A Baseball Weblog

Sunday, November 20, 2011

O'Connor PITCHf/x

The Yankees recently picked up southpaw Mike O'Connor on a minor league deal.  O'Connor, who is now 31, has pitched in 35 major league games; he made appearances for the Nationals in 2006 and 2008 and spent some time with the Mets last year.  Only one of his major league games since 2006 has been a start; the Yankees will look at him strictly as a reliever with Damaso Marte and Pedro Feliciano going down with injuries.

We have 14 games and 14 2/3 innings' worth of PITCHf/x data on O'Connor.  As little as overall performance metrics mean with this kind of sample, individual pitch type metrics mean even less, so I won't spend too much time on that stuff.

#     Whiff%  Ball%   GB%     
256     22%     46%     33%

Pitch   #      mph      pfx_x   pfx_z
   FF    162     87      +7.6    +9.8
   SL    35      81      +0.5    +3.0
   CU    32      74      -5.1    -6.0
   CH    27      77      +9.0    +9.4    

  • O'Connor's arsenal consists of a tailing fastball, a tight/cutter-ish slider, a curve, and a change that looks similar to his fastball but is 10 mph slower.
  • He's been fastball/slider recently.  He didn't throw any changeups this year, despite facing righties in 14 of his 29 plate appearances.  He only threw two curves.
  • He looks like an extreme flyball pitcher.  His groundball rate in 105 2006 innings (BIS data) was 36%.  
Soft-tosser, lots of walks, lots of flyballs.  

Friday, September 23, 2011

PITCHf/x data for Brackman and Betances

Finally, Andrew Brackman and Dellin Betances got to make their major league debuts.  They both pitched in Thursday’s 15-8 Yankees loss, with varying levels of success.  Brackman pitched an inning and a third scoreless with a few hits and a walk, while Betances walked four and hit a batter in just two thirds of an inning.  After plenty of hype, we can look at some PITCHf/x data for these guys.

(charts are for horizontal/vertical movement and horizontal movement/velocity)

mph # LHB  RHB Ball Called Whiff Foul
Cutter 91.5 24 11 13 7 4 3 4 6
Curveball 75.6 7 3 4 5 1 0 1 0
Slider 84.6 1 0 1 0 0 0 1 0

Brackman was definitely throwing a fastball with cutting action (both horizontal movement in on lefties and sink, a la Rivera).  This might be his cutter grip, but it's hard to tell on that photo.  There is photo evidence of a two-seam fastball as well, though he didn't throw one yesterday (also, that's an old pic).


mph # LHB RHB Ball Called Whiff Foul X
Fastball 93.3 22 13 9 16 2 0 2 2
Curveball 83.3 4 3 1 3 0 0 1 0

As you can see by the pitch distribution, Betances had no control.  Of his 26 pitches, 19 were balls.  He showed a straight four-seam fastball (grip) and a hard curveball that he throws with a knuckle grip.  In terms of velocity and movement, it's similar to A.J. Burnett's.  

I'll try to find some game photos from Thursday (doesn't look to be anything available at the time of this writing), particularly to see what Brackman's doing with his fastball. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moore pitch grips (with video!)

After yesterday's double-clinching celebration, the Yankees get to face one baseball's best prospects on the mound today, Matt Moore.  This will be Moore's first start; the 22 year old got two big league relief appearances under his belt last week.  I wrote about Moore at Fangraphs the other day, and since he hasn't pitched since then, everything there is still relevant today.  As something of an addendum to that, I've linked in this post to pitch grips of Moore's four-seam fastball, circle changeup, and spike curveball, courtesy of Four-Seam Images (taken during minor league games from this year).  When analyzing and researching pitchers, it's always good to get a look at how the pitch is actually held, so hopefully this is informative.  For future posts on specific pitchers, I'll include pitch grips whenever possible. 

**EDIT**: Mike Fast just sent me this video of Moore (from 2010) discussing his pitch grips and mechanics.  It's very interesting! 

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A blip on the radar

We’ve grown accustomed to seeing David Robertson in the 93-94 mph range this year, more than 2 mph faster than he where he was at when he first came up in 2008.  In the 8th inning of yesterday’s game, he didn’t bring his velocity with him, averaging under 91 mph for the first time all year:

In Saturday’s one-run game, Joe Girardi opted to use Rafael Soriano in the 8th instead of Robertson, a technique he has not employed much this summer.  Is Robertson fatigued?  Injured?  Was Friday just an anomaly?  We’ll see.  

