Arthur: Pitchers are updating their arsenals

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on June 21, 2019:

With the release of Travis Sawchik and Ben Lindbergh’s new book, The MVP Machine, there’s been a renewed interest in the topic of player development in baseball. Citing efforts as diverse as third-party coaches like Driveline Baseball to the Astros’ sabermetric juggernaut, the story unwinds the ways in which players and teams are improving their abilities rather than treating them as constants. Whereas in the era of Moneyball all eyes focused on identifying undervalued players like Kevin Youkilis, today the market inefficiencies can be found in making players more valuable.

On the pitching side, there are dozens of ways players transform themselves, from the use of foreign substances to shaping their biomechanics to maximize spin rate. But one of the oldest edges to be found is in what could be called pitch strategy: at the simplest level, throwing your best pitches most often, and your worst pitches less often. A simple survey of changes in pitch usage in the last decade shows that players have become more aggressive about tailoring their arsenal to their strengths and avoiding weaknesses — and it’s made some hurlers substantially better.

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Originally published: June 21, 2019. Last Updated: June 21, 2019.