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A look at the Astros Starting Pitchers using Hit/Fx: Friday food for thought

A seemingly valuable tool that I haven't seen get a lot of love since it came online in 2006 is Greg Rybarczyk's Hit Tracker Online.  The "How it Works Section" on the site is a mini refresher on physics and vectors, and while the system isn't flawless, it still can provide a lot of valuable insight into whether or not Home Runs hit were legitimate or not.

I know the HBT Fantasy Focus group has used to look at which hitters had legitimate power spikes or not, but I've seen relatively little on the impact of "Just Enough" HR and "Lucky" HR for pitchers.  Our starters struggles with the long ball in 2008 don't bare rehasing, so I'll get right down to it.

Before we delve into the numbers (don't worry, there's not more math in here than subtraction), here's a quick glossary of terms that will be utilized in the analysis and table:

Just Enough Home Runs (JE):

Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence.

Lucky Home Runs(L):

A home run that would not have cleared the fence if it has been struck on a 70-degree, calm day.

The other two categories are Plenty (PL) and No Doubt (ND)...they're fairly self-explanatory given the above definitions.  With the exception of No Doubt HRs, there can also be JE/L and PL/L HR that involve atmospherics creating those opportunities.

Since I haven't seen a comprehensive study of what all the data means for pitchers, indulge me as we run through at table of how our starters from last year ended up in the JE, JE/L, L, and PL/L categories (with their actual HR totals and their HR/FB%), and then go out on a limb.


Brandon Backe

(36, 16.1%)

8 1 0

Roy Oswalt

(23, 12.7%)

5 1 1

Brian Moehler

(20, 11%)

5 2 0

Wandy Rodriguez

(14, 9.6%)

2 1 0

The limb: It might not be a good one, but I risk neutral.  Assuming that the Just Enough's could go either way 50% of the time and the Lucky HRs, just wouldn't have happened unless the planets aligned (or in the case this winds?), the adjusted HR totals for our pitchers would be as such (descending order):

  1. Brandon Backe: 31 HR
  2. Roy Oswalt: 18.5 HR
  3. Brian Moehler: 15.5 HR
  4. Wandy Rodriguez: 12 HR

Those are some pretty significant decreases that lady luck could have brought our way.  Except for Wandy, every pitcher had at least 1/4 of their home runs fall in a dubious category and this could be an indication that maybe 2009 will see lady luck be kinder too us.  The obvious caveat is that we don't have data about potential home runs that atmospherics robbed, but it's Spring Training and my glass is half full.  I think we can still take away from these numbers that Backe, Oswalt and Moehler saw a significant amount home runs come in iffy circumstances, and that perhaps they won't see as many trots around the basepaths while they grimace on the mound in 2009.

Hope Springs eternal...right?