Lindbergh: Rich Hill has reinvented himself once again

From SABR member Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer on October 6, 2017:

After two years of enthusiastic retellings by baseball media members, most fans are familiar with the six-figures-to-eight-figures origin story of pitcher/folk hero Rich Hill, the 37-year-old lefty slated to start for the Dodgers against the Diamondbacks in Saturday’s NLDS Game 2. Hill, who broke into the big leagues with the Cubs in 2005, managed only one full, healthy season in his 20s before spending close to a decade bouncing among the bigs, the disabled list, and lower levels of pro ball amid a series of muscle strains and serious surgeries. Released (as a reliever) by his ninth organization, the Nationals, in the summer of 2015, he signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League, where his two scoreless starts re-caught the eye of the Red Sox, who’d already signed and released him the previous season. A string of four dominant September starts for the big club in Boston earned Hill a one-year, $6 million lottery ticket with the A’s, which—when the pixie dust didn’t wear off in 2016—led to a three-year, $48 million deal with the Dodgers, who re-signed him last December after acquiring him at the trade deadline.

The key, of course, was Hill’s curveball, an extremely high-spin (and high, period) pitch featuring one of the game’s most potent combinations of side-to-side and up-and-down movement. A conversation with Red Sox director of pitching analysis and development Brian Bannister during Hill’s second stint with the Sox unlocked the pitch’s potential, convincing Hill to rely on it almost as a primary offering rather than a sidekick to his fastball (as tradition dictated). Delivered more regularly and with a variety of speeds, locations, and trajectories, the magic curve and Hill’s Kershawesque per-inning performance sold the Dodgers on the resurgent southpaw despite his short track record of recent success and the blisters that hampered or sidelined him for much of the second half of last season.

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Originally published: October 6, 2017. Last Updated: October 6, 2017.