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A Little Fun With Erik Bedard And PITCHf/x

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I don't have anything mindblowing to say about Bedard's performance this afternoon (good stuff, weak command), but it's been a while since the last time I did this, so I thought I'd throw up a couple charts.

Bedardrhb6_8_medium Bedardlhb6_8_medium

You've seen both of these before. The chart type, anyway. 96 of Bedard's 99 pitches were captured by PITCHf/x, with 71 of them coming against right-handed hitters. During these at bats he threw 46 fastballs, 24 curves, and one changeup (not shown). He spent a lot of time around the edges, which is usually a safe place to be when you're trying to avoid solid contact, but because he didn't have his best command he also spent a lot of time just outside of the zone. He did do a good job of keeping his fastball away from the middle of the plate. Bedard's fastball had strong velocity (91.8 average, topped out at 94), but it's a pretty straight pitch, and not the kind of thing he wants to put in the wheelhouse. He can get away with catching more of the plate with his curve since it's more difficult to hit, but even there he stayed around the edges. He seems to be fond of trying to get high-away called strikes and low swinging ones. The results weren't necessarily there today, but the intent certainly was. Dustin Pedroia just kept spoiling his best pitches.

Against lefties, Bedard threw 16 fastballs, eight curves, and one slider (not shown). You can clearly see him trying to stay away, as he didn't throw a single pitch in the strike zone on the inner half. He did center three fastballs, each of them coming early in at bats (two first pitches, one second pitch), but two of them were fouled off and Brandon Moss swung through the other. Once again you can see him trying to use the curve to induce weak contact off the end of the bat. With the fastball generally being up and away and the curve being down and away, it must've been difficult for left-handed hitters to distinguish between them, as they would've been in the same area until the curve fell off the table at the end. Interesting that, against lefties, Bedard didn't throw a single pitch below the knees. Small sample size warnings apply, but based on this it seems like he'd rather see lefties flail than swing over something low. Come to think of it, the only pitches he threw below the knees against righties were curves. I wonder if he's had some bad experiences with low fastballs in the past.

To change course a little bit, now I want to show you something that I first saw used by Josh Kalk over at THT, just because I think it's super cool. The following is what Erik Bedard's average fastball and curveball from this afternoon look like from the side:


...and this is what they look like from above:


PITCHf/x starts tracking 50 feet away from home plate, so 50 feet is what I'm sticking with. In the first image you can clearly see the big hump in his curveball, and over its final 40 feet in the air it dropped four feet nearly straight down. Put another way, Erik Bedard's average curveball this afternoon dropped from the batter's head to the batter's knees. Try reacting to that in half a second. (Bedard's curveball flies for ~0.5 seconds, while his fastball is closer to 0.4). You can also see that his curveball release point was a little higher than the one he used for his heater. From what I can tell, this has been a pretty consistent phenomenon across starts dating back to last year, and gun to my head I'd say this is how Bedard compensates for throwing a curve with so much break. He releases it a little higher so that it doesn't always just end up bouncing in the dirt. It seems like this might be a bit of a pitch-tip, but given how successful he was in 2007, it doesn't strike me as being a major concern.

The bottom image is a little more difficult to understand, but just think of it as a bird's eye view. 0 on the y axis refers to the center of the plate, so the pitches come from ~2.6 because Bedard is left-handed and therefore releasing on the left-hand side of the rubber. You can see his fastball with a little tailing action; at first it looks like it'll end up inside on a righty, but it runs away to the outer half. His curveball, meanwhile, does just the opposite, hovering outside before dropping in over the last several feet. It doesn't simply fall off the table - it falls off the table while moving a good horizontal 4-8 inches. So you can see why this pitch is so difficult for hitters to square up.

Nothing groundbreaking, but still, all kinds of fun stuff. I can hardly remember what it felt like to be a baseball fan before PITCHf/x. It must've been terrible.