I wish I had a positive post this morning after last night’s debacle, but instead you’ll have to settle for one that’s mainly negative with a hint of optimism. I’ve done some pitch f/x analysis on 3 of the top hitters for the Cards (Holliday, Pujols, Rasmus), but have yet to really dive in on any of the “lesser” hitters. I’ll start today with Yadier Molina, who despite his All-Star status is sporting a meager 0.279 wOBA.

First, looking at horizontal pitch location slices

The glaring difference is on pitches middle away where he was successful last season and has been abysmal this year. The hidden positive to that is at first glance it appears he has been unlucky on this set of pitches. (As a good companion point here read Erik’s xBABIP post). If I compare batted ball types across the two seasons he has actually hit more LDs and FBs and less GBs on the pitches middle away this year. They just haven’t found holes. Just looking at LDs on these pitches: in 2009 he lined out on 6 of 26 (23%) and in 2010 he has lined out on 8 of 15 (53%). These numbers don’t reflect whether or not the ball was smoked or is a flare, but I do find 2010 to be a little fluky either way. Hopefully Yadi will have a little better luck in the 2nd half.

Something a little more disturbing, although likely fixable, comes to light when looking at his performance in vertical pitch location sliced. The 2009 to 2010 difference is minimal, so I aggregated into the following chart to get a larger overall sample size

The chart pretty clearly shows that Yadi is much better when he stays in the zone (as are most hitters) and he falls off of a cliff when he goes below the zone. So far that’s nothing out of the ordinary; however when we look at swing rate from this year to last year we see a potential problem.

Yadi has been swinging at many more pitches below the strike zone this year; pitches that he has proven unable to handle over the past two years. Eliminating those additional swings could go a long way towards improving his production in the second half.

With Blake Hawksworth slated for a start at Coors, Azruavatar (Future Redbirds Editor and friend of PAH9) tweeted me a question about how changeups behave there. In the interest of time (i.e. I don’t have a whole lot) I just looked up some anecdotal evidence. I compared the changeups in 2009 of a couple pitchers, vice doing a massive study. The velocity was unchanged for the Coors and Non-Coors samples. The movement is in the tables below

Horizontal Movement
Pitcher Non Coors Coors
Jason Hammel -8.6 -4.5
Ubaldo Jimenez -6.6 -4.1
Vertical Movement
Pitcher Non Coors Coors
Jason Hammel 4.4 1.7
Ubaldo Jimenez 4.7 2.8

So it looks like the change ups are moving less in Coors than they do on the road for these two guys.  This alone doesn’t say how effective Hawk’s change up will be as that would require additional analysis.   Clearly this was not an exhaustive study, but still something to store away as you watch today’s game.

UPDATE:  I’m an idiot and can’t read my own chart.  It looks like they are moving less horizontally and MORE vertically.  the lower numbers would be more vertical movement… Sorry.

Finally, the data was unscrubbed from MLBAM, so there may be classification issues and potentially calibration issues.

First off Happy 4th of July to all.  Hope you enjoy the time with friends and family (or whatever you choose to do).

I wanted to do a quick post investigating Colby’s success this year compared to last year at the plate.  I dug through the pitch f/x data and came up with a couple of observations.  First he’s hitting fastballs from RHers with much more authority this year (a 0.589 wOBAc compared to a 0.346 wOBAc in 2009).  Second he’s crushing the pitch middle in as shown in the following chart

I’d assume there’s a large overlap between the two points also (a lot of fastballs middle in being hit with power).

Those two points are the primary differences between the two seasons that I noticed.  There are other differences of course, but those appear minor compared to those I’ve highlighted.

UPDATE:  His HR’s for AZ

Warning: analysis with small sample sizes forthcoming.

Jeff Suppan’s starts with the Cardinals have been less disastrous than I (along with most other sabermetricians) would have predicted. How much of that success (can you really call 4-5 innings of blah pitching a success? Guess it depends on your standards.) is driven by luck is an entirely different story. To tell that story I’d be much more comfortable having additional data. In the interim let’s look at how Suppan’s approach has changed from his time in Milwaukee.

First pitch selection

Pitch mil sln
CH 13.05% 14.35%
CU 14.78% 11.81%
FC 19.77% 8.86%
FF 37.62% 62.03%
SL 14.78% 2.95%

A lot more fastballs, and he has basically scrapped the cutter/slider. This breakdown is more aligned with his previous tour with the Cardinals.

Now for location. His distribution of vertical location hasn’t changed much, so we’ll skip to horizontal location. First against LHB

Suppan v LHB

Then against RHB

Suppan v RHB

It looks like he’s throwing more strikes in general to LHBs (usually zone is considered from around -1 to 1) and less that are way off the plate outside. Against RHBs it’s almost the opposite as he has fairly dramatically shifted location to the outer half and off the plate outside.

So those are the primary differences I could find by quickly looking at the data. Note I didn’t even try to correlate the differences with any “success” improvements; my main goal was just to point out some differences to watch for. If he has continued “success” maybe we’ll revisit the issue in a couple starts.

