F/X Visualizations March 16, 2009
Run Value by Pitch Type and Location

In my first post, I noted Tango and Lichtman's comment that run value by pitch location analysis was limited when averaged across pitch types and pitch counts. In this post, I will address the first concern by looking at the run value by pitch location of the different pitch types separately (but again averaging across count).

I split the data by handedness of the batter and the pitcher and then split this information into four different pitch types (based on the pitch fx classification). As in the first post, all images are from the catcher's perspective so that a right-handed batter stands to the left of the strike zone and a left-handed batter stands to the right of the strike zone. At the top of each image is the proportion of pitches between the given handedness combination made up of the given pitch type (out of the four pitch types considered). Counting just these four pitch types, 60.9% of pitches from a right-handed pitcher to a right-handed batter are fast balls.

Of the pitches considered, fast balls made up over 60% of pitches in each handedness combination. Thus, the overall run value maps in the first post are largely reflecting the run values for fast balls. But there are some small differences:

• In the overall maps, there was no region inside the strike zone with the deep blue >.04 run value. But, for fast balls, a bottom corner in each image has >.04 run value. I wonder if fast balls in this region of the strike zone are less likely to be called as strikes than other pitches.
• The region of negative to neutral run valued pitches directly above the center of the zone is even more pronounced for fastballs. The region of deep red <-.04 run valued pitches above the top of the strike zone is larger than the corresponding region in the overall map.
• The region of negative to neutral run valued pitches below the zone is much smaller than in the overall map and extends below just one side of the zone. The side to which it extends is determined by the pitcher's handedness not the batter's. In the overall map, this region extended below the entire strike zone not just one side.
• Fast balls are thrown in roughly the same proportion in all handedness combinations.

Changeups are overwhelmingly thrown when the pitcher is of the opposite handedness of the batter. Additionally, the few times when changeups are thrown when the pitcher and batter have the same handedness may be a highly non-random sample: pitchers with outstanding changeups and good pitcher's counts (this is just speculation). Because of this and the small data size we should not read too much into the same-handedness changeup maps.
• In opposite handedness at-bats the changeup has a large region of negative to neutral run valued pitches low and away extending far outside the strike zone.

Curves are thrown in relatively constant proportion in all handedness combinations, expect for leftie/leftie where they are thrown a little bit more.
• Compared to overall, the negative to neutral region for curves is much larger extending down and away predominately.
• With fewer curves thrown, it is hard to get as good resolution, but it seems that compared to other pitches there is less discernible structure within the strike zone (i.e. there are not as clear large regions of very low run value separated by large regions of larger run value).

Sliders are thrown more when the batter and pitcher have the same handedness (the opposite of changeups), thus the same caveats apply to reading too much into the opposite-handedness maps.

• A very large region of negative to neutral pitches extends below and away out of the strike zone.
• Sliders up and in have a higher run value compared to overall pitches up and in.

These separated by pitch type maps allow us to make some additional insights into the overall maps in the first post. The negative to neutral region above the strike zone is mostly the result of fastballs, while the negative to neutral region below the strike zone is mostly the result of non-fastball pitches. Within the strike zone, most pitches have the same overall structure with the center of the zone and down and in having the highest run value, although the pattern is not quite as apparent with curveballs.

as much as I love this deep analysis of pitching, I feel like I need a degree in physics to fully comprehend what this means

No, not really. While these graphs are intimidating on the surface, they are actually quite easy to read and understand if you spend a few moments to lock into them. Once you do, I promise there is a lot of information tucked into those graphs, which are much more comprehensible than studying a table.

The beauty of Dave's work is twofold:

1. The data (and attendant analysis)
2. The presentation of the data in a relatively simple and effective visual manner.

Take a second look. He's got all of the pitches and the strike zone (from the view of the catcher and hitter) by handedness and pitch type, all color coded by run values. The reality is that this is great stuff, and I hope readers take the (small amount of) time to understand them because they are packed with valuable information.

Thanks Rich. I'll keep trying.

Alex,

If there is anything I could do to make the images, or the articles as a whole, more understandable please tell me. I am open to any constructive criticism you have.