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How can we distinguish between benign fluctuations in fastball speed and those that indicate injury or ineffectiveness ahead?

A pitcher’s fastball speed is probably the most macho attribute of his ability. Guile, command, deception, a good breaking ball, and the ability to change speeds are all very important parts of the pitching craft. Only one number, however, routinely makes the scoreboard and the television screen on every pitch—the speed. As Jeff Francoeur can tell you, if it’s on the scoreboard, it’s important.

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Do his early-season struggles suggest that Royals closer Joakim Soria's best days lie behind him, or can he succeed with a different style?

Joakim Soria has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the past four years. From 2007 to 2010, he put up a 2.01 ERA with 281 strikeouts against only 70 walks and 182 hits in 255 innings. Over that period, he held the opposition scoreless in 82 percent of the games he entered, and he allowed multiple runs only five percent of the time. For comparison, Mariano Rivera had a 2.05 ERA over those four years, held the opposition scoreless 83 percent of the time, and allowed multiple runs five percent of the time. Even while fighting (and usually failing) to avoid the basement in the AL Central, the Royals could claim a truly elite closer in Soria, the rare All-Star on a perennial cellar dweller.

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Mike examines whether velocity changes in March and April can reveal whether the radar gun will be a pitcher's friend or foe throughout the season.

Fastball speed in the major leagues is an important and oft-researched topic. As the 2011 season begins, the trickle of reports on pitchers’ fastball speeds that came out of spring training will turn into a flood of data. Some pitchers will be throwing a little faster than they were last year, while others will have lost a notch on their hard stuff.

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Before you yell at the umpire, consider making a few adjustments to your dataset.

After the last two postseasons, most baseball fans are familiar with the strike zone location graphic known as PitchTrax. Here’s an example from Game One of the 2010 American League Championship Series:

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Examining umpire calling and catcher framing leads to thought-provoking questions about the amorphous nature of the strike zone.

Ever since the PITCHf/x system debuted in the 2006 playoffs, people have been interested in what it says about the strike zone that the umpires call.

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January 19, 2011 12:00 pm

Spinning Yarn: Rafael Soriano in King Mo's Court

3

Mike Fast

With the addition of Soriano, the Yankees have another hurler with a strong cut fastball.

Rafael Soriano has a reputation as a power arm out of the bullpen. For example, Bob Klapisch recently remarked about pairing Soriano’s “power fastballs” with Mariano Rivera’s “historic cutters.” However, as we'll soon see, the repertoires of the two pitchers actually have much in common.

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December 16, 2010 4:00 pm

Spinning Yarn: Why The Yankees Need Andy Pettitte

35

Mike Fast

A look at PitchF/X data illustrates how important it is to the Bronx Bombers that the left-hander put off retirement for at least one more year.

Three out of the last four years, the American League pennant winner has emerged from the East Division: Boston in 2007, Tampa Bay in 2008, and New York in 2009.  The Red Sox and the Yankees took home World Series championships in 2007 and 2009.  As the Rays cut payroll this offseason, conventional wisdom has focused again on the battle between the Yankees and the Red Sox.

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December 9, 2010 9:00 am

Spinning Yarn: The Forkball

16

Mike Fast

What are some of the distinguishing characters of one of baseball's most unknown pitches?

Forkball pitchers are a rare breed, perhaps even rarer than the elusive knuckleballer.

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PITCHf/x data can shed light on pitchers' throwing mechanics.

Pitcher Release Points

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A closer look at what the various pitch types mean and how to approach pitch classification.

Several of the leading pitchers in this year’s postseason make their living with a cut fastball, most notably Roy Halladay and Mariano Rivera. The list of playoff pitchers who have the cutter as an important pitch in their arsenal, though, is long. It includes Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson, and Tommy Hunter on the Rangers; Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes on the Yankees; and Cole Hamels on the Phillies.

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Attempting to plot the career path of those who may reach the 300-win plateau.

I’m excited to join Baseball Prospectus. If you’ve read any of my previous work, you may know me as something of a PITCHf/x guy. I’ve been learning about and writing about PITCHf/x since the pitch-tracking system was installed in major-league ballparks in 2007, so that description is apt. My interests extend beyond PITCHf/x to the physics of baseball and the details of the pitcher-hitter confrontation.

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