Just for fun, I wanted to compare the fastballs from the Reds starting pitchers using the Pitch FX data. Below you find a graph created by Harry Pavlidis from Beyond the Box Score and Cubs F/X. The top graph shows the view from the first base dugout, basically. From that graph we can see what type of vertical movement the pitch has. The bottom graph is an overhead view that shows us the horizontal movement of the pitch.
These graphs can be kind of hard to decipher, but think of them as showing an average flight path of the ball from two different views. If you can mentally combine the views, you'll get a reasonable estimate of what the hitter sees. A big thing to point out that isn't totally obvious from the graphs is that each dot on the line represents a time interval, specifically 1/40th of a second from the previous dot. This somewhat significant because it allows you to factor in the effect of gravity on a slower pitch. The slower the pitch, the longer it takes to get to home plate and the more time that gravity has to work it's magic. Science!
A couple of things you might notice from the graphs is that despite their pitches starting at basically the same height and throwing a more or less the same speed, Volquez's fastball has much more sink than Cueto's. This is one of the big reasons why Cueto gave up 29 home runs last year while Volquez gave up on 14. It's only a difference of about three inches on average, but that's all it takes to get the hitter to just miss a pitch or crush it.
I hadn't really thought about this before, but I wonder if Harang's height is a disadvantage when it comes to leaving pitches up in the zone. Based on the pitch fx data, he's got an extra foot to drop to get into the strike zone compared to Cueto and Volquez. I wonder if there has ever been a study of the correlation between the height of a pitcher and his home run rate.
Anything else that you see that catches your eye?
Special thanks to RJ Anderson from DRays Bay who provided me with Harry Pavlidis's spreadsheets to create this graph.