Ryan Thompson: Astros AAA RHP


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

As far as my story goes, I switched to throwing sidearm in 2007 as a junior in high school. I was always a good pitcher as far as keeping hitters off balance and was always a good strike thrower, however I was missing something to become elite. I went to a camp at Western Oregon University in the fall of 2007 and got my bullpen on slow motion video. Throughout my entire baseball career up until the summer of 2015 I've had an insanely high leg kick. Most comparable to Orlando Hernandez from the Yankees back in the day. Through the video, my mechanics appeared to have sidearm tendencies. Always taught to throw overhand I would fight those tendencies to be "normal". The coaches at Western advised me to give sidearm a try. It was a situation where I had nothing to lose, being a JV player the previous season as a sophomore. I trained with my dad all winter and never looked back. That very next season broke 10 school records and a handful of state of Oregon records. 

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

Throwing sidearm is extremely valuable for one main reason. We are giving hitters a look they do not see on a day to day basis. Having something unique is something that the sport of baseball embraces and gives the game the amazing identity it currently has. Your uniqueness as a sidearmer makes hitters uncomfortable. A comfortable hitter is a dangerous hitter. 

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

I absolutely 100% believe I never would have made it out of high school baseball if I never dropped down. As a RHP you need to get some velocity and It was very slow for my body to completely mature. In HS I was around 6'5" and roughly 170 pounds soaking wet. By the time I got to Campbell in 2012 I was 6'6" and 235 needing to shed a few pounds. Only by then I was able to get the ball in the upper 80s. The most crucial event in my career was my decision to play at Campbell. Sidearmers dominated the Big South for years with Coastal Carolina and the other teams had enough. Coach Rick McCarty traveled across county to find one. At the NWAACC showcase event I gave up 4 hits in 4 batters. McCarty saw through it and recruited me all the same. Without Campbell and McCarty I don't become a pro and without throwing sidearm I don't get recruited. 

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

  To all the players who have it in the back of their mind whether or not to give the sidearm life a try, do it! There are contingencies. In my opinion, one of the biggest reasons I am able to be successful inside and outside of the game is my ability to be a realist. I knew in 2007 that I wasn't the superstar I was starving to be. I didn't know sidearm was the answer but I also new it could be a great addition to what I already had. When I first converted I threw like 8 pitches. Some sidearm and some overhand. Eventually everything overhand was considerably worse than my devastating stuff from the side. The game is always changing and adapting. You have to do the same. By no means am I saying that you need to constantly reinvent yourself but understanding how to consistently get better is crucial to success. My dad engrained it into my head as a child that your either getting better or getting worse. I live by that. I got to where I am due to my open-mindedness. Don't switch arm angles just because it looks fun. Switch because you look in the mirror, realize you don't throw 95, and make the choice that you want to be a DUDE! 


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

Sidearmers are all unique in their own way. Most coaches just let us coach ourselves for the most part because even they have no idea how we throw strikes like that. The worst thing you can do as a sidearmers is think mechanically. Bask in your own uniqueness and THROW STRIKES. 

6. What pitches do you throw?

I throw 3 pitches (sinker, slider, changeup). I usually sit around 85 with my fastball intentionally. I can reach upper 80s on any given night and with a long toss schedule I can reach 90. In my many years of experience I can absolutely say that velocity is NOT important for sidearmers. Ziegler has been dominating the big leagues for 10 years throwing 84. Throw strikes and get that sink and run. That is all that's important. Days where I throw harder are days my fastball actually gets hit harder. I believe under 88 or above 92 are the zones to be. Everybody throws 90. We pride ourselves on giving the hitter something they NEVER see. Why throw a velocity they ALWAYS see?

 7. How do you pitch to lefties/righties?

My attack against RHH is mainly fastball slider. Trying to play the two pitches off of each other. For example, an inside fastball sets up an outside slider. Outside fastball sets up strikeout slider off the plate. Or outside fastball freeze pitch in a slider count. The beauty of what we do is that we do not have to be too fine with what we do. I don't go out a Picasso the corner every night. I just put that thing in the bottom of the zone and let the hitters get themselves out. LHH approach is fastballs and changeups with backdoor freeze sliders.  

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

My favorite thing about being a sidearmer is that hitters hate to face us and other pitchers want to be us.