Jeff mentioned originally doing a Felix PITCH f/x and then got sidetracked by rationalizing our continued interest in failure. Well, far be it from me to deny all of you some pretty pictures to look at and Jeff seems like he needs some cheering up and PITCH f/x is like baseball nerd porn.
Let's begin with how Felix starts batters off. Here are plots of Felix's first pitch in each at bat, separated by batter handedness and nothing else. These are heat plots so the brighter the color the more often Felix hits that spot. RHB first, LHB next to it.
The color of the spot is determined by the percentage of pitches landing in that area and since there's significantly less first pitches to RHB (107) compared to against LHB (161), that is why there's nothing as cold as green in the RHB plot.
You'll notice how Felix has a distinguishable pattern to his approach stating off against LHB, that to stay away from them. This is a wise strategy and for the most part he's very successful. Contrast that to the RHB plot where Felix is much more inconsistent and the groupings that do appear are troubling. Notably, that giant blob dead center and elevated. That's a bad place to pitch. That's an incredibly bad place to pitch when batters are sitting first pitch fastball. This also helps to explain why Felix's groundball ratio is heavily down so far this year. These are not the plots of a groundball pitcher, there's far too much elevation.
Now, let's move on from the 0-0 counts to all pitches Felix has thrown in 2008 and while keeping the breakdown by batter handedness, lets add a breakdown by pitch type according to MLBAM. First, fastballs to RHB and LHB.
Roughly the same pattern against RHB where Felix either isn't aiming for, or isn't able to hit the corners of the zone and is all over the place with the biggest groupings in the center of the zone between the thighs and the belt a.k.a. the meatball zone. That's a deadly place to toss fastballs.
We still see that pattern against LHB to stay away from hitters, but again, what we don't see is Felix hitting that low *and away* corner. Rather, it's much closer to high and away which ties back to those missing groundballs. Furthermore, the reason pitchers try to pitch away is to make it more difficult for hitters to pull the ball. We often hear about good hitters taking what the pitcher gives them and shoving those away pitchers to the opposite field. Well, guess what the opposite field is for left-handed batters? Leftfield. Remember who mans leftfield when Felix pitches?
Moving on from fastballs, lets look at Felix's offspeed stuff. And now we'll get rid of the heat map style plot and this time the colors denote pitch type. Blue dots are changeups, green dots are sliders and yellow dots are curveballs.
Good thing Felix gets a lot of called strikes on the curveballs because they're landing dead center in the zone to righties. As expected the sliders are going low and away and there are very few changeups since those will tend to tail back into the batter, which is usually not a very good proposition. On the whole, this is a good map for Felix's breaking stuff. The curves are getting him called strikes and the sliders are off the plate and, importantly, low.
We see a lot more changeups to the left handed batters and a corresponding drop in sliders. It's been noted before that Felix has been upping his use of the change and reducing his use of the slider and this illustrates that it might be an effect of Felix facing a slightly higher proportion of lefthanded batters so far in 2008. A very good sign is looking at where the biggest cluster of changes land, that spot on the outside black at the 1/3 line of the zone. Going back up, you'll notice that the brightest spot for fastballs to land to LHB is the outside black at the 2/3 line of the zone. This means that Felix is throwing the changes roughly at the same place he throws his fastballs, but the changes drop more due to the decreased velocity, which helps with deceivingly the batter.
The curves and sliders form a sort of continuous line from high and away to low and in with Felix using only curves up and away and burying sliders down and in. I'm not sure if that's meaningful or not.
Also noticeably missing from all six of these plots is a consistent hitting of the lower left hand corner (down and in to RHB, down and away to LHB) or the upper right hand corner (up and away to RHB, up and in to LHB). You'll notice that those are the corners perpendicular to Felix's arm slot and the ability to hit those corners are one the best measures of a pitcher's command because it's the more difficult areas to hit. Again, this might not be bad command, this might be a plan, we cannot know, but it's worth watching since low and away is one of the best pitch locations there is and and up and in is a tough place to get around on fastballs. Other than that, get the ball down Felix. Get the ball down.