Kicking and Screaming: August 2009 Archives

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome 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!

nerdshirt.jpgWelcome to this week's edition of Kicking and Screaming, a Walkoff Walk introduction to Pitch F/x. We've looked a hangers and sliders and the like, but today we're looking at the heat. No more messing around with the pesky off-speed stuff, today is the straight goods. Just how straight are those goods anyway?

The four seam fastball is a staple pitch of 99% of all big league pitchers. As it is generally straight, it is best if thrown hard. The harder the better. TV radar guns light up with juiced numbers showing your friendly neighbourhood fireballer hitting triple digits. That doesn't make it a better pitch, but it sure makes for some fun. Not all major league pitchers touch the century mark, but nearly all have to throw the fastball at one time or another.

After the jump you'll see "analysis" of two of baseball fastball darlings: Justin Verlander and Neftali Feliz with something of a control in Adam Wainwright. Wainwright's fastball ranks as one of least effective pitches in baseball though he's one of the best pitchers in the National League. Neftali Feliz has only been in the majors for a few weeks but he is making believers of anyone who watches. His fastball is consistently clocked above 100 to go with a devastating slider. Verlander pounded the Red Sox into submission in his last start, touching 100 on the tough-to-impress Pitch F/X gun in addition to the collected scouts and analysts. He threw his fastball nearly 65% of the time to great success, and you'll see why after the jump!

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 every batter's dream: the hanging slider.

We've all heard of the dreaded hanging slider. We've all seen a pitcher unleash a spinner at the exact wrong moment and we've all watched pitchers react the same way to it. Generally they respond by: a) Jerking their head around to follow the intense trajectory or b) hanging their head, knowing the ball's fate long before it lands. When a pitch uncorks a hanger, all of us watching on TV know it, the pitcher knows it, and the batter knows it too.

To hang a pitch isn't a death sentence in and of itself. A poorly executed pitch in a good location is escapable. A well-executed pitch in a poor location can go either way, the pitcher gets away with it or the batter makes a good swing at the right time. Sometimes a bad pitch in a bad spot is missed, often resulting in a series of desultory curse words and assorted bat punching.

The focus of this week's Kicking and Screaming is the man that threw one of the most famous hanging sliders of all time, Brad Lidge. The slider that Lidge served to Albert Pujols in the 2005 NLCS is currently the subject of a popular HBO drama. Pujols hit it a mile in and Lidge needed two years to recover (so they say or I assume.) Last year Brad Lidge bounced back with a perfect year, saving every game presented to him and earning himself a World Series ring. 2009 hasn't been quite as smooth with Lidge spending time on the DL and struggling through much of the early season. Since returning from the injured list Lidge as pitched better, a few bad outings overshadowing some solid relief pitching. After the jump we'll look at his slider and why location matters just as much as tight spin and big break.