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#pounditSaturday, September 30, 2023

Was Lance McCullers Jr. tipping his pitches through different leg kick?

A look at Lance McCullers leg kick

The Philadelphia Phillies teed off on Lance McCullers Jr. during Game 3 of the World Series on Tuesday night like they knew what was coming. Based on how they hit, and the tips they seemed to be passing along, they probably did know what was coming to an extent.

Why is that? Because McCullers was likely tipping his pitches.

A Twitter user named “LegKickNationOG” shared a video that showed a difference in McCullers’ pitching motion from early in the game.

There are two notable differences in the videos.

1) McCullers had more back leg knee bend in one video and less in the other, resulting in a different type of leg kick.

2) Another big difference, and one that would be visible to a hitter, is the height of McCullers’ glove when he kicks his front leg. When his glove raised very high to the top of his head, he was throwing a breaking ball. When his glove height was lower towards his chin, he was throwing a harder sinker.

Although those differences were visible in the video clip shared by Leg Kick Nation, it’s hard to tell later in the game how McCullers was tipping. He changed his windup so that he was holding his hands higher on his leg kicks. He also seemed to have a similar leg bend later in the game too.

Here are some of the home runs the Phillies hit for comparison.

Bryce Harper (curve):

Alec Bohm (sinker):

Brandon Marsh (slider):

Kyle Schwarber (changeup):

Rhys Hoskins (slider):

It’s hard to identify any noticeable difference in McCullers’ motion and glove height in those videos. But based on how well they hit McCullers, and the tips they passed along, the Phillies seemed to know something.

It could be that McCullers fixed his tipping early in the game, but then stopped throwing his fastball/sinker later in the game, which allowed Phillies hitters to narrow down their choices and sit on the slow stuff.

This chart shows that McCullers only threw 3 hard sinkers after the second inning.

McCullers abandoning his sinker would have allowed Phillies hitters to focus on only hitting the slow stuff.

The other tip that may have helped was something John Smoltz noted, and that is McCullers wasn’t throwing hard stuff to left-handed hitters.

When good hitters can narrow down their options for pitches to anticipate, their success rate goes up by a lot.


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