I've spent the weekend re-tooling my PITCHf/x data handling. The big step has been to bite the bullet and standardize the data back to y0=55. What was really fun was my Dad being in town and working out the math with him. Also, we spent time discussing algorithms and uses for the data. He agrees with the use of cluster analysis, and he certainly knows a thing or two about signal detection and pattern analysis.
There are about three people who are interested in getting a hold of part, or all, of my process. Some of contributed encouragement, others motivation. Last night, Eric Seidman (from Statistically Speaking) and I worked late into the night (for a work day) on getting his database set-up and loaded. The loading is coming into some issues, but we've made progress.
For me, the last hurdle is the PFX calculations. There are two approaches outlined by Alan Nathan, and I'm having issues with both when converting the work from my Excel scratch-pad to MySQL. Once that is together, and Eric and I are successful on his system, too, I'll be posting my code for anyone to use.
Tuesday, April 29, 2008
I've spent the weekend re-tooling my PITCHf/x data handling. The big step has been to bite the bullet and standardize the data back to y0=55. What was really fun was my Dad being in town and working out the math with him. Also, we spent time discussing algorithms and uses for the data. He agrees with the use of cluster analysis, and he certainly knows a thing or two about signal detection and pattern analysis.
Sunday, April 27, 2008
The Cubs broke their mini-slump with a 7-0 shut-out of the Nat's on Saturday night. Game 3 is Sunday, 12:35 CT. Ted Lilly will face John Lannan, who will be the third straight lefty starter for the Washington club.
Lannan hasn't passed the 60 inning mark yet, but has a decent ERA (3.86) but a scary K:BB (31:27, but 21:10 this year). Last season, he rarely threw a slider, but is using it a lot in 2008. Essentially, he's gone from four to five pitches, since being drafted.
In this 2006 interview, the then-prospect Lannan talks about his four pitches, pre-slider.
I have two seam fastball and a four seam fastball. I also throw a changeup and a curveball. My fastball is about 87-89 MPH. My changeup is about 80 MPH and my curveball is about 72 MPH. My changeup is my best pitch.
I'm not so sure that change would be his best pitch. The slider looks effective, but wild. The F2/F4/CH may not be the best groupings, but they do jive pretty closely with MLBAM and Fangraphs.
Here are the scatters of pfx and plate location
Saturday, April 26, 2008
Matt Chico faces Carlos Zambrano Saturday evening in DC. Chico debuted last year, and has made 36 starts as a big leaguer. In just a bit under 200 innings, he has walked 84 while striking out just 111. He has a FIP in the mid 5's and has struggled even more this year.
Chico throws four pitches, a four-seam fastball, along with a change, slider and the occasional curve. He throws a lot of fastballs, and seems to have some decent control and success with it. The slider doesn't catch the zone much, but hitters still chase it 52% of the time it is out of the zone. The overall whiff rate for that slider is nearly 30%. The fastball, on the other hand, comes in with a whiff rate of 8%. The curve doesn't look too bad, but he doesn't use it much, and it does get tagged more often than other pitches. The hammer is just 6% of his pitches thrown, but accounts for 22% of his home runs allowed.
He faced the Cubs last year, beating them on the 4th of July. Saul Rivera and Ray King pitched the last two innings, and Chico was credited the win as the Nats shut-out the Cubs 6-0 at RFK. Chico struck out four and issued no walks. Soriano and Theriot doubled, while DeRosa and Rich Hill singled. Hill and Soriano, along with Fontenot and Rob Bowen, were the K victims.
So, we know he's capable of beating the current Cubs. Hopefully Zambrano will stop the losing "streak" before it becomes one. Carlos has been amazing this year. His control has been great. After two straight years with over 100 walks, he's only allowed five in 33 2/3 innings.
If the Cubs can get ahead in the count and avoid having to try and chase Chico's slider, it could be a good game. If he hangs one of those curveballs, even better.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
Greg Maddux came in as a pinch-runner for Tony Clark. It was his 10th career pinch-running appearance.
Chris Young and Tim Lincecum had a real battle going, 0-0 until Young gave up a home run in the 7th. Lincecum was lifted during the bottom of the inning.
Maddux likes to run. He's 10 for 13 over his career in stolen bases. He swiped at least one bag from 2004-2007, and one in 2002.
He made eight pinch running appearances for the Cubs between 1986 and 1988. He gave up the art of pinch running for 19 years, 2 months and 1 day. He ran for Brian Giles as a Padre on August 5, 2007. You can see the exciting details here.
