Rays Starters vs Rays Starters

It is widely accepted that the Rays starting pitching staff is one of the better ones in baseball. In the top 50% of staff in the league? Yes. In the top third? Arguably, yes. In the top five? Debatable, depending on how much you can separate your analysis from your emotions.

What we can do, however, is look at the five starting pitchers on the Rays and break them down at a skill level to see which pitchers excel in certain areas. Thanks to the fantastic player cards that Joe Lefkowitz makes available on his site, it is rather simple to view the data you need to see how pitchers do what they do.  Let’s take a look at how each pitcher did regarding pitch outcomes, what happened when balls were put into play, and how each pitcher was able to fool pitchers and make them miss.

Pitch Outcomes

  • Pitches = how many pitches the pitcher threw in 2010
  • Swing% = Percentage of pitches batters swung at
  • Swing-Miss% = Percentage of pitches batters swung and missed at
  • HR/GB/LD/FB = Home run, Groundball, Line drive, Flyball

Raise your hand if you knew that James Shields nearly generated more swings and misses than all of the regular staring pitchers (Garza 17%)  last season but David Price? OK. R.J.  Anderson, you can put your hand down now.  It is also not often you see the pitcher who gave up the lowest percentage of flyballs lead the team in home runs but that also happened to Shields. Lastly, look at his LD% compared to the rest of the pitchers on the staff. The league average for line drive rates in the American League was 19% and the average rate on the Rays was just 18%. That illustrates why his BABIP was 60 points higher than any of the other starters on the team and a combination of those factors frames Shields’ misfortunes last season. Hellickson’s Swing-Miss% was amazing last season but consider that this was a rather small sample size for him and he enjoyed the luxury of a limited exposure to the American League.

Batting Average on Balls in Play by Batted Ball Type

  • P in play = pitches put in play
  • % in play = percentage of total pitches thrown put into play
  • BA_GB = batting average on groundballs in play
  • BA_LD = batting average on line drives in play
  • BA_FB = batting average on flyballs in play
  • BA_PU = batting average on pop-ups in play

Price and Hellickson’s success in limiting their balls in play helped guide their success and both were able to limit the damage done by line drives compared to the others on the team. Again, Shields not only gave up more liners than anyone, but he gave up more hard hit liners that fell safely into play in 2010. Note how low the batting average was on flyballs for each pitcher; it should be interesting to see how that is affected by the loss of Carl Crawford in left field.

Plate Discipline

  • Pitches = total pitches thrown
  • Swing% = Percentage of pitches batters swung at
  • B Swing% =  Percentage of non-strikes batters swung at
  • K Swing% =  Percentage of strikes batters swing at
  • Contact% =  Percentage of swings batters made contact with
  • B Contact% = Percentage of non-strikes batters made contact with
  • K Contact% = Percentage of strikes batters made contact with

Shields led the club in getting batters to chase pitches out of the strike zone on the strength of his excellent changeup. Fans probably would not have guessed that Wade Davis was the pitcher batters made the most contact off of last season, but he did by a large margin both in and out of the strikezone.

If anything, I hope that a peek at this data opened your eyes to the abilities of the five pitchers on this starting staff. Please remember that Hellickson’s data is both impressive and incomplete due to the small sample size that it comes from but he has the potential to be one of the three most effective pitchers on the staff in 2011. Lastly, a big thanks to Joe Lefkowitz whose wonderful site makes analysis like this much easier to compile and present.

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About Jason Collette

Writer/Analyst
This entry was posted in Pitch F/x, players, statistics and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Rays Starters vs Rays Starters

  1. raysprof says:

    Great data and thanks so much for clearly labeling each column.

    What I found most interesting is the range for the BA on ground balls being as broad as it is (at least 7%), yet the plate discipline numbers were extremely close (maybe 3%.) As Maddon put it on one of your videos, it looks like Shields was simply unlucky last year (while much of the Rays were lucky.)

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