Suggestions

I know things have been quiet around here lately, well at least from me. I’m working on gathering data and building databases for my offseason projects. I now have my pitch f/x database built and I’m starting to delve into that. Some things I plan to look at are:

  • Nate Robertson – what the hell happened to him
  • Justin Verlander – what the hell happened to him
  • Plate discipline for the hitters
  • Pitch selection by catcher

Do you have other things you’d like me to look at with this data?  For those who aren’t familiar with pitch f/x, itis the system that displays pitch trajectories in the MLB Gameday application.  So we can examine pitch movement, velocity, location, selection, etc.  I can’t make guarantees about turning around every suggestion, but if it’s something that a)I think is interesting, b)I can do it, then there’s a good chance it will get done.

117 Comments

  1. Eric Cioe

    October 13, 2008 at 12:35 am

    I’d like to see a game analysis of Bonderman’s would-have-been gem at LAA, compared to say his long but not spectacular outing at NYY, to see if there was any difference in stuff.

    I don’t think he’s been healthy since about June of last year, and I think he could be absolutely huge this coming season.

  2. charlie

    October 13, 2008 at 12:59 am

    lots of talk this year about players underperforming to their statistical mean. i can’t remember if you or any of the other bloggers…perhaps lee…has looked at this year vs the statistical mean for each player.

  3. David

    October 13, 2008 at 1:23 am

    I’m with Eric and second the stuff on Bonderman

    if you’re going to analyze some people it be nice if one of those was him

    Also it would be nice to look at like you said

    What the hell happened to Verlander

    But also the other “given spot” in the rotation – Armando and why he was so good and what he’d have to do to repeat

    As far as the hitters IMO maybe how some of 2009 projected starters hit 2008 AL Central Starters – and maybe how to do better?

    I duno I know enough to know I don’t know much in this area unless possibly I see it analyzed

    I’m sure whatever you decide to do will be great

  4. greg

    October 13, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Billfer – some random thoughts.

    Wondering if we can test certain theories on to why he regressed. IE. If a pitcher can’t locate their curveball, hitters can sit on the fastball. Did this happen to Verlander? With pitch fx I imagine we can identify curveballs. If we have a high % of curveballs outside the strikezone, or perhaps excessively wild, this would corroborate that theory.

    Also would pitch fx tell us if certain sequences of changing speeds and locations correlate to success, and conversely, if the pitcher DIDN’T change speeds, if that correlated to failure.

    Can pitch fx identify ‘late movement’?

    Can we derive the pitcher’s arm slot from the pitch fx data? It’s been said that repeating the same armslot on different pitches makes it difficult for a hitter to identify the type of pitch early on. Is there any correlation between success and repeating the same armslot according to the pitch fx data?

  5. Walt

    October 13, 2008 at 8:35 am

    I would like to see a comparison of Pudge’s pitch calling compared to Inge and Ryan. I am assuming that you were planning on doing this, since you mentioned pitch selection by catchers. I wish there were some stats available to see how many times the catcher was shaken off by the pitcher.

  6. Kyle J

    October 13, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I’d be interested to know whether Pudge really stopped calling breaking balls because he didn’t want to block them. Obviously doesn’t make any difference going forward. Just helps determine how fondly I should remember Pudge’s tenure in Detroit.

  7. Eric Cioe

    October 13, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Greg, regarding late movement – I don’t think there is such a thing. How would a ball change direction mid-flight?

  8. greg

    October 13, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    No such thing as late movement? …..I’m guessing this is a joke.

  9. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 13, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Eric,

    “late movement” is one term that i’ll be happy to back greg up on.

    the idea, as i understand it, is that as the horizontal velocity of the ball slows (something more pronounced “late” in the path of the ball to the plate), any rotation on the ball will have an increased effect on its flight when compared to its “early” higher velocity flight, which would have less movement.

  10. Smoking Loon

    October 13, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    I don’t think late movement is supposed to be a change in (as in reversal of) direction. It might more accurately be termed late trajectory.

  11. Smoking Loon

    October 13, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    “Do you have other things you’d like me to look at with this data?”

    Yes. The major pitch location weakness for each hitter.

  12. Mark in Chicago

    October 13, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    billfer,

    I’d be interested to see if Tigers pitchers had any common tendencies, i.e., first-pitch fastball, two-strike breaking pitch in the dirt, etc. Also, I always seemed to get the sense they would get ahead of hitters and then nibble at the corners, so I’d be curious to see if there’s any data to demonstrate that.

    Thanks for all your great work, this should be an interesting offseason.

  13. Eric Cioe

    October 13, 2008 at 5:03 pm

    Mark – I think your intuitions about getting ahead and then nibbling is probably correct, at least with Verlander. It seemed always be that he would get ahead using his fastball and then bounce four curveballs.

  14. Kevin in Austin (now Dallas)

    October 13, 2008 at 6:04 pm

    billfer – I’m wondering if you could do some analysis on Maggs’ first pitch swinging – pitch type and location vs. success.

    Also – mop rope necklaces explained.

  15. charlie

    October 13, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    i would be interested in knowing if rodney throws more strikes with his cap on straight…j/k.

  16. ron

    October 14, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Pretty good article in Sciece News dated 6/9/2001 by Peter Weiss on a baseball’s movement after it leaves a pitcher’s hand; some of the studies done in the 50s in a wind tunnel.

  17. billfer

    October 14, 2008 at 7:23 am

    I think there is some confusion around late movement, and it’s something I’ll try to show graphically when I get a chance.

