Posted by: Peter | July 24, 2009

Hang ’em high

I mentioned the other day that Anthony Swarzak seemed to throw all his pitches up in the strike zone. Today I thought I’d see if I could confirm that intuition.

The pitchf/x system includez a variable called pz, which indicates how far off the ground a pitch is, in feet, when it crosses home plate. I looked at all the pitchers who had thrown at least as many pitches as Swarzak this year (which as of his last start is 663), and calculated the average height of their pitches. This is a pretty crude measure, since it doesn’t distinguish between fastballs and breaking balls, or correct for the height of the batter, or anything like that. Still, it’s a good rough-and-ready measure of how much a guy pitches up or down in the zone.

The bottom 10–that is, the guys whose pitches are lowest on average–are:

Name                 Pitches Avg. Height
Peter Moylan          676    1.949021
Derek Lowe           2059    1.968820
Brad Ziegler          693    2.036996
Armando Galarraga    1650    2.053054
Todd Coffey           717    2.053136
Joel Pineiro         1655    2.065794
Ian Snell            1413    2.078838
Billy Buckner         697    2.104546
Joel Hanrahan         733    2.119492
Matt Albers           674    2.129280

Not too surprising to see sinkerballers and submariners on this list. And the top 10, whose pitches fly the highest?

Name                 Pitches Avg. Height
Anthony Swarzak       663    2.910861
David Aardsma         782    2.795220
Justin Verlander     2170    2.760634
Chris Young          1299    2.758913
Rich Hill            1064    2.754677
Clayton Kershaw      1886    2.744506
Russ Springer         680    2.735875
Kevin Millwood       2186    2.734052
Barry Zito           1894    2.721184
Scott Baker          1783    2.719218
J.A. Happ            1477    2.717607

Evidently, it was not my imagination. This dude is leaving pitches up, in a big way.  And the gap between him and the next guy on the list is really big–almost an inch and a half. Here’s a picture to give a sense of what these numbers mean. It’s the average pitch height for Swarzak, the guy right behind him on the list, the guy right in the middle of the list, and the lowest-throwing guy on the list.


I’m still not sure what all this means, but I can’t believe it’s sustainable.


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