Zach Duke: LHP Chicago White Sox

 

1. Could you tell us your story on dropping down?

 I originally toyed with sidearm in my high school days. I would sometimes drop down with 2 strikes on a tough lefty and throw a breaking ball to try and get them chasing a pitch that was nowhere close just due to "shock factor" because I never did throw it close to the plate, but did get some K's with it. I started throwing sidearm as a professional in 2013 (was Major League rookie in '05) in AAA after being released for a 2nd time and realizing I needed to change something if I wanted to continue to pitch professionally. It didn't take long for me to figure out throwing sidearm would be effective for me. I literally threw my first bullpen session and game sidearm pitches the same day, striking out both hitters I faced that night. 2 weeks later I found myself back in the Major Leagues filling the role of a lefty specialist. I continued to refine my command from my sidearm slot and worked my way into being a setup man the next season and still today. I am a little different, as I mix up my angles at all times. I throw from over the top and sidearm in any count to keep the hitters guessing but there's no doubt my ability to mix in the sidearm offerings has extended my career.

 

2. What are some of the advantages you have from your arm angle?

Some advantages I have noticed when dropping the arm angle are: 1. More/different movement to pitches, 2. More difficult to pick up the location of pitches especially left vs left, 3. For me, mixing up the angles gives me a reaction time advantage over the hitter as they first have to try and determine which angle I am throwing from, then try and determine location and which pitch I am throwing. 

3. If you didn't drop down, do you think you would have had the same success?

 Part of me wonders what kind of success I could have had as a starter throwing the repertoire I throw now, but I am content with how my career has played out. On the other hand, I'm sure I'll always wonder why I didnt start throwing sidearm earlier, when I felt like I've always had the ability within me.

4. What would you tell someone debating on changing their arm angle?

If you are debating changing your arm angle, the best advice I can give you is to first give it a try playing catch and if you can be consistent there and you don't feel any added stress on your arm then go ahead and commit to it. And most of all, have fun with it.

5. Are there any mechanical tips that you'd give to someone throwing sidearm/submarine?

As far as mechanical tips for sidearm, think of it as simply bending at the waist and throwing first, then as you get more comfortable throwing from a bent position you can manipulate the arm angle more. Also, don't get in too big of a hurry. The pitcher still needs to stay behind the ball until it is released. The arm needs to be loose throwing sidearm and the only way to achieve that is by giving the arm enough time to get where it needs to get.

 

6. What pitches do you throw?

I throw a lot of different pitches. From over the top I throw 4 seam FB, 2 seam FB, Cutter, Curveball, Change Up. From sidearm I throw 4 seam FB, 2 seam FB, and a breaking ball which I will throw harder or softer sometimes. Still working to develop the change up from sidearm.

7. How do you pitch to lefties/righties?

To righties I try to mix in some of everything from both angles, depending on the reports I have, but if I don't know a hitter I will start with FBs away and mix Change Ups and back foot breaking balls. To lefties I stay mainly with a mix of FBs and breaking balls from both angles.

8. Lastly what is your favorite part about pitching from down there?

   My favorite part about throwing sidearm is the element of surprise. I feel like I always have the upper hand because hitters don't know which angle I'm coming from next!