    Essentially everyone that has chimed in is correct. The trajectory gets a little more pronounced as the ball decelerates (which some refer to as late movement). It doesn’t make a sharp change in direction though at the last moment (which some refer to as late movement). Other than a knuckle ball or doctored ball, the pitch is going to continue on it’s trajectory which is a byproduct of the velocity, direction, and spin rate and spin direction, until something stops it (the ground, a bat, a glove).

    So a sinker doesn’t suddenly drop. It was moving down all along.

  18. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 11:31 am

    I think “late movement” is also kind of an optical illusion. What I mean is that many times the catcher will try to “frame” a pitch by moving his glove towards the strike zone after catching the pitch, thus creating the illusion that the ball has moved more than it actually has.

  19. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 11:37 am

    Kevin in Dallas (my homie): I think Smoking Loon posted something in relation to Maggs first pitch swinging a week or so ago. I’ll paraphrase to say that the difference between his hitting .363 vs. .317 was entirely attributed to his BA on first pitch swings. He hit .295 (somehow posting a .284 OBP – sacrafice flies make for a funny looking statistical anomaly) in ’08 on first pitches vs. .496 in ’07. For what it’s worth, his career BA on the first pitch is .355, so you could probably argue that he’ll post a higher batting average in ’09 if he has a more “normal” year on the first pitch. Or something.

  20. greg

    October 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    Chris wrote:

    I think “late movement” is also kind of an optical illusion. What I mean is that many times the catcher will try to “frame” a pitch by moving his glove towards the strike zone after catching the pitch, thus creating the illusion that the ball has moved more than it actually has.

    unquote

    Chris, the phenomena you describe exists, but I’ve never heard anyone refer to it as late movement, nor does it relate to the phenomena I or others have observed.

    Sounds like many here have never seen Jake Peavy pitch. Just watch him, then y’all will say, ‘ah, so THAT’S late movement’.

    I’m pretty surprised at the ……reaction to the term late movement. I thought the term was a common as terms such as ‘splitter’ or ‘rising fastball’ and its …….’existence’ just as accepted.

  21. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 14, 2008 at 12:52 pm

    Chris,

    optical illusion probably has something to do with the perception of ‘late movement’, but the illusion doesn’t require ‘framing’ by the catcher (although framing may enhance it). i’m eager to see the graphic on this.

  22. greg

    October 14, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Dr. Dre’s eloquent description of the non-illusory reality of late movement deserves reposting:

    the idea, as i understand it, is that as the horizontal velocity of the ball slows (something more pronounced “late” in the path of the ball to the plate), any rotation on the ball will have an increased effect on its flight when compared to its “early” higher velocity flight, which would have less movement.

    Hence, why initially it’s coming in relatively straight, and then, ‘drops off the table’.

  23. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 14, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    greg,

    i think part of the issue here is that people are trying to clear up misconceptions of terminology vs. what data can demonstrate. although these terms are widely used, they might be better described as illusions that either can’t be showed graphically or are difficult to show. for example, ‘rising fastball’ is an accepted term, but it should be noted that the effect it describes is an illusion. a ‘rising fastball’ doesn’t in fact rise, but rather does not drop as much as expected, creating the illusion of rising. it may be difficult for pitch f/x to demonstrate this.

  24. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    I think describing a pitcher as a “flamethrower” is also a misnomer. I have not actually seen this phenomenon, though 2006-era Joel Zumaya came perilously close to causing a baseball to spontaneously combust in midflight.

  25. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 14, 2008 at 1:18 pm

    Kevin in Austin,

    “mop rope necklaces explained”

    THANK YOU, that had been bugging me forever! for years i had always wondered what the eff was with all the necklaces, i just figure they were the new ‘bling’.

  26. greg

    October 14, 2008 at 1:30 pm

    Heaven forbid we discuss knuckleballers.

  27. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 14, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    greg,

    to throw knuckleballs requires the ability to bend the laws of physics, true story.

  28. greg

    October 14, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    In other words, don’t mess with Tim Wakefield!

  29. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 1:38 pm

    “I think describing a pitcher as a “flamethrower” is also a misnomer.”

    The term flamethrower is in itself a misnomer. It is dubious as to whether a flame can truly be “thrown,” by the human hand or otherwise. In any case, if a thrown baseball should burst into flames in the course of its flight, it is still the baseball that will have been thrown, not the flame. In addition, it is doubtful that atmospheric friction on the surface covering of a baseball thrown at less than ~17,000 mph would cause even melting, let alone flaming combustion.

    I take exception to the terms “ground ball pitcher,” “fly ball pitcher,” and “split-finger fastball.” I have yet to see any pitcher throw either a ground ball or a fly ball. They all seem to be line-drive pitchers. And none of them have any split fingers, either, as far as I can tell. Lies.

  30. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 1:43 pm

    it is doubtful that atmospheric friction on the surface covering of a baseball thrown at less than ~17,000 mph would cause even melting, let alone flaming combustion.

    I seem to remember the FOX radar gun registering a Zumaya pitch at 18,343 mph during the World Series. Unfortunately David Eckstein was able to grittily scrap it past the outstretched arm of Craig Monroe for a double.

    And none of them have any split fingers, either, as far as I can tell.

    Legend has it that Mordecai Brown had only one finger, but it was split in such a way that it appeared to be three. Also, Antonio Alfonseca has an unexplained sixth digit on each of his hands. More research needs to be done on this issue. These are the things that factcheck.org should be investigating. Screw the presidential campaigns.

  31. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    “I seem to remember the FOX radar gun registering a Zumaya pitch at 18,343 mph”

    Yeah, but those FOX radar guns are always a few hundred fast, you know that.

