Thursday, January 14, 2010

Vazquez's Pitch Selection

One of the things we touched upon towards the end of our post about Javier Vazquez's clutch ability was his pitch selection in 2009. Here is what Tyler Kepner said shortly after the trade was completed:
Scouts believe Vazquez’s changeup improved a lot with Atlanta last season, giving him a second swing-and-miss pitch to go with his curveball.
A quick look at the Pitch Type data at FanGraphs shows that his fastball, slider and change were all significantly better in terms of run value while his slider was about the same.

Today, SG at over at the Replacement Level Yankees Weblog took a look at his pitch selection over the last three years in terms of quantity, run value, velocity, strike percentage, and break. For the first time in his career in 2009, Vazquez threw fewer than 50% fastballs while using each off-speed pitch slightly more than in 2008. Last year he also threw significantly more sliders and curveballs than in 2007.

How much of his standout 2009 campaign you want to attribute to this is up to you, but it looks like mixing in more of his off-speed stuff was beneficial. Anecdotally and with small sample size caveats, his leverage numbers were the same as usual - worse as it increased.

There's a lot of data over there, so be sure to check it out and peruse the comments for some other cracks at explaining what's going on.

Re: Yesterday

There was a lot of interesting discussion here and at Joe Posnanski's blog about Mark McGwire and A-Rod yesterday and since I was away from my computer for the better part of it, I wanted to address a couple of things before we move on.

First, thanks to Joe for responding my post. He's truly one of the good guys - humble and self-effacing in an business whose most successful participants are usually sorely lacking in both traits. There aren't very many writers who would take the time to answer criticism like that and do so with without taking it personally. People say "agree to disagree" often, but it's not easy to concede a point. Especially to someone you don't know over the internet.

While both Craig and Joe used the term "double standard" as a way to describe the difference between Joe's reaction to the two interviews, that was a length I purposely didn't go to in the post. I made sure to mention that I was taking him out of context before I compared the two quotes. Like commenter NaOH, I don't think it makes him hypocritical or duplicitous to have somewhat contradictory reactions to two things I thought were fairly similar. Joe thought they were quite different, which is totally understandable.

Life isn't neat and tidy. There is a whole lot of gray area, particularly when it comes to steroids in sports. People are distributed throughout the continuum in their opinions about how much PEDs help players and how much using them is a violation of the game. And each individual player carries their own set of circumstances. These issues all operate on sliding scales, not on/off switches.

As writers, we try hard to make points and gravitate towards unequivocal terms in doing so. Readers don't want to waste their time reading wishy-washy opinions and writers don't generally waste their time typing up their thoughts on issues that they don't feel strongly about. As a result, there are bound to be any number of contradictions in a person's body of work over the course of time. If anyone cared enough to rummage through my archives, I'm sure there would be plenty of them there as well.

Consistency is largely overrated. The world is in a constant state of flux and while it's popular for politicians to rip each other for waffling, I think we are all better off trying looking at each situation as inherently different instead of assuming everything fits into the same rubric.