Archive for May, 2006

C.C. Absolutely Dominant

graphs_404_pitcher_daily_4_full140280_20060523.pngIn his second consecutive complete game, C.C. Sabathia shutout the twins while striking out 8 and allowing only 6 hits. He’s been brilliant since returning from the D.L. and has allowed only 7 runs in 40 plus innings of work, giving him a 0.92 ERA in his past 5 starts.

The 26 year old is proving that his stellar end to the 2005 season was no fluke and has picked up exactly where he left off last season. His strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB) has been in “elite” territory for the past two-plus months he’s been healthy. Even the most devout C.C. skeptic will have trouble debunking his recent success.

Corey Patterson Batting Over .300

graphs_300_batter_season_5_full140280_20060523.pngMy whipping boy in the off season went 3-3 with a home run, 2 stolen bases, and 2 walks last night to raise his batting average to just over .300 for the season. Corey Patterson must have made some significant changes to go from hitting a horrible .215 to a good .306 in just one season, right?

Well, the main thing Patterson has done is actually make contact with the ball. Last season he struck out in 26% of his at-bats and this season he’s only striking out 17% of the time. However, it’s not all good news since he still can’t (or won’t) decipher when pitches are in the strike zone. He chases “bad pitches” over 30% of the time making him one of the 10 most aggresive swingers in baseball. While he has made real improvement and can probably be elevated from “whipping boy” status, I just don’t buy him as a .300 hitter.

Daily Graphing – Brad Penny

Brad Penny and Hee Seop Choi for Guillermo Mota, Paul LoDuca, and Juan Encarnacion. That trade made two years ago was most likely Paul DePodesta’s defining transaction as GM of the Dodgers. Nobody seemed to like it, arguing LoDuca’s leadership couldn’t be replaced and Mota was the glue holding the bullpen together (Eric Gagne, anyone?) Those in favor of the trade saw a top-notch starter in Penny and a young power-hitter with patience and potential.

The short story is that Penny immediately injured himself and missed the rest of the season, while the Dodgers still managed to win the division. The long story is that Choi never performed up to expectations, Mota’s been a disappointment for the Marlins and Indians, and LoDuca’s still a nice catcher, but his legend status has disappeared. Penny, after an above-average 2005 season where he managed to toss 175 innings amidst injuries, has turned into an early Cy Young candidate in 2006. Paul DePodesta is long gone, but is this the year that his 2004 trade is finally recognized as a plus move for the Dodgers?

Penny’s ERA currently sits at 2.53 in 53.1 innings pitched. That’s an ERA 1.4 runs below his career rate and currently ranks him fourth in the National League. He’s never posted a full-season ERA below 3.00 before, but came close in 2004.

Penny Seasonal ERA

So, let’s see what Penny’s doing better this season that explains the ERA drop. He’s been consistently average with his strikeout rate over his career and 2006 is no different. Control-wise, he’s walking half a batter more per game this year than last, but the 2.7 BB/9 is in line with his career rate and better than average.

Penny Season K-9 Small Penny Seasonal BB-9 Small

On the other hand, Penny’s homerun rate has been amazing so far in 2006 — he’s only given up 2 homeruns in 53.1 innings. Keeping the ball in the park has been a strength throughout his career, but he’s actually allowing more fly balls this season than in the past, in addition to fewer groundballs and more line drives. A shift like that in batted ball profile would tend to imply an increase in homeruns, but Penny’s only allowing 3% of fly balls to leave the yard, compared to a career norm of about 9%. Expect that number to rise, and Penny’s ERA along with it.

Penny BIP Profile

A second indicator of a potential rise in ERA is Penny’s left-on-base rate in 2006. Over his career, 72% of base-runners were left on base, whereas that number is up to 81% this season. That number will likely regress as the season goes on and with it more runners will score.

Penny Seasonal LOB

Penny’s Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) sits at 3.31, significantly higher than his actual ERA. FIP accounts for the high LOB%, but unless Penny continues to be historically stingy with the homeruns, expect his ERA the rest of the season to be at least 3.75. If he can stay healthy enough to pitch 200 innings, however, his 2006 season will still garner a lot of attention, especially if the Dodgers continue to rebound from 2005 and challenge for the division lead.

Jake Peavy Ks 16 Batters in Loss

graphs_1051_pitcher_daily_2_full140280_20060522.pngLast night Jake Peavy struck out 16 batters in the Padres 3-1 loss to the Braves. The last time anyone struck out 16 or more was way back in September of 2004 when Mark Prior mowed down 16 Reds. This also marked a career high for Peavy and was the 12th ten-plus strikeout performance of his career.

Yawn… another start, another good performance for the soon to be 25 year old. He’s struck out 35 batters in his last 19 innings while issuing just 4 walks. His strikeouts per 9 innings (K/9) have now returned to just about where they were last season. Yeah, he’s pretty good.

Yankees Tee-Off Against Keith Foulke

graphs_231_pitcher_season_4_full140280_20060521.pngWith an 8 run lead in the 9th, Keith Foulke was brought in for mop-up duty and allowed back-to-back home runs to Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada. He ended up with 4 earned runs on the night raising his ERA from 3.47 to 4.81.

Despite the poor, meaningless outing, Foulke appears to have mostly returned to his 2004-self after battling a knee injury all of last season. He’s striking out about 7 batters per 9 innings and walking just over 1 per 9 innings, giving him a career high strikeout-to-walk ratio (K/BB). Too bad it’s going to take about 10 scoreless innings for his ERA to return to where it was.

