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Creating a tool that considers the speed and movement of every pitch, the similarity measure allows the direct comparison of pitchers across various contexts.

The PITCHf/x optical video and TrackMan Doppler radar sensors estimate parameters of pitches, including the speed, horizontal movement and vertical movement. The data recorded by these systems can be used to develop pitcher similarity measures. These measures are valuable not only for comparing major-league pitchers to each other, but also for allowing the direct comparison of pitchers in other leagues (minor, amateur and foreign) to their MLB counterparts.

A pitcher similarity measure can be employed for multiple purposes by analysts. The identification of groups of similar pitchers can be used to generate optimized projection models [18], or to generate larger samples for predicting the outcome of batter/pitcher matchups [3], [20]. In addition, a similarity measure allows for individual pitchers to be monitored over time in order to detect possible changes in pitch characteristics, health and throwing mechanics.

Previous methods for quantifying pitcher similarity have been limited to the comparison of pitches of the same type, which makes these methods highly dependent on the outcome of pitch-classification algorithms. Kalk [8], [9] developed a similarity measure that compared pitches of the same type using variables that included pitch frequency, speed and movement. Loftus [11], [12], [13] improved on Kalk's approach by separating pitchers by handedness while using the Kolmogorov-Smirnov distance to compare distributions. Like Kalk's method, however, this approach only considers comparisons between pitches of the same type.

A difficulty for these methods is that different pitch types for a single pitcher or across multiple pitchers can have similar properties. This causes the pitch-frequency statistics used by similarity algorithms to depend heavily on the classification process; it also prevents the comparison of similar pitches that are classified as different pitch types.

In 2016, for example, Ubaldo Jimenez's sinker averaged 91.12 mph, -7.35 inches of horizontal movement and 8.53 inches of vertical movement, while Jeremy Hellickson's four-seam fastball had nearly identical averages of 90.81 mph, -7.63 inches of horizontal movement and 8.44 inches of vertical movement. Due to this issue, Loftus [13] conceded that his own method is best suited for comparing individual pitches as opposed to comparing pitchers based on their entire arsenal. Gennaro [3] has proposed a more qualitative approach to measuring pitcher similarity by using a hand-selected set of features and weightings. The features used by this method include a pitcher's two most-common pitch types and his most-common two-pitch sequence.

In this work, we develop a pitcher similarity measure that considers the speed and movement of every pitch. We note that other factors that are less indicative of a pitcher's raw stuff such as pitch location [4], sequencing [5], and deception [14] also play a role in determining performance.

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Baseball players are coming to the U.S. from Australia in increasing numbers, but much more talent remains untapped.

Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.

Drew Samuelson is the Player & Coach Development Coordinator for the Australian Baseball Federation and has worked in baseball since 2007. A native Seattleite, Drew spent two seasons as the Director of Baseball Operations at Seattle University as it resurrected its Division I baseball program after a 30-year absence. He also worked for the Tacoma Rainiers in 2009 as their Media Development Coordinator. Drew spent two seasons managing his own website, pacificprospectreport.com, which produced proprietary video and scouting reports of prospects in the Arizona Fall, California, Pacific Coast, and Northwest leagues. He is an alumnus of Marist College (NY) and Seattle University. The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ABF.

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Our first look inside the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.

This is Part 1 of a multi-part series on the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement

On November 22 of last year, Major League Baseball and the MLBPA did something that the NFL and the NBA could not: reached a new labor agreement without a work stoppage. For those that follow baseball’s labor history, it has become a miraculous run. By the time the current five-year Basic Agreement (read here) expires on December 1, 2016, it will have been 21 years of uninterrupted labor peace.

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June 4, 2010 9:00 am

Ahead in the Count: No Turnover Standings Breakdown


Matt Swartz

Putting every major-league player back with his original team in an alternative universe can tell us a lot about team building.

In March, I introduced The No Turnover Standings which measured what teams’ records would have been if Major League Baseball did not allow any player movement and all players had provided the same production for the team that originally drafted or signed them as amateurs.  As I described in that article:

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January 14, 2010 12:48 pm

Crossing the Pond


Dan Wade

Selig's idea of having the MLB champions facing the NPB champs has many intriguing features.

After vehemently opposing international competition, Commissioner Bud Selig seems primed to send the champions of Major League Baseball to Japan to face the champions of Nippon Professional Baseball, reviving the tradition started in the early 20th century.

The most famous American team to tour Japan arrived in Tokyo in November of 1934, loaded with talent beyond belief. Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, and Moe Berg(whose motives for joining the team may have been more political than athletic) led a team of All-Stars across the world as a way to further the growth of baseball. These barnstorming tours were far from new, however, as A.G. Spalding led a world tour as early as 1888 to bring baseball to the world beyond the Atlantic, and the New York Giants and Chicago Cubs trekked far and wide playing each other after the 1913 season in the so-called "Tour to End All Tours" to further that same mission.

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(Ed. note: Chris Kahrl is still getting set up in his new D.C. digs, so Keith and Joe share pinch-hitting duties.)

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Optioned infielder Hanley Frias to Tucson of the Pacific Coast League (AAA); recalled pitcher Bobby Chouinard from Tucson. [5/22]

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