A Brief Look at Ernesto Frieri’s Fastball

Right-hander Ernesto Frieri is currently closing games for the Los Angeles Angels of You-Know-Where. He also currently owns a strikeout rate of 43.2%, which mark is not only over 10 percentage points above his previous high (albeit, in a short career so far), but is also the second-highest rate among all pitchers who’ve thrown at least 10 innings — behind only Aroldis Chapman (46.6%).

A curious thing is how Frieri is getting those strikeouts — which is to say, largely by way of his fastball. According to Texas Leaguers, Frieri has gotten a swing and miss on roughly 20% of the fastballs he’s thrown, while the league-average fastball has induced a whiff only about 5% or 6% of the time*. Frieri’s breaking ball, alternately classified as a slider or curve, has gotten whiffs only about 8% of the time — almost half of league average.

*Note: there are indications that Frieri might be throwing two fastballs, a four- and a two-seamer. Even if that is the case, they’re both above average and all comments made here apply to both. For the sake of ease, I’ll just use the term “fastball,” singular.

Of particular note is Frieri’s effectiveness against left-handed batters: according to Texas Leaguers again, Frieri has a fastball whiff rate above 25% against lefties. It’s no surprise, then, that Frieri has also recorded a pretty significant platoon split so far. In 13.1 innings against 52 left-handed batters, Frieri has a 57.7% strikeout rate and 1.19 xFIP. His numbers in 15.2 innings against 66 right-handers aren’t as good: 31.8% K, 4.60 xFIP.

Last night, closing out a game against the Dodgers in Dodger Stadium, represented the first time this season that Frieri had appeared in front of a mostly decent center-field camera — giving viewers a chance to see the fastball at work. He induced just one whiff — but it was on a fastball, and it was against a left-handed batter.

Against the left-handed Dee Gordon, specifically:

The Dodger Stadium camera isn’t straight-on, so it still distorts some of the movement on Frieri’s fastball, but PITCHf/x (per Brooks Baseball) indicates that the pitch was thrown at about 94 mph with a little over 8 inches of arm-side run and just over 11 inches of “rise” (relative to a spinless ball). The latter number is normal for Frieri — he averages about 10 inches of rise on his fastball — but probably about 2-3 inches above average for major-league pitchers on that particular offering.

Other than that, however, Frieri’s fastball doesn’t look devastating on paper. Nor — speaking anecdotally, at least — does it look as effective on paper as it does in the footage above.



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Darren
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Darren
4 years 14 days ago

Its the delivery. He almost wraps the ball around his back leg as he loads up. Makes it look likes it is coming out of his ear.

eliasll
Member
eliasll
4 years 13 days ago

I agree, it’s the delivery/arm angle that “hides” the baseball and creates lots of lateral movement. I’ve watched all his save chances and the guy seems unhittable. Look how late Hamilton swings vs. Frieri:
http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21983193&c_id=mlb
In contrast, look at Andrew Cashner’s 100MPH FB, and it seems hitters have more time to react compared to Frieri’s 93MPH FB…
http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=21648791&c_id=mlb

Subversive
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Subversive
4 years 13 days ago

Big fan of these animated GIFs for short snippets of video, nicely done.

markatoolio
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markatoolio
4 years 13 days ago

Thanks for the article! Nice work!

DD
Guest
DD
4 years 13 days ago

Per the Pitch f/x charts, his 2 seamer has over a 93 mph avg, his 4 seamer is around 92. That’s impressive, and a bit unusual. That tailing action on his 2 seamer is sharp, while the lack of sink has led to a high FB rate as well (his IFFB% is a ridiculous 30%!). Looks like he’s tough for a lefty to pick up, plus his unique movement allows him to work up in the zone with effectiveness.

John
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John
4 years 13 days ago

The pitches are being misclassified or he’s talking some off his 4-seamer, as a get-me-over pitch, down in the count. Would like to see the peak velos.

John
Guest
John
4 years 13 days ago

Trainwreck mechanics. Great stuff but he won’t last long.

baty
Guest
baty
4 years 13 days ago

Sure, but you could say that for more than half of the guys out there who pitch out of the bullpen.

PadresFan
Guest
PadresFan
4 years 13 days ago

Give it about a year, he will slowly become more and more hittable. His delivery will be figured out in the AL by the end of the year.

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