I thought I'd take the PITCHfix in a new direction today since yesterday's game was mostly a laugher and Saturday's game I didn't really get to see much of as I was doing family stuff for Easter. In Sunday's contest Ricky Renteria had a great opportunity to insert Jose Veras to get him back on track. Veras allowed that opportunity to end up in the left field bleachers.
When I started looking at Veras' PITCHf/x I went back to 2011 just to see if anything was a bit off compared to his current output in 2014. I'll admit I'm going over my own head here but I did notice a few things that gave me pause but I couldn't definitely say, "well, here's the problem." So, take this as something to chew on as opposed to a Rx designed to fix what ills Veras currently.
The above is the vertical release point for Jose Veras on his two primary pitches: the fastball and curveball. It's displayed on a game by game basis from 2011 to current time. Since it's a lot of data points, it's a little difficult to parse out but for the most part there isn't anything terribly off with his fastball. It's right in line with where it was to start the 2013 season but well below the late portion of 2013 as well as most of 2012. His curveball, on the other hand, appears to be a bit low compared to the 2011 (save for late April-May), 2012 and 2013 seasons.
The reason I wanted to look at release point is because I'm far more concerned with Veras' command than I am with his velocity at the moment. That's not to say that Veras isn't having velocity issues, because he most certainly is. He's about ~1.5 MPH slower with the fastball and his curveball. He's traditionally started slower in April and ramped up as the year as gone on, but we also need to remember that he's 33 years old now. There's some wear on those tires and we can expect his velocity to come down year over year going forward.
Back to the release point though. I discovered another fancy little function over at BBN called grooved pitches. It measures the percentage of pitches thrown middle-middle by type for a pitcher. Here's Veras this season:
His first outing, the disaster in Pittsburgh in extas, saw quite a few fastballs over the heart of the plate. We know what happened there. That had nothing to do with release point, but rather Veras being behind in the count to nearly every hitter and having to come over the plate at an average of 93.69 MPH. What really sticks out to me is the grooved pitches that are curveballs in his last two starts. Veras' curveball is a wipeout pitch designed to get swings and misses outside the strikezone. It's unlikely that he ever intends to throw it right down the center of the plate. 20% of the time vs. StL and 7.14% of time vs. CIN is not where you'd like to see these rates going. The curve against Cincinnati was in play for a flyout so it didn't hurt him. Both home-runs were fastballs, one middle-up, the other down and away.
One more closer look at both the vertical and horizontal release points for Veras' this year:
The only thing I can surmise from all this is a lack of consistency in mechanics. While these differences are only a matter of 3-4 inches in average release point in each game, 3-4 inches is larger than the variation in say Jeff Samardzija's release fluctuation of 1-2 inches. That makes me feel better actually because something mechanical can be recognized and fixed. Another assumption that could be made, and again this would be an assumption, is that Veras is altering his delivery because of discomfort or injury. Let's just hope it's a mechanical flaw and not a physical ailment.
Is it conclusively release point? Hell if I know. This was just the one thing that jumped out in his 5 appearances this year compared the rest of his career. What is conclusive is that in five appearances Jose Veras is throwing an average of 28 pitches, 14 of them for strikes. His splits right now are actually dead even at 70 strikes and 70 balls thrown. The #MarmolCoaster has been replaced by the #VerasWheel. Here's hoping the carnival leaves town by the end of April.