FanPost

I Like Ike: A PitchFX Analysis Of The Best Ike Since Eisenhower

(Bumped from FanPosts. --Eric)

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Heatmap2_medium

This graph shows how well Ike has done against pitches throughout the strike zone. Don't worry about how funky it looks, it's explained below! (Click on the image to get a better view of it).

So, Ike Davis has been a tremendous success. No matter what else he accomplishes this season, he has clearly succeeded in one area: he's a humongous upgrade from Mike Jacobs. Also, he's been pretty good on his own merits so far (even if he might seem to be in a slump presently). Can he keep it up? Well, let's look at how he's doing through PitchFX.

Okay, so Two things I have to get out of the way here before we go on:

FIRST, several of the graphs here below are me trying out new things; I'm fairly certain the graphs themselves are right, but well, I hope you'll give me input on how you like the presentation.

SECOND, and MORE IMPORTANTLY, this is an inspection of only 630 pitches seen by Ike Davis, which isn't a lot. So this is really a small sample size to look at how Ike has been doing against the pitches he's seen this year and is not meant to be predictive about how he will do in the future.

NOTE: The Data in this post is correct only up to May 31st.*

Fangraphs has Ike at a wOBA of .352 and a wRC+ of 119. This basically means that Ike Davis has been 19% better than the average hitter this year. Fangraphs also says his bat has been worth 3.6 runs more than an average player so far. My PitchFX data assigns a run value to each pitch that Ike has seen based upon the result of that pitch and agrees roughly with Fangraphs on this putting Mr. Davis at 3.99 runs above average.

My Data disagrees however with fangraphs over how well Ike Davis does against particular pitches. I'm not completely sure why; Fangraphs seems to be combining several types of fastballs, which results in the one major difference. Anyhow:

Ike Davis' Performance Against Different Pitches:

Pitch Type: PitchFXRun Value(Positive = Good) Fangraphs/BISRun Value(Positive = Good) % of Pitches Seen (PitchFX) % of Pitches Seen (Fangraphs/BIS)
4-Seam Fastball -2.37 +1.7 33.3% 51.3%
2-Seam Fastball/Sinker* +1.60 ____ 14.7% ____
Cutter +0.93 -1.0 8.1% 6.4%
Change-Up +2.28 +2.9 16.3% 12.5%
Slider +1.18 +2.7 15.9% 16.7%
Curve Ball +0.79 +0.2 9.0% 9.1%

*Fangraphs (using Baseball Info Solutions data) doesn't differentiate between two-seam and four-seam fastballs, which probably accounts somewhat for why we differ dramatically on how well/poorly Ike is doing on Fastballs.

My data suggests that Ike is having trouble with four-seam Fastballs, but is basically hitting really well on every other pitch out there. This is a good sign, really: Ike has NOT had problems with breaking balls this year (the typical problem for young players called up early from the minors) or with change-ups, which as a lefty he should be expecting to face frequently from right-handed pitchers.

Now let's get to the real meat here and look at how well Ike is doing against pitches in certain areas of the strike zone. 

Ikehorizontallocationrunvalues_medium

Figure 1: A Graph of How Well (Run Values) Ike Davis hits pitches, depending on what part of the plate they cross over. 

How to Read This Graph:

The x-axis is the horizontal location of a pitch as it crosses home plate (roughly), from the point-of-view of a catcher. The unit for this axis is "inches from the middle of the plate." So at the point where the Horizontal Location = 0, pitches cross the direct middle of home plate. Points to the right of 0 are more inside on Ike and points to the left of 0 are further away from Ike. Thus an x-axis value of +12 is 12 inches more inside on Ike than a pitch down the middle of the plate and a value of -12 is 12 inches more outside.

The y-axis is how well Ike Davis fares against a pitch at each particular horizontal location. This is measured in "runs above average" and is also referred to as each pitch's "run value." A positive run value means that Ike is hitting the pitch in that area better than average and that he does well against such pitches, and a negative value means that Ike is faring worse than average and is performing poorly against pitches in that area of the strike zone.

The Light Blue square highlights the area that is in the strike zone.

The Blue Curved Line is the key attraction here and shows smoothly how Ike's performance changes depending on how inside or how outside a pitch is when it would cross home plate.

