Was Stephen Strasburg's velocity loss during his last start atypical? And if so, should we be worried?
ESPN Stats and Information published an article about Stephen Strasburg’s less-than-successful start on Tuesday that noted, “Strasburg’s velocity declined as his start went on. His heater averaged 96.6 MPH in the first two innings and 94.8 MPH after. “
Taking an old piece of baseball advice to task with Sportvision's new COMMANDf/x system for tracking the catcher's glove.
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.
Graham Goldbeck is a data analyst at Sportvision, the company behind PITCHf/x, HITf/x, COMMANDf/x, and FIELDf/x. In the past, Graham was a writer for the website Beyond the Boxscore and worked as a baseball operations intern for the Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.
What factors determine how often hitters take one for the team?
Every season major league pitchers throw tens of thousands of pitches inside off the plate, yet they hit batters “only” about 1500-1800 times in a season. Why do some inside pitches hit the batter, while others do not?
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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Do his early-season struggles suggest that Royals closer Joakim Soria's best days lie behind him, or can he succeed with a different style?
Joakim Soria has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the past four years. From 2007 to 2010, he put up a 2.01 ERA with 281 strikeouts against only 70 walks and 182 hits in 255 innings. Over that period, he held the opposition scoreless in 82 percent of the games he entered, and he allowed multiple runs only five percent of the time. For comparison, Mariano Rivera had a 2.05 ERA over those four years, held the opposition scoreless 83 percent of the time, and allowed multiple runs five percent of the time. Even while fighting (and usually failing) to avoid the basement in the AL Central, the Royals could claim a truly elite closer in Soria, the rare All-Star on a perennial cellar dweller.
Which pitchers succeed by leading with their off-speed stuff and saving their heaters for later?
“Too many guys pitch backward. They throw their breaking ball so much that it’s almost like their fastball is their off-speed pitch.”—Tom Glavine
On a spring day in 1984, Jim Palmer began talking to Jay Howell. The conversation likely started with pleasantries—a comment about the Florida weather, or a crude remark directed toward a female in the stands—but it developed into a dissection of Howell’s approach on the mound. Palmer, the aging Oriole, instructed Howell, then a 28-year-old Yankee, to take advantage of his fastball velocity (90-to-92 miles per hour) and establish the pitch before using his breaking stuff against batters.
The mysterious art of scouting needn't defy analysis, as long as ratings are applied consistently.
Consistency: the word itself a food metaphor, irony dripping from it like ice cream from a half-melted cone. Despite the rhetoric, consistency doesn’t matter much in baseball. What matters is being good. In the process of evaluating ballplayers, however, consistency is all that matters.
Scouts grade prospects based on a 20-80 scale where 50 is average, and, according to one scout*, “one grade is a standard deviation. Think of it as a bell curve.”
Mike examines whether velocity changes in March and April can reveal whether the radar gun will be a pitcher's friend or foe throughout the season.
Fastball speed in the major leagues is an important and oft-researchedtopic. As the 2011 season begins, the trickle of reports on pitchers’ fastball speeds that came out of spring training will turn into a flood of data. Some pitchers will be throwing a little faster than they were last year, while others will have lost a notch on their hard stuff.