Mike Maroth Owns 5th Best ERA

graphs_1508_pitcher_season_9_full140280_20060521.pngWho would have thought that nearly two months into the season Mike Maroth would have the 5th best ERA in baseball with a 5-2 record to boot? To get right to the point, there’s only one graph you have to look at with Maroth: his left-on-base percentage (LOB%) graph.

Every stat this year except for his ERA and LOB% has shown either no significant change or have been worse than last season. In other words, he’s not really pitching any better than last year, but has been the benefactor of, dare I say, luck? Barring any significant change in his strikeout or walk habits, expect his LOB% to drift back to earth causing his ERA to be more in-line with his career average (4.68).

Ichiro Riding 15 Game Hitting Streak

graphs_1101_batter_daily_10_full140280_20060521.pngLast night’s 3-5 performance bumped Ichiro Suzuki’s batting average up to .314 for the season and marks the 15th game on his current hitting streak.

Over the past month or so, he’s seen a drastic rise in the number of groundballs (green) he’s hit, bringing him back to his typical batted-ball profile. Furthermore, he’s been beating out these same grounders for singles over 20% of the time, the highest at any point in his career. With his groundball percentage nearing a career high, it’s doubtful he’ll reach last year’s 15 home run mark, but I don’t see anyone complaining. Looks like this could be one of his “better” years in the average department.

Aramis Ramirez Ends Home Run Drought

graphs_1002_batter_season_6_full140280_20060521.pngAfter going homer-less in his previous 41 plate appearances, Aramis Ramirez hit home runs in his first two at-bats in the Cubs 7-4 victory of the White Sox. The two dingers resulted in a 26.6 Win Probability Added (WPA); his largest contribution on the season.

While struggling through back injuries he batted a horrible .197 in April, but is hitting a much better (though mediocre) .263 this month. Last season he had a scorching June compiling 35 hits for a .363 average including 7 home runs. Oddly enough, it appears he’s seeing the ball better than ever as shown by the dramatic increase in his walk-to-strikeout ratio (BB/K). Assuming his back troubles are over, it looks like he’s primed for a serious hot streak.

Scott Kazmir Finds Consistent Control

graphs_4897_pitcher_daily_3_full140280_20060520.pngScott Kazmir shut out the Marlins for 8 innings while striking out 11 batters and walking just one. Today’s win was his 7th; tying him for the league lead.

Is there any pitcher hotter than Kazmir right now? Over his past 5 starts he has a 0.77 ERA with 37 strikeouts and just 4 walks. He’s always been able to strike batters out, but he’s managed to cut his walks per 9 innings (BB/9) almost in half this year. With his wildness under control, starts like this are going to become old hat.

Daily Graphing – Corey Koskie

I have a soft spot for players like Corey Koskie — guys that are above-average players, but don’t get the recognition they deserve because they don’t do even one thing at All-Star level. Koskie’s highest finish on a league top 10 list was sixth in sacrifice flies in 2003 and he finished 25th in the league in MVP voting in 2001. His lack of a significant weakness has resulted in consistently above-average production. He’s been above average in runs created per game (RC/G) every season since his 11 at-bats in 1998.

Koskie Seasonal RC-G

While Koskie’s overall performance has been consistent, the profile of his play has taken on a few different personalities. He cranked 25 homeruns in 2001 and 2004, he walked in 14% of his plate appearances in 2000 and 2003, and he’s hit anywhere from .250 to .310. Combine the best individual numbers from across all his seasons and he’s an All-Star, albeit a poor one.

Let’s take a look at what Koskie did in 2001; his best season. He hit 26 homeruns and broke the century mark in both runs and RBI, coming to the plate 649 times, 75 more than in any other year. The power can be explained by his profile as a fly ball hitter in 2001, which was similar to his 2004 season where he hit 25 home runs. In both those seasons his batting average was below his career norms. Fly balls are turned into outs more often than groundballs, and Koskie’s fly balls (blue) also came with a price of fewer line drives (red), which explains the lower average.

Koskie GB-LD-FB

Koskie’s worst season (2005) saw his fly ball rate fall by 10%, causing his home run total to decrease to 11. He’s had other successful seasons without much power, but in those seasons he saw both a higher line-drive percentage and walk rate. In 2005 he hit a lot of groundballs and both his power and average dipped because of it.

So what kind of player has Koskie been so far in 2006? His on-base percentage (OBP) lies at a career norm of .365, but he’s slugging a career-best .515 thanks to a .286 average and 14 doubles. Looking underneath those numbers though, his 2006 looks a lot like 2005. His batted ball profile is unfortunately very similar to last year, yet his batting average on balls in play (BABIP) is up to .341; the highest it’s been since 2003. One of those two figures will change as the season goes on, likely the latter. Most disappointingly, his walk rate (BB%) is at a career low 9%.

Koskie Seasonal BB Rate

An up and coming team like the Brewers should be concentrating on letting their young guys develop, but they also need to fill a few positions with veterans. Acquiring an underrated third baseman like Koskie at a salary below value is a great move. Most teams in Milwaukee’s situation tend to overspend on players such as Tony Batista and Carl Everett. But while Koskie seems to have bumped up his performance from last year, his profile hasn’t changed much except for a decrease in walks.

I expect his walk-rate to become more in line with his career performance, but the batting average and doubles power will likely come down from their current levels. I’ll still be rooting for Koskie, but it seems like his days as an above-average player may be over.