Monday, December 7, 2009
The Eyes Have It
With the Winter Meetings under way* and Roy Halladay's time in a Blue Jays uniform drawing to a close, I thought I'd look into one point of quasi-contention before he leaves town. If you think back to the series of posts I did on Halladay's fastballs. Pitch F/X thinks he throws (at least) 3 different types, most of our eyes suggest otherwise. Does he throw a true four-seamer? Is Mark Teixeira's assertion accurate?
Before we get to the colorful charty goodness, a little background into how and why I did what I did. Firstly, I don't believe anything Pat Tabler says. Secondly, because my SQL skills do not exist, I simply dumped a bunch of starts together and looked at the fastballs (anything throw at or above 88 miles per hour. I am a child of the eighties after all.) I ignored pitch f/x's built in distinctions and simply took them as they came. First we'll look at a more "traditional" movement chart, which the smart kids are calling "spin deflection" these days. Sometimes this approach makes pitch differentiation easier, other times harder. Because I've discounted slower pitches (i.e. Roy's changeup) this might help us. Click to enlarge. Natch
That's pretty compelling evidence. Two nice and distinct groups. The cutters tend to the run the gamut in terms of movement. Remember, this represents that amount each pitch moves up and down & side to side. The cluster on the left represent two seam sinking fastballs, moving down and in to right-handed hitters. Halladay typically throws this pitch on the outside corner against righties, coming in the back door as the kids say. Against lefties it sneaks under their hands to catch the inside corner after the batter gives up on it. The cutters move away from righties, starting at their hands and breaking towards the inside corner. Perhaps the wide variety of cutters suggests, as Jonathon Hale of the Mockingbird suggests, that Halladay throws two different types of cutters.
Let's examine the speed versus spin direction results. Again, this is a great way to group similar pitches. The spin direction indicates the axis on which the ball spins.
Hmmm. Not quite as clear, but still distinct. The group to the right are two seamers, they spin much more and at a greater angle (of spin.) I'm a little bit surprised this doesn't clear things up a little bit more, but I think we can still safely say that Roy Halladay DOES indeed only throw two types of fastballs. I don't think there's quite enough ambiguity to argue much to the contrary (for more on Halladay's stuff check out this Fangraphs post from July).
* - make sure you stop by Drunk Jays Fans for all your Winter Meeting Needs, they have that shit on lock down. Hopefully at least one sportswriter will make a Kurt Vonnegut reference when in the city that pigment forgot.