Kicking and Screaming: July 2009 Archives

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. Last week we looked at the system and its ability to determine balls and strikes. This week, we'll look at movement and Zack Greinke's superlative slider.

As anyone that who's favorite team features a right handed slugger not named "Albert Pujols" knows, the slider is a most bedeviling pitch. Countless times we watch our big right handed bats waving at pitches bouncing in the other batters box. "Just lay off!" we scream at the TV in unison. The combination of speed and movement make the slider a most effective pitch, and as we'll learn, most effective when thrown outside the strike zone.

Zack Greinke's slider rates as the best in baseball this season, according to Fangraphs pitch type linear weights. Friday night, he put that slider to good use in beating the Rangers. The Royals ace scattered 3 hits over 7 innings while striking out 10. Zack's slider was in fine form, registering but a single hit against his mean slide piece.

The next step in our Pitch F/x journey is movement; charting how much Zack's slider moved down and away. Comparing Friday's start to Zack's worst of the year (7 runs and two tots allowed in June against the not-yet-worsening Blue Jays) we see that more movement isn't always better. Hit the jump to get into the graphy goodness!

nerdshirt.jpgThere comes a time in every baseball nerds life where he says to himself:

Am I quite nerdy enough? Perhaps there is a new level of geekdom to which I can ascend to ensure my endless reserves of vitriol and self-loathing are properly directed.

Enter Pitch f/x, the laser guided pitch tracking system installed in every big league park. We here at Walkoff Walk are dipping our collective lily-white hand in the pitch f/x bag and seeing if we can't pull out something interesting or at least informative.

If you recall the first entry in the Walkoff Walk Book Club was As They See 'Em, a popular and informative umpiring tome. The takeaway from this study was a great deal of umpire sympathy for the scrutiny they face. Luckily for us (and the umps) Pitch F/x tracks each and every pitch, providing its speed, location, break, spin, and all manner of quasi-interesting tidbit.

With keeping everyone awake in mind, we'll forgo most of the dizzying glut of information provided and just hone in on the stuff everyone thinks they know: balls and strikes. After the jump is a graph of some select pitches from a Saturday afternoon game between the Blue Jays and Red Sox. The Sox came to bat in the top of the eighth inning trailing 6-2. Jays set up guy/emergency closer Jason Frasor entered to face Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz, and Jason Bay. Youkilis watched ball one high, took two strikes at the knees (that he absolutely HATED) and struck out swinging on pitch inside. Ortzi quickly flew out, bringing Bay up with two out.

In the middle of Bay's at bat, home plate umpire Laz Diaz called time and proceeded to dress Youkilis down from behind the plate. Youkilis took obvious exception to the strikes called down in the zone and let Diaz know it from the dugout. Diaz warned Youkilis "that's the last time" or something to that effect, essentially telling him to shut his trap and move the hell on. Bay took a few balls and fouled a few off before Diaz wrung him up on a fastball down in the zone. Bay stood at home plate and stared off dejectedly as only a vanilla white BC boy can. The question is this: did the Sox have a case? Find out after the jump!