Random Things About Pitchers via Pitch f/x

Fangraphs.com, one of our favorite sites for baseball statistics, keeps track of a few things you won’t find quite as easily anywhere else on the internet. Pitch f/x, a high speed camera system that tracks the type and location of every pitch thrown in the major leagues, is one such thing. Want to know what percentage of the time Roy Halladay has thrown his cutter this season? The answer is right there: 45.2%. How often does R.A. Dickey throw his fastball? Who has the fastest fastball this season? It’s easily found. Anyway, I was wasting time on Fangraphs pitch data page earlier today, and apropos of nothing, here are some things I learned that concern Mets pitchers:

Pitchers who don’t throw fastballs:

  1. R.A. Dickey, Mets — 20%
  2. Roy Halladay, Phillies — 25%
  3. Shaun Marcum, Brewers — 29%
  4. Dan Haren, Angels — 36%
  5. Freddy Garcia, Yankees — 36%

R.A. Dickey comes as no surprise, the only knuckleballer with enough innings to qualify (Tim Wakefield throws his fastball just 6% of the time this season, but has just 43 innings). The other names on the list might seem a surprise, but there’s an explanation: Roy Halladay and Dan Haren throw a good number of cutters, which is why their fastball percentage is so low; Marcum throws a cutter as well, but not as many as the other two, and relies on a lot of offspeed stuff. (This page on Fangraphs doesn’t care about the difference between two seam and four seam fastballs, but it does care about cutters for some reason.) #5 on the list, Freddy Garcia doesn’t throw a cutter. He’s only throwing hard stuff 36% of the time, the lowest percentage in the majors for a non-knuckleballer.

Who throws the most curveballs?

  1. Wandy Rodriguez, Astros — 35%
  2. Gio Gonzalez, A’s — 31%
  3. Erik Bedard, Mariners — 30%
  4. A.J. Burnett, Yankees — 30%
  5. Ivan Nova, Yankees — 26%
  6. Dustin Mosley, Padres — 23%
  7. Phillip Humber, White Sox — 23%
  8. James McDonald, Pirates — 21%
  9. Gavin Floyd, White Sox — 21%
  10. Jon Niese, Mets — 20%

Niese uses his curveball a good amount, but not nearly as the leaders. I thought he would be higher. He does have the slowest curveball (74.4 MPH on average) of anyone listed here, but nowhere near as slow as Livan Hernandez’s 65 MPH beast. And, oh yeah, Phillip Humber (of the Johan Santana trade fame) is pitching in the majors this season.

Who throws the most changeups?

  1. Chris Naverson, Brewers — 34%
  2. Shaun Marcum, Brewers — 32%
  3. Jeremy Hellickson, Rays — 32%
  4. Jeff Francis, Royals — 30%
  5. James Shields, Rays — 28%
  6. Jason Vargas, Mariners — 28%
  7. Jorge de la Roas, Rockies — 28%
  8. Chris Capuano, Mets — 26%
  9. Mark Buehrle, White Sox — 24%
  10. Tim Lincecum, Giants — 24%

One thing that jumps out on this list: It’s not a lot of hard throwers. Hellickson, Sheilds, de la Rosa, and Lincecum have fastballs that sit above 90 MPH, but the rest of these guys are living in the mid-80s — e.g., Chris Capuano and his 87 MPH heater. It’s a lot of soft tossing lefties. An indication that the slower you throw the more important it is to change speeds?

Who throws the slowest changeup?

  1. R.A. Dickey, Mets — 73.8 MPH
  2. Mike Pelfrey, Mets — 75.0 MPH
  3. Jeff Francis, Royals — 76.8 MPH
  4. Livan Hernandez, Nationals — 77.2 MPH
  5. Erik Bedard, Mariners — 77.6 MPH
  6. Ted Lilly, Dodgers — 78.4 MPH
  7. Chris Capuano, Mets — 78.4 MPH
  8. Travis Wood, Reds — 78.5 MPH
  9. Shaun Marcum, Brewers — 79.0 MPH
  10. Mark Buehrle, White Sox — 79.0 MPH

This is my favorite list, because neither R.A. Dickey nor Mike Pelfrey actually throws a changeup. Here’s what I think is going on: Pitch f/x looks at a pitch and says “if it’s moving this much, in this direction, between these speeds, it must be this pitch.” Usually it gets it right; sometimes it gets it wrong. My guess is that Dickey’s changeups are really just knuckleballs that didn’t knuckle, and Mike Pelfrey threw a really crummy splitter or curveball at some point this season that Pitch f/x decided was actually a changeup. Capuano throws changeups for real, as seen above, and his is one of the slowest in the big leagues.

All right, I’m off to Citi Field today and tomorrow. If you see me, say hello.

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