The Entire Rotation is Pitching More Backward | The Process Report

The Entire Rotation is Pitching More Backward

Pitching backward has been on my mind lately. It came up after noticing that James Shields was riding his offspeed stuff more on first-pitches the second and third time through, then realizing Wade Davis was throwing fewer early-count fastballs. That’s two-fifths of the Rays rotation, so what about the other three? As it turns out, it’s an epidemic:

(A note: I believe Davis’ percentage to be skewed by his lowered velocity.)

Now, look, I was willing to buy that Shields and Davis had changed their approaches without a staff-wide prompting, but this is a bit much. Every single pitcher experiences at least one drop of five percent or more, and only Jeremy Hellickson sees an increase—even that is only against lefties. I can’t claim to know whether Jim Hickey is behind the change or someone in the Baseball Operations department figured something out that goes counterintuitive to traditional thinking (it wouldn’t be the first time—Danks Theory), but there almost has to be a reason for an entire staff to drastically change its approach over a calendar year.

The downside is still that offspeed stuff is more difficult to throw for strikes than fastballs, however, there could be sequencing benefits that I simply can’t uncover. I looked at the topic on Prospectus and overall, the pitchers who go backward don’t really stand out for their performance, but that was using a run metric. Maybe it’s not necessarily a peripheral-based advantage, or maybe it is. I don’t know, but I’m willing to bet there’s more here than happenstance.

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  1. […] Friday over at The Process Report R.J. Anderson published a piece noting that the entire Rays rotation is pitching more backward. By […]

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