Jul
11

Pitch F/X myth-busting: Mark Teixeira Edition

By

Hello readers, I’d like to thank everyone for the warm reception.  It is truly an honor and a privilege to write for such a passionate, dedicated group of fans, on a blog that I have been reading since its inception (not to mention reading Mike, Ben, and Joe prior to that).  It’s also fantastic to be reunited with my former partners-in-crime Moshe, Larry, Matt, and (briefly) Stephen.  I look forward to getting to share my thoughts on my beloved Yankees, and will likely write on a wide variety of topics.  My goal while writing here is not only to produce quality content, but also to interact with the RAB commentariat, so feel free to leave comments on this or any other piece I write here.  I can’t promise I will get to reply to every one (other commenters can likely answer certain questions better than I could), but I will try to get to as many as I can.  Also, feel free to hit me up on Twitter (@Eric_J_S) where I talk baseball, and a variety of other topics.  And away we go…

Mark Teixeira swinging 2011

Flickr photo (by Keith Allison)

One of the interesting things about baseball analysis over the years is its evolution as new information has become available.  Rudimentary fielding metrics gave birth to several ways of quantifying defense, including Total Zone and UZR (both of which are still works in progress).  These give baseball fans a new way of measuring a player’s defensive skill, as opposed to relying on the eye test and number of errors committed.  Pitch F/X allows us to dig deep into granular data on pitch velocity, spin, and movement, giving us new insight on what makes for an effective pitch, and allowing for comparisons of a pitcher’s outings (my old TYA compadre Michael Eder has been doing some phenomenal work using Pitch F/X, which definitely worth checking out).

Another recent addition to the toolbox is Baseball Prospectus and Brooks Baseball’s new batter Pitch F/X cards, which give information on how effective each player is at hitting each pitch type at each location in the strike zone.  While some of the information provided by this tool may not be particularly revolutionary (for example, batters tending to be better hitters on balls in the strike zone) it nonetheless provides some interesting quantitative data to back up visual scouting reports.  I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the player cards of Yankee hitters to see if the data confirm or contradict conventional wisdom about the Yankees’ strengths and weaknesses.  If you have a few moments to play around with the tool, you can slice and dice the data by pitch type, pitcher handedness, and a variety of outcome measures.  Apologies in advance that I couldn’t figure out a way to import the tables, but feel feel free to click the links below to see the relevant data.

Mark Teixeira was the first player I looked at, mainly because his approach at the plate as a left-handed hitter has been much-criticized during his Yankee tenure.  Conventional wisdom suggests that Teixeira is tantalized by the short porch in right, and consequently has become excessively pull-happy.  From the pitching perspective, pitchers tend to keep the ball away from Tex to get him to roll over the ball and ground out.  The data do seem to suggest such an approach exists.  Looking at the pitch frequency table, it is evident that pitchers have been staying away from Tex.  Only about 11% of pitches (total, which includes balls out of the zone) Tex faced were on the inner third, while nearly 20 percent were in the outer third of the zone.  Tex’s ground ball rates by location suggest that he is very likely to hit outside pitches on the ground, compared to pitches that are middle-in.

The outcome measures, however, tell a different story.  Teixeira’s batting average and TAv (a park adjusted measure of offensive value scaled to batting average, basically BP’s version of wRC+/wOBA) show that he has actually been very effective at hitting outside pitches, and relatively ineffective at hitting inside pitches.  This surprising outcome could suggest that Teixeira, perhaps with the help of Kevin Long, has modified his swing and approach to give him greater success against outside pitches.  This pattern was fairly different when compared to 2011, where Tex’s performance against outside pitches was less impressive, and his numbers were better against inside pitches than they have been in 2012.  This may seem to be a success, except for the fact that Teixeira has actually been less productive in 2012, even though he has handled outside pitches better.  This may suggest (totally speculating here) that by messing with his approach, perhaps Teixeira lost some of his aggressiveness on inside pitches that allowed him to get around quickly and yank them out of the park.

I’ll stop with Tex today, because this article is already starting to run long.  Let me know in the comments if you have agree or disagree with my take on Tex’s left-handed performance, and if you found this type of analysis interesting at all.  The data are relatively new and I haven’t had much time to play around with them yet, but I’ll see if I can find a better way to display them in future posts.  These data may not turn up anything especially earth-shattering, but they definitely allow for an effective method of checking whether our underlying assumptions about hitter tendencies are accurate.  Thanks for reading, and enjoy the rest of your afternoon.

Categories : Analysis, PITCHf/x
  • Undertaker’s Dong

    Who the F is this guy? Where is Hannah? I want me some more pics moew.

    • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing with Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

      what does moew stand for?

      • jjyank

        Ever see Super Troopers?

    • Bwahahaha

      You are right. TL; DR. I want more “what NOT to wear” posts. Those were nice.

    • JohnnyC

      I swear to God I’m going to pistol whip the next guy who says, ” meow.”

      • JonS

        Ain’t so funny meow is it?

        • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing with Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

          wait, whats the joke? when do you replace it with “now” and when do you not? i missed the origin with this meme.

          • jjyank

            It’s not a meme, it’s from the movie Super Troopers. It is supposed to be in place of “now”, but I can’t really explain it in text form over the internet. You gotta watch the movie.

          • JonS
      • jjyank

        Sorry man, you got the quote wrong. That was the “shennanigans” part.

        • Gonzo

          What’s the name of that restaurant you like with all the goofy shit on the walls and the mozzarella sticks?

          • jjyank

            You mean Shennanigans?

