Cole Hamels’ Three-Pitch Strikeout of Justin Ruggiano

Cole Hamels‘ three-pitch strikeout of Justin Ruggiano during the first inning of Monday night’s Phillies-Marlins game (box) in Miami isn’t more significant than most other three-pitch strikeouts, except for that (a) it occurred on three consecutive changeups and (b) it occurred in front of the very excellent Miami center-field camera, itself particularly well-suited to capture the movement of Hamels’ changeup and (c) the author happened — for some reason that no know one really knows — the author happened to be watching the game in question.

Also, because it’s rather late and managing editor Dave Cameron doesn’t know I’m posting this, is another reason why I’m posting this.

(PITCHf/x data courtesy Brooks Baseball.)


Pitch One

Velocity: 88.2 mph
Movement: 11.8 in. gloveside, 9.6 in. rise*
Note: Though this was classified as a changeup by the PITCHf/x algorithm, it would not be shocking — owing to its velocity (faster than Hamels’ normal change) and movement (rise-ier than his change, too) — to learn that it was a two-seam fastball.

*”Rise” relative to a spinless ball, that is. A normal fastball has about 8-9 inches of rise, owing to the backspin imparted to it; a normal change, about 4-5 inches.

Pitch Two

Velocity: 82.6 mph
Movement: 8.1 in. gloveside, 5.9 in. rise
Note: This pitch looks hit-able for a moment, but turns out probably not to be.

Pitch Three

Velocity: 82.9 mph
Movement: 7.7 in. gloveside, 6.9 in. rise
Note: This is the very well-conceived location of Hamels’ third pitch (click to embiggen):

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37 Responses to “Cole Hamels’ Three-Pitch Strikeout of Justin Ruggiano”

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  1. Juan B says:

    This really does belong on NotGraphs

    -38 Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. William S. says:

    “turns out probably not to be.”

    I approve of this awkward wording.

    +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Nils says:

    I dig it. That was fun.

    +6 Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. Uncle Remus says:

    the two-seamer is the coolest pitch in baseball

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. dudley says:
    FanGraphs Supporting Member

    those pitch rises don’t match up with my eyeballs. the last one looks like it sinks. the second one looks like it rises the most of all of them. me no understando.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Pat Golden says:

      a spin-less ball would fall between the pitcher and home plate due to the force of gravity, back spin (and therefore displacement due to airflow against the seams) causes the ball to fall X inches LESS than a spin-less ball (or in other words rises)….

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Brandon T says:

        Yeah, when you combine the slower speed with the decreased rise relative to a fastball, it really DOES appear to drop.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • CJ says:

        If it helps, a Cole Hamels fastball has ~12 inches of “rise”. If you want to think of that pitch as being “flat”, the changeup “drops” ~three inches. It’s that plus the speed differential that makes hitters look bad.

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      • CJ says:

        And by three, I mean three to six.

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      • NJ says:

        Damn you physics… y u no be simple!!

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. CJ says:

    Plots of pitch location always make me feel foolish. I wouldn’t have called that last pitch a strike, for two reasons: a) because the Phillie catcher stabs at it, and b) it’s 0-2. Honestly: looking at the .gif, I think, “man, Ruggiano chased a really bad pitch”.

    Makes you realise framing works.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. DD says:

    The first pitch is more likely a cutter that didn’t cut much, he usually throws it 87-90, and he doesn’t throw a 2 seamer.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • timtebow says:

      a cutter would move the opposite direction, in to a righty. first pitch is a two-seamer, moving away from a righty

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  8. chuckb says:

    Pitch one is clearly a fastball.

    Pitch two really isn’t all that great a pitch. It works out because it’s on the outside corner, and maybe even slightly off the outside corner, but it’s way up in the zone — not where Hamels intended it.

    Pitch three is just ridiculous. Absolutely unhittable. Ruggiano should’ve just taken it and hoped the ump called it a ball.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • BookWorm says:

      What’s remarkable about pitch two is that Ruggiano seems to wait on it for a really long time. His front foot comes up right away, but his swing seems delayed, like he knew this pitch would be considerably slower than pitch one but he still whiffs.

      I’m not going to speculate on how Hamels hoped the batter would react or where he intended the pitch to go, but given the outcome, I would hesitate to say that “it isn’t all that great a pitch.” For that batter and that count, it got the job done.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. The Former Mike Stanton says:

    I would have mashed that second pitch into Biscayne Bay

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. noseeum says:

    Pitch 2 is pretty sick as well. Those of you saying it’s definitely hittable, I’m not so sure.

    Coming out of his hand, it definitely looks like it’s headed for the heart of the plate. It’s outside, but it’s angling straight towards meatballville. It really doesn’t cut enough to be obvious. Just enough to stop the fade in and paint the outside corner.

    Same with the height. Out of the hand, you would think it will keep dropping to belt height, but it just doesn’t. Seems to float into the mitt.

    So the pitch looks so tasty you can’t lay off it, but then it’s on the upper outside corner of the strike zone, and by the time you notice, you’ve already swung at the heart of the plate.

    Worst case scenario for this pitch seems to be a pop fly. Pretty much everyone will get under it if they hit it.

    +9 Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Dave S says:

      I agree completely. There is an instant in that pitch’s journey to home plate where the batter must think: I’m gonna crush this pitch… yet still can’t get to it.

      Also, when Cole is “on”… focused and intense, but not frustrated at himself… its a joy to watch him pitch.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Jon L. says:

      It looks to me like the batter swings right over this pitch, waiting and waiting as it floats into the zone, but then swinging over it as it drops at the last moment. Doesn’t that suggest that batters might top the ball or hit a grounder? Am I missing something?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Tyler Norton says:

    We really need to figure out a better solution for the righty lefty inside outside graph thing. It can’t be that difficult to have the X axis have a direct relation to units of measurement. It isn’t like home plates are different sizes.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Patrick says:

    I think we’re all overlooking the absolute best part about this post: “Click to embiggen”.

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  13. Jack says:

    Cole Hamels = Ace. It is very annoying that the Phillies were able to lock him up.

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    • Sleight of Hand Pro says:

      i personally was hoping he’d take a 1000% paycut and sign with the astros for maybe $15M guaranteed over 5 or 6 years. greedy bastard…..

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  14. swyck says:

    On the chart, why is the x axis inside and outside, instead of +- from the center of the plate?

    It just seems weird to me to have the location of pitch two on the right of the graph, when the pitch was actually to the left side of the plate.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. Jaybo Shaw says:

    One can only hope that this spawns a late night fangraphs series titled “Nickname Seeks Baseball Writer”.

    And if it does, might I suggest that “Ruthless Blog Tyrant” seeks some of the fine managers over at CBS Eye on Baseball, Home for all Baseball Fans.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. Kruk and Mitch Williams says:


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  17. mch38 says:

    Happy 1 year anniversary of being embarrassed Justin

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