After a split in Denver, the Cubs head for the nation's capital to face the struggling Nationals. All three games will feature left-handed starters for the Nationals. The Cubs will counter with Ryan Demptser, Carlos Zambrano and, in Sunday's matinee, Ted Lilly.
Getting on a plane after a loss is not a team's favorite thing to do, but the 15-7 Cubs have to feel good about where they are and the depth they have already exhibited. It is early, but no one would want to trade places with the Washington club. At 6-16, nothing has gone right and it appears to be a long season ahead in their new ballpark.
Friday night features the "ace" of the Nationals' staff, Odalis Perez. The veteran lefty has earned that role by staying healthy. Unfortunately, due to turn 31 in June, Odalis hasn't pitched a full slate since 2004. Last year was the most he pitched since 2004, and that was 26 starts and less than 140 innings for the Royals. So far, in 2008, he's 0-3 in 26.7 innings, but with a 3.38 ERA. Which is a mirage. With a FIP of 4.74 and a high LOB rate of 82%, he'll regress towards the mid-to-upper 4's as the season goes on.
Against Cubs teams in the past, he's had four starts, and none in the previous three seasons. In 2002, he threw one of his two one-hitters that year against the Cubs.
On April 26, 2002, in Wrigley Field against Kerry Wood, Perez set down the first 18 hitters in order. Corey Patterson led off the 7th with a single to break-up the perfect game and the no-no. Chris Stynes promptly grounded into a double-play, and Perez cruised home and ended up facing the minimum.
That was a long time ago. Wood's our closer and Stynes was done after 2004. Of course, Corey is still a lead-off man, but for the Reds. Perez is not a Dodger anymore.
I'm not sure what Odalis threw back then (he isn't in the Neyer/James guide), but Fan Graphs has him throwing a fastball, cutter, curve and change in 2008. Going back to 2005-6, he also had a slider. In addition to dropping the slider, Fangraphs shows that the curve is used less, and the cutter is used more. But I'm not buying it. Gameday has its own take, since his games so far are using the already-being-replaced pitch ID approach (it's MLBAM's).
ESPN has something that makes more sense to me - fastball, slider, curve and change.
Taking his 2008 starts in Washington, I find 4 pitches, and agree with ESPN's data.
I'll be back late tomorrow night with a report on Friday's game data, a look at the next Nat's starter, and, maybe, a little more on Rich Hill and Ted Lilly's curveballs.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Before I head out for the evening, here's tonight's opponent, Franklin Morales.
Fangraphs lists fastball, curveball and change as his three pitches, but I pick-up four. I think we've got a 2-seam with a little run and sink, a 4-seam and change-up. Plus the curveball.
Those are spin movement graphs (catcher's perspective) in inches, based on his home games since his August 2007 call-up.
Enjoy the game.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
The PITCHf/x system is provided by Sportvision, but the pitch ID's come from MLBAM. They are working on it, and they're doing some very cool stuff that I hope to report on in the next few weeks. Here's what Gameday gives you vs. what I pull from the data, for today's game (4/22 v NYM). There is one oddball pitch, you can find it on MLB.tv on the 400k stream just after 12:30 (go back a minute to 11:30 to see the whole at bat). It's the last pitch of the Pagan strike out, and it is tough to figure.
Above, you can see my ID's. The CH (change) and FA (fastball) differ quite a bit in speed - he has a great strange change, since the movement is so close. The curve is the one with the big vertical drop (this is spin movement, in inches, not location etc) and sweep to it. The sliders are hanging out where they always are.
Now, Gameday gives us something different - see below. FA and CU are the same, they call the sliders "FC" - cut fastball, I think - and they stick a slider (or FC in their book) in the CH group. Oddly, they call the one random pitch a Slider. Go figure.
These are curveballs averaged by game. each dot is the average spin movement for all curves thrown during that appearance. I have not adjusted these for park differences, so there are some wacky ones.
A couple days back Maddog inspired a post about Ted Lilly's disappearing curveball. And I don't mean "wow that fell off the table" - I mean "wow, did he stop throwing it?"
Here's a refresher.
As you can see (click to enlarge if you can't see it) the curve was a rarity in his first four starts. The Official Ted Lilly Fan Club wonders if it is due to counts/pitch selection. Since he's falling behind, maybe he's simply not in the right counts to throw it. Certainly a good question, one I still have to answer. But, a quick check did show a tendency to throw the curve more when ahead (shocker). I'll get to that later.
Today, Lilly mixed in a few more curves. Ten of them, actually, for 9.3% (corrected) of his pitches captured by Gameday. A recovery, as one should expect (hope), from his last start, but still would've been an anomaly in his 2007 starts (July to September).
