Ol’ Number One, More or Less

While I was busy looking at increases and drops in fastball speeds, I also made note of the frequency with which fastballs were thrown by each pitcher. As noted previously, changes in fastball speed appeared to have no overwhelming correlation with changes in how often pitchers used their fastball.

Which pitchers did deviate the most from their 2008 ratio then? Glad you asked. Here are the top twenty greatest reductions in fastball usage, according to BIS pitch typing, with a minimum of 50 innings pitched in both 2008 and 2009.

Brian Bannister, -42.8%
Scott Feldman, -19.1%
Sean Marshall, -17.2%
Pat Misch, -15.5%
Nick Masset, -15.2%
Dan Wheeler, -14.8%
Braden Looper, -14.3%
Daniel Cabrera, -13.1%
Brandon Lyon, -12.9%
Tony Pena, -12.8%
Juan Cruz, -12.8%
Scott Kazmir, -11.2%
Mariano Rivera, -11.0%
Ryan Franklin, -10.5%
Brad Ziegler, -10.4%
Tim Lincecum, -10.3%
Cla Meredith, -10.2%
Matt Capps, -9.9%
Lance Cormier, -9.8%
Chad Billingsley, -9.5%

Brian Bannister is obviously a special case as he all but abandoned his traditional fastball in favor for a cutter in 2009. Scott Feldman too went to more of a cut fastball in 2009, explaining his drop. There are legitimate departures on this list however. Sean Marshall tossed a breaking ball about 14% more often in 2009. Pat Misch fell in love with his slider and changeup. Scott Kazmir returned to his pre-2008 fastball and slider levels.

The reverse list also has some interesting names on it. The top twenty greatest increases in fastball usage.

Jamie Moyer, 18.4%
Miguel Batista, 15.7%
Joel Pineiro, 12.6%
Guillermo Mota, 12.3%
Francisco Cordero, 12.0%
Nick Blackburn, 11.1%
Aaron Laffey, 9.4%
Jesse Carlson, 9.2%
CC Sabathia, 7.8%
Clay Buchholz, 7.4%
John Lannan, 7.1%
Brad Lidge, 6.9%
Francisco Rodriguez, 6.8%
Brian Bass, 6.5%
Derek Lowe, 6.4%
Hiroki Kuroda, 6.2%
Justin Masterson, 6.1%
Matt Thornton, 5.9%
Russ Springer, 5.8%
Jarrod Washburn, 5.8%

Joel Pineiro developed his sinking fastball to great lengths this season. Given that his fastball has never been a good pitch, one wonders why Jamie Moyer relied so much more on it in 2009, to his detriment.

A lot of late inning relief aces appear on this list too, to mixed results. Francisco Cordero‘s fastball improved in efficacy a lot in 2009. Brad Lidge‘s went into the toilet and Francisco Rodriguez‘s stayed just about the same, as did Mota’s.

Obviously there is not much of an overarching theme at play here. Each pitcher has his own particular reasons for appearing in one of these two lists and many of those reasons are unique. I present the information mostly for the sake of information’s sake. Make of it what you will; I am going to go see if I can tease out any patterns based on disabled list appearances.




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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


12 Responses to “Ol’ Number One, More or Less”

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  1. pounded clown says:

    Perhaps Moyers move to the BP half way through the season explain his higher FB totals. As a longman with less innings per outing, and more time between appearances, he might have had more in the tank to throw that good old Moyer heat.

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  2. Patrick says:

    Clown,

    I’m reminded of a post somewhere (maybe here) which went like this:
    “Tim Wakefield says he can throw harder than 80-85 MPH with his fastball, but he doesn’t so he can disguise it with his knuckler.

    Some day, just once before he retires, I want to see him throw a fastball as hard as he can.”

    And the reply:
    “And see how far it goes.” :D

    Moyer should just learn a knuckleball. He’s got to be about the oldest non-knuckleballing MLB pitcher in history, non-Satchell Page division.

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    • realitypolice says:

      He’ll pass Jesse Orosco for oldest guy I’ve ever seen pitch before this summer. Of course, Orosco averaged less than .5 inning per appearance over the last five years of his career.

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    • pounded clown says:

      Patrick,

      Funny you should say that, I recently wrote on a phillies blog

      “Moyer can prove that unless your name is Satchel Paige those should be knuckleballs your throwing at 50 years of age”

      I agree but I guess you can’t teach and old dogs new pitches.

      Just 1 more year of switching the channel every half inning when there’s 1 out, men on 2nd and 3rd and it’s 3-2 count…it either that or develop carpel tunnel syndrome from all the hand wringing.

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  3. delv says:

    Is fangraphs gonna provide medians at any point for your more encompassing pitch figures? As opposed to averages, I mean?

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  4. Gilbert says:

    At first I thought this was going to be about whose fastballs were most or least consistent in terms of speed. Has that list already been done? Might be subject to who plays in parks with different speed guns though.

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  5. Travis L says:

    I think this series on splits has been really fascinating. Thank you!

    A couple of thoughts.

    It’s interesting that the guys on both these lists, with the exception of Lincecum, Rivera, and Sabathia, did not enjoy very much success last year. Are these are marginal players (or guys on the downhill side of their careers), who are trying something different to compete? It’d be interesting to see, through PitchFX history, if the delta in fastball % can be mapped to a career arc. And the three exceptions are interesting, as you can easily speculate very different reasons for each of them (CC? Always had a lead, so he attacked. Lince? Young guy, learning how to pitch rather than throw. Mo? No ideas…)

    And secondly, I would really like to see some “foundation” work. I’d be happy to help out with some of the analysis, but I’d really like to establish things like radar gun consistency (between ballparks), a pitcher’s velocity variance, etc. Some base level analysis would be really cool in an effort to truly solidify future work done based on these data (it might be useful to have a “radar gun calibration” factor like we have park effects). Again, I don’t know what you could tease out of the existing data..

    Again, though, this is awesome. And I just found the RSS feed for comments, so I’m more easily able to follow threads. One feature request, though: can you add a “email comments” feature, so I can receive comments in my inbox? I notice you’re using wordpress — the plugin I recommend for this feature is available at http://txfx.net/wordpress-plugins/subscribe-to-comments/

    Thank you!

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  6. Jimbo says:

    Just a thought…but I think Justin Masterson is someone to put on my sleeper list.

    Had 8.3K/9 last year, crazy-high BABIP at .321, potential improvement in strand rate (69%), 1.7 GB/FB ratio, 15% LD rate, 4.04 FIP/4.05 xFIP, above average OSwing% with below average OContact%, and below average ZContact%.

    Am I missing something, or is that a pretty good profile for a breakout?

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    • Travis L says:

      He’s a pretty good candidate, although I wouldn’t expect his breakout to be huge. I think he could repeat those numbers pretty well, and improve on them slightly. The babip will drop, but 4 BB / 9 is difficult to get around, especially when you still give up about 1 HR / 9.

      But I have to like that he’ll beat last years numbers. Especially with the HUGELY improved boston defense — add that, a little better luck, and continued improvement from a guy who is just in his 3rd year in MLB, and yeah, I think I’ll add him to my team’s watchlist.

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      • Dave B says:

        Masterson was traded to Cleveland.

        Masterson as a ground ball guy is very lucky he didn’t have to play in front of Julio Lugo Nick Green and Mike Lowell all season last year.

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  7. frank pepe says:

    so papelbon and his fastball was all smoke. interesting…

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