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Which Clay do we get this year?


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#1 Sprowl


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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:03 PM

So far, 2012 Clay Buchholz throws closer to overhand than three-quarters, snaps off beautiful curveballs, has a wide velocity separation between fastball and changeup, and has lost much of the horizontal movement on his fastball (which isn't all that fast).

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He looks like Buchholz 2008, before John Farrell and the brain trust decided that he should lower his arm slot to make his fastball less straight-as-an-arrow. During 2010, Buchholz succeeded with his new sinker, which had tons of movement and stayed out of heart of the strike zone. There have been rumors of McClure working with Buchholz to return to his old mechanics to reduce the risk of injury, especially re-injury to his lower back. What have you heard about those changes?

Here is another worrisome thing about Buchholz 2012 -- pitching up in the zone, where his fastball gets hit hard. Buchholz has the stuff to make batters swing and miss, but he also will be vulnerable to the long ball if this location pattern doesn't change.

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#2 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 20 April 2012 - 04:09 PM

bump

#3 Buckner's Boots

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 04:33 PM

Aaaand, BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE! Looks like Sprowl nailed it.

#4 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 20 April 2012 - 08:07 PM

There was an article that Tom Verducci wrote in April of 2011 which used Trackman data to measure effective release points. I'm guessing this was based on 2010 data. It also talked about spin rates on breaking balls. In the second chart it has Buchholz listed with a spin rate of 2740, which places him in the Plus to High range. MLB average is 2450. Verlander had the highest at 3004. Verducci found that the higher the spin rate the lower the BA and Slugging and the higher the Swinging Strike rate

For fun, I looked at the Pitch f/x charts over at Brooks Baseball and found some interesting information. Here are the spin charts from the games he's been in this year. Notice his spin RPMs. In the first game he had a few pitches up in the 2500 to 3000 range. He might have been overthrowing from first game adrenaline. But, he did have some good results on those pitches. In the last two games, he's lucky to get them up to 2500, solidly in the average range on the Verducci chart. I also looked at Verlanders spin rate from OD and found that it's in the same range it was in the Verducci article. I asked Alan Nathan about what this because I have no idea how to calculate the amount of movement he hasn't been getting but it appears to be enough that he's not really fooling anyone. I don't know if he's lost confidence, has an injury or it's just bad mechanics and it's a small sample size and all but, it could be something to keep an eye on.
I posted the charts starting with Detroit and also posted Verlanders from OD for reference.


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#5 JMDurron

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 09:16 PM

If it is true that he is being changed back to his old (2008-2009) mechanics in order to maintain his health, that was the time period where it seemed that teams could easily tee off on his very straight fastball. If he's had to give up his fastball effectiveness for the sake of his long-term health, then it's going to be a long season.

His fangraphs pitch type values for his fastball were -18.7 in 2008 and -1.0 in 2009, then jumped up to +17.1 in 2010 with the new mechanics that he worked on in the minors in 2009. If he's going back to his 2008-2009 mechanics, then it would make sense that the -18.7 2008 fastball is back, and it's back big.

His fangraphs values on his curveball jump around a bit, but went down the tubes with his 2010 mechanics, from -1.1 in 2008 to 1.7 in 2009 to -4.1 in 2010. So, the only potential bright side I can see, IF he really is intentionally reverting to the old mechanics for the sake of his health is that the nasty curveball that he originally came to the majors with could be returning...but at the expense of his fastball and possibly the slider.

I know this is trying to take something that is mostly visual and translate into numbers, but I'm searching for data to back the anecdotal connection in my head between how his fastball is moving now, how it moved in 2010-2011 when Buchholz was pitching well, and how it moved in 2008-2009. His fastball today looked like his 2008-2009 fastball to me, and I think it's not just because he got hammered.

Edited by JMDurron, 20 April 2012 - 09:16 PM.


#6 deconstruction

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 09:44 PM

Clay got a measly three swinging strikes on 103 pitches today, zero on 25 cutters and 1 on 45 fastballs. Seriously. He cannot elevate and get swinging strikes on the FB, so he really needs to figure out what he wants to do with it.

I asked this in the GT, but what's happened to his changeup? He threw 14 today, but, by measures of spin, rotation, and movement, they look nothing like his change from the last few years. Sprowl mentioned that perhaps he's lost deception with it, and I wonder how much that has to do with its lack of similar movement to his fastball. It just didn't seem to have that fade today, and the numbers bear that out. Almost looks like a slower slider. WTF.

Today

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2011 (May 18)

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2010 (September 15)

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2010 (April 22: 11 whiffs on JUST the change!)

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Edited by deconstruction, 29 April 2012 - 09:46 AM.


#7 scotian1


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Posted 20 April 2012 - 10:15 PM

What struck me today is that he threw the same pitch to the same location on Chavez's second homer as he did to him on the first.

#8 geoduck no quahog


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 05:26 AM

Heard an interview with Steve Blatz today (This American Life). A sports psychiatrist was saying the worst thing that can happen to an elite athlete is to start thinking too much - particulalry about mechanics. The premise was that coaches who tinker with mechanics and force a natural athlete to think about what he's doing are performing a dis-service to most of them (the ones that can't separate thought from action).

If that's true, maybe overtly playing with some pitchers way of doing things leads to disaster. Everyone's different, but is it possible that Clay is just a guy they should leave alone and let pitch? Yes that may result in injury, but also tinkering too much with some guys may be counter-productive, similar to training an elite thoroughbred to run differently.

Edited by geoduck no quahog, 21 April 2012 - 05:27 AM.


#9 OttoC


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 08:06 AM

Maybe he needs a couple of tokes before taking the mound.

#10 Pearl Wilson


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 08:10 AM

Thanks and BTW its Steve Blass. I've got that qeued up to listen to.

I've always wondered about what happens when still-employed athletes become analysts of their own performances.

#11 czar


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 09:26 AM

Both horizontal and vertical movement are both well down on his fastball/changeup. Velocity isn't actually too bad, although sometimes one cause of losing FB/CH movement is overthrowing, so in that regard, having a suppressed velocity might have explained more. I try not to get frustrated with the reports that he has changed mechanics but you can't help but think this team continues to overtinker with its pitchers given the stories such as Craig Hansen, etc.

