Sunday, November 10, 2013

Which NPB Teams Value Velocity the Most?

With the off-season rumor mill now in full swing, I wanted to see if we could find some tendencies in each NPB team and how they approach and evaluate pitching. I figure we could do this with two (relatively) easily verifiable and findable measurements: pitcher height and fastball velocity. I used Baseball Reference for the former, and NPB Tracker for the later. Because of this, the data set is limited to 2009-2012, as those are the years NPB Tracker has data up. I chose to only look at foreign imports because scouting younger players, especially high school players, is tricky. Many of them will grow and add velocity, while some won't, and some may even lose velocity. With "veteran" professional players (though Industrial League players that are then drafted fall under this, though I excluded them from this study) teams essentially know what they are getting. They may not know exactly how effective they will be, teams know how hard the pitcher throws and how big he is (I excluded Taiwanese players as they are often signed by NPB times while they are young. I limited my scope to players that were signed from MLB or American affiliated baseball). I looked at the first year the pitcher pitched in the NPB (or for players that were already in the league at the time, 2009) for their velocity, and I also labelled their role for that season. For relievers (or pitchers that had more relief appearances than starts in their first year), I took off 1.5 MPH off their velocity to adjust their velocities by what you would expect a reliever to lose in the rotation (I did not adjust the velocity measuring being slower than the measuring in the MLB). This way, we aren't rewarding a team artificially for signing mainly relievers versus a team that signed mostly starters. Velocity and size are two simple and basic components scouts use to evaluate pitchers, so hopefully this small study shows which teams value these the most.

The Rakuten Golden Eagles seem to, whether intentionally or unintentionally, value height the most (which is ironic since 5'6 Manabu Mima was the Japan Series MVP in the Eagles championship in 2013). The Swallows seem to ignore height all together with their average import from 2009-2012 being under 6 feet tall. The Swallows' pitchers also throw slower than average, while the Giants' imports throw the hardest, despite being a little shorter than average. The Baystars, despite being the third tallest team on average, are the slowest pitchers on average. The Fighters, Tigers, and Eagles are the three teams whose imports are above average in height and velocity, while along with the Swallows, the Dragons, Lions, and Buffaloes are below average in both categories. It may be worth revisiting this topic when the offseason ends to see which teams targeted and acquired height and velocity.


  1. Not that is changes much but shouldn't Rafael Fernandes be excluded by your selection criteria? Fernandes pitched high school ball in the Yakult Academy in Brazil, went to Hakuho University in Japan, and got drafted by the Swallows in 2008. Fernandes has never played in MLB or American affiliated baseball as far as I can tell.

  2. You are correct, that was laziness by me not to research that. It certainly changes the perception some, as he is the slowest throwing pitcher and shortest on the Swallows on the list.