Pitch F/X

Clayton Kershaw’s 2011 – Overview

If you were paying attention the last few seasons, it should have come as no surprise that Clayton Kershaw had the type of year he did in 2011. In each of his first three full big league seasons (2009-2011), the Dodgers’ left-handed starter has increased his season totals of strikeouts, innings pitched, and WAR. In addition to those counting stats, his BB/9 and WHIP have both decreased over the same period. As in most cases, stats (sabermetric in nature or otherwise) tell only part of the story.

You see, Kershaw is the only Cy Young Award Winner with the letters “c” and “y” in his first name (Zackary Grienke’s first name is actually Donald). Useless? Yes. But a very baseball-like piece of information.

Stats write the description of a player’s performance as it happens and with new metrics and concepts born each year, the predictive power of stats is increasing as well. Perhaps one of the most productive advances in baseball statdom is the introduction of Pitch F/X in October of 2006. Using a system of cameras invented by Sportvision, the trajectory, speed, and spin are recorded for each pitch thrown in the majors. MLB Advanced Media makes these data available to the public and they are extremely valuable for analyizing hitters and batters alike.

This is where I will attempt to begin with my amateur baseball analysis. With a background as an engineer, the physics of actual pitches meshed with the amazing number of data points make for an endless supply of explorations. With that in mind, I hope to lead off with my studies with a look at some of Kershaw’s 2011 Pitch F/X data. I am not sure exactly where it will end up, but the first order of business will be to examine his “stuff”. What pitches does he throw? What is his fastball velocity by inning? We’ll look at questions like these and probably some others as we begin to paint a picture of Kershaw’s 2011 Season.

That will serve as my tease for what will be the first in a series of posts. Until then, may spring training games fill the baseball-shaped void in your heart.

7 thoughts on “Clayton Kershaw’s 2011 – Overview

    1. There are a few places to find the raw data. One of them is straight from MLB Advanced Media. The second that I know if is the Pitch F/X tool over at Brooks Baseball. The downside to these two is that you can only get one game worth of data at a time.

      A guy named Joe Lefkowitz has a site with years worth of data. They are nice and searchable, too.

      You would probably be great at it with your mad database skills. I am eventually hoping to try my hand at SQL.


  1. Yeah a database is kinda what I was wondering about. If we could pull all the data together into a database we might be able to pull out some cool stats.


  2. I think the guys that do this for a living keep their own databases. I am hoping to learn as I go (I have started teaching myself R). Did you check out Joe’s site? Something like that would be super sweet. There are also databases for batted ball data, not just pitch F/X. If I had the time (ha!), there are a lot of ideas that I would like to act upon in this area.

    Is there a way to automatically pull the data from the MLBAM website each day into a database? Kind of like an automatic info grabber (there is probably a web/programming term for that).


  3. Yeah we could automate pulling the MLBAM data into a database. We would have to figure out what all the data in the xml feeds are, how they are all related, etc. But once all that data is coming in then making something like Joe’s site is just a matter of querying and math.


    1. @David – I am intrigued. This might warrant a phone discussion. Right now I am using Excel to do my number-crunching but have heard that databases are much better once you know how to use them. Check out this site. Is this what you meant by figuring what all the data are?


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