Daniel Norris and his scary comps

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

I liked the trade as soon as I heard the news.

Sure, we all loved seeing David Price in the Olde English D, but as the season became increasingly irretrievable, it became more and more obvious he would need to be shipped away to another clubhouse for what would be, hopefully, a productive return.

The work I’ve done on putting this article together only served to confirm my initial suspicions…it’s looking more than good, in fact I’d say very good indeed if these comparisons play anything like true to form.

From the short glimpse we got of Norris this year, I just got the sense he looked what he is; a blue chip prospect the Jays were reluctant to part with because not only does he have the stuff, he has a poise and makeup on the mound to go with it.

The stuff though, that’s what really intrigued me, so it’s that I wanted to focus on here.

It is important however to consider this exercise does not measure the actual quality of the pitch, just its characteristics. As I am focussing on on the average velocity and movement, this analysis will therefore not consider how consistent a pitch is nor how much command the pitcher has with it.

Here’s Daniel's pitch type breakdown since he’s been in the majors according to the wonderful Brooks Baseball…(figures rounded )


He also throws a splitter but it’s very, very rare so I’ve gone with the five main offerings above.

To get these comps, I make use of the Baseball Prospectus PITCHf/x leaderboards which are an absolute goldmine of useful information.

As Norris has only been in the bigs a short time, I would obviously need to go back further than his career start to get enough data to make the comparisons worthwhile, so I went back to all the data that PITCHf/x has, from 2008-14.

To keep the comparison as even as I could, I only compared him to other left-handed starters who had thrown a minimum of 100/200 pitches of the same type, depending on the amount of data I could garner per pitch.

Things I needed to consider to get the nearest match were:

  • Velocity
  • Horizontal Movement
  • Vertical Movement

I got my top comparison by the using the Z-Score, the measure of separation between Norris and another pitcher by the above three numbers. The closer the Z-Score, the better and more accurate the comparison.

Using these parameters will allow me to match as closely as possible to the Norris arsenal.

We’ll break it down pitch by pitch and to illustrate as best I can, I’ll chuck some nice gifs in too.


Top Comp: Cole Hamels




Very similar looking pitches, from the release point to the trajectory. Hamels seems to have a tad more going on mechanically with the knee bend and they finish off differently, but the characteristic of the pitch itself remains close. There are certainly worse heaters to resemble than that of a perennial All-Star in Cole Hamels.


Top Comp: Cliff Lee




The difference in mechanics here makes the comparison a little harder, but the sinker/two seamer they both throw is almost identical in its behaviour as you can see from the data in all three measures.

I would quite obviously suggest Norris has nowhere near the control of it that Lee has had for years now, but that will naturally improve with time. This is absolutely not Norris’ top offering but for his best comp to be a bona fide sinker ace like Cliff Lee can only bode well.


Top Comp: Tony Cingrani




The similarities are clear enough here. Despite Norris’ change falling off the table more at the end (which was likely down to Cingrani’s pitch being more up in the zone) they are still two closely related pitches.

However something possibly more interesting here?

The top comp was only just Cingrani. The second best comp for Norris’ change? C.C Sabathia. The third? Jose Quintana. Two lefties known for quality changeups and two solid comps for the Norris offering.


Top Comp: C.J. Wilson




There’s many sliders out there that Norris would benefit being a comp to, and Wilson’s is absolutely one of them.

It’s been his go to pitch his whole career and has by far accounted for most of his whiffs at just under 40% total.

Norris’ slidepiece has a nasty late break to it, like most lefty on lefty matchups, thrown in the right place it’s virtually unhittable.


Top Comp: Clayton Kershaw




Yes ladies and gents, none other…

I knew the Norris curve was downright filthy but the closest comp is the owner of the other worldly hook himself Clayton Kershaw! Their offerings are almost identically ridiculous. There were others nearby, notably the RockiesChristian Friedrich, but no other comps really got close simply because both the Norris and Kershaw curveball have such vertical drop they stand above anyone else throwing the pitch at or around the same speed.


Cole Hamels’ fastball, Cliff Lee’s sinker, Tony Cingrani’s change, C.J. Wilson’s slider and Clayton Kershaw’s hook.

Taking Cingrani out, that’s four out of Norris’ five pitches with comps to a selection of veteran All-Star pitchers and in Kershaw’s case, an almost nailed on first ballot Hall of Famer.

Ladies and gentlemen – this boy has all the tools he needs stuff wise to be anything he wants to be.

We must however again say though that this sort of analysis is not predictive, it cannot tell how Norris will use these pitches to his advantage in the future, nor can it with any sort of accuracy tell you what sort of career path he will take, but what it it can be, and is, is indicative of the sort of natural talent Daniel Norris was born with, a glimpse into what sort of pitcher he could be and, not to forget, incredibly intriguing and rather enjoyable to boot.

One thing we can be sure of...Tiger fans the world over are going to have an awful lot of fun watching this boy pitch and develop in the coming years.

This is a FanPost and does not necessarily reflect the views of the <em>Bless You Boys</em> writing staff.