Small sample caveats aside, his SwStr% on his FB has dropped from 5.13% last year to 1.82% so far in 2012. His batted ball profile needs to get back to where it was in 2010 if he wants to have success with teams making contact 87% of the time (any pitch) they swing the bat against him.

Last year (September 15)

2010 (May 13)


These two graphs are backwards (9/15/10 and 5/13/11 instead of vice versa).

#12 deconstruction

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 09:36 AM

Both horizontal and vertical movement are both well down on his fastball/changeup. Velocity isn't actually too bad, although sometimes one cause of losing FB/CH movement is overthrowing, so in that regard, having a suppressed velocity might have explained more. I try not to get frustrated with the reports that he has changed mechanics but you can't help but think this team continues to overtinker with its pitchers given the stories such as Craig Hansen, etc.

Small sample caveats aside, his SwStr% on his FB has dropped from 5.13% last year to 1.82% so far in 2012. His batted ball profile needs to get back to where it was in 2010 if he wants to have success with teams making contact 87% of the time (any pitch) they swing the bat against him.

These two graphs are backwards (9/15/10 and 5/13/11 instead of vice versa).


Fixed--thanks. Has Clay talked about any changes to mechanics/grip/etc. he's made coming into this season? He must notice the reduced movement, so I wonder how he makes sense of it.

#13 rembrat


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:03 AM

Manager Bobby Valentine and pitching coach Bob McClure mentioned after the game that Buchholz is still building arm strength.


“I was just mentioning, watching the game again, that he made a lot of good pitches in between the bad ones, and the bad ones they didn’t miss,’’ McClure said. “He just centered some. If he gets away with a couple of mislocated balls, then it’s probably a different story. Some are mislocated. I think he’s still building his arm strength. I still think he’s going to be really good. I’m still looking for a little more sink and movement.’’


http://www.boston.co...le_for_red_sox/

#14 Rough Carrigan


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:49 AM

http://www.boston.co...le_for_red_sox/

Those McClure quotes are just happy talk.
So, he's had him change his release point from the one it was changed to in order to get movement on his fastball but McClure thinks he's going to get more movement. How, by switching back? And, what, did Clay secretly report to spring training later than anyone else? Still building arm strength? WTF? He'd better build a whole shitload more if he's gonna throw a bunch of fastballs right to the heart of the strike zone.
Clay's got all the resilience of rice paper in a monsoon and now they fucked around with him and got him off to a shitty start. Nice going guys.

#15 Toe Nash

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 10:58 AM

And, what, did Clay secretly report to spring training later than anyone else? Still building arm strength? WTF?

He missed most of last year with a back injury. It seems perfectly reasonable that his offseason regimen was different than normal and probably less intense. Seems like once you were sure it had healed, you'd want to focus on regaining core strength and then work on your arm strength. If they've changed his mechanics to his detriment that's not good, but I think he needs more than three outings before we leave him for dead considering he hadn't pitched in a real game in 10 months.

Edited by Toe Nash, 21 April 2012 - 10:59 AM.


#16 JMDurron

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 01:27 PM

Breaking this into three parts here.

Clay's got all the resilience of rice paper in a monsoon


In other words - He appears injury prone, so something should be done, if possible, to try to reduce the chances of him being hurt.

and now they fucked around with him


In other words - they changed his mechanics so that he hopefully does not re-aggravate the back injury that took him out of the rotation for most of 2011

and got him off to a shitty start


He's not hurt yet, so mission accomplished so far. First, he has to stay on the mound. Second, he has to not suck on the mound. If his 2011 injury reduced his ability to prepare for the season, then it's understandable that he'd be building up his arm strength.

It's perfectly reasonable for the team to try to help change Buchholz's mechanics if they have determined that the 2010-2011 mechanics are what led to his injury. It's perfectly reasonable to say that Buchholz did not get a normal offseason to try to get himself into Opening Day shape, and he's trying to learn (or re-learn) how to pitch with a different mechanical approach. It's a SSS. It's also reasonable to hope that the new mechanics don't permanently neuter his effectiveness on the mound, but we (team and fans alike) need to see more starts from Buchholz in order to see what is a matter of adjustment vs a potentially permanent issue of technique.

#17 Sprowl


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Posted 21 April 2012 - 02:08 PM

There are ways for Clay to pitch with less movement on the fastball: throw more 2-seamers (which do have visible movement), and throw them at knee level or outside. Nibbling with the fastball and pounding the strike zone with the curve seem to be his best options right now. If his velocity climbs another 1 mph as he rounds into pitching shape.

He got burned on the cutter several times against the Yankees when the pitch didn't break at all -- he needs a little more slide in his slutter. In theory that should be even more effective from a more overhand delivery, but Clay doesn't seem to have that consistent movement yet on his cutter, a pitch he tends to throw up in the zone.

I'm not at all sure what's going on with the changeup, but when the pitch-type% goes from 23 to 13% over a three-year period, there is definitely something going on.

#18 JMDurron

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 08:24 PM

Nice to hear the shout-out to Brooksbaseball.net while talking about Buchholz not using his changeup during tonight's NESN broadcast. Once he (hopefully) gets his confidence back in that pitch, it might help improve the swinging strike rate on his fastball.

Edited by JMDurron, 25 April 2012 - 08:24 PM.


#19 Rudy Pemberton


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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:29 PM

Another really uninspiring start by Buchholz, this time against a mediocre offensive team. Not good.

#20 StuckOnYouk

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:54 PM

It's time to move his ass to the bullpen where he can throw sides and be a long man until he finally finds his changeup and velocity. Call up Aaron Cook now.

#21 czar


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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:24 PM

Not to call it a good start (especially since it was vs. the Twins) but he did have a 14:3 GB:FB ratio. Without breaking out LDs (there were a couple hard hit balls) he probably profiled to a third to a half less hits than he gave up (had a .589 BABIP tonight). Which probably would have saved some Tums/Xanax.

His location was better tonight, and the velocity (while down) is only really a mph off last year (he averaged 92.1 tonight, topped out at 94.4-- last year he was only at 93.0 in April-- he jumped to 94.3 in May so he has a history of slower FBs his first few starts). His curveball was actually very good again and generated half his swings and misses tonight.