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What to make of Harden? Updated

In July, before Rich Harden's last start against the Yankees, I briefly examined his 2011 whiff rates compared to his previous seasons.  After a terrible 2010, his fastball was back to its normal excellence, but his changeup remained at/slightly under the league average after being one of the best bat-missers in the league in 2008 and 2009.  The same chart is shown below, updated:

It looks like he's on the right track, as the changeup has climbed to just under 40% - not quite his peak, but that kind of rate is still more than 20% better than league average.  As it was earlier in the season, his fastball is looking great.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Athletics vs Yankees, game one: Brandon McCarthy

Taking the mound for the Athletics tonight against the Yankees is righty Brandon McCarthy.  You might remember him as a top prospect with the White Sox about seven or eight years ago or so.  Back then he was a power pitcher with a four-seam/curveball combination, but he's completely made himself as a sinker/cutter groundball guy with much better control (career low 3.7% walks per plate appearance, fourth best among pitchers with 100+ innings pitched).  Dave Allen had a good look at McCarthy a few weeks ago, so I'll make this brief.  The charts and metrics that you often see on this site are applied below to McCarthy's pitches.




*non-swing called rate; called strikes divided by called strikes plus balls
The four-seamers are rare, and some may be misclassifications.  The ones I identified were often thrown in two-strike counts.

Strikes with everything but the changeup.  McCarthy's not a bat-misser, but that's just fine.  His sinker looks like a pretty good groundball pitch, as does the curve.  

The next graphs show plate locations split up into 5 by 5 quadrants (OZ = out of zone, IZ = in zone).

The sinker, cutter, and curve stay low, while the four-seamer is elevated.  The cutter stays in on lefties and away from righties, while he's shown a propensity to keep the sinker away from both lefties and righties.  

This post wouldn't be complete without a mention of McCarthy's Twitter feed.  He seems like a really nice and thoughtful guy (with a sense of humor).  He's been kind enough to respond to my questions/comments when they've come up, so I certainly appreciate that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hit graphs

This is presented without much explanation.  Below is a chart of the Yankees' starting lineup (and some prominent part-time players) in hit graph form.

Derek Jeter's obviously the king, as he reached 3,000 hits earlier this year. At 2,762 for his career, Alex Rodriguez looks like he's got a handle on entering the 3K club as well. Two guys who have really leveled are Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones, who were on the fast track before being hit by injuries/general ineffectiveness. Robinson Cano is a hit-machine, though he he's not quite at Jeter's pace through his age 28 season. Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson are similar in their hit profiles and aren't on any sort of special pace.  Jorge Posada is notable here as a good player who's been able to cut it for a long time (notice the slight bump at 2007, when he got a career best 171 hits).  I put Eduardo Nunez on the graph since he's played a lot this year, but he's no more than a blip on the radar here as a second-year role player.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Who is Garrett Richards?

Honestly, I don't really know.  The Angels' rookie is set to make his major league debut against the Yankees tonight, coming straight up from Double-A.  The 23-year-old has seen his strikeout rate drop from over 1 per inning to about 6 and a half per 9 this year, but he should be a big-time ground ball guy.  We actually have a little bit of PITCHf/x data on him from the 2010 Cactus League; Harry Pavlidis covered it for The Hardball Times last year.  In short, Harry found a 93 mph sinker, 93 mph cutter (maybe it's a four-seamer that gets natural cutting action), 87 mph slider, 85 mph changeup.

I asked Sam Miller, who writes about the Angels for the Orange County Register, if he could provide any further scouting on Richards:

"4-seamer in mid/upper 90s to righties; 2-seamer to lefties gets tons of grounders; occasional plus slider; so-so curve and change ... strikeout rate nothing special, but he can get in a strikeout roll and do double-digits.  Very loose comp: Chatwood w/control."

Tyler Chatwood, by the way, is set to make the start on Thursday against Bartolo Colon.  As for Richards, his stuff looks pretty nasty.  I'll probably have a post on THT Live tomorrow with a PITCHf/x recap of his debut. 

Also, read Miller's post on Richards from this morning.  

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pitch breakdown from Nova's gem

Fair to say that Ivan Nova doesn't want to go back to the minor leagues?  With his back against the wall in a battle with Phil Hughes for the last rotation spot, Nova turned in the best start of his career.  Over 7 2/3 innings, he allowed 1 run on 6 hits.  Even more impressive is that he struck out 10 and walked not a single batter.  Some quick math tells me that's a 73 game score.

As he did in his two other superb 2011 starts (6/20 against Cincy, 7/30 against Baltimore), Nova relied on his new slider today.  He threw 25, which was the most of any start aside from the start against the Reds, in which he threw 26 sliders.  Pitch results for all of his four pitches are in the table below. 

mphvs LHBvs RHBBallCalledWhiffFoulIn Play


For some more reference, I've included a color-coded chart of Nova's spin deflection (pitch movement) from tonight's game.  His slider gets unusual movement (it actually moves armside or "backs up"), and because of this, Gameday often labels it as a fastball, change, or cutter.  It really is looking like a typical cutter, since it has plenty of velocity and not a whole lot of break.  Nova calls it a slider, so I'll stick with that label for now.  

