Statcast Detective: Top High-Ball Pitchers

In 2018, Dave Sheinin wrote about a hitting change in Major League baseball. More hitters, he said, were becoming “becoming launch-angle disciples.”

More batters are focusing not only on hitting the ball hard, but hitting the ball high into the air. The average launch angle — the angle at which the ball flies after being hit — rose from 10.5 degrees in 2015 to 11.5 degrees in 2016.

Dave Sheinin —

To counter that change, pitchers responded by throwing “fewer sinkers, fewer low pitches, more breaking balls, more four-seam fastballs, more high pitches.”

Their pitches were elevating.

Using Statcast Search, I first investigated how many pitches in 2019 were in the upper portion of the Attack Zones. The graphic below from shows the nine zones in the “high-ball” area, zones 11-13, 21-23, and 31-33. All are above the heart zone, which is lavender-colored. The heart zone pictures the heart of the plate.

The first question to be researched is From 2017 to 2019, how many pitches were thrown in the “high-ball” area?

To answer it, these Statcast Settings were used:

  • Player Type: Pitcher
  • Group By: League and Year
  • Attack Zones: 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 31, 32, 33
  • Season: 2017, 2018, 2019
  • Season Type: Regular
YearPitchesTotalPitch %

Since 2017, the percentage of high-ball pitches increased from 15.4% to 16.8% as the number increased by 11,891. An unexpected result is that the total number of pitches also increased from 2017 to 2019 by 11,230, but that is a topic for another post.

Throwing balls high has its risks.

Sheinen’s article includes this Bud Black quote:

“It’s still dangerous throwing the ball up in the zone. That hasn’t changed,” said Colorado Rockies Manager Bud Black, a former pitcher. “You have to throw it at the right height. If you throw it too high they’ll take it [for a ball], but if you miss it low, they’ll crush it. It isn’t for everybody. There are pitchers whose style and stuff allows them to pitch up there, guys we identify as highball pitchers, and we encourage them.”

That led to the second question: In 2019 which pitchers took that risk the most and what were the results?

Revised Statcast Search Settings

  • Player Type: Pitcher
  • Group By: Player Name
  • Attack Zones: 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 23, 31, 32, 33
  • Season: 2019
  • Season Type: Regular

Here are the top 10 pitchers in 2019 ordered by number of high-ball pitches they threw.

PlayerPitchesTotalPitch %
Trevor Bauer875368723.7
Gerrit Cole869336225.8
Jake Odorizzi826278729.6
Rick Porcello793296026.8
Steven Matz745270227.6
Justin Verlander745344821.6
Caleb Smith743266127.9
Reynaldo Lopez708316322.4
Jacob deGrom699329721.2
Jordan Lyles698245628.4

Minnesota Twins starter Jake Odorizzi led the Top 10 in high-ball percent, nudging 30%. Last season, he also had his personal bests in won-lost percentage (.682), strikeouts per nine innings (10.1), and wins (15). Surprisingly, his 2019 Pitch % of 29.6% was not his career high. In 2017 with the Rays it was 30.3%; however, his won-lost record was 10-8, so just keeping pitching high may not have been the main cause of his increased success in 2019. But that too is a topic for another post’s investigation.

Given that in 2019 Odorizzi’s improved by 114% the number of games he won in the previous season, did the other members of the Top 10 experience a similar gain?

Eight of the Top 10 won more games in 2019 than in 2018, Trevor Bauer failing to match his 2018 win total by one game though he started six more games, a league switch likely the cause. He had a winning record with the Indians, but then a losing one with the Reds. In addition, Rick Porcello had three fewer wins in 2019 though starting only one fewer games.

Trevor Bauer12-611-13
Gerrit Cole15-520-5
Jake Odorizzi7-1015-7
Rick Porcello17-714-12
Steven Matz5-1111-10
Justin Verlander16-921-6
Caleb Smith5-610-11
Reynaldo Lopez7-1010-15
Jacob deGrom10-911-8
Jordan Lyles3-412-8
Won-Lost records for Top 10 high-ball pitchers in 2019

To be continued

Football Giants Losing the Draft Game

A recent article on had this title: “Giants’ late-round draft record among NFL’s worst with Jerry Reese at GM.” The article was a followup to a question to Giants GM Jerry Reese about the Giants’ poor draft performance in the lower rounds: “Have you researched that? Do you know that for a fact?” Reese said. “OK, until you know that for a fact, then I don’t think you should say that. That’s just my opinion. If you know that for a fact, then you can tell me that. But give me the facts on that.”

