Professor and Alumnus Set Out to Change Baseball One Pitch at a Time

QOP: A revolutionary baseball pitch analysis system that could change the way the game is played

Apr. 13, 2015 By Joel Smith

Two Biolans may change the way baseball is played. After five years of analyzing more than 5 million pitches in Major League Baseball (MLB), Biola University math professor Jason Wilson and alumnus Jarvis Greiner (’12) are sharing their potentially revolutionary results — Quality of Pitch (QOP), a metric they’ve developed to objectively judge a pitcher’s performance.

“For decades pitches have been defined by either velocity in miles per hour or by subjective descriptions such as a nasty curveball, a wicked changeup or a wipeout slider,” said Greiner, a former pitcher on Biola’s baseball team. “Pitch quantification removes the subjective factors that cloud the assessment of a pitcher and judges him on only those things within control.”

The QOP metric, a pitch quantification index, has the potential to reshape the way the public thinks about the game of baseball and the role of the pitcher, according to Wilson. In addition, Greiner and Wilson hope the index can help prevent injury in pitchers and give kids a more adept understanding of what makes a good pitch.

“The system analyzes all of the pitch components — velocity, trajectory and location — to show that there is much more that goes into a good pitch than just speed,” said Wilson. “Our hope is that understanding this could help prevent injuries and promote a more mature understanding of what makes a great pitch.”

Greiner had the idea for the algorithm when he was in Wilson’s statistics class. The two began testing and analyzing pitches, first by studying pitchers from Biola’s baseball team and eventually by looking at MLB pitches using PITCHf/x technology. Greiner and Wilson worked with the Los Angeles Dodgers in the metric’s recent stages to test it on an MLB team.

QOP determines the quality of a pitch based on five variables: pitch velocity, pitch location, total break (horizontal and vertical), breaking point (how late a pitch moves) and rise of pitch (maximum height). The trajectory and location component has been labeled “The Greiner Index,” which combined with velocity determines QOP.

The metric produces an exact number outcome to identify the quality of a pitch measured. The grading scale ranges from -10 to +10, with anything 5.00 or better being considered a “MLB quality” pitch.

Greiner and Wilson presented the Quality of Pitch metric in March 2015 at the Society of Baseball Research Analytics (SABR) Conference in Phoenix before an audience of baseball’s top analytical minds, many of which are employed by MLB teams.

“The media buzz from the SABR Analytics conference in Phoenix was definitely exciting and almost overwhelming,” said Greiner. “We expected it to be big within the analytics community, but we didn't expect the general, everyday baseball fan to get excited about it right away,”

After the conference, The Los Angeles Times ran a story, as did dozens of other news outlets.

“Going forward, our goal is to work with major league teams in order to establish the metric’s credibility,” said Wilson. “We believe the system has the potential to one day be used in ESPN’s statistical analytics and even in radar guns used to measure pitches,” said Wilson.

According to Greiner and Wilson, the metric could bring a positive shift to how people look at pitches.

“Fans and players are now able to see past a batter, who may have hit a home run, to see that the pitcher may in fact have done his job well by executing a quality pitch,” said Greiner. “This type of performance should be met with positive feedback but up until now the result would have been all that mattered, leading to criticism when the pitcher did nothing less than what a manager could expect out of him. Pitchers should be evaluated on what they can control, and with this index they now can be.”

Wilson and Greiner will be able to produce a custom Quality of Pitch chart for each Major League Baseball team after every game played in the 2015 season, offering an entirely new stream of analytic data.

Visit www.qopbaseball.com for more information.

Written by Joel Smith, media relations intern. For more information, contact Jenna Loumagne, media relations specialist, at (562) 777-4061 or jenna.l.bartlo@biola.edu.

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