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Velocity and Location Data Part 2: NPB Pitchers

Yesterday, I looked at MLB starters and the locations they usually threw to and had success in according to velocity. I also wanted to get another look, this time in the NPB (Japan), using the data supplied by Patrick Newman of NPB Tracker. I haven’t seen anyone seriously play with this data, and I thought the heat maps would be helpful in giving us another look at how pitchers attack the zone as a whole. So I took the top 25 pitchers in innings pitched in both the Pacific and the Central (the two leagues in the NPB Ichi-Gun, sort of like the AL and NL in the MLB) and broke down their most recent 10 starts.

I used the average velocity for that start, their FIP for that specific start (I prefer using kwERA when looking at Japanese Pitching Statistics because of the offensive environment, but the stat line on the game logs on NPB Tracker doesn’t include batters faced, which makes calculating FIP easier than kwERA), and broke down their pitch locations (again, only looking at pitches thrown in the strike zone) using Newman’s very simple heat maps (you can’t break it down by pitch or result by pitch, that is why we use FIP for the start, not for each pitch, but comparing the locations and velocities to FIP should be useful). Here is the spreadsheet if you want to look at the results:

[table id=28 /]

First, let’s break down starts by velocity and FIP. The Average FIP of all 500 starts was 3.63 (NPB Central League average was 3.46).

Top 100 Velocity starts: 3.24 FIP

Next 100: 3.49 FIP

Next 100: 3.42 FIP

Next 100: 3.82 FIP

Last 100: 4.17 FIP

This breaks down about how you would expect using the somewhat large sample sizes, as does the locations. The (50) hardest throwers also kept the ball up (about 6.62 pitches per upper zone per outing) more than the (50)softest throwers (4.5 pitchers per upper zone per outing), just like we saw in the Majors. Let’s look at some zone breakdowns:

Top 50 starts in pitches in the Upper Left: 2.9 FIP

Bottom 50 starts in pitches in the Upper Left: 4.27 FIP

Top 50 in Upper Middle: 3.12

Bottom 50: 4.34

Top 50 in Upper Right: 2.87

Bottom 50: 4

Top 50 in Middle Left: 3.18

Bottom 50: 4.19

Top 50 in Middle Middle: 3.68

Bottom 50: 4.56

Top 50 in Middle Right: 2.86

Bottom 50: 3.92

Top 50 in Lower Left: 3.24

Bottom 50: 4

Top 50 in Lower Middle: 3.6

Bottom 50: 4.35

Top 50 in Lower Right: 3.16

Bottom 50: 4.2

It is hard to neutralize the FIP, so there is a bias when looking at high pitches, because that is where the harder, and better, pitchers tend to throw. It seems that it is better to have a plan, even if the plan is horrible, than avoid one part of the zone altogether. One quick note, because we are using raw totals, there may be a bias here. I only looked at starts, but there may be some kind of a bias if a pitcher is performing horribly, as he will most likely throw less pitches than a pitcher that is performing well. So a pitcher may not have many pitches in one part of the zone because he only threw 50 or so pitches anyway, while another pitcher (especially in Japan) may have thrown anywhere from 130-140 pitches.Hopefully our large sample sizes zeroed this out, at least somewhat.

Tomorrow, I will look at MLB Draft prospect Tommy Burns, employing some of the data I have used in the last two posts.