For the layers, the approach was pretty simple. Balls out of the zone are "Low", in the lower third of the zone are "Down", and then you have "High" and "Up" for above the zone and in the top third of the zone. "Middle" should be self explanatory at this point.
Taking the layer approach, I broke the slices into five - "Wide" and "Tight" are balls, while "Out", "Fat" and "In" are strikes, much like the layers. However, the slices of the zone aren't thirds. The Fat is the middle 10 inches of a two foot strike zone. Out and In are the last 3.5 inches of the plate plus the 3.5 inches off the plate that hitters and umpires treat as in the zone. That's 7/10/7 - so there's more Out and In combined than Fat, but more Fat than either alone.
We know Jeff Samardzija is a power pitcher with a pretty good splitter, but in need of a third pitch. In his last Spring outing, Samardzija threw some weak looking sliders. His outing showed just how far he has to go with his breaking ball. Unless he progress rapidly this Spring, Jeff should end up fronting the Iowa rotation in April.
The new acquisition, Aaron Heilman, is a three-pitch pitcher, no matter what the Mets believed. Relying on a sinker and a top notch change, Heilman can't match Samardzija's power, but has a legitimate slider. I don't believe he threw more than one slider last time out, but the change-up was impressive. His fastball velocity varied quite a bit - 88 to 96 according to WGN's gun.
The front-runner is still Sean Marshall. Marshall's curveball is Grade A and is just one of six pitches he'll use. His repertoire is the deepest of the group, and his approach appears to be the most balanced - in terms of locations.
Into the PITCHf/x
Instead of scatter plots, I'm going to use bar and column graphs to show plate locations. If you've seen my slice graphs before, the layers should be intuitive - same idea, but vertical. For this piece, though, I am doing something a little different - see the "tech notes" for more information.
What you're about to see, broken down by pitch type, boils down like this:
Samardzija lives up with his fastball, may be missing belt-high with his splitter, and may not know where the slider is going.
Heilman stays down and away, but not as down as super-sinkers, like Derek Lowe.
Marshall has a very balanced approach. Some pitches are evenly distributed, he's not afraid to throw strikes, and he can work in and out. His curveball stays middle down.
So, either the slider sails wide, or is fat. Not working the pitcher's part of the zone very much.
Up and away. This is a two-seam fastball.
Not using the pitcher's part of the plate - Out + In should be > Fat
I'm not sure if this is a truly good pattern or not. It is so far away from his fastball, you can imagine hitters laying of low stuff figuring if it's low, it's going to be really low.
Heilman's slider isn't exactly down in the zone.
And neither is his sinker. He gets good movement in the zone. He'll give up his share of hits, though.
That's pretty impressive, especially when contrasted with the fastball.
First example of good balance - Fat > Out+In, but not by a lot.
The two-seam is kept more away and down.
The slider and cutter (next) are very similar.
And here's their complement, the change-up away and down.
Not a lot of "hanging" curveballs, and he throws strikes.
Next time out, I'll revert to scatter plots and how the count impacts location and pitch selection for each. Right now, we've got a project, a crafty veteran and a young lefty who looks to be the real deal.