Back to the blog after a short break. Fangraphs is one of my favorite baseball websites on the internet. It’s always been a great resource for people searching for more in depth baseball statistics. They’ve just recently added a feature where you can search by pitch type — type of pitch, speed, and percentage thrown — it’s another great tool to an already robust website.
Let’s take a look at some of the numbers by pitch type for the Giants starters last year — defined as anyone who threw at least 100 innings or more.
Out of the starters not only did Lincecum throw the fastest fastball on average — 94.2mph — but he also threw the highest percentage of fastballs — 66.9%. That’s some heat and a bunch of it.
Here’s how the rotation ranks by velocity: Lincecum (94.2mph), Cain (93.2mph), Correia (90.4mph), Lowry (86.7mph), and Zito (84.5mph).
Zito’s velocity continues to remind us of the days of Reuter. Cain and Correia broke the 90mph limit and Lowry worked in the upper 80′s. Pitchers throw harder today than ever before. The average fastball in today’s game is 91mph. Cain and Lincecum’s fastballs are above average, Correia’s fastball was right around average, and Lowry and Zito threw less than average heat.
When ranking by the percentage of fastballs thrown, the rotation shakes out as the following: Lincecum (66.9%), Correia (66.6%), Cain (64.5%), Zito (56.8%), and Lowry (52.6%).
I would imagine that if Correia threw a full season, his fastball percentage might lower some. The numbers on Cain are backed up by our PITCHf/x analysis of Cain in which we found that Cain likes to throw the heat and with good reason, it’s coming in at around 94mph.
From our group of starters, Zito threw the changeup the slowest — 73mph — and the most — 20.2%. Another reason that this new fangraph tool is just so cool, is that it tracks pitch types from ’05 onward. So we can see if a pitcher starts to change how he pitches. Over the past two years Zito has begun to throw his changeup more. In 2005 he threw it 14.1% of the time and in 2006 and 2007 he threw it 19.1% and 20.2% of the time. I think it’s entirely possible that Zito started to lose velocity sometime between the 2005 and 2006 season and as a result, he started to throw his changeup more in an effort to give batters another pitch to think about.
Here’s how the starters break down when looking at the average velocity of their changeups: Zito (73mph), Lowry (75.7mph), Correia (83mph), Lincecum (84.4mph), and Cain (86.5mph).
Lowry still throws his changeup quite slow and gets almost 10 miles of separation between his change and fastball. Lincecum is throwing his changeup just as fast as Zito is throwing his fastball! He’s also getting a great separation between his fastball and changeup. I was really impressed with the way that Lincecum worked in his change last year, a pitch that was rarely credited to him as a plus pitch. I think he’s got a really good change to improve on it even more this year. Cain was throwing his change up almost 2 miles faster than Zito was throwing his heat.
And here is the percentage of changeups thrown by the rotation: Zito (20.2%), Lowry (18.7%), Lincecum (13.5%), Correia (11.9%), and Cain (10.4%)
Has Lowry lost the feel for his changeup? The numbers think so. He’s throwing it less and less each year since his breakout 2005 season. Here’s the numbers on his changeup from’05-’07: 26.8%, 22.7%, 18.7%. He’s dropped almost 4% on the pitch each year.
Tim Lincecum threw the curve the most and he threw it hard. Lincecum threw his curve 19.7% of the time and at a speed of 80.6mph. Tim’s hard breaking power curve is one of his signature pitches. Zito’s curve is totally different but a pitch that he’s been know for since he came into the game. Zito’s curve is slower and has a bigger break. Zito threw his curve second to Tim at 18.7% but much slower at 70.4mph which gives it that big downward break.
Velocity of curveballs by Giants starters: Lincecum (80.6mph), Cain (75.8mph), Correia (75.7mph), Lowry (72.5mph), and Zito (70.4mph).
An interesting fact about the curveballs of Zito and Lincecum is that Zito’s curve was one of the slowest in the game for starting pitchers — only Vicente Padilla, Tom Glavine, Jamie Moyer, Micah Owings, David Wells, Doug Davis, Justin Germano, Orlando Hernandez, Randy Wolf, Livan Hernandez, and Tim Wakefield threw slower curves than Zito — and Lincecum’s was one of the fastest — only Felix Hernandez, AJ Burnett, and Dustin McGowan threw harder curveballs than Lincecum. Thats a pretty amazing divide between two curveballs on the same staff.
Percentage of curveballs thrown by Giants starters: Lincecum (19.7%), Zito (18.7%), Cain (8.7%), Lowry (5.1%) and Correia (0.4%).
Lincecum and Zito were the only Giants starters in double digits for curveballs thrown and Correia practically never threw a curve with only 0.4% of his pitches being a curveball.
Matt Cain threw the hardest slider on average from our group of starters with an average velocity of 85.7mph. The slider was a good pitch for Cain in 2007, something we learned in his PITCHf/x article. Tim Lincecum didn’t throw a single slider in ’07 but it’s a pitch that he’s been reportedly working on for the ’08 season.
Lowry threw the most sliders at 23.6% which is something that we also discovered in his PITCHf/x article. At the time I thought that Josh Kalk’s algorithms might have been lumping Lowry’s curves with his sliders to incorrectly pad his slider numbers, but the Fangraphs data backs up the fact that Noah just threw more sliders in 2007. Way more than he’s ever thrown before in a season.
Check out the slider percentage for Lowry from ’05-’07: 13%, 5.2%, 23.6%. That’s a big jump. Whereas Lowry threw his curve more in ’06 but scrapped it in favor for the slider in ’07.
Velocity of sliders thrown by Giants starters: Cain (85.7mph), Correia (85.1mph), Lowry (80mph), Zito (77.8mph), Lincecum (0mph).
Cain and Correia both threw a hard slider. Zito threw one of the slower sliders in the game. Only 8 starting pitchers — Andy Sonnanstine, Livan Hernandez, Chuck James, Chris Capuano, Jarrod Washburn, Mike Bacsik, Bronson Arroyo, and Orlando Hernandez — threw slower sliders than Zito’s 77.8mph slider. A good chunk of the list includes junk-ballers like Livan Hernandez, Orlando Hernandez, and Bronson Arroyo.
Percentage of sliders thrown by Giants starters: Lowry (23.6%), Correia (20.6%), Cain (16.5%), Zito (4.3%), and Lincecum (0%).
Correia has always been a fastball / slider pitcher, especially when working in the bullpen, so it’s not surprising to see him throwing sliders in the 20% range. I think it’s possible that we could see Matt Cain throw even more sliders in ’08.
I’ll post some numbers on the Giants bullpen within the next week.
Minor League News: The Giants have optioned G-Rod and Pat Misch to AAA Fresno. G-Rod was a potential backup catcher but he had a horrible Spring going 2-17. Eliezer Alfonzo didn’t impress anyone either but the Giants might like his offense better than G-Rod’s. Somewhat surprising since G-Rod is the better defender of the two and I thought that the team might go with defense. But, the Giants have much, much, bigger problems than who wins a backup catchers job.
Misch will probably go into the AAA rotation and start. He should be called up if the Giants make a trade that involves a starter or if an injury strikes. Misch has relieved before in the minors and majors so he might also get a look at that role at some point in time.