  32. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 2:12 pm

    “to throw knuckleballs requires the ability to bend the laws of physics, true story.”

    If I were a pitcher and could bend the laws of physics, I think I’d start with making the ball invisible or capable of passing through wood and aluminum but not leather.

  33. ron

    October 14, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Could not a baseball have a slight boomerang effect with the air traveling over the seams and thus cause it to change direction on it’s way to the plate?

  34. ron

    October 14, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    I know a ball with half it’s cover off will do funny things….and then you wrap in electrical tape for the rest of the summer.

  35. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 14, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    ron,

    careful, that 2:19 post might well net you a name change, of a Shakespearean variety. would not that we deem it so necessary, verily so. so.

  36. Vince in MN

    October 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    The bending the laws of physics reminds me of the movie “Flubber” (a ’50s Disney movie with Fred MacMurray?). Then there was the movie (Disney again?) where a guy invented some solution that repelled wood; he became a pitcher, of course. Boy the Tigers could use some of that stuff – forget the mud (kenny Rogers) or the sandpaper (Brian Mohler). Of course, they would still have to throw strikes for it to be effective.

  37. greg

    October 14, 2008 at 2:52 pm

    Loon’s elaboration on flamethrowers is brilliant.

  38. Vince in MN

    October 14, 2008 at 3:07 pm

    ron,

    Kyle Farnsworth is the master of the boomerang effect. That is why he will not be back.

  39. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Vince: That comment incited a snicker on my end. Say what you will – Farnsworth throws the best gopher ball in the league. Hands down.

  40. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 4:07 pm

    “Could not a baseball have a slight boomerang effect with the air traveling over the seams and thus cause it to change direction on it’s way to the plate?”

    Hey, you should know, Ron. You’re the one who mentioned the Peter Weiss Science News article that I located but couldn’t access for some reason.

    As far as I know, the trajectory of any pitch can be thought of as two arcs, one on the horizontal plane and the other on the vertical. The ball can travel up out of the pitcher’s hand and then down (relative to the ground), but it will never arc right and then turn left or vice versa (relative to a fixed point like home plate), unless it is doctored to the point of no longer even resembling a baseball. Also, a baseball would have to be fired from a gun to begin to approximate a “straight pitch.” All pitches are essentially curves. And that’s my condensed theory of pitching physics.

    This is not to say that I don’t believe in magical pitches like the knuckleball and gyroball. Of course I do. :)

  41. Chris in Dallas

    October 14, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    All I know is that Bugs Bunny threw a hell of a changeup.

  42. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Greg, I actually wrote the flamethrower bit with you in mind. Everyone else just groaned and rolled their eyes. I’m glad you liked it.

  43. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    “All I know is that Bugs Bunny threw a hell of a changeup.”

    I know the reference without being able to clearly recall it, though I’m positive I saw that one. What a drag it is getting old.

  44. Smoking Loon

    October 14, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    “Farnsworth throws the best gopher ball in the league.”

    Whar are they called gopher balls, by the way? I’ve known the term forever without questioning it. Is it because the batter hits it so far you have to “go pher” it to retrieve it? Because it “go phar (phur)”?

  45. Rick G

    October 14, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Smoking Loon, does this help?

    One, two, three strikes – yer out!
    One, two, three strikes – yer out!
    One, two, three strikes – yer out!

    And yes, I believe a gopher ball is one hit so far you must go pher it.

    Speaking of gopher balls and such, I’m currently reading a book titled “The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs” which is just loaded with unbelievable but true stories about the Babe’s career. I’ll post the highlights in the next week or two when I finish.

  46. Vince in MN

    October 14, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    Speaking of Babe Ruth, “The Babe Ruth Story” (1948) ranks as one of the worst, if not the worst, baseball movie ever made. Typical Hollywood sentimental sports mush of the period with lots of inaccuracies and actors not convincing in their roles as athletes. Kind of a hoot if you are into that sort of thing. Hard to find though (surprise, surprise).

  47. Vince in MN

    October 14, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I would like to know where the terms “fly ball” and “pop-up” come from.

  48. Coleman

    October 14, 2008 at 10:07 pm

    Chris in Dallas: “Kevin in Dallas (my homie): I think Smoking Loon posted something in relation to Maggs first pitch swinging a week or so ago. I’ll paraphrase to say that the difference between his hitting .363 vs. .317 was entirely attributed to his BA on first pitch swings.”

    That was me, although I wouldn’t put it past Smoking Loon to take credit. And then stick you with the check. I know his motives are good though; it all has something to do with the Snorg girl.

    But that would be my suggestion: the pitch data should show if the difference between Pitch 1 Maggs ’08 and Pitch 1 Maggs ’07 is more because he was getting different 1st pitches, or more because the results were just different.

    The reason Maggs’ 1st pitch stats are statistically so useful is he went for the 1st pitch the exact same rate (19.4 % of the time) both seasons, so you actually have something of a constant you can use.

    [Not only was Maggs' 1st pitch BA well below his career average, it was well below the Tiger team average and the American League average player average].

  49. Coleman

    October 14, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    Smoking Loon: ‘“Farnsworth throws the best gopher ball in the league.”

    Whar are they called gopher balls, by the way? I’ve known the term forever without questioning it. Is it because the batter hits it so far you have to “go pher” it to retrieve it? Because it “go phar (phur)”?”

    It is because it’s an instant run, and back in the days of the manual scoreboards, the “1″ placard was not actually the numeral one, but instead was a stick figure of a Gopher on its hind legs with a big baseball in its mouth.

