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  1. if anything, i’d say james shields is the opposite of a backwards pitcher: he throws more fastballs in fastball counts and fewer fastballs in breaking ball counts

    Comment by timtebow — November 6, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

  2. For someone to be a backwards pitcher, doesn’t that mean they would throw a high number of fastballs in traditionally non-fastball counts?

    Comment by MSpitz — November 6, 2012 @ 1:21 pm

  3. Depends on how you want to define it, since technically all counts are fastball counts (some more, some less) given the percent of fastballs is always higher than off-speed. Arroyo, for me, is a backwards pitcher given the large split in the highest fastball counts. Shields fits only when looking at the lower-end–more than anyone, he avoids fastballs at the 51-58% fastball counts. No one throws fewer in those counts (save 0-2).

    Comment by Bill Petti — November 6, 2012 @ 1:27 pm

  4. I agree, you need to look at the trends not just the differences. Arroyo’s overall trend displays a backwards approach, Shields’ does not.

    Comment by Dave (UK) — November 6, 2012 @ 1:30 pm

  5. Fair point–Arroyo might be the most backwards overall. I could get behind that.

    Comment by Bill Petti — November 6, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

  6. John Rocker was pretty backwards.

    Comment by TKDC — November 6, 2012 @ 1:36 pm

  7. Was?

    Comment by Brandon Warne — November 6, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

  8. Speaking of backwards, isn’t the commentariat supposed to nitpick the writers?

    Comment by TKDC — November 6, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

  9. Agreed that Arroyo would be the most backwards pitcher, not so much with Shields. In an 0-2 count, with the hitter looking to protect the plate, I wouldn’t say it’s “backwards” at all for Shields to throw a change-up (his best pitch) or another off-speed pitch.

    I think it would make the most sense to divide the counts into two groups, say 0-2,1-2,2-2 counts, and then everything else. Then see who throws the lowest percentage of fastballs in the “everything else” counts, and the highest percentage of fastballs in the 2 strike counts. Then maybe add up the differences and see who has the highest?

    Comment by MSpitz — November 6, 2012 @ 2:16 pm

  10. Perhaps not as interesting, but why not give us the chart for SPs that throw the highest percentage of fastballs?

    Comment by guesswork — November 6, 2012 @ 3:13 pm

  11. I agree with MSpitz. I have always heard backwards as throwing fewer fastballs when behind in the count and more when ahead. The idea is that rather than getting ahead with the fastball and putting the hitter away with offspeed, you are getting ahead with offspeed and finishing him with fastballs, usually throwing the opposite of what a typical pitcher would. Throwing less fastballs across the board is simply using your offspeed more (a “junkball pitcher”), not pitching backwards, at least how I have alwasy heard/used the term (but it can certainly be defined differently).

    Thus, in counts where the pitcher is behind (i.e. 3-0, 3-1, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0, I would even include even counts in it like 0-0, 1-1, or 2-2) he would throw a lower percentage of fastballs than league average but when he is ahead (0-2, 1-2, 0-1) he will throw a higher percentage of fastballs than league average. Shields’ FB% goes down as the count goes in his favor while Arroyo’s goes up. I would consider Arroyo a pitcher who works backwards while Shields is just someone who utilizes his offspeed pitchers more often, especially when he’s ahead in the count.

    Comment by Brendan — November 6, 2012 @ 3:29 pm

  12. i think that was a joke not a nitpick dude

    Comment by wily mo — November 6, 2012 @ 3:30 pm

  13. excellent article!

    Comment by snoop LION — November 6, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

  14. 1. bartolo colon
    2. everyone else

    Comment by david — November 6, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

  15. I’d bet a steak dinner the 3-0 data on Arroyo is bad. I’m guessing he throws around 67.5% fastballs in 3-0 counts. He is a serial BP-fastball thrower in the non-consequence counts of 0-0 and 3-0. Pitch F/x probably codes them as changeups

    Comment by bossman jr — November 6, 2012 @ 5:50 pm

  16. I know, dude. I’m not actually advocating for any nitpicking.

    Comment by TKDC — November 6, 2012 @ 5:59 pm

  17. That’s exactly what I was thinking as I read; pitching backwards is about being unpredictable and going against the norm. Shields looks about as predictable as a high school pitcher in this graph.

    Very interesting article.

    Comment by scruddet — November 6, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

  18. After he burst onto the national scene I’ve come to appreciate Kris Medlen’s willingness to throw any pitch at any time. Not quite the same thing but that little dude will pull the string on a change up 3-1. It’s pretty neat to watch.

    Comment by scott — November 6, 2012 @ 11:43 pm

  19. This is a great article, and really cool analysis. I agree with the people saying Bronson Arroyo is revealed to be the most prototypically backwards pitcher.

    Since someone called for nitpicking (and I choose to interpret it non-sarcastically), I will say that even after blowing up that last chart to full-screen, I nearly went blind trying to consistently interpret the color scheme.

    Comment by Jon L. — November 7, 2012 @ 3:45 am

  20. The whole Shields thing seems like a terrible assessment of data. Pitchers, as a whole, throw many less FB with 2 strikes. Of those pitchers, Shields throws the least. That is not “pitching backwards”. Your lame attempt to point out “all counts are fastball counts” simply comes off as just that – a lame attempt to use semantics to wiggle out of a poor conclusion you made before hitting submit. You even mention in the article how the expectation is to move away from fastballs as 2-strike counts occur … which is exactly what Shields does. So how can you point to him as pitching backwards???

    Comment by Buster Posey — November 7, 2012 @ 3:47 am

  21. You sure are a nasty individual for being such a good baseball player

    Comment by diegosanchez — November 7, 2012 @ 8:41 am

  22. Buster Posey I’m disappointed in you!

    Comment by yeah — November 7, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

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