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Fun With Numbers

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It's been too long since the last time I properly extolled the many virtues of Fangraphs. Well, today gives me good reason - just Wednesday David Appelman added a new feature.

I put up something new today which I think is very cool. Under each pitcher page, in the very bottom table, you can now see the percentage of each type of pitch a player threw and its average velocity. These stats are available from 2005-2007 and will be updated daily when the season starts.
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FB: Fastball, CT: Cutter, CB: Curveball, SL: Slider, CH: Changeup, SF: Split-fingered Fastball, KN: Knuckleball, XX: Unidentified, PO: Pickoff Attempt

The data comes from Baseball Info Solutions, and since they track nearly every pitch of the season, this helps conquer some of the sample size issues you run into with Josh Kalk's PITCHf/x tool (among other, less important things). So, without further ado, here are a few bits that I found interesting:

  • JJ has all but abandoned his slider and changeup and become a two-pitch pitcher. 92.7% of his pitches last year were fastballs and splitters, as opposed to 76.3% in 2006. This is good news, because JJ's slider and changeup are bad. They're useful only as show-me pitches to use every other game or so.

  • Brandon Morrow threw 80% fastballs. Fangraphs will include this information in its leaderboards before long, but for the time being, we're left going through individual player pages, and so far Brian Bruney's the only guy I've found with a higher percentage (82.2%). I don't care what anybody says - Morrow's secondary pitches cannot possibly be ready for a feature role after being left to atrophy to such an extent. They still need a lot of work.

  • Felix threw 57% fastballs, which is right in line with most of the other ace pitchers in the league. It's not the frequency that's the problem - it's the predictable patterns.

  • Felix also threw a ton more sliders, at the expense of his curveball and changeup. It's no wonder lefties give him so much trouble. In order to become the dominant ace we all expect, he either needs to get better command of his two-seamer, or he needs to get his changeup back to what it was in 2005.

  • Felix's average fastball was 0.8mph faster than Morrow's. Felix is a starter.

  • Like JJ, Erik Bedard is a two-pitch pitcher (FB + CB = 92.1%). Like JJ, Erik Bedard's two pitches are very very good.

  • Why did Miguel Batista go from being a groundball pitcher in 2006 to a bit of a flyball pitcher in 2007? Possibly because he threw 50% more cutters, which tend to be hit in the air. It also appears to be a more difficult pitch with which to make contact, given the bump in his strikeout rate. I wonder if this is Miguel adapting his style to the ballpark.

  • Horacio Ramirez also tried throwing more cutters and fewer fastballs. It didn't work as well.

  • Based on observation (rather than numerical analysis), it seems like the typical velocity improvement that comes from moving into the bullpen is around 1-2mph on the fastball, and sometimes a little more on the offspeed stuff. Obviously not everyone is affected the same way. Shawn Chacon, for example, gained 3-4mph, while Aaron Sele gained nothing. But it does appear reasonably consistent across the board.

There's a bunch more stuff in there, but I'll let you play around with it by yourself. In the future I'd be interested to know the average annual standard deviation in individual pitch frequency so we can have a better idea of when a pitcher's actually changed his approach. If a guy's fastball rate goes from 60% one year to 63% the next, is that significant, or random fluctuation?

That's for another time, though. For now, we have more than enough to keep ourselves entertained. Between this and Josh Kalk's PITCHf/x stuff, it's incredible to see how far we've come in just a few short years. That this kind of information is readily available to whoever wants it is just mind-blowing.