Pitch Scores Breakdown
May 31, 2022
Released in June 2021, Prep Baseball Report’s data team led by Zach Day and Joe Dattoli created “Pitch Scores”. They put in crazy man-hours to find the characteristics that make an individual pitch effective. So let's unpack what PBR’s data team has to say about Pitch Scores and also look at some examples from the 2022 Preseason Classic.
We categorize pitches in subjective buckets, self-labeling them as fastballs, curveballs, sliders, and so on. We’ve also gotten great at reading the digits that pop up on radar guns and TV broadcasts, typically near the score and inning somewhere. But there’s still so much more to pitching than raw velocity and spin rate. We’re collecting piles of meaningful information on a daily basis at PBR events, enough to help us generate new ways to evaluate pitch-by-pitch metrics more objectively.
Our data operations department is striving to simplify the way in which we identify quality fastballs and breaking balls, delivering a way to impartially quantify the level of useful break, run, and rise on these pitches.
With that, they introduce you to Pitch Scores. Each player’s PBR profile will contain their fastball’s Hop+, Rise+, and Sink+ scores, as well as their breaking ball’s Hammer+ and Sweep+ scores. They elaborate on each of these individually, detailing their utility, helping stack a player’s individual pitch effectiveness and action against the best of the best at the Major League level.
Let's hop in and take a look at some of the top Pitch Score examples from the 2022 Preseason Classic.
This was the first Pitch Score metric introduced by our data team, unveiled last summer. Here’s a refresher on the metric’s purpose: Up until its release, “hop” was a subjective term used to describe fastballs with “life” or action that appeared to help the pitch gain speed upon entering the strike zone. It was a sought-after trait, something that was hard or even deemed impossible to teach. A fastball either had that life through the zone, or it didn’t.
The data team’s goal was to define and quantify hop within a fastball to be able to compare and evaluate hop across all levels, including MLB. So, the Hop Score was born.
Hop Score: A quantification of the level of hop in a fastball. In greater detail, a fastball with hop has a flat vertical approach angle, which creates more rise than run, creating that illusion of jump upon zone entry. Fastballs that exhibit these traits generate more swings and misses, as well as pop-ups, especially when located at the top of the zone.
In the video above, you’ll find 2022 Jackson Ferris of IMG Academy at our 2022 Preseason Classic. Ferris is ranked #3 in the State of Florida and #14 Nationally with a Fastball up to 96 mph and is projected in the higher rounds of the 2022 MLB Draft. During the event, Ferris was able to compete with the Fastball which generated a lot of swings and misses throughout his outing, picking up 6 K’s thru 3 innings pitched. Our data team turned in the Pitch Scores for the event and Ferris came away with the best Hop+ score at 100, which explains the swings and misses and the illusion of the baseball jumping upon zone entry.
+ Click here to learn more about Hop Score, including the calculation we use to generate the statistic, as well as the list of the MLB leaders in the new metric.
While it’s virtually impossible for the fastball to literally rise on its way to home, baseball’s been using the term to describe fastballs that give off the appearance of climbing up and through the strike zone. In reality, pitches with rising traits are generally those that feature elite backspin rates.
Rising fastballs visually carry through the strike zone, typically resulting in higher fly ball percentages, especially when located at the top of the zone. A higher Rise Score has the potential to generate more whiffs, and it’s complemented greatly by fastball movement characteristics that create a substantial movement gap between it and the pitcher’s breaking ball. It was our data team’s goal to objectively quantify fastballs with rise traits across all levels.
Rise Score: We define rise as a fastball that rises vertically with velocity through the strike zone. Using advanced pitch data metrics, PBR’s analytics department has developed the Rise Score to easily compare fastballs across multiple levels. The effectiveness of a fastball is very dependent on outside factors including location and pitch repertoire. In general, fastballs with a higher Rise Score are more difficult to hit.
Here is an example of 2022 Javier Santos, a flame-throwing right-hander who was up to 98 mph at around 2550 rpm spin rate. In the video, you can see that the Fastball visually carries through the strike zone which generated a swing and miss. Santos turned in a crazy Rise+ score of 151.
+ Click here to learn more about Rise Score, including the calculation we use to generate the statistic, as well as the list of the MLB leaders in the new metric.
Another score here to help objectively evaluate the fastballs that rely on horizontal action rather than vertical movement is the Sink Score.