    (shhhh, I think we can get Loon to go for this one)

  50. Ken in Las Vegas

    October 14, 2008 at 11:41 pm

    Ham sandwich?

  51. billfer

    October 15, 2008 at 6:23 am

    I guess with the late movement thing, is that it could just be called movement.

    @Dre – With regard to pitch f/x it actually does a great job of capturing the “rise” illusion because the measurement it gives for vertical movement is the difference between the path of the ball and the path of the same ball with no spin. So it actually gives a positive number indicating that the ball rises (when it actually doesn’t, it just sinks less).

  52. billfer

    October 15, 2008 at 6:25 am

    @coleman – Maggs has actually swung at more like 40% of first pitches the last 2 years.

  53. Matt in Toledo

    October 15, 2008 at 8:53 am

    I can see there are a ton of requests here, but I’ve wondered if Granderson’s improvement against lefties this year would show up on Pitch f/x.

  54. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 10:52 am

    That’s an interesting question, Ken. I’m going to research it.

    “I guess with the late movement thing, is that it could just be called movement.”

    Ha ha. Very dry. It could also just be called late. By virtue of being thrown, it would seem that the ball moves until it comes to rest somewhere.

    “a stick figure of a Gopher”

    Really, Coleman? Wow. *wide eyes, slack jaw*

    My database on Magglio’s first-pitch numbers appears to have been hacked into within the past couple weeks…

  55. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

    billfer wrote – I guess with the late movement thing, is that it could just be called movement.

    But wouldn’t that then become something completely and utterly different than what I initially mentioned? I’m not interested in movement, but rather ‘late movement’. I’m not interested in the ultra slight relatively straight movement during the first 40 feet or so of the ball’s path, I’m interested sudden, drastic, radical movement that makes the bottom suddenly fall out the last 20 feet.

  56. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 11:41 am

    “I’m interested [in the] sudden, drastic, radical movement that makes the bottom suddenly fall out the last 20 feet.”

    Me, too, Greg. But I suspect that sudden, drastic, and radical will be measured in surprisingly small numbers. Also, don’t discount the first 40 feet. The first thing measured with pitch f/x – I think – is release point. My decidedly non-expert take on things is that this is a signifcant factor lurking in those first 40 feet. Deception of the hitter, when it happens, would seem to be begin with this.

  57. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Smoking Loon – right, right, no doubt those are important, but I wanted to isolate the ‘late movement’ effect into one ‘study’.

    It’s what makes Jake Peavy a Cy Young caliber pitcher and not just another ‘ace of the staff’. If you have a normal pitch with normal break/movement, a good hitter can easily make contact with that pitch, but if the pitch looks like one pitch(a normal fastball) and then suddenly, at the last second drops off the table(granted its an invisible table, but its there I tell you), that’s when a pitcher starts to enter the ‘unhittable’ realm.

    The numbers might be small, but the effect is gigantic.

    Nevertheless, all else being equal, I would suspect that if we could quantify ‘late movement’ somehow it would be a useful tool in predicting success.

  58. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm

    “The numbers might be small, but the effect is gigantic.”

    Sure, absolutely. There is some kind of table. The perception might be exaggerated, but the perception is what causes the result.

    Something else to consider is whether late movement is necessarily late at all. In some cases it might not be. You might need to know the exact path of the ball to pinpoint where the break, the point of deception*, really was. I don’t know if pitch f/x data gives you all that.

    * Leaving aside the impossibility of knowing the specifics of how any given hitter in any given at bat was either deceived or else knew exactly where the ball was headed or just got lucky or just lucky enough to make contact but not solid, effective contact.

  59. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Not that it has anything to do with the Tigers, but I would be curious to see if pitch fx can come up with any reason, under the sun, why the heck Mariano Rivera and Johan Santana are effective. I look at their stuff, at least their movement and say, they’re just not that good. Their stuff looks easy to hit. If I were a hitter, just judging by their movement that I can see, I’d much rather face Mariano Rivera than Fernando Rodney. Rodney’s stuff looks wicked good. If I faced him he’d make me look silly, but Rivera just looks like he’s chucking up fat fastballs in batting practice. If I was on deck, I’d be salivating waiting on the on deck circle getting ready to tattoo one of Mariano’s matzah balls out of the park. What’s the deal?

    And Johan, he looks ok, but Danial Cabrera looks a lot tougher to hit, I’d rather face Johan, even though, statistically, Cabrera sucks and Johan is elite.

  60. ron

    October 15, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Isn’t the ball spinning backwards on some pitches and has a forward spin on others, depending on where the thumb is placed on the ball? C’mon, open that trophy case and grab one of them balls. We’re only beginning to touch on this subject. The spin could cause a perception problem, couldn’t it?

  61. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 2:11 pm

    billfer: “@coleman – Maggs has actually swung at more like 40% of first pitches the last 2 years.”

    You’re right of course; what I should have said is he HIT 19% of the 1st pitches he gets.

    (I’m not sure what happens if you measure the number of 1st pitches he swings at, but the way I have looked at it is that swinging at missing/fouling on the 1st pitch is part of what goes into 0-1 count results, etc)

  62. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    I think that one thing that makes relief pitchers effective is that, just as batters hit pitchers better after having faced them in other games, so within a single game, the timing gets better the more pitches you see. Which is why an Eckersley or Rivera will throw a 1st pitch strike. Which the batter knows, so he has a choice of starting with a 0-1 count or swinging at the first pitch he has seen from that pitcher, etc.

