BaseballToday

A Dialog With Louis Head, Who’s Having a Storybook Season

Louis Head has had a storybook season. With no staff throughout final 12 months’s pandemic summer time, the rookie right-hander was working a gross sales job, his goals of reaching the large leagues seemingly within the assessment mirror. Almost a decade after being taken by Cleveland within the 18th spherical of the 2012 draft, he thought his profession was over. Then the Tampa Bay Rays got here calling.

Head was signed off the scrap heap this previous February, and on April 25, two days after celebrating his thirty first birthday, he made his main league debut. The Katy, Texas native has gone on to look in 20 video games with the Rays since then — he’s additionally seen motion in 24 video games with Triple-A Durham — logging a 2.93 ERA and a 3.53 FIP over 27-and-two-thirds innings. His slider has performed a giant function in his Cinderella ascent. Developed since becoming a member of his new staff, the pitch has helped gasoline one of many higher success tales of the 2021 season.

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David Laurila: You’re a 31-year-old rookie. How have been you capable of lastly take that last step and attain the large leagues? Was pitching growth a part of it?

Louis Head: “I believe it was principally about there being a chance right here. We had some guys get damage early on within the season, and it opened up some doorways for me. That didn’t actually occur previously with different organizations. I felt like I had thrown properly previously, particularly for Cleveland, and I might have been a man they introduced up. However these alternatives by no means occurred.

“Improvement-wise, after I did get right here, working with the analytical staff, and with [pitching coach] Kyle Snyder, we have been actually capable of develop my slider into a significant weapon. Earlier than, it was simply form of a get-me-over pitch. Now it’s a legit put-away pitch, and that’s made a world of distinction. Them having confidence in me has been an enormous a part of my success, as properly.”

Laurila: Why have been you capable of flip the nook together with your slider right here, and never with Cleveland, the Dodgers, or the Mariners?

Head: “It was the data being relayed again to me being instructed in a manner that made sense. From the place my arm slot is… my slider was extra of an up-and-down curveball form previously, and groups have been making an attempt to get me to go up-and-down with it to match a fastball that I might journey to the highest of the zone. Once I received right here — this was after two or three bullpens — they have been like, ‘No, together with your arm slot you should sweep that slider.’ Getting extra horizontal break on it, and fewer vertical break on it, has actually simply made a world of distinction. It goes off the airplane of my fastball higher; hitters see fastball out of the hand. When it was extra up-and-down, they have been capable of dive down and get it. Now once they attempt to dive all the way down to get it, it’s going away from the barrel.”

Laurila: Your arm slot was a giant a part of their thought course of…

Head: “Sure, and never my pitch profile. While you’ve received guys that carry to the highest zone, they often have a little bit bit greater arm slot, and curveballs do sometimes play higher off that. However I’m a low method angle man; I come from a low angle. There aren’t many guys… you’ve received guys like Jacob deGrom and Joe Ryan — I’m not making an attempt to place myself in the identical class as them, but it surely’s comparable in that I come from a low angle and might journey a fastball to the highest of the zone. However since I do come from that low angle, the curveball isn’t essentially one of the best pitch for me. The slider performs higher from that low method angle slot.”

Laurila: How did the grip in your breaking ball change?

Head: “It’s truly the identical actual grip that I used earlier than. It’s extra about my wrist place. Earlier than, I might at all times attempt to get my wrist place on prime, and now it’s about getting it on the aspect of the ball and making an attempt to create sidespin, versus topspin.”

Laurila: What concerning the spin profile?

Head: “I believe it spins rather less now, however from what the group tells me, and from what I’ve been beginning to study, spin charge isn’t as essential as individuals assume. It’s extra of the motion that you simply create on the pitch, and the separation you may create between your two pitches. There are many guys on the market which have actually good spin charges, however if you take a look at their plots, all the pieces is form of shut collectively. So it’s not essentially concerning the spin a lot as it’s the route and the form that you simply create. That’s what creates extra deception to the hitters, and higher high quality stuff.”

