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Comparing horizontal pitch movement across the National League Central

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to pitching (specifically pitch analysis), there are five major topics to consider: 1) pitch type, 2) velocity, 3) location, 4) movement, and 5) sequencing. One of the my favorite topics is movement, and thanks to PitchF/x, through the public medium of, we are able to put a number on the movement of every single pitch thrown across Major League Baseball (since 2007).

For this exploratory exercise, I took the pitch with the most arm-side movement and the pitch with the most glove-side movement for each projected starting pitcher in the National League Central and grouped them together by starting rotation. Independently, the horizontal movement of a pitch is not all that meaningful, but when you have a direct comparator (i.e. another pitch in the same pitcher's repertoire), you begin to learn about the inner workings of the pitch and subsequently what makes it so effective (or even ineffective, for that matter).

My main thought process behind this article was to be present very early information on the process of determining the importance of utilizing different pitch movements, within and among starting rotations. For example, if Carlos Martinez throws strike two with a changeup breaking down and in to a right-handed hitter, just how much different does a wipeout slider look for strike three on the very next pitch? What effect (if any) did the pitch immediately prior (changeup) have on the hitter's ability to pick up the strike three pitch (slider)? As you can see in the table below, the magnitude of difference between an average Martinez changeup and an average Martinez slider is 23.48 inches, so clearly, the strike three pitch looks much different than the strike two pitch to the hitter.

As you can see from the example provided above, this exercise is no longer limited to solely pitch movement, but rather, it strays to sequencing as well. Sequencing is still very much an evolving topic of baseball discussion, and as more people (who are much smarter than me) write about it, I hope we can take today's post ten steps further. Pitches naturally move in different directions. This is not rocket science. Pitchers clearly already know that (and have known that since the very first non-fastball was thrown). Pitchers strategize their tactics against opposing hitters based on this very fact. Yet, as more and more information becomes available (honestly, what is not yet available publicly is likely already available, to some extent at least, to MLB organizations), can pitchers take it one step further by utilizing information seen through the eyes of PitchF/x?

Remember: Regarding horizontal movement in right-handed pitchers, a negative value means arm-side movement, whereas a positive value means glove-side movement. It is the exact opposite for left-handed pitchers.

Projected Rotation of the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals

Pitcher Arm-Side (in.) Glove-Side (in.) Difference (in.)
Adam Wainwright Sinker (-11.44) Curveball (16.11) 27.55
Carlos Martinez Changeup (-13.61) Slider (9.87) 23.48
Jaime Garcia (L) Changeup (13.57) Curveball (-6.57) 20.14
Mike Leake Changeup (-12.17) Curveball (12.71) 24.88
Michael Wacha Changeup (-9.56) Curveball (7.12) 16.68
Starting Rotation Average 12.07 10.48 22.55

Projected Rotation of the 2016 Pittsburgh Pirates (via RosterResource)

Pitcher Arm-Side (in.) Glove-Side (in.) Difference (in.)
Francisco Liriano (L) Changeup (14.03) Slider (-1.67) 15.7
Gerrit Cole Sinker (-12.93) Curveball (14.37) 27.3
Jonathon Niese (L) Sinker (14.79) Curveball (-4.73) 19.52
Juan Nicasio Fourseamer (-7.25) Slider (4.28) 11.53
Ryan Vogelsong Changeup (-11.9) Curveball (3.95) 15.85
Starting Rotation Average 12.18 5.8 17.98

Projected Rotation of the 2016 Chicago Cubs (via RosterResource)

Pitcher Arm-Side (in.) Glove-Side (in.) Difference (in.)
Jake Arrieta Changeup (-13.56) Curveball (11.65) 25.21
Jon Lester (L) Changeup (13.67) Curveball (-9.21) 22.88
John Lackey Sinker (-12.65) Curveball (9.21) 21.86
Jason Hammel Changeup (-11.48) Curveball (10.87) 22.35
Kyle Hendricks Sinker (-8.92) Curveball (11.3) 20.22
Starting Rotation Average 12.06 10.45 22.51

Projected Rotation of the 2016 Cincinnati Reds (via RosterResource)

Pitcher Arm-Side (in.) Glove-Side (in.) Difference (in.)
Raisel Iglesias Sinker (-14.16) Slider (10.24) 24.4
Brandon Finnegan (L) Sinker (13.3) Slider (-6.65) 19.95
Jon Moscot Sinker (-11.78) Curveball (7.61) 19.39
Alfredo Simon Sinker (-12.8) Curveball (10.14) 22.94
Anthony DeSclafani Sinker (-12.3) Curveball (7.89) 20.19
Starting Rotation Average 12.87 8.51 21.38

Projected Rotation of the 2016 Milwaukee Brewers (via RosterResource)

Pitcher Arm-Side (in.) Glove-Side (in.) Difference (in.)
Wily Peralta Sinker (-10.54) Slider (3.08) 13.62
Jimmy Nelson Sinker (-11.94) Curveball (8.43) 20.37
Matt Garza Sinker (-9.91) Curveball (8.4) 18.31
Taylor Jungmann Sinker (-9.61) Curveball (14.49) 24.02
Chase Anderson Changeup (-14.87) Curveball (7.07) 21.94
Starting Rotation Average 11.37 8.29 19.66

Admittedly, this is largely a think piece. Given that we are less than a week away from real baseball, I considered it a good time to hopefully initiate some discussion on the matter. What are your thoughts on pitch movement (horizontal movement shown in this piece), pitch sequencing, and potentially pitch tunneling? What effects do they have on pitchers' success? With the advancement of data, is there an avenue of advancement for pitchers with the way they can attack opposing hitters? Please include your thoughtful responses below (plus the regular VEB Daily discussion).

In case you missed it, Craig published this incredibly thorough season preview yesterday.

As always, credit to for making each pitcher's dragless horizontal movement data so easily accessible.