Reyes' 2-Seam: Heterodoxy

This is kind of long, so please bear with me.

I appreciated LB's post a few days ago, breaking down Reyes' 2-seam vs. 4-seam fastballs. There were some good lessons there, but a few people here seem to accept it as gospel truth, esp. those in the Wells diary. For those, this is "overwhelming evidence" that TLR/Dunc have absolutely no idea what they're doing and that Reyes should stop throwing the 2-seam altogether. But I'm not quite as convinced, for a few reasons:

  1. Reyes lit up AAA last year, and has so far this year, at the same rates that he always has. But we have no reason to believe that he has stopped throwing the 2-seam in the minors. In fact, it's safe to assume that the opposite is true: Reyes is still throwing the 2-seam in the minors, and his numbers there are as good as ever. But, for some reason, he's been unsuccessful in the Bigs while being dominating in the minors. LB's data doesn't speak to this anomaly.
  2. His peripherals in the Bigs this year are completely out of whack with his minor-league numbers. Last year in AAA, while throwing the 2-seam, Reyes had nearly an 8:1 K:BB ratio. This year in the majors, it's about 2:1. That's a pretty big discrepancy. Perhaps AAA hitters are more susceptible to chasing bad breaking balls and pitches out of the zone. Perhaps in the bigs, the hitters are more patient and willing to take a walk, or wait for a mistake that they can drive. BAA shows some of this: it was .221 in AAA last year, and it's .259 this year in the majors.  his inability to pitch more than 6 innings a single time in the Bigs this year is also evidence of that; hitters are taking being more selective, taking more pitches, and taking more BBs or swinging at the pitches they can drive.
  3. The data. it's freakishly impossible that, out of 53 swings against Reyes' 4-seam, only three have been put in play. That is unsustainable. I haven't thoroughly researched it, but I can't believe that any pitcher at any point in history sustained that kind of deception with any pitch, much less a 91 mph fastball. it's a statistical anomaly. Not only that, but...
  4. Reyes' 2-seam fastball is setting up his 4-seam, making it much more effective than it would be if Reyes wasn't throwing the 2-seam at all. if hitters are expecting a sinking 88 mph 2-seamer, and get a 91 mph high heater instead, they might be fooled. if they are sitting on the 4-seamer the whole time, we would expect a lot more of those swings to result in balls-in-play. this is made even more true because Reyes' curveball is slop and he can't seem to consistently throw his changeup for a strike anymore. hitters are looking for his 2-seam because they know TLR/Dunc's philosophy and have scouted Reyes so far, so they are hitting it more effectively. this allows Reyes to sneak the 4-seamer past them, or force them to foul it off. but if Reyes stops throwing the 2-seam, everyone will sit on the 4-seam, and the deception will erode, making the 4-seam easier to hit.
  5. the data selection is deceptive. first of all, LB left out all fastballs from thigh-high to letter-high. a lot of these will probably be 4-seamers, as 2-seamers are supposed to break down and out of the K-zone (or at least to the bottom edge of it). if a pitch is belt-high, it's either a 4-seam or a mis-located 2-seam. by leaving out those pitches, LB is essentially examining the very top and very bottom of the strike zone and pitches outside the zone. not only that, but a letter-high pitch is rarely even called a strike anymore, and that's the bottom boundary of the "4-seam zone" that LB looked at. so the weird stat that only 3 4-seamers have been put in play gets a little context: a lot of those 4-seamers were balls. this would also help to explain why so many of the 4-seamers LB tracked were fouled off (60%) compared to the number of 2-seamers fouled off (30%). if Reyes starts throwing only 4-seam fastballs, he's going to have to bring them under the letters more to get more strikes called and the pitches will get hit harder.
i think i know what LB's intention was in leaving out all of the fastballs in between the thigh and the letters: it's harder to distinguish whether those pitches were 2-seam or 4-seam. but it's impossible to get a full grasp of the effectiveness of Reyes' fastballs without including all the data.

6. The problem isn't that Reyes throws the 2-seam; it's that he can't locate it. again, perhaps LB can shed some additional light on this question, but anecdotally, it seems like Reyes has less control with the 2-seam than with the 4-seam. This is not necessarily a reason to stop throwing the 2-seam, but it could be the reason Reyes was sent down to AAA to try to further hone the pitch in a situation where the result matters less. as i mentioned already, Reyes' AAA numbers last year and so far this year indicate that he's learned just about all he can from facing AAA hitters. but if he's down there to learn pitch mastery, then it makes more sense. i'd still rather him pitch up here than Wellemeyer or Wells, but the decision becomes a bit more logical if viewed in that light. if Reyes is having trouble throwing the 2-seam properly after having worked on it for nearly two years, then that isn't a problem with TLR/Dunc's philosophy; it's a problem with Reyes' ability. perhaps that's an argument in favor of junking of the 2-seam. but if TLR/Dunc believe that he can eventually master the pitch, then it can make him a better pitcher.

That's enough for now. But I would like to reiterate one thing. Reyes doesn't have a good breaking ball, and he has had trouble locating the changeup. Good fastball pitchers have great complimentary breaking balls (Carp, Santana, Pedro) or great complimentary secondary fastballs (Clemens, Carp, Wells, Rivera). There aren't too many guys who have had sustained success in the majors with one good pitch, one so-so pitch, & and one horrible pitch. without the 2-seam, that's Reyes' entire arsenal. in the short term, Reyes might be better without the 2-seam. in the long term, success will be more difficult to maintain without it.

please forgive any typos, misspellings, etc.

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