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May 15, 2012 3:00 am

Western Front: La Casa Sucia


Geoff Young

The Padres are off to a horrible start, so a housecleaning might be forthcoming. Who stays and who goes?

The San Diego Padres, perhaps predictably, have gotten off to a miserable start in 2012. Although expectations were not high coming into the season, almost nothing has gone right for the club. Between injuries and ineffectiveness, not to mention ongoing ownership/television deal issues (I live 15 minutes from Petco Park and cannot watch the team on TV in my home, which might qualify as “charmingly retro” if it weren't so annoying), the Padres are staring at their worst-case scenario only a month into the campaign.

Last week, Kevin Goldstein suggested that a “housecleaning in San Diego could be coming.” Reader pobothecat wondered what such a housecleaning might look like, and so did I.

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Jeremy finds out whether the consistency of release points matters on a pitch-by-pitch basis and pinpoints the pitchers who give batters the same look most and least often.

Back in November, Mike Fast covered most everything you need to know about pitchers’ release points. The difficulty lies in determining the value of release point consistency. Mike found that pitchers with lower variation in their release points from game to game tended to produce lower walk rates, but looking at the distance between successive release points can also provide useful information at a more granular level.

With that in mind, I looked for all consecutive pitches from one pitcher to one batter and came up with the initial position of each pitch 50 feet from home plate, according to PITCHf/x, and each pitch’s run values using the process detailed here. The sample has some biases: all plate appearances must go at least two pitches, and curveballs will appear to be released higher than preceding fastballs, even if that’s not the case. This method does remove a significant bias that often exists when doing PITCHf/x analysis—miscalibration.

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PITCHf/x data can shed light on pitchers' throwing mechanics.

Pitcher Release Points

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June 22, 2008 12:00 am

Ballad of the Fatigued


Eric Seidman

In the second part of two, a further investigation of the impact of having to throw a lot, early on starting pitchers.

The act of pitching is classified as anaerobic exercise due to the short bursts of fairly maximum-effort activity. The more pitches thrown, the more energy is required to complete the activity. Imagine executing a bench press rep at a weight slightly higher than your comfort zone; now, imagine doing that same rep every thirty seconds for a total of forty-five times. It sounds tough, and it would push most humans past their general level of stamina, all the way into fatigue-ville. Keeping that kind of effort in mind, that is essentially the equivalent of throwing 40-plus pitches in a single inning.

Last time out, we explored the effects of these innings with high pitch counts-those in which the pitcher threw 40 or more pitches in the first inning-on their fastballs within the individual inning, and then over the rest of the game, and then we looked at the performance record of the pitchers involved in their subsequent starts. Our results showed that there minimal effects in the actual inning, but as the game went on it became clear that those who threw the hardest suffered the most. They rely on velocity to succeed, and after their long initial inning, they'd lost the zing on their fastballs.

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An in-depth discussion about mechanics with the motion analysis coordinator and coach of the National Pitching Association.

Pitching is both an art and a science, and from youth leagues to the big leagues, so is the challenge of keeping pitchers healthy. The National Pitching Association (NPA) is on the cutting edge of research and instruction on all three fronts, and many of their concepts are shared in their forthcoming book, Arm Action, Arm Path, and the Perfect Pitch: a Science-Based Guide to Pitching Health and Performance. David talked to the NPA's motion analysis coordinator and coach, Doug Thorburn.

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