Goofy Leaderboards: Unidentified Pitches!

Since the Tigers clinched a World Series birth yesterday and NLCS Game 5 is still a few hours away, I thought I’d post a goofy 2012 leaderboard, for those of you who love random bits of information.

Today, let’s look at unidentified pitches. What are you talking about, you ask? Thanks to advanced camera and software in every ML park, every pitch’s location, speed, and type are charted and tracked. But sometimes, the system can’t pick up exactly what pitch we’re looking at, so it gives it a tag of XX as opposed to say, FB, SL, CB, CH, etc.

Who leads baseball in these crazy, weird pitches?

This list includes only pitchers who qualified for the ERA title because the system learns the pitchers, so if you only pitch a couple of innings, it has a tough time deciding what pitch you just threw.

Top Five Pitchers Who Throw Weird Pitches:

1. Rick Nolasco (Marlins): 1.2%

2. Aaron Harang (Dodgers): 1.2%

3. Mat Latos (Reds): 1.1%

4. Josh Johnson (Marlins): 1.1%

5. Mike Minor (Braves): 1.0%

That list probably doesn’t really excite you. Only about one percent of pitches weren’t identified for the most unidentified pitchers? That’s hardly interesting. You’re right, but the hitters!

The hitters are interesting!

Top Seven Hitters Who Face Weird Pitchers:

1. Prince Fielder (Tigers): 2.7%

2. Miguel Cabrera (Tigers): 2.5%

3. Carlos Beltran (Cardinals): 2.4%

4. David Wright (Mets): 2.3%

5. Albert Pujols (Angels): 2.1%

6. Josh Hamilton (Rangers): 2.0%

7. Ryan Braun (Brewers): 2.0%

Two things about this list are awesome. First, all of those hitters are top flight. In trying to come up with an anecdotal explanation for this, I have two. 1) Managers go to the bullpen more often with great hitters at the plate, so we’re just seeing these guys facing more pitchers who the system might know a little less well than a starter. 2) Pitchers are doing something different against great hitters that makes identifying the pitch marginally harder. Maybe there is an intentional walk effect?

The second cool thing is that the top two guys play for the same team! What?! This should be a pretty random thing if we’re talking about pitches the computer can’t recognize, but there are two Tigers at the top of the list. Before you say that it’s about the cameras at Comerica Park, no other Tigers are near the top and Austin Jackson is LAST at 0.0%!

Unfortunately, after further review, it is an intentional walk effect. Look up the IBB leaders and the list will look eerily similar. For both hitters and pitchers.

The lesson in this is that apparently a very expensive computer system can’t figure out what the hell is going on when a pitcher throws a 71mph fastball up and away when they normally fires 92-93mph. Maybe we shouldn’t be too worried about the singularity and computers taking over the world.

Or maybe we should, because they can’t figure out why you’d want to give someone a free base when the best player in the league only reaches base 40% of the time.


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