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Calculating the Odds of Mike Brosseau’s Magic Moment

After watching the great matchup between the Yankees and Rays in the 2020 ALDS, including Mike Brosseau’s epic at-bat against Aroldis Chapman in the deciding Game 5 of that series, I couldn’t help but take a look at the characteristics of the pitch he hit. Chapman is known as having one of the best fastballs in the game and a long track record of success as a closer. After battling back from 0-2, on the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Brosseau hit a 100.2-mph fastball thrown with 2386 rpms and 7.4 feet of extension over the left-field wall, allowing the Rays to advance to the ALCS.

This pitch was 6.9 mph, 80 rpms, and 1.1 feet above the average velocity, spin rate, and extension for four-seam fastballs in 2020. Given the same location, if the pitch was a little faster, had more RPMs, or was thrown even closer to home plate, would the result have changed? The aim of this article is to create a model to determine what the exact chances were of Mike Brosseau hitting that home run.

Using Baseball Savant and its wealth of Statcast data and more typical statistics, we can select all the four-seam fastballs thrown in 2020 and their related metrics. The data was cleaned for missing values, four-seam fastballs thrown by position players, eephus pitches, and four-seamers that may have been mislabeled as sliders or changeups. For the latter category, a minimum velocity of 87 mph was used to remove these potential label errors, and pitches with negative pfx_z values were removed as four-seam fastballs are expected to drop less relative to gravity. For pfx_x, the absolute value of the given value was used, as I want to look at the magnitude of the horizontal break as opposed to which side of the plate the movement is going towards. Read the rest of this entry »