Edit: I miscalculated Brad Boxberger’s slider. Updated to the correct graph and numbers as of 3:5opm.

Yesterday I decided to dive into some Pitch F/X data for the pitchers out in the Arizona Fall League. I am going to look at each guy individually, then do a little comparison of them all at the end.

Brad Boxberger – RHP – Top Velocity (95.2 MPH)

Boxberger has worked with three pitches so far. From the 1st base view, we can see that the change up and fastball come in on similar paths until about 20 feet before reaching the plate where the change up begins to tumble and sink. The slider has a slightly higher release point of about 2-3 inches (though he has only thrown a handful of sliders thus far). The slider comes in looking like a fastball until about half way to the plate when it begins to break downward. From the birds eye view you can see that the slider and fastball are almost mirror pitches on that plane, while the change up has solid run in on right handers.

Donnie Joseph – LHP – Top Velocity (94.6 MPH)

Joseph is only working with two pitches, a fastball with plenty of velocity and a slider. The average release point of the two pitches is about 2-3 inches apart and come in on very similar paths through about 40 feet before the slider begins to have some drop on it to separate itself. With the birds eye view we can see that the two pitches have different run on them, with the fastball having slight tail away from a righty and the slider with some slight tailing action into a righty.

Nick Christiani – RHP – Top Velocity (94.7 MPH)

It should be noted immediately that Christiani has only thrown two change ups with the Pitch F/X camera’s running, so we shouldn’t pay much attention to the pitch here, but I added it since he did indeed throw it. The fastball and slider come in on very similar paths on the first base view and they continue on a similar path through the plate. From the birds eye view we can see the good amount of run in on a right hander or tail away from a left hander that the fastball generates.

Travis Webb – LHP – Top Velocity (91.7 MPH)

Webb has shown four pitches in the AFL, though he has only thrown three curveballs with the Pitch F/X cameras going. The change up and fastball have similar paths before the tumble begins about 8 feet before it reaches the plate on the change up. His slider appears to have a bit of a loop in it, but I think it seems that way more because the fastball is pretty straight. From the birds eye view we can see that the change up and fastball have similar running action on them, while the two breaking balls have similar tailing action on them.


Pitcher Called K Swing K Foul In Play Total K Ball Strike% Ball% IP ERA BB K
Boxberger 18 7 28 10 63 34 64.9% 35.1% 11.1 3.18 4 19
Christiani 14 4 13 11 42 22 65.6% 34.4% 12.0 6.75 7 9
Joseph 20 17 17 18 72 49 59.5% 40.5% 14.0 2.57 6 15
Webb 32 10 20 20 82 65 55.8% 44.2% 12.0 6.75 6 13

Boxberger and Christiani have had the highest strike thrown rates. That has gone well for Boxberger, but Christiani has actually had a high walk rate and lowest strikeout rate despite the highest strike rate of all the Reds pitchers. Both Joseph and Webb need to raise their overall strikes thrown, but one thing we should note is that we are working with incredibly small samples sizes here so we shouldn’t really take much from this.

Velocity and Break

The pitchers are going to have different breaks on the horizontal plane due to the handedness they throw with. On the horizontal plane the closer to zero, the more the ball “cuts”, where as the further from zero, the more that it “runs/tails”. On the vertical plane, the higher the number, the more the pitch “rises”, while the lower number means the ball “sinks”. These numbers are what a ball would do without gravity, so a fastball will never have a negative number on the vertical breaking plane even if it is a “sinking fastball” because the sink is caused by gravity and less “rise”, so it will sink even more.

F  a  s  t  b  a  l  l
Pitcher Average Velocity Horizontal Break Vertical Break
Boxberger 92.43 -4.78 8.45
Christiani 92.73 -9.97 3.73
Joseph 93.04 2.39 6.48
Webb 89.95 2.80 11.64
C  h  a  n  g  e    u  p
Pitcher Average Velocity Horizontal Break Vertical Break
Boxberger 80.03 -9.82 1.41
Christiani 83.40 -9.90 3.33
Joseph N/A N/A N/A
Webb 78.14 3.02 9.60
S  l  i  d  e  r
Pitcher Average Velocity Horizontal Break Vertical Break
Boxberger 86.42 2.39 0.21
Christiani 84.53 -1.10 2.37
Joseph 85.02 -3.79 3.38
Webb 79.95 -5.16 1.46
C  u  r  v  e  b  a  l  l
Pitcher Average Velocity Horizontal Break Vertical Break
Webb 74.10 -7.99 -5.86

40 Responses

    • Doug Gray

      Yes it is. I wish I had access to the average pitch types for everyone so we could find a good comparison of these guys pitches in terms of velocity and movement, but Josh Kalk was the last guy who had that kind of thing available and he took down his database a few years ago when an MLB team hired him.

