You’ve probably noticed myself and other writers here post heat maps and spray charts on the blog. They all come from Pitch F/X, a service ESPN grants us access to for statistical analysis. If you’ve ever noticed coaches or players flipping through a giant binder in the dugout during games, they’re probably looking at the same stuff.
This year Pitch F/X has added a new feature to their site which allows us to chart player performance in various categories, so I thought I’d play around with it to see how we can use it on the site this year.
The image below shows all qualifying pitchers charted based on their percentage of pitches in the strike zone (on the x-axis) and their percentage of non-strikes chased by opposing hitters (on the y-axis).
Each logo corresponds to a pitcher for that team from 2012. I’ve labeled a few notable names on the chart.
The perfect pitcher would throw a high number of pitches in the zone, and get a high number of swings out of the zone, which would land them in the upper right quadrant of the chart. Last year, R.A. Dickey and Cliff Lee were head and shoulders above the competition based on this measurement.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Ubaldo Jimenez. While his zone percentage was slightly above average, his chance percentage was horrendous.
So what does this mean?
Basically what this chart shows is that Jimenez wasn’t fooling anyone last year. When he threw the ball out of the zone, hitters weren’t offering at it.
No pitcher can get away with throwing all strikes (although Cliff Lee has challenged this notion in recent years) so it’s crucial for pitchers to be able to induce swings on pitches out of the zone.
Note: since this is a large image, you may not be seeing the full chart depending on the size of your screen. If you can’t see Cliff Lee labeled on the far right, click on the chart and it should open up the full image in a new page.
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