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A Comprehensive Look at Jeff Niemann

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Last season Jeff Niemann finally broke into the majors. Niemann would start two games before heading back to Durham. He would return the team in September as a reliever and finished with 136 pitches as a starter and 101 as a reliever. Let's see how Niemann differed in the two roles.

Let's begin with Niemann's starts:

Niemannstarting_medium

Clearly Niemann favors his fastball and curveball far more than his change. Speaking of the change, it seems to be similar in everything but velocity to his fastball.  Niemann's fastball steaks in, sometimes more than he likely intended, but the cluster is quite spread out. Also notice the variance in break between Niemann's fastballs and curve.

Here's Niemann's velocity and average location as a starter:

Niemannstartingoverview_medium

Well enough, how about Niemann the reliever?

Niemannrelieving_medium

And the overview:

Niemannrelieving2_medium

Things that you may have noticed:

1. Niemann's velocity jumped up as a reliever.

2. The average location of his pitches moved towards lefties more as a reliever.

3. Niemann's pitches seemed to be more in a cluster and dare I say consistent.

Here's an overlay comparison of Niemann's starter stuff versus his relieving stuff:

Niemannspvrp_medium

In the key I've labeled which pitches are "SP" or from Niemann's starts and which are "RP" or from relief appearances. It appears our observations were correct. Niemann's fastball was lower and more clustered as a reliever, perhaps by accident. I'm not entirely sure what was going on with the fastballs that broke towards lefties. Experimenting with a new pitch/grip?

How about Niemann's control and ability to throw strikes?

(The following charts measured are in feet, not inches)

Niemannstartingkzone_medium

Niemannkzonerelief_medium

The dark box is the normalized strike zone. Some players have taller/shorter strikezones, but this gives you a pretty good idea of control/placement nonetheless. There's a bit too much static here to point out any trends, but I figured people would find it interesting anyways.

To wrap this all up, here's what we learned about Niemann the starter v. Niemann the reliever:

  • As a starter Niemann features a show-me change. Forget about that pitch if he becomes a full-time reliever.
  • Niemann's velocity is definitely going to raise in the pen and his stuff will move less because of it.
  • As a reliever Niemann's pitches seemed to be more clustered in terms of movement. Perhaps easier to repeat mechanics? Maybe not having to pace himself.

(H/T: BrooksBaseball for easy to pull data)