    Those dynamics don’t come into play for starting pitchers.

    (Eckersley enhanced this effect by working extremely quickly, which I’ve always thought was even tougher for batters to adjust to after the pace of the game bogging down in the 7-8 innings due to La Russa’s interminable multiple pitching changes…)

  63. Eric Cioe

    October 15, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    I just don’t think you guys are right about this. It’s not like a splitter goes 40 feet with the same trajectory as a fastball and then suddenly changes direction. My guess is that down-breaking pitches are generally thrown such that if they were a fastball, they would end up higher … and that they travel on a more or less even arc downward. The middle point is probably an inch or two higher than the fastball, and then by the end, the lack of back-rotation (with a splitter) combined with the lower speed makes it end up lower. It’s not like the seams are spinning, spinning, spinning, and then at last they finally grip the air and the ball moves like a car doing a burnout.

  64. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 2:26 pm

    ron: “Isn’t the ball spinning backwards on some pitches and has a forward spin on others, depending on where the thumb is placed on the ball?”

    That doesn’t explain that hubcap thing, where it spins forward, then stops and reverses…

    Seriously though, I have to agree that even if many of the perceived movements are illusory, what the batter is perceiving is more important in some ways than what is actually happening.

    For instance I would predict a similar strikeout rate for a pitcher who can throw a pitch where “the bottom drops out” and breaks down late, and a pitcher who has the ability to hypnotize batters into seeing extreme breaks on the ball and throws BP fastballs down the middle (well actually the 2nd guy would get more called strikes).

  65. Eric Cioe

    October 15, 2008 at 2:33 pm

    Here is a good diagram of the trajectory of Scott Kazmir’s fastball versus his changeup. It’s confirms what I think – by throwing the changeup such that at a point 20 feet from the mound, it is an inch or two higher than the fastball, the pitch is “disguised within the fastball” until the difference becomes pronounced. It isn’t as if it is moving much more later.

  66. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    @Eric Cioe: it makes sense to me that the splitter is probably following a different trajectory from the start–but not so different to be obvious. By the time the batter recognizes that it’s a splitter, the difference between where the ball is and where he is expecting it is different, and it’s a difference that happens all at once, perceptually. (This is easier to understand than explain, perhaps…)

    Which is why if you know what pitch is coming it’s not so hard to hit, and I would say in terms of perception, if you know what’s coming it makes the ball not move as much.

    Knowing a curve is coming, and getting it in the heart of the strike zone, causes more curveball “hanging” than anything having to do with spin or release etc.

  67. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 2:47 pm

    Actually, it will be interesting to see billfer’s pitch/catcher data, and see if there are any oddities that might indicate whether some pitchers, or catchers, or pitcher-catcher combos, were likely giving away what was coming, or having signs stolen.

  68. Eric Cioe

    October 15, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    I think I can dispell another myth – the “hanging breaking ball.” It isn’t as if it doesn’t break. It breaks just as much as a good one. It’s just high in the zone, so that it isn’t disguised within the fastball.

  69. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    “I just don’t think you guys are right about this.”

    Who guys, Eric? What you say in that post makes sense to me, and I don’t think anyone would argue that it doesn’t.

    How about this: Any pitch with “movement” breaks at some point. That point will vary. It can be early, it can be late. It can be a pitch with a lot of spin on it, or a pitch with virtually no spin. To say that a pitch “breaks” in this case doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a traditonal “breaking ball,” just that there is some point where the perceived trajectory deceives, or is supposed to deceive.

    Yeah, we’re spin doctors, Ron.

  70. Eric Cioe

    October 15, 2008 at 3:08 pm

    No, I disagree with that. One could show exactly where a pitch would end up given nothing but RPM and direction of spin, release point, and about three inches of travel. A pitch is moving (breaking) from the moment it leaves the hand. A curveball doesn’t all of a sudden start gripping the air and moving more 20 feet from the plate. Neither does a sinker all of a sudden take a right turn in on the hands of a same-handed batter. The ball is thrown such that with no spin it would end up outside, but the backspin put on the ball combined with gravity makes up for the movement of it. Nothing changes the direction halfway through flight.

  71. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:10 pm

    Eric Cioe: hmm. You posted the trajectory comment before I could finish mine. But it looks like I beat you on the “hanging” curve!

    I think I’ll be lazy and take a break from posting and let you cover what I was thinking, since your explanations are better anyway.

  72. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    Eric wrote:

    I just don’t think you guys are right about this. It’s not like a splitter goes 40 feet with the same trajectory as a fastball and then suddenly changes direction.

    Unquote.

    Well, I think we’ll have to define what ‘change of direction’ means, as given the semantic precedant, all words seem to have different meaning here.

    The pitch is going down already, but ever so slightly, then yes suddenly, and abruptly, as the ball decelerates the spin is more effectual in causing increased break. So the direction doesn’t change in that it’s still going down the entire time, but the arc unequivocally changes, so if that constitutes change in direction, then it does change directions.

    Not that I ever caught in games, but I have ‘warmed up’ pitchers and I would question the existence of the sun before I questioned what I’ve seen with my own eyes hundreds of times. If there’s some confusion in terms we can clear up fine. But I don’t feel like wasting time debating whether ‘late movement’ exists, just whether pitch fx can quantify it.

    Yes, it could be an optical illusion, but only in the sense that, my house that I enter every night, that too could be an optical illusion.

  73. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    I’ve thrown curve balls that break, and ‘curve balls’ that don’t, the ones that don’t break I refer to as ‘hanging breaking balls’. Everyone I’ve ever played with used the term similarly.

