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Detroit Tigers’ Starting Pitcher Pitch Selections


The Baseball Analysts had an interesting article a few days ago about pitcher pitch selections by count. I thought I’d apply their idea to take a look at how the Tigers’ starting pitchers selected their pitches. Here’s a quick explanation of the charts from the Baseball Analysts piece:

"most pitchers will follow the count in the sense that they throw more fastballs when they need strikes and mix in their harder-to-control off-speed pitches when they can afford balls… I ordered the ball/strike count from from highest run expectancy to lowest, which should theoretically follow with highest fastball percentage to lowest."

(click on the graphs for a larger version)

Justin’s graph shows a classic approach to pitching. He throws a lot of fastballs when he’s behind in the count, but he really mixes his pitches well when he’s ahead in the count. He actually doesn’t change his slider and changeup ratio too much throughout, but the curveball really emerges when he’s looking to put the hitter away.

Max’s fastball percentage doesn’t cascade down as clearly as Justin’s does, but the trend is still there. He mixes his pitches more when he’s ahead in the count, but there really isn’t a difference between 0-0 and 0-2. He definitely relies on his fastball a lot (it never dips below 50%) in every count.

Rick loves his fastball even more than Scherzer does. His lowest percentage of fastballs is 57 percent at 1-2 counts. I think a lot of people would like to Porcello develop an “out” pitch so he doesn’t have to throw fastballs over 60 percent of the time in 0-2 situations. There’s really no reason for hitters to not look for a fastball in any situation.

Galarraga is the only one we’ve seen who’s been willing to throw anything but a fastball when down in the count 2-0. It’s interesting that he threw more sliders in 2-1 counts than he did in 1-0 or 0-0 counts. I think of Bonderman being the one who relies heavily on the slider, but Armando may throw more of them.

Jeremy’s chart is pretty much what we would expect. He really only threw two pitches, and loved to throw the slider when he got ahead in the count. It was easier to get away with this predictable approach when he could throw in the mid-to-upper 90’s, but it doesn’t work as well this year when he lived in the lower 90’s.

I thought it was really interesting to see how the pitch selections broke down graphically. None of the Tiger pitches really used a non-traditional or “working backwards” approach to pitching this season. We really see the advantage the Verlander has with four pitches. Down 0-2 against Bonderman you’re looking at a fastball-slider coin flip. Against Verlander, you’re not really sure what he’ll throw at you.