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A visual introduction to pitch sequencing with Carlos Martinez

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In which I introduce a project I’ve been working on this offseason...

MLB: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Carlos Martinez possesses a deep repertoire that is ideal for the utilization of pitch sequencing. He can dial up his fourseamer into the high-90’s and can subsequently pair the heater with a running high-80’s changeup or an ankle-breaking slider in the mid-80’s. The repertoire doesn’t stop there, either, as he also throws a mid-90’s sinker — with even more arm-side run than his changeup — and has seemingly added a high-70’s curveball (for the first time last season).

In case you missed it, Matthew Trueblood, of Baseball Prospectus, published a piece yesterday titled, “Rubbing Mud: Carlos Martinez, Tunnels, and PECOTA.” The article is undoubtedly very well put together and full of meaningful insight, but it is admittedly complex — particularly the tunneling metrics section — more complex than I try to be with my work. Don’t get me wrong, Trueblood did a great job at explaining what the metrics told us in “layman’s terms,” but the subject matter remains complicated (and developing) nonetheless.

Back when I first started blogging (especially prior to arriving here at Viva El Birdos), my goal was always to tackle something borderline complicated in pitching and do my best to make it easy to understand for all of my readers, not just the statistically-inclined ones. I feel like I do a decent job at achieving that goal most of the time, but I definitely still have room for improvement.

Well, for a handful of hours over the offseason, I gathered data from Martinez’s game logs on BrooksBaseball.net in hopes of eventually putting together a pitch sequencing piece. As referenced above, Trueblood beat me to said piece, and honestly, he did a much better job than I originally projected myself doing. That being said, I haven’t scrapped all that I have started and eventually plan on publishing my findings — with the help of visuals, of course.

And as a somewhat brief introduction, let’s take a layered look (via @cardinalsgifs) at two pitches in Martinez’s strikeout of 2016 American League batting champion Jose Altuve (BrooksBaseball At Bat) on August 17th.

Pitch number one — highlighted by the pink trail — is an 83.6 MPH slider with 9.34 inches of glove-side horizontal movement. Pitch number two — highlighted by the green trail — is a 94.4 MPH sinker with 9.18 inches of arm-side horizontal movement. Unfortunately, we do not have the privilege of viewing these two pitches through the lens of the Fox Sports Midwest Busch Stadium camera angle, so we cannot truly appreciate the magnitude of difference in horizontal movement. Instead, we must rely on the numbers provided by PitchF/x, and frankly, what we find is essentially Martinez’s peak movement differential at nearly 20 inches.

Now, I must confess that these two pitches aren’t exactly a “pitch sequence” as he threw a hanging slider inside for a ball between the two. However, this post serves as just an introduction to the topic, and given Martinez’s repertoire, he could very easily sequence these two pitches together — a pitch pair Trueblood discusses in his piece. Plus, the slider was the overall winner of my #BattleofthePitches bracket, so it doesn’t hurt to revisit the downright devastating pitch.

So, what’s next, you ask? Using BrooksBaseball.net, I have been tracking the two-pitch sequences of every single swing and miss Martinez induced last season. Martinez tallied 322 swings and misses last season, so as you’d suspect, it will still take some time before I have each one tabulated. The specifics of what I am looking at are pitch type, velocity (faster to slower, slower to faster), and location (in/out, up/down). After each whiff has been tracked, I will see if any trends can be determined — with sample size considerations, of course. Finally, I will have my favorite sequences GIF’d — similar to the one above — to better understand what opposing batters have to deal with when facing Martinez. Here’s to hoping we can get a better grasp of Carlos Martinez, starting pitcher, one step at a time.

Questions, comments, concerns? Feel free to include them below, and I will check them out tonight after work.

Again, credit to the great @cardinalsgifs for the GIF included in this piece.