Earlier this week, Baseball Savant unveiled their new pitch movement data. We’ve had access to pitch movement since PITCHf/x data became publicly available in 2007. That’s been useful for comparing a pitcher to himself, but it hasn’t quite been effective at comparing pitchers to each other. For one, the data hasn’t been kept in one place. Brooks Baseball doesn’t have leaderboards. For another, not all pitches are created equal. The Savant data should make it easier for us to the rest of the league. Theoretically.
The numbers are a little confusing, so I’ll do my best to
explain copy and paste Mike Petriello’s explanation.
[Gravity is] what the new pitch movement leaderboards at Baseball Savant attempt to account for, reporting movement numbers in inches, with gravity included, and also showing context by comparing movement against similar pitches of that type (defined as pitches within plus/minus 2 MPH of velocity, and within plus/minus half a foot of extension and release point) to reflect what a batter sees from his perspective.
Pitches of a certain type are compared to other pitches of that type that are thrown at a similar velocity and are released at around the same point. For each pitch, the horizontal and vertical movement is given as well as the movement versus the “average” pitch of that type. When it says “average,” what it really means is “average pitch thrown at the same speed and from the same point.” Madison Bumgarner’s 86 mph cutter won’t be compared to Mark Melancon’s 92 mph cutter, but it will be compared to other 86 mph cutters thrown with a low three-quarter release.
What this means for us is that we can try to identify who has the best pitches on the Giants. We could have done this before, but now we can do it with Statcast. For each pitch type, I’ve identified who the player who has the best pitch based on its movement against average.
Best: Drew Pomeranz, +1.8 inches of rise against average
This may come as a shock to you, but the Giants don’t have a lot of great fastballs. While the rest of the league is maximizing their spin efficiency to throw fastballs above the uppercut swings of the flyball revolution, Farhan Zaidi is still trying to convince his pitching staff that the Rapsodo won’t give them cancer.
But Drew Pomeranz has been using Rapsodo for years, and it looks like the work paid off. Pomeranz’s 1.8 extra inches of rise ranks 50th in the majors, and it’s almost a full inch more than the next closest Giant: Reyes Moronta.
Best: Sam Dyson, +3.8 inches of sink against average
This is probably the least surprising development. Dyson’s sinker is nasty. Watching it makes you wonder how the league could want to move away from the pitch entirely. If more pitchers threw a sinker like Dyson, they certainly wouldn’t be.
Best: Tyler Beede, +3.5 inches of drop against average
Tyler Beede’s 2019 hasn’t gone the way he’s wanted it to, but at least he can take solace in the fact that he leads the Giants in drop against average on changeups. Part of his struggles have been that he’s left the pitch in the heart of the strike zone, but when he buries it below the knees, it’s an effective pitch.
Best: Tyler Beede, +6.0 inches of drop against average
Hey! Tyler Beede might be good. Well, if he could figure out where the ball is going. When he puts the curve where he wants to, he can make opposing hitters look absolutely silly. The potential is there, dang it.
Best: Shaun Anderson, +2.4 inches of drop against average and +3.3 inches of break against average
Both Will Smith and Reyes Moronta have more break on their sliders, but Anderson has the best two-plane movement. Anderson’s slider is his best secondary pitch, but it wasn’t as effective in his first start. His second time out, it looked a bit sharper and he missed more bats with it. He got Austin Riley to swing and miss at it, and any pitch that Riley doesn’t hit off the Coke Bottle deserves a medal.
Best: Nick Vincent, +2.7 inches of rise against average and +1.0 inches of break against average
Nick Vincent is a rare pitcher that has above average rise and break. It’s been key for him in his solid start to the season. To think nobody wanted else even wanted him on a minor league contract until February.