Chris "Disco" Hayes: Former AAA Royals RHP Pitcher



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

I started dropping down after my junior year of college. I was a back-up catcher and middle infielder and wasn't seeing much playing time, so for my senior year, I decided to try to drop down and pitch.


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

The biggest advantages are how "different" you are and the spin on the ball. By "different" I mean in all my years of professional baseball, I've never walked out of the clubhouse to find the other team taking batting practice off a guy throwing submarine style. Hitters practice hitting pitches that come out of a certain visual spot in relation to the pitcher and with a certain type of spin. Which leads us to the second, more important advantage (I say more important because it seems like recently there are more and more pitchers who are throwing from low arm angles. I still stick by the "different"-ness of us being an advantage, but sidearmers are not one of a kind by any means).

The spin advantage we get comes from the ball having less back spin, or in my case of extreme submarine arm-slot, complete top spin. When a traditional, overhand-delivering "sinkerballer" throws a sinker, he tries to limit the amount of air resistance from the ball's natural backspin. This is done by not throwing a traditional four seam fastball or by trying to "turn over" the ball.

When a ball goes from the pitcher's hand to home plate, in a vacuum, gravity alone would make it sink something crazy like three or four feet. In real life, with air resistance and back spin on the ball, the ball has a Magnus force that counteracts gravity and lessens the actual sink. When you throw submarine-style like I do, that Magnus force is also a downward force like gravity and makes the ball sink even more instead of counteracting the natural sink. It's the same experience you get when watching a traditional tennis forehand versus a forehand slice. The slice (in this example is the normal overhand pitcher's ball-flight) seems to float and not sink much, but the traditional forehand snap hooks and sinks into the court.

As a non-traditional thrower, we get that gravity and Magnus force working in the same direction to get that snap-hook sink.


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

No. My mechanics weren't that great overhand and I lost out on some potential velocity because of it. At the start of my career, I was athletic enough to be able to throw strikes with my lower arm slot and as a result could get away with my shaky mechanics. That bought me some time to work with some great coaches along the way in my professional career and get my mechanics to a point where they are way more sound and has allowed me to not only continue my career, but have one to begin with.


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

Try it out! Why not? I will say this, you have to have a different kind of athleticism to be able to repeat your mechanics and throw strikes from a lower arm slot. I'm not saying you have to be Michael Jordan or anything, but be honest with yourself in your assessment of how you are doing when you throw from a lower arm-slot. Throw against a wall for a while if you want and see how you adapt.

The other thing I would tell people is to really work on your flexibility and core strength and give that some time. If you pass the initial test of throwing against a wall, be patient with yourself and really work on the flexibility in your hips so you can get extension through your motion. It's not a natural motion and at first that can be frustrating. Try some yoga and get those hips limber.


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

I think flexibility, core strength, and balance are at the core of throwing sidearm/submarine. Especially submarine, in order to get extension through your pitches you have to really contort your front hip. The other thing I've seen from some guys is they tend to stiff-arm their throws a little bit. When you throw sidearm or submarine, you still need to lead with your elbow. To get lower, don't think as much bowling as throwing with the waist axis tilted lower.


6. What pitches did you throw?

Submarine - Fastball, Slider, Change up, Rise Ball
Side Arm - Fastball, Slider, Change up
Low 3/4 - Fastball, Curve, Change up


7. How did you pitch to lefties/righties?

I like to throw inside as much as possible to both righties and lefties. For righties, an inside fastball comes out at a similar path as a slider that's going to break out of the zone. So if I can get those two pitches coming out of the same path and breaking separate ways, I can be successful with that.


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

Recently, as I've worked on my mechanics and started to branch out to throwing from three different arm slots, I've really enjoyed the freedom of having a ton of weapons against a hitter. I enjoy the chess game side of pitching and I feel like I have a lot more pieces at my disposal.