Looking at Pettitte’s start with Pitch f/x

A-Rod expected to head to Tampa on Monday
Yankee Stadium, Mohegan Sun and the mob

You gotta love baseball. Given all their big money signings and returning young starters, who would have guessed that the first Yankee pitcher to fire seven innings of one run ball this year would be the 36-yr old number four starter who wasn’t even on the team as recently as January 25th? Granted, it was against the Royals, but Andy Pettitte was brilliant yesterday afternoon, and he did so by using every trick in the bag. He threw 99 pitches in total, and here’s how they broke down according to Pitch f/x:

36 fastballs (88.1 mph on avg)
24 sliders (80.9)
19 cutters (85.6)
10 changeups (79.3)
10 curveballs (75.3)

That’s quite a bit of variety, especially compared to CC Sabathia, Chien-Ming Wang, and AJ Burnett, all of whom operated primarily with two pitches. Forgive the clutter, but here’s the pitch trajectories. Remember to click for a larger view.

Bird's Eye View

First Base View

Catcher's View

Heh, this is awesome. Pettitte’s got a pitch for every direction – up, down, left right, whatever he needs, he’s got it. In case you’re wondering, only one of his ten changeups was called a strike, the rest where taken for balls. Here’s Andy’s release points:

Release Points

Man, that’s crazy. Pettitte released all 99 of his pitches from a tiny little 10-inch by 10-inch box, microscopic compared the other three starters. Think about it, if you’re the batter standing over fifty feet away from where he releases the ball, all of his pitches look like they’re coming from exactly the same place. When you don’t have overpowering stuff, that deception is a huge help.

I noted the velocities of Pettitte’s pitches above, so let’s look at something different for the final graph. Home plate ump Rob Drake was calling a very wide strike zone for both team’s pitchers, so here’s a look at the balls and strikes Pettitte threw:

Balls & Strikes

A wide zone indeed. Given how Drake was calling that outside corner, it’s no wonder that left-handed batters combined to go 2 for 18 off Pettitte. Hopefully Andy continues to pitch like he did yesterday for the rest of the season, it would be such a huge advantage for a team already stacked with quality starters.

Update (11:47am): Accent Shallow made a good point in the comments. The balls and strikes graph doesn’t differentiate between swinging and called strikes, so the the strike zone probably isn’t as wide as it appears to be. Here’s an updated version:

Called & Swinging Strikes

Yeah … so the strikezone only looked so big because the Royals hitters have no plate discipline. Swinging strikes isn’t just swings and misses, it’s fouls, foul tips, all that stuff. Pettitte still got some help on the outside to righties though.

A-Rod expected to head to Tampa on Monday
Yankee Stadium, Mohegan Sun and the mob
  • aaron empty

    wow, thats some strike zone. i remember noticing one called strike three that looked like it was 6 inches off the plate, this seems to confirm. man he just wouldnt call an outside ball would he…i wonder if this minimizes pettitte’s great start a little, i mean with i figure any halfway decent pitcher could have similar results with that kind of a strike zone against such a meager offense…

  • Accent Shallow


    Very interesting, I like this new feature. However, I think that the last graph would be more useful if it distinguished between called and swinging strikes, no? (Unless the strikes on that graph are only the called strikes, which would be a very wide zone)

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      That’s a good point. Give me a minute and I’ll add it to the post.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

        It’s been updated.

        • Pel

          Nice job.

          How about adding a PF/X tag for these articles?

          It’ll be easier to find these posts as we get deeper into the season.

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            Done, and done.

  • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

    I absolutely LOVE the movement on the cutter. I know he probably won’t pitch like this every night, but it was good to see vintage Andy out there!

    • http://actyankee.blogspot.com Matt

      Pettitte’s curve also had tremendous late movement.

  • Pel

    Great stuff, Mike.

    Home plate ump Rob Drake was calling a very wide strike zone for both team’s pitchers, so here’s a look at the balls and strikes Pettitte threw:

    Did you account for swinging strikes out of the zone?

  • cuponoodles

    That release point shows you the work of a veteran pitcher right there…now only if we can get CMW to do that…

  • Greg G.

    Just wanted to comment that I think these Pitch f/x charts are very cool. Along with the win probability charts, they are a really unique perspective of the “game behind the game”.

    I’m sure it’s time-consuming, but I hope you guys continue to post them whenever you can.

    • Greg G.

      I particularly liked the visualization of the dramatic difference between a cutter and a fastball.

  • aaron empty

    yeah ok so its not as bad as my original post implied, but i still remember some lets say generous calls, but that revised chart makes me trust the outing more.

  • http://www.blogtalkradio.com/pics/hostpics/5e4be77c-8e57-4d7a-8533-add8ed030ad5JerkStore.jpg Slugger27

    great work mike, much appreciated

  • max

    Mike Francesa must be in heaven right now. Cant wait til Monday to hear about how the gritty Andy Pettitte misses bats.

  • Will (the other one)

    Hey Mike – how long does it take you to compile all this stuff? Where do you actually get the raw data from? It’s a pretty awesome resource to have in trying to assess the more technical aspects of a pitching performance, and I’m curious how much time and effort it takes to harness the pf/x info and turn it into something visually appreciable.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      Not long, about a half hour to generate all the graphs. The data comes from MLBAM’s website.

      Once I created a master spreadsheet to do the trajectory calculations, it became a whole lot easier.

      • pat

        Every time I see MLBAM I think NAMBLA.. is that weird?

        • Steve H

          Only you would come up with that pat

  • anonymous

    Hey did nobody first this comments section?

    • pat

      it was probably deleted out of sheer stupidity.

  • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

    Awesome graphs.

    One request: I feel like (could be wrong) the release point graphs you’ve been posting don’t have fixed dimensions (as in sometimes the overall plotted window represents an 18in by 18in box, sometimes it’s a 3ft by 3ft box, etc).

    Can you keep the plotted window the same size each time so we can more easily compare the relative size of the release scatterpoints of these pitchers against each other?

  • http://evilempire20.com Ryan S.

    This is starting to become one of my favorite reads from RAB – its a awesome to read analysis like this for all the starters. I’m looking forward to seeing how different Joba’s fastball and slider appear on a graph.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

      Just don’t hold your breath for Melvin’s Pitch f/x graphs… he’s unplottable in Euclidean geometry.

      • Andy In Sunny Daytona

        It’s funny you say that, because Melvin has been tinkering with his “Wormhole” pitch. There are waaaay too many ramifcations in throwing it though.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside

          I was able to find some unauthorized footage of one of Melvin’s earlier games. I hope you enjoy it.


          • Andy In Sunny Daytona

            To hold the Gashouse Gorillas to only 10 runs in the first inning is quite an accomplishment.

          • Drew

            Wait, now I’m confused. I thought that was Edwar.

  • dkidd

    while watching the game, my impression was that andy got a ton of swinging strikes on the outside corner to lefties. the last chart seems to indicate the opposite

    a veteran lefty going inside to lefties. i also like something someone posted in the game thread, that his delivery looked smoother/more fluid than the end of last year

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