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Want to know not just what pitches a pitcher throws, but where, when, and in what order he throws them? Now you can.

At Brooks Baseball, we’ve built a repository where you can access almost any information about any pitcher’s pitches and be confident that the pitch types were identified correctly. For example, you can ask how many times batters swung and missed at a Stephen Strasburg changeup, how often batters hit Chris Sale’s slider for a groundball, or what the overall called-strike rate is for Felix Hernandez’s fastball.

But PITCHf/x databasing is still in its infancy. Pitching is not the sum of individual statistics about individual pitches any more than a piece of music is the sum of an individual set of notes. Pitching is a sequence of events—the previous pitch’s execution may be as germane to the outcome of the at-bat as the current pitch’s execution. We often hear about how a pitcher might go up in the zone with a high fastball to raise a batter’s eye level and then down in the zone with a curveball. None of that was captured in the maze of tables and charts already available.

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October 22, 2009 2:00 pm

Checking the Numbers: Crossing Over


Eric Seidman

The challenge of changing speeds while integrating perceived velocity into the mix.

When a pitch begins its flight towards home plate, the radar gun registers a specific velocity-one that correlates quite strongly to the start speed component of PITCHf/x-which unfortunately becomes the gospel as to how hard the pitch was thrown. Various factors, like the natural loss of velocity as the pitch reaches home plate, the true distance of the release, the actual flight time, the location, when the batter picks the ball up, and what pitch the batter initially anticipated all work together to alter a hitter's perception of velocity.

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October 5, 2009 2:39 pm

Checking the Numbers: Location and Perception


Eric Seidman

Changing speeds can depends as much upon where you throw as how hard you're throwing.

The velocity recorded by the radar gun and what the batter perceives do not always match. As discussed previously, several factors can cause a pitch to appear faster or slower to hitters. One such factor is the flight time from the point of release to when the ball crosses home plate relative to the flight time the PITCHf/x system projects at 55 feet away. Pitches released any closer than this predetermined distance result in a higher perceived velocity with the inverse true of pitches let go from distances greater than the default. During our initial look it was observed that a few pitchers generated perceived velocities dissimilar to their recorded velocity, a proof of concept that was much more important than the velocity discrepancies themselves. Johnny Cueto, for example, averaged 92.9 mph with a perceived 90.8 mph, while Ian Snell found himself perceived to throw just 87.6 mph in spite of the reported 91.7 mph. But where Snell threw these pitches must also enter the equation, since the location of a pitch works in conjunction to the flight time to add or subtract perceived miles per hour.

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May 6, 2009 11:55 am

Zumaya's Zooming


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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