Brandon Puffer: former RHP MLB pitcher, several teams


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

I dropped down half-way through the season of 1998. I was in my 4th full-season and working toward being released for the third time. I was in Charleston West Virginia playing for the Alleycats in the Cincinatti Reds orginization. My arm was killing me and one day during batting practice while shagging (my arm always hurt over the top) I was flipping balls in from the outfield sidearm because it hurt so bad to lift my arm. My pitching coach Andre Rabouin came out to talk to me. He confided to me that while one of my buddies had just been released my name also came up as a possibility. With this said he told me he thought I looked very natural throwing "down under" and would I like to try it. I told him it sounds like I dont have much to lose so let's go for it. I was hooked on it right away.


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

Some of the advantages I had were a lot of movement and a sudden ability to bounce back and pitch anytime I was called upon. This makes you a commodity to a team very quickly. I was very dominate against righties and now had the ability to induce a ground ball to get out of a jam much easier than before. Another advantage was just bringing something different to the table. When 10 RHP all throwing in Spring Training are all looking the same, you stand out with a different look that might set you apart.


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

If I had not dropped down I would not have had near the success I had. As I mentioned, I was about to be released for the third time in five years from low A ball and after the conversion I was in AA within a month and was blessed to pitch about 10 more years and fullfill my childhood dream to become a Major Leaguer.


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

I would advise someone contemplating the move to make sure you've achieved all you can from your natural arm angle. My stuff was very average over the top, so it was kind of a no brainer but once you make the move you must commit 100% and not try to tinker back and forth. I've seen a lot of guys lose their arm slot this way and struggle to get it back. So my advice is maximize your talent from your natural angle and if you decide to make the move commit with all you have and don't give up.


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

A lot or most of the mechanics that apply to conventional pitchers also apply to sidearmers. Stay back, keep your glove side closed, follow through etc.. but the most important mistake I found was flying open to try and locate to the glove side of the plate. It's very important for a side-arm pitcher to be capable of locating a fastball to the glove side. Righty=down and away the righty. This prevents hitters from cheating for that sinker in on their hands. It feels natural to open up to reach out there but we actually need to stay closed as long as possible to allow the arm to catch up.


6. What pitches did you throw?

I threw a 4 seam and 2 seam fastball, circle change up, and a slider/slurve.


7. How did you pitch to lefties/righties?

Righties were obviously a lot easier to pitch to for me. I threw a lot of sinkers in with sliders away. I also liked starting them off with a front door slider (starting at the hip and ending up a called strike). If I found them opening up to cheat on a sinker, I would freeze them with a sinker down and away. This pitch really opened everything up for me.
Lefties gave me a little more trouble but we can get them out. I liked to crowd lefties with 4-seam fastballs in to open up the sinker away. I used to 4-seamer a lot because it set-up my change up well. Back door sliders were a good weapon to get strike one or freeze a lefty for a punch out. I also found that the back door slider was a good pitch to induce a roll over ground ball. When ahead in the count I would also use back foot sliders to try and get a swing and miss.


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

I would say my favorite part of pitching sidearm were a few things. I loved having movement that could get ground balls but even more fun was breaking bats! I loved that feeling and rarely achieved it over the top. I also really enjoyed becoming a "rubber arm", the side arm angle felt very natural to me and allowed me to bounce back and pitch anytime. Teams really value guys who can eat up innings and I prided myself on being that guy, and I think that's a big part of the reason I was signed by 11 orginizations. It was also fun to get ripped on by crowds on the road. You know 'come on Puffer, this isn't softball" or "you throw like a girl" LOL! That was awesome! But seriously I owe my whole career to the decision that was made in 1998 by Andre Rabouin and myself to "drop down".