If you read my other works for Pitcher List, you’re aware of my proclivities using Effective Velocity to investigate pitching. Today I present the history of the concept from the words of the man who developed the whole thing, the Ev Godfather himself, Mr. Perry Husband.
In the early 2000s, ‘Moneyball’ changed everything with the rise of the little team that could, the Oakland Athletics. The A’s built a team based on a fundamental misunderstanding of evaluating players, exposing how there is more to see than batting average, home runs, and RBIs. Teams began to be built around this new way of thinking and suddenly any organization, regardless of financial standing, could be a contender so long as their analytics were done right. Baseball was again challenged a short time later with the application of defensive shifts. Organizations like the Tampa Bay Rays, led by then forward-thinking manager Joe Maddon, started coming up with ways to exploit hitters. Today we are in the Statcast era, which provides us with more concrete data than ever before. Exit velocity, launch angle, sprint speed, etc. are now being looked upon as important aspects of player (and game) evaluation. With programs such as Rapsodo, pitchers are now aware of their spin rates, spin axis, break, extension, etc.
What could come next for Major League Baseball? The answer is a term coined by the creator of Ev, Mr. Husband, who was gracious enough to take some time to enlighten me on what all of this new data means for the future of Major League Baseball- Liquid Analytics.
A short time ago on MLB NOW, Brian Kenny spoke on how there are ‘Super Teams’ and everyone else; that there is an information gap between teams that are facilitating this aperture. Carlos Pena, a disciple of Ev and a former client of Mr. Husband’s, offered up the following insight :
“Because now that every single team is on board as far as sabermetrics and analytics is concerned and there is this information war going on, now what? What is the advantage? Maybe earlier on, the team that got ahead had a distinct advantage, but not anymore. So now what is coming?
I think the next frontier is Liquid Analytics. Which means analytics that help you immediately, in the moment. Doing things in the moment to win the ballgame or orchestrate a good plan for an at-bat. What do you do to face a certain pitcher that came out of the ‘pen at that moment? That is where the next frontier is.
I think analytics that is based on historical data, (which requires history to repeat itself), will take a slight back seat, and we have to move on to how to utilize and apply the information in the moment.”
Michael Augustine: What is causing the information gap and what’s preventing other teams from getting on board. Can you explain to me what this advantage is they have over other organizations?
Perry Husband: As Carlos stated, every team has access now to the same basic analytic information and by itself, is no longer an advantage. However, the ‘Super Teams’ have something in common, they all have very strong ties to Effective Velocity (Ev) concepts. In 2013 the Houston Astros already had their same analytics team in place and yet, they were 28th to 30th in every pitching category. It wasn’t until they hired one of the most Ev centric pitching coaches, Brent Strom, that they turned the ship around. They went from worst to 1st in pitching in a very short time after that. Brent was the minor league pitching coordinator for the Washington Nationals then St. Louis Cardinals prior when he first embraced Ev. They produced some elite level pitchers that he worked with using Ev concepts as well. The Milwaukee Brewers had a similar ascent after hiring Derek Johnson, another early adopter of Ev. DJ was the 1st collegiate level coach to be introduced to Ev when it was still a highly protected secret and Vanderbilt lead the SEC in virtually every pitching stat through most of the season.
PH: Derek went to the Chicago Cubs as the minor league pitching coordinator and asked me to speak to his coaches about how to implement Ev, a couple of years prior to their championship. Jim Hickey, the first pitching coach introduced to Ev at the MLB level, was part of the staff of the 2005 Astros that credited Ev as a part of why they won the 2005 National League championship. Hickey bought into Ev immediately and was later hired by the Rays, who together, basically became a ‘pitching factory’, producing many great pitchers and the most recent AL Cy Young winner, Blake Snell.
PH: Andrew Friedman of the Dodgers was one of the first front office leaders to be introduced to Ev, as GM of the ‘then’ Devil Rays, prior to his hiring of Jim Hickey. On the pitching side of Ev, it is no accident that the Super Teams are on top, but they all still have only bought into the lower levels of Ev. That is only the beginning of the history of the ties the super teams have to Ev.
MA: Can you elaborate on what you mean by ‘ties’ in the context of Ev and the ‘Super Teams’?
PH: From the origin, everywhere Ev has been implemented, pitching success has followed. Barry Zito was the first MLB pitcher that I introduced Ev to personally after his 2004 season had a fairly sharp decline from his Cy Young 2002 season. In 2005, his hard-hit ball average versus RHBs was .174 and he averaged giving up only 3 hard hit balls per outing during the 2005 season, by far, the best lefty in the game at the time.
Dr. Tom House, pitching coach to Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan, was the very first professional I showed Ev to. I asked the premier pitching coach of that time to punch holes in Ev. Instead, he said, “Effective Velocity is the reason a beer keg like me could pitch in the big leagues for 10 years.” Tom introduced Ev Pitch Tunnels to his many MLB clients, but also to Japan, through Bobby Valentine, who coincidentally won his first Japanese title that year. Japan was also in the top 3 pitching staffs in the first World Baseball Classic. House also introduced Ev to Chan Ho Park, a key leader and member of the South Korean WBC team whose pitchers were also in the top 3 in that first ‘Classic’. Zero experts would have predicted Japan and South Korea’s success in the first WBC and would soon start producing quality MLB pitchers with one very obvious trait in common; Ev Pitch Tunnels. The Yu Darvish GIF was no accident showing his pitches exploding out of an Ev Tunnel like a party favor. Koji Uehara, Daisuke Matsuzaka, the New York Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka and many more have been using Ev Tunnels very successfully as a result of their early introduction.
