PITCHF/x Scouting Report: Carl Pavano

REUTERS/Andy King

Tonight at 7:05, the Yankees will face an old “friend” in Carl Pavano. There isn’t much to say when introducing the right hander. I have to admit, despite spending four years in the Yankee organization, I didn’t know much about his pitching repertoire before research for this article. This is either indicative of his awful ability to stay on the field in pinstripes or my age. Now with the Twins, Pavano spent the last 3 years as an above average pitcher who currently ranks fifth in innings pitched since 2009. In 2011, he gave the Twins 222.0 inning, a 4.30 ERA, a 4.10 FIP, an awful 4.14 K/9, but also a 1.62 BB/9. As much as his injury problems were a series of unfortunate events, most Yankee fans, me included, will always despise Pavano. So before I get into the educated and scientific portion of our article I would just like to say, I hope the Yankees destroy him tonight.

Pitch Repertoire
The right hander hasn’t changed his pitch types since joining up with Minnesota. In the arsenal we have a four-seam fastball, a two-seamer, a splitter, a slider, and changeup. He uses his four-seam and two-seam fastballs more than 60% of the time, and each pitch comes in around 89 mph. The slider and splitter are each thrown around 10% of the time, clocking in around 82 mph. The change up is thrown around 15% of the time, and at 80 mph, a nice 9 mph difference between his fastball.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

AP Photo/Tony Dejak

This is probably the prettiest release point chart we’ve seen in the PITCHF/x series. While there is some slight difference in release points for pitches, it’s all very neatly thrown within 2 to 3 feet of the mound. Aside from the horizontal location, the height of the points is averaging around 6.5 feet, an especially high release point. You can see his high arm slot in the picture to the right. With such a high slot, I’m already going to assume that we won’t see spin angles absurdly high.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

The top image shows the track of each type of pitch break based on a bird’s eye view, from the pitcher’s release point on the right to homeplate on the left. Unsurprisingly, his two-seam fastball (labeled above as SI for sinker) breaks most into right handed hitters. Following this is the changeup and four-seam fastball. His splitter and then the slider have the largest break away from a right handed hitter.

In the graphic depicting the pitch trajectory from the 1st base or 3rd base side, you can see the vertical break of each pitch. Obviously the four-seam fastball has the least, and the two-seamer has a slightly bigger break. The changeup has the least break, but what stands out to me is the difference between the slider and splitter. When you matchup the two trajectories, you can see that that while their horizontal break is similar from the top graphic, there is a decent vertical break difference. I’d imagine the two pitches can get confused for each other often.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Here we have the horizontal and vertical movement of each pitch based on the catcher’s perspective. The origin of this graph is a pitch with no irregular break, or a no-spin pitch. As we saw in the visualization graphics, the pitch moving furthest into a right handed batter is the two-seamer/sinker at a pretty standard -8.14 inch horizontal break. The changeup and four-seam follow, with the breaking ball mimicking a -6.27 inch break in to a righty, and the fastball getting a -4.62 break in. One odd movement difference is the vertical difference between the sinker and four-seamer is virtually nonexistent, with a slight 0.55 vertical drop from the two-seamer. Without this drop, you’d think the sinker would be ineffective in producing groundballs. The splitter labeled in FS is again closest to the slider labeled SL. Here we see that the actual movement of the pitches vertically is actually very similar, but horizontally the slider tails of a few inches more. The difference in numbers is between a -2.78 horizontal break for the splitter, and a 1.05 inch break for the slider, a difference of nearly 4 inches.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

This graphic demonstrates the spin angle versus the velocity of each pitch. As I indicated when talking about his high arm slot, I didn’t expect any overly high pitch angles, and that is indeed the case. Where a typical two-seam fastball angles at 240 degrees, Pavano’s is at 229. His four-seam fastball is slightly lower at 212, which allows the pitch to have decent horizontal movement. His changeup has the highest spin angle oddly, and at 242 degrees, it is most similar to a league average two-seamer with less velocity.

Where He Throws It

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Here we have his locations for each of his different pitch types. The four-seam and two-seam fastball mostly appears in the strike zone or above, which means he must be pretty confident about his ability to get groundballs. All of his breaking pitches are thrown down and away, your typical weak spot for a right handed hitter. His approach against righties is pretty ordinary, other than the massive amount of fastball up in the zone, particularly up and in. He uses his four-seam fastball most often, at 37.6%, his two-seam at 22.8%, his splitter at 16%, changeup at 12%, and slider at 11.5%.

Courtesy of TexasLeaguer.com

Against lefty hitters here, we have an even better demonstration of his willingness to throw fastballs up and in. The approach against lefties doesn’t differ too much, with most of his breaking balls thrown at the usual lefty weakness, down and away. Selection-wise, he actually becomes more of a fastball-changeup pitcher against lefties, as opposed to a fastball-slider-splitter pitcher against righties. His selection against opposite side hitters is 35.2% two-seamers, 30.1% four-seamers, 16.9% changeups, 9.9% splitters, and 7.9% sliders. Throwing less splitters and sliders to lefties is very typical for right handed pitchers, since left handed hitters tend to mash the pitch moving in on them.