He only threw 6 CH, and then afterwards, complained about not having the feel for the pitch. For him, it still starts and ends with the change-- I assume the function of only throwing it 6 times was the fact that he wasn't comfortable with it, but it's tough for him to be effective without it so it's a bit of a catch-22. FWIW he kept all 6 (save for one which was lower half but out over the plate) of his CH down (below) which is (if anything) an improvement over his last couple starts where he continued to leave it up in the upper half of the zone or miss high altogether.

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If the Sox were to ask him to take a few starts off or down at AAA to get Cook a few starts I wouldn't be shocked (actually, I would be if they optioned him, but not outlandishly so I suppose), but it's still really tough to argue anything other than Buchholz would provide more value than Cook going forward. Even with this abysmal start (and two of his starts were awful, there is no way to sugarcoat the Tigers or the Yankee games) his rates (which have cratered) are really not that much worse than Cook's career ones.

Edited by czar, 25 April 2012 - 11:35 PM.


#22 rembrat


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:02 AM

His O-Contact% (81.0), Z-Contact% (94.1), and Contact% (88.8) are the worst they have ever been in his career and to no ones surprise his SwingStrike% (5.4) is at an all-time low.

Hitters are teeing off no matter where he throws it and he isn't missing bats. It's time for a tune up in Pawtucket.

#23 Buzzkill Pauley


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:26 AM

Last night still looks like we're getting a reprise of "Feet of Clay" from 2008.

I advocate for activating Cook on May 1, giving Clay two more starts (on 4/30 and 5/6), and deciding what to do after using a modified 6-man rotation for the first week of May.

But demoting Buchholz to AAA has to be on the table.

#24 czar


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:38 AM

His O-Contact% (81.0), Z-Contact% (94.1), and Contact% (88.8) are the worst they have ever been in his career and to no ones surprise his SwingStrike% (5.4) is at an all-time low.

Hitters are teeing off no matter where he throws it and he isn't missing bats. It's time for a tune up in Pawtucket.


But what's the alternative?

People keep saying Cook but his career SwStr% is 5.8%. His career contact profiles are similar to the ones you rail on above. So you can't be like "well Clay sucks, look at these stats" because the same argument can be made for a not sucking Aaron Cook.

It's clear Buchholz isn't 100%, but assuming he's going to eventually climb back to quasi-career norms, I think it's tough to say calling up Aaron Cook (he of 8:9 K/BB in AAA (4.09 FIP)) is a better option than letting Clay work out the kinks in the majors, even right now. He didn't look great last night but at least it was an incremental improvement against the Yankees game. Even if it takes a while for the K's to come back, having a GB:FB of 14:3 means that nights where he gives up 10 hits in 5 IP like last night are likely to be few and far between.

#25 rembrat


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:46 AM

It's concerning to see Clay have a k/9 of 4 and a bb/9 to match. It's also alarming, like you say, to see his contact rates mirror Cook's which is why I think he should go down to AAA and work on movement. This is about getting him fixed not trotting him back out there because there isn't anyone who can do better.

And I suspect this start was an improvement on his previous because he was facing an inferior lineup, not because he pitched better.

#26 czar


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 11:55 AM

It's concerning to see Clay have a k/9 of 4 and a bb/9 to match. It's also alarming, like you say, to see his contact rates mirror Cook's which is why I think he should go down to AAA and work on movement. This is about getting him fixed not trotting him back out there because there isn't anyone who can do better.

And I suspect this start was an improvement on his previous because he was facing an inferior lineup, not because he pitched better.


I guess that hinges on whether or not you think it's better for him to work out the kinks in AAA then. I just don't really think there is a huge advantage in that (couple starts in AAA vs. couple starts in MLB), especially when all the post-game quips from Bobby V. and McClure (FWTW) were that Buchholz looked better last night than he had previously. I could easily be swayed if I see more regression his next start or two (because he's still not right right now), but at the present time, this team doesn't have a slam-dunk replacement that can come up and be a huge improvement while Buchholz wastes innings elsewhere fixing his changeup.

As for the inferior lineup, that's partly true, but if you look at the PF/X stuff I posted above, there were positives to be had (OK velocity, good changeup location, good movement on the curveball which induced almost all his swings/misses, etc.). While the lineup also sucked, it had a disproportionate number of LHH/SWH which tend to hit Buchholz hard when he doesn't throw his CH (which he didn't really last night) so he wasn't facing 9 RHH Rey Ordonez's from that standpoint.

#27 Infield Infidel


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Posted 26 April 2012 - 09:41 PM

But what's the alternative?

People keep saying Cook but his career SwStr% is 5.8%. His career contact profiles are similar to the ones you rail on above. So you can't be like "well Clay sucks, look at these stats" because the same argument can be made for a not sucking Aaron Cook.

It's clear Buchholz isn't 100%, but assuming he's going to eventually climb back to quasi-career norms, I think it's tough to say calling up Aaron Cook (he of 8:9 K/BB in AAA (4.09 FIP)) is a better option than letting Clay work out the kinks in the majors, even right now. He didn't look great last night but at least it was an incremental improvement against the Yankees game. Even if it takes a while for the K's to come back, having a GB:FB of 14:3 means that nights where he gives up 10 hits in 5 IP like last night are likely to be few and far between.


If not Cook, then Tazawa, or Padilla, or, heck, Aceves. We have internal options if Clay needs to work on stuff for a little while. Are they good options? Maybe, maybe not, but Clay hasn't shown himself to be a good option either.

#28 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 27 April 2012 - 06:52 PM

I went digging through Brooks Baseball so I could compile a lot of the data in one spreadsheet while I'll update as the season progresses. I also check over at Texas Leaguers just to see how different his release point is this year from the previous two years, and it's definitely lower. His spin rates in 2010 were pretty consistently getting up in the 2500-3000 RPM range. They started dropping off last year and about the only time he's gotten a high spin rate on balls was in the first game this year.

With the lower release point his change is pretty much useless. I don't know if that's because he's not getting on top of the ball or not. That's something you'd need to look at video to determine. His BIP % is pretty close to what it's been in the past except on his change. And according to the database, he's also throwing a pretty ineffective slider. Again, that could be because of his release point and not getting on top of the ball and getting the proper amount of spin on it.

