Pitching philosophy has always been one of the more interesting aspects of baseball to me. Everything from a starter’s ability to pace himself to his ability to hit a certain location, from how his stuff is working on a given day to his pitch selection; all of it can have a massive effect on his results.
Some of those are still difficult to analyze, but we have enough data now to know how often a pitcher is throwing certain pitches and how effective that pitch typically is.
A lot more goes into a pitcher’s results than that, but that data alone is quite interesting.
Below is a chart of each Braves pitcher’s reliance on his fastball compared to other pitches. Those are in columns, while the dots represent the effectiveness of those pitches, in linear weight run values (above average) per 100 pitches. I’ve broken them down into only two categories for this chart: fastballs and non-fastballs, so that you can see how much a pitcher’s off-speed stuff matters to his performance.
On one extreme, you have Jeff Bennett, who throws nearly 80% fastballs with only moderate effectiveness. He has to, though, because his off-speed pitches aren’t very good (mainly, he can’t throw them for strikes).
On another extreme is Kenshin Kawakami, who gets poor results off of his fastball but still throws it over half the time. He has to set up his good off-speed pitches with something, but he has to be careful not to let his fastballs get creamed.
Then you have Rafael Soriano, whose fastball is so tremendous that he can throw it 3/4 of the time and it still be highly effective. There’s a “chicken and the egg” argument to be had about that point, though, because you could say that his off-speed pitches are so effective that they make his fastball unhittable. Perhaps I’ll dig deeper into that at some point.
This just shows why we still need good scouting as much as ever before, but it’s fun to look at the data and see it confirm some of the intuitions we have.