Using advanced stats for Fantasy - PITCHf/x

PITCHf/x provides a reason to trust Ian Kennedy. (USATSI)
PITCHf/x provides a reason to trust Ian Kennedy. (USATSI)

PITCHf/x is the best resource a Fantasy owner has when it comes to in-depth pitching analysis. While the system can be somewhat intimidating, the payoff to is immense. Understanding PITCHf/x might be the biggest way to take advantage of other owners, and win your league.

Stat: PITCHf/x (not really a stat, but you get the point)

Where can I find it: FanGraphs carries PITCHf/x data, but is the holy grail of pitch research. 

What does it do: Tells you everything you need to know about pitching. Seriously, it tells you a pitcher's repertoire, velocity, movement, usage and a million other things. It's amazing.

I still don't understand: PITCHf/x is a magic system that classifies pitches and gives you more information than you need to know about them. 

How can I use it: There are so many ways to utilize it based on your level of understanding. Some of the easiest things can be the most helpful, though. If we look at a player card, I can highlight a few simple things. The tabular data button takes you to a page which displays pitch usage. Here, you can learn about a player's repertoire. What pitches they thrown, and even when they throw them if you hit "pitch usage." You can look at year-to-year data, which is helpful when you think a player is using a pitch more often this year. I use this page to see if any surprise pitchers have altered their repertoire. Sometimes, that's all a guy needs to do in order to break out. 

The velo and movement tab gives you radar gun readings. I like to use this early in the year to see if a player is throwing harder. An uptick in velocity can lead to a breakout, so that's something I'll try to pay attention to early. 

You can go even more in-depth, looking at whiff rates, vertical movement of pitches or even release points, but I don't often turn to those things for Fantasy. I might take a peek at whiff rates if a guy is throwing a new pitch, but it's not reliable in a small sample.

Examples: Jesse Chavez is a guy I bought into early based on his altered repertoire. He's using all of his pitches equally, and appears to be a different guy now. Ian Kennedy, who I linked to above, has been throwing harder all season. Going deeper, I noticed Ervin Santana was utilizing a changeup more often this year. He's managed to get a tremendous whiff rate with the pitch thus far, making me believe it will be an above-average option for him moving forward. 

What are the problems with this stat: Don't overreact to small samples. Also, don't try to find a narrative because you want to believe something is happening. Other than that, this stuff is pretty accurate. It's all about using it properly. 

Anything else: Use all the other stats I've mentioned in these posts, but know that PITCHf/x is probably the best resource out there. My understanding of pitchers has increased so much due to the data the system can spit out. It's complicated, but I would recommend learning more about PITCHf/x over anything else I've written about over the past few weeks. It's incredibly helpful.

Next post: TBD. I may have run out of ideas, so I'll take suggestions. There's a chance I can find something, but what would you like to know more about? Leave me a note in the comments. 

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