Who Changed Their Vertical Movement The Most Last Year?

When we looked at movement and velocity with respect to changeups, curves, sliders, and rising fastballs, we found that more movement was almost always better. It gets a little bit more complicated that than that — drop is mostly better for swinging strikes and horizontal movement was better for grounders, and the effects are not super large — but it’s a decent pole to hang on to in the storm that is projecting pitchers.

We can then easily do the query that asks: which pitches changed the most from last year to this year?

More drop (unless you’re talking more rise) is almost always a good thing, no matter what the pitch. So these are the players added the most drop. Let’s also focus on the starters, just because the variance in year-to-year relief pitching is so great that a few inches here or there seems like a mole hill.

A word about drop and rise. A supposedly spinless ball would drop a certain amount, which actually lines up with some sliders. Don’t worry about that. Balls that don’t drop as much as they should are considered to have rise. That means they have back spin and ‘jump’ at the batter by typically dropping about two inches less than other four-seamers. A four-seam fastball typically scores high (+9 average four-seam Pfx_z), a sinker drops another three inches (+6), a change drops another two inches (+4), a slider drops another two inches (+1), and a curve drops another six inches (-5). Just to give you the continuum.

Pitchers That Added The Most Drop
pitcher pitch_type avg(pfx_x) avg(pfx_z) diff x diff y 15 swSTR% 15 GB%
David Holmberg CU -2.9 -9.5 2.0 -8.8 2% 67%
Rich Hill CU -8.7 -7.5 0.4 -4.6 9% 63%
Vidal Nuno CH 7.6 5.0 0.3 -3.4 12% 54%
J.A. Happ FT 9.0 3.4 -0.5 -3.0 6% 60%
Shane Greene CU 6.6 0.0 0.0 -3.0 12% 33%
Chris Tillman SL 3.3 3.3 1.0 -2.8 7% 51%
Jaime Garcia CH 8.1 3.2 1.0 -2.6 17% 57%
Michael Wacha FC 0.5 5.7 0.6 -2.6 8% 47%
Allen Webster FT -7.5 3.9 -0.5 -2.5 6% 46%
Rick Porcello CU 8.5 -8.2 1.4 -2.5 7% 55%
Randy Wolf CH 7.8 5.7 -0.8 -2.5 4% 40%
Mat Latos CU 3.4 -6.1 0.5 -2.5 12% 54%
Erik Johnson SL 2.7 2.2 0.8 -2.4 10% 35%
Shelby Miller CH -7.9 4.5 -1.2 -2.4 9% 36%
Carlos Martinez FA -8.9 2.8 -3.0 -2.4 26% 73%
Chase Whitley SL 3.5 1.4 1.0 -2.3 16% 48%
Tommy Milone CU -3.3 -4.6 0.5 -2.3 12% 48%
Mike Pelfrey SL 1.9 2.7 -1.1 -2.3 10% 48%
Nathan Eovaldi CH -4.6 2.2 3.1 -2.3 16% 75%
Travis Wood FC -0.9 6.1 0.0 -2.2 8% 51%
Jake Odorizzi SL 6.1 3.1 2.0 -2.2 8% 8%

I believe Rich Hill probably benefited from more drop on his curveball this year. Jaime Garcia‘s change up did well and he looked healthier — it’s never really about performance for him, though. Carlos Martinez added sink on everything and was awesome. Michael Wacha’s cutter, with more drop, might actually make him better in the future. Don’t forget he’s only 24.

The most interesting one might be Shelby Miller’s change. That added a lot more drop last year and was more effective in the late going. If he has a workable change, he might actually stave off all the problems people are ready to hang on his D-back line. Like maybe he should give up more homers except now he has a changeup.

Some were failed experiments. Chris Tillman was trying out a sinker and it didn’t work. Rick Porcello’s curve added more drop but became a grounders-only pitch almost (the average curve gets 11% whiffs). Chase Whitley added more drop and then his elbow blew out. Mike Pelfrey is a failed experiment.

Others I think are more noise than signal. Shane Greene was trying to figure out like eight different breaking balls. Mat Latos wasn’t healthy. Jake Odorizzi was trying to figure out his slider and his cutter and his curve, and I don’t think that book has been written yet. Multiple breaking balls you can’t always control can make you Luke Gregerson or it can make you Odrisamer Despaigne.

And the losers in vertical movement. Or gainers, if you’re thinking about getting some pop-ups with rising four-seamers. Life is weird.

