As Major League Baseball and its fans continue to roll out more in-depth, detailed statistics, our knowledge of the game is growing and evolving. We’ve already seen information on batted ball velocity change what we think of players and how good they are/should be, and a new statistic may soon be following in its path: spin rate on pitches.
According to Jeff Passan, MLBAM has combined the Trackman radar system into the Statcast system we’ve been hearing so much about to obtain the data on spin rates. The radar is able to pick up on the angle, velocity, trajectory, location and spin on every ball thrown or hit.
In a recent study by Japan’s Waseda University, Passan explains that researchers found that baseball spin can actually have a dramatic effect on where a ball ends up. According to the study, an 87-mph fastball thrown with 2,400 revolutions per minute actually crosses the plate about 75 millimeters higher (the size of a baseball) than an 87-mph fastball thrown with 1,800 revolutions per minute.
Over at Yahoo Sports, Passan took a look at the newly identified statistic to see what impact spin rates may have on pitched balls, and you should check it out. It’s an interesting read that helps explain the stat further, by acknowledging some of the league leaders in spin rates. Near the top of the list, naturally, we see a familiar face: Jake Arrieta.
According to Passan, Jake Arrieta ranks among the leaders in sinker and changeup spin, throughout MLB. This is an odd occurrence; however, given that most sinkers and changeups benefit from a distinct lack of spin, allowing them to dive down below the strike zone – remember, balls with more spin stay elevated.
It’s possible that Arrieta’s emergence as a top arm, then, could be partly due to the fact that his sinkers and changeups are inducing weak contact, specifically because hitters are not used to the off-speed stuff remaining elevated. It’s certainly an interesting take on Arrieta’s apparent dominance over his last year of work, and is likely just one of many pieces to the puzzle. Other leaders in revolutions per minute include Garrett Richards, Jesse Hahn, Collin McHugh, Max Scherzer, and Rick Porcello.
I love the emergence of new statistics. At first, we don’t understand them, and often, we reject them. But eventually, we grow to accept them and question how we assessed the game without them. New statistics allow us to understand the game better than we have ever before. No one stat can tell you everything you need to know, but, in the aggregate, we are inching closer to a more comprehensive understanding of baseball. So take spin rates and put it in your back pocket. I suspect we’ll be hearing more about them soon enough.
Oh, and, after his dominant six innings last night, the highlights of which you can watch here, Arrieta lowered his season ERA to 3.04, his FIP to 2.78, and his xFIP to 2.70. Arrieta’s K/BB is now up to a robust 5.36, 10th best in baseball.