Welcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. John Smoltz is the subject today, who made his triumphant return to the National League Sunday. Smoltz struggled through 8 starts in Boston until the former Cy Young winner was jettisoned following a particularly stinky outing against the Yankee juggernaut. That must be it, right? Close the book on his illustrious career, the old guy's lost it. Not so fast, Smoltz is far from done! While his traditional numbers are Julian Tavarez-ugly, his peripheral numbers were strong, in fact many of his secondary stats bare a striking resemblance to the Jered Weaver as pointed out by Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
Seeing how all the other, smarter writers have already chimed in on Smoltz and his 'comeback', I'll use John Smoltz's last two outings to demonstrate the value of spin measurements in Pitch F/x. The lasers used to track the location, speed, and position of each pitch event can be used for so much more! In addition to tracking your websurfing habits and eyes whenever a group of comely young co-eds pass by, the Pitch f/x science wagon is able to detail the spin direction and angle of each pitch. How? I couldn't even begin to tell you. Why? It really makes differentiating between pitches a breeze! Check out John Smoltz's mean 4 pitch mix after the jump!
Here we've graphed pitches speed against the spin direction. It certainly takes a lot of guesswork out of determining which pitch was which. The red dots are Smollie's start against the Padres, where we can see the old guy pumping it in there with a little extra mustard. His slider was a much more effective pitch against the punchless Padres, was the extra spin a factor? It certainly can't hurt, nothing gets hit harder than a slider that doesn't slide.
Another factor, according to the Cardinals, in Smoltz's return to form was a small mechanical adjustment that stopped him from tipping off his pitches. That would help explain why the Yankees all but ignored his slider and banged his fastball around like your kid sister at a lacrosse team party. Smoltz got 4 times as many swings and misses against the Padres, certainly nothing to sneeze at. Was he tipping his pitches? I was under the impression seniors didn't tip. Is the National League a complete and utter joke, dominated by each and every American League pitcher that is parachuted in? I would never suggest such an thing, it would be an affront to the proud tradition of the senior circuit.
Thanks as always to Brooks Baseball for the valuable pitch f/x data! Sponsor your favorite pitcher for a mere $5!