The spin rate on the curve has jumped a lot from where it was in 2010. The spin rate on his change has fallen through the floor from an average rate in 2010 of 1323 RPM to 1076 RPM in 2011 to 947 RPM in 2012.

He's got some major mechanical issues going on that need to be rectified. If he continues to try and work them out at the MLB level he's just continue to get shelled. I think he should work on them at the AAA level. I understand changing the mechanics to try and prevent a similar injury from the one he had in 2011, but they also need to do a better job of figuring out which pitches are the most effective and work on the getting the other ones to have enough movement so they aren't batting practice pitches.

All the data in the table is from Brooks Baseball except for the Total Pitches and Ks listed just under the the two RPM lines. I got the Avg spin rate and pitch type data from the Player Cards.

Here's the graphics of his release points 2010-2012 from Texas Leaguers.

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Buchholz Spin Rates
2010 4.11 4.17 4.22 4.27 5.3 5.8 5.14 5.19 5.24 5.29 6.4 6.9 6.15 6.2 6.26 7.21 7.26 8.1 8.6 8.11 8.17 8.22 8.28 9.4 9.1 9.15 9.21 9.27
2500-3000+ RPM 32 14 1 26 20 0 17 10 8 3 17 45 9 0 1 13 23 26 11 46 16 13 35 4 4 7
2000-2499 RPM 9 34 32 36 31 41 31 26 38 34 32 9 34 6 19 25 32 24 35 20 31 29 26 13 35 37
TP 94 108 114 117 109 93 111 104 108 108 101 107 113 106 17 87 114 109 97 109 113 97 110 95 39 109 113 108
K 59 59 76 80 65 54 64 68 69 64 66 61 73 60 12 56 77 66 65 64 64 63 67 66 17 66 66 70
IP 5 5 6.2 8 5.2 5 6.1 8 6 7 9 7 5.2 6.2 1 4 7 8 7.1 8 7 6 7.1 5 1 7 6 8
HRPM % 34% 12% 1% 24% 22% 0% 16% 9% 7% 3% 16% 40% 8% 0% 1% 11% 21% 27% 10% 41% 16% 12% 37% 10% 4% 6%
WHIP per game 1.8 1.4 1.13 1.13 2.12 2.8 1.31 0.75 1.17 1.14 0.67 1 1.54 0.97 2 2 0.86 0.75 1.27 0.88 1 1.33 0.85 1.4 9 1 1.17 0.75
Avg spin rate per pitch/% RPM % Ball Call K Swing Foul Whiff
4 seam 2364 28% 35% 22% 41% 18% 5%
sinker 2207 25% 36% 15% 48% 20% 5%
cutter 1175 20% 38% 11% 50% 21% 11%
curve 1594 9% 52% 17% 31% 11% 8%
change 1323 19% 37% 12% 50% 12% 24%


Apparently the table is too large for one post Thanks rev.

#29 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 27 April 2012 - 07:41 PM

Buchholz Spin Rates
2011 4.3 4.9 4.15 4.2 4.26 5.2 5.7 5.13 5.18 5.23 5.29 6.3 6.1 6.16 TOT
2500-3000+ RPM 16 2 3 1 8 5 1 13 3 10 4 0 2 0 68
2000-2499 RPM 32 17 36 19 30 32 12 36 29 21 23 25 33 14 359
TP 86 92 94 102 104 107 61 110 127 94 98 99 100 81 1355
K 56 55 46 59 69 66 44 65 79 55 63 62 62 50 831
IP 6.1 3.2 5 5.1 6.2 6.2 5 7 7 7.1 6 4.2 7 5 5.7
HRPM % 19% 2% 3% 1% 8% 5% 2% 12% 2% 11% 4% 0% 2% 0% 5.0%
WHIP per game 1.15 3.44 1.6 1.97 2.26 1.61 0.6 0.86 0.71 0.85 1.17 2.38 0.71 1 1.45
Avg rate per pitch/# RPM % Ball Call K Swing Foul Whiff
4 seam 2053 15% 39% 24% 36% 14% 4%
sinker 1965 36% 37% 20% 43% 15% 6%
cutter 1265 19% 38% 8% 54% 23% 11%
curve 1827 13% 43% 23% 34% 13% 7%
change 1076 17% 38% 14% 49% 14% 21%


#30 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 27 April 2012 - 07:42 PM

Buchholz Spin Rates
2012 4.8 4.14 4.2 4.25 SUM
2500-3000+ RPM 9 0 2 1 12
2000-2499 RPM 25 31 29 27 112
TP 78 104 103 107 392
K 50 6 69 69 194
IP 4 7 6 5.1 5.5
HRPM % 12% 0% 2% 1% 3.1%
WHIP per game 2.5 0.86 1.83 2.55 1.94
Avg rate per pitch/# RPM # Ball Call K Swing Foul Whiff
4 seam 2115 17% 29% 18% 53% 17% 5%
sinker 1802 30% 28% 24% 49% 26%
cutter 1266 22% 35% 9% 54% 26% 7%
slider 711 5% 50% 4% 46% 4% 13%
curve 1942 19% 41% 22% 36% 10% 13%
change 947 6% 48% 14% 38% 10% 7%


#31 There is no Rev


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Posted 27 April 2012 - 08:22 PM

Comparing 2012 to to 2012, that change usage has declined in conjunction with decline in spin and effectiveness (based on outcomes) and curve usage has increased similarly in conjunction with spin increase and effectiveness is very telling. Some have been wondering why we haven't seen Buchholz use his change as much this year, and it looks like we have our answer: it appears that it's not the same change.

smastroyin phrased this somewhat more colorfully in a game thread about a week ago, but this may not be good news. Granted, the new curve doesn't compare terribly unfavorably with the old change, but the four-seamer is getting pounded with the new delivery, and that was (obviously) his High-RPM pitch; it seems without it, he's not the same guy at all, and it is questionable if he can be.

Edited by Reverend, 27 April 2012 - 08:47 PM.


#32 There is no Rev


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Posted 28 April 2012 - 06:45 PM

I thought I would take a stab at focusing things a bit in an attempt to bring into perspective what the data abs has posted says. Some of this will be overly-descriptive for some of you quant-jocks, but hopefully it will be instructive for others.

Specifically, I believe there is reason to believe that Buchholz’s poor performance this season is not a product of bad luck or mere chance.

