I think everyone was mighty blown away by Joel Zumaya’s 2 inning save last night. He pounded the strike zone with 100mph plus heaters and buckled knees with his curve ball. But just for fun, and because we can, let’s take a look at all the pitches that made up his night.
I don’t know if you noticed in the playoffs last year, but MLB Gameday started using an enhanced version that had camera’s catching the path of the pitch, the velocity, and the release point. This was kind of a neat feature, but what makes it gold is that the data is captured and stored on MLB.com’s servers. Inspired by the book Baseball Hacks: Tips & Tools for Analyzing and Winning with Statistics, and with some programming of my own, I worked this offseason to be able to capture and analyze this data. Imagine my disappointment when after the first 8 games the Tigers hadn’t had an “enhanced” game. Fortunately they did last night.
I mentioned pounding the strike zone earlier, and the chart below is a plot of Zumaya’s pitches last night.
In 2 innings Zumaya only had a half dozen balls that weren’t in, or on the fringes of the strike zone. When he’s throwing those pitches in the triple digits, they all become close enough to induce swings. In fact, Zumaya’s average fastball was 100.3 MPH last night. The distribution of “speed balls” is in the chart below.
Now one of the things that we’ve heard about Zumaya are concerns about his mechanics. There are concerns about the violence with which he throws the ball, as well as inconsistencies in his delivery that can lead to wildness. Last night this wasn’t an issue, at least in terms of release point. The chart below is a plot of where Zumaya released the ball. It’s a nice tight cluster, and we also don’t see much variation as he reached back for more velocity either. His breaking ball seemed to be released slightly lower, but that was pretty consistent as well.
(This chart is from the catcher’s perspective. The units are in feet I believe. 0 on the x-axis would be the middle of the pitchers rubber)
Some final notes on the outing:
To see more of the cool stuff that can be done with this data, check out this post by Joe Sheehan at Baseball Analysts. He had some of the same thoughts, but has taken it a lot farther.
And as a final note: Vote for your favorite Tiger blog at Sports Illustrated si.com/tigersvote