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Hello. Ball-tracking technology—PITCHf/x and its offspring—has changed the way we look at the game of baseball. This is a place for our writers to share pitcher profiles and thumbnails, topical information about games, trades and anything else we can think of that ball-tracking technology helps us understand or enjoy.
Tuesday, January 31, 2012
On April 29, 2011, during the top of the fifth inning of a Toronto at New York game, Yankee pitcher Freddy Garcia threw a split-fingered fastball to the Jay's Juan Rivera. A video of the pitch was captured by YES-MO, the high-speed video camera from the Yankees television broadcast, with sufficient resolution to allow both the spin rate and the rotation axis of the ball to be determined with reasonable precision.
Before reading on, you should take a look at the video, paying attention to the following details:
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Friday, January 27, 2012
David Price’s pitching repertoire has gone through quite a transformation over his big league career, as Mike Fast explained after the 2010 season. In 2011, Price made a further change to his repertoire by adding a cut fastball to the mix.
In 2008, when Price first reached the majors, he threw a hard slider. Since then, however, he’s essentially replaced it with a cutter that is about three miles per hour faster than the ’08 slider. Price says that he first used the cutter in a game on April 18 against the White Sox. Looking at his location with both the slider and cutter on the following graph, you can see that he’s taken a different approach in strikeout situations with his new pitch (the black bars represent the edges of an approximate 24-inch strike zone).
The slider was used to induce batters to chase pitches out of the zone, while Price adopted the cutter as a pitch that he can backdoor on right-handed hitters. To further illustrate this, here are his two-strike cutter locations to right-handed batters only.
Price has typically been relying on fastballs in the mid-90s to pick up swinging strikes. It’ll be interesting to see if he continues to develop his cutter as a finesse pitch to offset his power arsenal.
Cliff Lee can be described as a surgeon. Hitters may feel more like he's performing a vivisection, but that's just a matter of perspective. Lee's impressive collection of scalpels includes a cutter, curve, sinker, change-up and slider.
But it's his fifth pitch, a four-seam fastball, which is our focal point for the moment. Specifically, where he throws it and when. And to whom. So three focal points. Stop counting.
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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
It's been a crazy offseason in St. Louis. Along with some new faces—or old ones in new roles—the Cardinals fans will be reacquainted with the second dome on their two-headed ace. New elbow not withstanding, it stands to reason that the youthful Adam Wainwright will return as 1a, not 1b, over the slowly, but gracefully, aging Chris Carpenter.
And it's not just some team's ace coming back, not just a Cy Young candidate, but one of the best curveballs in baseball. He'll rejoin a rotation that has some pretty snazzy curveballs, if not as effective.
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Monday, January 23, 2012
For the second time this offseason, Kevin Slowey has been traded. This time, he’s going from the Rockies to the Indians. The return for Colorado is 24-year-old reliever Zach Putnam, who had a cup of coffee with the Indians in September. You know what that means? It means that we have 114 pitches worth of PITCHf/x for Putnam’s debut. Before we get into that, though, let’s get a few things out of the way:
For his stint with the Indians (7.1 innings, 10 hits, five runs, no walks, two hit batsmen, nine strikeouts), I could identify three clear pitches from Putnam. About half the time against righties and two-thirds of the time against lefties, Putnam relied on a 91 mph fastball. They appear to be predominately four-seamers, though there are likely some two-seamers or maybe even cutters in there as well. A picture of his four-seam grip can be seen here.
His out-pitch against both lefties (33 percent) and righties (30 percent) was a splitter that looks early on to be a very good offering. On average, it was about six mph off of his fastball with nine extra inches of downward action; it got a swing-and-miss on 48 percent of swings against it. You can see his splitter grip here.
Putnam also threw a handful of low-80s sliders that didn’t have a whole lot of depth and were left up (only three of Putnam’s 17 sliders were below the bottom of the strike zone*, while half of his 36 splitters were). This looks like his slider grip.
*In this context, I am using a fixed vertical strike zone of 1.75 feet above ground to 3.4 feet above ground.
Pitch results are in the table below.
# LHB RHB Ball Called Whiff Foul In Play Fastball 61 29 32 21 10 3 14 13 Splitter 36 15 21 8 3 12 7 6 Slider 17 1 16 7 5 1 0 4
Putnam will be on the Rockies' 40-man roster, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him get a serious look for a bullpen spot out of spring training. His splitter is particularly intriguing.