To this end, we can use the spin data and use the 2500RPM breaking point to construct a binomial that we can analyze to consider what the probability that Buchholz’s recent small proportion of balls rotating above 2500RPM is the product of chance. I believe this is an acceptable approach because, for starters, we know that pitchers attempt to put more spin on the ball*, and that more spin is more movement and more movement is good (and the strong positive correlation between changes in spin and outcomes per pitch from 2010 to 2012 bear this out). Also, comparing 2010 to 2012, the data shows that there is a strong positive correlation between deviations in spin by pitch and the usage rate for that pitch. Finally, while four games is a small sample, 392 pitches is a reasonably big sample** (although that they occur on four different days only is an obvious potentially confounding variable). The 66 some odd four-seamers he has thrown is a smaller one, but reasonably big , especially if we are operating on the assumption that Buchhols is intentionally trying to put high rates of spin on the ball.

I decided to test his high RPM proportion (HRPM%) for both total pitches thrown and just for four-seam fastballs. Although it might seem like only the four-seamers are relevant, the fact that he’s throwing them less frequently—probably because of the lower spin rates he’s achieving—makes looking at them as a function of total pitches interesting. Part of the strength of abs's approach of looking at spin is that it is not only fielding independent, but largely batting independent except for the matter of pitch-selection. In other words, we're looking as directly at only what the pitcher is doing.

To do this, then, I set his HRPM% of 15.5% for his total pitches in 2010 as the null hypothesis for over-all pitches, and the HRPM% of 55.2%(!) for his four-seamer in 2010 for fastballs (Note: This excludes data from 4/17/10 and 9/27/10 which for some reason won’t come up on BrooksBaseball.) The reason for this is I am trying to test whether or not the 2010 version of Buchholz “still exists” in the sense that Buchholz can still throw today like he did in 2010. So I want to measure the probability—the likelihood that—Buchholz2010 would produce a “sample” of pitches with the proportion of HRPM% pitches that he has in 2012. The lower the probability, the more safely we may reject the null hypothesis and conclude that he ain’t that guy anymore.

Buchholz’s HRPM% for 2012 have been 3.1% for total pitches and 18% for just four-seam fastballs.

OK, not looking good so far. (As abs has pointed out, the data is such that this really isn't necessary, but whatever--it bets working.)

Anyway, here is the key data and results for those who are interested in such things.
Spin-Rate Significance Test
HRPM%: Total Pitches HRPM%: Four-Seamer
H(null): p = 15.5% H(null) p= 55.2%
p(TP) 3.1% p(FF) 18.1%
Deviation 12.4% Deviation 37.2%
n 391 n 66.47
s.e. 0.0183 s.e. 0.0610
test-stat -6.7768 test-stat -6.0918
Sig. p < .0001 Sig. p < .0001



I lost my bookmark for an on-line p-calculator that can go beyond 6 standard errors deviation from the mean, but the probability is below .0001. Like, a lot lower.

This would mean that it is incredibly unlikely that the HRPM% we have witnessed would occur if Buchholz was the kind of pitcher he was in, from a spin standpoint, that he was in 2010.

Except for one thing: after doing this, I realized that the conditions for using the statistics to analyze a binomial distribution have not met because he hasn’t yet managed to throw the requisite 15 HRPM pitches needed to safely consider the sample distribution as approaching normal.

In other words, he’s hit 2500RPM too few times to even analyze it in this way. Which is probably way worse than I had initially thought.



*Those who are not druid freaks like Wakefield anyway.

**There appears to be a discrepancy in the pitch counts on BrooksBall between the total pitches thrown in the outcome data on Buchholz’s Player Card and the game logs, so I am using the lower estimates for both total pitches and four-seam fastballs, which is the more conservative approach.

Edited by Reverend, 28 April 2012 - 06:52 PM.


#33 smastroyin


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 09:23 AM

I'm going to hold out hope that he is still trying to figure out things and that he is really worried about his back. That said, with the obvious caveat that results are the most important, even the 2010 Clay who was very successful is not the same guy that no-hit the Orioles in 2007. That guy had a devastating change-up that was designed to get swing and misses. I do not like the "pitch to contact" version of Clay. I hate to even say it like this but at least with Clay it has felt that since the 2008 fiasco, he has stopped going right after hitters and has turned into almost a Dice-K like nibbler, trying to get the batter to get themselves out. Again, many people, including Clay himself, have success with this approach. But the "old" Clay was hella fun to watch. It is hyperbole to compare anyone to Pedro but the old change was Pedro-esque.

That said, we are here now and IMO what it looks most like is that he is throwing mediocre stuff in an attempt to maintain mechanics and command but has been unsuccessful. So you take mediocre stuff and combine it with mediocre command and here we are.

I have heard a few people thinking it is just a glitch and temporary and I hope everyone is right, but even the 2010 Clay was not the same guy as the 2007 Clay. I just wonder how often they can try to rebuild his mechanics without making the problem worse instead of better.

#34 deconstruction

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 09:40 AM

I'm going to hold out hope that he is still trying to figure out things and that he is really worried about his back. That said, with the obvious caveat that results are the most important, even the 2010 Clay who was very successful is not the same guy that no-hit the Orioles in 2007. That guy had a devastating change-up that was designed to get swing and misses. I do not like the "pitch to contact" version of Clay. I hate to even say it like this but at least with Clay it has felt that since the 2008 fiasco, he has stopped going right after hitters and has turned into almost a Dice-K like nibbler, trying to get the batter to get themselves out. Again, many people, including Clay himself, have success with this approach. But the "old" Clay was hella fun to watch. It is hyperbole to compare anyone to Pedro but the old change was Pedro-esque.

That said, we are here now and IMO what it looks most like is that he is throwing mediocre stuff in an attempt to maintain mechanics and command but has been unsuccessful. So you take mediocre stuff and combine it with mediocre command and here we are.

I have heard a few people thinking it is just a glitch and temporary and I hope everyone is right, but even the 2010 Clay was not the same guy as the 2007 Clay. I just wonder how often they can try to rebuild his mechanics without making the problem worse instead of better.


