Photo Courtesy of CBS Sports
by: Mathew Haines
Over the ages, pitchers have been bred to accomplish one goal, get hitters out. Some pitchers do this through weak batted balls, other do this by striking out every batter faced. While some coaches preach command, others preach velocity. The discourse on what makes an effective pitcher continues to grow and change with the game itself. Unfortunately, I will not be able to give credence to who is “right”. However, with more data becoming available every day, I can enter my own theory into the discussion, and an attempt to contextualize a seemingly intangible discussion.
This goal of reaching the previously intangible is what set me out on this journey of investigating what I have dubbed, “The Effectively Wild Hypothesis.” In the context of baseball, a pitcher being described as “wild” will usually bring a negative connotation, for in a game with outs at a premium, being able to control the location of a pitch appears to only add another tool to a pitcher’s arsenal. Yet, we often underestimate the notion of an unexpecting hitter; one who is not certain what the next pitch will be based off of the one they last saw. This, in theory, will create doubt in a hitter’s mind, making him ineffective.
Through this study, I plan to release a series of articles all serving as a guide for the ultimate question, “What makes an effectively wild pitcher?” In doing so, I will be analyzing all aspects of a pitcher’s arsenal to determine which pitcher’s utilize their variability and which pitchers see this variability come back to bite them. Ultimately, I plan to analyze all MLB pitchers in hopes of deeming on the “most effectively wild.”
The study at its core assumes that there is such thing as an effectively wild pitcher. In essence, the study will seek to analyze how a pitcher’s “variability” affects his performance on the mound. In this context, I will define variability as how much a pitcher’s pitch varies from the one before. From there, I will seek to find which pitcher uses this variability to their advantage by analyzing a variety of metrics and their correlation to a pitcher’s variability.
To measure a pitcher’s variability, I will be using a new, self-made metric, Pitcher Variability Rating (PVR). This metric, which will be discussed in more detail in later articles, attempts to quantify the difference between pitches. To give the stat in its most basic terms, it analyzes the difference of one pitch when compared to the pitch that came previous.
Through the use of PVR, I will able find trends throughout pitchers in an attempt to declare the most effectively wild pitcher in the MLB. This pitcher will be the one that variates from pitch to pitch the most, while simultaneously achieving the most positive results while on the mound. All in all, this study will serve to analyze how a pitcher’s “wildness” can come to benefit them within the game and which pitchers use this “wildness” the best.
For any questions regarding this upcoming project, feel free to reach out to Students of the Game with any questions, suggestions, or comments regarding the upcoming study.