Pitchers That Added The Most Rise
Pitcher type 15 pfx_x 15 pfx_z diff x diff y velo velo 14 diff velo Pitch swSTR Pitch GB
Roenis Elias CU -6.8 -4.1 0.6 4.1 78.2 80 -1.8 15% 48%
Kyle Hendricks FC -1.6 7.9 -1.4 3.9 88.1 88.4 -0.3 5% 38%
Erasmo Ramirez CU 4.2 0.6 0.5 3.8 84 78.1 5.9 15% 46%
David Hale CU 3.9 2.1 0.1 3.5 85.5 81.9 3.6 18% 38%
Chris Young SL 2.6 5.1 -0.8 3.3 80.4 79.5 0.9 16% 31%
Alex Wood KC -2.1 -1.8 1.1 3.3 78.1 79.1 -1 16% 55%
Kyle Kendrick SL 3.7 -2.9 -0.2 3.2 77.7 80.2 -2.5 11% 52%
Adam Warren SL 3.9 4.1 -1.0 3.1 84.7 85.3 -0.6 10% 45%
Hisashi Iwakuma FF -6.6 7.8 0.9 3.1 88 86.1 1.9 10% 33%
Kyle Hendricks FF -2.1 8.3 2.0 3.1 88.1 87.9 0.2 3% 47%
Roenis Elias FT 9.0 6.6 1.2 3.0 89.8 91.7 -1.9 6% 52%
Erasmo Ramirez CH -6.9 3.9 0.2 3.0 78.2 78.9 -0.7 21% 58%
Trevor May SL 4.0 0.5 -0.6 2.9 78.6 82.8 -4.2 5% 52%
Jarred Cosart CU 3.4 -7.0 -3.1 2.8 81.7 79.9 1.8 13% 63%
Edinson Volquez KC 5.1 -4.9 -1.0 2.7 82.8 79.4 3.4 9% 48%
Jarred Cosart SI -4.0 6.7 1.0 2.6 95.8 94.6 1.2 6% 53%
Anthony DeSclafani SL 1.8 2.1 -0.4 2.5 87.1 79.9 7.2 18% 45%
Jason Hammel SL 2.9 -0.2 -0.1 2.5 83.2 83.7 -0.5 17% 45%
Alex Colome CH -2.4 7.3 0.1 2.4 85.4 86.3 -0.9 12% 41%
Chris Bassitt FF -5.2 7.9 3.4 2.3 94.3 92.5 1.8 10% 32%
Jesse Chavez CU 8.2 -5.0 -1.3 2.3 75.5 73.7 1.8 16% 56%
Nicholas Tropeano FT -8.4 8.7 0.6 2.3 89.7 89 0.7 4% 29%
Danny Duffy CU -3.6 -3.8 0.6 2.2 84.8 76.1 8.7 10% 51%
Tanner Roark FF -2.7 10.6 4.5 2.2 92.1 88.8 3.3 15% 25%
Kyle Ryan FF 3.5 7.6 -2.0 2.2 88.9 89.7 -0.8 5% 47%

Most of this list lost drop on their pitches, which isn’t good. Not good to see the curves from Alex Wood, Danny Duffy, and Jarred Cosart on here. Maybe some of the breaking ball pitches are just the pitcher throwing another kind of breaking ball and screwing up the algorithms (Anthony DeSclafani). But those that were just throwing the same pitches as before, with less drop, you’re losing a weapon — your only weapon in the case of Danny Duffy, who’s once owned an average pitch. I continue to be suspicious of Cosart and Wood, who have some things going for them, and some opportunity, but just weren’t any good last year.

If Tanner Roark had a four-seamer with more rise and used it more often, maybe that could be a trick in his bag. Kyle Hendricks and Hisashi Iwakuma basically lost sink on their two-seamers it looks like. They are still average when it comes to vertical movement on their four-seamers either way. Changing movement towards average movement is not always good.

It’s not an exact science either way, but when performance changes with new pitch movements, you notice. Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Rich Hill, Shelby Miller, and also on the bad side Alex Wood, Jarred Cosart, and Danny Duffy — you’ve got a small enough sample size that a few inches of movement, lost or gained, might mean everything.





With a phone full of pictures of pitchers' fingers, strange beers, and his two toddler sons, Eno Sarris can be found at the ballpark or a brewery most days. Read him here, writing about the A's or Giants at The Athletic, or about beer at October. Follow him on Twitter @enosarris if you can handle the sandwiches and inanity.

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john23
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john23

Interesting article