The Perfectly Cromulent Jake Odorizzi

Jake Odorizzi played his third full season in 2016, and was a pretty good starter for the Tampa Bay Rays. His 3.69 ERA (110 ERA+) and 1.194 WHIP gave him a 10-6 won-lost record that could have easily looked better – in eight of his starts, the Rays took a loss even though Odorizzi gave up two or fewer runs. On the other hand, he rarely went deep into games, averaging just 5 ⅔ innings per game, and had significant platoon splits – right-handed batters had an .814 OPS against him, while lefties had just a .578 OPS. Like his teammate Chris Archer, Odorizzi pitched much better in the second half of the season than in the first: His ERA before the All-Star break was 4.47 in 104 ⅔ innings, while in the 83 innings afterward his ERA was 2.71; his walk rate went from 3.3 BB/9 to 2.2.

What he throws. Odorizzi throws at least five pitches: four-seam fastball (“FF”), cutter (“FC”), slider (“SL”), split-finger fastball (“FS”), and curve (“CU”). His fastball averages 92.3 mph, with a peak of 95.3. It covers a wide range of horizontal and vertical movement, suggesting that he may also throw an occasional two-seam fastball or sinker, but with no distinct separation from his four-seam:

His curve is exceptionally slow (the charts below compare it to other right-handed pitchers who threw at least 200 curves in 2016), averaging 71.9 mph and with plenty of the movement such a slow pitch needs:

Pitch usage and trends. Odorizzi uses his fastball around 60% of the time, with minor fluctuations depending on batter handedness and situation. The rest of his pitches see much more situational variation. His slider and cutter are virtually never used against left-handed batters (2.1% and 1.1% of pitches, respectively), but are much more common to right-handed batters (20.4% and 7.2%); his splitter follows the opposite pattern. His curve is rare overall, but is most common to lefties. When behind in the count, Odorizzi also increases use of his splitter and reduces the usage of his breaking pitches:

Over the first half-dozen games of the 2016 season, Odorizzi used somewhat fewer fastballs, and threw them slightly slower (91.6 mph, compared to his season average of 92.3 mph), than in the rest of the season. After that he was fairly consistent over the season:

Pitch value. Most of Odorizzi’s pitches show significant platoon splits, with right-handed batters hitting them better than lefties. Even so, his fastball was about league average against right-handed batters, and well above average to lefties. His slider was much better than average to RHB in terms of total bases per 100 pitches, although it did have a higher than average rate of balls. (To lefties, his slider was perfect: He didn’t give up a single hit, but, of course, he threw just 29 of them.)

Most of Odorizzi’s pitches had good strike rates, with his fastball, splitter, and curve all being at least average in terms of balls per 100 pitches, reflecting his good command of the strike zone:

Pitch location. All of Odorizzi’s pitches show clear location clusters. His fastball hits the top outside corner to both right- and left-handed batters. His splitter targets the bottom of the strike zone, inside to RHB and outside to lefties. His slider is the opposite of the splitter, hitting the bottom outside corner to right-handed batters and the bottom inside to lefties; in both cases, the pitch frequently, but not always, drops out of the bottom of the strike zone. The cutter also often drops out of the strike zone to right-handed batters – perhaps too often, based on the high percentage of balls for this pitch. The cutter ended up in the top outside corner to lefties, but the sample size there is only 16 pitches:


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Featured image courtesy of Chris Urso.

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