April is almost over, and one thing I’ve noticed so far is that some starting pitching aces have struggled. Let’s break down one such pitcher using pitch f/x data.
Haren is one of the best starting pitchers in the National League, and despite a good win/loss record, which is useless, anyway, he has struggled somewhat in this short season. His first start of the year was fantastic, going 7 innings of 3 hit baseball with no walks, 4 K’s and 1 earned run. His next start wasn’t so great. 6.2 IP, 9 hits, 2 BB’s, 9 Ks, and 5 earned runs. His 3rd start was once again, very good, giving up just 2 earned runs over 6.1 innings.
His 4th start was brutal, going 6 innings against the Cardinals who touched Haren up for 7 earned runs over 9 hits and 2 BB’s. This start, from April 2o and Haren’s first start from April 5 are the ones I’ll be focusing on here.
Four Seam Fastball
These two graphs show the release points of Haren’s four seam fastball for the two starts. As you can see, they are fairly tightly grouped, which is a good thing. The difference is that in his April 20 start, he seemed to shift his release point about 6 inches to the right (catcher’s perspective). This shift appears to have negatively affected his ability to locate his four seamer:
Haren pounded the strike zone with his four seamer on opening day, but on the 20th, he was all over the place.
Again, the difference in release points for Haren’s cutter on the 5th versus Haren’s cutter on the 20th is that he shifted to the right. It wasn’t quite as dramatic as his four seamer, but the difference had the same effect on his location.
Once again, Haren’s change in release point resulted in some struggles with locating his cutter. Same story with his split finger fastball, as well. This shows just how important release point is for pitchers to be effective. Those that repeat their release the same way more often are more likely to be successful.
This is going to be a weekly series, so keep an eye out for more. Next week I’ll focus on Josh Beckett, who has had a rough go of it so far this season.