Thursday, October 27, 2011

Henry Sosa the Two Pitch Pitcher

Henry Sosa had a solid but unspectacular major league debut for the Astros this season. Sosa got by primarily on a fastball and slider combination thrown at the low ¾ arm angle that allowed for a decent amount of movement on his fastball. While there are a few starters out there who get by with a 2-pitch repertoire, most of them profile better as a reliever than a starter. In his 53.1 innings pitched with the Astros this year Sosa threw a fastball or a slider 97.3% of the time. With that in mind I was curious to see what other pitchers who utilize a similar arm angle as Sosa throw, and how often.

Due to the fact that there was no easy way to separate all of the different lower 3/4 arm angle pitchers I decided to pick 10 of them to look at in detail. The chart below shows the results based upon percentage of the different pitches thrown over the course of the pitcher’s career. All pitch-type data was gathered from Fangraphs.com.

Pitcher
Fastball
Slider
Cutter
Curveball
Changeup
Split-Finger
Carlos Zambrano
67.60%
13.40%
6.80%
1.40%
3.20%
7.60%
Roy Halladay
47.50%
0.70%
22.90%
22.60%
4.40%
2%
Chris Sale
54.80%
34.50%
 N/A
 N/A
10.80%
 N/A
Daniel Hudson
62.90%
14.60%
0.30%
 N/A
22.10%
 N/A
Edinson Volquez
57.30%
3.20%
 N/A
12.50%
27.10%
 N/A
Kevin Brown
74%
16.10%
0.40%
0.10%
7.20%
2.20%
Derek Lowe
67.60%
15.90%
1.80%
3.50%
11.20%
 N/A
Jake Peavy
57.70%
18.10%
9.60%
2.90%
11.70%
 N/A
Jeremy Bonderman
61%
30%
 N/A
0.50%
8.40%
 N/A
Michael Pineda
62.20%
31.50%
 N/A
 N/A
6.30%
 N/A
Total Average
61.26%
17.80%
4.18%
4.35%
11.24%
1.18%
Henry Sosa
61.50%
35.80%
 N/A
0.10%
2.50%
 N/A


Looking at the averages, the above group threw a fastball or slider about 79.06% of the time, which is about 18.24% less than Sosa. There were 3 other pitchers besides Sosa who threw a slider more than 30% of the time (Chris Sale, Jeremy Bonderman, and Michael Pineda.) Besides the fastball and slider the next most utilized pitch was the changeup which was thrown on average 11.24% of the time. Sosa threw his changeup 2.5% of the time, which was the least out of the pitchers sampled. No other pitcher on the list had a 3rd pitch that was thrown less than 5% of the time besides Sosa.

 This does not mean that Sosa has to learn a 3rd pitch to be successful as a starter, but the lack of a 3rd pitch may limit him to a back of the rotation type starter. Looking at the pitcher’s who throw from a similar arm angle the changeup may be Sosa’s best chance at adding another pitch to his arsenal. However, due to the fact that he throws with kind of a slingshot sort of motion similar to Carlos Zambrano he may have more success picking up a split-finger fastball or a cutter. Whatever the pitch may be, adding another one could go a long way in determining how successful he can be. The cards may be stacked against this happening though, given the fact that he is already 26 years old. What we see could very be what we get out of Henry Sosa. If he is successful in adding another pitch then he could make what seemed to be a weak haul in the Jeff Keppinger trade turn out to be a pleasant surprise for the Houston Astros.





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