Sorry for the Odorizzi inundation, but it’s the beginning of the year when small changes could cause hurricanes in Costa Rica or some such nonsense if you believe the “Science” community. I’ll get right to it, because your time is valuable.
DRaysBay site commander Daniel Russell piqued my interest with an interesting observation that was pretty obvious in the post from earlier today. Jake threw his cutter less than one percent of the time last year while throwing the slider around 13% of the time. Yesterday, all his troubles seemed so far away, because he threw zero sliders and threw the cutter around 20% of the time. This is a HUGE reversal. The slider was always a pretty lousy pitch and he barely threw the cutter, but now he’s throwing the cutter a ton and it was a pretty good pitch. For one evening. Times and tides will tell if that is a common occurrence, but boy I hope so.
The thing is, this could just be a classification issue within the pitch tracking software. At some point a decision must be made on whether to call a pitch a cutter or a slider. Maybe some overzealous poindexter has a different interpretation of what’s what this year compared to his or her predecessor. Well let’s put that notion to bed using some Pitch F/x data courtesy of the incredible Baseball Savant starting with a look at the horizontal and vertical movement of last years cutters and sliders and this years cutters:
We see that this year’s cutter looks an awful lot like last year’s cutter as it’s characterized by good rise and good glove-side run. This is a pitch that looks awfully different from those sliders, but we can also see that there were probably quite a few cutters that were labeled as sliders so maybe he threw the thing more than we realized last year. Let’s move on to each of these components taken separately with velocity:
We see here that he’s maintaining some of the most extreme glove-side run, but pairing it with some of the best velocities that he saw last year. Usually you expect more movement to come with the trade off of less velocity, but he was able to get good boring action without losing anything off the velo. More run than last year’s cutters with similar velocity is a very good thing. Now is a great time to stress that these are the results of one game. The gun could have been juiced, the cameras might not have been calibrated correctly, a dozen things could be off here that never show up again, BUT, it gives us something to pay attention to the next time out. Let’s look at vertical movement and velo:
Again, we see high velocities with similar drop to last year’s cutters. We re-affirm that there is a cluster of pitchers that were called sliders that actually look an awful lot like cutters so the previously mentioned classification issues might have more to do with last year than this year. It’s likely he threw more cutters than we thought. This would mean that the tweak is more about shutting down the pedestrian, at best, slider and amping up the usage of the cutter.
The Godfather Jason Collette made an interesting observation later that he thinks part of the success came from a higher release point led to higher velocity. That’s something that we can take a look at:
It looks like he was coming over the top more often instead of drifting or dropping. Perhaps those couple of extra inches on the way to 3/4 helped add some tilt to the slidepiece, but he doesn’t need to worry about that if he’s going to eschew the pitch in favor of more cutters. With the success that he showed he should continue to work in this fashion until hitters tell you to try something else. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and it looks like this stuff is less of a data capturing issue and a legit improvement. Hopefully, he can continue the evolution, because last night was electric. Less sliders and more cutters is a good thing, especially if he can show the ability to amp the velocity without losing movement and being able to command the whole part and parcel.