As a result of Brandon Webb’s scoreless streak, I’ve been wanting to take a look at him. Of course, it figures that by the time I actually get around to doing so, the streak is over, as of tonight. But I’ll start out with what is intended to be the first in a series on Webb.
Tonight I want to evaluate a statement by Arizona catcher Chris Snyder, as quoted by the Arizona Republic after Webb’s previous start on August 17th.
From behind the plate for all 42 innings, catcher Chris Snyder has had as good a perspective as anyone on Brandon Webb’s scoreless streak, and he believes one of the biggest keys to it has been Webb’s willingness to reach philosophical middle ground.
Instead of throwing his sinking, two-seam fastball exclusively or going to a heavy diet of off-speed stuff, Webb has found a perfect mix, Snyder said.
“It was either he was going to be conserving his pitches, throwing a lot of two-seamers and waiting until guys hit the ball on the ground,” Snyder said, “or he was going to have eight to 10 strikeouts a game, but his pitch count was going to be up.
“Over this span, he has met in the middle with that. The guys he’s getting out, he’s getting them out within three to four pitches. He’s doing a little of both.”
Has Webb really been mixing speeds more during his scoreless streak than he did earlier in the year? We don’t have many PITCHf/x starts for Webb from early in the year; just two, in fact, and then one additional start in July prior to embarking on the streak.
So let’s look at the pitch speeds in those. It’s pretty easy to separate the fastballs from the off-speed stuff in this format. The pitch speeds are on the vertical axis, and the horizontal axis shows the pitch sequence throughout each game.
The July 15 start looks like a perfect example of mixing in the off-speed pitches. April 18 pretty much also, but on the April 30 start he seemed to rely more on the fastball. The fastball speeds are all sitting around 90, although he seemed to tire a bit toward the end of the July 15 start. (Add a couple mph to the July 15 graph, since the speeds were measured at 40 feet rather than the normal 50 or 55 feet.)
As far as results go, on April 18 Webb gave up 7 hits and 1 run in 8 innings against the Padres, with 13 strikeouts. On April 30, he gave up 4 hits and 1 run in 7 innings against the Dodgers, with only 2 strikeouts. On July 15, he surrendered 11 hits and 4 runs in 5 and 2/3 innings against the Padre, with 10 strikeouts. And sure enough, most of the damage (6 hits and 3 runs) came in the 5th and 6th innings when Webb appears to have been tiring, based on his velocity.
Now we come to the streak.
Only in the July 31 start was Webb mixing pitches extensively. He relied pretty heavily on the fastball in the early going on August 5, and also threw more fastballs on July 25 and August 11. The start after which we have Snyder’s comments, August 17, is a pretty well-mixed start, I suppose. Again, velocity-wise, he’s sitting close to 90 in most starts.
All in all, it doesn’t seem to be much different than earlier in the year. Snyder did catch all these games that we show here. Of course, we have a limited selection from earlier in the year, so maybe we just happened to catch some games from that time period where Webb was mixing pitches while he was relying more on his fastball in games for which we don’t have data.
Snyder did make one other comment in the Republic article which is worth some further investigation, saying that Webb’s changeup had more break recently. Tune in next time…