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Year/Year Pitch Usage Trends and Results Across the Rays Rotation

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Every Spring Training a certain focus of the pitching staff seems to be for each pitcher to develop a James Shields change up.  The trend, however has been for pitchers to move away from throwing the change up in games including the master, James Shields.  You can see here, a staffwide move away from both the fastball and the change up from 2008-2009.

FB08

FB09

CH08

CH09

Matt Garza

72.2%

70.7%

7.9%

4.4%

James Shields

44.9%

42.5%

26.3%

22.1%

Scott Kazmir

75.3%

61.8%

15.1%

15.0%

Andy Sonnanstine

32.7%

23.3%

4.2%

1.9%

 

What pitches are seeing more action as a result of fewer fastballs and change ups?

SL08

SL09

CT08

CT09

CB08

CB09

Matt Garza

13.0%

14.0%

6.9%

10.9%

Scott Kazmir

9.6%

23.2%

James Shields

19.2%

18.4%

9.6%

16.4%

Andy Sonnanstine

21.8%

14.5%

30.3%

45.6%

11.0%

14.7%

 

Matt Garza seems to have moved off the change in favor of his curveball. What has the change in effectiveness been? It has worked quite well. His wCB/C (CurveBall value per 100 pitches) has increased from 0.20 to 2.36.  In Garza's case the move toward the curveball is a sign that it has become a money pitch as a complement to his fastball and slider.

 

The move in Scott Kazmir has been away from the fastball and towards the slider. 2008 was an anomaly for Kazmir as he hardly threw the slider which traditionally had been his out pitch.  We've seen him move closer to his usual pitch mixture. Due to a 3 MPH decrease in velocity his fastball is having its worst season of results. The changeup seemingly has become his best pitch. The good news is since returning from Rick Petersonville, his slider has regained its effectiveness posting a June wSL of 1.5 and a July wSL of 2.6. while still being -1 on the year. That helps give an idea of the level of improvement he has seem.

 

Shields movement away from the changeup has been an ongoing theme over the past few seasons as indicated below.

 

CT

CB

CH

2006

0.40%

10.70%

34.10%

2007

11.90%

11.30%

30.20%

2008

19.20%

9.60%

26.30%

2009

18.40%

16.40%

22.10%

 

 

Over a four year period the change up usage has dropped  from 34.1% to 22.1%. From 2007-08, there was a big jump in the usage of the cutter. Over the past two seasons, the use of the curve ball has taken away from the change up and fastball. What has been the value effect?

 

wFB

wSL

wCT

wCB

wCH

Total

2006

-12

-1.5

-0.6

1.2

3.2

-9.7

2007

-8

-0.4

1.3

25.8

18.7

2008

-1.5

2.3

6.2

9

16

2009

-9.2

0.5

2.9

0.6

3

-2.2

 

Shields has been unable to duplicate his 2008 success with the curveball with the increase in usage. The cutter continues to be working out well, but his fastball and change up effectiveness has fallen off a cliff. Could less usage equate to losing the feel? Note that these numbers are aggregate as opposed to a rate measure, but the negative indicator gives you an idea of the trend.

No pitcher has redefined his pitch usage quite like Sonny

 

   

Season

CT

CB

Total

2007

6.3%

8.5%

14.8%

2008

30.2%

11.0%

41.2%

2009

45.6%

14.7%

60.3%

 

You can see the trend, but in 2009 he became predominantly a cutter/curveball pitcher. Perhaps this is a result of experiencing great success with the cutter in 2008 posting a wCT/C of 1.62. With the 19% increase in usage this year, that number has fallen to .26 while the rate on every other non-change up pitch has suffered as well. Sonny's greatest strength always seemed to be his ability to keep hitters off balance with pitch selection and location. Could overreliance on the cutter leader have led to hitters becoming more comfortable while Sonny lost some feel on his other pitches?

 

For a team that has the reputation of everything building off the fastball, there seems to have been a shift away from fastball and change usage this season in favor of curves and cutters. I don't know what this means for the long term, but the short term results indicate that there just may be some truth to the basic fastball/change mantra.