Avril Lavigne Threw Two Ceremonial First Pitches; Let’s Over-analyze Them

While rival Kelly Clarkson has sung more Star-Spangled Banners in her career, my favorite Canadian (sorry Joey Votto), Avril Lavigne, leads another category of pre-game traditions: the ceremonial first pitch. She’s thrown two; one during the 2009 season in Toronto, and one in Tampa Bay during the 2011 season (the same night she later performed a disastrous concert and got booed off the stage for cursing everyone out). I’ve decided to take the analytic approach to these occurrences. I’ve obviously .giffed them, and at the end I’m gonna throw some 20-80 grades on Avril’s pitching mechanics with the help of the all-knowing Doug Thorburn (pitching guru at Baseball Prospectus).

This was Avril’s first pitch in Tampa Bay:

To start, she’s standing about 10 feet in front of the mound, so we know her arm strength isn’t exactly a plus tool. But she plants her right foot somewhat correctly, and fires an eephus-like dart to then Rays reliever Adam Russell. At first I thought it was JP Howell, who currently wears number 39 for the Rays. And then this little meet and greet happened:

JP Howell is only 6″0 tall and 190 lbs. I know Avril is small. But if that’s Howell, she’s a legal midget…and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case. The player who Avril is actually posing with looks legitimately twice her size. Sure enough, it’s Russell (then number 36), who is listed at a ridiculous 6″8 and 255 lbs. Makes more sense.

We are fortunate to have a side angle for this pitch, which is an essential view when evaluating top pitching prospects such as Avril Ramona Lavigne. She takes the ball out of her glove awfully early, almost like a right-handed Brian Fuentes, except not at all.

This action shot gives us a better sense of what pitch Avril was throwing:

Hard to judge, considering how tiny her hands are, but it looks like a palmball/change-up hybrid grip, as also evidenced by the late arm-side run the pitch shows. I’m almost positive Juan Francisco would swing at it.


Let’s move on to Avril’s other ceremonial first pitch.

Again, we see her throwing from closer than where the mound actually is, except in this case, they even moved the plate up for her. It’s a big breaker. This shot of her right after the release is incredibly informative:

You usually want your glove pointing to your target when you’re pitching, but it’s not like Avril gives a shit. Her fingers are actually indicating some type of knuckleball variation, which could explain the intense movement, and also why the Jays would trade for RA Dickey three years later.

More curiously, this is what Avril did after she threw the pitch:

It seems to be her version of Aroldis Chapman’s infamous somersault.


Balance (55): It’s pretty solid, as her low effort delivery allows her to not fall down and completely embarrass herself. It’s unquestionably better than Carlos MarmLOL, and she also keeps her head relatively aligned with the rest of her body throughout the delivery.

Momentum (45): It’s eh. Her stride is certainly strong, which helps, but when you consider how limited/non-existent the leg kick is, it’s hard to go higher for this one.

Torque (30):  Very poor. One would hope that she could maintain at least one other similar quality to Aroldis, such as the elite torque that he produces with his max-effort delivery, but I guess not. There’s just not a lot of pushing that baseball forward. Needs improvement.

Posture (80): She’s essentially standing straight up until she releases the ball, so I gotta hand her an elite grade for posture. It’s unclear if she knows that she’s supposed to lift her leg at all, but hey, posture is posture is posture. Whether it’s accidental or not.

Release Distance (30): There’s zero leg kick whatsoever, and that kinda dooms this grade from the start. I’m tempted to throw at least a 4 on this one, seeing as the amount of movement she gets on the pitch (due mostly to gravity, but whatever) even with the horrendous release is extremely impressive. The pitch in Toronto shows uncanny similarities to Sergio Romo’s slider. But unfortunately, she’s really not releasing it anywhere close to the optimal point in her delivery, thus the below-average grade.

Repetition and Timing (20):  You say small sample size, I say this is a complete disaster and a serious disappointment. These two pitches were thrown at completely different angles, release points…even the arm action was different. Sure, we’re only looking at two pitches ever, but the huge mechanical discrepancy between the two is just bad. Let’s be honest…she’s probably gonna have to move to the bullpen.