Cubs by the Numbers: Pitch f/x Data
Pitch f/x has a huge amount of information for pitch type, velocity, movement (both vertically and horizontally) and pitch value for pitchers. You can really tell how nasty a guy’s stuff is over the course of a year. This stat is more reflective than predictive, but if compared with previous years, it’s easy to see what is different within a pitcher’s repertoire, which may give some reason as to why he is struggling or doing well.
Pitch type tells us what percentage of a given pitch a pitcher throws during the course of the season. For example, FA% tells what percentage of a fastball a pitch uses. In 2014, Zac Rosscup used his fastball 73.2% of the time…but he is a reliever and usually relievers have a smaller arsenal than starters, hence why they are relievers.
I won’t go too far with Pitch Type because it is merely showing how much a certain pitch is used, which is interesting, but not enough to really develop a narrative for the pitcher. I’d rather focus my time and yours on the other parts of the Pitch f/x data.
Velocity shows the average speed of a pitch for the pitcher over the course of the season. Fastballs are broken down by 4 different types. vFA is a fastball, vFT is for a two-seam fastball, vFC is for a cutter, and vFS is a sinker. Let’s look at mainly fastball for this piece because I want to get into movement too.
The Cubs pitcher with the best fastball velocity (vFA) was actually Arodys Vizcaino, whose heater averaged 95.2 MPH; right behind him was Hector Rondon with 95 MPH. Rondon also leads the vFT (two-seam fastball) with 95.4 MPH, followed by Vizcaino (95) and Strop (94.9).
Jake Arrieta had the fastest cutter (vFC) with a 93.5 MPH. Only 4 Cubs pitchers used a sinker, with Dallas Beeler and Blake Parker as the only two that finished the season with the Cubs. Beeler’s sinker velocity (vFS) was 86.1 MPH and Parker’s was 81.4 MPH.
Horizontal movement measures the distance a pitcher’s pitch travels based on its path to a right-handed hitter. Positive numbers indicate how much it moves away from the hitter and negative numbers shows how much it moves toward him. The closer to zero the number, the less amount of movement that pitch has.
The leader in fastball horizontal movement (FA-X) is Wesley Wright with 7.4, which means his pitch moves the farthest away from a righty. On the other end of the spectrum is Arodys Vizcaino (actually it should be Samardzija, but let’s focus on current Cubs) with a -6.2, meaning his fastball comes crashing into RH hitters.
Let’s look at horizontal movement for the slider next (SL-X); again, a positive number means movement away from a right-handed hitter and negative numbers means it moves in. The top 3 pitchers with positive ratings are Hector Rondon (4.5), Justin Grimm (3.4) and Jake Arrieta (2.8). The two that bust RH hitters inside with their sliders are Zac Rosscup (4.9) and Travis Wood (2.4), both lefties of course.
Vertical movement measures the amount of movement up or down on a certain pitch, basically curveballs or a fastball that rises. Regarding the fastball, Neil Ramirez (11.5) and Travis Wood (11.4) had excellent vertical travel. In the same respect, the most flat fastball was thrown by Kyle Hendricks, who had a rating of just 4.8.
Looking at curveballs, the ratings that are the best are those that have the lowest or most negative number. Jake Arrieta’s curveball was -9.4, which just basically falls off the table. Blake Parker (-6.6) and Justin Grimm (-6.4) were the next-best pitchers that ended the season as Cubs.
Pitch value looks at the overall efficacy of a specific pitch by measuring it in terms of relative runs saved or allowed, with 0 being an average score; anything above 0 is above average and below that 0 is, well, below average. Basically, this stat tells you which pitcher has the best and worst pitch of a specific type on the team in 2014.
No surprise here, but Jake Arrieta had the best fastball (wFA) with a rating of 7.5, followed by Justin Grimm (7.4) and Hector Rondon (5.7). The worst fastball on the team was none other than Edwin Jackson, whose fastball was an absolutely awful -21.3.
The best sliders (wSL) on the team were Jake Arrieta (15.4) and Pedro Strop (11.1)…again, no surprises. The worst slider came from the left arm of Travis Wood with a -8.5 wSL followed by Edwin Jackson with a -5.2 wSL.
The best curveball (wCU) came from, say it with me now…Jake Arrieta, who had a rating of 2.6. I hope you are sitting down for this, but the worst curveball on the team was thrown by Edwin Jackson, who compiled a -5.1 rating, and then Jacob Turner with -2.0 rating.
Lastly, the best changeup (wCH) on the team belongs to Kyle Hendricks with a 6.8, which led the team by far (the next closest was actually John Baker; 0.9 and Tsuyoshi Wada; 0.8). The worst changeup was thrown by Carlos Villanueva, whose pitch scored a -10.1, followed by Travis Wood.
I chose to focus on these pitches because they were the ones that were thrown by a majority of the staff. After going through the numbers, it is amazing that Edwin Jackson wasn’t even worse than he really was this season. Sporting four below-average pitches is a recipe for disaster, which I think even he would say sums up his 2014.