Here’s the first full attempt at our new feature:
Mega-In-Depth: Key At-Bat
The first one is from March 9, and it is emerging lefty pitching prospect Tyler Olson vs. Cleveland’s Michael Brantley.
Here’s our “Enhanced GIF” of the deciding pitch.
Now let’s look at some of the supporting data from BrooksBaseball.net. We also plan to use TexasLeaguers.com, which has a different set of interpretations of the Pitch F/x data, but it doesn’t have any data from this game.
Olson threw one inning and struck out the side. Brooks shows Olson throwing 9 sliders at around 80 mph and 7 fastballs at around 90. All but one of the fastballs were classified as “cutters” (FC) by Pitch F/x, which means they will be slightly slower than the “regular” four-seam fastball (although that was not really the case with Olson), and will have “gloveside run” — meaning a little bit of horizontal movement toward the right (glove hand) for lefty Olson.
To get the three-dimensional picture, we have to look at both the horizontal and vertical movement. Note that the opposite axis in both is “speed.” So the batch of “slider” dots in the lower corner of the horizontal chart are slower, not dipping down. We can see in the vertical chart that they, in fact, are not dipping down but staying pretty much on the “expected” (gravity-driven) path vertically. If anything, they “rise” vertically above the mental expectation, as you can see that all of his pitches are above the “zero” line.
What we see (outside of the two “stray” dots) are two pitches that vary 10 mph in speed but are pretty similar on the vertical plane. One breaks horizontally armside (outside to a RH hitter; inside to a LH), while the other breaks horizontally gloveside (inside to a RH hitter; outside to a LH). Despite the Brooks labels, the slower pitch that breaks in to the LH hitter (the cluster of “slider” dots with the 9-12″ horizontal movement) are changeups with a lot of break. Thanks for that, Matt! The two “stray” dots in the middle are the actual sliders. (Let’s hope we got that right.) He did not throw one of those to Brantley.
Now let’s look at the five pitches of the Brantley AB, and add in the final element of the pitches: location.
You can see him pounding down and away, and that the catcher’s mitt doesn’t move much, since down-and-away is what they had in mind.
And what does he dangle temptingly out on that outside corner? A slower offering that breaks in on LH Brantley and a faster offering that breaks a little bit away. All coming from a “funky” (Lloyd McClendon’s term) sidearm release point from a long-armed lefty.
Left-handed hitters will have a hard time picking up the ball from that spot (James Paxton also releases the ball from a point that seems almost behind a LH-hitter’s ear, but three-quarters rather than sidearm), and clearly Brantley thinks he’ll be able to reach out and make contact. But the down-and-away location and the horizontal movement make his fishing expedition come up empty.
That location, the pitch combo and the funky delivery will be really tough on lefty hitters.
And while we’re at it, let’s take a look at the hardest hitters in MLB to strike out in 2014:
Well, howzabout that? Not only are 7 of 10 either LH or switch, there’s Michael Brantley his ownself with just 56 strolls back to the dugout in 676 appearances at the dish.
No wonder Lloyd likes young Mr. Olson.