When He Throws It

Pavano’s Pitch Selection in Second Half of 2011 against Righties
Count Four-Seam (R) Two-Seam (R) Changeup (R) Splitter (R) Slider (R)
3-0 77.7% 22.2% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 38.5% 46.2% 0% 7.7% 7.7%
2-0 66.7% 18.5% 7.4% 0% 7.4%
2-1 30.2% 25.6% 9.3% 16.3% 18.6%
1-0 38.0% 27.2% 16.3% 9.8% 8.7%
0-0 43.6% 21.6% 6.2% 15.4% 13.2%
1-1 38.5% 35.9% 6.4% 11.5% 7.7%
0-1 29.3% 22.2% 14.1% 18.2% 16.2%
3-2 32.3% 29.0% 12.9% 16.1% 9.7%
2-2 15.6% 17.8% 17.8% 33.3% 15.6%
1-2 29.7% 10.8% 24.3% 25.7% 9.5%
0-2 43.1% 13.7% 21.6% 15.7% 5.9%

Facing righties, Pavano starts hitters off with a fastball 65% of the time, usually with the four-seam. Behind in the count, he largely relies on that four-seamer as well, but does mix his two-seamer in there as his secondary pitch. As the count moves in his favor, Pavano is more and more likely to move to his breaking pitches. With 1 strike he uses the slider more and more, and with 2 strikes he finally breaks out the changeup and splitter. In a case such as 2-2, he’s actually more likely to throw a splitter than any other pitch, and his second choices are the two-seam or changeup. Considering his 14.3% and 18.9% whiff rate on the changeup and splitter respectively, there little reason to doubt the choices. The low 8.8% whiff rate on his slider it a good reason why he doesn’t throw it with 2 strikes, and considering hitters put the ball into play 28.6% of the time, the pitch can be very ineffective.

Pavano’s Pitch Selection in Second Half of 2011 against Lefties
Count Four-Seam (L) Two-Seam (L) Changeup (L) Splitter (L) Slider (L)
3-0 100.00 0% 0% 0% 0%
3-1 33.3% 66.7% 0% 0% 0%
2-0 47.4% 42.1% 10.5% 0% 0%
2-1 28.0% 34.0% 18.0% 16.0% 4.0%
1-0 36.1% 38.6% 18.1% 4.8% 2.4%
0-0 30.2% 34.3% 19.4% 6.3% 9.7%
1-1 34.5% 33.6% 12.7% 13.6% 5.5%
0-1 25.2% 33.3% 20.4% 5.4% 15.6%
3-2 24.1% 34.5% 27.6% 13.8% 0%
2-2 26.3% 35.8% 11.6% 22.1% 4.2%
1-2 26.7% 39.6% 14.9% 11.9% 6.9%
0-2 33.8% 31.0% 14.1% 11.3% 9.9%

Again, 65% of the time against lefties he will throw a fastball, but this time he is slightly more likely to throw the sinker. When going behind in the count, he continues to rely on his fastball, and although he has faith in the two-seamer, his four-seamer is still his go to pitch. When he’s getting ahead in the count, he’ll begin to break out his changeup and slider. 0-1 is really the only count he likes to use the slider, and for strike 1 and 2 he’ll more often use the changeup. With 2 strikes he doesn’t seem to have much of a put-away pitch against lefties, and keeps on throwing the fastballs at around a 65% rate. Considering his 19.9% and 15.5% whiff rate on his changeup and splitter against lefties respectively, its surprising that he doesn’t throw them more often with 2 strikes. Again, his slider is absolutely awful with a 3.9% whiff rate.

Results
Pavano is the furthest thing you can get from a strikeout pitcher. While he still has some impressive pitches to get swings and misses, he’ll usually opt for the groundball. Last year that translated to a 50.0% groundball rate, 32.6% flyball, and 17.4% linedrive. I suspect his mediocre success in 2011 was aided by the pitcher friendly Target Field, where he had a 3.01 ERA compared to a miserable 5.51 ERA on the road. Last year he also had a slight reverse split against right handed hitters, who he held to a .300/.339/.458 triple slash, compared to .289/.316/.437 for lefties, but the opposite is true for his career. With his ability to get groundballs and keep hitters from walking, he’s capable of pitching a decent game.

Against The Yankees
In his short career against the Yankees he’s had a 4.76 ERA and a 1.103 WHIP in 22.2 innings. Obviously he’s had more experience in Yankee Stadium, where he’s thrown 63.0 innings, with a miserable 6.12 ERA and a 1.626 WHIP. In the new stadium he’s had 1 start, where he went 6.0 IP, 4 hits, 1 run.

Career Numbers Against Carl Pavano
Probable Yankee Lineup At Bats Triple Slash
Derek Jeter SS 10 .400/.400/.600
Curtis Granderson CF 21 .286/.286/.286
Alex Rodriguez 3B 3 .333/.333/.333
Robinson Cano 2B 5 .000/.000/.000
Mark Teixeira 1B 6 .333/.444/.833
Nick Swisher RF 6 .167/.167/.167
Raul Ibanez DH 10 .300/.300/.600
Russell Martin C 0 .000/.000/.000
Brett Gardner LF 6 .167/.167/.167

Prediction
Based on Pavano’s awful road numbers away from Target Field, I don’t think he’ll have a fun day back in the Bronx. The way he pitches fastballs in to lefties and breaking balls down in the zone, Cano and Granderson shouldn’t have a problem hitting the ex-Yankee. Likewise, Teixeira, Jeter, and Ibanez have some nice numbers in small sample size against the righty, so there aren’t many holes to maneuver around. Of course, being a groundball pitcher, Pavano might pitch one of those frustrating games where double plays bail him out of trouble. The way the team has been hitting though, I don’t think he’ll last very long.