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February 15, 2011

BP Unfiltered

Derek Low

by Mike Fast

As part of the research for an article about the strike zone, scheduled to run tomorrow, I collected information on each pitcher's average pitch location when the pitches crossed the front of home plate. Last night on Twitter, Josh Smolow mentioned that he was writing an article about Derek Lowe and how he's an outlier in terms of least pitches in the strike zone.  That's because Lowe pitches at the bottom edge of the zone, moreso than any other starting pitcher.

I thought this information might be interesting in its own right, but there was no space for it in the strike zone article itself. These charts present the average pitch location, separated by batter handedness, for each pitcher with at least 3000 pitches to lefties or righties from 2007-2010.

Average pitcher location to RHB

Average pitcher location to LHB

Here are a few other notable pitchers who didn't make the 3000-pitch cutoff:

Name Batter Horizontal Vertical
Matt Thornton RHB -0.14 2.77
Heath Bell RHB 0.51 2.69
Chris Young RHB 0.42 2.68
Brandon Webb RHB -0.06 2.19
Jake Westbrook RHB 0.19 2.02
Chris Young LHB -0.39 2.83
Barry Zito LHB -0.51 2.73
Tommy Hunter LHB -0.20 2.72
Randy Wolf LHB -0.63 2.63
Heath Bell LHB -0.58 2.62
Brian Wilson LHB -0.62 2.60
Brandon Webb LHB -0.38 2.28
Chris Carpenter LHB -0.06 2.23

Update: The strike zone article is here.

Mike Fast is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Mike's other articles. You can contact Mike by clicking here

16 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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RedsManRick

So Livan Hernandez is a sideways Derek Lowe?

Feb 15, 2011 16:24 PM
rating: 4
 
BurrRutledge

Neat.

If you plot location by organization, do Dave Duncan's hurlers show a 'low and away' pattern, or is that just me eyeballing things badly?

Feb 15, 2011 16:39 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

I can take a look by team and see what I find. That's a good idea.

Feb 15, 2011 18:41 PM
 
dianagram

That WOULD be interesting, and I'd also like to see the graph correlated with BABIP.

Feb 16, 2011 07:41 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

That's an interesting thought. Dave Allen, and perhaps others I'm forgetting, have done some work on batted ball value by zone location for the league:
http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/03/deconstructing.php
http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2009/03/deconstructing_1.php

I've also looked some at how pitch type and location affects BABIP, but I hadn't thought of looking at in the specific way you suggested here. That might be helpful.

Feb 16, 2011 08:05 AM
 
nateetan

Plotting these exact plots with each dot colored by BABIP, FB%, IFFB%, and HR/FB would be quite interesting.

Feb 16, 2011 14:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

The St. Louis pitchers do have the lowest average pitch location, at 2.29 feet, and San Francisco is the highest at 2.52 feet.

I need to query my database again before I present all the numbers since I forgot to split it out by batter handedness when I did the team query.

Feb 16, 2011 08:54 AM
 
R.A.Wagman

Barry Zito's location looks intersting as most of the other non-knuckler pitchers who locate way up there are more the fastball types. Might make for an interesting study balancing speed and location.

Feb 15, 2011 16:57 PM
rating: 0
 
Brandon R. Warne

Knowing what I know about Scott Baker, this makes too much sense.

Feb 15, 2011 21:15 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

Do the coordinates on the plots really line up like it looks on the screen, i.e. does 0.5 to RHB = 0.0 to LHB? If so, it's interesting to me that a few pitchers (Verlander, Harden, Cain) seem to hit roughly the same spot regardless of batter-handedness...

Feb 15, 2011 22:05 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

The middle of the plate is 0.0 in both graphs. The 0.5-ft mark is six inches toward the outside of the plate.

Most pitchers tend to pitch both lefties and righties toward the outside part of the plate, a little moreso to lefty batters.

Feb 16, 2011 06:30 AM
 
Pat Folz

Ah, I was reading it completely wrong. Thanks.

Feb 17, 2011 01:24 AM
rating: 0
 
dianagram

This is very cool, and it would be equally interesting to see the *changes* to those average locations for specific pitchers from 2007-2010. As pitchers age and lose their precision, I would think those plot points would drift to the center of the plate, or would they scatter wildly to the (unintended) corners?

Feb 16, 2011 07:40 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

I don't think, though I haven't checked, that pitchers lose much precision as they age.

I would guess that changes in location for pitchers over time would show a purposeful change in approach. I did show in the strike zone article that pitchers pitch outside more the older they are. Because pitchers enter and leave the sample at different ages, that's not quite the same thing as showing that pitchers pitch outside more as they age, but I would guess that's also true. I don't know why, though.

It might be due to changing pitch types; it might be due to spotting a slower fastball more out of the hitting zone; maybe something else. It's definitely an interesting topic for research.

Feb 16, 2011 08:00 AM
 
dianagram

One more thought ... and I don't know if you have the data to do this . . . while Lowe may be .... um ... "low" in the zone, it stands to reason that any pitch with no "break" (moving along only one plane) is going to be easier to square up. So, if Lowe's pitches are moving in a relatively straight downward line towards that point, he's gonna be hit more than someone with tons of spin/movement. Is it possible to break this out by pitch type?

Feb 16, 2011 07:51 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mike Fast
BP staff

Matt Lentzner and I did a presentation at the PITCHf/x Summit in August 2010 about how the final velocity of the pitch in the horizontal (left-right) and vertical dimensions as it crosses the plate has a strong effect on the whiff rate and BABIP of the pitch. In the vertical dimension, we found that pitches that were moving at a 6 or 7-degree downward angle as they crossed the plate were most likely to be hit. This is close to the angle of the typical batter swing plane.

That is true in aggregate for the league, it is not true for every specific pitch type thrown by every pitcher. I suspect that the way some pitchers play one pitch off another and the associated deception, or lack thereof, is part of what makes this vary from pitcher to pitcher.

Lowe's sinkers are dropping more than the average fastball when they cross the plate, and all else being equal (is it? I don't know), should create more whiffs and lower BABIP than average.

Feb 16, 2011 08:12 AM
 
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