This is my first attempt at doing some analysis using the PITCHfx data that can be found on MLB.com. What is PITCHfx? These are systems that have been installed at all ballparks in MLB that give deeper information on pitching. More on that over here if you care how the data is acquired.
What can this tell data tell us? I don't know but I have some and I'm going to find out using Jeremy Guthrie as a Guinea Pig since his first two starts were at home and they were very different in their results. As you can see (and as you probably remember), his first start was pretty bad and his second start was pretty good.
So here's Jeremy Guthrie, first the data from his Opening Day start where he struggled and the data from last Sunday's game where he pitched quite well.
These charts show his pitch movement. The first one is from Opening Day (Bad Guthrie) the one below it is the game on April 6th (Good Guthrie). Measurements are in inches.
Even though I don't have these charts on the exact same scale (got to do that next time) you can clearly see that Guthrie's fastball was not nearly as lively on Opening Day as it was last Sunday. His changeup and slider had comparable movement in both outings which explains why he threw a whole lot of sliders on Opening Day; his fastball was relatively straight. (On a side note, look at how Guthrie's fastball breaks up and in against righthanded batters when it's got good movement. Probably one reason righties only OPS'ed .666 against him last year. Also, look at how his changeup breaks; it's almost exactly like his fastball, just a little less "up" break on it. He doesn't throw it much but that's got to be a tough pitch for batters to adjust to since it must look just like his fastball out of his hand.)
Now a look at the pitch placement. Again, Opening Day on top. This time measurements are in feet.
Again, the first thing you notice is the differences in the fastballs. Guthrie's placement of his fastball is pretty erratic in the first game. Fastball were missing inside and outside, sometimes more than a foot off the plate. In the second game that fastball is being thrown for strikes.
Also, while his slider was live in both games, he had trouble getting it over for strikes. Lots of sliders went too far outside in that first game.
So, when Guthrie was more successful, he had:
A) a livelier fastball, not in terms of speed but in movement.
B) better control of his fastball and secondarily, his slider.
I thought the problems with his fastball might be related to the weather but the weather was equally bad in both games. (55 degrees, drizzle vs. 52 degrees, rain). His release points were fairly consistent. It appears he was just a little off but maybe more data in upcoming starts will point to something.Here's hoping he has that fastball working for him on Friday in Tampa!
(I can't wait until Daniel Cabrera has one of his rare fantastic outings and it can be compared to one of his "normal" outings...)