Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Inevitable Heat Maps Post

Heat maps! As I am not talented enough to create them using R or any such graphing software, I'll take advantage of Fangraphs latest attempt to get you fired - heat maps.

Heat maps are great way to visualize the relative effectiveness of pitches by location. The awesome dudes at The Process Report use heat maps to show how the Danks Theory worked to foil Shaun Marcum's dastardly change up.

Might clever meddlers like Joe Maddon apply similar witchcraft to neutralize this year's Opening Day starter1 Ricky Romero? Let's look at the usage of Ricky's change up in 2010. The maps are from the perspective of the catcher, with the colours ranging from blue to red. Blue being less frequent, the stronger the colour the more frequent a pitch went to that location. Got it? Got it.

Hrrm. Don't be too surprised if you see Manny get a day off against Romero should the Jays new ace come up against the Rays in 2011. Romero does not show extreme splits between left and right but eliminating his best pitch is a good way to tip the scales.

The transformation of Brandon Morrow upon arrival was more than adjusting his arm angle and attempting to set his head straight. The Jays also expanded Morrow's arsenal by demanding the hard-throwing right-hander use his change up against lefties and increase the use of his curveballs from "none" to "some."

Wow, what a weapon! If Brandon Morrow — he of the high 90s fastball and moderately unfair slider — can work a decent change up over the outside corner to left-handed pitching?? Well, you might just have something there.

Finally and most predictably, here's a look at Marc Rzepczynski from deep inside the tank currently serving as my full time residence.

Based on Rzepczynski's unsightly splits in 2010, I say do less of that. Whatever it is. Please head over to Fangraphs yourself and fart around with this excellent new tool.
1 - Book it. I'm way out there the limb with this bold prediction, I know.


  1. I feel like I strolled into a science lab here. I think that's a good thing, but I'm so out of my element that I should refrain from saying something that could be construed as less than intelligent.

  2. Don't be intimidated, this only measures volumes of pitches. Nothing too fancy. Brandon Morrow's change up yay!

  3. Sorry. It looked like a microscopic look at the Jays' pitchers' shower shoes.

    Will be very interested to see what happens with Rzep. I have a thought that all of the extraneous hitches and twitches will be out of his delivery next year, and he'll bring those Zona League numbers back with him to Toronto for 2011.

    I am, as ever, and optimist.

  4. These all FAIL in comparison to Frankie Francisco's devastating chairball.

    Chart that shit, Fangraphs.

  5. Nice. I've never seen these heat maps before. Thanks for the heads up, Drew.

    Also, it was nice to meet you and a bunch of other passionate Blue Jays fans last night. My dad and I don't have nearly enough people to talk baseball with.

  6. Uhhhhh... I dont get it. Manny bats right?

  7. Exactly. They stack the lineup with lefties even though traditional split thinking says use right handed batters. What you lose in l/l match ups you gain by taking the pitcher's best weapon away. You know?

  8. cool so take the change up away (marginally) and the out pitch becomes (marginally) less of an out pitch... although I would still take almost any Ray over Manny vs Romero.

  9. Went off on a tangent before and was considering platoons and whether platoon splits can realistically be translated into production. A cold batter being put into the 7th inning will actually produce the same vs their career? Hard to believe. Any statistics to cull my imagination... not involving career pinch hitters a la matt stairs?

  10. There are studies showing a pinch hitter "penalty" that amounts to 10% of their wOBA, I believe.

    When looking at strategically matching up to counter a pitcher's best weapon, it is more about setting the lineup to start the game. In game adjustments can be (and will be, in Maddon's case. He loves bringing his DH in to field etc) in the heat of the moment.

  11. Are the colours in the graph relative to theat pitcher's average effectiveness only, or is green in one chart the same as green in another?

  12. oh wait these are just frequency maps, nevermind

  13. Interesting to note that if you look at a Roy Halladay cutter underneath a microscope, it looks exactly like the heat graph above. What a thing of beauty!


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