Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Do all pitchers tip all pitches?

Four possibilities:

1. No pitcher tips any pitches.
2. Some pitchers tip some pitches.
3. All pitchers tip some pitches.
4. All pitchers tip all pitches.

Which is closest to being correct?

I'm guessing number 4.

With analytics all the rage I wonder how much effort is put into analyzing images of pitchers.

October 18, 2011 San Francisco ball park
by Neurosiensf via Wikimedia Commons
A few weeks ago I heard an interview with Frank Catalanotto (1997-2010).  He said that Curt Schilling tipped some pitches.  As I recall, Catalanotto said that Schilling held his glove differently when he threw his split finger pitch.  Schilling kept a book on hitters.  Catalanotto kept a book on pitchers.

During a recent Yankee broadcast former players Ken Singleton and John Flaherty were announcing.  Singleton was doing play-by-play and Flaherty whatever.  There was a runner on first who apparently wanted to steal and the pitcher threw over.  Singleton mentioned that this was a good indication that the pitcher wanted to throw a changeup.  The base runner has an advantage trying to steal when a changeup is thrown and to combat that the pitcher tries to keep the runner close according to Singleton.  Singleton said it was at least worth guessing at least some of the time and that a changeup in the strike zone could be hit a long way when the batter was looking for it.  Flaherty did not contribute.

With high speed and high definition moving images I would think that teams could analyze pitchers, including their own, in great detail.  It seems to me that different pitches must be throw differently, even if the difference is small.  The real issue is how much of those differences can be determined reliably and is that information actionable?

In addition, the batter must be able to use that information.  Either the batter can be trained to get the information himself while batting or the information must be provided to him in a timely and effective manner.

One traditional but primitive way of conveying information to a batter is to whistle, which, of course, has its limitations and dangers.  It would seem that the best way would be to train batters to discern differences themselves.

For that teams would need to provide batters not only with the information but also images of the pitchers motions from the perspective of the batter in the batter's boxes, both left and right.  I don't know how well that can be done.

Most video of pitchers is from center field, off center.  That might be enough to determine how a pitcher reveals what he is about to throw but how can an image of that be created for the batter to study by watching it repeatedly so that the batter learns?

In addition to pitchers tipping there is also the spin of the ball, which must be different among various pitches.  That cannot be hidden.  If batters can be trained to see that from individual pitchers, then the batter should increase his chances of success quite a bit.

Base-out situations might also provide information, both aggregate and individual.

Catchers and infielders may inadvertently provide information.  Some catchers tend to call for fastballs when they think a base runner is about to attempt a steal.  They may lean too soon and/or too far awaiting the pitch.  Middle infielders are giving open/closed mouth signs behind their gloves to each other.  I've long thought that was especially vulnerable to intercept but I don't now whether the information can be used in time.

Traditional thinking on this is that some batters do not want to know what is coming.  I think this is nonsense.  I think some batters had been misled and therefore did not trust the information.  That needs to be rectified.

I really think that all pitchers tip all pitches and its just a question of using technology to figure it out and apply the information.

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