This past weekend, I attended the always incredible SaberSeminar in Boston. It was great time catching up with friends (Dave Cameron sighting) but also to take in some innovative ideas. I decided to share some fantasy applicable topics which were discussed.
Experimentally determining the “Commit Point” – Evaluating the time it takes a hitter to check his swing by William Clark and Joe Petrich
Pitch Tunneling, Pitch Calling and Expected Outcome: A Former Pitcher’s Perspective by Dan Blewett
Pitching tunneling was brought up several times by several speakers but these two came to the same conclusion. The reaction time for a batter to determine the pitch type may be less than previously calculated. It was thought that a hitter had around 225 ms to 275 ms to decide to swing. It’s possible that the time may be under 200 ms and the batter may be keying off the release point.
Also, if a pitcher is struggling, it might be worth looking over at his release point charts (example with Jon Gray). Make sure all the pitches are clustered together and haven’t been recent moving around.
Japanese pitcher velocity
Why Japanese (NPB) pitchers rely heavily on breaking and off-speed pitches, compared to their stateside counterparts (MLB) by Yusuke Okada, Yoshiki Masaki, and Kazuto Yamazaki
Just one single data point stood out in this talk, the average fastball in Japan was 84 mph. This velocity is quite a bit less than the average for major Division-1 schools, let alone the majors. I talked to someone else who closely tracks NPB and he said the low velocity might be from there being many submariner pitchers. Later, I talked to one of the actual presenters, and he could think of just two or three knuckle-scrapers. Either way, the velocity quite a bit slower.
With it being down, I’d expect hitters to come over to MLB and possibly struggle with fastballs averaging 10 mph faster. Or they may not struggle but it is an item to consider.
League and park factors
The Most Likely Batter Contribution: Introducing Deserved Runs Created by Jonathan Judge
Within the next few weeks, Baseball Prospectus will be rolling out their latest all-encompassing stat, DRC+. It puts a hitter’s production on a 100 scale (like OPS+ or wRC+) and its results seem promising.
The one factor stated which improves its accuracy is a continuous in-season calculation of league and park factors. The timely park and league adjustments are important to consider when looking at projections and fantasy owner need to know when they are updated.
At FanGraphs, we are not going to any constantly updated park factors yet. The powers above my pay grade will make that decision.
Q&A with Red Sox Pitching Guru Brian Bannister
- The amount of wrist snap has no effect on the spin rate. An arm’s velocity increases the downward torque on the ball and this torque and the resulting friction off the hand creates spin. Spin is almost always directly related to pitch velocity.
- Healthy pitchers (Verlander and Scherzer) slowly slow their arm down after releasing the ball. He believes this leads to better pitcher health.
- Single-A ball is an audition for Double-A and Triple-A ball. The hitters who can make it to Double-A can hit high-velocity pitches. Pitchers who just have a fast fastball will likely struggle in the high minors.
- When a pitcher makes a change, it usually takes two to three games to take effect.
Complete Games = Injuries
Identifying and Managing Extrinsic Risk Factors of Shoulder and Elbow Injury in Baseball Pitchers by Lizzie Hibberd
The presenter noted that a pitcher’s DL chances increase after a complete game, especially if they don’t normally throw that many innings or pitches. I could see a team giving a pitcher the chance at a complete game shutout and the additional pitches lead to an injury. It’s something I’d like to dive into at a later date.
Shrinking minor league strike zone
Exploring Minor League Strike Zones by Nate Freiman
Using minor league Trackman data, he was able to determine the strike zone’s sides gets squeezed in by 10% from High-A to Double-A. The smaller zone a major factor for hitters and pitcher as both need to adjust. Hitters should see their plate discipline improve while pitcher may struggle with this advancement.
Pitcher Injury finder
Rescaling the 20-80 scale with Rap Score by Rohan Gupta and Seth Daniels
By using differences in pitch movement, release point, and velocity, they hoped they could find when pitchers struggled because of an injury. While in the past, I’ve used differences in each pitch, this approach creates a polygram for each factors, finds the distance around it, and then looks for differences. It’s a unique approach to getting the same answer.
More speed factors
A Deep Dive on Speed with Statcast Data by Travis Petersen, Eddie Elliott, Tom Tango, and Mike Petriello
The StatCast crew introduced a couple new speed components, Key Steps and Burst Speed. It’s the speed values when a batter first start accelerating out of the batter’s box. While it’ll likely help predict stolen base success or injury detection, the data is new. For a full explanation, scroll through the description at Baseball Savant.
Is an all-or-nothing hitter the most valuable offensive asset? By Cameron Rogers
While it was not the focus of his presentation, I found one section on output variance useful. High power, high strikeout hitters have a high amount of output variance. While high contact, high walk hitters have much less of an output variance. Overall though, their output evens out as the sample size increases.
Owners may want to target hitters based on their needs or desires. Does the owner want to know their batter will give them production near their cost? Or do they want to take a chance on a batter with more upside (and downside) potential.
Jeff, one of the authors of the fantasy baseball guide,The Process, writes for RotoGraphs, The Hardball Times, Rotowire, Baseball America, and BaseballHQ. He has been nominated for two SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis and won it in 2013 in tandem with Bill Petti. He has won three FSWA Awards including on for his MASH series. In his first two seasons in Tout Wars, he's won the H2H league and mixed auction league. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.