Matt Garza's quote about his fastball confidence forced my hand on this. You would never know that a pitcher with a career 63.25% usage rate lacked a sense of confidence in a pitch, but fine, whatever. That usage jumped to 72.2% for the entire season, but I wanted to see if we couldn't pinpoint the exact starts where Garza began to "trust" his fastball.
Well, we couldn't.
Even so there's some interesting stuff worth noting anyways. Let me disclaim this by saying the data for start number 5 and start number 29 were unavailable through the site from which I was extracting data. I feel confident in saying those pitches would make little difference to the overall picture. We're talking about nearly 2,600 pitches and 28 starts. I suppose there's a chance he was completely different in those two starts, but that seems quite unlikely.
What I decided to do was break the data down into three sets. These entail starts 1-10, 11-20, and 21-30. The objective is to find some semblance of confidence grooming occurring. Here are the findings for velocity and usage:
Pretty similar, no? Garza used his ~94 MPH fastball 73% of the time thru his first 10 starts, a ~93 MPH fastball ~70% of the time in starts 11-20, and a ~94 MPH fastball about 74% of the time to wrap up the season. Well okay, that's not a big difference whatsoever. Did Garza's results at least improve? Well...
|1 thru 10||4.85||17.1|
|11 thru 20||8.2||14|
|21 thru 30||6.3||15.1|
Garza's strikes called (on fastballs only) held steady, and his strikes swinging increased from an embarrassingly low number to a decent-if-not-spectacular total. One thing to note is that Garza's fastball broke less horizontally as the season went on. During the first ten starts Garza's fastball broke in to righties by 6.75 inches, over the next ten that number dipped to 5.48 inches, and in the last 10 Garza was down to 4.38 inches. That's a bit odd, given that his swinging strike rates were worse when his fastball broke in the most. That could be a sign of command improvement .
How about a complete stats breakdown:
|1 thru 10||5.7||0.6||3.2||2.4||94.9|
|11 thru 20||6.6||0.5||4.8||1.4||102.4|
|21 thru 30||6||0.8||4.8||2.1||97.4|
Garza was clearly a different animal after his initial 10 starts and will hopefully carry that forward into next season. As for his comments, either there's nothing here, or the timelines simply don't overlap. Maybe he meant last spring training, not the beginning of last year. We'll likely never know.
Tommy's going to have more about pitchers with similar fastball usages tomorrow, but I must say, I'm starting to get excited for Garza, just as I was around this time last year.