Pittsburgh Pirates: Bailey Falter's Deceptive Fastball

Bailey Falter's four-seam fastball has deceptive qualities.
Sep 12, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bailey Falter (44)
Sep 12, 2023; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Pirates starting pitcher Bailey Falter (44) / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
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Pittsburgh Pirates lefty Bailey Falter's four-seam fastball plays above its metrics because of his release point, as well as the way he spins the ball

Pittsburgh Pirates left-handed pitcher Bailey Falter has an extremely deceiving fastball. Despite relatively mediocre surface metrics, Falter's four-seamer has many qualities that help the pitch play well above what it looks like to the naked eye, including its spin direction and his overall extensions.

First, when you look at his fastball velocity and spin rate alone, you'll probably wonder how this guy gets away with it. He sits at 90.7 MPH this year and only 2027 RPM. Falter is in just the ninth percentile of fastball velocity, as well as the 5th percentile of fastball spin rate. Few pitchers can get by with a fastball with well below-average velocity and spin, but Falter has managed to do so.

One reason is the spin direction and active spin. Active spin refers to the spin that contributes to movement. Inactive spin looks like the spiral on a football. Falter's four-seamer has 95% active spin. His spin direction is 11:45. If you've ever heard of a rising fastball, this is the kind of spin that gives it that appearance.

Falter's fastball has 15.1 inches of drop. Take, for example, Phil Maton of the Houston Astros. Maton sits around 89-90 MPH with his fastball but is in the 98th percentile of fastball spin rate. However, despite a significant amount of more spin than Falter, Maton's fastball has nearly nine more inches of drop to it. Spin fights gravity, so why does his four-seamer have so much more drop to it? Maton's four-seamer has just about 50% active spin in comparison.

Then there's Falter's extension. Falter is in the 99th percentile of extension, which is how far off the mound a pitcher releases the ball. On average, he releases the ball with 7.4 feet of extension. That adds some hidden velocity to his stuff. Falter might sit 90-91, but with his release point, it looks more like 92-93 MPH.

Falter's fastball doesn't look too impressive on paper. He doesn't throw hard and doesn't throw with much spin, but with his release point and the way he spins the ball, Falter makes his four-seamer play well above what it may look like from the naked eye. Falter's four-seamer might be one of the more underrated offerings because of its ability to play above its velocity and spin.

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