Statcast delves deep into pitchers' performance
New technology provides information that unveils new ways to evaluate mechanics
Ryan Dempster and Dan Plesac were very effective big league pitchers armed with the physical and mental tools to baffle hitters for many seasons.
Now, as MLB Network analysts, they're excelling once again in explaining the craft, and the state-of-the-art technology of Statcast is a huge part of their arsenal.
Dempster and Plesac delved deep into several of the featured Statcast pitching metrics to lead up to the feature's 2015 debut in Tuesday's MLB Network Showcase game between the Cardinals and Nationals.
It's just a taste of what's to come, too, since analysts and fans will be able to break down just about every move made on a baseball field, get the pertinent data and crunch the numbers into explanations for the previously unexplainable.
Dempster broke down five of the best individual pitches in the game by comparing spin rate, or the amount of rotations a pitch makes in one minute (RPM). He found that San Diego closer Craig Kimbrel's fastball has a spin rate of 2,499, while Mets phenom Matt Harvey has a curveball with a spin rate of 2,188.
"That tells you that it's coming in just like a fastball and then falling off the table," Dempster said. "You can see why Matt Harvey's curveball is so nasty."
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw's slider (892), Angels righty Matt Shoemaker's split-fingered fastball (1,166) and Toronto veteran R.A. Dickey's knuckleball (824) also were thrown into the mix to show the difference in spin. Dempster explained the growing importance of spin rate when it comes to Major League front offices.
"Teams are looking big into this now," he said. "They really value that to see projections of what guys might be able to throw."
Plesac came at it from a different angle, comparing three pitchers "with three different body types" using the Statcast numbers on extension (the ball's distance from the rubber, in feet, upon the pitcher's release) plus regular velocity (the maximum speed of a pitch at any point during its flight) and perceived velocity (the apparent speed of the pitch for the batter, adjusted for pitcher's release point).
Plesac wisely compared 5-foot-11 San Francisco starter Tim Lincecum, flame-throwing 6-foot-4 Reds closer Aroldis Chapman, and soft-tossing 6-foot-7 Phillies righty Aaron Harang, and the Statcast numbers made things very intriguing.
Despite being by far the shortest of the three pitchers, for example, Lincecum is able to get extension of 6.9 feet, which makes his regular velocity of 87.6 mph turn into perceived velocity of 88.9. The same goes for Chapman, who throws plenty hard enough already, but gets a nice little jump in regular velocity (102.1) to perceived velocity (103.6) because of his extension of 7.3 feet. Despite Harang's height, his comparably low extension of 5.8 turns his regular velocity of 88.1 to a perceived velocity of 86.1.
So there are two morals to this little story. One, as Plesac explains, is that "It's about depth perception and creating angles. You don't have to be tall to get down the mound a long way."
Simple. Statcast is awesome.