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Articles Tagged Pitch Movement 

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Pitches move too fast for batters to see, so how do they hit the ball? And what does that have to do with Chad Bradford?

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.

Matt Lentzner has carved out a (very) small niche in the baseball analysis world by examining the intersection of physics and biomechanics. He has presented at the PITCHf/x conference in each of the last two years and has written articles for The Hardball Times, as well as three previous articles for Baseball Prospectus. When he’s not writing, Matt works on his physics-based baseball simulator, which is so awesome and all-encompassing that it will likely never actually be finished, though it does provide the inspiration for most of his articles and presentations. In real life, he’s an IT Director at a small financial consulting company in the Silicon Valley and also runs a physical training gym in his backyard on the weekends.
 


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Finding out whether knuckleballs actually flutter, with the help of our friendly neighborhood physicist.

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.

Alan Nathan is Professor Emeritus of Physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. After a long career doing experimental nuclear/particle physics, he now spends his time doing research in the physics of baseball. He maintains a web site devoted to this topic at http://webusers.npl.illinois.edu/~a-nathan/pob/His younger colleagues at Complete Game Consulting have bestowed upon him the exalted title of Chief Scientist.
 


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Evaluating each pitcher who appeared in the Futures Game and identifying the most similar current major-league pitchers and pitches with the aid of PITCHf/x.

Sample size or apple pies? You can choose only one. Apple pies—that’s what I thought. A quick glimpse of a prospect might not tell us all we need to know, but it’s still plenty tempting to draw possibly premature conclusions. With that in mind, I decided to watch the Futures Game for the second straight year and make snap judgments on every single pitcher, even though none of them threw more than a couple dozen pitches. Last year, my main takeaway was that Zach Britton was the man. He still is. This year, I came to the conclusion that the only way to top a Bernie Williams rendition of the national anthem is to catch a Sal Fasano first-base coach sighting.

The following table lists every pitcher who appeared in the game, in order of appearance. I’ll tackle them one by one, offering comps to current major leaguers where applicable, as well as links to videos of similar pitches.

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Examining the approach that has made Ryan Vogelsong a giant among Giants with the aid of PITCHf/x.

In January, Ryan Vogelsong signed a minor-league contract with the San Francisco Giants. He compiled a 3.27 ERA in 22 solid innings in spring training but was sent to Triple-A Fresno to begin the year. He followed that up with two strong starts at Fresno, allowing three runs and striking out 17 in 11 1/3 innings. On April 17, Vogelsong joined the big club when Barry Zito went on the disabled list with a foot injury, and on April 28, he took Zito’s place in the Giants starting rotation.

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How much does a pitcher's secondary arsenal, mound presence, and poise play into a scout's evaluation?

In part one, I blathered on about fastball evaluation and the three main components of the overall pitcher grade: command, velocity, and movement. About 2,000 words later (200 to set the mood, 200 to make the point, and 1,600 to expose my weaknesses as a writer), I hope that the reader formed a closer bond with my process, though it sometimes seemed like I cared more about the beef industry than scouting. I’m not going to apologize for that. I care about beef. I’m from Texas. I also ride a horse to work and wear a duster. Moving on.

It’s time to shift our attention to what I look for when evaluating a pitcher’s secondary arsenal [read: complementary pitches, e.g., slider, curveball, changeup, etc.], mound presence/poise, and pitchability. While a good fastball can carry the majority of the load and is therefore set up to receive most of the accolades, the secondary and tertiary components of the arsenal will ultimately define the attainable range of success. Outliers always exist, so you might run across arsenals that aren’t built with the bones of a fastball, or arsenals that consist of one super-wizard pitch (Mariano Rivera’s cutter), but for this evaluation, let’s just assume we are scouting a human, and not a knuckleballer or a Panamanian relief wizard.

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We hear terms like "projectability" and "60-grade velocity" bandied about, but what do they actually mean? Here's a glimpse at what goes into scouting a pitcher.

If you have ever listened to the BP podcast, you have no doubt heard the always-fedora’d Kevin Goldstein and me identify what we look for in a prospect. Every player is unique, but there are certain attributes that tickle the scouting fancy more than others, whether physical or psychological. While we are recidivistic in our velocity whoring, other factors are at play when evaluating a pitcher, just like evaluating hitters is more complex than watching batting practice power displays. In this long-winded series, I’ll identity what I look for when scouting players on the mound, in the field, and in the box.

