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Thread: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

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    Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2008/0...bannist-2.html

    Brian Bannister Q&A, Part 3

    Royals starter Brian Bannister recently answered some questions for MLBTR readers. This post concludes the series; also check out Part 1 and Part 2 of the Q&A. Brian clearly took extra time out to answer thoughtfully, and we thank him for it.

    MLBTR: Since you originally went to college as a position player, how do you use your experience in the batter's box and in the field to your advantage when you're pitching? Playing in the AL, do you miss hitting?

    Bannister: I think it is as important to know how a hitter thinks and operates as it is to be able to throw major league quality pitches. One area I have done a lot of work on is how a hitter sees a pitch, determines its speed and location, and decides whether or not to swing depending on the situation.

    To me, there are three types of pitchers that can be successful in the major leagues, each for different reasons. The one thing they share in common is that they all have a deception that makes it difficult for hitters to visually predict where the ball will be when it enters the hitting zone. If you think about it, a hitter does not actually see the ball hit his bat, he loses the ball a certain distance out in front of him and has to "guess" where it will end up. This is why repetition and good eyesight are important for a hitter, and why as pitchers we don't want to pitch in patterns. Hitters spend hours hitting off of pitching machines and BP pitchers, where there is no deception, and they are very good at it. Here are the three types of pitchers I have seen that can "deceive" Major League hitters and be successful:

    1. "Late Movers" - These pitchers have the ability to make the ball move in the zone after the hitter visually loses the ball either more than the average pitcher, in a different manner than the average pitcher, or in a completely random manner altogether. These are pitchers that throw cut fastballs ("cutters", such as Mariano Rivera), sinking fastballs ("sinkers", such as Chien-Ming Wang & Fausto Carmona), split-fingered fastballs ("splitters", such as Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, J.J. Putz & Dan Haren), knuckleballs (such as Tim Wakefield), or from an arm angle that puts more sidespin on the ball than backspin (such as Jake Peavy). If I could throw any pitch, it would be the split-fingered fastball, because the movement on it is unpredictable and is impossible to hit squarely every time. Unfortunately, it is also the most dangerous on the arm and requires large hands to take the strain off of the elbow. All these pitchers share the ability of having good "stuff", but their ball moves late in the zone more than anyone else in the game and is never straight.

    2. "Risers" - These pitchers are the most exciting to watch in baseball, because they have the appearance of "blowing away" hitters. To be a "riser", you have to have exceptional lower body flexibility and be able to pitch under control with a long stride. What "risers" do that other pitchers can't is they throw the ball on a plane with more upward tilt than average. In other words, their fastball appears to "rise" as passes through the hitting zone. What is actually happening is the hitter sees
    the ball, and he predicts that it is going to be lower based on past experience than it actually is. Pitchers that have this unique ability include: Josh Beckett, Jonathan Papelbon, John Maine, Scott Kazmir, Chris Young, Pedro Martinez, and my all-time favorite in this category, Nolan Ryan.

    3. "Deceivers" - These pitchers have a unique pitching motion that hides the ball longer than the average pitcher or makes it difficult for the hitter to determine the actual speed of the pitch. Most often, these pitchers are left-handed and stride across their body more than the average pitcher. Young pitchers can work on their deception by trying to keep their front shoulder closed longer, bringing their lead arm/glove in front of their release point, and making sure their throwing arm stays hidden behind the body. Pitchers that have mastered the art of deception are: Johan Santana, Tom Glavine, Erik Bedard, C.C. Sabathia, Oliver Perez, and my favorite deceiver/late mover hybrid, Greg Maddux.

    After studying and watching the best pitchers in the game for years, I have come up with these three categories that I believe all good pitchers fit into. If a pitcher is not having success, despite having great "stuff" I believe it is because he is not deceiving hitters the way that the pitchers above do. Major League hitters are in the big leagues for a reason, and it is our job as pitchers to find ways to get them out. Finding out which category you naturally fit into and working hard on developing that deception is the best way for a young pitcher to be successful in the long run.