  74. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 3:20 pm

    Eric,

    I don’t think anyone here is suggesting that there’s a sudden bend to the trajectory of these ‘late movement’ pitches, and by this i mean that whatever ‘movement’ is happening is an extension or continuation of a pre-existing curve (with the possible exception of a knuckleball?).

    The way I picture it, its more like an exponential equation. The pitch may start off relatively ‘straight’ but arc is curving downwards at an exponential rate. I’ll try to find the article that mentions this, but it says that all pitches have about the same rate of (horizontal) deceleration…their initial velocity varies, but not the rate at which they slow down.

    As far as physics goes, that mostly leaves any rotation applied to the ball as the remaining factor influencing movement (assuming your last name isn’t Rogers). A ball thrown with forward spin will ‘sink’, while one with backward rotation will ‘rise’. So, as I understand it, adding or subtracting velocity will lessen or enhance the effect the ball’s rotation has on its flight to the plate.

  75. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    “Yes, it could be an optical illusion, but only in the sense that, my house that I enter every night, that too could be an optical illusion.”

    “I’ve thrown curve balls that break, and those that don’t, the ones that don’t I refer to as ‘hanging breaking balls’.”

    equally devastating…in opposite ways. cheers greg.

  76. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:24 pm

    greg: “I’ve thrown curve balls that break, and ‘curve balls’ that don’t, the ones that don’t break I refer to as ‘hanging breaking balls’. Everyone I’ve ever played with used the term similarly.”

    You must have the good fortune to have not listened to very much television commentary I take it…

  77. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    “Yes, it could be an optical illusion, but only in the sense that, my house that I enter every night, that too could be an optical illusion.”

    there’s a sub-prime mortgage joke in here, i just can’t find it.

  78. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    greg: ‘Yes, it could be an optical illusion, but only in the sense that, my house that I enter every night, that too could be an optical illusion.”

    Since you mention it, it’s best not to trust anything you see at night, since the accretion of dark air particles that fill the sky become so thick as to blot out the sun’s light.

  79. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:29 pm

    Dr Dre: “there’s a sub-prime mortgage joke in here, i just can’t find it.”

    Actually there’s even a joke in the joke there.

  80. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 3:34 pm

    Coleman – comment on television commentary – incorrect.

  81. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Dr Dre mentions the knuckleball, and that is an interesting case, since is there really a knuckleball trajectory?

    Some player once said (Ted Williams? I don’t think so, yet isn’t he the only hitter who seems to have ever said anything?), with a knuckleball, you can’t tell where it’s going to go, but you can get a pretty good idea when it’s going to get there.

    In other words, since the timing isn’t hard to get down, you can adjust to the movement (and of course if there isn’t much movement to adjust to, then the pitcher’s toast).

  82. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 3:42 pm

    greg: well I find it hard to believe as many times as I hear the phrase, pitchers are throwing curve balls that don’t curve. Which isn’t to say I actually don’t believe it, but it would seem surprising. So would you really say most of the time these are actually curve balls that don’t curve, as opposed to curve balls curving into the middle of the strike zone, etc?

    And since you’ve thrown curve balls, and I’ve only fouled them off the top of my foot, when you throw a curve ball that doesn’t break, does that also tend to leave the ball high in the strike zone (as a starting point, not just compared to where it would have broken to), or is the location an entirely different problem?

  83. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    greg, to semi-piggy-back off Coleman here, when you say:

    “I’ve thrown curve balls that break, and those that don’t, the ones that don’t I refer to as ‘hanging breaking balls’.”

    does that mean you tried to throw a curve ball, weren’t able to…the result being a ‘hanging breaking ball’?

  84. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 3:51 pm

    “One could show exactly where a pitch would end up given nothing but RPM and direction of spin, release point, and about three inches of travel.”

    I’m splitting hairs at this point, Eric, but:

    a) It’s not where the pitch ends up, but the trajectory that gets it there that is more to the point here

    b) Why three inches of travel? Diameter of the ball?

    c) Spin cannot increase while the ball is in flight. Consider the possibility that loss of spin, loss of “air grip,” has an effect.

    d) “Nothing changes the direction halfway through flight.” To the contrary, the direction is changing continuously, from the moment the ball leaves the pitcher’s hand, because the trajectory is an arc, and the rate of this change increases the farther the ball travels.

    e) Again, what I mean with the point the ball “breaks” at is this: When a ball that started out going up out of the pitchers hand reaches its apex and begins to fall, and/or b) when the ball begins its most rapid increase of arc left or right, or – indeed – simply down, IF it does in any pronounced* way (some pitches will, some won’t).

    * Subjective but probably not hard to agree on.

  85. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 3:56 pm

    “Subjective but probably not hard to agree on.”

    would have been the anti-title to this thread…

  86. greg

    October 15, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    Maybe I should back track, let me just say that countless others have used the term the way I understand it. After I actually thought about it some more, most people, when they use it, don’t actually discuss what they mean, they just use the term and assume you already know the meaning. So it’s possible that others used it with a different meaning and I just assumed they meant it the way I’ve always heard it used..

    And technically, to say it doesn’t break AT ALL would probably be inaccurate, its just that the break is so small that it’s imperceptible or inconsequential. The break is so insignificant that it doesn’t induce a swing and a miss, rather, it induces extreme mashing from the hitters.