Not to get overly existential here, but scouting is a profound philosophical pursuit: Are we looking for enlightenment through the physical exceptionalism of athletes? Is it possible to separate our own deficiencies and insecurities from the process? Does the fact that I used to be quite fast influence my ability to appreciate speed in a lower-level prospect? Does the fact that I once had dreams of being a ballplayer heighten my ability to recognize those who are athletically superior to me, or does my failure create a form of subjective justice that I wield upon those that get to play out my fantasy for a paycheck?

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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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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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June 8, 2010 12:34 pm

Watching Strasburg

29

Will Carroll

When the former first overall pick makes his debut tonight, here are a few things to watch for.

The debut of Stephen Strasburg is one that baseball fans have been waiting to see. Assuming you're reading this, you'll be watching as well (MLB Network, check your local listings.) So now that we've heard all the hype and seen glimpses of him in scouting video and in the minors, what should we be watching for when he actually takes the mound? Get your popcorn, scorecard, and MLB.tv ready, because here's your viewers guide:

1. Fastball
Everyone comes to see the fastball. It's why he's famous, and with good reason. Strasburg's fastball has been credibly recorded as high as 102 and lives in the mid-90's. The fastball comes with all five elements: velocity, control, command, movement, and touch. Velocity is the easy one, so let's define the other three. Control is the ability to hit a spot or, more specifically, to throw strikes. Command is more loosely defined, but most agree it's the ability to move pitches around within a controlled area. Leo Mazzone preached command to his Braves pitchers, putting balls in specific spots in and out of the strike zone in order to make hitters swing at their pitch, so that even if contact was made, it was weak. Greg Maddux famously threw pitches in order to set up players for later at-bats, while Tom Glavine would work as much on the umpire as he did the hitter, drawing the strike zone further and further out. 


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How having to hit or run the bases affects pitching performance in DH-less ballgames.

Let's play myth-busters, shall we?

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December 28, 2009 12:00 pm

Checking the Numbers: Swinging With PITCHf/x

4

Eric Seidman

Turning to what another tool in the kit can tell us about variations in performance between roles for the pitchers who pitched in both roles.

Over the last couple of weeks, my efforts have been spent breaking down the various aspects of swingmen, those pitchers with plenty of time as both a starter and reliever in the same season. The first entry focused on their aggregate data in both settings, revealing that as relievers the group-defined as having at least 10 starts and 10 relief appearances in the same year-improved in both ERA and FRA by approximately 0.7 runs. While the strikeout rate of these pitchers increased in the bullpen, the frequency of free passes issued stayed the same. Last week, we took a look at the dozen players since 1974 who fell into the bin of power starting pitchers but managed to undergo a complete 180 in the bullpen, becoming finesse pitchers; such an occurrence was not only rare in theory, but in practice as well. Here, I'll be turning to looking at swingmen through a PITCHf/x lens.

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May 6, 2009 11:55 am

Zumaya's Zooming

11

Ben Lindbergh

Diagnosing how a phenomenon gets hot, goes bad, and comes back might involve changing things up.

Three years ago, Joel Zumaya took the AL by storm, flashing an overpowering fastball on his way to a full season of stellar relief. Since 2006, though, he's fallen on hard times. Now that the big righty has recently reclaimed his role in Detroit's bullpen, let's take a look at his prospects for future success by using all of the tools at our disposal.

Zumaya broke camp as a member of the Tigers' bullpen in 2006, after fellow rookie Justin Verlander had claimed a rotation spot in spring training. Except for a single appearance in relief as a 17-year-old in the GCL, Zumaya had worked exclusively as a starter in the minors, but his migration to the pen didn't come as a complete surprise. Although Baseball America ranked him among Detroit's top four prospects in each year from 2004-2006, talent evaluators frequently cited his intensity, max-effort delivery, inconsistent mechanics, limited repertoire (before 2005), and three DL stints (for back and shoulder spasms) as factors arguing for a shift to short relief work.

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