Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Hey gang.

Man, I've been a slacker this year.

Anyway, things are looking good for our heroes. I'm not completely optimistic about our chances in the postseason, but barring the biggest collapse in baseball history, we'll get there, and that's an achievement worth noting. Of course, this is a team designed to do more than just make the playoffs, and expectations are high, so I see the impending division title as more of a stepping stone than as an actual accomplishment.

I'll have my Watch List Summary up later this week, hopefully, and will probably be doing some kind of season summary/postseason preview when the time comes. But today I was reading this John Walsh article over at the Hardball Times and figured I'd pass it along.

I don't know if you've been following this, but on the MLB.com Gameday feature (their gamecast thing), most games track each pitch by a variety of measures that reflect its velocity and break. This is giving researchers opportunity to really break down what kind of pitches different pitchers have in their repertoire. Walsh has been at the forefront of this, and explains a bit in that article I link. He produces graphics that plot "pitches on a two-dimensional scatterplot, with the vertical and horizontal axes representing the pitch movement," with velocity "indicated by the color of each point."

He also links to scatterplots for various pitchers (organized alphabetically, pitchers with last names beginning A through E, F through L, M through R, and S through Z). Let's see what we can learn about various Angel pitchers from these plots.

Chris Bootcheck
Chris' fastball is pretty consistently in the low-90s. He really only seems to have two pitches, with a low-80s breaking ball that sometimes dips below 80. It looks like he also has a high-80s two-seamer or cutter, which has a similar horizontal movement to his curve, but obviously less vertical drop.

Bartolo Colon
Bartolo's velocity this year has been mostly acceptable, in the low-90s with his fastball a decent amount of the time. Of course, his four-seamer used to be in the mid- to high-90s. Colon's never really had a devastating breaking ball, and his slider has a lot less break than some of the other guys.

Kelvim Escobar
I've been interested to see how Kelvim's repertoire would look, given his smörgåsbord of pitches. His four-seam and two-seam fastballs are pretty evident. He also has two pitches in the 80-85 mph range; one -- his change -- has action substantially similar to his fastballs (though it breaks less horizontally), while the other -- his forkball/splitter -- breaks down. That's his "change/splitter combo" Rex is always chattering about on the telecasts, and when Escobar's in command of those pitches, it's incredibly effective. Add in his slider -- which moves just like his splitter, only slower -- and it's clear why he's been so effective in Angel red.

John Lackey
Lackey's another guy I thought we could learn about here. He came up as a fastball/slider guy, then they starting calling the slider a curve or a slurve when he started throwing some other slider/cutter thing, and last year he introduced a change to the whole mess. His fastball is clear on the chart, and in the middle of all the fastball plots is a pitch that runs 80-85: that's his change, and it moves similarly to his fastball, only with a bit more of a tail away from the left-handed batter.

His breaking balls are also fairly clear. The biggest break belongs to the big curve, which is in the mid- to high-70s. Another pitch in the low 80s has slightly less break. So that's his slider. It's of a similar velocity to his change, but moves in the opposite way.

Dustin Moseley
Moseley throws a straight change that in movement looks exactly like his fastball. He also has a slow curve that runs pretty close to 12-to-6.

Francisco Rodriguez
One notable thing about Frankie's fastball is its lack of horizontal movement. His change, however, is not too dissimilar to John Lackey's, though less extreme. His killer pitch, as we all know, is his breaking ball. I don't really think Frankie has two different breaking balls; he does get a bit more break when the pitch is slower than 80 mph then when it's in the low-80s, but I think that's physics as much as anything.

Ervin Santana
Ervin's fastball is consistently in the low-90s; velocity has not been his problem. Watching on TV, I often have trouble delineating Santana's change and slider, and this chart shows exactly why: he has two pitches of nearly identical break (more horizontal than vertical), one in the low- to mid-80s and one in the mid- to high-70s. He also has a smattering of pitches in the 80-85 range that move just like his fastball; I don't know if that's a straight change or a breaking ball that just doesn't break. We don't really have the data, but it would be interesting to compare his chart to last year's (when he was so much more successful) to see what differences there may be.

Joe Saunders
Joe's change is effective because it's movement is very close to his fastball's (with just a tad more drop). His high-70s curve has more vertical than horizontal movement.

Scot Shields
Scottie has the biggest gap between his fastball and slider, in terms of movement. His fastball is very consistent in velocity, and always rides back toward the third-base line. His slider is nearly as extreme in the opposite direction, and tends to straddle the 80 mph line (I've never gotten the impression that he has two breaking balls, and the movement on his pitches in that region are pretty much the same).

Justin Speier
I was surprised that Speier's fastball hits the high-80s as much as it does; it does ride up and in to the right-handed hitter, and is actually pretty similar to Shields' (though Speier's appears to be more consistent in its movement). I'm not really sure what his other two pitches are; I know he throws the splitter, I assume that's the one in the high-70s with more downward break, and the low-80s pitch with less break is a sinker or change; however, that slower pitch may be a slider (it's similar to Kelvim's slider) and the faster the splitter. Because he doesn't throw hard, there isn't a lot of variance between the velocity of Speier's different pitches, and none of them have a substantial horizontal break.

Jered Weaver
Like Frankie, Jered's fastball doesn't have much movement. His changeup, however, is substantially similar to Joe Saunders', only coming from the other side, of course. I'm surprised to see that his slider looks somewhat like Ervin's, as on TV it seems to have much more break than that.

Here is a chart that tries to break down each pitcher's pitch by break; the coordinates are (horizontal, vertical). There's a lot of guesswork, as I'm really just eyeballing the chart and guessing at where the average for each guy's pitch is, but it can let us know which pitchers have similar pitches.
           4-Fastball   2-Fastball   Curve   Change   Slider   Splitter
Bootcheck -3,10 3, 4 3, 0
Colon -8, 8 -9, 9 -7, 7 1, 2
Escobar -8,11 -1, 7 -1,11 1,-2 0,1
Lackey -9,10 -3,11 8,-4 -9, 9 1, 3
Moseley -9,10 -9,10 2,-7 -9,10
Rodriguez -1,12 -4, 6 5,-4
Santana -6,10 3, 1 2, 1
Saunders 9, 9 -1,-4 6,10
Shields -9, 9 4,-9
Speier -9, 9 -1, 5 -1, 0 1,1
Weaver -1,12 -6,11 3, 1
As you can see, just about everyone's four-seamer is substantially similar (in movement, not necessarily speed), though Bootcheck, Frankie, and Weaver are kind of outliers together. I made a separation between four- and two-seamers based on velocity, mostly, plus with Shields I just assume it's a two-seamer because of the crazy movement, I don't actually know. With Moseley, you see that it moves the same, so it's probably just the one kind of pitch vacillating between 89 and 91 or so.

As one might expect, John Lackey's curve is by far the biggest, while Frankie and Shields have the biggest slider. Kelvim and Speier get similar action on their splitters.

Anyway, that's that.

Great analysis. I love watching the pitch-by-pitch duel that develops between some of our pitchers and the opposition.

Shields' fastball is definitely a 2-seamer. Just wait for of Rex's X-MO shots and look at the spin.
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