Yu Darvish’s fastball spin rate generally predicts whiffs. With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to identify the zones in which his spin is highest, thus determining the optimal location for his fastballs. Talking with Michael Cerami of Bleacher Nation, who podcasted with Corey Freedman and me (to be posted tomorrow), prompted me to dig closer into Darvish’s spin rate.
While I didn’t find a significant difference between most adjacent zones, the data suggests that Darvish’s spin rate is higher when thrown in a particular location. We can see from the charts below that Darvish’s fastball spin rate tends to max out when thrown outside to righties/inside to lefties.
Based on the light blue coloration, which the first graph told us represents the highest spin, Darvish might be able to generate more whiffs by hammering the heck out of zones 3, 6, and 9. Of course, generalizing this sort of information can be dangerous because every batter has to be approached individually. However, it does still give Darvish reason to throw to that part of the zone more frequently.
The World Series runner-up Dodgers changed Darvish’s release point immediately after acquiring him from the Rangers last season. His new coaches nudged him to adopt a release point more similar to the one he’d had prior to going under the knife for Tommy John surgery three years earlier. As a result of the release point change, Darvish generated more spin rate and, not coincidentally, more whiffs.
If Darvish maintains those same new/old mechanics and throws more fastballs in the above-highlighted zones, he might be able to generate even more whiffs. That’s not just mildly impressive, it’s sort of insane to imagine for the pitcher whose career 11.04 K/9 average ranks second all-time among starter pitchers (Jose Fernandez, 11.25).