clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Pitch Tunneling Stats: Rays starters and deception

MLB: Boston Red Sox at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

And we’re back!! Just as I promised earlier this week when I mined through the Rays’ starting pitchers’ Break:Tunnel Ratios, one of the new statistics from Baseball Prospectus’ study on pitch tunnels, I will delve into the Release:Tunnel Ratios of the starting staff. But first, an introduction to the new stat.

Release:Tunnel Ratio

With this statistic, we are shown a ratio of a pitcher’s release differential to a pitcher’s tunnel differential. In other words, it shows the average separation between two pitches through the Tunnel. Ideally, according to the article, a pitcher should strive to have as small a ratio as possible because that means the pitcher has a smaller separation between two pitches traveling through the Tunnel Point. As a result, the opposing batter will have a harder time deciphering between the two pitches.

The average is 23.7%, with smaller percentages indicating less difference from hand to decision point from the batter’s perspective.

Rays’ Starting Pitchers’ Release:Tunnel Ratios

And now for the results:

Rays’ Starting Pitchers’ Release:Tunnel Ratios

Starting Pitcher Release:Tunnel Ratio Pitch Pairs
Starting Pitcher Release:Tunnel Ratio Pitch Pairs
Chris Archer 18.86% 2538
Jake Odorizzi 22.67% 2520
Blake Snell 31.20% 1312
Alex Cobb 15.99% 281
Matt Andriese 23.63% 1451

And look how the tables have turned! Whereas Snell excelled in post-tunnel break, he struggled in pre-tunnel deception in 2016. And for Archer, who had the worst Break:Tunnel Ratio out of all of the starters last season, has the second best behind Cobb.

Speaking of Cobb, even though he has the lowest total of pitch pairs out of the rotation, his Release:Tunnel Ratio is nonetheless quite impressive.

Odorizzi and Andriese were able to just sneak into the above average mark last year.

Let’s begin by looking under the hood of Snell, who although posted a below average ratio, his ratio wasn’t obscenely below the average.

MLB: New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Snell’s SL–FA (88 pitch pairs) and FA–SL (98 pitch pairs) combinations were fantastic with ratios of 15.08% and 17.72%, respectively, and probably could be thrown a little bit more frequently. Interestingly enough, Snell’s FA–CU and CU–FA sequences, which produced the best Break:Tunnel Ratios, tallied below average R:T Ratios of 24.04% and 27.83%, respectively. I guess that’s the price you pay for have such great post-tunnel break. Just the fact that these two ratios were not that far of from the average still says something.

The culprit of Snell’s poor R:T Ratio are his FA–CH and CH–FA combos. He threw these pairings over 100 times each, and both provided little deception with ratios of 46.95% and 59.11%, respectively. Snell relied on his heater frequently in 2016, and the pitch was swung at often and hit quite well with a .431 BABIP by opponents. This may have been be the result of ineffectively throwing too many fastballs right after throwing his change.

Now let’s switch to the opposite side of the spectrum with Archer and Cobb.

MLB: Toronto Blue Jays at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

All of Cobb’s sequences last season produced above-average R:T Ratios. He created amazing deception with his SI–CU and CU–SI combos as both recorded ratios just below 10%. The only pairings that came close to the average were his FS–SI (21.37%) and SI–FS (23.12%). Now keep in mind, Cobb’s 2016 season was shortened due to injuries, so we don’t know how much any of these ratios would regress if he played more consistently.

Archer was just as excellent in deceiving his batters before their decision point as was Cobb. His FA–SL and SL–FA ran superb R:T Ratios of 16.21% and 17.25%, respectively, to accompany their already awesome B:T Ratios. It should be mentioned, as I noted in the previous article, that Archer loves to throw back-to-back sliders. In addition, he threw a ton of back-to-back fastballs as well. Throwing the same pitch consecutively will usually produce good R:T ratios since it is essentially the same release point twice in a row.

I also suggested he should spread out his pitch sequences more evenly in order to maximize his post-tunnel break. Archer has primarily been a two-pitch pitcher throughout his career thus far, so who know if he is willing to change that trend in 2017, even after a lackluster 2016. Plus, his FA–CH and CH–FA sequences offer below-average R:T Ratios, despite their stellar T:B Ratios, so there are some pros and cons with throwing these two sequences more.

As for the rest of the staff, Odo’s overall ratio -- like Archer’s -- is a bit distorted because of the fact that he threw almost 900 back-to-back fastballs last season. Nevertheless, he still churned out above-average ratios with other sequence ratios, such as his FS–FA and FA–FS 17.30% and 18.16%, respectively.

Andriese’s overall ratio crossed the above-average line by the thinnest of margins thanks to FA–FC and FC–FA combos, which manufactured ratios of 20.98% and 21.17%, respectively. His FA–CH and CH–FA sequences did not provide much deception to opposing hitters with ratios of 28.50% and 29.74%, respectively. A decent percentage of his pitcher pairs were back-to-back change-ups, which helped Andriese stave off a below-average R:T ratio.

Combining what we have learned from this and the preceding article, there are some unusual conclusions being drawn about some of the Rays’ staff.

With Snell, we have a budding hurler with fantastic late-break on his pitches, but who as poor deception early in the tunneling sequence. It’s possible that Snell’s elite late-break skills are his saving grace that make up for his so-so Release:Tunnel Ratio.

And then there is Archer who is sort of the reverse with his outstanding deception, which might be compensating for less-than-marvelous late-break.