Our friend Zach did an analysis of Clayton Richard’s 2010 success over at Gaslamp Ball. He says:

In 2009, Richard threw his 4-seamer 51.3% of the time, and the 2-seamer only 19% of the time. In 2010, he’s dropped his usage of the 4-seamer, throwing it only 23.8% of the time, and upped the use of the 2-seamer, now throwing it 35.6% of the time.
Richard has also increased the velocity of his 2-seamer. Where in 2009 he averaged 87.6 mph, this season he’s throwing it at an average of 91.2 mph.

Indeed, if you look at the PITCHf/x data, located on FanGraphs, that’s what comes out. Check out his usage, in 2009 vs. 2010:

Year Four-seamer Two-seamer Cutter Slider Change Curve
2009 51% 19% 2% 15% 11% 2%
2010 22% 37% 13% 4% 18% 5%

It struck me a bit that he’d change his repertoire so much in one-offseason. What’s also striking is the speed of his two-seamer; it has jumped almost four miles per hour in one season, while his four-seamer – and basically the rest of his pitches – stayed at the same mph.

As I thought about this, it started to click that perhaps Richard’s pitch selection hasn’t changed that much, maybe the PITCHf/x algorithm has. I wanted to look at the raw PITCHf/x data to see if I could find anything.

The first graphs I’m going to show has horizontal movement on the x-axis and vertical movement on the y-axis, and the pitches are a different color based on their pitch type (as classified by MLBAM). Remember, the view is from the catcher’s perspective:

2010
Richard 2010 new

2009
Richard 2009

You can see the two and four-seamers clustered in the top right of the graph. In 2010 you can see the two-seamers have slightly more horizontal movement and slightly less vertical movement. What is revealing is if we remove two-seamers to get a better view.

2010
Richard 2010, no two seamers1
2009
Richard 2009, no two seamers1

Notice the range of the four-seamer, the circled purple triangles, is much wider in 2009. It looks like in 2009, the algorithm was very reluctant in calling a pitch a two-seamer. Most everything in that upper right hand corner was identified as a four-seamer. In 2010, however, it is much more equal – in fact, as you can see by the graph and the chart above, the two-seamer is now being identified more often than the four-seamer.

If we take the 2010 version of the pitch algorithm as the more accurate one, then it appears what happened in 2009 is that a lot of two-seamers were actually classified as four-seamers. So, in reality, Richard’s pitch selection has probably not changed that much – the pitch algorithm has.

And, indeed, it appears that is what has happened. In an email exchange – and here on the Hardball Times – Mike Fast explained to me that Ross Paul, the guy doing some of the behind the scenes work at MLBAM, is now using a neural networks to classify pitches. A neural net is specifically trained to identify pitches from each pitcher, and should theoretically be a more accurate way to classify a pitcher’s arsenal.

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I also created spin graphs for Richard, and while they may not add to the point of this article, I think they are still worth sharing.

2010
Richard, 2010 spin

2009
Richard 2009, spin

Interestingly, it appears that the same thing may be going on with sliders and cutters. It appears that a lot of Richard’s pitches that were being classified as sliders last year are now being classified as cutters.

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