Does pitch movement matter for winning?


October 4, 2023

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As the MLB’s post-season is getting into full-swing, I thought I’d take a look at pitching. Especially since my favorite team seems to have extremely poor pitching and probably isn’t in the playoffs due to their lack of bullpen (though their offense has been pretty abysmal too). Let me look at what I wish I could have.

There are a lot of different ways in which we can try to quantify a pitcher’s value to a team and to try to predict what features of a pitcher boost that value. Let me take a peak into one possible thing that may matter: a pitcher’s ability to produce a significant amount of controlled movement in their pitch.

While having the ability to rip a 4-seamer across the plate at 100 mph and then follow it up with an 88 mph meatball can definitely produce some K’s, they aren’t always the safest bet. Fastballs with lots of movement to them and breaking balls are all the rage in the MLB right now. Pitches producing a lot of movement make it difficult to make contact; and if someone does, the movement makes any meaningful contact a challenge. As a result, pitchers are definitely working at adding a lot of movement to their pitches, not just their velocity. After all, if a pitch just stays in the same spot it makes it a bit easier to get your barrel on it.

So, let’s take a look at how much movement pitchers have been putting on their pitches.1