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So what does this graph show us? Well, quite clearly we see that Ike seems (like most LHBs, if i recall correctly) to really do much better against pitches on the inside portion of the plate. At a horizontal location of +6 (6 inches inside) Ike seems to peak and hit the ball fairly hard. On the other hand, Ike seems to have problems hitting pitches toward the outside portion of the plate. If a pitcher manages to hit the most outside three inches of the strike zone (the corner), Ike appears to fare rather poorly.

Okay, so that tells us about how well Ike does based upon the horizontal location of each pitch. How about we take a look at how well he does based on how high each pitch is?

Ikeverticallocationrunvalues_medium

Figure 2: A Graph of How Well (Run Values) Ike Davis hits pitches, depending on the height of each pitch.

How to Read This Graph:

The x-axis is the height (vertical location) of a pitch as it crosses home plate (roughly), from the point of view of a catcher. The unit for this axis is "inches above the ground." So at the point where the Vertical Location = +12, pitches cross the plate a foot above the ground. The further right a spot on the graph, the higher that particular pitch was as it crossed the plate.

The y-axis is how well Ike Davis fares against a pitch at each particular vertical location. This is measured in "runs above average" and is also referred to as each pitch's "run value." A positive run value means that Ike is hitting the pitch in that area better than average and that he does well against such pitches, and a negative value means that Ike is faring worse than average and is performing poorly against pitches in that area of the strike zone.

The Light Blue square highlights the area that is in the strike zone.

The Blue Curved Line is the key attraction here and shows smoothly how Ike's performance changes depending on how inside or how outside a pitch is when it would cross home plate.

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Two quick things to note about what this graphs shows. First, it seems that Ike's performance does NOT change too much based upon how high or low a pitch is when it crosses the plate. (Realize that the scale on the y-axis of this graph is different from the above graph so as to make it more readable.) Second, unlike the horizontal location of the pitch, there's NO particular height that Ike seems to have problems with in particular, as the line is almost entirely above 0.

That said, there's a pretty clear indication here that Ike hits better if a pitch is in the upper half of the strike zone, which makes a lot of sense really for any hitter, so it shouldn't be too surprising.

Having now seen these two graphs, how about we try to put them together to see how well Ike does against pitches in more exact areas of the strike zone (up and in, down and away, etc.) The resulting graph is the funky one from before the Jump, but I'll explain it to you as best as i can. 

Heatmap2_medium Heatmap3_medium

Figure 3 and Figure 4: Heat Maps of Ike Davis's performance against pitches in and just-out of the strike zone.

The above graphs are called heat maps (or at least my poor attempt at them). Each graph's horizontal axis is the same as the axis from figure one, while the vertical axis is the height of each pitch above the ground in inches. The Black square represents an approximation of the strike zone. The colors in the graphs show what areas Ike does well in and what areas Ike does poorly in. The darker the red color, the better Ike does against a pitch in that area. The white represents neutral areas, where Ike does about average...his results are the same as an average batter. The darker the blue, the worse Ike does in that area. (The Legend explains this fairly well, the higher the TrueRV (Run Value as described above), the better).

As we can see from both graphs, the results are what we would expect from looking at the earlier graphs. Ike performs best on pitches from middle on in, and has several hot spots on the inside part of the plate. Once again, I must tell you guys this: These results are of small sample sizes. The above heat maps are not to be used for predictions about Ike's future just yet, but they do tell a good story of what he's done so far.

Conclusion:

Watching Ike Davis has been a pleasure. Hell, as i type this, Ike just hit a 2-run HR in Petco Park to give the Mets some insurance in a pitching duel. As seen from above, he seems to share the strengths and weaknesses of a standard lefty these days, with a love for inside pitching. I look forward to seeing if these trends continue as pitchers become more used to him and get better scouting reports.

INPUT SOUGHT: You'll notice that I included two heat maps above. You'll notice also one is labeled higher accuracy. That's not a lie; that graph is indeed more accurate as to what Ike has done. On the other hand, it's a little bit harder to look at. Thoughts on which graph you like better and whether the higher accuracy one is easy to read? Please chip in your thoughts in the comments.

This FanPost was contributed by a member of the community and was not subject to any vetting or approval process. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions, reasoning skills, or attention to grammar and usage rules held by the editors of this site.

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