The Most Impressive Pitches of the Last Week, Per Science

Recently, in these pages — and for reasons that oughtn’t be explored in any depth — the author attempted to construct an objective methodology by which to identify the most transcendent pitch from the previous day. So far as errands are concerned, this particular one was the sort most readily undertaken by a fool.

And yet, because he’s the sort of person who doesn’t learn from, but prefers rather to indulge in, his failures, this same author has returned a week later with a view, once again, to identifying (again, by objective means) the league’s most impressive pitches — in this case, from the past week.

What I won’t discuss here specifically are the shortcomings of that last attmept. Because they’re self-evident, is one reason. And because the thought of doing so bores me to whatever is right after death, is another.

What I will discuss, however, just below, is the criteria I’ve employed for this particular exercise — which exercise is little more than an attempt, really, to reverse engineer the aesthetic tastes a fan might have so far as impressive pitches are concerned.

To accomplish that, what I’ve done is:

1. Identified all pitches from the past week thrown for a swinging third strike*, the logic being that batters tend to be most protective of the strike zone with two strikes and therefore pitchers must demonstrate excellence even harder; and then

2. Calculated and then averaged together the z-scores both for velocity and break length** of all those aforementioned pitches, the logic being that it becomes easier to produce greater break at lower velocities — and that, therefore, pitches which exhibit a relatively high velocity compared to break length are probably more impressive; and then

3. Because the PITCHf/x classifications aren’t always entirely accurate, identified the highest z-score from each general pitch category — so, therefore, the best fastball (including four-seamers, two-seamers, and sinkers), best breaking ball (including sliders and curveballs), and offspeed pitch (including changeups and splitters). The issue of cutters — which sometimes more resemble fastballs and sometimes more resemble sliders — I have ignored completely, hoping it would sort itself out.

*Unless said pitch was thrown to a pitcher who was batting, in which case it was disqualified from consideration in this very important endeavor.

**About which one can read more here.

Pitcher: Evan Marshall, RHP, Arizona (Profile)
Batter: Scooter Gennett   Date: Tuesday, May 6th
Velocity: 94.7 mph   Break: 7.8 in.


Marshall to Scooter 2

More Different Footage:

Marshall to Scooter 2 Slow

The GIFs here capture not only what’s probably the most impressive fastball of the past week but also the first strikeout of Evan Marshall’s major-league career. Selected by Arizona in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Kansas State, Marshall struck out 19 of the 62 batters he faced at Triple-A Reno before earning a promotion last week. This fastball here to Gennett features basically changeup-type run and depth, except at 95 mph.

Breaking Ball
Pitcher: Gio Gonzalez, LHP, Washington (Profile)
Batter: Ryan Howard   Date: Sunday, May 4th
Velocity: 77.2 mph   Break: 16.7 in.


Gio to Howard 2

More Different Footage:

Gio to Howard 3

Unfortunately, the center-field camera at Citizens Bank Ballpark is situated further towards left field than almost every other center-field camera in the majors. As a result, it’s difficult to get the fullest possible sense of the break on this pitch. There’s a lot of it, is the point. Almost the most of it.

Offspeed Pitch
Pitcher: Brandon League, RHP, Los Angeles NL (Profile)
Batter: Jarrod Saltalamacchia   Date: Saturday, May 3rd
Velocity: 86.4 mph   Break: 11.1 in.


League to Salty 2

More Different Footage:

League to Salty 2 Slow

It’s not entirely surprising that League would appear on a collection of best pitches, insofar as his split-change has — at points, at least — been one of the most difficult of those to hit in all the majors. It’s a little bit more surprising, on account of League hasn’t been particularly effective of late.


Weekly Leaderboard
Here are the top-10 pitches since last Friday by the largely arbitrary criteria selected by the author.

# Name Date Inn T/B Opp Pitch Vel Brk zVel zBrk Score
1 Evan Marshall 5/6 7 B Scooter Gennett FF 94.7 7.8 1.4 0.2 0.8
2 Jared Hughes 5/5 13 T Hector Sanchez SI 92.5 8.9 1.1 0.5 0.8
3 Gio Gonzalez 5/4 7 B Ryan Howard CU 77.2 16.7 -1.6 3.1 0.8
4 Chad Qualls 5/7 8 B Nick Castellanos SI 94.0 7.8 1.3 0.2 0.7
5 Jeff Samardzija 5/5 7 T Dayan Viciedo FT 95.5 7.0 1.6 -0.1 0.7
6 Yordano Ventura 5/5 4 B Kyle Blanks CU 84.0 12.8 -0.4 1.8 0.7
7 Jake Diekman 5/2 8 T Zach Walters FT 97.4 5.7 1.9 -0.5 0.7
8 Jake Diekman 5/2 8 T Tyler Moore FT 97.3 5.7 1.9 -0.5 0.7
9 Danny Duffy 5/8 3 B Stefen Romero CU 78.3 15.4 -1.4 2.6 0.6
10 Brad Ziegler 5/6 8 B Jean Segura SI 85.5 11.6 -0.1 1.4 0.6

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Carson Cistulli has just published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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That Evan Marshall fastball. Sweet eyeball nectar, that one.