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More Pitch FX Data For Angels Hitters

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Is there a pattern to the pitches Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick see?
Is there a pattern to the pitches Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick see?

In Bobby Abreu's second at-bat against Toronto's Shawn Marcum during Friday night's game, Angels color commentator Mark Gubicza made the following comment about the type of pitches he thought Abreu was seeing.  Abreu had just swing over the top of a slider and Gubicza stated, "Pitchers are throwing a lot of off-speed pitches to Bobby early this year.  Sweeping sliders, curveballs, and change-ups."  Was this true?  Were these off-speed pitches a factor in Abreu's early season struggles?  With the Pitch FX technology and websites like Joe Lefkowitz's Pitch FX tool, this would be pretty easy to verify (by the way, I'm not looking to show up Gubicza as I think he's doing a fine job during Angels broadcasts.  His remark just made me think...which is one of things he's supposed to be doing).

Using the pitch fx data for each of the starting pitchers the Angels have faced so far this year, I was able to compile a spreadsheet tracking the speed of each pitch.  I only used the starting pitchers data in order to exclude data from pitchers who did not face all of the Angel hitters in the batting order.  Next, the average pitch speed for each batter was calculated and then compared to the average pitch speed for the opposing pitcher.  The thinking is if the average pitch speed for a player was higher than the average pitch speed thrown by the pitcher throughout the game, he must have seen more fastballs than off-speed pitches (and vice versa).  When looking at the data, most of the Angel hitters had no discernable pattern and the average pitch speed variance differed from game to game.  One game a hitter may see more fastballs, while in the next he will get thrown more off-speed pitches.  Here is the typical pitch speed data for some of the Angel hitters:

Aybar

Matsui

Rivera

Game

Pitcher

Pitches

Speed

Diff

Pitches

Speed

Diff

Pitches

Speed

Diff

1

Baker - Min

21

88.77

0.27

6

88.50

-0.01

6

84.7

-3.81

2

Black - Min

19

89.65

1.43

11

89.55

1.33

6

86.03

-2.19

3

Pavano - Min

17

86.65

0.67

9

83.76

-2.22

10

88.90

2.92

4

Slowey - Min

11

85.52

-0.17

11

84.21

-1.48

8

83.49

-2.20

5

Gonzalez - Oak

10

84.41

-2.00

18

86.94

0.54

6

Sheets - Oak

13

87.34

0.96

10

83.02

-3.36

6

86.17

-0.21

7

Braden - Oak

12

76.35

-2.31

11

77.65

-1.00

8

76.74

-1.92

8

Pettitte - NYY

14

83.99

-0.56

11

85.51

0.96

15

85.87

1.32

9

Vazquez - NYY

12

84.15

-0.39

11

83.16

-1.38

6

85.98

1.44

10

Hughes - NYY

15

88.45

0.34

15

85.74

-2.36

11

Marcum - Tor

17

83.21

-0.01

16

83.45

0.23

8

82.85

-0.37

12

Tallet - Tor

11

84.85

0.02

8

86.83

1.99

7

84.80

-0.03

Morales

Izturis

Napoli

Game

Pitcher

Pitches

Speed

Diff

Pitches

Speed

Diff

Pitches

Speed

Diff

1

Baker - Min

3

87.23

-1.27

2

Black - Min

10

86.13

-2.10

3

Pavano - Min

9

87.31

1.33

12

84.58

-1.40

4

Slowey - Min

7

87.47

1.79

8

85.08

-0.61

5

Gonzalez - Oak

20

87.42

1.01

6

87.90

1.49

6

Sheets - Oak

10

84.26

-2.12

16

85.73

-0.65

7

Braden - Oak

12

79.03

0.38

12

79.49

0.84

8

Pettitte - NYY

9

82.09

-2.46

9

Vazquez - NYY

19

84.34

-0.20

11

87.53

2.98

10

Hughes - NYY

7

90.64

2.54

8

85.74

-2.37

11

Marcum - Tor

10

82.16

-1.06

8

83.33

0.10

12

Tallet - Tor

6

85.23

0.40

15

83.79

-1.04

However, there were two players who did show a definite pattern to how they were being pitched.  Both Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter were being thrown more fastballs than off-speed pitches:

Abreu

Hunter

Game

Pitcher

Pitches

Speed

Diff

Pitches

Speed

Diff

1

Baker - Min

10

88.18

-0.33

11

90.32

1.81

2

Black - Min

19

88.79

0.57

12

88.41

0.18

3

Pavano - Min

11

84.01

-1.97

8

86.425

0.45

4

Slowey - Min

16

87.66

1.98

15

87.01

1.33

5

Gonzalez - Oak

10

83.60

-2.81

13

85.84

-0.57

6

Sheets - Oak

18

89.03

2.65

9

88.58

2.20

7

Braden - Oak

15

81.33

2.67

8

82.38

3.72

8

Pettitte - NYY

11

85.40

0.85

13

86.97

2.42

9

Vazquez - NYY

15

85.03

0.48

12

86.83

2.29

10

Hughes - NYY

16

89.06

0.95

19

88.40

0.30

11

Marcum - Tor

14

83.94

0.72

10

84.05

0.83

12

Tallet - Tor

16

84.99

0.15


With the exception of three games, Abreu seems to be seeing more fastballs than off-speed pitches, and Hunter's pattern was even more obvious.  There are four straight games where the average pitch speed Hunter saw was greater than 2 miles per hour and only one game where the difference in pitch speed was less than zero.  This could mean either one of two things, the opposing pitchers don't think Abreu and Hunter can hit their fastball or they fear they'll tee-off on their off-speed. 

Finally, data for Howie Kendrick also shows a pattern, but in the other direction.  Pitchers appear to be taking advantage of Kendrick's weakness against off-speed pitches.   Kendrick has seen a steady diet of curves, sliders, sinkers, and change-ups:

Kendrick

Game

Pitcher

Pitches

Speed

Diff

1

Baker - Min

12

88.87

0.36

2

Black - Min

7

85.39

-2.84

3

Pavano - Min

17

85.71

-0.27

4

Slowey - Min

12

84.08

-1.61

5

Gonzalez - Oak

7

89.77

3.37

6

Sheets - Oak

6

84.27

-2.11

7

Braden - Oak

8

76.78

-1.88

8

Pettitte - NYY

15

83.97

-0.58

9

Vazquez - NYY

DNP

10

Hughes - NYY

6

85.20

-2.90

11

Marcum - Tor

9

81.56

-1.67

12

Tallet - Tor

9

85.73

0.90

In these 11 games, Kendrick has seen 196 pitches.  When looking at Kendrick's swing data, he has swung and made contact (including foul balls) at 70 pitches.  Of those 70 pitches, 43 were fastballs (61%), 12 change-ups (17%), 6 curves (9%), 5 sinkers (7%), and 4 sliders (6%).  Additionally, Kendrick has swung and missed 13 times.  Of those 13 swings, 2 were fastballs, 3 sliders, 1 curve and 7 were change-ups (seven of his 14 hits have come off of fastballs).  Can Kendrick make a living feasting on only fastballs, or will he need to improve against off-speed pitches to become one of the elite major league hitters?

What does all of this mean?  I have no idea, but I do know Bobby Abreu isn't seeing more off-speed pitches this season.