While this site prides itself on crack analysis, cutting edge research, and excellent writing, this article is only attempting to be well-written. This isn't heavy on analysis and it certainly isn't groundbreaking. This is merely a look at something that doesn't get a whole lot of column inches; the batting practice fastball. Now, this isn't an analysis of actual batting practice, but merely a look at pitches thrown in 2013 that were akin to the ones you might see while preparing for the game. Which pitchers threw and which batters saw the most BP fastballs last season?
The qualifications are somewhat arbitrary, but they stand up to the "seems about right" test. These are pitches thrown in the center of the strikezone as defined by the invaluable Baseball Savant, which merely divides the Pitchf/x strikezone into a tic-tac-toe board. The pitches are classified as four-seam fastballs and they clocked in between 87 and 92 mph. Real BP fastballs are slower, but if you're throwing 75 without a knuckleball, you're probably not making it to the big leagues. If you'd like to see the full list of pitchers and their particulars, follow this link. Otherwise, let's look at the top ten.
It becomes immediately clear that the separation between the top two and number three is pretty significant. Griffin and Minor were the kings of batting practices fastballs in 2013. How did that turn out for them?
It seems kind of strange that there are so many called strikes and foul balls when these should be the easiest pitchers to hit, but of course, baseball is complicated and pitches don't happen in isolation. Sometimes you're looking for the slider and you see a get me over fastball.
For the hitters, you can check out the full list here, but again let's look at the top ten.
|9||Alejandro De Aza||35|
This is a fun list, because the connection is so obvious. This is basically a list of guys who hit at the top of the order. We've accidentally stumbled onto a finding, but rather than focus on something that's so obvious, let's look at the top two hitters in detail:
You would think that you'd see more damage on pitches right down the middle, but there's also a selection effect in play as you're only going to throw fastballs down the middle to hitters who aren't going to hurt you for one reason or another. Kinsler and Pedroia are most likely going to take the pitch or foul it off, so its not that dangerous of a play.
Hopefully, this has been a fun exercise that showcases something elegantly simple. We hear about BP fastballs all the time, but were never really stop to appreciate them as a unit. I think it's safe to say, the baseball season can't arrive soon enough.
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All statistics courtesy of Baseball Savant.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.