            OOOOOOOOHHHHHHH!!!!

        • JohnnyC

          O.K. I’ll be right over to pistol whip you instead.

      • PBFog

        Meow

    • blee

      who wants a mustache ride?

  • Dan

    Eric,
    Welcome to the site. I was wondering about the math used in the location of pitches faced…”Only about 11% of pitches (total, which includes balls out of the zone) Tex faced were on the inner third, while nearly 20 percent were in the outer third of the zone.” Based on this, would Tex have faced 69% of pitches on the middle third?

    • Dan

      Nevermind, I just checked the link… I thought the 20% also included pitches out of the strike zone, but that was only for the inner third.

      • http://www.riveraveblues.com Eric Schultz

        Yeah, sorry for the confusion. I probably could have explained it better, though it would have been even easier if I could have displayed the charts.

        • Daniel

          Great job eric. Don’t listen to the “Moew”tards

  • Sal

    I’d like to start by saying I’ve read a few things you’ve wrote and I enjoyed them, Welcome and happy your here.

    The thing my eyes tell me about Teixeira is any right handed pitcher with a change up owns him. I’d love to know what his swing and miss and AVG is on a change up.

  • Frigid Vespa

    A bit too long winded for me. What I would like to see is a candid response from Kevin Long as to what he would have Tex change if he had a free reinto do so.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Eric Schultz

      Fair enough, I appreciate your candor. I’m not always going to write these types of pieces (since I know not everybody is interested), but I figured I would take a look at the new data since they were just released.

    • Toomanystats

      If he was honest he’d say he has to let the ball travel more to drive the ball more consistently up the middle or left. Opening up early will cause him to roll over on the ball. Giambi did the same thing as he got older. They cheat as they lose bat speed. But who cares BAVG. doesn’t matter anyway right

  • Incitatus

    I love the in-depth stats analysis. Six paragraphs could only be considered “long-winded” in an ADD age. I’d happily read more articles like this.

    It would be nicer if you could find a way to display the data alongside the analysis, though.

    Welcome to the site!

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Eric Schultz

      Yeah, definitely. I suppose I could have tried to make some charts using Excel (or some other program) but I didn’t really have the time. I’ll try to figure something of that nature out for future reference.

      • jim p

        Screen capture and post as a pix?

        • Now Batting

          This. Just take a screenshot and crop what you want in paint then save and upload.

    • Rainbow Connection (futurely Dummies Playing with Balls and/or RI$P FTW)

      i agree that it certainly wasnt long winded, in fact the tex-specific portion covered all of 2 paragraphs. i just wish some sort of conclusion had been reached. the apparent “myth” was that tex gets pull happy, yet all that is really stated in this regard in that in the first half of 2012, tex is doing ok (batting avg) wise on outside pitches, so maybe pulling outside pitches isnt the problem.

      while theres not much meat to it, i feel like it was an interesting read, even if it disappointed a little considering the title and my accompanying expectations.

  • parmesan

    Nice piece and congratulations on your move. I look forward to consuming a fresh and new perspective on everything Yankees.

  • Ted Nelson

    He’s about as effective as a lefty as last season, but a lot less effective as a righty.

  • leftylarry

    Personally, I think Tex positively influences 50 games per season just with his throwing and glove work in the field and maybe outright saves 10-15 games.
    Let him hit .250 with 30 + dingers every year, run the bases intelligently (even devoid of speed) save at least twenty throwing errors a season and start more double plays than ANY first baseman and he’s worth every penny he makes.
    He’s a better Moose Skowron and Moose was good enough to win a lot of pennants/WS’s with.

    • Strat

      I hear you. After all the years of Giambi, I’m just happy when the throw to start the 3-6-3 doesn’t end up in left field. :)

    • JohnnyC

      Consider Fielder’s display at first base last night. He looked quite unathletic.

    • Andy Pettitte’s Fibula (formerly Manny’s BanWagon)

      No one is saying Teix isn’t a good player and someone who the Yankees can win championships with at first base but he was signed to a $180 million contract at $22.5 million per year when he was putting up .400+ wOBA seasons which I’m sure is what the Yankees expected to continue since he only just recently turned 32.

      Problem is he’s not even close to that player this year and in fact has been regressing for each of the last 3 years.

      Considering he’s signed till 2016, it’s a problem that likely will only get bigger.

  • CP

     This may seem to be a success, except for the fact that Teixeira has actually been less productive in 2012, even though he has handled outside pitches better.  This may suggest (totally speculating here) that by messing with his approach, perhaps Teixeira lost some of his aggressiveness on inside pitches that allowed him to get around quickly and yank them out of the park.

    Or it could be that the chronic cough that he had, which (according to him) was sapping a lot of his energy, really taking a toll on his early season numbers.

  • Pablo Zevallos

    Hey Eric, long-time reader back to your days with EJ at Pending Pinstripes. Great piece here, and great to see you back writing! I agree with “Frigid Vespa,” the ultimate answer perhaps lies with KLong.

  • http://www.yankeeanalysts.com Mike E

    Great work Eric, and it’s a very likely theory on Tex’s swing.

  • pete

    Eric, I loved it. Everyone either writes the opinion piece, or the shallow statistical piece. I don’t even understand some of the stats you and the rest of the new baseball ANALysts use, but I love it just the same. Keep it up.

  • Twains Yankee

    I’ll add my welcomes and say I did like the article although I think your conclusion is worth considering, and not something I would gather from watching the games, me thinks it might be prone to some small sample artifacts in certain pitch zones.