But, smas, in 2010 he DID have a devastating change. That year, he was routinely getting 5-10 whiffs per game on it, and had one of the highest SwStr% in the league overall. It seems as though he pitch to contact was more strategy and less ability/need-based. Right now, his stuff seems mediocre, but the 2009-2011 Clay had phenomenal stuff, just like the late-2007 guy.

Edited by deconstruction, 29 April 2012 - 09:47 AM.


#35 smastroyin


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 09:58 AM

Sure, but strategy of pitch to contact is different than strategy of "I'm going to strike out every single one of these guys." You can talk about individual pitches all you want. Any given inning of 2010 Clay Buchholz was vastly different from any given inning of 2007 Buchholz. I've been pretty consistently clear that for this pitcher, I do not like the strategy. So sure, he may have had the ability to throw it but for whatever reason he chose not to set up hitters the same way, etc.

Maybe after a first look major league hitters would have adjusted to his old style and they were right to try to get him to be a right handed Lester, but there is a very short list of guys who have K-rates over 12 in AA and AAA in their early 20's that aren't successful in the majors. Since 2007, they have changed his mechanics, his approach, experimented with different fastballs (cutter, sinker), cut back on his curveball, perhaps injured him...and now they are trying to change things again. My summation of this is that they took a kid who blew the doors off of the minor leagues and tinkered the living hell out of him once he hit the majors. I would love to see the alternate reality where they just let him be that kid.

My point was not to argue that the 2012 Buchholz is the same as 2010, if that's what you think I was getting at. Now he doesn't even seem to have the capability of throwing it, which, again, we are going to have to hope is a product of being tentative re: the back injury, and learning yet another set of mechanics, and that he sees his way through it to be the guy that even if his K rate isn't above 8, can generate enough weak contact to keep the GB rate high and the BABIP lower than .280.

#36 deconstruction

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Posted 29 April 2012 - 10:10 AM

Sure, but strategy of pitch to contact is different than strategy of "I'm going to strike out every single one of these guys." You can talk about individual pitches all you want. Any given inning of 2010 Clay Buchholz was vastly different from any given inning of 2007 Buchholz. I've been pretty consistently clear that for this pitcher, I do not like the strategy. So sure, he may have had the ability to throw it but for whatever reason he chose not to set up hitters the same way, etc.

Maybe after a first look major league hitters would have adjusted to his old style and they were right to try to get him to be a right handed Lester, but there is a very short list of guys who have K-rates over 12 in AA and AAA in their early 20's that aren't successful in the majors. Since 2007, they have changed his mechanics, his approach, experimented with different fastballs (cutter, sinker), cut back on his curveball, perhaps injured him...and now they are trying to change things again. My summation of this is that they took a kid who blew the doors off of the minor leagues and tinkered the living hell out of him once he hit the majors. I would love to see the alternate reality where they just let him be that kid.


I don't disagree, but IMO his change, even last year, was thrown to get swings and misses. Right now, the main problem is it, along with his FB, are not the same pitches he threw in 2010. I hear what you're saying, but I'd be ecstatic to have a 2010 Clay revival this year.

Didn't see the edit. Gotcha.

Edited by deconstruction, 29 April 2012 - 10:17 AM.


#37 Sprowl


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 02:21 PM

Moving several Buchholz posts from the Aaron Cook thread...

***

It is way too early to consign Buchholz to the bullpen, much less the minors. Buchholz also had a lousy first month of 2011, giving up lots of home runs and showing diminished velocity. All of that turned around in May 2012, although his fastball velocity never reached 2010 levels before he went on the injured list with a stress fracture in his back.

The mechanical changes and the loss of feel for the changeup bear watching, but we really haven't had enough games to know whether the plus-plus changeup won't return. Even with Overhand Clay v2008, his changeup was devastating, so there's no reason to conclude that it is incompatible with the old delivery. The ineffectiveness of the cutter is another puzzle. It has a little more horizontal movement than in 2011, and Buchholz has made a lot of location errors with it. He needs to keep the fastball down and the cutter away from the middle of the plate.

Gradual improvement in arm strength and better mistake avoidance with the fastball will go a long way toward making him a competent starter again.

#38 There is no Rev


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 03:59 PM

It is way too early to consign [I am an Idiot] to the bullpen, much less the minors. Buchholz also had a lousy first month of 2011, giving up lots of home runs and showing diminished velocity. All of that turned around in May 2012, although his fastball velocity never reached 2010 levels before he went on the injured list with a stress fracture in his back.

The mechanical changes and the loss of feel for the changeup bear watching, but we really haven't had enough games to know whether the plus-plus changeup won't return. Even with Overhand Clay v2008, his changeup was devastating, so there's no reason to conclude that it is incompatible with the old delivery. The ineffectiveness of the cutter is another puzzle. It has a little more horizontal movement than in 2011, and Buchholz has made a lot of location errors with it. He needs to keep the fastball down and the cutter away from the middle of the plate.

Gradual improvement in arm strength and better mistake avoidance with the fastball will go a long way toward making him a competent starter again.


I agree in principle that it would be unwise to give up on Buchholz too soon based on the potential upside. As an analytic question, though, the question is whether or not this year's poor April is similar to last year's poor April that he broke out of in May.

Here is a brief look at his four-seam fastball and his change in terms of it's characteristics and outcomes for last April, last May, and this April:
Buchholz Pitch
Type Count Selection Velocity Vertical Horizontal Spin Angle Spin Rate Strike Swing Whiff Foul In Play
April, 2011 FF 723 41.60% 92.2 8.27 -5.28 213 1,987 64% 44% 4% 17% 23%
May, 2011 FF 239 40.10% 92.5 8.29 -5.29 212 1,997 62% 43% 5% 16% 22%
April, 2012 FF 164 41.90% 91.9 8.43 -4.99 211 1,965 73% 52% 2% 25% 25%
April, 2011 CH 293 16.90% 80.4 5.96 -1.95 198 1,151 61% 48% 18% 14% 16%
May, 2011 CH 121 20.30% 80.5 6.54 -2.81 204 1,268 66% 52% 22% 15% 16%
April, 2012 CH 44 11.30% 78.6 5.35 -0.5 183 982 50% 39% 7% 7% 25%


It appears his breaking of his slump last May corresponded to an increase in spin on his change. My concern is that his change this April does not even appear comparable to last April's: it has a different spin angle and a significantly lower spin rate, to say nothing of the radical difference in movement associated with it. And the outcomes have been predictably poor.

