on the ball when it hits the release point.
Here is how often Solometo flashes the baseball to the hitter.
First, Solometo starts the ball in his glove over top of his head.
From there, the glove and ball split. The glove travels back over his back shoulder, while the ball drops down, briefly flashing to the hitter before disappearing behind his elevated knee.
Solometo brings the ball across his body, hidden from the hitter. The next time the ball flashes to the hitter, it’s sitting behind Solometo, at around the 4:00 position, from our vantage point.
Solometo brings the ball up with full extension behind his back, going from 4:00 in the previous picture to 2:00 in this freeze frame. At this point, the ball and the arm look similar to the expected release point location from a right-handed pitcher.
From this point, Solometo brings the ball around the back of his body, almost with a short-arm release that puts the ball in the left-handed batter’s box out of the hand.
Here’s another look, with a lefty in the box.
To this point, Solometo’s ball path has taken the following route, showing once to the batter on both sides of his body, before releasing at an extreme angle from a lefty.
Perhaps an MLB hitter could ignore all of that movement, and ignore the multiple times that the ball flashes up, before being released. What makes Solometo a special pitcher isn’t the deception that his delivery brings, but his potential to control lively pitches from that delivery. Here are two of the possibilities of where his pitch could end up, once it’s launched from the position of the left-handed batter’s box.
The first one, against a right-hander, featured a bit of a cut away from the hitter, ending up on the outside edge of the plate.
The second one, against a left-hander, continued to travel across the plate, hitting the outer edge. Keeping in mind what we saw earlier from the delivery, here is the total ball path:
This game is ultimately a battle between the pitcher and batter. The pitcher delivers a pitch that is extremely difficult to pick up, even without any deception. The sooner a batter can catch onto the pitch, and what type of break it has, the better odds of success.
When you’ve got a pitcher like Anthony Solometo, with movement on his pitches, and deception in his delivery, it can be difficult to pick the ball up early. That makes him more difficult to hit.
Solometo will need to show an ability to command all of his pitches, while throwing for consistent strikes with such a highly involved delivery. If he can do that, he’ll be a hard pitcher to read, and a difficult guy to hit.