Welcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. While you were guzzling your final summer ales and weeping gently into your white linen pants for the final time in 2009, two of baseball's best pitchers went out and pitched absolute masterpieces. Not only did the former teammates take divergent paths to pitching's near apex, they use quite different approaches in travelling there. Any time two aces throw two one-hitters in the same weekend, we at Walkoff Walk are obliged to take a look.
On the surface, these two games are quite similar. The lines of domination are drawn like so:
Carpenter: 9.0 IP,1 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 10 K, 99 pitches, 11 groundballs, .548 WPA
Halladay: 9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 9 K, 111 pitches, 10 groundballs, .282 WPA
Pretty remarkable on both counts. Carpenter was more efficient (astoundingly so) and gets the WPA bump due to the game's tight score. Halladay received an early two run cushion against the best team in baseball but was just as impressive. Even more so if you acknowledge the team he bested did not send a pitcher to bat nor did it break baseball's number one, most important edict. That said, the Brewers feature an impressive lineup and holding them to one hit is no mean feat. How did they do it? Find out after the jump!
Nobody throws a one-hitter without throwing a few strikes and getting a few calls. How did our boys do? To the abacus! (Click to enlarge)
Legend time: red dots are balls, blue are strikes. The X'd out balls were put into play, the circled dots were swinging strikes (or foul balls.) Anything jump out at us? Both men got a couple gifts off the plate; though in Halladay's case they were both against left handed hitters meaning they were on the outside corner. Remember the pitch f/x system tracks pitches as they cross the front of the plate, so a pitch like Halladay's cutter may bend around and catch the back corner of the plate. Settle down Rob.
Other observations? Chris Carpenter got quite a few swinging strikes at his big, giant curveball on pitches that bounced in the dirt. Roy Halladay pounds the corners of the strikezone without mercy. Notice how few of the good Doctor's pitches ended up over the heart of the plate. Notice the two pitches over the middle of the plate that were called balls against Carpenter! They were both pitches to Jason Kendall in two separate at bats, which can only mean Jason Kendall has naked pictures of Dan Iassogna.
The strike zone graphs make it easy to understand why these guys were so successful, but they only tell half the story. Let's look at their full arsenal using the spin direction and velocity charts from our last entry.
The two versions of the curveball, a pitch each man throws well, are the easy-to-read part of this graph. The four seam fastballs are also pretty clear, hard and fast and spinny. The rest gets a little....messy. Not messy per se, but foggy. Carpenter relies on his slider heavily, though he does mix in a cutter now and then. Halladay throws his two-seam/sinking fastball and his cutter in nearly identical amounts, which makes him so difficult to hit. Three pitches coming from the same release point, travelling nearly the same speed but with three different destinations. I have a hard time picking them apart, the pitch f/x computer monkeys have a REALLY hard time telling which is which, I can only assume you just swing and hope when standing 60 feet, 6 inches away with these BBs baring down on you.
As I said at the beginning of this marathon, these are two players who took very different journeys. Chris Carpenter is highly skilled master with exceptional stuff who can be untouchable when he's on. Roy Halladay is a little more unconventional in his approach but with equally impressive results. As evidenced by Halladay's relatively low strikeout rates over the years, you might get a bat on it but you certainly won't hit it hard. However you slice it we were treated to two tremendous pitching performances over the span of three days.