Basically, and I'll pounding the "I hope I'm wrong" drum, but this April's pitching by Clay doesn't look comparable to last April's to me. It's still possible some adjustment could be made, but it would likely be something different from last year given the apparent difference in situation, so I see little hope that last year's experience can be considered to have much predictive potential.

#39 Sprowl


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 04:28 PM

It appears his breaking of his slump last May corresponded to an increase in spin on his change. My concern is that his change this April does not even appear comparable to last April's: it has a different spin angle and a significantly lower spin rate, to say nothing of the radical difference in movement associated with it. And the outcomes have been predictably poor.

Basically, and I'll pounding the "I hope I'm wrong" drum, but this April's pitching by Clay doesn't look comparable to last April's to me. It's still possible some adjustment could be made, but it would likely be something different from last year given the apparent difference in situation, so I see little hope that last year's experience can be considered to have much predictive potential.


I wouldn't put too much stock in the spin numbers as predictors just yet. PitchFX has had some persistent errors in horizontal movement, and occasionally in vertical movement, and drift in either one of those numbers can play havoc with spin angle, which is derived from both H and V movement numbers. They probably do reflect something real due to the change in arm angle, but the change appears to be rather subtle. The diversion will be especially strong for pitches without much rotation on them in the first place -- especially the changeup.

What I'm looking for is the angle of Clay's head when he delivers the ball. It seems to be very crowded with his new delivery angle. SouthernBoSox suggested that averting the head to get it out of the way of the arm is likely to contribute to a loss of command. Those mechanics were the subject of a THT article comparing Buchholz and Ian Kennedy back in 2007. The article has some good images and insights into Buchholz's old but recently revived mechanics, along with an explanation for why his changeup used to be The Hand Of God. Look at the tilt in Buchholz's head, which has returned in 2012 -- if SBS is right, that is the major change and the major difficulty in commanding the fastball.

Posted Image

Have the Red Sox beat reporters asked Buchholz and McClure about the mechanical changes -- what the changes are and what they are supposed to accomplish? If they haven't put the question to them, I wish they would.

#40 There is no Rev


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 04:48 PM

I wouldn't put too much stock in the spin numbers as predictors just yet. PitchFX has had some persistent errors in horizontal movement, and occasionally in vertical movement, and drift in either one of those numbers can play havoc with spin angle, which is derived from both H and V movement numbers. They probably do reflect something real due to the change in arm angle, but the change appears to be rather subtle. The diversion will be especially strong for pitches without much rotation on them in the first place -- especially the changeup.


I buy that. The 25% in play rate, however, coupled with the 7% whiff rate and, perhaps even more troubling 7% foul ball rate aren't PitchFX related of course. And those numbers suggest that hitters are clobbering the change--and they're not even fouling it off much but, well, clobbering it.

Edited by Reverend, 29 April 2012 - 05:15 PM.


#41 absintheofmalaise


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Posted 29 April 2012 - 06:06 PM

I got curious to see how much his release point has changed fro 2008 to 2012 from different angles and thought it would be good to have all that data in one location. These are from Texas Leaguers and have the regular RP graphics and also from a birds eye view. You can really track the changes from him releasing the ball right over the rubber to it changing to a RP that is away from the rubber. His release points were all pretty consistently in the 6' to 7' range except in 2009 when he drifted down into the 5.5' range quite a bit and in 2012 where it's been from 6' to 6.5'.

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#42 There is no Rev


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 03:53 PM

Getting eager to watch how Clay does tonight got me thinking about mechanics changes and what we mean by having a pitch or finding the pitch, so I had a question for people with more expertise on the nuts and bolts stuff.

When they change someone's delivery, should we think about the pitcher having the same pitches, or rather even if it's the same pitch type, is it better considered as a different pitch, albeit one that may be as or more effective than the previous incarnation produced by the old mechanics?

I wonder about this because I went back through some of the articles about Buchholz and changing his mechanics and they talk about him trying to get comfortable again with the changeup and finding the right release point. But if he found the exact same release point as before, if the delivery is different, it would effectively be a different pitch, wouldn't it? It might be more effectiveor less effective, not it's not going to be the same. Sort of like how Buchholz's curve looks like it might be better with the new delivery.

So is the idea that, given Buchholz's talents and skills, for any given delivery motion, there is an effective change that can be found in there somewhere? If so, is this assumption correct? Or might it be that for a given pitcher, some motions will have one set of effective pitches and other motions will have a different set, but there is not necessarily an effective version of each pitch type in every kind of delivery?

One way or another, I hope Buchholz finds an effective changeup. But I'm interested how they go about trying to accomplish that.

Edited by Reverend, 30 April 2012 - 04:05 PM.


#43 JMDurron

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Posted 30 April 2012 - 08:08 PM

So is the idea that, given Buchholz's talents and skills, for any given delivery motion, there is an effective change that can be found in there somewhere?


I'm interested to see what the Spin Rate data from tonight's game shows, because just from watching him pitch, the verdict is: "Hello, old friend."

EDIT - To add to this a bit, his fastball control still looks spotty, but the changeup was diving and starting where it would not end up as a meatball every time. Getting away with the lack of fastball control may very well just be the function of facing a horrible lineup, but the movement on the changeup itself *looks* to be improved.

It's a shame Buchholz was hurt by the lack of an interference call at 2B in the 7th, otherwise he would have finished (presumably) with only 1 run allowed.

Edited by JMDurron, 30 April 2012 - 08:28 PM.


#44 czar


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 09:45 PM

Because this was a topic of discussion in the game thread, here are three frames of Buchholz release in '08, '10, and '12. Lot of discussion about arm slots and release points so maybe this is useful in conjunction with the PitchF/X movement/release point notes as people try to understand what mechanical changes have been made to Buchholz this season.

Not a definitive method of analysis, but better than nothing. He is slightly more upright and there is less torsion in his delivery (compared to 2010). Arm slot is a tick lower. However, all this talk about him reverting back to his old mechanics doesn't seem valid. The first frame is * slightly* ahead of where the last 2 are in terms of the delivery, but he still has a much more tilted frame with his head well down towards the first base side and a much more "stacked" head, shoulder, elbow orientation on his left side in 2008.

