After the Toronto Blue Jays traded for left-handed pitcher Steven Matz, he is projected to slide into the bottom of the starting rotation and pitch about 115 innings this year. Matz’s 2020 was a year to forget — join the club, Steven — but let’s take a look at who Matz is as a pitcher and why a change in fastball location is something the Jays coaching staff might consider.
Matz pitched only about 30 innings last year, so in the interest of sample size, I will also be using statistics from 2019 and 2018. Here is what those last three seasons looked like, courtesy of Baseball Savant: Read the rest of this entry »
In one of the later chapters of The MVP Machine, the authors describe a working relationship between a professional baseball player (an unnamed position player) and a writer at an “analytically inclined” baseball website. The player felt that his club’s advanced scouting data wasn’t granular enough and asked the writer to supplement the information with more detail. The writer summarized that the player was basically looking at three things: “Am I squaring up the ball? Am I swinging and missing? Am I swinging at strikes?”
That last question got me thinking. As a pitcher, it is rarely a bad idea to have batters look at called strikes and swing at balls. Which pitchers, in 2020, were particularly effective at doing just that? To make that determination, I looked at Statcast data for all pitchers who threw at least 60 innings in 2020. Specifically, I looked at their outside-zone swing rate and their zone take rate – calculated as just (1 – zone swing rate) – and took the average of the two. Note that this analysis completely omits what happens if contact is made with the ball; We’re merely interested in strikes that were taken and balls that were swung at. (If you’re interested in the Statcast query and the few lines of code for this, click here.) The top 10 was as follows: Read the rest of this entry »