Looking solely at baseball savant metrics that predict pitching outcomes, you would guess that these two pitchers are pretty similar. In reality, these two pitchers could not be more different. Brusdar Graterol (Pitcher A) and Alex Claudio (Pitcher B) had very similar 2020 seasons on paper, but on the mound they are quite different. First looking at fastball velocity, Graterol was in the 100th percentile averaging “99.3 MPH” on his fastball/sinkers while Claudio was in the 1st percentile, averaging “85.9 MPH” on his fastball/sinkers. Looking at pitch usage, we can see that Graterol throws his Sinker/Fastball 71% of the time while Claudio only throws his 39%. I wanted to note that I will be clumping fastballs and sinkers together in this article for simplicity sake because both pitchers throw majority sinkers with a small portion of four-seam fastballs.
This BallR visual below shows how different these pitchers’ sinkers are:
Another thing that will become very obvious when looking at these pitchers is that their arm angles are quite different. The righty Graterol throws fastballs at 1:15 spin direction which is a pretty common spin direction for a right-handed pitcher. The lefty Claudio on the other hand (see what I did there) throws his fastballs at a 9:15 spin direction which is quite rare to see. To give you a good reference point, an equivalent spin direction for a lefty to Graterol’s 1:15 would be 10:45, so Claudio is a full 1:30 away from that.
As you can see above, arm release height is another variable that is very different between these two pitchers. Graterol releases his pitches on average of 6.4 ft., while the taller Claudio releases his pitches at 4.8 ft.
Here is a video overlay of Claudio’s Sinker (orange) vs. Slider (red):
Here is a video overlay of Graterol’s Sinker (red) vs. Slider (blue):
To further show how different these two pitchers located their fastballs, just look at the pitch heat maps above. Claudio did not throw 1 pitch last year above the strike zone and only threw 7 of his 331 pitches in the top 1/3 of the zone. Using the bottom of the zone is common for pitchers with low pitch speed and low fastball spin rates like Claudio. Looking at Graterol’s heat map we can see an opposite pattern where most of his pitches can be seen in the top part of the zone. Given his fastball velocity this makes sense until you look at his fastball spin rate. Similar to Claudio he is in the bottom 5 percentile in spin rate, and knowing this you would actually expect him to have more success in the bottom third of the strike zone. Interestingly though, his heat map shows that his fastball velocity seems to have allowed him to get away with locating pitches closer to the middle of the plate last year. I would expect a shift this next year of his heat map to the bottom of the zone while using the middle less to play to his lack of spin to allow his sinkers to break more at the bottom of the zone.
We know the predictive metrics show these two pitchers are similar, but further similarities can be seen in their traditional statistics as well.
They faced about the same number of hitters last year with Graterol facing 7 more. Total hits against, singles, and doubles are all identical, while Claudio gave up 1 more triple and home run. The batting average against was also similar with Graterol being .018 lower.
It seems kind of ridiculous that Graterol’s slider (89.1 MPH) averages 3.2 MPH faster than Claudio’s Fastball (85.9 MPH) yet they ended up with similar results, which just goes to show you there are multiple ways to become successful at getting hitters out.
These two pitchers have never both pitched in the same game, but now that they are crosstown rivals they will close out spring training against each other, as well as face each other in 2 separate series during the regular season.