Title: Jon Papelbon Ė pitch selection

Purpose: To chart and review the pitch selection, location and tendencyís of Jon Papelbon in his second major league start.

By: Matthew Rauseo  

Date: August 17, 2005

I like to score games.  I have 6 different types of scorecards I use, depending on what it is that I want to track.  Last night I broke out what I call the Pitch Chart Card as it allows me to chart a pitchers game.  The batter, handedness, base out situation, pitch thrown, pitch velocity, pitch location and result.  This specific card is useful when you want to get a better read on what a pitcher throws in terms of selection, and when he uses those types of pitches. 

  After checking my records I realized that this is the 22nd time that I used a version of this card over the last 5 years or so Ė 17 Pedro Martinez games, 2 Mark Prior games, and assorted one offs.  Iíll likely start using it a little more, since I think a lot of insight can be gained from this type of analysis.

  Last week Seth Stohs did a an analysis of Felix Hernandez while charting his second major league start, that was the impetus for this.  At least for the analysis that follows.

Last night Jon Papelbon made his second career major league start.  Papelbon a big framed fireballer out of the RedSox farm system is one of the more interesting pitching prospects in baseball.  He was drafted in the forth round of 2003, out of University of Mississippi as a short reliever.  Papelbon doesnít have a lot of miles on his arm, so heís a pretty good health risk.  While his minor league performance record looks very solid. 

  Prior to last nightís game the Tigers announce team, gave a scouting report on Papelbon, claiming his best pitch was his sliderÖ which is interesting since Iíve heard from, numerous people that he stopped using the slider due to inconstancy and adopted the split fingered fastball. Iíll also mention he didnít throw a slider all night.

  Letís jump right into Papelbon game:

Full Game Stats

Strikes:             43

Looking:           9

Swing:              11

Foul:                 23

Balls                 27

HBP                 1

BIP                  13

fastballs:           72

split finger         11

curve ball           1                    

High in zone      34

Mid in zone      32

Low in zone      17

Uknown           1

Inside               18                   

Away               38       

Middle             27

  Of these numbers the ones that surprised me the most was how often Papelbon was working in the middle of the zone, and lower half of the strike zone.  From watching the game on TV it seemed two out of every three pitches were elevated.  Even though he worked in the top of the strike zone more often than the middle or the lower half, he really did change the batters eye level a lot more than I thought.

  I wasnít surprised to see how often he was working middle of the plate and away, as that seems to be the most common practice of most pitchers, in todayís game. 

  He obviously lived off his fastball, he threw 72 of them.  He threw 19 first pitch fastballs to the 22 batters he faced.  He missed the strike zone with 23 fastballs, of the 13 balls in play 11 came off fastballs.  Batters fouled off 22 fastballs, 5 were called strikes, and 10 generated swings and misses, and one fastball resulted in a hit batter. His fastball was constantly at 94, and topped out at 98 - his last pitch of the night. 

  He only threw 12 non-fastballs, 1 curve and 11 split fingered fastballs. Surprisingly the splitter which is usually a swing and miss pitch only generated 1 swing and miss. 2 of the 6 hits Papelbon allowed were on the splitters.  4 of the splitters were balls, 3 were taken as strikes and 1 was fouled off.  His splitters were between 84 and 89, mostly between 84-86. His single curve was a strike looking, and clocked at 74.

  Pitch Selection By Inning:

                        Fastball            Spit Fingered                Curve

First                 15                                1                         0

Second             5                                  1                              

Third                15                                1                         0      

Forth                21                                2                         0                  

Fifth                 16                                6                         1

He started throwing more off speed stuff as the game went on.  However there is more to it than that Ė the fifth inning can be broken down into 2 parts.  The 10 pitches before the 2 run single by Polanco, and 13 pitches after it.  Papelbon used the fastball in a similar manner prior to the 2 run single, as 8 of the 10 pitches he threw were fastballs.  After the 2 run single though Papelbon got away from his fastball, at least compared to the pitch selection he had used earlier in the game, as 5 of his final 13 pitches were splitters.

Pitch selection by base out situation:

                        Fastball            Splitter             Curve Ball

XXX                24                    4                      1

OXX                30                    1                      0

XOX                4                      3                      0

XOO               5                      2                      0

OOX               9                      1                      0

  To me the most interesting thing from this chart is how many fastballs he threw with runners on first, compared to off speed stuff with runners in scoring position.  He threw 7 pitches with a runner on third base, two of which were low and away split fingered fastballs. 

First Pitches in an at bat:

Strikes:             8

Looking:           5

Swing:              1

Foul:                 2

Balls                 11

BIP                  3

fastballs:           19

split finger         3

High in zone      7

Mid in zone      8

Low in zone      7

Inside               5                     

Away               13       

Middle             4

This quick look at Papelbon start is just the beginning of the what you do with pitch chart data.  There is a lot more than can be done, and a lot more ways you can slice the data.  If anyone wants to have a go, the raw data can be found here.  Please note there are a couple minor errors in the chart that I stumbled on while slicing and dicing.  Pitch number 42 was actually a fastball, and pitch 9 I didnít get a location on, my hand writing was illegible.

All Material Property of Matthew Rauseo - Please link to www.baseballanlaysis.com if you wish to link or cite these pages