MA: So you’re speaking to pitching in terms of Ev, what about the offense? Can hitters formulate a plan using Ev?
PH: The Boston Red Sox, clearly the top offense in the game, hired Tim Hyers as their hitting coach, a long time Ev student. In the early 2000s, Tim actually helped me conduct an elite amateur level hitter reactionary test. That Reactionary Quickness (RQ) test was further proof of ‘Hitter’s Attention’, which is an Ev term that explains the hitter’s very limited speed range that they can do damage within. These Perfect Game elite high school hitters averaged only a .187 hard-hit ball rate with 70 MPH pitches that were strategically moved around in the strike zone to change reaction times. By being late and early to the batting practice speed pitches, this proves that hitters are somewhere in the middle of those small speed changes, ‘Hitter’s Attention’. Tim’s endorsement of Ev gives credit to the way he formulates game plans against pitchers.
It was very obvious that the Red Sox saw through the pitching plans of every team, even those that understood and implemented some aspects of Ev. Every one of the Super Teams has implemented the lowest levels of Ev 101 or possibly Ev 201, which introduces Ev Pitch Tunnels and a very different use of fastballs.
In Downright Filthy Pitching Book 1, released in 2005, the fundamentals of Ev showed that pitchers using their fastball at about 45-50% will immediately become better because of the laws of reactionary hitting. Giving hitters more equal pitch choices slows down their reactionary time to respond. As a result, the Super Teams have cut their fastball use from the old average of 63-66% FB use to 50% or less, the Yankees were at 44%. They also use their FB up in the zone a full deviation above the rest of the ‘Sidekick’ teams. As late as 2013, the league averaged about 33-35% elevated FB. The Super Teams are at about 39-43% now, with the Red Sox another deviation above that. The Red Sox were at about 50% during the year and 52% elevated FB usage in the playoffs. David Price’s miraculous bounceback was not so surprising to Ev followers. He elevated FBs at 55% over his last 3 outings. Ev 101/201 is the ‘Informational Gap’. Red Sox hitter game plans were simply at Ev 301. There are actually many more levels beyond that, leading up to Liquid Analytics.
MA: What is your idea of ‘Modern Pitch Design’ through the lens of Ev?
PH: First and foremost, I have a US Patent for computer analysis of pitch speeds and locations, along with multiple other aspects of pitch design. Downright Filthy Pitching Book 3, which was published in 2006, introduced the concept of ‘Movement Mechanics’, or how pitchers can create movement through altering the tilt axis and spin direction. None of the devices or concepts of today’s version of pitch design were even in existence. Today’s version of ‘pitch design’ is more closely related to ‘sharpening a sword’. By creating more spin or a better tilt on a given pitch, it only makes the individual pitch a bit sharper with movement of one type or another. True ‘Ev Pitch Design’ starts there but melds the pitches together to actually create an indestructible weapon of all pitches working off of each other. Sharpening the sword doesn’t necessarily make the warrior better, in fact, sometimes he ends up cutting himself. There are many cases of great MLB superstars using their movement/velocity/spins in a way that actually hurts them. Only a full arsenal of sharp weapons that fit the warrior, along with the knowledge as to how they all work best together constitutes ‘Ev Pitch Design’. Spin, movement, and velocity alone is not the answer, otherwise, the nastiest stuff guys would never give up hard contact, which we know isn’t the case.
Trevor Bauer has been at the center of a lot of modern ‘pitch design’ ideas, he studied Ev from age 14, stemming from his time at the Texas Baseball Ranch under Ron Wolforth. His early ‘Pitch Design’ was all about creating the right Ev pitch arsenal. He and his father actually created an Ev Tunnel tool. It was designed to throw through it to work on his Ev Tunnels. We worked together over a few years designing his attack, including his 12 to 6 curveball to get more downward movement. He asked me how Darvish could throw a 12-6 CB straight down out of his normal FB/SL arm slot. I told him he didn’t and showed him the video of how Darvish actually changed his arm angle to position his release in order to get the right spin to create the straight down action. Bauer’s approach to the craft is second to none in dedication. That has always impressed me.
PH: The Ev Ecosystem that you have written about, is actually referring to this idea of the Ev superweapon. But, even armed with a superweapon, there is no guarantee that the wielder will know how to maximize the use. Corey Kluber, Gerrit Cole, Charlie Morton, and Justin Verlander are pretty good examples of this. In fact, Tim Keown of ESPN wrote an excellent article about Morton not too long ago.
PH: They all have elite pitch arsenals but their use of them is not always at maximum efficiency, as we saw a few costly examples in the postseason. The Ev Ecosystem is taking those newly sharpened weapons and putting them together in the most efficient way possible, backed by analytics and built to move and adjust at game speed, Ev Liquid Analytics. Without using Ev’s ‘Location Adjusted Speed’, along with the many other key elements of Ev Metrics, it is not possible to get pitchers’ to their max levels of efficiency. Guglielmo Marconi’s patent of the radio used 17 of Tesla’s patents to make it work, which was posthumously awarded back to Tesla. You can’t build the most efficient pitcher without the key elements of Ev Metrics, whether you are aware of it or not.
I want to thank Mr. Husband for his time and cooperation with this article. I’ll be working with Mr. Husband on future Going Deep pieces as well. In the meantime, you can find out more by visiting his Ev website and following him on twitter @EVPerryHusband.
Brilliant stuff Michael. If only we knew of the next breakthrough (a-la him talking to Zito in ’04) as it was happening instead of a decade down the line! Awesome job snagging Perry – good luck with the future pieces!