Background: Basic pitcher statistics have been used to assess performance in pitchers after injury or surgery without being validated. Even among healthy pitchers, the normal variability of these parameters has not yet been established.
Purpose: To determine (1) the normal variability of basic and advanced pitcher statistics in healthy professional baseball pitchers and (2) the minimum pitches needed to predict these parameters.
Study design: Cross-sectional study; Level of evidence, 3.
Methods: Publicly available data from the MLB Statcast and PITCHf/x databases were used to analyze MLB pitchers during the 2015 and 2016 seasons who recorded a minimum of 100 innings without injury. Basic and advanced baseball pitcher statistics were analyzed. The variability of each parameter was assessed by computing the coefficient of variation (CV) between individual pitchers and across all pitchers. A CV <10 was indicative of a relatively constant parameter, and parameters with a CV >10 were generally considered inconsistent and unreliable. The minimum number of pitches needed to be followed for each variable was also analyzed.
Results: A total of 118 pitchers, 55 baseball-specific statistical metrics (38 basic and 17 advanced), and 7.5 million pitches were included and analyzed. Of the 38 basic pitcher statistics, only fastball velocity demonstrated a CV <10 (CV = 1.5), while 6 of 17 (35%) advanced metrics demonstrated acceptable consistency (CV <10). Release position from plate and velocity from the plate were the 2 most consistent advanced parameters. When separated by pitch type, these 2 parameters were the most constant (lowest CV) across every pitch type.
Conclusion: We recommend against utilizing nonvalidated statistical measures to assess performance after injury, as they demonstrated unacceptably high variability even among healthy, noninjured professional baseball pitchers. It is our hope that this study will serve as the foundation for the identification and implementation of validated pitcher-dependent statistical measures that can be used to assess return-to-play performance after injury in the future.
Keywords: MLB; baseball; overhead athletes; pitching; predictive analytics; throwing injuries.
© The Author(s) 2021.