Charting a masterpiece

[editor's note, by dajafi] Promoted to the front page--great stuff.

Something I've started to do this season, that I've wanted to do in the past, is charting the pitches of a starting pitcher. With the help of TIVO and some rudimentary, homemade charts, I've started to get the hang of it, and I wanted to share my first effort here, Cole Hamels 15K performance against Cincinnati on April 21. My scanner isn't working, so I can't upload my charts, but I can share some interesting results from the game.

First, some raw numbers. Cole threw 115 pitches, including 82 for strikes, almost 2.5 strikes for every ball. Of the 10 non strikeouts he recorded, five came on the ground and five in the air.

Overall pitch selection --

Fastballs: 68 (59%)
Changeups: 40 (35%)
Sliders: 6 (5%)
Undefined: 1 (This pitch was thrown as they came back from commerical on the Reds feed, the pitch speed/location was never shown)

I know this is nothing new, that Hamels is a two pitch pitcher, but it still astounds me that he is a two pitch pitcher without a breaking ball. Lots of guys have gotten by with fastball/curve, fastball/slider, etc etc, but to be able to dominate a lineup, as a starting pitcher, with just a fastball/changeup is outstanding. Throwing 115 pitches, and only throwing 6 sliders shows the confidence he has in his change, and the lack of confidence he has in his slider/slurve.

1st pitch selection --

Fastball: 17 (53%)
Changeup: 12 (38%)
Slider: 2 (6%)
Undefined: 1 (same as above)

This is one of his better statistics, I think. He's not afraid to throw his changeup early. What seems a bit weird is that he threw 2 of his 6 sliders on the opening pitch of an AB, and both were for balls. If he's trying to just lob it over to get ahead, it's not working. Maybe he'd be better holding onto it and snapping it off after a hitter has seen 3 changeups.

Pitch Selection by inning ---

1st: 12 FB - 5 CH - 0 SL
2nd: 7 FB - 3 CH - 0 SL
3rd: 9 FB - 4 CH - 1 SL
4th: 5 FB - 4 CH - 2 SL
5th: 6 FB - 3 CH - 0 SL
6th: 12 FB - 4 CH - 2 SL
7th: 4 FB - 5 CH - 0 SL
8th: 9 FB - 9 CH - 0 SL
9th: 4 FB - 3 CH - 1 SL

Solid ratios here, he's right around 2:1 or less in most innings. The triple play, as he noted, saved him 10 pitches or so, as he got through the 5th on 9 total pitches after the first two guys had reached.

Finally, I wanted to look at how he attacked certain hitters in the lineup in 4 different AB's. Here are a few that interested me the most. Again, since I can't post an image of the chart, I'll do my best to describe it. A brief legend

FB = Fastball
CH = Changeup
S/M = Swing and Miss
Center = Basically middle of strike zone

Ryan Freel (RHB)

1st AB: 1st Inning, Bases Empty, 0 Out

91FB -- Ball (Low)
90FB -- Strike (lower half)
79CH -- Ball (High)
90FB -- Strike (Lower half)
91FB -- Foul (Center)
92FB -- Foul (Center)
91FB -- Foul (High)
80CH -- Strikeout (Center, Low)

2nd AB: 3rd Inning, Runner on 2nd, 1 Out

79CH -- Ball (Low)
79CH -- Ball (Low)
90FB -- Foul Out (Ball, Inside)

3rd AB: 6th Inning, Empty, 1 Out

89FB -- Strike (Center)
91FB -- Ball (Low, Outside)
91FB -- 9U (High, Center)

4th AB: 8th Innings, Runner on 1st, 2 Out

80CH -- Strike (Center)
91FB -- Single (Inside, Strike)

Freel is a good contact hitter, striking out once every 12 or so PA's over the last three seasons, so I knew this would be an interesting matchup. In his first AB, he worked Hamels to the tune of 8 pitches, Cole throwing mostly fastballs, but getting him looking on a nice changeup on the final pitch. After starting him with 2 FB, in his second AB he started him two changeups, both missing low. The third pitch was a hard fastball in on his hands that almost hit him, but Freel swung and fouled out to first. In his 3rd AB, Cole went back to the hard stuff, throwing 3 straight fastballs. On the third pitch, Freel had to be looking change, as he was way late on a fastball and flied weakly to right field. In his final AB, Cole started him with a changeup, then went to the fastball, but Freel was waiting for it and lined it for a base hit. Striking out a good contact hitter isn't easy, but Hamels had him off balance, and tip your cap to Freel for looking for the changeup after being kept off balance for the better part of 3 AB's.

I was also real curious to see how he'd handle Adam Dunn. Dunn, as we all know, is a huge power/big strikeout guy, and he'd been striking out with alarming frequency early on this season.

1st AB: 1st inning, Bases Empty, 1 Out

91FB -- Ball (Inside)
91FB -- Strike (S/M, High Strike)
92FB -- Strike (S/M, High Strike)
93FB -- Foul (Center, mistake pitch)
81CH -- Strikeout (S/M, Low outside strike)

2nd AB: 3rd Inning, Runner on 2nd, 2 Outs

81CH -- Strike (Low inside)
91FB -- Foul (Low outside strike)
91FB -- Ball (Outside)
83CH -- Strikeout (S/M, Low outside ball)

3rd AB: 6th Inning, Bases Empty, 2 Outs

91FB -- Double (Center)

4th AB: 8th Inning, 1st and 3rd, 2 Outs

81CH -- Ball (Low)
80CH -- Strike (S/M, Low strike)
80CH -- Foul (Outside, Ball)
82CH -- Strikeout (S/M, Low ball)

It looks as if Dunn was pretty confused in 3 of his 4 AB. Hamels kept his eye level high in the first AB, then dropped one of his best changeups to strike him out, on a pitch that would have been a borderline called strike. In his 2nd AB, he started him with a change and slowed his bat, then got him to swing late on a fastball before dropping a change at virtually  the same spot as the first AB and getting him to strike out again. In his 3rd AB, he looked like he didn't want to wait around, so he swung at the first pitch and lined it into the gap. Hamels threw the pitch pretty much down the middle, probably just trying to get ahead, as most hitters weren't being aggressive on the first pitch. In his last AB, Dunn saw all changeups, and it seemed like he kept thinking fastball, but never got it. His third K came on virtually the same pitch as the first two K's. Cole just had his number.

If there are any other areas or aspects to the start you're curious about, I should be able to figure it out from the data I have here. If you find this interesting, I could do it again in the future, whether it be for Hamels or anyone else.

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