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One positive for me out of yesterday’s debacle was getting to see Ottavino pitch at the big league level. I had missed his other starts because of various family commitments. The observation that I remembered most from watching (watching might be the wrong word as my one year old was playing in the living room so I had 1.5 eyes on him and 0.5 eyes on the game) was that it seemed like his velocity was noticeably lower towards the end of his appearance than it was at the beginning. That seemed like an easy enough observation to verify using pitch f/x data. Here’s the chart using data from all of Ottavino’s innings to date this season.

So yes it appears that Ottavino’s velocity does decrease over the course of a start. This confirmed observation leads to two primary follow on questions
1. How normal is this for SPs?
2. What is the effect on performance?

I’ll tackle the questions in that order. Unfortunately with the data I have in front of me right now I can’t calculate the MLB averages for the above curve, so I’ll have to rely on anecdotal comparisons. First a comparison with the other Cardinal SPs turned reliever at the MLB level.

For Boggs the data is limited to starts only, and for Hawksworth it is all data from this year. The similarities between Boggs and Ottavino are striking. I’m also fairly impressed with Hawksworth holding his velocity. It would be interesting to see if he could do so beyond 70 pitches.

Now how does it compare to a few established MLB starters

Clearly the SPs kept their velocity longer than Ottavino/Boggs. On a tangent, I find the Carp 2009 line very interesting in that he got stronger as he went along; something that he hasn’t done as much of in 2010. One could argue that the two points of comparison were a little unfair in that they are SPs that don’t rely much on velocity and can “cruise” at a lower velocity. I offer the following as a comparison to a guy that is more reliant on velocity.

I scaled the y on this one as a percentage of max velocity so as to make the comparison a little easier. There are more similarities between these two curves, but it still seems like Ubaldo does a slightly better job of holding his velocity.

As far as question number two goes, it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions because of the sample sizes we are forced to deal with. However, the data to this point is fairly overwhelming (but not necessarily predictive).

First a table focused on the fastball

Pitches FB wOBAc Sample
1-50 0.085 21
51+ 0.628 14

And then an overall summary

Pitches wOBA Sample
1-50 0.268 36
51+ 0.644 31

So far Ottavino has gotten much better results through the first 50 pitches than he has through the next 50. Is that predictive? Based on the sample size probably not; however it is interesting to note / store away.  At worst maybe they’ll have another Boggs like conversion oppurtunity.

Steve Sommer

Simulation analyst by day, father and baseball nerd by night

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