The author of the article, Jordan Raanan, did just that. Followup research revealed that the Giants ranked near the bottom from 2007-13 in Rounds 3-7. (See Raanan’s article for the details.)

But how could Reese NOT know that? Doesn’t his department gather data on their draft performance versus the other NFL teams? If they do, isn’t he aware of it? Worse, if they don’t, why not?

Here are some of the Giants recent draft busts:

  • Damontre Moore (Round 3)
  • Adrien Robinson (Round 4)
  • Brandon Mosley (Round 4)
  • Marvin Austin (Round 2)
  • Jerell Jernigan (Round 3)
  • James Brewer (Round 4)
  • Phillip Dillard (Round 4)
  • Clint Simtim (Round 2)
  • Ramses Barden (Round 3)

Here are some of their recent draft misses:

  • In 2013 they drafted Damontre Moore in Round 3. Still available when they drafted: Logan Ryan and Jordan Reed.
  • In 2012 they drafted Reuben Randle in Round 2. Still available when they drafted: Dwayne Allen and Mohamed Sanu.
  • In 2012 they drafted Jayron Hosley in Round 3. Still available when they drafted: Lamar Miller and Bobby Massie.
  • In 2012 they drafted Adrien Robinson and Brandon Mosley in Round 4: Still available when they drafted: Josh Norman and Alfred Morris.
  • And so on





Have the football Giants off-season moves been offensive?

As a football Giants fan, after observing Jerry Reese’s 2015 free agency moves to date, I fully expect next season’s team to again NOT make the playoffs despite Odell Beckham’s presence. 

The Giants are a team with a quarterback who makes poor decisions under pressure. In 2014, his quarterback rating when not under pressure, according to Pro Football Focus, was 100.7; but when Manning was under pressure, watch out: His QB rating dropped to 58.6. (Remember last season’s five-interception game against the 49ers. I still cannot believe that Coughlin left him in the game long enough to throw five. Just shows Coughlin’s confidence in backup Ryan Nassib.) 
But back to Manning. Given the huge difference that a good offensive line  can make (such as the Cowboys have), I hoped the Giants would use the off-season to upgrade their line. But what have they done? One thing is they signed a CFL center. Another is they cut J. D. Walton. Then, in free agency, they signed Marshall Newhouse. His 2013 Pro Football Focus rating for the regular season was -9.7, lower than even Guy Whimper’s. (Remember him?) And Newhouse’s PFF rating after the 2014 season: -11.6. According to, “Newhouse has never received a positive score from PFF for a full season.” Then, they resigned John Jerry. Dan Graziano of ESPN wrote that Jerry’s “Pro Football Focus run-blocking grade was minus-16.4 [that’s how Graziano typed it], which ranked him No. 76 on the list of 78 guards who played at least 25 percent of their team’s snaps.” Those moves do not seem ones that will lessen how often Manning will be under pressure. 
Again, when Manning’s feeling the pressure, poor decisions too often result. When Manning starts making poor decisions, the Giants are more likely to lose the game. The more games they lose, the less likely it is that they will make the playoffs. How many more seasons will that have to happen for the Giants to realize — and remedy — a primary cause: the offensive line?

A Look at the Giants Offensive Line

The football Giants are in trouble, and the preseason hasn’t even begun. They apparently failed to anticipate that they would need to release both Shaun O’Hara and Rich Seubert and are now desperately trying to improve their offensive line. They’ve signed Davis Baas to play center, have moved Diehl to guard and Beatty to left tackle, a position he didn’t excel at last season. To compound their offensive line problems, for their first draft choice in 2011 they selected a cornerback though some excellent offensive linemen were available. Their reasoning: he was a better value. That thinking might backfire this season. As a result of their failure to anticipate, they’re now going after undrafted and waived linemen. Their latest acquisition, Herman Johnson, a 360 pound guard drafted in 2009 who’s previously failed with both the Bears and the Cardinals and has yet to play in an NFL game.