Tunneling from Greg Maddux and Barry Zito to Kyle Hendricks and Rich Hill, and everything in between.
The new pitch tunnels data released by Baseball Prospectus gives us a new glimpse into the repertoires of pitchers across the major leagues. Of course, this data is only as useful as the analysis it helps produce. To showcase how pitch tunnels data can help us better understand the success, or lack thereof, of certain pitchers, we’ll need to better understand how pitch tunnels manifest themselves in the real world.
The title of this article— “Two Ways to Tunnel”—already signals that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this new data. While game theory might suggest that each individual pitcher has an optimal approach (or approaches), there can be dramatic differences in how different pitchers attack major-league hitters. As such, we should look at this tunnels data much like we would PITCHf/x data. It’s descriptive, and there are many ways to interpret and utilize the data.
We’ll use modern pitchers to explain these concepts with requisite data, but first it’s worth revisiting a historical example. Jeff Long's very first post for BP over two years ago included the following quote about Greg Maddux, the patron saint of tunneling (yes, we know the majority of this quote is included in the introductory post about pitch tunnels, but it’s so good that it merits inclusion once again):
The enigmatic left-hander has thrown that beautiful curve for the last time.
On Monday, Barry Zito announced that he would be the last of the Big Three to go quietly into that good night. In honor of his retirement, and to look back at his long, memorable career, let's review 15 years of BP Annual comments about him, as he transitioned from Cy Young Award winner on the east side of the bay, to an unmovable contract on the west side.
Paul looks at five starting pitchers that could help your fantasy squad if you deploy them only when they take the mound at their home yards.
A couple of weeks ago, I started to take a look at the 2014 first round, discussing what we’ve learned so far in 2013 and how it might impact the early part of drafts next March. I also mentioned a second part next time out. The “Sporer Report” was off last week for the holidays, and though it’s obviously back this week, I’m tabling part two for a little while to cover a topic a bit more useful for the here and now as you charge toward your 2013 league pennants.
There is nothing new about streaming pitchers as it relates to fantasy baseball. It’s a viable strategy with known pros and cons. It is often a matchup-based decision, but today we are going to look at some guys who are useful candidates for the other primary factor when deciding on streamers: venue. Depending on their team’s ballparks, some pitchers perform markedly better at home or on the road. I have 10 such pitchers, five for each side, whom you can maximize by deploying them only on their plus side. Let’s start with the homebodies.
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Baseball statistics are always trying to mislead you.
Most of what I write centers on The Factoid. I like to organize the word into surprising, easily digested chunks, so Ilovefactoids. My job usually requires me to write longer pieces than a simple factoid, so I keep writing and writing, but if you strip away the stalling, the GIFs, the jokes, the pointlessly long lead-ins, the repetition, and the tables, it’s usually just a factoid that I wanted to find a place for. Here’s a factoid: In the average day, I spend approximately 25 minutes looking for factoids, and 18 minutes interacting with my family. Factoid!
But the very pithiness and the juxtapositions that make factoids awesome also make them easily deceptive. As much as I love a good factoid, I am skeptical of a good factoid. There’s one baseball factoid that I see more than any other factoid, and it has always made me uncomfortable, and I’m finally getting around to exploring that factoid. That factoid is a variation on this:
What can we learn about pitching from FOX Game-of-the-Week scouting reports?
The third time I got caught stealing classified documents out of the National Archives, the judge said enough was enough. He and the prosecutor hatched up a plan to send me away to prison for 20 years so I’d learn my lesson. But there were plenty of things I’d stolen that the authorities didn’t know about (money things), so I used some of that loot and hired myself the best counsel in the city. He found a loophole in the law and convinced the judge that first he had to give me another option: I could learn my lesson by teaching young toughs about important life skills, in a structured and competitive environment. The judge looked through his binder full of ragamuffin teams in need and asked,"What about baseball? Can you coach baseball?” I nodded, because of how much codeine I had had that morning, and he interpreted my head movement as assent. That’s how I became the coach of the 12U GoldenTee baseball squad, and that’s how I found myself living a storybook season that ended with … well, we’re getting ahead of ourselves now.
“Pitching and defense wins” is what I knew about baseball, and I found out quickly that the boys (and girl) on the GoldenTees didn’t know squat about pitching. Lot of throwers on that team. Big kids, some mustaches and learner’s permits, and real strong arms; my glove hand was blue by the end of practice just warming up with them. It didn’t surprise me to learn that they had won the championship the previous season, and that most of the league was afraid to hit against them. But they weren’t doing it the right way, and I could tell them a thing or two about where life takes you when you don’t do it the right way. It takes you to a battered ballfield with a bunch of kids you don't even know, when you could be home sucking whippets and watching DVDs of Monk season four.
How do you sell a mismatch like Zito vs. Verlander? By highlighting the differences.
Game One of the World Series features a lopsided pitching matchup. Justin Verlander is a superior pitcher to Barry Zito by every measure imaginable. So how do you sell this as an intriguing matchup? The FOX broadcast will probably focus on what Verlander and Zito have in common—the Cy Young. Zito won the award in 2002, his second full season in the majors, and Verlander took his home last winter.
But it’s not what Verlander and Zito have in common that could make this entertaining; rather, it’s what separates them.
Justin Verlander and the Tigers figure to be too much for Barry Zito and the Giants to handle in Game One.
The Tigers roared past the Yankees and spent the past five days working to stay fresh. The Giants needed seven games to oust the Cardinals and spent the past five days outscoring them 20-1. Which team will continue its winning streak in Game One of the World Series?
The Giants finally score some runs, and even the series against the Reds.
There was a pretty good chance the Giants were going to lose on Tuesday. As you’ll recall, they had one hit through nine innings; they drew one walk; they scored because of a passed ball and an error; etc. They could have very, very easily lost on Tuesday. And if they had, Tim Lincecum’s season highlights would have looked like this: