Re-introducing Paintomatic

Paintomatic confrims it: Jacob deGrom has a great fastball. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Paintomatic confrims it: Jacob deGrom has a great fastball. (via Arturo Pardavila III)

Red Sox fan: “The Red Sox just spent $217 million on David Price. What kind of pitcher is he?”
Several years ago I introduced a visual called Paintomatic with the goal of answering questions like the one above. Like my other visuals, the intention was to unlock insight that’s hidden in the data. The responses I got to Paintomatic seemed to validate the need I was trying to fill and the desire for more.

At the time, I was making these manually, but now I’ve created an interactive Paintomatic that enables you to search for any player (since 2007) and see his pitching breakdown in Paintomatic. I’ve also redesigned the tool to include velocity, pitch movement, and a more nuanced color scheme to show pitch value (cooler colors for lower pitch values, warmer colors for higher pitch values).

In the redesign of Paintomatic, I wanted to visualize and blend together two essential parts of performance: process and outcomes. Process – the factors within the pitcher’s control – are pitch selection and usage, movement, and speed. The outcomes – quantified by Pitch Value – are represented via color. In blending these elements together, my goal is to create an easy-to-digest snapshot that describes the pitcher and what he throws. I think there’s a need for this blend of process and outcomes, visualized in an easy-to-understand format.

Paintomatic can’t answer every question about a pitcher, but I designed it to answer questions such as: How good is this pitcher? And why? What does this pitcher throw? What’s unique about this pitcher? How has this pitcher evolved from one season to another? What’s it like facing this pitcher? I also wanted to answer questions about multiple pitchers, such as: What does this team’s starting rotation look like? What about their bullpen? How does pitcher X compare to pitcher Y? Let’s take Paintomatic for a spin and explore these questions visually.

How good is this pitcher?

Jake-Arrieta-2015 I can tell Jake Arrieta is good because his graphic is all orange and red.

Buck-Farmer-2015 I can also tell that Buck Farmer isn’t so good (lots of blue) — at least not yet. Although that 2-seam fastball is something to be proud of.

What does this pitcher throw?

Mark-Buehrle-2015 Mark Buehrle gets it done with a low-speed mix of five pitches, with OK movement and OK results.

Mariano-Rivera-2008 (1) The simplicity of Mariano Rivera’s dominance was always pretty striking.

What’s unique about this pitcher?

Jeremy-Bonderman-2008 Jeremy Bonderman’s sinker in 2008 was pretty crazy, with off the charts movement — you can see that each square represents 15 inches of movement — yet mediocre results.

R.A.-Dickey-2015 (1) R.A Dickey sure is an interesting pitcher. Few pitchers rely on one pitch and at such slow speeds.

How has this pitcher evolved from one season to another?

Tim-Lincecum-2015 Tim Lincecum has really changed as a pitcher, both in terms of outcomes (color) and process (pitch usage, speed).

What’s it like facing this pitcher?

Joakim-Soria-2008 No, it’s not like standing in the box facing a 95 mph fastball. But just imagine facing this arsenal from Joakim Soria in the eighth or ninth inning after a long game.

What does this team’s starting rotation look like?

Matt-Harvey-2015Jacob-deGrom-2015Noah-Syndergaard-2015 The future looks bright (red & orange) for the Mets rotation.

What about the bullpen across town?

Aroldis-Chapman-2015Andrew-Miller-2015Dellin-Betances-2015 If you like pitching, it’s a good time to be living in the tri-state area.

A Hardball Times Update
Goodbye for now.

How does pitcher X compare to pitcher Y?

Clayton-Kershaw-2015Chris-Sale-2015 Clayton Kershaw gets you up and down, Chris Sale gets you side to side.

These are but a snapshot of the Paintomatic tool that I found interesting, but with close to 4,000 Paintomatic graphics available, take it for a spin and let me know what you find interesting.

Kevin Dame is a writer and visual designer who brings sports information to life in new and meaningful ways. Visit his website and follow him on Twitter @kevintdame.
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7 years ago

This is my new favorite baseball thing on the internet. Really awesome job visualizing a guy’s repertoire.

7 years ago

Great stuff. Thanks Kevin.

7 years ago

Wow, this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen! Could you further explain to me how the pitch movement part works. I’m confused why for some pitchers their fastball has more ‘movement’ than their breaking pitches. Does part of it deal with their delivery style? Where exactly is the center in reference to?

Eli Ben-Poratmember
7 years ago

Love it. Would love to see this flipped around for hitters, to see what pitchers are throwing them and how effective each pitch is against them, as well as a simple way to visualize the effectiveness of location (by pitch type) against each batter.

7 years ago

GREAT! This is fascinating. Kevin, one question: There are some pitches that “rise”. I understand the rising fastball. But what about Noah Syndergaard´s “rising sinker”?

7 years ago
Reply to  Luis

Luis, explaining why a sinker “rises” is probably not in my wheelhouse (I specialize in the visualization of the data more than the data itself). My guess is that fastballs, sinkers and changeups all “rise” relative to a “spinless” ball. But I’ll bet that sinkers on average don’t appear to rise as much as regular fastballs, thus having sinking movement. Perhaps someone else commenting can answer better?

7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

I think it’s possible to get data that would show the actual movement of the pitch (im not really sure what it’s called, but fastballs will go down).

7 years ago
Reply to  Kevin

The spinless ball theory looks like a strong guess. Look at Dickey’s graphic: the mostly-spinless knuckler has almost no movement off that central point on the graph.

Bob B.
7 years ago

Wow. Great stuff: Interesting (and fun too).

7 years ago

Once again, great work Kevin, thanks. And once again a similar question about pitch movement, though I am in fact wondering about the way the data is visualized (your wheelhouse!). Is the white dot at the center the release point? So these grids are centered on the pitchers hand, not on the relative center of the strike zone. Doesn’t seem right, since many of these pitchers would be throwing pitches that broke in all kinds of crazy directions. Or is the colored dot at the end of the line the release point, and the pitches are represented as if they hit the center of the zone (which is where the white dot always is)? Neither of those seems right, based on the way I’m looking at this.

And just to clarify, by movement, we’re not talking about where the ball *actually* goes, but we’re talking about it’s movement related to a league average or spinless pitch (though I’m not sure of the difference, they’re used interchangeably where I’m reading). If I’m getting this right, a rising pitch’s movement is the distance it covers relative to the same pitch with no spin. Makes sense for fastballs, but on breaking pitches, I don’t get it. You can’t throw a spinless curve ball, so what are the curve balls here relative to, if the colored lines don’t actually represent their movement?