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Jeff Niemann: New Arm Slot, Better Results

A new release point seems to have helped Rays starter Jeff Niemann find his rhythm.

Since returning from the disabled list (DL) in June, Jeff Niemann has been a new pitcher. Over five starts, Niemann has a 2.08 ERA and a 0.84 ERA over his last three starts. The results seem like no fluke, too, as he has struck out 26 batters while walking only 9 (nearly a 3 to 1 ratio)

Before going to the DL, Niemann sported a 5.74 ERA and had not looked good since the first half of 2010. In his first 6 starts in the 2011 season, Niemann culled a combined 17 strikeouts and 7 walks (a 2.4 to 1 ratio). One of the possible reasons for this turnaround may be Niemann's altered arm slot:

Click for animation.

Jeff Niemann, with a height of 6'9", has difficulty at times getting his whole body in concert, and as a result, his mechanics get slightly askew at times. His recent struggles appear to have been in part due to his release point issues. When Niemann is at his best, he is generating a lot of downward motion and inducing a lot of ground balls.

The above release point data comes from Joe Lefkowitz's Pitch F/x Tool and helps illustrate the apparent change since Niemann's DL trip. Niemann appears to have slid his release point laterally (and possibly depth-wise, but Leftkowitz's data does not offer that info). The results have been more ground balls, more strikeouts, and fewer walks.

Will the changes last? Hopefully. It is hard to predict, however, because the problems with Niemann began when he hit the DL in 2010. Another injury could be around the corner, but until then, sit back and enjoy the New Niemann.

2011 - Jeff Niemann 4-4 11 11 0 0 0 0 61.2 64 30 27 7 16 43 3.94 1.30

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.