Comparing the Fastballs, Sinkers of Carlos Martinez and Jose Fernandez

Favorite this, favorite that... - Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

We all know Carlos Martinez has an amazingly fast and strong right arm. We all know why his arm is so fast and so strong, too, thanks to recent events on the internets. Now it's time to quantify just how fast and how strong that arm really is (This title was creatively constructed by the one and only RB).

With Carlos Martinez facing off against 2013 National League Rookie of the Year Jose Fernandez (source: this appears to be one of fink's dream matchups) tomorrow in the first game of Spring Training, let's take a closer look at their repertoires—specifically their fastballs and sinkers. Both of these pitchers are considered to be in the "elite" category of the MLB when it comes to their fastballs and sinkers. However, which one is faster? Which one moves more? Which one leads to more whiffs per swing?


The national baseball audience would probably pick Fernandez, and no one can really blame them. He was the best rookie pitcher last season, and based on Cy Young Award voting, he was the third best pitcher overall in the National League. However, with this being a Cardinals community, we know better. We've seen the ridiculous amount of movement on each of Martinez's pitches firsthand. We've seen well-seasoned MLB hitters look like awestruck little leaguers.

Let's look at the four-seam fastball (FB) and sinker (SI) data:

Pitcher

FB Velo.

FB H-mov.

FB Whiffs/Sw

SI Velo.

SI H-mov.

SI Whiffs/Sw

Carlos Martinez

97.63 MPH

-6.15 inches

15.13%

95.60 MPH

-9.57 inches

24.30%

Jose Fernandez

95.12 MPH

-4.69 inches

16.06%

93.20 MPH

-8.54 inches

16.46%

Four-seam Fastball:

Looking at raw data not shown in the table, Martinez threw his fastball 278 times (43.99%, includes playoffs) in 2013 while Fernandez threw his 1,306 times (50.74%). Thus, it's safe to say both are fastball-dominant pitchers, and for good reason considering both have damn good fastballs. However, Martinez's is both faster (by 2.51 MPH) and has more movement (by 1.46 inches). Are these differences due to the fact that Martinez largely appeared out of the 'pen and subsequently had a fresher arm for the majority of his innings pitched? Maybe, but it appears the data from his lone start last season (albeit only 4.2 IP) is pretty similar to the averages found in the table above.

Despite being faster and having more movement, Fernandez's fastball led to whiffs per swing at a slightly higher rate (+0.93%). The only reasoning I can come up with is the fact that Fernandez was more advanced as a pitcher than Martinez last season. I know stats people don't like to hear verbal conclusions like that, but I am not the first person to use the "thrower not a pitcher" label on Martinez's performance last season. In my opinion, with the amount of velocity and movement Martinez has on his fastball, his whiffs per swing should be much higher than ~15%. Jason Motte, whose fastball is straighter and slower than CMart's, has accumulated a whiffs per swing percentage nearly double that of Martinez over the course of his career.

Sinker:

Martinez threw his sinker 204 times (32.28%) in 2013, and Fernandez threw his 175 times (6.80%). I realize these usage percentages are quite different, but I'm comparing the averages, so statistically, it shouldn't even matter. On average, Martinez's sinker was 2.4 MPH faster than Fernandez's and had 1.03 more inches of movement. Martinez's whiffs per swing percentage was nearly eight percentage points higher than Fernandez's.

Why is there such a disparity here when there wasn't one when comparing their four-seam fastballs? Again, I don't really have a concrete answer for this because both still have plus velocity and plus movement. However, it now makes sense why Martinez throws his sinker so often. Not only does it lead to one whiff every four swings, but it also leads to very few line drives (2.45%). If Martinez finds himself in the rotation this season and is unable to produce more whiffs on his four-seam fastball, I would suggest him transitioning towards throwing more sinkers. He already throws it a lot (32.28%), but I could see it being extremely beneficial as his most used pitch.

Reasoning Behind Not Comparing Their Breaking Balls:

In short, I felt the "need for speed" this morning. All right, that's not the real reason, but rather, I didn't compare the two pitchers' breaking balls because they have two different classifications under the PITCH f/x system. Martinez throws a "slider" while Fernandez throws a "curveball." Though both are similar (hard breaking balls around ~80 MPH), I did not feel comfortable grouping them together as if they were the same pitch. Without getting into the numbers too much, both pitches were effective last season (Martinez: 3.23 LD% against, Fernandez: 2.51 LD% against), and I expect them to be vital parts of each pitcher's repertoire again this season.

Conclusion:

I look forward to watching CMart grow and develop as a pitcher this season. You better believe I will be writing a piece just like this during the next off-season.

Credit to BrooksBaseball.net for the data included in this post.

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