  87. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 4:08 pm

    greg: “induces extreme mashing” now there’s a phrase…I suddenly envisioned a new pitcher entering the game, and as he’s warming up the graphic:

    -Fastball 90-94 with movement
    -Must get ahead in the count early to be effective
    -Curveball induces extreme mashing

  88. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 4:14 pm

    I can’t tell whether you’re describing Rodney, Zumaya, Farnsworth, Dolsi, Cruceta, Seay, Lopez, Glover, Miner, Verlander, Bonderman, Willis, or Lambert, Coleman. I’m just pretty sure it isn’t Rogers or Jones.

  89. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    Loon,

    you pretty much just ruined ’09 for me in one post ;)

  90. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Well, Dre, you forced my hand. Perhaps NOW you’ll consider getting behind the Loon Plan. Remember, I moved Cabrera back to 1B and am willing to trade Thames if I can’t move Guillen.

  91. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 5:17 pm

    Loon,

    my endorsement of the “Plan” would come with some stipulations.

    first, i would need to be provided with my own sky box. of course this would need to be stocked with nothing but the finest of beverages, Natty Ice.

    second, once a month i get one GM-level decision (you can have two vetos for the season).

    third, Thames must be traded for none other than the post-season version of Manny Ramirez.

  92. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 5:19 pm

    “c) Spin cannot increase while the ball is in flight. Consider the possibility that loss of spin, loss of “air grip,” has an effect.”

    Forces an amendment (in italics):

    “e) Again, what I mean with the point the ball “breaks” at is this: When a ball that started out going up out of the pitchers hand reaches its apex and begins to fall, and/or b) when the ball begins its most rapid increase or decrease of arc left or right, or – indeed – simply down, IF it does in any pronounced* way (some pitches will, some won’t).”

    The loss of spin would have to mean a decrease in the effect of the spin. Causing the ball to sink more (or less?) or travel straighter than it did when it was spinning more rapidly, presumably. A matter of difference in centimeters or inches, probably, but such differences matter (both ways) when it comes to contact with the bat.

  93. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 5:27 pm

    Dre

    The sky box and beverages are a given. Given how I like your ideas and have used yours (among those of others) in coming up with the Loon Plan, making you Assistant GM and refusing the Mariners permission to talk with you would be the least I could do.

  94. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Dre-Loon etc: You gotta love the off-season negotiating. OK, I’ll sign on to the plan, and lend it the full power of the Ambiguous Shifting Coleman Database of Ordonez Stats and Whatnot, with some stipulations.

    First, I would like my own groundbox. Perhaps you are not familiar with the term, unless you read it over my shoulder before I clicked “post.” A groudbox, is like a skybox, except at ground-level. Actually it is a bit of a misnomer; they are actually underground, with a small NHL-quality plexiglass supraterranean extrusion. [hey, I paid a lot for that sentence; I know a guy who knows a guy, if you ever need one of the big-word ones]. This would give me an ideal vantage point for my double-play efficiency studies.

    Second, the groundbox should be stocked with the inexhaustible number of the ham sandwiches, even bringing into account an inordinate number of guests with the cow-hunger upon them. Also some of that Nasty Ice beverage, since my intuition tells me the Dre Doc knows whereof he speaks.

    Thirdly, we fill the minor positions on the team with players with the same name as other players. For instance, I would wager it is completely doable to have 3 Ramon Santiagos on the team, one of whom is a pitcher. This will annoy other teams and lead to irrational behavior by which we will benefit.

    Forthly….um, some sort of intern or something who will be in charge of remembering 4th and 5th points, which I tend to lose track of.

  95. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Smoking Loon: “Dre The sky box and beverages are a given. Given how I like your ideas and have used yours (among those of others) in coming up with the Loon Plan, making you Assistant GM”

    This is good thinking and will allow Al Avila to dedicate himself to his catching career.

  96. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    And I don’t want to trade Thames. Or even Guillen. But I don’t think “we” can just buy all the pitching we need, and those guys just happen to the biggest trade pieces that wouldn’t leave us with a big position player hole to fill (i.e. Polanco, Ordonez).

  97. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    Ha, and without an intern too:

    Fourthly: Those NattyAss beverages? Served by Snorg girls.

  98. Smoking Loon

    October 15, 2008 at 5:33 pm

    :)

  99. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    I mean, I know who you’re all referring to (I think), but missed the boat on ‘Snorg girl’ here on the blog, how did it start?

    “A groudbox, is like a skybox, except at ground-level.”

    Coleman, its been a while since i’ve read something so blatantly obvious but oh-so hilarious…in my head, you were channeling Caliendo doing Bush.

    Also, I will now institute a policy of performing an over-exaggerated, guilty-look-on-face, conspicuous check to see if somebody is looking over my shoulder while i hit ‘submit’ – my goal is to confuse my co-workers as much as possible.

  100. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 15, 2008 at 5:48 pm

    bilfer,

    at its inception, was this blog a ‘normal’ sports blog?

    i’m curious, was there a time when it was mundane, dry analysis…or has it been quirky all along. if it started off ‘normal’, could f/x chart the moment where it started breaking hard?

    Loon,

    if I accept your invite to be fantasy Assistant GM…

    1) would it be a Dwight-like scenario where i was in fact only Assistant to the GM, or an actual Assistant GM?

    2) would I have to switch from my ‘Dr’ title? if so, what is the preferred prefix?

  101. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    Wow am I depressed, I think I know how Dr Dre felt looking at the list of pitchers who fit the “Fastball 90-94 with movement / Must get ahead in the count early to be effective / Curveball induces extreme mashing” description.

    I had taken a quick look at the Ordonez 1st pitch stats, and discovered that the Snorg girl was hanging out at the baseball-reference site.

