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Speed Kills

Tom Tango posted an interesting question at The Book Blog, asking people to estimate the wOBA of batters against a series of pitching machines that threw fastballs in the strike zone.  In his senario, there were a number of machines, each threw at a different speed, but each threw with the same spin and with the same release point.  The machines threw in the strike zone, but the location within the strike zone was random.  The batter knew the speed and the spin, but not the ultimate location of the pitch.

PITCHf/x data does not allow us to answer this question exactly, but it does allow us to get an estimate of what the distribution might look like.  The following table shows results for fastballs in the strike zone from 2008-2011 form pitchers with at least 200 PA against their fastballs.


Speed RangeNumber of PitchersAverage wOBA
< 85 4 0.361
85 to 89.9 63 0.344
90 to 94.9 197 0.335
>= 95 21 0.315


The wOBA reported here is the average of the individual pitchers, not the actual wOBA.  It does the effectiveness of fast fastballs versus slow fastballs.



5 Facts with Josh Beckett

Josh Beckett has had an impressive start to the 2011 season and his curveball has been a big factor.

1. In 2011 opponents are hitting .188 versus Beckett (326 plate appearances). That's 21st overall across all MLB active pitchers. Jonny Venters (ATL) is leading the league as his opponents hit only .137 (142 plate appearances).

2. Beckett has the 7th highest strike out rate  (28.4%) when there are runners in scoring position (sample size 67 plate appearances). David Robertson of the New York Yankees is number one in the league with a 40.7% strike out rate (sample size 59 plate appearances).

3. In 2010 Josh Beckett had a homerun rate of 3.9% (HR/AB). So far in 2011 Josh Beckett's homerun rate is down to 1.4%. 

4. In 2010 Josh Beckett had 37 called third strikes. In 2011 he already has 23 called third strikes. 

5. During the 2010 season 22% of Josh Beckett's called third strikes were curveballs. In 2011 the curveball is responsible for 35% of Beckett's called third strikes.


Free Swinging Freddy Freeman

Freddy Freeman of the Atlanta Braves started a hot streak on May 16th.  Since that date through June 8th he compiled a .342/.375/.500 slash line, good for a .380 wOBA.  The relative closeness of his BA and OBP raises a red flag however.  His walk rate is way down in this period.  Now, that by itself is not a concern.  He's collecting a ton of hits, and given the choice between a hit and a walk for getting on base, take the hit.  The low walk rate might also indicate Freeman is picking up bad habits.

Pitchers worked Freeman away during this period:

Freddy Freeman, pitch frequency, May 16- June 8 2011.Freddy is getting good results no matter where the ball is pitched:

Freddy Freeman, in play average, May 16 - June 8, 2011.Not the three hot zones out of the strike zone, one up and away, one down and in and one down and away.  He's chasing balls way out of the strike zone:

Freddy Freeman, swing rate, May 16 - June 8, 2011.You can see the bad habit developing.  The green areas represent 50% swings, and most of those are way out of the strike zone.  Plenty of yellow and orange shows up there as well.  With all those swings, he's not giving himself a chance to get in good counts for hitters:

Freddy Freeman, ball rate, May 16 - June 8, 2011.It looks like his success on some outside pitches is causing him to go after more of them.  That may work short term, but once pitchers realize they don't need to throw strikes to get Freddy to swing, he'll receive fewer and fewer pitches he can drive.