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?

Continue reading »

On my way to lunch today (Friday) I caught a bit of Bernie’s radio show to include his stat of the day segment.  This particular stat was about Matt Holliday’s ability to hit the inside fastball.  The basic gist was that Holliday is doing just fine on the inside fastball (albeit Bernie used BA as his stat of choice).  I thought it might be interesting to dig a little deeper using pitch F/X data.  I decided to take the plate in horizontal slices and calculate Holliday’s wOBA when he makes contact with pitches in the various slices.  The following chart is the result.

The horizontal location is referenced from the catcher’s perspective so the -1.5-1 is off the the plate inside.  Generally speaking the strike zone is more or less -1 to 1, so keep that in mind when you look at this chart.  My feel from the chart is that in general Holliday covers the entire plate pretty well on fastballs with the exception of off the plate inside.  Yes, he historically does a little better out over the plate, but it’s not a dramatic difference.  Ironically, so far this year he’s been better on the inner half.

This data was grabbed before the start of the Arizona series.

We get a reprieve from the endless Penny puns, at least for a couple of weeks. The Cardinals rosily think Penny will require just the minimum 15 day stay on the DL.

In the meantime, we get to see PJ Walters, one of my old pet prospects. After taking a break after the tragic death of his infant daughter, Walters has been on a tear ever since coming back to Triple-A Memphis.  In 19 and 2/3rd innings, PJ has 23 K’s, 3 walks and has allowed just 9 hits.

The biggest chink in Walter’s armor has been his fastball velocity. Back in his halcyon days when he was demolishing the Florida State League with an 86 MPH fastball and his screwy-changeup, but since then he’s up to a respectable 89-90MPH.

The aforementioned change-up is Walter’s claim to fame, although I think saying it has screwball movement is a stretch, although outside of Danny Ray Herrera, we have no real screwballers to compare him with.

That is a fair amount of drop with the pitch, and he gets 15.4% whiffs with the offering. His slider was even more impressive, getting 25% whiffs with the pitch. Walters hopefully will carry over his early season success while holding it down for Penny. I’d like to see Walters give the Cardinals no reason to rush Penny back. With his ability to miss bats, maybe he’ll be impressive enough to stick as a reliever.

Last night Penny induced 11 groundballs. Here’s his “movement” graph, via Texas Leaguers:

Penny had a 4 seam fastball going that he threw 45% of the time. The pitch had about -6.5 inches of “tail” and 13 inches of “rise”, at an average speed of 94 MPH.

He threw a “change”at an average of 89 MPH. The pitch had a lot less “rise” – 6 inches, and had -9.4 inches of tail. He threw the pitch 20% of the time.

Like Erik, I’m sure we all want to momentarily forget Jason Motte; however, I was curious how the amount of fastballs he throws to a batter in an at-bat affects the outcome of said at-bat. Clearly this stems form the at-bat that he gave up the home run in which he threw 6 consecutive fastballs.

First Motte in a few situations

Situation wOBA n
All ABs 0.346 240
5+ FB/AB 0.439 47
All ABs>5 pitches 0.350 89

The table is the situation, wOBA against, and the sample size. The 5+ FB/AB situation is at-bats in which the pitcher throws 5 or more fastballs within that at-bat. Clearly our samples are small, but there appears to be a sizable difference between when Motte gives a guy a bunch of fastballs and when he doesn’t. Out of context though, these numbers are somewhat meaningless. Maybe all pitchers are this way. With that in mind I pulled a couple of other pitchers (ideally I’d do league average, but I’m limited on access to my data as I write this). First Adam Wainwright

Situation wOBA n
All ABs 0.285 967
5+ FB/AB 0.333 38
All ABs>5 pitches 0.310 313

The thing I pull out of this is that he was forced into throwing 5+ fastballs much less often than Motte, primarily because he has more weapons to work with. For another point of comparison I offer Chris Perez

Situation wOBA n
All ABs 0.303 238
5+ FB/AB 0.325 33
All ABs>5 pitches 0.319 100

About the same frequency, but much better results. Possible explanation would be better movement on his fastball, and the fact that he does have the slider that the hitters need to think about too.

Clearly nothing conclusive here, but it’s definitely interesting.  Probably even insightful.

Let’s forget Jason Motte for a minute. Here’s what’s important about today’s game: Brad Penny is the latest Dave Duncan convert, or at least it seems to be that way. Last season, Penny threw his splitter/change-up about 7.5% of the time. The average speed of the pitch was about 86 MPH. The pitch had about -8 inches of horizontal spin deflection, and 7 inches of vertical spin deflection. This isn’t a pitch to be confused with a sinker. The pitch he was throwing today (mostly those little yellow dots) were 89 MPH on average, with -7 inches of horizontal spin deflection (tail) 5 inches of vertical spin deflection. So the pitch has more speed,  lots of tail and more sink.

These pitches are clearly distinguished from his 4-seam fastball, and he threw it 37% of the time. He induced 13 ground ball outs. Welcome to the Cult of the Two-Seam Fastball, Brad Penny.

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