Posted Image

Edited by czar, 30 April 2012 - 09:53 PM.


#45 There is no Rev


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 09:56 PM

I'm interested to see what the Spin Rate data from tonight's game shows, because just from watching him pitch, the verdict is: "Hello, old friend."

EDIT - To add to this a bit, his fastball control still looks spotty, but the changeup was diving and starting where it would not end up as a meatball every time. Getting away with the lack of fastball control may very well just be the function of facing a horrible lineup, but the movement on the changeup itself *looks* to be improved.

It's a shame Buchholz was hurt by the lack of an interference call at 2B in the 7th, otherwise he would have finished (presumably) with only 1 run allowed.


Hard to say, check it out, in aggregate:
Posted Image


Six balls broke 2500RPM, which is a good sign. However, what appear to be the changes (perhaps some with greater ability can help and, perhaps, correct me) on the low end, though, are low on spin and, frankly, all over the place (as is his entire spin distribution, really). Narratively, though, I think a lot of us wondered if he was starting to find the change-up late in the outing, which would be fantastic. But I lack the high end skills of a Sprowl or jnai to easily figure out which are the early pitches and the late ones.

#46 czar


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:05 PM

Six balls broke 2500RPM, which is a good sign. However, what appear to be the changes (perhaps some with greater ability can help and, perhaps, correct me) on the low end, though, are low on spin and, frankly, all over the place (as is his entire spin distribution, really). Narratively, though, I think a lot of us wondered if he was starting to find the change-up late in the outing, which would be fantastic. But I lack the high end skills of a Sprowl or jnai to easily figure out which are the early pitches and the late ones.


Slightly less noisy if you break it out by pitch type (sorted by algorithm, not by hand)

Posted Image

#47 There is no Rev


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:10 PM

Agreed on the point I think you are getting at. But I wasn't so much worried about noise as that each pitch has huge variance in its spin.

The key is whether or not they are clustered by inning which might suggest a trend, or if he has no I idea what is coming out.

#48 czar


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:18 PM

Agreed on the point I think you are getting at. But I wasn't so much worried about noise as that each pitch has huge variance in its spin.

The key is whether or not they are clustered by inning which might suggest a trend, or if he has no I idea what is coming out.


Well, a lot of it depends on the standard deviation of the spin numbers-- I'd venture a guess that offspeed pitches tend to have much more spread in terms of these quantities than FB. I don't know if you can read too much into "good spinning CH" vs. "bad spinning CH." But I'm really not 100% sure on that.

Another thing is the spin numbers are backcalculated out of the ball's camera-traced trajectory-- they are secondary quantities. It's beyond my knowledge as to whether or not these numbers have more "sensitivity" (due to the precision of the cameras, etc.) because of this layer of calculations-- which involves some small assumptions-- when compared to other more observed quantities (total movement, for example). This would be a question better left for alannathan or Jnai or maybe Sprowl.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I find the spin stuff you posted upthread very interesting and I hadn't thought about it (from a changeup POV) before. However, I'd be careful when trying to dissect the data too fine and draw conclusions because spin is a tricky quantity to play with on a single-game basis, especially since I don't have a good understanding as to how spin alone (without looking at spin/velocity, spin/movement correlations, etc.) drives the success of the pitch in Buchholz's case.

Edited by czar, 30 April 2012 - 10:20 PM.


#49 There is no Rev


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:36 PM

Well, a lot of it depends on the standard deviation of the spin numbers-- I'd venture a guess that offspeed pitches tend to have much more spread in terms of these quantities than FB. I don't know if you can read too much into "good spinning CH" vs. "bad spinning CH." But I'm really not 100% sure on that.

Another thing is the spin numbers are backcalculated out of the ball's camera-traced trajectory-- they are secondary quantities. It's beyond my knowledge as to whether or not these numbers have more "sensitivity" (due to the precision of the cameras, etc.) because of this layer of calculations-- which involves some small assumptions-- when compared to other more observed quantities (total movement, for example). This would be a question better left for alannathan or Jnai or maybe Sprowl.

I guess what I'm getting at is that I find the spin stuff you posted upthread very interesting and I hadn't thought about it (from a changeup POV) before. However, I'd be careful when trying to dissect the data too fine and draw conclusions because spin is a tricky quantity to play with on a single-game basis, especially since I don't have a good understanding as to how spin alone (without looking at spin/velocity, spin/movement correlations, etc.) drives the success of the pitch in Buchholz's case.


A few of us were just discussing precisely, well, all of this, and in particular were wondering how to get at the bolded parts. And would love to hear anything the more knowledgable types you mention might bring--heil sprowl, jnai and nathan!

As for the last part, I agree. I'm not thinking in terms so much as conclusions, but that if you were running the club, you want to be ready ahead of time in case any trend turns out to be the product not of random variability but an actual "effect." Certainly, you don't want to make premature decisions, but you want to have your eye on things that might turn out to be problems.

I mean, so we hope, eh? ;)

So, yeah, czar, I guess this is a long way of saying, "right on"?

#50 Sprowl


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Posted 30 April 2012 - 10:54 PM

Buchholz's changeup has never gotten its effectiveness from movement: it doesn't fade more than his fastball (as most pitchers' changeups do) -- it fades less. It often has practically no horizontal movement, though it usually has a slight vertical rise. Any pitch like that is likely to gyrate wildly in inferred spin, and the data could be thrown off badly by just a few inches of error in either the horizontal or vertical dimensions, or both. Buchholz's old plus-plus changeup seemed to work more by deception, especially arm action, than by movement, and I could never identify what made good when it was so good (check out the 2009 bash game for 12 whiffs on 25 changeups), or why it loses effectiveness when it is bad.

I think RPMs are very important for understanding the movement of fastballs and for curves, but less reliable as an indicator of hittability when it comes to changeups, cutters and sliders because their spin axis can be close to perpendicular to the strike zone. In such cases, PitchFX is missing the biggest part of the story. Alan Nathan mentioned that one firm now computes true spin rate in all dimensions (eg, how fast does a gyroball spiral, even if Pitchfx thinks it does not spin at all). It should be possible to get better insight into cutter and slider effectiveness using true spin rate.

The changeup still depends on the black box of deception.