The Real Dirt On Kenny Rogers’ “Filthy” Outing
Understandably, there will always be controversy with foreign substances involved on the pitching hand of the unhittable pitcher of note. Is it possible though, that there is yet another explanation? Based on studies of millions of pitches over the past four major league seasons from the Inside Edge 5 million pitch database, there is some staggering evidence to lead the author of the book series, “Downright Filthy Pitching”, Perry Husband, to a whole other set of reasons.
The research was done over a 10 year period testing hitters and their ability to see pitch types, judge velocity and direction of pitches as well as their true reactionary skills. The research was followed up by a massive study done at the major league level over all of the 2004 and most of the 2005 seasons. This study backed up the theory that hitters have a measurable “Attention”, which defines the expectation of a hitter as to what speed pitch he is most prepared to hit off a given pitcher. Not only is this Hitter’s Attention provable in the classroom studies conducted on amateur hitters, it is also as clear as the bell curve shown here.
This graph shows every pitch at every velocity thrown over parts of two major league seasons scouted by Inside Edge. Each line represents a statistic that has to do with timing, black is the home run percentage, blue is well hit average, red is batting average and the green line is the swing and miss percentage. As the hitter’s timing gets better, these statistics all go up and conversely, as the timing to pitches goes down, so do all these stats. As you notice every statistic peaks at exactly the same point, 90 MPH of Effective Velocity. 90 EVMPH could be a fastball at 94 thrown down and away and a slider at 85 thrown up and in slightly. Speed plus location equals the true reaction time of the hitter. Effective Velocity is the radar gun reading with the added effects of what the location of a given pitch has on the hitter’s reaction time. For example, an up and in fastball at 88 MPH on the radar gun, truly has a reaction time closer to 93 Effective MPH due to the fact the hitter must react quicker to the pitch to be on time to contact. If the hitter does not react well to that location change, he will be late. The evidence of this is the amount of fastballs inside and high that are swung on and missed and fouled straight back.
The other monumental thing to note is that not only does the hitter’s attention clearly have a peak at one point, three MPH on both sides of that peak shows a severe drop in offensive production. In essence, if pitchers understand this concept of hitter’s attention, they can throw around it.
The Rogers of late has created a way to throw around hitter’s attention. His averages show that his fastball averages around 86 MPH overall but when you look closer he has been using his fastball as two pitches instead of one. The first is an 88 to 90 MPH fastball in locations inside that are truly 93 plus MPH effectively and another that is about 84 MPH that is effectively 80MPH. This span of 13 MPH is greater than the hitter’s hot zone or their attention. So what did you see last night? Roll over ground balls indicating early contact (80 EVMPH) and late contact such as fisted pop ups, foul tips and swings and misses due to the 88 MPH turning into 93 MPH reaction time.
“Hitting is all about timing and pitching is about upsetting timing”, Warren Spahn stated perfectly, but understanding the elements of timing is a rare thing. Unless hitters understand the illusion that location and speed together creates, masters of timing upsetters will continue to win battles.
There are many mysterious ingredients that make pitchers “Filthy” and
it is no wonder that when hitters see something like dirt on the hand, they
will jump to the conclusion that must be what’s causing their ill
fated weak at bats. The truth is more difficult to swallow, hitters are
being fooled by Father Time, literally, not just the fact that Rogers is
well acquainted with Mr. Time on two counts, he is 40 plus and has a handle
on what helps pitchers control time to a large degree, Effective Velocity.
Location also helps disguise the pitch type for the longest time possible. Husband’s research uncovered many ingredients to what causes pitchers to be “Filthy” one day and not the next. The second ingredient is deception. There are many facets that make up deception, but the one that Kenny Rogers has a new found handle on is pitch planes. Every pitch has a set of coordinates such as the crosshairs example of the above example. It has long been understood by coaches and pitchers that keeping different speed pitches on the same horizontal plane will help disguise pitchers. This is true enough, but there is a whole other dimension at work as well. There is a vertical plane that is important as well. The studies of amateur hitters that Husband conducted showed that kids as young as 10 years old could recognize pitch planes, both horizontal and vertical, with as little as 10 feet of flight to go on. This lead to the discovery that pitchers that are truly Filthy are using both planes to disguise the identity of their pitches for the longest time possible. So if hitters have fewer clues in the first twenty feet of flight, they can’t make decisions quick enough to react to the different pitch velocities that are presented to them by time conscious pitchers.
The crosshair example shows a breakdown of what all the pitch types of an Effective Velocity efficient pitcher would look like from the hitter’s view at the point that is crucial in the flight of the pitch. The clump of three pitches is really fastball up and inside to a right handed hitter, a change up away and a slider or cut fastball inside all at different Effective Velocities but all sharing the same look for 20 feet of flight. The two pitches that are well outside the clump are called Freeze Pitches as they are so far away from where the trickster has gotten your eyes used to, the hitter can’t imagine that they could be a strike and tends to take them for strikes.
So with closer inspection, it would appear that the muddy water clouding
the newfound Filthy nature of Mr. Rogers is a bit more clear than he would
like you hitters to believe.
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