Craig Whitaker: Former AAA RHP San Francisco Giants

 

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

  The idea of dropping down started in spring training of '09. Our assistant GM Dick Tidrow (who also threw sidearm) approached me before my bullpen. He mentioned watching me for years throwing balls from all different angles during PFP or just playing catch, and suggested I try it on the mound. I had a natural lower 3/4 slot to begin with, so dropping down didn't seem crazy or anything. 

 

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

Obviously being a righty sidearmer I was a tough AB for RH hitters. Guys just don't seem to get comfortable in the box when the ball is seemingly starting at them or behind them at 90-95mph. Best advantage of dropping down compared to my slightly higher arm slot was the amount of sink/run that I was able to get on my fastball. My groundball rate increased exponentially, as did my ability to get quicker outs because of that. 

 

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

I had already spent 5 years in the minors before dropping down, so as far as having more success, I don't think, I know that I would not have had nearly as much success as I did after dropping down.

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

 Dropping down sidearm (for most people) seems to be a last resort type decision, at least for those that wait until they're in pro ball and try it. If you aren't having success for long periods of time with your natural arm slot why not try dropping down? It doesn't make sense to consistently go out and get hit all over the yard throwing over the top just because thats what you grew up doing or that is what your coach tells you to do. I will say though that it seems to be a lot easier for most guys who already have a lower arm slot to drop down since it's not that drastic of a change.

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

 Mechanics are important, no matter the arm slot. The biggest thing as a sidearmer was still making sure you get your fingers on top of the ball so you're getting more sink than just run. Sink gives you a 2 plane fastball, run stays in 1 plane and tends to get hit especially if its up in the zone.

6. What pitches did you throw?

 I threw a 2 and 4 seam fastball, split finger/changeup/splangeup (look at Tim Lincecum's change up grip), and a frisbee slider that in essence was a sidearm curveball.

7. How did you pitch to lefties/righties?

I'm gonna be honest I struggled with lefties! They love hitting off sidearm righties since they see the ball a lot longer than a righty. I never could command my fastball well enough to get in on them on a consistent basis so I usually threw sinkers away and tried to backdoor my slider. It wasn't until my last year that I really developed my changeup, but by the end of my last year it had become my go to pitch against lefties. Righties were a different story. I always felt like I could get my fastball in on righties, and I rarely threw fastballs away to them because of that. Hard in, slider down and away.

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

Throwing sidearm (and not having the best command in the world) makes for an uneasy at bat. I played against plenty of guys who didn't want to hit off guys who threw sidearm because they just don't see it often enough to get truly comfortable in the box. So in knowing that I always felt like I had an even bigger advantage knowing guys weren't comfortable seeing a hard throwing sidewinder.