Monday, April 27, 2009

Pitching Mound Construction Leading to Higher Scoring at Texas?

Gil Meche, before his last start in Kansas City, was asked about his last start at Texas and here is his response:

"The reason I was stiff," Meche said, "is the mound (in Texas) was so flat. From the first pitch in warm-ups, I knew I was going to have to battle.

"With a flat mound, I don’t know if it’s the way my hips move or the way I stride out, but it affects something. That’s why I like steep mounds. I feel like I can generate more power instead of having my leg land too early and me having to generate power with my arm. That’s the only problem I had. That’s why I threw so many off-speed pitches."

This got me thinking about some work I did previously on individual park factors where I noted Rangers Ballpark in Arlington's official park factor was ~1.05, but it was predicted to be ~1.01. It has been stated that the stadium funnels the air to flow to center field was causing this discrepancy, but there seem to be another factor.

I decided to see if there was any truth to what Gil was talking about. For a initial look to see if there is anything to the accusation, I examined the average and maximum speeds of the opposing starting pitcher's four seem fastball that have pitched so far at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington in 2009. I limited the comparison games to those that happened as close possible to the start at Arlington, in case there was an injury to the pitcher. Also, I wanted to take the Texas pitcher's out of the study because they will be used to the supposedly smaller mound (I will look at Texas's pitchers as I get the time to see how they actually compare). There have been 9 pitchers so far that meet this criteria and here are their numbers:

Game before Texas
Game at Texas
Game after Texas
Start before Texas
Start after Texas
Date Team Starting Pitcher Average Speed Max Speed Average Speed Max Speed Average Speed Max Speed Difference in Average Speed Difference in Max Speed Difference in Average Speed Difference in Max Speed
Mon, Apr 6 Cleveland Lee -- -- 89.74 91.6 90.65 92.5 -- -- 0.91 0.9
Wed, Apr 8 Cleveland F Carmona -- -- 92.01 94.1 91.35 93.9 -- -- -0.66 -0.2
Thu, Apr 9 Cleveland C Pavano -- -- 87.73 89 90.34 93.2 -- -- 2.61 4.2
Mon, Apr 13 Baltimore K Uehara 87.83 89.4 85.78 87.8 87.88 89.4 2.05 1.6 2.1 1.6
Tue, Apr 14 Baltimore A Simon 92.97 95.3 89.93 91.8 -- -- 3.04 3.5 -- --
Wed, Apr 15 Baltimore M Hendrickson 87.16 88.7 86.24 88.7 86.54 88.1 0.92 0 0.3 -0.6
Fri, Apr 17 Kansas City Meche 91.32 94.6 89.79 92.4 91.96 94 1.53 2.2 2.17 1.6
Sat, Apr 18 Kansas City Greinke 92.93 95.6 92 94.7 94.17 97 0.93 0.9 2.17 2.3
Sun, Apr 19 Kansas City Davies 92.12 94.2 90.62 92.3 90.9 92.9 1.5 1.9 0.28 0.6

Average Values = 90.72 92.97 89.26 91.35 90.45 92.64 1.66 1.68 1.28 1.36

Just using this small sample size, it can be seen that there seem to be a little truth to ability of pitchers to throw their fastest stuff at Texas. Fausto Carmona is the only pitcher that has thrown faster in a start before or after going Texas compared to the start at Texas. In the other 14 cases the pitcher through slower in Texas by ~1.5 mph.

These numbers have peaked my interest enough that I will continue to update the preceding data as the season continues, expanding it to the Texas pitchers and look back at 2007 and 2008 data with pitch F/X to see if the smaller mound is linked to higher than expected scoring at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.

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