Masahiro Tanaka's third start of the season for the New York Yankees was his best so far, as he went a season high eight innings against the Chicago Cubs, and gave up no runs, striking out ten and walking just one. He kept the ball in the park and only gave up two hits, though his groundball rate was his worst out of the three starts. Here is his speed and spin chart from the start, labelled with MLBAM tags:
His splitter has two different spin modes, one cluster that spins more than any other pitch, and another than spins like the slider. This may not mean anything, but to make sure, let's look at the speed and spin chart with only the pitches labelled as splitters, and labelled with results.
Clearly Tanaka was having a lot of success with his splitter no matter the spin and speed, though the harder ones in velocity seems to have been the most successful. In previous starts, Tanaka left a few pitches up and got hurt, so let's look at his average pitch locations to see if he did a better job of keeping the pitches down:
Again Tanaka couldn't get his curve down, and he couldn't get it glove side enough to be a strike most of the time. We see the same classifications that we saw in his last start, and I mentioned I didn't like the sinker tag, and according to the MLBAM tags, this was more common than the four seam fastball. The four seam and sinker/two seam fastball are both traditionally located, with the latter being lower and arm side. The slider location is still sketchy. He couldn't get it as low as you would want it, nor as glove side on average. His splitter location was great, and that seems to be what carried him in this start. Next, let's take a look at his result locations:
When he got the ball low and glove side, that is when he was most successful, while the further arm side or higher he got, the less successful he was. This really speaks to the curveball and sinker not being effective, while the splitter being extremely successful. Using average release point data, let's see if he is releasing each pitch in the same spot, or if he is being consistent.
There aren't huge differences in his release points, but there are some subtle differences that don't necessarily support a simple narrative. His curve was released closer to his body, and higher, but the closest one to it was his best pitch, the splitter. One interesting way to look at how a pitcher progresses through the game is to look at the average release points by inning:
Tanaka was more consistent from inning to inning than from individual pitch, with his biggest differences being the first and seventh inning, which were very similar to each other.
Moving on to the subject of the fewer groundballs, let's look at the average locations of the pitches that were hit in the air versus the ones that were hit on the ground.
Strangely, the pitches he got groundballs on were more arm side, while his flyballs were more gloveside. Not surprisingly, the lower pitches were the groundballs. Keeping on the subject of location, let's do a couple of things we did last time and compare them to his last start, starting with how he located pitches to left-handers and right-handers.
This time, Tanaka didn't pitch lefties and righties much differently. Instead of keeping the ball away from both, he kept the ball inside to righties on average. Like last time, let's look at his location by pitch count, but this time I'll break it up into two graphs, the first being the ones with strikes in the count, followed by one with balls in the count.
Not surprisingly, he was more likely to go glove side with two strikes, though Tanaka pitching lower on average with one strike was surprising.