FanPost

Fun with FanGraphs

So if you have never checked it out, you should go check out FanGraphs.  (While we're at it, Jeff over at Lookout Landing recently put together a little list of convenient baseball data places on the web.  Many of you are probably already familiar with a lot of the sites, but if you're not, check it out.)  In addition to FanGraphs other nice content, they recently added a new feature which tracks the frequency and average speed of the different pitches a pitcher throws.  They'll update the numbers throughout the season I guess, but right now they have numbers covering the past three seasons.  Want to know how frequently Cliff Lee throws his curveball, it's there.  Want to know how hard Carmona's super-fantastic sinking fastball is....that's there too.  

This information all comes from Baseball Information Solutions, and there are no doubt caveats which should be considered.  The biggest of which is probably how they go about classifying different pitches.  I'm assuming they do something similar to what John Kalb and others have done recently in looking at similar speeds and breaks as a way to distinguish between a slider, for example, and a changeup.  That caveat in mind, my guess is their data for a pitcher's most frequent pitches (>~10%) are probably "good enough" to consider in more detail.  

What does it reveal about the Indians pitchers?  Well...here's a little look...

C.C.:  Sabathia's relied more heavily on his off-pitches the past two seasons...not surprising as these seem to have increasingly become his strikeout pitches.  These data suggest his fastball has gotten slower every year.  We all know CC's fastball is more effective when he's not overthrowing it (and we've seen him overthrow it enough to know that he can get it up to 97-98), so at this point that doesn't strike me as a concern.

Carmona: BIS identifies Carmona's power sinker as a fastball, which last season accounted for 75% of his pitches.  With an average speed of 94mph, it is indeed a "power" pitch.  I'm not sure what they're calling his sinking fastball (10%, 85mph) and how it differs from his slider (13%, 84mph).

Westbrook: Westbrook's another one I'm not sure how they're differentiating.  They've got him throwing 5 pitches, although three of them (curveball, cutter and slider) come in at less than 10% frequency.  Last year Westbrook had a nice 10mph spread between his fastball (90mph) and his changeup (80mph).

Byrd: It was looking at these numbers that made me think Byrd's end is near...maybe very near.  Byrd is three year's removed from his last major arm injury (this will be his 4th post-injury season).  This is what his three major pitches (fastball, slider, changeup) have looked like over those three seasons:

  1. FB 55% 87.2mph, SL 19% 80.4mph, CH 14% 79.7mph
  2. FB 54% 86.1mph, SL 22% 79.8mph, CH 16% 79.2mph
  3. FB 56% 85.6mph, SL 12% 79.3mph, CH 17% 79.6mph

Byrd doesn't strike guys out and he doesn't induce groundballs.  Last year he managed to be successful despite only a 6mph differential across his primary pitches.  That differential has been slipping every year as he's lost speed on his fastball every season post-surgery.  I don't see this as a sustainable trend and I don't see Byrd going through a gradual decline in effectiveness, but instead see him falling off a cliff.  Maybe this year.

Sowers: If the reports of Sowers fastball getting back up to the high 88-90 range this Spring are accurate, that's a good sign.  In 2006 his FB averaged 88.5mph.  Last season it dipped to 85.4 mph (and perhaps as a result he threw it 7% less).  If he can get it back up, maybe he can regain his effectiveness.

Cliff Lee: It's at least superficially easy to see why scouts like Lee's stuff.  He's got a FB which sits just shy of 90, a changeup in the low 80s, and a curveball in the mid 70s.  If he can spot those effectively, it should give batters a very hard time settling in on anything because of the differences in movement and speed.  As far as pitch selection....in 2005, Lee's best season, he threw his FB 75% of the time, his change almost 12% of the time, and his curve about 8% of the time.  Last season those proportions had shifted to 68% FB, 16% CH, and just under 7% CB.  Is that why he struggled?  I have no clue.

The Indians relievers are up there for viewing also, but I think this is enough for now...

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