The problem this year with that unhittable pitch by League is 1) catchers can’t catch it and 2) umpires can’t see it and call it a ball. Umpires squeezed the heck out of the pitch and forces League to throw up in the zone this year. He got rocked. When League throws his splitter to catchers who can actually catch it (unlike Miguel Olivo) it can be a excellent pitch.
Wow, in that Bautista .gif, it’s amazing that he was able to keep that ball in fair territory. Look where he hits it – it looks pretty clearly well inside, but he opens up so far it might as well have been down the middle.
Strasburg’s “changeup” is 91mph, which means it’s a solid ML fastball (with a ton of movement). The one Bautista smoked was clearly up too high, but it’s still impressive that Bautista hit it out. I think the real problem with Strasburg’s changeup is that he often has trouble throwing it for strikes. If the batter can pick it up and lay off of it (easier said than done) then he can get ahead in the count.
Are you able to look at the same data, but isolate it to only include a starter’s primary pitch? Strasburg does have a great change-up and he can still get K’s even if hitters know it’s coming, but without his fastball it wouldn’t be nearly as effective.
I’d have to think that his fastball and Dickey’s knuckleball are two of the toughest primary pitches to hit, but it’d be interesting seeing a top-10.
Comment by vivalajeter — September 20, 2012 @ 7:28 pm
I’d like to see some info on Darvish’s slow curve…
FWIW, I remember hearing a scouting report (or maybe a couple) of Strasburg in college saying that his change up was above average but he couldn’t throw it because he was so good that college hitters just saw it as a normal fastball and were right on it. College hitters weren’t good enough to catch up to his upper 90s fastball, so the change up just wasn’t effective against them.
The Bautista/Stras .gif is amazing. Two beautiful performances (though one a little more productive than the other).
Comment by monkey business — September 20, 2012 @ 10:27 pm
Colvin actually has a pretty good swing there IMO. If you watch the slow-mo version, his swing is terrific until he takes his hand off of the bat. But his hand doesn’t come off until the ball has left the bat, and so it doesn’t affect it.
That was indeed a very cool gif. Stras missed his spot, but it was extremely in at 90mph. Unless the count is 3-1 or something that is usually a good-neutral pitch. But Bautista managed to somehow turn on the pitch and the moment it left his bat we all knew it was gone(from the gif the batted ball seems to be going to the left-center instead of down the line, just a masterful piece of hitting).
Comment by Kampfer — September 20, 2012 @ 10:42 pm
Agree, Colvin’s swing is unorthodox looking because it’s so long on that particular pitch, but he keeps it in the right swing plane and at the correct angle from the ground while bending over.
Comment by Phantom Stranger — September 20, 2012 @ 11:27 pm
Interestingly, your hand can come off the bat – in fact, both hands can come off the bat – prior to making contact, and it will have almost no effect on the force imparted on the baseball…
Is it possible that his changeup looks so good in part because we’re not counting all of his changeups? I could imagine a scenario where he doesn’t get good movement on the pitch and it gets classified as a fastball. And obviously those would be his worst changeups and most likely to get hit.
“Of course, we all understand that pitches don’t exist in isolation. That year, League’s splitter was baseball’s most unhittable pitch, but it wouldn’t have been so if League only ever threw his splitter and never threw his fastball. There’s a lot of game theory stuff at play, so isolating individual pitch types is a little improper and misleading. Still, it’s a fun exercise, and I’m about to indulge. So we’re all about to indulge.”
I think this is a very astute point and something overlooked in a lot of places in sabermetrics. While it is nice to attempt to take context out of each individual outcome, you can’t do it completely. And people often confuse something contextual not being measurable on an aggregate level with it not existing at all (“lineup protection is a myth”, “pitching to the score/situation is a myth”)
And on a semi-related note it makes Mariano Rivera’s career even that much more ridiculous.
“Verlander’s got a good change-up, but his is a circle change that just kind of fades away,” Jones said. “(Strasburg’s) is a 90-plus mph split that falls off the table. When you’re going up there getting geared up for 95, 96 mph and he throws you 90 and the bottom drops out of it, it’s a pretty lethal combination.”
It’s not a list, and Dickey’s 80 mph knuckler was not the pitch selected for analysis based on the methodology that was clearly laid out in the above post. You ask very good questions! Hope this was helpful.
(I wrote this before reading your comment, but I think we should expand on this possibility.) – I’m hearing more and more about pitchers using more than one kind of changeup. This could be why strasburgs change is so good. Because its not a single pitch…maybe.*(Nationals fans who study him closely might be able to answer that, or speculate about it) I heard Felix Hernandez had three. I believe Dave Cameron said that somewhere. Is it the grips they change? Like circle change-up, or palmball changeup etc. or the amount of force the fingers apply to the ball, or perhaps they just throw with slightly different arm speeds?