Sean Runyan: Former Detroit Tigers LHP



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

I was in the Midwest league in 1996 and at that time, still a starting pitcher throwing from an over the top slot.  I was having a very mediocre year at that point in the season and considering my velocity was only 83-87, my pitching coach and I had started working on different deliveries to change the view of the hitter.  At the end of my first bullpen, my catcher commented that I had better velocity and life on the ball when I dropped down.  In my next start I tried to alternate my arm angle and the results were not good, not to mention my arm was extremely sore.  Prior to make next start, I was called into the coach’s office and I was certain I was getting released.  Both my manager and pitching coach said to stick to a sidearm delivery for a while and see if I like it.  My velocity got better (88-91), my arm felt great and my season completely turned around.  I was in AA the next year (1997) and the following year was in Detroit as a rule 5 pick.  For me, converting to a sidearm delivery was the best career decision I could have made.

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

In addition to the increased velocity, my fastball added a little sink which really helped with right handed batters.  I lined up as far on the first base side of the rubber as possible, so my pitches would start behind left handed hitters.  I would throw my breaking pitch (not really a slider or curveball, more of a “slurve”) at the hitter and due to the arm angle, it would break left to right, causing issues for lefties.  

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

No. This was at a time when the Houston Astros organization had a lot of power pitchers in the minor leagues and I was definitely not one of them.  I believe you must trust your instincts…prior to the 1996 season, I felt like I could be a dependable left handed starter in the big leagues. But starting my 2nd season in the Midwest league and struggling the way I did with getting outs, I knew a change was needed.

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

 The key is that you must be HONEST with yourself…how does it feel when you drop down to a sidearm slot compared to throwing in your current arm slot?  In a lower arm slot, do the pitches have more life?  Have you come upon a point in your career where you need to make a change?  For me personally, the side arm angle just felt more natural.  

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

Absolutely.  Tip 1 is to remember to finish your pitches in terms of following through. I had a tendency to cutoff my pitches off which was a key factor in having 3 surgeries (2 shoulder, 1 elbow).  Sometimes it takes an over exaggeration in following through from a side arm slot but if you skip it, your arm will pay for it eventually.  Tip 2 is specific to throwing a breaking ball.  When throwing over the top, most curveballs have a 12-6 rotation, so when you miss the zone, you either bounce it in the dirt or leave it up.  From a sidearm angle, missing the zone results in either hitting a batter or throwing a wild pitch since the ball breaks horizontally.  To help with this, I always threw breaking balls with my first few warm up pitches to get my release point down.  

6. What pitches did you throw?

I threw a 2 seam fastball, an occasional 4 seam fastball, “slurve” and a changeup.  My fastball was typically in the high 80’s, hitting 90-92 every now and then (or maybe it was just the stadium guns turned up a bit!).  

 7. How did you pitch to lefties/righties?

My bread and butter as a left handed starter throwing over the top was a change up; luckily I was able to carry that over to a sidearm angle and would primarily use that and a fastball against righties, only throwing a breaking ball as a ‘show me’ pitch.  Lefties would usually get all fastballs and breaking balls. I can think of many instances in which I was brought in to face certain lefties and was given a direct order to ONLY throw breaking pitches, even if it meant a walk.

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

 There was no better feeling than throwing a breaking ball to a left handed hitter and seeing them freeze up as if it was going to hit them and it ended up breaking right over the plate for a called strike.  Or having them set up, looking for a breaking pitch and throwing a fastball right down the middle and they just watch it go into the mitt.  Major league hitters are incredibly prepared for their at bats, so it really becomes a guessing game…they are looking for a specific pitch in a specific location and if they get it, most of them will hit it a mile.  I grew up idolizing Wade Boggs and Darryl Strawberry and was lucky enough to strike out both in my first season….those are memories I will keep forever.