      • GC

        It’d be cool to see boxbergers data compared to AFL strikeout leaders.

  1. fromcubawithluv

    I do not think I understand the break on some of these. It looks to me like Boxberger’s slider backs up….. Am I missing something?

    • Doug Gray

      I am not entirely sure what you mean. Care to explain it in a little more detail?

      • fromcubawithluv

        -5.78 is horizontal movement on his slider. I do not think I know what that means. Explaining what -5.78 horizontal movement is on a slider would likely make me understand. lol. I thought a negative value meant moving toward a RH batter

      • Doug Gray

        It is moving in towards a right handed batter. If you look at the birds eye view, you can see the movement it has where it runs a little bit in on a righty.

      • fromcubawithluv

        isn’t his slider supposed to move away from a RH? I guess that was my actual concern.

      • Doug Gray

        Well son of a gun. Not entirely sure where I went wrong, but I totally have his slider wrong. His actual movement is 2.4 inches, which would indeed move away. His slider numbers are wrong across the board. I think that perhaps I didn’t correct the columns when I hit the “average” button in excel. Looks like I get to re-work this post.

        Sorry guys.

      • Doug Gray

        I was right, I had his slider numbers as the “average” of all of his pitches.

      • fromcubawithluv

        lol. I am happy to see the changes. I seriously thought I may have misunderstood how the whole thing works. Good to know I am not crazy.

        So does Christiani’s back up a bit or is that one incorrect as well.

        no worries just curious. Thanks for all your work.

      • Doug Gray

        It does back up. It doesn’t move entirely like most guys sliders, but its close-ish. It moves almost like a cutter, but given his fastball velocity, a cutter should be a bit faster than those pitches being labeled sliders are.

  2. fromcubawithluv

    I have another small question unrelated to this post.

    Doug, do you think Willingham would be a smart target for the Reds? Offensively, I think he outperforms either Heisey or Sappelt, and may end up similar to alonso. Is the improvement worth spending some money on, or should the Reds work with what they have and not spend the money? Curious what you would think.

    • Doug Gray

      If the Reds aren’t going to trade Alonso, and I wouldn’t, then I don’t see why you even think about going after Willingham. If they do trade Alonso, then Willingham makes some sense, but I honestly would rather save the money and just let Sappelt play. I think he can be a 2-4 win player next year for the Reds in left field.

      • Alan Horn

        I agree Doug. Willingham only hit .245. We can at least get that out of Sappelt and Heisey. Heisey can match the HRs and Sappelt could turn out to be a much better performer than either Heisey or Willingham. I agree, I wouldn’t trade Alonso unless someone offers us a lot. Alonso should be first in line for the LF position and should have to play himself out of LF. We might get a suitable rotation between LF and CF with Alonso, Sappelt, Heisey and Stubbs. I just don’t understand signing or trading for someone that is no or little upgrade over what we have. Especially if it is going to cost the Reds a lot more money.

      • fromcubawithluv

        He is an upgrade offensively to everyone except maybe alonso. In our park, Willingham will OPS above .850 by doing what he has in the past. I have no idea about his defense though, but it was a question more in line with if he was worth the additional money over Sappelt and Heisey.

      • Doug Gray

        Willingham is a below average fielder at this point in his career. So he will give some of that offense back. I think you are right that he is an offensive upgrade over all but Alonso. But I think the money isn’t worth the upgrade he would provide over Sappelt (perhaps over Heisey who I don’t think would be an every day guy).

      • Alan Horn

        I always look at the net value along with cost for a player.
        Alonso will give up a heck of a lot more defense. However, he
        will provide a lot more offense at a fraction of the cost. The latter is also very important. First if he inflates your budget too much period, then he isn’t a fit. Second, if the net gain in talent isn’t remotely close to the huge increase in dollars, then he again isn’t a fit in my opinion. Hesiey put up 18 HRs in half the time and at a fraction of the cost. Their BA was about the same. Even if Heisey only plays part time, the cost versus production is a no brainer to me. I think the answer for the Reds is Alonso, Heisey, Stubbs and Sappelt manning LF and CF with occasional backup for Bruce and Votto. Dusty is good at getting everyone a good bit of playing time. Likely, one
        of the 4 outfielders mentioned above will play himself out of playing or be traded. They could very well start Sappelt off in AAA(which I don’t think is a bad idea). He needs to work of his base running for one thing. I generally agree with John Fay, but I don’t on Willingham. Why acquire him without giving our young guys a chance? The Braves excel at producing an abundance of young players(both pitching and positional) and mixing them with the vets. The Reds have to improve on getting some more of the young players to turn the corner. We are a small market team and that is the only way we will be successful. They seem to be on the way to doing that. Time will tell.

      • Doug Gray

        They may have had similar AVG, but Heisey never walks and Willingham walks plenty, meaning his OBP is going to be significantly higher.

