Ok, so after a full year of working in my basement office at Woodland Pattern Book Center, I finally noticed this decal on a (possibly nonfunctional) heating unit:
Of course, I immediately interpreted the phrase with my baseball brain: “The Heater You Can Live With” is a heater (a fastball, and, in my mind, a four-seam fastball, specifically) that is passable, that gets the job but is not overwhelming; a heater that chips in but upon which a pitcher is not overly reliant; a heater that, looks like the average of all heaters in the game, so as not garner attention, but like I said, is still capable of getting an out, or setting up other pitches, or even causing the occasional whiff.
With the generous help of Jeff Zimmerman, I compiled data to look for the most average four-seamer that I could find based on Usage (FA%) Velocity (vFA), Horizontal Movement (FA-X), Vertical Movement (FA-Z), and Whiff Rate (FASwgStr%).
The table below includes the Standard Deviations from the Mean (a crude “z-score”) in each of the aforementioned categories from 2011-2012 (minimum 100 heaters thrown and at least one whiff). I then averaged these “z-scores” and ranked the top 25 pitchers:
|Mark Melancon||- – -||27||0.4839||0.0569||0.0488||0.2655||0.0358||0.0768|
|Casey Janssen||Blue Jays||30||0.5481||0.0304||0.1771||0.0948||0.1075||0.1382|
|Roy Oswalt||- – -||34||0.5745||0.0113||0.0952||0.0569||0.3344||0.0768|
|Jason Isringhausen||- – -||39||0.6769||0.1007||0.2021||0.2086||0.0119||0.1536|
|Tommy Hunter||- – -||25||0.7148||0.4112||0.0987||0.0190||0.1552||0.0307|
|Francisco Rodriguez||- – -||30||0.7379||0.2184||0.0952||0.1138||0.2030||0.1075|
|Jason Hammel||- – -||29||0.8032||0.1959||0.0595||0.3414||0.1911||0.0154|
|Mat Latos||- – -||24||0.9447||0.1360||0.0595||0.3414||0.1314||0.2765|
|Vicente Padilla||- – -||34||0.9506||0.2146||0.0118||0.2465||0.3702||0.1075|
|Gavin Floyd||White Sox||29||0.9700||0.3514||0.1700||0.0000||0.4179||0.0307|
It’s nice to notice that the vertical movement on Billingsley’s four-seamer is exactly the mean (at least of the sample used). That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t possess vertical motion, it just means that if you mapped it out with all the other four-seamers, you wouldn’t really notice it. It’s nice to notice this because I’m choosing to overlook Mark Melancon’s Z-avg and give the very first hypothetical “The Heater You Can Live With” badge to Chad Billingsley — because I think it just seems more appropriate to give it to a starting pitcher.
Why didn’t I just limit the data to starting pitchers, then, you might ask. Well, because I thought it would still be interesting to see which relievers have the most average four-seam fastball. And because I do what I please; I pay you no mind.
You might also ask, Why is this on NotGraphs? It’s full of numbers! Z-scores! Sortables! Sundry maths! Jeff Zimmerman! I assure you, save the data produced by J.Z. (on Whiff Rates), the numbers here were manipulated in such a clumsy manner as to make NotGraphs proud. Plus, it coins a phrase! It provides ephemera! It has provided no statistical insight whatsoever!
Ok, ok, back to my mini helmets…