Which pitchers like to hold pitch types in reserve for their second and third trips through the order?
Last week, Clayton Kershaw put on quite a show. He struck out 15 Rockies out of the 28 he faced, and he threw a first-pitch strike in 21 of those at-bats. He faced each Rockies hitter (with the exception of Corey Dickerson) no more than three times, and he set down all but one of those hitters every time.
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Ross Detwiler threw 42 straight four-seamers or sinkers on Tuesday. Where does that put him on the consecutive fastball pantheon?
On Tuesday night, the Nationals and Brewers played baseball for well over five hours, calling it quits only after Ryan Zimmerman hit a two-run homer in the 16th inning to put Milwaukee away. Zimmerman, who had two other hits and this diving catch, claimed the headlines, but the game had another hero, albeit one slightly less sung: deposed starter Ross Detwiler, who held the Brewers scoreless from the 10th through the 14th.
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Watching Yu Darvish is wonderful. Hitting against him is hell.
Beside pitch speed, pitch location, pitch spin, pitch movement, pitch type, count, batter, park, umpire, release point, etc., PITCHf/x also logs something called pitch-type confidence. Since the system is using algorithms to deduce what the pitch is based on speed, movement, and release point, it has to make some assumptions. If a pitcher throws only one type of fastball, and it is 10 mph faster than any other pitch he throws, and it is the only pitch that breaks to the pitcher’s glove side, the system can be pretty confident when it labels a 98-mph pitch a fastball.
But then there’s Yu Darvish. Of all the pitches Yu Darvish has thrown this year, 43 were give a confidence level of 50 percent or lower, and 506 were 80 or lower. Compare this to, say, Wandy Rodriguez, my go-to control group. He has thrown just one pitch with a confidence rating lower of 50 percent or lower, and 121 at 80 or lower. Or compare to (random pitcher) Stephen Strasburg: five below 50, 120 below 80. Strasburg has thrown 81 pitches that PITCHf/x was 100 percent confident about. Yu Darvish has thrown none.
Now that the hitters have had their time in the sun, it's time for the pitchers to gain the same recognition.
Best Tools: Utility y Projection (Starters) Fastball: Carlos Martinez (Cardinals) TCF: Martinez can dial it up to elite velocity levels, consistently working in the plus-plus range and reaching back for triple digits when necessary. The pitch doesn’t just ride to the plate on the back of velocity; the fastball has late life and explosion, making it even more difficult to square up. With refined command, the offering will stand above the rest, regardless of the role it is deployed in. It’s a monster pitch, an 80-grader in the making.
Curveball: Dellin Betances (Yankees) TCF: There are quite a few high-end curves in the minors, so the talent pool was deep and the decision was difficult. When polled, lefty Matt Moore’s power curve received more votes (it was close), but Betances had more fervent support, with one source calling it “a career-defining pitch.” It’s a long season, and this particular source has been in the sun for too many months without respite, but hyperbole aside, the pitch is legit. Coming from the arm of a man standing close to 6-foot-9, the tumbling knuckle-curve presents depth that hitters struggle to track, as the vertical dive is extreme and sharp. The command isn’t there yet, which limits Betances’ curveball’s overall effectiveness for now, but it’s still a plus pitch when it’s loose, and when Betances owns it, it’s plus-plus offering full of nastiness.
David Freese, Colby Rasmus, and Mark McGwire discuss their approaches to hitting.
David Freese and Colby Rasmus will play key roles for the Cardinals this year, as will their hitting coach, Mark McGwire. Both players will be counted on to provide offensive punch, while Big Mac will be entrusted to help the young sluggers surpass their 2010 production. Rasmus is coming off a season where he hit .276/.361/.498 with 23 home runs. Freese hit .296/.361/.404 with four home runs before having his rookie campaign derailed by an ankle injury after just 80 games.
Taking an in-depth look at a two-inning stint by Francisco Rodriguez in order to understand why he threw certain pitches.
What follows is a story of a pitcher who lost command of his fastball, and a hitter who approached him as if he could throw it to a teacup. The Mets were clinging to a 3-1 lead over the Giants on July 18 as their game entered the late innings at AT&T Park. After another eight-frame master class from Johan Santana, Mets manager Jerry Manuel called on Francisco Rodriguez to lock down a victory. It was a game the Mets desperately needed; they opened the second half of the season by scoring just four runs in their first three games, and if the week following this game is any indication, they aren’t good enough to waste Santana’s brilliance and still make a run at the postseason.
Now that we’ve set the scene, let’s think along with its principal players, and observe how Rodriguez and his opponents adapt—or fail to adapt—to the Mets closer’s uncharacteristic lack of a reliable fastball. We’ll follow K-Rod’s two innings in hopes of learning a thing or two about the mysterious art of pitch sequencing, and see how the information Rodriguez sends with each pitch of this outing may be more predictive of what he’ll throw next than simply relying on his overall tendencies.
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.