Breaking Down Ricky Romero’s Debut with Pitch F/X


Ricky Romero’s Debut – Pitch F/X

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Let’s take a look at Ricky Romero’s strong MLB debut performance this afternoon vs the Detroit Tigers. For those that missed the game (which is most of us due to no local TV) lets quickly recap. Over the course of six innings former first round pick (6th overall) Ricky Romero held the Tigers to two runs on seven hits & two walks. He allowed one home run and struck out five. He pitched as advertised, with a groundball ratio of 3:1 (9 GB, 3 FB).

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Romero had good velocity on his four-seam fastball for a lefty. He threw fewer two-seam fastballs than I would expect. Note that a change-up is counted as a two-seam fastball in this data (for the super nerdy). In total Romero threw 40 curves and sliders vs 39 four-seam fastballs. I wasn’t aware of this heavy reliance on off-speed pitches.

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This graph snap is a rundown of his strike percentage. He was consistently around 60% each inning save the first. The old timer rule of thumb is a 60/40 ratio, so he did a good job today.

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Most PitchF/X graphs look like this. It’s a rundown of each pitch and the velocity. No averages, just each pitch thrown. As the game went on the yo-yo effect increases, signaling a greater trust in his off-speed offerings.

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Finally I’ve added a vertical drop chart. Anything above the line rose, anything below sunk. This tells me that Romero isn’t as much of a sinkerball pitcher as his GB ratio would indicate. Almost every pitch around or above 90 MPH rose.

Amendment (04/11/09)

After a few great comments from ‘Spifficus’ and some research I see that I’ve made a gaff in my vertical plain analysis. A 3″ average rise on a fastball actually indicates some serious sink. Almost too much. As anyone watched the Braves season opener or caught the highlights will attest, Derek Lowe had some big time sink on his fastball. And it registered right around +5 in vertical sink.

I went back into MLB.TV and watched a number of Romero pitches. His fastball lacks serious sink IMO and, at least of this day, appeared to be fairly flat. It did have some late in the zone downward movement but nothing indicating too much sink. It may be an issue with his delivery and the Pitch F/X gun properly picking up his fastball. His fastball does have almost a straight change style of movement. After comparing lefty pitch F/X data I’ve come to the conclusion that his fastball has little horizontal movement. Vertically it most closely resembles the downward movement of a cutter. Remember, a cutters strength is the cut itself, with late horizontal and some downward movement. Ricky’s fastball lacks the real cut of cutter but does have some of the late sink traits. If I had a gun to my head I’d say that Romero throws a poor mans cut fastball.

Watching the game data it still appeared that Romero was earning many GB from his sinker and curve. I think we’ll need another game of data before drawing too many conclusions, although I can still safely stand by my claim that Ricky pitches almost backwards, using his off-speed pitches to set up his fastball.

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A big gap exists between roughly 84 and 90 MPH. He appears to induce many of his groundballs via sliders, curves and a two-seam/change hybrid.

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  • Awesome info!

  • Spifficus

    Hey, just wanted to mention a bit about the vertical break… Compare the vertical break chart the one put up by the other Ricky on the mound and it compares quite favorably. Heck, if you compare him to Webb or Lowe (who have about 2″ vertical ‘rise’ due to spin on their sinkers), he’s not too far off (though the horizontal run doesn’t compare).

    A normal 4 seamer has between 7-10″ or more of vertical ‘rise’. Purcey, had a more typical 9″ rise in his last start. The sink comes from gravity and the downward plane of pitching… A normal 4 seamer just has more movement counteracting that.

    In other words, i think his sinker’ll do fine. 🙂

  • Could you really call Romero’s pitch a sinker? A sinker has a distinct, well almost in and out motion, more of a “swoosh” when you see if live or on TV. Romero’s fastball doesn’t have a lot of lateral movement. The pitch looks similar to a four seam fastball in terms of horizontal movement. I don’t think I’d call it a sinker.

  • Ok I just went back and watched a bit of Romero on MLB.TV archives and I wouldn’t call his fastball a sinker. It does have some late life (impressive in the few pitches I saw) but it is not a traditional sinker or 2-seamer in terms of movement

  • Spifficus

    Whether I’d call it a sinker vs a two-seamer or whatever would probably depend more upon how he was throwing it as opposed to what the result was. I’ve always found the way off-centre camera angle treats righties vs lefties makes things like this deceptive. Toss in whether he`s pitching across his body or not, and how low his arm angle is, and it can get a bit hairy when i’m trying to compare video of, say, Ricky R vs Rick P.

    I want to go back as you did and have another look at the game and compare it to the data. Unfortunately, the flash player is extremely cranky for me (windows 7, chrome’s umm love of flash, and a crappy connection). My memory’s a bit too spotty to remember fastball movement unless it’s a righty (because it gets exaggerated by the left-centre camera angle).

    When you say `swoosh`, are you talking about arm-side run, that boring action that makes Carmona, Lowe et al so tough? I don’t remember seeing a lefty-equivalent, but i have to admit, i’m having problems thinking of a good lefty to compare to. Hampton, maybe? He pitched today, wouldn’t mind having a look at his start if i can get the stream working… But yeah, the boring action doesn’t seem to be there, from what the data indicates. Well, sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t – his horizontal spread is all over the map on his fastball. If you squint, you could make a case that he’s throwing two different pitches that it’s picking up as four-seamers. The Vertical, though, looks right for a good sinker. I’m not sure what it would be if it’s not that – the horisontal eliminates the possibility it’s cutting, and he couldn’t get the ball up there at 91-93 on a normal four-seamer without generating enough spin for an average well above 5″, or at least i wouldn’t think so.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to get that working before I pass out / get distracted.

  • Thanks for the comments Spifficus, great insight.

    I understand your pain with the flash player. MLB.TV has been terrible for the most part this early season. After going back into the data I should make some type of amendment. Romero’s pitch on a vertical plain would indicate some sink. Watching the live game I just don’t see it. As you said this could possibly be an arm angle issue with Pitch F/X picking up the ball.

    I almost see the fastball as being a little flat if anything. From Wednesday’s game I still see a good portion of his GB coming via sliders and curveballs.

    It has to be a Camera angle issue. The MLB should consider installing two cameras. One for right handed pitchers and one of lefites

  • Spifficus

    Heh, more fatigue-induced ramblings than anything. 🙂

    I’m with you on the camera angle… As long as they never go back to that over-the-rubber angle they used back in 2002. That thing was just WEIRD!

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  • TIGHT PP

    I just want to throw in a couple words about MLB.TV.

    Some friends and I got it to watch the Jays while in Texas, and we are NOT impressed.

    They cut early before commercials and return late. also when the tigers were being pulled off the field in the opener it crapped out and we couldn’t get it resarted untill the 9th.

    Since we got it for pretty much for the opening series it was not worth the purchase.

  • Hey, lovely article and I completely feel your pain with this damn pfx system.

    I came across this article while I was writing a Ricky Romero — ftw! article, and it’s blowing my mind, that gameday has such issues picking up pitches.

    Unless it’s break degree eclipses 1, maybe 2, MLB refuses to call it a cutter — combine that with the godforesake cameras and we’ve got all sorts of fun.

    It was nice to see Romero impress yesterday against the Twinkies.

    Unfortunately with only two games worth of data, I cannot take my normal stance of “I DONT UNDERSTAND — SO I WILL PRETEND IT DIDN”T HAPPEN” with the pfx system.