The Mockingbird

We’ve Got a Nasty Litsch

with 10 comments

Ok, I’m a day behind…remember this quote from the Royal’s manager?

“If you’ve never stood in there against the stuff that Litsch has,” Royals manager Trey Hillman said, “then you don’t have an understanding of just how nasty it can be.”

Was he giving due credit or defending his swooning team from a terrible performance against a run-of-the-mill 5th starter? Let’s see…

I usually clean up the pitch types a little, but I thought I’d leave them in just to show what a god awful time a multi-million pitch tracking apparatus has of figuring out what kinds of pitches Litsch throws. It flips between slider and fastball for what we know are all cutters in the middle, and then doesn’t really have a clue about whether he’s throwing a sinker or not. I’m not sure does either, really. It’s amazing to see that the difference in movement on the fastballs he throws (which all sit at about the same velocity) stretches about 2 feet from side to side. I don’t know about nasty- how about awkward?

Before the season started, I was pretty adamant that Litsch wasn’t ready for the big time. In my defense, that was mostly due to him not having a consistent breaking pitch from one start to the next like we saw yesterday, and throwing a cutter 80% of the time. He still leans on it more that is generally considered acceptable, but maybe we’re seeing a new kind of pitcher here- a “cutterballer” atarter? (A la Mariano Riviera).

The cutter is certainly the new splitter- it’s saved/created more than a few Jay careers I can think of off the top of my head (Hentgen, Chacin, Loaiza) — at least until it turns the pitchers arm into goo…


Written by halejon

May 25, 2008 at 5:40 pm

Posted in Seriousness

10 Responses

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  1. Can you please explain why a cutter is more tiresome on the arm than a regular fastball? And while you are at it, can you explain to me the difference between a 2 and 4 seamer? Thanks.


    May 26, 2008 at 2:55 am

  2. Sure…a cutter is like a mini-slider (in Litsch’s case, not so mini). You’re not really snapping the wrist, but still anything with that kind of “turn the doorknob” release is hard on the elbow (as opposed to a curve which is rolled over) because it pronates it. Just try flinging your arm straight down and then doing it with a little twist at the end, and you can almost feel your tendons starting to turn into spaghetti.

    The Screwball is by far the worst, then the slider (try to think of a pitcher who has thrown a nasty slider over a long career). Incidentally, Jesse Carlson is another pitcher who literally throws a slider almost every pitch.

    A 4 seamer is just a normal, straight, fastball. A two-seamer is held along the seams instead of across them, so it tends to “tail” and sink away from the pitcher’s body as long as you throw it hard enough. I throw from a 3/4 arm slot so my pitches have always done that naturally- if I put my fingers along the seams and gun it, then I get enough movement to totally lose what little control I have…


    May 26, 2008 at 3:56 am

  3. re: carlson
    if it works, keep throwing it, right?

    Navin Vaswani

    May 26, 2008 at 10:36 am

  4. To go alittle further in explaining the difference between a 2 seamer and 4 seamer.

    A 4 seamer is gripped across the widest part of the ball with the seams spinning over one another as the ball approaches the batter.

    What happens is the batter essentially only sees the seams and thus an illusion is created that the ball is a little smaller then it actually is (throwing off the batters timing a bit).

    This is contrasted with virtually every other pitch which normally shows some white, some where. (Except for maybe some 12 – 6 curveballs from a pitcher with a straight over the top delivery? What do you think Jon?).

    The 2 seamer is truly a wonderful pitch. I’m not sure why every youth coach in the world doesn’t teach their young pitchers the 2 seamer and a change-up to go with their bread and butter. It would save a lot of arms, teach the importance of changing speeds, and well, make life tougher for hitters, which is ironically the goal of a pitcher.

    Growing up I could always get my 2 seamer to either tail away from a righty or break in on their hands depending on which finger I threw it “off” (applied the most pressure with). This was the only thing that made me successful as a pitcher until my lack of velocity was just too much to overcome (round the age of 17).

    I’m wondering now if maybe what I thought was one of my “2 seamers” was a weaker version of a cutter.

    And I can’t stress it enough, to anyone who really enjoys pitching, read The Art of Pitching, by Mr. Tom Seaver. It’s awesome. Especially when he takes you through a game at the end and talks about what he was thinking before just about every pitch and what his objective was with each batter.


    May 26, 2008 at 11:54 am

  5. Hello:

    I am new to your blog and enjoy it. However, could you label the axes in your graphs, or provide an easy-to-find explanation on the side bar of the blog? I studied statistics in university but feel stupid that I can’t figure things out. I went to “how to read this thing” — thanks for this. At first, I thought the y-axis was number of feet from the ground (you mention 1.6 feet which is the batter’s knees), and the x-axis was the number of feet from the centre of the strike zone, but I guess not based on today’s graph. Or, is -10 = 10 inches below the batter’s knees?
    Also, where do you get your data?


    Garry S

    May 26, 2008 at 12:26 pm

  6. zeppelinkm: I know some breaking pitches are pretty much all white but you can see a red dot because the ball is spinning on it’s axis around that point (the “dime slider”). Although I have to admit the only good sliders I’ve seen I’ve been too busy throwing up to pick up a tiny speck on the ball. A 12-6 you can see the seams tumble over on the way to the plate.

    Totally agree about the 2-seamer. Curveballs are sexy and it’s really cool to be able to do that to a ball when you’re growing up, but who can throw them for strikes at that age anyway and hitters just look at them. But the 2-seamer is so easy to throw and the Change is the most underrated pitch in baseball and easier on the arm. It’s not even a cop out “until your older you can throw the real pitches” because MLB is starting to come around to how effective they are.

    I’ve heard that the Doc does that pressure finger thing to differentiate between a cutter and a two seamer, and otherwise throws it exactly the same way.


    May 26, 2008 at 12:41 pm

  7. Garry: Sure, thanks for the feedback. I was meaning to put that guide on the side but have lazed. I’ll add something about the axes.

    I think the confusion is this post is a movement graph. Otherwise, you’re bang on. So the Y axis is vertical movement and the X horizontal in comparison to (-5,10) being a straight fastball.

    All the data is here:

    It’s a little confusing XLM but there are guides and a reasonably easy way to get it into a database if you’re really interested.


    May 26, 2008 at 12:46 pm

  8. Great job on the blog,

    I am a new casual reader and love the insight, keep it up!

    I am currently in Germany and do not consider the amount of money that costs as reasonable compared to the amount of games I will actually watch, so I resort to gameday which brings my next question:

    Is it me or did marcum not throw as many changeups?


    May 27, 2008 at 10:14 am

  9. Hey Jon – You should share your pitch ID issues with Litsch with Ross Paul from MLBAM. He’s always looking for examples of missed pitch ID’s so he can improve his model. ID’ing pitches in real time is no small task.


    May 29, 2008 at 10:19 pm

  10. Any idea where I’d find his email? I think he might be screwed with Litsch, though…that pitch is pretty much a slider in every way. But there are a few other things I’ve noticed he might want to hear- I know, trying to come up with an algorithm to define pitches automatically is brutal. It’s just wayyyy too much of a spectrum instead of separate pitches.


    May 30, 2008 at 12:52 am

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