Remember that these are from the catcher's perspective and are in inches of movement relative to a theoretical spinless pitch. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Another new curveball from Hughes

Phil Hughes had what was probably his best start of 2011 yesterday, throwing six shutout innings while walking none and striking out four.  If it hadn't been for the rain during the seventh inning, Hughes certainly would have pitched more, since he only had 66 pitches in his outing.  In addition to hitting 95 mph, something that we had not seen this year, Hughes unleashed a new variation on his curveball, which he seems to be constantly tweaking.  The first one he threw was a nasty one with two strikes to A.J. Pierzynski that registered at 82 mph, which is harder than Hughes has ever thrown his curve in the majors. Hughes confirmed after the game that it was indeed a hard curveball, as opposed to the slider he incorporated in March and ditched after two starts.  This is already the fourth time there's been some detectable change in Hughes' curveball:

  • During Hughes' dead-arm period in April, he was using the same spike grip on his curve that he had in 2010, but his lack of arm strength only allowed him to throw the ball in the low-70s, more than 4 mph softer than his 2010 average.
  • After his reinstatement from the DL on July 7th, Hughes started throwing his curveball harder, though not as hard as he did in 2010.
  • Before his July 17th start against the Blue Jays, Hughes announced that he would be switching to a new grip without a spiked finger in order to get a tighter break and more velocity, though the velocity didn't change a whole lot over his next three starts.
  • Yesterday, Hughes showed a pitch that looks more like a power curve, averaging around 80 mph.
This chart shows the vertical spin deflection (the number of inches the ball drops relative to a spinless pitch) plotted against velocity for Hughes's curveball this year.  You can see that the new grip (starting July 17th) gave the pitch less movement without much added velocity until yesterday.

What's strange is that the pitch he was throwing yesterday looks like what he was trying to throw since the 17th, but the velocity spike didn't come until now.  My guess is that Hughes sticks with this new variation of the curve, since he's said that he's been trying to add velocity to it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arrieta PITCHf/x

25-year old Jake Arrieta will take the mound for the Orioles as they try to salvage a split against the Yankees.  You can view Arrieta's season in a number of different ways: 10 wins on a terrible team is a good thing, 5.12 ERA is pretty frightening.  Even more frightening is his 5.29 FIP, due to a monstrous home run rate.  xFIP likes him more, pegging him at 4.32, which is serviceable.  Arrieta has a full five pitch mix, with good velocity and a huge curveball.  His slider can look like a cutter sometimes.  Enjoy the charts and graphs.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

The midseason Nova profile

As Joe Girardi put it, Ivan Nova will make his return to the majors in the tonight "unless something freaky happens."  Nova's had his ups and downs in his time as the Yankees' nominal fourth starter in 2011, and overall it would be fair to say that he did a serviceable job in the back-end of the rotation.  As a little refresher on Nova, here are the charts and graphs that you typically see around these parts. 

mph#LHB%RHB%SwingWhiff ZoneChaseWatchBallnsCallGB Rate



Nova has good tools, with his primary offering being a four-seam fastball that can get into the mid-90s with natural sink.  Despite his cross-seam grip and propensity to keep it up in the zone, the four-seamer generates plenty of ground balls.  His curveball is hard and has plenty of break, but it doesn't elicit nearly enough swings and whiffs for the amount of times it's thrown for a ball.  His changeup is pretty much a show-me pitch at this point.  I've mentioned his slider a few times on this site, and it still looks like an intriguing pitch with plenty of potential given that he keeps it down and has been able to miss bats with it.  He's brought it back into his repertoire after exiling it from April 19th to May 28th, though he still prefers the curve as his main offspeed pitch.

No doubt, this will be a big start for Nova.  Phil Hughes does not look like the pitcher he was last year, and if Nova makes a good impression tonight, he could be looked at as someone to take Hughes's rotation spot.

Burnett's adjustment on the mound

After yesterday's game, the Star Ledger's Marc Carig noted on Twitter that A.J. Burnett had shifted towards the third base side of the rubber in order to get a better angle to the plate.  The chart below, with "release" indicating the location of the ball at 50 feet from home plate, confirms this:

Only 2011 home games were used in order to limit the amount of park calibration variation.  You can see that his most recent start is a big horizontal release outlier, as he's shifted about a foot towards third base (or "negatively," since this is from the catcher's perspective) from where he usually is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hey, Doug Fister

The Mariners haven't won since July 5th.  They stumbled into New York and now are owners of a sixteen game losing streak.  Tonight, they will turn to Doug Fister, who has pitched well but has not much to show for it - he has a 3.30 ERA, but only a 3-11 record.  His best skill is his ability to prevent free passes, as his 2 walks per 9 innings is one of the best rates in the league.  He's striking out a few more guys this year than last year, but that's not really his game.  Isolated metrics for his five pitches are below.

He's primarily a sinkerballer these days, reserving the four-seam cheese for only a few occurrences per game.  

mph#LHB%RHB%SwingWhiff ZoneChaseBallnsCallGB Rate



Grounders come from the sinker, which is located higher in the zone than the typical sinker:

As for horizontal locations, the sinker, curve, and change are aimed gloveside, while the four-seamer and cutter go armside:

None of his pitches stand out as plus offerings, but his ability to get the ball over the plate consistently makes him at the very least a league average starter.