    So I just went to grab a link for the benefit of Dr Snorgless, and…gone! And not just gone, but replaced by the Gillette Young Guns Fantasy Challenge Guys. (I mean, guys and fantasy in the same sentence? I know that works for some, but that’s harsh when you’re expecting Snorg).

    And then if Snorg-loss weren’t depressing enough…there are NASCAR Fantasy Leagues?? Oh for the love of Snorg!

  102. Coleman

    October 15, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Dr Dre: “bilfer, at its inception, was this blog a ‘normal’ sports blog?”

    I’m thinking there’s a reason it’s been going since 2001….

  103. ron

    October 16, 2008 at 2:35 am

    Vince in Minnesota, sports movies are the worst. Would rather watch the Little Rascals play football or golf or box. More realistic.

  104. ron

    October 16, 2008 at 3:15 am

    Coleman, being that your plexiglass supraterranian extrusion will be underground, will it be placed under second base to aid you in your double play efficiency studies and which umpire wiil be responsible for whisking off the plexiglass?

  105. ron

    October 16, 2008 at 9:02 am

    Smoking Loon, I am a fantasy fan of your plan. With you and Dr Dre leading the way and with Coleman as your efficiency man, I see nothing but World Series victories in our fantasy future. During the seventh inning stretch, could we play Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and build a Fantasia themed ballpark?

  106. Dr Dre in Chicago

    October 16, 2008 at 10:59 am

    i may be inviting some controversy here, but B.R. may be one of the most overrated Queen songs of all time, let alone < all time. as far as the ballpark’s theme, and i’ll have to consult with Loon on this, but i was planning on one-upping Tampa’s weak ass fish tank in some grandiose way…i want sharks.

  107. Smoking Loon

    October 16, 2008 at 11:06 am

    I had no idea being the imaginary Tigers owner/GM/manager would come with so much imaginary responsibility. Yes, Dre, you can be the real Assistant GM and also keep the Dr.. Coleman can be the interim holder of all as yet unfilled vacancies, including – henceforth – head of Human Resources, responsible for all new hires. Ron’s Bohemian Rhapsody suggestion alone won him the job of Director of Marketing and Promotions.

    Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must get back to the business of constructing my imaginary team, smoking heavily, combing my perfect hair, and paying at least a modicum of attention to the enterprise that made it all possible, my Little Edgar’s Ham Sandwich (Defense!Defense!) business.

  108. Smoking Loon

    October 16, 2008 at 11:10 am

    “i want sharks.”

    There are Tiger Sharks…

    But you’ll need to talk to Ron about that. I really can’t be bothered with in-fighting and squabbles right now. Having Larish on the bench for 1B-3B now has rocked my world. I must retool.

  109. Smoking Loon

    October 16, 2008 at 11:28 am

    Dr Dre: “bilfer, at its inception, was this blog a ‘normal’ sports blog?”

    Coleman: “I’m thinking there’s a reason it’s been going since 2001….”

    I haven’t seen more than a handful of sports blogs myself, but as far as I can tell, this one has a pretty good balance. It’s not so silly/snide/ironic that you can’t be straightforward, and not so baseball cognoscenti/faux erudite that you can’t share some humor and personality. I like that.

  110. ron

    October 16, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    O.K., How about just the intro, Is this the real life, is this just fantasy, flashing across the scoreboard as Tiger after Tiger, including Inge, hits every pitch known to man, including the slurve.

  111. ron

    October 16, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    And a free Slurpee to all those in attendance, if Inge was to hit one of those infrequent slurves for a home run.

  112. greg

    October 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm

    Dr Dre – have to agree about B.R., but I would go so far as to say its one of the more overrated songs of all time, not just Queen. I think we can all thank Wayne’s World for that.

  113. Smoking Loon

    October 16, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    I like Bohemian Rhapsody. And that’s why I’m wondering what I should do if I let Renteria go and start Santiago at SS. Who’s going to be my new backup SS? Have Inge learn it a la Thames learning 1B? Could Iorg be ready for it? 2 infielders with 4-letter surnames that begin with “I” would be almost as cool as 3 Ramon Santiagos.

  114. ron

    October 17, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    Smoking Loon, nice to see a G.M. with a “not letting any grass grow under his feet, early bird gets the worm, he who hesitates is lost, now or never” attitude .

  115. Coleman

    October 17, 2008 at 4:39 pm

    ron: “Coleman, being that your plexiglass supraterranian extrusion will be underground, will it be placed under second base to aid you in your double play efficiency studies and which umpire wiil be responsible for whisking off the plexiglass?”

    i was imagining it in foul territory, so as not to require new ground rules and such, probably behind the 1st base coaches box, since Cabrera rarely strays that far in pursuit of the batted ball. And Andy Van Slyke could easily keep one of those resealable packets of windex wipes in his back pocket to keep the view nice.

  116. Coleman

    October 17, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Smoking Loon: I was about to add to your Iorg suggestion, but then realized Erkl was spelled with an ‘e’ not ‘i’

    Besides, a hotshot young star like that can turn girls’ heads as they say, and it will be hard for you to GM when you are crying over Mrs. Snorg-Iorg.

    I’ll stay out of the Best Songs of All-Time debate for now, in case some new good ones come out before all-time is up.

    PS: You’re all missing big-time though with these shark-tank ideas.

  117. ron

    October 18, 2008 at 2:54 am

    Behind Bohemian Rapshody at #2 has to be Richard Harris’ version of Macarthur Park – “I left the cake out in the rain”. The same Richard Harris who spoke the famous line in Camelot, “Run, boy run”.