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A different look at Zumaya’s outing

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.
Joel Zumaya pitch chart
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.
zumayaMPHhisto.JPG

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.
Joel Zumaya release point
(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

Related: A different look at the Bonderman-Halladay Duel

Posted by on April 13, 2007.

Tags: ,

Categories: 2007 Season, Pitching, Players, Research

20 Responses

  1. Welcome to baseball analysis in the 21st Century!

    Nice work Billfer!

    by Joey C. on Apr 13, 2007 at 11:42 am

  2. I enjoyed the enhanced MLB gameday last night too (even with the photo of Stairs in a Tiger cap) but this is really taking it up a notch, Billfer. One thing I didn’t notice during the game is Zumaya’s pitch in the top graph that’s way up and left. Was that to a righty? Holy moly. Don’t dig in, batter. Another thing – has there been any talk of that video game he was playing or have we put that behind us?

    by Ben in Denver on Apr 13, 2007 at 11:54 am

  3. Thanks for the analysis — confirms what TV showed last night that his mechanics and the end result of his pitches both seemed to be in control. I think he got away with a couple curves (blue dots above) that ended up too high but the difference in speed from the fastball and the movement on the curve will allow him to do it.

    And wow, 100 posts on the game threads — I don’t think you need a vote on SI to know how popular the blog is (although I did go vote already).

    by SJC in Detroit on Apr 13, 2007 at 12:38 pm

  4. Wow, this was an interesting read. Very, very good post.

    by Mike R on Apr 13, 2007 at 1:41 pm

  5. Nice work! Do you have the same analysis for a less effective pitcher? It would be interesting to see the release point spread of, say, Jason Grilli. Zumaya’s release point variation looks tight, but you don’t really know until you compare to other pitchers.

    by Doug on Apr 13, 2007 at 1:43 pm

  6. Also, seeing the 7 breaking balls in 20 pitches makes me wish he’d utilize his changeup more then he does. He was voted by Baseball America as having the best change in the entire organization back in 2005 i think it was. And with Verlander’s change being highly touted around the same time they were in the minors together, that’s impressive.

    by Mike R on Apr 13, 2007 at 2:00 pm

  7. So this is the stuff you were working on this winter that you did not get to show us? This is awesome stuff. It will be great when some day all the games will be in this kind of format.

    Lee

    by Lee Panas on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:10 pm

  8. Bilfer, is this data available on the MLB site somewhere as a database, or did you hand-enter those things one at a time? Could be fun to play with…

    by Charlie Szymanski on Apr 13, 2007 at 3:47 pm

  9. I’ll echo Doug. That release point graph needs to be compared to other pitchers. Feet? Zoom out to yards and even Hideo Nomo’s release point would be a single dot. Release point is a game of inches, so that graph can’t be considered conclusive.

    I love the accuracy and off-speed stuff though! :)

    by Jeff M on Apr 13, 2007 at 4:08 pm

  10. Doug and Jeff – As I said, this is the first Tigers game with enhanced game day so I only have data for those who pitched last night. There will be more analyses like this coming through out the season, so hopefully will all learn something along the way.

    Charlie – all the data is available in XML files on MLB’s site. To build the database you need to spider the data and then parse the xml.

    Mike R – May have been a mis-nomer on my part in terms of the non-fastballs. I lumped everything that wasn’t a fastball into one category. The break is also measured, but I haven’t delved into that yet.

    Lee – yep, this is the stuff.

    Ben, the one way out of the strike zone was to Gregg Zaun.

    by billfer on Apr 13, 2007 at 7:55 pm

  11. Zumaya’s changeup is around 88-90 mph, and no speeds are in that range his fastest curve was 85 mph.

    However can you send me a link to that particular xml file? You got two readings of 103 mph, but there didn’t appear to be any at 103 mph on the gameday.
    Also can you send me the xml file from 10/10/2006, when Zumaya pitched against the Athletics in the ALCS?

    Thanks man.

    by Jason on Apr 14, 2007 at 11:50 am

  12. [...] Both pitchers achieved nearly identical results, but did so with different arsenals. It was a joy to watch, even with an unfortunate ending for the Tigers. Related: A different look at Joel Zumaya’s Save [...]

    by The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » A different look at the Bonderman-Halladay Duel on Apr 14, 2007 at 1:10 pm

  13. Awesome stuff. Reminds you of how special this kid is.

    by Chris J on Apr 15, 2007 at 12:52 pm

  14. [...] ThisĀ  is a pretty cool analysis of Joel Zumaya’s pitching using Enhanced Gameday data … I’d like to see this for the Braves [...]

    by Chop-n-Change | MVN - Most Valuable Network » Blog Archive » Chop Links: 17th April on Apr 17, 2007 at 2:59 pm

  15. [...] A couple weeks ago we took a look at Joel Zumaya’s 2 inning save against Toronto through the eyes of MLB.com’s Enhanced Gameday. Last night against the White Sox Zumaya had an outing on the opposite end of the effectiveness spectrum. [...]

    by The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » Comparing Zumaya on Apr 26, 2007 at 8:05 pm

  16. [...] On Sunday, June 24th Andrew Miller took center stage on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball and promptly pitched 6 shut out innings. Miller only allowed 4 hits and 2 walks and was never really threatened. Was this a dominant performance by a young stud pitcher, or just another day at the office for the slumping Braves? I don’t know if we can really say one way or the other, but with enhanced gameday data we can at least get some additional information. If you are a new reader, MLB’s new gameday has a series of cameras set up in 8 major league parks that captures pitch speed, location, trajectory, and release point. I’ve used this data to look at Joel Zumaya and Jeremy Bonderman in the past. Others have looked at the consistency in data between parks, how pitches sink, and a variety of other studies. But back to the task at hand. [...]

    by The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » A different look at Andrew Miller on Jun 30, 2007 at 11:29 am

  17. [...] On April 13, he published “A Different Look at Zumaya’s Outing”, an article about velocity and relaease point in Joel Zumaya’s two-inning save on April 12th. [...]

    by Catalog of Enhanced Gameday analysis « Fast Balls on Aug 2, 2007 at 3:32 pm

  18. [...] On April 13, Bill Ferris published “A Different Look at Zumaya’s Outing”, an article about velocity and relaease point in Joel Zumaya’s two-inning save on April 12th. [...]

    by Enhanced Gameday analysis cataloged by date « Fast Balls on Sep 1, 2007 at 10:07 pm

  19. [...] On April 13, he published “A Different Look at Zumaya’s Outing”, an article about velocity and relaease point in Joel Zumaya’s two-inning save on April 12th. [...]

    by Enhanced Gameday analysis cataloged by author « Fast Balls on Sep 1, 2007 at 10:35 pm

  20. [...] On April 13, Bill Ferris published “A Different Look at Zumaya’s Outing”, an article about velocity and relaease point in Joel Zumaya’s two-inning save on April 12th.   [...]

    by Enhanced Gameday analysis cataloged by pitcher « Fast Balls on Sep 2, 2007 at 12:13 am

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About the Site Detroit Tigers Weblog was launched in July, 2001. At the time it was the only Tigers blog and it resided as a blogspot page. There were multiple authors and it mostly consisted of links to the rare times the Tigers were mentioned in the national media. We only had a few dozen […]more →

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