    And yes, I do miss hitting.

    MLBTR: Are you familiar with the Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP) stat? It's been suggested that the percentage of batted balls that drop in for hits may be largely out of a pitcher's control. What are your thoughts on that?

    Bannister: I think a lot of fans underestimate how much time I spend working with statistics to improve my performance on the field. For those that don't know, the typical BABIP for starting pitchers in Major League Baseball is around .300 give or take a few points. The common (and valid) argument is that over the course of a pitcher's career, he can not control his BABIP from year-to-year (because it is random), but over a period of time it will settle into the median range of roughly .300 (the peak of the bell curve). Therefore, pitchers that have a BABIP of under .300 are due to regress in subsequent years and pitchers with a BABIP above .300 should see some improvement (assuming they are a Major League Average pitcher).

    Because I don't have enough of a sample size yet (service time), I don't claim to be able to beat the .300 average year in and year out at the Major League level. However, I also don't feel that every pitcher is hopelessly bound to that .300 number for his career if he takes some steps to improve his odds - which is what pitching is all about.

    One thing that I work a lot with, and that is not factored into common statistical analysis, is what counts a pitcher pitches in most often - regardless of what type of "stuff" he has. Most stats only measure results, not the situations in which those results occurred. In the common box score, an RBI is an RBI, but it doesn't show the count, number of outs, and number of runners on base when it occurred. For me, the area where pitchers have the most opportunity to improve or be better than average is in their count leverage.

    Let me give the fans and young pitchers out there one example of a way that I try to improve my performance, this time with regards to BABIP.

    Question to myself: Does a hitter have the same BABIP in a 2-1 count that he does in an 0-2, 1-2, or 2-2 count? How does his batting average and OBP/SLG/OPS differ when he has two strikes on him vs zero or one strike?

    These are the type of questions that I will come up with and employ in my starts to see if I can improve my outings. For example, here are my career numbers in the counts mentioned above:

    2-1: .380 (19/50)
    1-2: .196 (20/102)
    2-2: .171 (18/105)
    0-2: .057 (3/53)

    It is obvious that hitters, even at the Major League level, do not perform as well when the count is in the pitcher's favor, and vice-versa. This is because with two strikes, a hitter HAS to swing at a pitch in the strike zone or he is out, and he must also make a split-second decision on whether a borderline pitch is a strike or not, reducing his ability to put a good swing on the ball. What this does is take away a hitter's choice. If I throw a curveball with two strikes, the hitter has to swing if the pitch is in the strike zone, whether he is good at hitting a curveball or not. He also does not have a choice on location. We are all familiar with Ted Williams' famous strike zone averages at the Baseball Hall of Fame. It is well-known that a pitch knee-high on the outside corner will not have the same batting average or OBP/SLG/OPS as one waist-high right down the middle. Here is a comparison of the batting averages and slugging percentage on my fastball vs. my curveball:

    Fastball: .246/.404
    Curveball: .184/.265

    The important thing to note is that, with two strikes, if I throw a curveball for a strike, the hitter has to swing at it (and I like those numbers). How does a pitcher use this to his advantage? By throwing strikes and keeping the advantage on his side as often as possible. It seems like such a simple solution, yet so much more emphasis is placed on "stuff" nowadays and this is often not reinforced. When a pitcher who has great "stuff" employs this line of thinking, his numbers will improve to an even greater degree.

    So, to finally answer the question about BABIP, if we look at the numbers above, how can a Major League pitcher try and beat the .300 BABIP average? By pitching in 0-2, 1-2, & 2-2 counts more often than the historical averages of pitchers in the Major Leagues. Until a pitcher reaches two strikes, he has no historical statistical advantage over the hitter. In fact, my batting averages against in 0-1, 1-0, & 1-1 counts are .297/.295/.311 respectively, very close to the roughly .300 average.

    My explanation for why I have beat the average so far is that in my career I have been able to get a Major League hitter to put the ball in play in a 1-2 or 0-2 count 155 times, and in a 2-0 or 2-1 count 78 times. That's twice as often in my favor, & I'll take those odds.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    He should pull his head out of the stats book and watch a game every once and a while....
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    You won't beat BABIP by pitching in more "pitcher's counts", otherwise some pitchers would already be doing it.

