Author Archive

An Entirely Different Matt Garza?

In yesterday’s One Night Only Carson Cistulli observed that Matt Garza is throwing his two-seam fastball, slider, and changeup about twice as often this year as previously — making him entirely different pitcher. Pitch F/x-guru and Cubs-fan Harry Pavlidis, with his own reclassifications of the Pitch F/x data, came to Carson’s aid and found that Garza is indeed throwing more sliders and changeups, but not any more two-seam fastballs. There are improvements in the Pitch F/x’s internal classification system during the offseason and that is probably responsible for the shift Carson saw in two-seam fastball frequency.
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Roy Halladay Throwing Tons of Cutters

Yesterday Roy Halladay continued the excellent start to his 2011 season, striking out 14 batters — tied for a career best — and allowing a single run over 8.2 innings. Five starts into the season Halladay leads the league in WAR and is second in xFIP and FIP. Halladay, 33, is continuing a trend started in 2004 throwing more cutters and fewer two-seam fastballs. Early in the season he is throwing the most cutters (47%) and fewest two-seam fastballs (26%) of his career.

Halladay has always thrown his cutter more often to left-handed than right-handed batters, and it is no different this year as he has thrown it 58% of the time to left-handed batters. His command with the pitch has been other-worldly:

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Dan Haren’s Commanding Start

The Angels’ Dan Haren pickup is looking great; early in the 2011 season Haren has been one of the game’s best pitchers. He has been the beneficiary of some BABIP and HR/FB luck. Still, the underlying peripherals are amazing, including a league-leading 13.5 K/BB and 2.80 xFIP.

Through his first four starts, and one appearance out of the pen during an extra-innings game, Haren is throwing his cut fastball much more than he did in the past. By my classification of the PitchFx data he is throwing it just under 40% of the time (the BIS classifications for yesterday’s game have not been updated at this time). Here are the locations of all those cut fastballs so far this year.

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Edwin Jackson’s Great Start

In a matchup against his former team – although not against many of his former teammates – Edwin Jackson carved through the Tampa Bay Rays yesterday afternoon. Over eight innings he struck out 13 while allowing just four hits, a single walk and an earned run. His first start against the Cleveland Indians wasn’t as good, but he did get seven strikeouts over six innings. Needless to say, Jackson has had an encouraging first two starts.

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Kershaw’s Hard Slider

As Dave Cameron wrote earlier today, Clayton Kershaw dominated last night’s Opening Day pitching matchup with Tim Lincecum. Over seven innings he struck out nine while giving up just four hits, one walk and no runs. Dave noted that in the broadcast Orel Hershiser mentioned that the Dodgers were looking for Kershaw to throw his slider with more velocity this season. Plus, during the game, the slider looked great to me, so I wanted to turn to the trusty PITCHf/x data to see what was going on.

It does look like those sliders were faster than the ones he threw last year on average. Last night’s sliders average 84.0 mph compared with just 81.4 mph last year. On top of that a third of them last night were faster than 85mph, compared with only a handful of last year’s slider over 85 mph. None of Kershaw’s sliders last night was under 80mph compared to a fair fraction last year. On the other hand Kershaw did have three games last year when he average at least 84mph on his slider: April 13th, April 24th and May 4th.

So compared to his average slider last year he was throwing quite a bit harder, though not outside of the realm of what he did during some extreme games last year. As Dave noted maybe this hard slider (almost cut fastball) could be more effective against right-handed batters than a big sweeping slider. Last night that was certainly the case; Kershaw threw 12 sliders to right-handed batters and got three swinging strikes, three fouls, two called strikes, two outs in play and two balls.

Obviously, that is a tiny sample size. But this potential hard slider is definitely a thing to keep on eye on with Kershaw in the 2011 season, because if he does develop an effective secondary pitch against right-hand batters (his changeup isn’t great) he could erase part of his huge platoon split.

Michael Saunders’ Struggles with Outside Pitches

At USSMariner, Dave Cameron posted a rundown of his projected Mariners opening day roster. He thinks that the Mariners should (and it appears the team will) start the season with Michael Saunders back down in AAA. Saunders, Cameron notes, has a problem with his swing that make it tough for him to hit the ball to left field, which makes it hard for him to deal with outside pitches. The Mariners are trying to rework Saunders’ swing to address the problem, and that would be best done down in AAA where he can get regular at-bats. I wanted to see if the pitchf/x data backed up Dave’s evaluation of Saunders’ problem.
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Knuckleballs and Grounders

News out of the Red Sox camp (h/t Neyer) is that the Red Sox might finally part ways with Tim Wakefield. The season is still is ways off, so there is time for injuries to come up and Wakefield find a way into the rotation. But if this is the end of the line for Wakefield with the Red Sox — only seven wins shy of 200 and 13 away from the franchise record — it would be too bad. For one thing, last year was a rare one when two knuckleballers got a substantial number of innings: Wakefield and R.A. Dickey.

Looking at the two pitchers’ numbers I was struck by their very different ground-ball rates, 55% for Dickey versus just 37% for Wakefield. My main frame of reference for a knuckleballer has been Tim Wakefield, so l always assumed that there was something about the knuckleball which led to lots of fly balls. But with Dickey’s high ground-ball rate maybe it is just Wakefield’s knuckleball.
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The Fans and Marcel in 2011: Pitchers

Monday, I looked at how the 2011 Fans and Marcel projections compared for position players, and today I will do the same for pitchers. For position players the fans project more playing time than Marcel. The fans also project higher rate stats (wOBA) for most players , but for below-average players actually project a lower wOBA than Marcel. Most of this can be explained by a the fans not regressing towards the mean as much as Marcel does. Let’s see whether the same holds for pitchers.

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The Fans and Marcel in 2011: Position Players

With the Super Bowl over and pitchers and catchers reporting in a week, baseball season is finally in sight. For me one of the most interesting parts of the offseason is the Fans projections. I think they offer an incredible collection of information on what the crowd thinks about the coming year. As the offseason transition to spring training I wanted to take stock of these projections.

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Chamberlain’s Stuff as a Starter

Yesterday, while doing a question-and-answer session with WFAN, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman was asked about Joba Chamberlain’s role with the Yankees. Chamberlain has bounced back and forth between the pen and rotation several times, but spent all last year in the pen. Now with the Rafael Soriano signing and questionable back-of-the-rotation options (which Paul Swydan outlined earlier) many have wondered whether Chamberalin would start next year.

But Cashman said the Yankees view him solely as a reliever. “I don’t think his stuff is the same since he hurt himself in Texas [August 4th 2008] … The stuff plays up better in the pen.” Cashman continued, “His stuff doesn’t play out of the rotation anymore like it did before prior to his shoulder.”
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