Sunday, May 6, 2012

Twins Best Pitches of April*

*Actually April and the first few days of May, but who's counting

Thanks to the infusion of Pitchf/x data from every major league park over the past few years, the analysis of pitching has taken huge strides. The data has a ton of useful uses like using it to find patterns and diagnose injuries. Dr. Suess wrote that last sentence, I'll apologize for him. But lately, a new trend in extracting fun out of Pitchf/x has come from the pages of FanGraphs with their "Best Pitches of 2011" feature. In it the writers used a thing called "Pitch Type Linear Weights" to measure who had the best fastball, change-up, curveball, etc. "Pitch Type Linear Weights" sounds scary, but like most things, though intimidating, is easily understood. A better name for it may be "Pitch Value", as it puts a number on what pitch is most effective. For this post, I'll use wP/c which will put all pitchers, starters and relievers on the same scale of value per 100 pitches. As with any analysis this early in the season, the SSS (Small Sample Size) Alert is on HIGH.

Best Fastball:
Carl Pavano - 5.22 wFA/C
      This comes as a surprise to me, as Pavano rarely tops 90 with his fastball. However, he does have good command of the pitch and it picks up the slack from his lack of an out pitch. Jared Burton was the only other pitcher contending for the title along with Pavano, as he has a more conventional power fastball sitting in the low-to-mid 90's.
       The biggest surprise for me here is that Glen Perkins fastball graded out as average. Nobody on the team throws close to as hard or is as impressive to watch. Unsurprisingly, Nick Blackburn has a horrible rating for his fastball that has been crushed all year.

Best Cutter:
Jared Burton - 5.25

       He and Blackburn are the only pitchers with a pitch classified as a cutter, and I'm not even sure if Blackburn throws a cutter. That said, Burton certainly does, and it's part of the reason he's one of the few righty relievers on the team with potential to contribute.

Best Slider:
Glen Perkins - 5.09

       The pitch that inspired this post and for my money it's the best pitch on the staff by far. I wish I was better at creating GIFs and I could put one here, at least for my own enjoyment. Perk throws it almost exclusively along with his fastball to form his deadly two pitch mix. His slider is the best Minnesota has seen since Liriano's glory days. There's not much else to say, but enjoy watching it while you can.

Best Curveball:
Brian Duensing - 4.27

      There isn't much competition for the best curveball on the squad, and Duensing is the clear leader here. In fact, Liam Hendriks is the only other pitcher with an above average curve.

Best Change-up:
Matt Maloney - 5.99

     The high rating here is almost certainly overstated. In watching Maloney, his change-up has been good, but it's not exactly a difference maker. There are rumors he'll be demoted on Monday, in which case the reign of 'Best Change-up' would be passed along Anthony Swarzak, who also a nice change-up but is also not a difference maker.

After just 1 month, and some of these guys pitching only 10 innings or so, it's tough to give too much credibility to any of these stats (as I said, SSS Alert is on high). However, this is hopefully something of an introduction to pitch type linear weights and gave you another or two to watch for next time you have the (dis)honor of watching the Twins get rolled over by the rest of the MLB.

If you'd like to read a little on Pitchf/x, FanGraphs has a great primer on the subject -


  1. Interesting analysis. I wonder how these d00ds match up to old school twins pitchers. Johan's changeup circa early 00's comes to mind...

  2. Santana's changeup and Liriano's slider were exceptional pitches, about as good as those pitches get. None of the Twins' current pitchers can approach those or even other current top-tier pitches such as Johnny Venters' slider or Verlander's fastball. In my opinion, as the numbers really mean nothing right now, Perkins slider is the only well above average pitch on the staff right now.

    Unfortunately, Pitchf/x data is a relatively new addition to the stats stable and doesn't go back to Santana's or Liriano's prime to see just how effective those pitches were.