Until now, the word sink has been used to describe a fastball that visually drops and runs arm-side through the strike zone. Fastballs with extreme sink spin at a lesser rate because of that horizontal action, producing less backspin as a result. Sinking fastballs visually drop through the strike zone generating higher ground ball rates, especially when located at the bottom of the zone. It was the PBR analytics team’s goal to be able to objectively quantify fastballs with sink characteristics across levels.
Sink Score: Sink is most commonly defined as a fastball that visually drops and runs arm-side through the strike zone. With Sink Score, our staff was able to create the Sink+ statistic to normalize our Sink Scores across all levels. We now have a simple way to objectively compare fastballs with sink characteristics between levels and over time with the Sink+ stat. The effectiveness of a fastball is very dependent on outside factors including location and pitch repertoire. In general, fastballs with a higher Sink Score are more difficult for the batter to square up.
Above we have 2022 Brandon Barriera, a projected first-round draft pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. Barriera offers some big-time velo, with his Fastball getting up to 96 mph at the 2022 Preseason Classic. Barriera has a loose/quick arm with natural arm side sink which turned in a Sink+ score of 106. In the video, you can see Barriera throw a Fastball and the batter grounding out to shortstop due to the higher ground ball rates of a high Sink+ score, Barriera also got a lot of swings and misses with his Fastball throughout his outing.
+ Click here to learn more about Sink Score, including the calculation we use to generate the statistic, as well as the list of the MLB leaders in the new metric.
A curveball, or slider for that matter, with a higher Hammer Score, has the potential to generate a greater swing-and-miss rate, especially when paired with fastball velocity and fastballs with high Hop Scores. Designing a pitch mix around Hammer and Hop is a common course of action at the Major League level, employed by knockout relievers like Craig Kimbrel, who’ve historically ran high strikeout rates.
Hammer Score: We define hammer, metrically, as a breaking ball that drops vertically with velocity through the strike zone. Breaking balls with high Hammer metrics exhibit acceleration downward off the vertical plane. Our Hammer Scores simplify the way we evaluate vertical breaking balls objectively. The effectiveness of a breaking ball is very dependent on outside factors, including location and pitch repertoire. In general, breaking balls with a higher Hammer Score are more difficult to hit than breaking balls with a lower one.
In the video above is big 6-foot-5 southpaw 2022 Jarvis Evans who is committed to the University of Georgia. Evans shows a big breaking ball at around 2700 rpm spin rate which turned in a Hammer+ score of 100. You can see the pitch drops vertically with velocity through the strike zone which exhibits acceleration downward off the vertical plane.
+ Click here to learn more about Hammer Score, including the calculation we use to generate the statistic, as well as the list of the MLB leaders in the new metric.
The final Pitch Score is one that helps quantify the effectiveness of breaking balls that rely on their horizontal movement rather than their vertical action. While curveballs and sliders with more defined vertical shape would generate a higher Hammer Score, breaking balls with large horizontal break are often described as “sweeping” pitches, and thus, the Sweep Score materialized.
Sweep has long been used by the baseball community as a way to describe a breaking pitch with large horizontal movement through the strike zone. It was our data team’s goal to define and quantify sweeping breaking balls as a way to more effectively compare and evaluate their horizontal drop and effectiveness across all levels.
Sweep Score: Sweep is defined as a breaking ball that sweeps horizontally with velocity through the strike zone. A higher Sweep Score has the potential to generate more swings and misses, especially when paired with complementary fastball movement characteristics that create a movement gap between the fastball and breaking ball. We now have a simple way to objectively compare breaking balls with sweep characteristics between levels. The Sweep Score helped shape our Sweep+ stat that will normalize the pitch action across an entire level. The effectiveness of a fastball is very dependent on outside factors including location and pitch repertoire. In general, breaking balls with a higher Sweep Score are more difficult for the batter to square up.
Above is 2022 Dakota Stone, a strong-bodied LHP that sits in the low 90’s and offers two types of breaking balls. In the video Stone throws two sliders and you can visually see the breaking ball sweep horizontally with velocity through the strike zone, which generated swings and misses. Stone’s Sweep+ score was 118.
+ Click here to learn more about Sweep Score, including the calculation we use to generate the statistic, as well as the list of the MLB leaders in the new metric.
Check out our Upcoming Schedule and add Pitch Scores to your PBR Profile!
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