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.


  1. Nice work, Drew. I get the feeling Doc is going to perfect his changeup as he ages and loses some velocity on his fastball. He has already spiffied up his curveball into a plus pitch the last couple years.

    Also, how many pitchers have a "Praise" section on their Wikipedia page? Roy does.

  2. Great post, as per the usual.

    How the fuck has Doc avoided arm trouble throwing cutter after cutter after cutter?

  3. That's a good question. He clearly knows his limits and tosses in enough of his awesome secondary pitches to stay fresh. That and his amazing fitness regimen.

  4. ^^ and the fact that his right arm is constructed wholly from the purest of molten steels. DUH!

  5. Or the fact that he allegedly learned it from the master himself, Rivera, would help to some extent.

    However, this story is predicated on the belief that Roy Halladay lacks a fundamental awareness of something and we all know that to be impossible, right?

  6. And the ability to change his fitness regiment when it doesn't work out. I remember a spring training report where Halladay changed his routine because he became way more tired doing too many long tosses and the like. I like to think the ability to make adjustments allowed him to routinely pitch 230+ innings.

  7. I'm going to be fucking absolutely devastated when Doc is traded. Christ.

  8. Sorry J, but Doc learned the grip from Sal Fasano. That little scene at the All-Star game was of Doc teaching Rivera about the basics of Pitch F/X.


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