First of all, if you aren't aware of this site yet, I highly recommend you should be. There's a link to a (pretty humorous) wiki once you get to your game and pitcher, to help explain the tables. While it is all unofficial, it gives you an excellent overview of a pitcher's performance; from speed to spin to location to break. We'll borrow a couple of their tables this morning to examine Livandez's complete game from last night.
There are a number of things we assume about Livan Hernandez, partly because he has an extensive track record and partly because we've now seen him throw a few innings for the Twins. In no particular order, those things are:
- He doesn't get a lot of movement on his pitches.
- He doesn't get a lot of velocity behind his throws.
- He's largely an average pitcher who can eat innings.
- He likes to eat.
Looking at his Pitchfx graphs from Wednesday's performance against the White Sox, we see what we already knew: most of those assumptions are true.
This is Livandez's velocity chart, from start to finish. Most of his results are between 78-86 mph. There's no surprises here--his fastball usually clocks in around 84-86 (although he did throw marginally harder the further he went into the game), and his curveball is going just slow enough to get passed by a toddler on a tricycle. With some pitchers, the highs and lows of this kind of chart may be a bit more difficult to read, but because we know what and how Livan throws, it's pretty transparent.
This shows vertical (or 12-to-6) break. The X-axis (vertical break) shows the downward movement of a pitch. Numbers above zero don't mean a pitch is breaking up, it just means those pitches are less affected by gravity.
So again, no surprises here. Livan's fastball and slider (upper-right hand corner), and even his curveball (lower middle), don't appear to be getting a lot of downward break. Those fastballs in particular are pretty flat. Even the curveballs, like Jon said, don't really break as much as they're affected by gravity. Vertically, anyway.
Okay, here we go. This makes a little more sense now. Livan clearly has a lof more break from 3-to-9 than 12-to-6, which is how he keeps himself from getting hammered every single time he throws one of those batting practice fastballs. Those green pitches in the upper-left hand corner are his fastballs, with the handful of yellow dots right below them representing his changeups. Either there weren't too many of those, or you just can't tell the difference between the fastball and its offspeed counterpart.
The breaking balls have a lot more movement on this side of the break. Both the sliders and the curves are bunched together in their own patches, helping us see exactly how Livan's movement works. What helps the fastball be effective is that, while those breaking balls will move from left to right (from the batter's perspective), because the fastball isn't really affected by gravity at all, it might look at times as though it's rising. Even at a modest (cough) 85 mph, physics can play illusions with your vision.
This is the final chart I'll look at today, and it shows that Hernandez was pretty much all over the field in terms of pitch location. Even with the horizontal break we just saw, it's not like the movement is bending anyone's knees or making them blink with disbelief at that incredible slider.
All pitchers have to work location, but it's a matter of life and death for guys with skill sets similar to Livan Hernandez. You can see he was working all areas of the strike zone, but he was also working down and away (from right-handed hitters). A good percentage of his pitchers were in the lower half of the strike zone, and he clearly wasn't afraid to try and bait a few guys with fastballs and sliders outside.
What makes Livan Hernandez Successful?
- Working all areas of the strikezone.
- Not being afraid to miss the strikezone, whether on purpose or by accident.
- Horizontal movement on his breaking balls.
- The illusion of a rising fastball.
- Being able to mix in a pitch that clocks in the mid-50's, giving him a 30 mph range of speed.
Of course, I was in bed last night when this game was played, and I'm technically working right now. So, I haven't yet seen the replay, and none of this analysis is based on anything I've actually seen. You tell me--does any of this sound accurate?
AND I missed Carlos Gomez hitting for the cycle? Bloody hell. At least I'll have something good to watch when I get home from work tonight.