I've talked a lot about Effective Velocity (EV) and have written about it some. I've tweeted analysis of at-bats with a focus on sequencing using EV. But, I have never really used it as an analytical tool on the site. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while but just haven't had time.
A no-hitter is the perfect time to start.
So, the purpose of this exercise is to look at an at-bat through the eyes of EV and pitch tunneling. For an explanation read through this.
I asked on twitter last night for people favorite matchups from the Mike Fiers no-hitter so I could use them for this exercise. This was one response.
@Subber10 last batter of the 8th. I think it was Pederson. I seem to recall a couple of battles with him.— James H. (@DieHardAstros) August 26, 2015
We are going to take each pitch in order.
This is the at-bat between Joc Pederson and Mike Fiers for the final out in the 8th.
0-0: Curve for a ball
No swing at the curve in the dirt. With the pitch being below the zone, the 73 MPH curveball would probably be perceived at around 70-71 MPH. This leaves a lot of options available.
The changeup, cutter, and fastball all have enough velocity separation to be effective next options. From a pitch tunneling standpoint, the high fastball would be a very good option to induce a swinging strike.
1-0: Cutter for a ball
This pitch came in at 85 MPH and about a foot above the zone. That creates probably a perceived velocity of 87-88 MPH. Good separation in velocities that would have likely induced weak contact. Yet, the poor location resulted in no effect.
Moving from here, the curve is a good pitch to go back to from the tunneling stand point because of the cutters trajectory originates from the same tunnel as the fastball and curve. Velocity wise, a high changeup is usually a poor choice in the zone and even worse considering the similar velocity. However, in the lower half it's not a bad choice. The fastball would probably need to be up and in to get enough velocity separation.
2-0: Changeup for a ball
A high changeup. Probably not a good location. Jason Castro was set up low so this was an example of Fiers missing high. Luckily with it being high and away, Pederson didn't offer and was a called ball. It's perceived velocity was also probably around 86.
Options are similar as to the last at-bat.
3-0: Cutter for a called strike
At 85 down the middle and low in the strike zone this was perceived at 84. A 2-3 MPH separation is right on the border of having an increased chance of being a hard hit ball. Borderline pitch. Not a bad option but not a great one either. He was pretty limited in his options due to missing the changeup. Most of his options were borderline with EV and still be in the zone. The curve would have been the best option but given it's effectiveness below the zone in a 3-0 count, it was too risky.
From here, the best bet is going up in the zone with a fastball. Cutter or four-seam. A curve would still be a good option as well but the risk of walking is quite high.
3-1: Fastball fouled back
Good pitch. Just barely up and out of the zone but close enough to be a called strike. This 89 MPH fastball was perceived closer to 91 MPH. That's a 7 MPH separation and has limited potential to be hit hard.
From here, all other pitches are options. Primarily low in the zone would be a good spot. Fastball included. The cutter would be fine in the zone. Personally, I would view the changeup or curve as your best bet. The curve would fit the same tunnel perfectly.
3-2: Fastball for called strike
The 89 MPH fastball was just barely on in inner third and was likely perceived at 89-90 MPH. Very close to the previous pitch. Had Pederson made contact, the outcome would have had a higher chance of being a hard hit ball. Pederson was probably looking for off-speed which froze him enough to not swing at the offering allowing for a called third strike.
From an EV standpoint, probably not a good option. But, EV is only a tool and the matchup is a chess game. If you expect the hitter to be looking for a certain pitch, you probably shouldn't throw it. In this particular situation it worked very well.
Let me know if you like this kind of analysis and want to see more. I'll be doing the same thing for an at-bat for from the ninth inning tomorrow.