The Pitching Behind Arizona's Venomous Bite
The Arizona Diamondbacks; with a 2.5 game lead in the NL West division over the Los Angeles Dodgers, are holding their own in a particularly tough division. To stay above the Dodgers, since Clayton Kershaw is now off the disabled list, they need to toughen up their pitching to keep the runs against low. As of June 25th, Arizona was 3rd in ERA (3.42), 22nd in Walks (233) and 15th in Strikeouts (666). Now these stats aren’t awful, but there is always room for improvement, and if they want to make a solid playoff run, they need to be the best in every category.
The three main starters for the Diamondbacks are Zack Greinke, Patrick Corbin, and Zack Godley; accounting for 21 wins and 13 losses. What I am going do is compare the locations of pitches when the result is a walk vs when the result is a strike out. All pitchers have more strikeouts than walks, which is great! Greinke has 1.2% walks/6.6% strikeouts, Godley has 2.8% walks/5.7% strikeouts and Corbin has 4.6% walks/8.4% strikeouts. These are all good percentages, since the goal is to have lower walks and higher strikeout percentages.
Let’s start with walks, or the areas where these pitchers can improve. Greinke’s heatmap is very spread out. He seems to miss either high inside (to a right-handed batter) or low outside (to a right-handed batter). The low outside pitch could be a sinker, in which he just misses the plate. These pitches seem to be pitches that Greinke is trying to make the batter swing at, since they are right off the plate. To improve this, I would say to aim a little closer to the strike zone, so that it breaks and is closer to the corner, which would have a better chance of being called a strike.
For Patrick Corbin, seems to be missing a lot (4.6% of the time), which is the highest amongst these three pitchers. He seems to be missing the most on the low inside corner (to a right-handed batter). These again seem to be right off the plate, so Corbin may be trying to make the batters swing, but they aren’t biting. So just like Greinke, I would say to aim closer to the strike zone and trust the movement to move right to the edge of the strike zone.
Zack Godley, just like Greinke has a couple concentration points. Unlike Greinke, Godley misses very far off the outside low corner (to a right-handed batter). From the heatmap below, he doesn’t even seem to be trying to have the batter chase, he is just missing. This could be that he has too much movement and isn’t locating the pitch properly, or he is just losing control. I would suggest practicing the pitches more, so he knows the amount of movement he will get on a given day and try to aim closer to the strike zone, so the pitch will move, and hopefully be closer to the plate.
Now onto the areas where these pitchers are succeeding.
Greinke likes to keep the ball low, which is a good tactic and is clearly working for him. He missed a lot on the low outside corner (to a right-handed batter), but when he raises the ball a bit, he seems to be getting the strikeouts. So, keep doing what you’re doing, 102 strikeouts as of June 26th isn’t too shabby.
When Corbin raises his inside pitch (to right-handed batter), he is successful, but he is also successful when the ball is way off the plate. This could be that his ball has tons of movement and he is getting left-handed batter to chase the crazy movement. So, he needs to know how to control that, since the space in the middle of the two blobs is when he is getting most of his walks. He just needs to gage how his ball is moving that day and keep doing what he’s doing since he strikes batters out 8.4% of the time.
Finally, Godley is great on the low outside corner (to right-handed batter). When he keeps the ball a bit higher (or in the strike zone), he is a strikeout king. When he loses control and lets it move off the plate to much, he walks batters. So, for him, try to keep the ball higher, or more in the strike zone since the batters don’t seem to be chasing his balls off the plate.
These are all great pitchers, and they need to keep up the good work if the Diamondbacks want a playoff spot. Each pitcher needs to know how their ball is moving that day and know where the ball is when they strike batters out and where the ball is when batters are walked. These graphs are good to look at, so that pitcher knows, can visualize, and hopefully improve it.
ESPN.com. MLB Team Stats - 2018. n.d. http://www.espn.com/mlb/stats/team/_/stat/batting/sort/runs/order/true. 25 June 2018
MLB Advanced Media, LP. Statcast Search. n.d. https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_search