    You will get more strikeouts and give up less HR's by increasing the percentage of "pitcher's counts" you have, but only luck can help you beat BABIP.

    Otherwise, you would have the better pitchers (who, I assume, get batters to hit when counts are in the pitcher's favour more often than the lesser pitchers) having better BABIP.

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    One and a half men Patrick Bateman's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Great article, but I question the definign result by Bannister. That he has beaten the average BAPIP by putting more pitchers count pitches in play than hitters counts.

    But that's not the point with BAPIP. The reason his batting average agains tis so low in pitchers counts is not because of BAPIP, but because he can get strikeouts in those situations. Makes no mention of varying BAPIP's in those situations. If defeating BAPIP only required more favourable counts then the best pitchers would consistently post the best BAPIP's.

    EDIT: I see my dad beat me to posing the same question.

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    Posting in Dynarama M2's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Talk about an easy guy to root for.
    Baseball isn't a magic trick ... it doesn't get spoiled if you figure out how it works. - gonelong

    I'm witchcrafting everybody.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Do you all agree with the three types of pitchers? One thing that came to mind when he talked about guys with good stuff getting beat on, he brought to mind two Reds--Matt Belisle and Kyle Lohse. Both seem to have the goods to get major league hitters out, but perhaps have not been able to tap into the deception part of pitching. And, for what can only be explained as cognitive dissonance, they probably have been taught decpetion principles but have not been able to practice them.

    Same thing with the ongoing search hitters have for tipping pitches, which our Todd Coffey has been called out for but was unable to fix last season.

    Interesting read.

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    I don't think it's three types of pitchers, but rather three ways in which pitchers can be effective. The basic premise being, if guys know where and when the ball is, they will hit it. Thus, the way to pitch effectively is to make the hitter struggle to identify where the ball will be and when it will be there. Sometimes doing that means encouraging lower quality contact (Chris Young and Brandon Webb) and sometimes it means avoiding contact altogether. I think it's fair to say that pitchers use each of these methods, some more effectively than others.

    I wonder where velocity fits in. Is it perhaps a type of deceit in which the batter is unable to properly account for when the ball will arrive at it's location?
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    I wonder where velocity fits in. Is it perhaps a type of deceit in which the batter is unable to properly account for when the ball will arrive at it's location?
    I think that velocity, in and of itself, means squat to a major league hitter. If you cranked up a pitching machine all the way, I would bet that most MLB hitters could hit it after a few swings. Billy Koch could throw the ball harder than nearly anyone but got tagged because he threw the thing almost impossibly straight.

    What velocity does accomplish is decrease the amount of movement necessary to provide deception. A batter has little to no ability to change the arc of his swing once it begins. Therefore, the longer a batter can wait to start his swing, the better the chance that he will correctly guess the location of the ball as it passes through the hitting zone.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Heeler View Post
    I think that velocity, in and of itself, means squat to a major league hitter. If you cranked up a pitching machine all the way, I would bet that most MLB hitters could hit it after a few swings. Billy Koch could throw the ball harder than nearly anyone but got tagged because he threw the thing almost impossibly straight.

    What velocity does accomplish is decrease the amount of movement necessary to provide deception. A batter has little to no ability to change the arc of his swing once it begins. Therefore, the longer a batter can wait to start his swing, the better the chance that he will correctly guess the location of the ball as it passes through the hitting zone.
    So you would put it in the "Late Movement category" -- it's harder to square up the bat on the ball because of how it moves after it leaves your field of vision.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Hey Cubs Fans RFS62's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Man, I love smart ballplayers.

    Great read.
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
    ~ Mark Twain

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by RedsManRick View Post
    So you would put it in the "Late Movement category" -- it's harder to square up the bat on the ball because of how it moves after it leaves your field of vision.
    It really changes the definition of "late" in late movement. I think that once a batter starts the bat forward, that he has little ability to alter the arc of the swing. Let's call that the "moment of truth."

