FanGraphs Baseball

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  1. This is an interesting line of analysis. I’d never thought about actually trying to see whether more pitches helps. Still, though, it seems like the actual value of having more pitches is going to be dwarfed by the ‘junk-ball effect’–the pitchers who don’t have enough stuff or speed to make it on their first 2-3 pitches are going to work harder on developing different pitches.

    Maybe you could focus on individual pitchers’ difference in performance in the year or two after they develop a new pitch?

    Comment by Thor — March 23, 2009 @ 10:18 am

  2. Ooh, good idea.

    I’ll see if I can’t find a few after I wrap this series, but did you have a certain pitcher(s?) in mind?

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 23, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  3. I’d be interested to the distributions in this chart by team. I know that Toronto seems to encourage its pitchers to throw lots of different pitches in games; do other teams have easily identifiable tendencies?

    Comment by Evan — March 23, 2009 @ 12:18 pm

  4. I think the results you see are self-selection bias. The more marginal a pitcher is then the more pitches he try to throw. The better a pitcher is then he needs fewer pitches to be effective.

    So the conclusion is definitely not that Ryan Franklin needs to mothball 3 of his pitches to get better results.

    And wow, I didn’t realize FIP correlated so well with ERA when aggregating pitchers.

    Comment by Kazinski — March 23, 2009 @ 12:24 pm

  5. Are you distinguishing between fastballs? e.g. are 2 seamers and 4 seamers and cutters considered distinct pitches?

    Comment by mrbmc — March 23, 2009 @ 12:29 pm

  6. Well, as a Mariners fan, the example that comes to mind is JJ Putz–there was a clear example of how adding another pitch helped in a game theory sense. He added a splitter that looked similar to his fastball from the delivery. It helped that it was a very good splitter, of course.

    Is there a way that you can systematically look at pitchers who add pitches from one year to the next, or can you only look up pitchers on a career basis?

    Comment by Thor — March 23, 2009 @ 12:34 pm

  7. Pitch Types that BIS tracks:
    FB – fastball
    SL – slider
    CT – cutter
    CB – curveball
    CH – changeup
    SF – split-fingered
    KN – knuckleball

    I’m sure there are some classification errors in terms of fastballs, slurves (is it a slider or curve?), etc. though.

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 23, 2009 @ 12:36 pm

  8. I think Kazinski is likely on to something, though it will be interesting to see what happens with the relievers removed. The lower the quality of your offerings, the more need you have to deceive the hitter through other pitch types. If you’re Mariano Rivera and can throw an unhittable cutter, why develop a curve — or at least use it.

    Comment by RMR — March 23, 2009 @ 12:42 pm

  9. Less pitch variety = more dominant pitches = higher k/9, lower HR/9, and lower FIP, but leads to overthrowing = higher BB/9 (usually).

    BABIP is flat meaning a hitters BABIP is a true measure of their own skill and independent of pitching?

    Great stuff

    Comment by Rafa — March 23, 2009 @ 1:26 pm

  10. I know it would be very hard to track, but there is a significant difference between a 2 seam fastball and a 4 seam fastball. I always threw exclusively a 2 seamer until I couldnt locate it at all (until may 31st).

    Then, for the first time in my professional career, i threw a four seamer (instead of a two seamer) to get better command of the strike zone (ie 0-1 vs 1-0) and had tremendous results. The drastic differences in my stats (before and after may 31st) were due basically to me throwing a 4 seamer and not a 2 seamer which allowed me to throw more strikes.

    But other than that anecdote, this is pretty cool analysis. I would like to see the stats broken down by SP and RP.

    What about someone like el duque, who throws about 8 different “pitches” due to arm angle and speed, even though many may be classified as the same thing?

    Comment by mike pelfrey — March 23, 2009 @ 2:00 pm

  11. For now stuff like arm angles, grips, etc. is not being classified as different pitches.

    Comment by R.J. Anderson — March 23, 2009 @ 2:06 pm

  12. Halladay (cutter), ErvSantana (slider) would be two I’d like to see if you have the time.

    Comment by Matt B. — March 23, 2009 @ 2:09 pm

  13. Two things instantly pop-up to make this largely a futile exercise:

    - Sample sizes issues. Only really have sample sizes large enough for the pitchers with 3/4 pitches to draw some real conclusions. I am willing to bet the 95% CI intervals are pretty large for the other sample sizes and makes it pretty dubious to draw any conclusions from them with much certainty.

    - pitch f/x data is interesting but as several others have pointed out it still does a fairly inaccurate job of classifying a pitchers’ true repertoire because of the number of pitchers who throw a modified fastball or a offspeed pitch that can be difficult to classify.

    - Given that you have larger sample sizes for the 3/4 pitch groups, I would be curious to see breakouts between starters who are primarily fastball/sliders guys (norm usually today) vs. fastball/other type of breaking pitch

    Comment by MG — March 23, 2009 @ 3:48 pm

  14. How about White Sox pitchers who were taught the cutter after joining the organization? Jenks, Contreras, Danks and Esteban Loiaza come to mind — as do guys like Aardsma, Sisco, MacDougal, etc. It’s been a fairly well-documented strategy from the ChiSox’s scouting side, but I’d be curious to see if it truly pays off using this form of analysis. Just my two cents …

    Comment by Walter Jones — March 23, 2009 @ 6:43 pm

  15. Lincecum’s changeup may have been a major help

    Comment by Tim — March 24, 2009 @ 1:16 am

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