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.
Three weeks out, a stab at figuring out who goes in the first round after the Nationals take Stephen Strasburg.
Doing a mock draft nearly three weeks before the real thing is an exercise that combines gathering intelligence with making a lot of dart throws-especially in this draft, where clarity ends after the first pick. Here are reactions from various agents, scouts, scouting directors, and front office officials when I contacted them in reference to this article.
Dissecting a day at the office for the Mets' Johan Santana.
Due to local blackout rules and the lack of a land-line phone capable of proving that my Penn State University residence was not in Philadelphia, I relied on MLB Gameday instead of MLB TV for a good chunk of the 2007 season. The application had been around for a while, but I soon noticed strange terminology and new data accompanying each pitch. Why are there two velocity readings? What does 13" of pFX mean? And what the heck is BRK? A little research soon made sense of the information, and within a few months I became hooked on the data set known as Pitch-f/x. Fast-forward two years, and Pitch-f/x continues to evolve, revolutionizing baseball research in the process. Unfortunately, with updates to system configurations and the amount of information offered, too many readers and baseball fans experience confused reactions similar to mine when they first encounter the data. In an attempt to quash this issue, it seemed prudent to explain some of the more commonly used numbers, discussing what they mean as well as how they should be used. Instead of merely defining terms, the system will be explored in action, with periodic discussions of its inner workings, much as Dan Fox did back in May 2007.
The streaking submariner talks about changing to a new delivery, ignoring his success, and what he has to do differently.
Brad Ziegler is still perfect. One of the best stories of the 2008 season, Ziegler made his 28th appearance out of the A's bullpen on Friday, and again didn't give up a run. Since making his big-league debut on May 31, the submarining right-hander has thrown 37 scoreless innings, the most ever to begin a career. Originally a 20th-round pick by the Phillies out of Southwest Missouri State in 2003, the 28-year-old Ziegler has survived a pair of skull fractures and a stint in indie ball on his way to chasing cult status in Oakland.
Looking into the crystal ball to see who drops where.
With 24 hours to go before the selections begin, the draft remains a muddled mess, making the process of doing a mock a series of hedged wagers. "This is easily one of the most unpredictable first rounds I've ever seen," said one team official. Basically, the draft pool has two clumps of players, one made up of the top ten, followed by a larger group of up to 40 players. With even the first overall pick still up in the air, any one last-minute flip could change the board dramatically.