Arthur: Pitchers are choosing their strategies wisely

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on July 1, 2019:

Modern baseball is more influenced by analytics than ever before. That extends to all areas of strategy, but one that’s been especially touched is how pitchers use the offerings in their arsenal. High-speed cameras, radar tracking technology, and statistical analysis of outcomes can inform which pitches a hurler should throw and how often.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how all those additional tools are being put to use. Pitchers are adjusting their pitch strategies — how often they deploy each pitch — more in the last couple of years than any time since 2009. Throwers who have made major adjustments, increasing the use of a breaking ball by 10 or more percentage points, have turned around their fortunes, dropping their ERAs by almost half a run.

Clearly adjustments to pitch strategy can pay off. But how do pitchers (and the teams that advise them) tell which curveballs, sliders, and changeups ought to be thrown more, and which less? Valuing a pitcher’s total performance is difficult enough; valuing any individual pitch doubly so.

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Originally published: July 3, 2019. Last Updated: July 3, 2019.