Matt Bowman's Deception Is Unsettling For Hitters

Photo Credit: Eric Canha-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Twins added another bullpen option earlier this month when they signed Matt Bowman to a minor league contract. Bowman received a non-roster invite to spring training, meaning he has a chance to fight for an opening-day roster spot as a reliever. However, the Twins could also option him at any point during the season.

Most teams want to assemble a variety of player types in their bullpen.

Bowman fits in with his extreme east-west approach. His movement profile and fairly closed delivery help him make hitters uncomfortable.

Bowman’s sinker has 17.4 inches of induced horizontal break (IHB), which outpaces the 15-inch average for righties. Likewise, he achieves 18.1 inches of IHB on his sweeper compared to the average of 14.4 inches. He can attack righties inside, jamming them and making them think twice about their swing decisions due to his extreme movement.

Bowman jams righty Pablo Reyes in the video below. Bowman throws what looks like an enticing strike up in the zone in a 2-0 count, only for it to aggressively dive toward Reyes’ hands. Reyes can’t do much at all with a pitch in that spot, fouling it off:

Bowman throws the same pitch again, and it visibly affects Reyes, causing him to flinch on a pitch that didn’t come close to hitting him:

His sweeper effectively plays off high break sinker. While hitters have to prepare for a sinker running towards their hands, Bowman’s sweeper dives even further in the opposite direction, causing them to have to adjust their eye level drastically. Against righties, the pitches tunnel perfectly on the inside of the zone:

The two pitches mirror each other across the y-axis on Bowman’s movement chart. In between them is a cutter.

Plot found on MLBPitchProfiler, created by Jeremy Maschino

The three pitches work in tandem. Sinkers to jam, sweepers to get whiffs, and cutters to mix things up and potentially get called strikes. His sinker was also incredibly effective at generating grounders (75%, 84th percentile).

Bowman added the sweeper and cutter sometime between 2019 and 2023. He spent much of that time recovering from a Tommy John surgery that he had in September 2020, forcing him to miss 2021 and 2022.

The pitches may be part of why Minnesota is interested in him. He was an effective reliever before his injury, earning a 3.67 FIP and 105 ERA+  with the St. Louis Cardinals and Cincinnati Reds from 2016 to 2019.

Since sweepers don’t perform exceptionally well against opposite-handed hitters, it could be in Bowman’s interest to add a changeup to give him a whiff pitch against lefties.

Beyond Bowman’s pitch mix, he also creates discomfort with his delivery. Statisticians don’t have a metric that can quantify deception. But the longer a pitcher hides the ball from the hitter, the more deceptive he becomes. Pitchers typically create deception with rotation. However, others like Yusei Kikuchi use their legs to block the hitter’s vision.

Here’s an example of Freddy Peralta throwing across his body, preventing the hitter from seeing the ball early:

Kikuchi doesn’t throw across his body, but he does an excellent job concealing what he’s throwing until the last possible moment:

Bowman is a little bit of both. His foot doesn’t land on the third-base side of the mound like Peralta’s. Still, he experiences a similar violent jerk after release because he has his back toward the plate for so long. Peralta ends up on the first-base side, while Bowman’s weight naturally drifts to third base. Like Kikuchi, he hides the ball well before release.

Often, releases with a closed body result in inconsistencies and imprecise foot striking. Bowman misplaces his foot in the video below, and his arm essentially follows the direction he points it in. He narrowly misses hitting Reyes (which probably contributed to Reyes’ earlier scare).

As his pitch mix currently stands, he could be a matchup option against righties or fly ball hitters with his heavy ground ball percentage. If he impresses the Twins live in spring training, he could earn his way to a front-end bullpen role. He could contend for 40+ innings and regain the 3.50 FIP levels he enjoyed before 2020.

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