    For a pitcher throwing 85 miles per hour, the ball is traveling at 124.67 feet/sec. It takes that pitch 0.485 seconds to reach the plate. A power hitter with a quick bat takes 0.17 seconds to get the bat from cocked position to the hitting zone. That means that he can see the pitch for 0.315 seconds or 39.31 feet before he swings. That means that the pitcher has to get his late movement in the last 21 feet of the ball's flight.

    For a pitcher that throws 95 MPH, the ball is traveling at 139.33 ft/sec. The batter gets 0.264 seconds or 36.8 feet before he swings. The pitcher has 23' 8" worth of ball flight to get "late" movement. In addition, since the batter has 0.05 seconds less time to judge the flight, his "guess" of the pitches final location is likely to be less accurate.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns View Post
    Great article, but I question the definign result by Bannister. That he has beaten the average BAPIP by putting more pitchers count pitches in play than hitters counts.

    But that's not the point with BAPIP. The reason his batting average agains tis so low in pitchers counts is not because of BAPIP, but because he can get strikeouts in those situations. Makes no mention of varying BAPIP's in those situations. If defeating BAPIP only required more favourable counts then the best pitchers would consistently post the best BAPIP's.

    EDIT: I see my dad beat me to posing the same question.

    Well the counter argument is that by being in a pither's count allows for the pitcher to work outside the zone and the batter should be taking weaker swings and thereby be less able to drive the ball. Stirkeouts are not taken into account with BABIP because by definition you are only lookiing at balls in play which a strikeout is not. For an example look at WMP's 2006 BABIP. The strength of the stat is that it should show luck because you assume that once a ball is in play that the pitcher's job is done and the outcome is out of the pitcher's control ( no walk or k) But a pitcher can control the outcome to a degree by getting weak swings, mistimed swings, etc. This is done by the pitcher being unpredictable, overpowering, in a position where he doesn't have to give in to the batter, or in a position where the batter has to be defensive.
    Last edited by klw; 01-29-2008 at 10:53 PM.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by Red Heeler View Post
    It really changes the definition of "late" in late movement. I think that once a batter starts the bat forward, that he has little ability to alter the arc of the swing. Let's call that the "moment of truth."

    For a pitcher throwing 85 miles per hour, the ball is traveling at 124.67 feet/sec. It takes that pitch 0.485 seconds to reach the plate. A power hitter with a quick bat takes 0.17 seconds to get the bat from cocked position to the hitting zone. That means that he can see the pitch for 0.315 seconds or 39.31 feet before he swings. That means that the pitcher has to get his late movement in the last 21 feet of the ball's flight.

    For a pitcher that throws 95 MPH, the ball is traveling at 139.33 ft/sec. The batter gets 0.264 seconds or 36.8 feet before he swings. The pitcher has 23' 8" worth of ball flight to get "late" movement. In addition, since the batter has 0.05 seconds less time to judge the flight, his "guess" of the pitches final location is likely to be less accurate.
    Assuming equal release points (see Johnson, Randy)

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    Stat Wanker Hodiernus RedsManRick's Avatar
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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Good stuff Red Heeler. So that again makes me think it's more similar to deception. One way to reduce the time the player has to read the ball is to hide it from him so he cannot pick it up as quickly (sneaky fast). Another is simple velocity. The effect is similar -- a reduction in the amount of the time the batter has before committing to a swing plane. If you get a guy like Randy Johnson, a tall lefty throwing across his body at 100 mph, you're pretty much screwed.
    Games are won on run differential -- scoring more than your opponent. Runs are runs, scored or prevented they all count the same. Worry about scoring more and allowing fewer, not which positions contribute to which side of the equation or how "consistent" you are at your current level of performance.

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    Re: Brian Bannister - On Pitching

    Quote Originally Posted by Austin Kearns View Post
    EDIT: I see my dad beat me to posing the same question.
    You'd think you'd learn by now.....:


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