Laurila: What number of inches of horizontal are you getting?

Head: “On common, it’s within the 14-17 vary, however I’ve gotten it up there to about 24-25 inches horizontal. On a superb day, it should principally be 20-22.”

Laurila: Are you making an attempt to throw it the identical manner each time, or do you differ it?

Head: “It’s a little bit of each. It form of depends upon the rely, the hitter, and the swing. I attempt to learn swings. With lefties, I’ll possibly attempt to get a little bit bit extra depth, and with righties I’ll attempt to sweep it extra to get it away from their bat. I’ll additionally attempt to change it up by not giving a hitter two of the identical sliders in an at-bat, since I’m a two-pitch combine man. As a result of I was extra up-and-down, like a curveball, I’m capable of manipulate the baseball and transfer it a little bit bit in numerous instructions after I have to. I’m making an attempt to present hitters completely different appears to be like and completely different shapes, to allow them to’t simply sit on one pitch and guess the place it’s going to finish up. I need it to finish up in numerous spots, with completely different form.”

Laurila: The place is your slider by way of velocity?

Head: “It’s wherever from 82-84 [mph], so it’s slower than your typical slider, however that performs to my benefit as a result of it creates that separation from my fastball, which is round 93-94. I don’t throw as onerous as I used to. On the similar time, when my velocity was creeping up a little bit bit earlier this 12 months, my carry wasn’t pretty much as good. That 93-94 vary appears to be my bread-and-butter with regards to carrying the fastball on the prime of the zone. Once I begin throwing it tougher, I form of lose my mechanics and my ball begins tailing a little bit bit, versus staying straight and true.”

Laurila: What might need occurred had the Rays not prompt you rework your slider? Would you be within the huge leagues proper now?

Head: “In all probability not. I’ve at all times believed that I’d be a giant leaguer — I’ve at all times believed that I had the stuff — however making it just a bit bit higher, and gaining extra confidence, is a giant motive why I used to be capable of make it up right here.

“Wanting again, I’ve to think about that I used to be fairly shut with Cleveland in 2016 and ’17 with the best way I used to be performing. However at the moment that they had one of the best bullpen within the huge leagues. They have been in a World Collection a kind of years. So it simply wasn’t the best timing for me. I think about that I used to be excessive up on their listing, however the cellphone name by no means got here.”

Laurila: How did you find yourself within the Dodgers group?

Head: “I used to be launched by Cleveland. I used to be damage for many of 2018 and launched by them in August. I then signed with the Dodgers as a free agent that subsequent 12 months.”

Laurila: After not getting a chance with Cleveland, you signed with a staff that was even higher…

Head: “I didn’t precisely put myself in a greater scenario. So, the following 12 months I went to Seattle and was like, ‘Hey, I’m going from among the finest organizations to baseball to a different good group, however one that ought to current extra of a chance.’ I knew that the Mariners have been making plenty of good strides with their participant growth, and with their analytical groups. A man I knew from Cleveland, Matt Weiner, was there as pitching coordinator, so I knew that they have been making all the best strikes. I believed it was going to be a superb match, however they needed to go in a youthful route in 2020, so I ended up discovering myself out. After all, I ended up touchdown with one other World Collection-contending group.”

Laurila: One last item: With all these years within the minors, did you ever critically take into account calling it a profession?

Head: “After I received launched from Seattle, I didn’t get any cellphone calls. I skilled that complete season whereas everyone was taking part in within the bubble, and nothing. So I truly went into photo voltaic gross sales. I used to be doing rather well with that, so I believed I used to be retired. My spouse and I believed I used to be achieved taking part in. I used to be actually pleased with life.

“Clearly, I nonetheless had goals of taking part in baseball. I used to be coaching right here and there. Then, about two weeks earlier than spring coaching, I received a cellphone name from Tampa. The remaining is form of historical past. It’s form of like a film, actually. I went from launched to gross sales to taking part in within the huge leagues. It’s been a loopy 12 months.”

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