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Tim Hill isn’t your ordinary submarine pitcher

“We got the funk”

Kansas City Royals v Detroit Tigers Photo by Duane Burleson/Getty Images

Ah, the old submarine pitcher. How much fun I have watching them throw baseballs. And one of them is now in the Royals bullpen, LHP Tim Hill. I watched a lot of Tim Hill in the minors, mainly during his stay with the AA Northwest Arkansas Naturals. For a pitchers junky like me, watching his delivery was just thoroughly entertaining in itself.

GIF Courtesy of Baseball Census

Drafted at the age of 24 in the 32nd round of the 2014 MLB Draft out of small Bacone College in Oklahoma, Hill had a late start to his professional career. Throughout all of his minor league days, he always worked as a reliever, including an impressive debut in 2014 between Idaho Falls and Lexington, posting a 1.64 ERA in 22 innings to go along with 30 strikeouts. Because of his older age, he made a quick climb up the minor league ladder (even with missing all of the 2015 season), reaching AA by the end of his second professional season.

He saw his most extensive work last season, pitching the majority of it in AA, tossing 70 innings to the tune of a 4.17 ERA and 2.39 FIP. This was enough for the Royals to decide they needed to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, placing him on the 40-man roster this past offseason.

Though nobody really thought much of Hill as a prospect (including myself), his profile always intrigued me. A funky sidewinder that held lefties to a .175/.211/.214 line was enough for me to keep my eye on him as a potential future LOOGY.

Lowest wOBA against LHH among minor league pitchers, min. 300 batters faced

Player wOBA Total PA
Player wOBA Total PA
Dalton Sawyer 0.166 548
Jerry Keel 0.185 508
Leonel Aponte 0.186 300
Christian Torres 0.19 343
D.J. Snelten 0.19 302
Tim Hill 0.194 322
Zack Erwin 0.198 382
Ramon Rosso 0.202 300
Marco Gonzales 0.203 341
Steven Brault 0.211 481

And then add in the ability to get an influx of strikeouts and groundballs (shaded dot is Tim Hill in 2017).

Being a new member of the 40-man roster, Hill was now finally going to get a look with the the big league club down in Surprise. The Royals had witnessed enough good from him down there to make the surprising move of placing Hill on the Opening Day roster, skipping the AAA level all together.

And here we are now, a month into the season, and Hill is throwing in some high-leverage situations for the Royals. His basic peripherals in 11 innings are nothing to run home screaming about (4.09 ERA, 3.64 FIP, 21.3% K%, 6.4% BB%, 58.1% GB%) and he’s been nothing really special so far this year at all, but yet, he still fascinates me.

As I mentioned above, Hill’s whack delivery is extremely entertaining by itself. The way he uses his whole body to fling his arm to a low slot and fire with deception to home plate causes hitters at time to just look foolish.

And as is the point with many submariners, the ball is released from a ridiculously low point. But Hill takes this to another level. Out of 517 pitchers that have thrown a baseball in a major league game this year, Hill has the fourth highest horizontal release point. Where the difference comes in though is on the vertical release point. Out of those same 517 pitchers, Hill has third lowest vertical release point. Think to the extreme release points of Brad Ziegler and Chris Sale. Now put them together, and you have Tim Hill.

Let this visual show you how he’s on another island among major league pitchers.

Baseball Savant

Let’s move away from the release points and talk about the insane amount of movement he’s generating on the baseball. Often times with extreme release points, a high amount of movement will be created with the pitcher aiming for home plate from a different angle compared to your average pitcher. Hill done just that, as using a sample size of 1,483 pitchers that have thrown at least ten innings since the start of 2010, he ranks sixth in fastball horizontal movement.

Top Ten Fastball Horizontal Movements since 2010, min. 10 IP

Name Team IP FB Horizontal Movement
Name Team IP FB Horizontal Movement
Donnie Hart Orioles 64.2 12.9
Alex Claudio Rangers 177.1 11.9
J.P. Howell - - - 297.2 10.8
Robby Scott Red Sox 41.2 10.7
Chris Sale - - - 1366.1 10.7
Tim Hill Royals 11 10.7
Brian Fuentes - - - 136.1 10.6
Mario Hollands Phillies 47 10.5
Dean Kiekhefer Cardinals 22 10.3
Greg Mahle Angels 18.1 10.2

All in all, I have a tough time believing Hill isn’t at least going to be an adequate LOOGY in the major leagues. He should never be a guy who faces too many righties (they hit .337/.396/.442 against him in AA last year), which will likely keep him away from a future setup role or more.

And even if he doesn’t amount to much in his major league career, I’m always going to have a fun time watching him throw.