      • Alan Horn

        I agree on the OBP, but is it worth the tremendous difference in salary for the same HRs and RBIs? Plus,
        it basically means we are forced to trade Alonso since he would have no position to play. I know Fay wanted to sign Willingham and trade Alonso for a pitcher. If you do that, you will bloat payroll by paying a high salary for both Willingham and the pitcher you acquire(unless it is someone like Pineda). You also would weaken the offense in LF as I think Alonso probably would produce more than Willingham. Of course, most anyone would bring better defense in LF than Alonso. Also, won’t we lose a draft pick if we sign Willingham? I might add that I am impressed with Alonso’s willingness to try to work
        and make himself better in LF. Votto refused to move to LF. That isn’t necessarily a strike against Votto, but I remember Pete Rose moving from LF to 3B so Tony Perez could move to 1B(Perez wasn’t that great at 3B).
        Rose worked his tail off and became a very good third baseman. He did it for the team. That’s the thing winners are made of. Rose came up as a 3B, moved to LF so Tommy Helms could play 2B, then moved to 3B
        so Tony Perez could move to 1B. He then ended up at 1B later in his career.

      • Doug Gray

        I am not worried about individual RBI numbers. RBI is a team function. I want hitters to make as few outs as possible (OBP) and acquire as many bases as possible while doing so (SLG). If they do that, they will produce runs. Willingham is going to produce quite a bit more over a season than Heisey will.

        If we assume that Heisey goes .310/.475 for 500 at bats and Willingham goes .350/.475 for 500 at bats (I would say his SLG might even be higher given he slugged .477 in Oakland and GABP is much more friendly) then Willingham would produce about 15 more runs than Heisey would. That is worth, on the free agent market, about $7.5M more dollars. So, yeah, it is probably worth exactly the difference between Heisey and Willingham…. offensively. Now when we account for defense, that certainly brings things backwards because Heisey is good and Willingham is a little below average. But from a pure offensive side of things, Willingham is worth quite a bit more than Heisey is.

      • fromcubawithluv

        and you are being conservative on Willingham’s numbers. He would be north of .850 OPS especially in our division. soooo, more than 15 runs.

      • Doug Gray

        I am not sure the division has much effect, but the home park would. I agree that he probably goes north of .850 though, but you can’t be for sure.

      • fromcubawithluv

        Besides home games at gabp, the division is littered with small parks. That is all I was referring to

      • Alan Horn

        I see what you are saying. The one thing you aren’t taking into account is that Heisey is still
        quite young and can improve his stats while Willingham is much older and his stats are likely what he is.

      • Krozley

        Not a big deal, but Rose’s move from LF to 3b opened the door for George Foster to play left. Perez was already at 1B by then thanks to the Lee May trade. Perez came up as a 1B, played 3B to accommodate May from 67-71, then moved back to 1B. Your point is still the same.

      • Alan Horn

        I left out Foster. You are right. There was only one other player like Rose. Ty Cobb. Both were not your best citizens off the field, but were two of the greatest players that ever lived. That was largely due to their agressive approach/work ethic. One story I read about Ty Cobb was that he sat in the dugout prior to the game filing his cleats with a file. Talk about intimidating your opponent. Both would do whatever it took to win. They left every ounce of effort on the field. You can’t say that about many players (now or then).

  3. RMR

    The difference in the fastballs is fascinating. I assume the first two guys are throwing 2-seamers and the 2nd two throw 4-seamers? Interesting that Webb’s fastball seems to have so much “hop” in it despite it being slower. I assume that’s a function of rotation speed — meaning he breaks it off harder than the others. That would seem be corroborated by his other offerings.

    • Doug Gray

      That would be my take. Joseph looks like he might be throwing both a cutter and a 2 seamer. There isn’t much data to work with, but there is a cluster that suggests both pitches are being thrown. I bundled them together as one pitch though. Same for Boxberger, where it looks like 4-5 of his “fastballs” could be cutters and one is absolutely a cutter, now whether he meant to throw it or not is another question.

  4. RMR

    Doug, what’s your take on the release point information? In particular…
    – Boxberger tended to release his slider at a slightly higher point.
    – Webb tended to release his curve at a slightly higher point.
    – Joseph tended to release his slider further outside

    Are those random or repeatable?
    Are those differences meaningful? (presumably, too much difference and you’re tipping)
    Any idea how common those sorts of differences are?

    • Doug Gray

      It is far too small of a sample size to know if its random or a repeatable issue…. but we are talking 2 inches or so and that really isn’t enough to tip a pitch. The differences are common. Even the best pitchers have release points that are all over the place in terms of a few inches up and down. When you start seeing something like 6 inch differences, then it can become a problem where guys can start picking up on it and know what is coming.