Arthur: How pitchers are using tunneling to fight back against home runs

From SABR member Rob Arthur at The Athletic on June 25, 2018:

From​ a spike in fastball velocity to an​ explosion​ of home runs,​ there have​ been several new​ trends​ impacting​​ the league in recent years. Pitchers have taken a beating because of that increase in long balls, but this year there are signs that they’ve started to adapt and fight back. One of the ways they’re doing that is by adopting the philosophy of tunneling.

Pitching philosophies can just as often be snake oil as they are valid, but the ideas surrounding tunneling are supported by plentiful scientific evidence (not to mention common sense). In plain English, the concept of tunneling is to keep the batter guessing about a pitch’s destination for as long as possible. Hurlers achieve that by releasing their pitches so that they travel together over the first part of their flight to the plate (in the “tunnel”), before diverging in the last 20 feet.

Tunneling works because batters are no longer able to track a pitch in the final third of its flight. If two pitches — say a curveball and a fastball — look identical up to that point, a batter can only guess where they’ll end up. If he or she ends up guessing wrong, more often than not, the result is a swinging strike or weak contact.

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Originally published: June 27, 2018. Last Updated: June 27, 2018.