A look at the Nats’ pitchers so far

April 12, 2013

Jordan Zimmermann (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

 

It’s early, but let’s jump into our year-to-date PITCHf/x numbers. April pitch speeds tend to be low, so don’t be concerned if someone’s fastball doesn’t seem as hot as normal. This is going to be a number-y post. Hopefully it’s handy as a reference (I’ll update this in future posts) but there are few interesting things that popped out as I perused them. I’m curious to see what you all pick out of here. The data presented below covers 2013 regular season games through April 11.

Pitch Speed Fastball Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change/Split
Tyler Clippard 94 86 77 81
Ross Detwiler 93 92 78 84
Zach Duke 87 88 77 73 82
Gio Gonzalez 93 92 79 84
Dan Haren 90 90 86 78 85
Ryan Mattheus 92 93 87 83 81
Henry Rodriguez 95 85 82 85
Rafael Soriano 92 93 83
Craig Stammen 92 91 85 81
Drew Storen 94 94 82 88
Stephen Strasburg 96 95 80 88
Jordan Zimmermann 95 87 78 87

Soriano and Stammen haven’t shown a change-up this year, which isn’t a surprise. The Nats closer hasn’t thrown his since 2011, and only a handful a season at that. Stammen has barely shown his off-speed pitch in the last two seasons, with just one in 2012.

Zimmermann may throw a second fastball; some games there appears to be a two-seam sinker but it’s very hard to find with any regularity. So his fastball is reported as a single offering. Another fastball caveat goes to the closer, as Soriano cuts his four-seamer and may even “sink” the ball off his four-seam grip. I’ve already consolidated his cutters into his fastballs, and those sinkers may be next.

Strasburg is the hardest thrower in the staff, despite the disadvantage of starting. Figure in a 2 mph penalty for the relievers if you want to compare their velocity to the starters’. Duke worked long relief, so those numbers are probably fair (April coolness aside). He is the crafty lefty of the staff, let there be no doubt.

Pitch Selection # Pitches Games Fastball Sinker Cutter Slider Curve Change/Split
Tyler Clippard 75 5 61% 3% 7% 29%
Ross Detwiler 81 1 40% 51% 6% 4%
Zach Duke 60 1 27% 53% 2% 8% 10%
Gio Gonzalez 190 2 37% 38% 19% 5%
Dan Haren 179 2 18% 31% 39 3 9
Ryan Mattheus 113 4 18% 59% 5% 12% 5%
Henry Rodriguez 37 3 76% 11% 8% 5%
Rafael Soriano 115 6 82% 3% 16%
Craig Stammen 63 3 17% 51% 24% 8%
Drew Storen 59 4 51% 17% 19% 14%
Stephen Strasburg 190 2 55% 10% 16% 19%
Jordan Zimmermann 179 2 66% 21% 6% 6%

Clippard is throwing more change-ups than anyone else on the staff by a wide margin. That’s not unsual for Tyler, but he didn’t throw any cutters until his fourth outing and none in his fifth. It’s not like he didn’t face any righties (his normal target for the cutter), he simply didn’t throw the pitch for a while.

Mattheus checks more boxes than anyone else on the staff, only lacking a curveball. Still, after the fastball-dominant Soriano, Mattheus and his sinker are the most likely pitcher/pitch combo an opposing hitter will face. Soriano’s ability to tweak his fastball helps him out, while Mattheus goes after bigger changes in movement and speed with his large batch of secondary offerings.

Dan Haren (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Dan Haren (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Haren told James Wagner he threw as many as 50 percent splitters in his outing on Thursday. This seems unlikely, given the PITCHf/x data, which showed a fairly normal mix of splitters. Even though my pitch tags are manually reviewed and verified, this isn’t the first time this week this issue has come up.

The issue involves distinguishing one pitch from another. In this case, we’re talking about sinkers and splitters. It’s quite possible Haren’s remarks don’t reflect reality, but they might. Yu Darvish is another pitcher who can confuse me with his sinker and splitter. If Haren, and Darvish, can really throw their splitter two ways — one way as fast (or slow) as a change-up and another as fast as a two-seam sinker — I’ll adjust how I classify pitches. But it is really hard to throw a splitter as hard as a fastball. Despite the conventional label (split-fingered fastball), it really is a change-up.

pavlidis
Harry Pavlidis is the founder of Pitch Info. Follow him on Twitter: @harrypav.

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James Wagner · April 12, 2013