Monday, April 21, 2008
Conor Jackson was the NL Player of the Week. Derrek Lee could've won it, but his teammates robbed him of votes.
Among other players considered for the award were Chicago Cubs Derrek Lee, Mark DeRosa, Reed Johnson, Geovany Soto and Ryan Theriot and Florida's Jorge Cantu, Josh Willingham and Scott Olsen.
If the Giants can come back and beat the D-Backs, the Cubs will be tied for the league's best record.
updated 620pm Back spasms, supposedly per Len and Bob
Just a moment ago, Ronny Cedeno was inserted at shortstop in place of Ryan Theriot. No reason has been provided as of yet, per Pat Hughes. I'll update with news as it comes in.
Not that I'm a huge Theriot fan, but this team can ill afford another injury. Oh, wait, they actually can handle it. This isn't like teams I've seen in the past, where there was no depth after, say, Jeff Blauser, who sucked to begin with. We have an equally bad shortstop readily available now.
Hopefully Cedeno will find his groove soon and takeover - I think he has upside that Theriot can't even reach with a ladder.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Sean Marshall has done pretty well in his new job. While Scott Eyre gets ready to rehab, Marshall has replaced Carmen Pignatiello as the lone lefty reliever in the Cubs' bullpen.
Cubs.com noted a change in Sean's pitching
Facing a steady dose of left-handed bats has forced Marshall to utilize his slider more often.
Fangraphs doesn't split it by batter hand, but it shows nearly a doubling in sliders.
PITCHf/x shows it, too.
Sliders to LHH
2007 18 out of 56 (32.1%)
2008 14 out of 24 (58.3%)
Sliders to RHH (includes Switch Hitters)
2007 120 out of 584 (20.5%)
2008 3 out of 20 (15.0%)
More sliders to lefties, that's for sure.
The change-up he threw in years past seems to have been abandoned. Gameday has just one for this year, Fangraphs a few more. I have 0 - although I can see why Gameday did pick-out the one they did.
The Cubs finished off their 9th straight win against the Pittsburgh Pirates, going back to last season. The offense scored 26 runs in the last two games as the team hit and walked its way through the Buc's staff.
The Mets finish up their series against the Phillies tonight. They take on the Cubs at Wrigley Monday and Tuesday. The Cubs will send Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly against John Maine and Nelson Figueroa. I'll cover Maine later.
Figueroa is a soft-tossing righty, and is not your run-of-the-mill big leaguer. First off, he's a graduate of Brandeis University. This baseball factory has cranked out a total of one big league player, including Nelson Figueroa. And it figures, he's not even Jewish.
Nelson will turn 34 next month. He played in the Mexican league in 2007, and then the Taiwan league that September. He ended up being the MVP of their championship series, winning three starts in a seven game series.
The Brooklyn native last pitched in the majors in 2004, for the Pirates. He missed 2005 rehabbing a torn rotator cuff, but played a bit for New Orleans in AAA in 2006.
Here's his stuff, in PITCHf/x. First, his spin movement graph. Pitch ID's are mine (hence "CFX"). Click to enlarge the images. Fangraphs lists a change up, slower than what I've picked-up, which looks more like a sinker to me.
First, what he throws, speed and spin movement (inches). In Strike Zone ("ISZ") and corner - just a few inches from the edge of the plate, too.
Basic results - Balls, Called Strikes, Swinging Strikes, Foul, In Play, Homers, Hit batters
Same thing, in percentages
Swing percentage is here, along with whiff rate, ball/called strike ratio. And, the last two columns, swings out of the zone and takes in the zone (AKA "fools").
|CFX||Swing% (Sw/#)||Whiff% (SS/Sw)||B:CS||SwOOZ%||TaISZ%|
The "change" and slider appear to be his most effective pitches. He likely depends on location and pitch selection, because I don't think he can beat anyone on stuff alone.
D.Lee left today's blow-out of the Pirates in the 6th inning with a stiff neck. Of course, Daryle Ward hit a home run in his absence, so their was a silver lining. Having Ward heating up could be a key to some late inning match-ups.
You may recall Derrek having neck issues in the past. He missed several games in May of 2007. Going back to 2005, he missed time in Spring Training.
If Lee can't play, Matt Murton probably moves into the line-up. Mark DeRosa would be a likely choice to play first against tomorrow's lefty starter, finally vacating left field.
On the other hand, I figured Murton would be called up as soon as Alfonso Soriano got hurt, and I figured he'd start against Tom Gorzelanny. So, he may still sit against Zach Duke.
Derrek may be ready and willing to start tomorrow, but will only play if Lou lets him. With the Mets coming in and a trip to Colorado coming up, it might be a reasonable time too look ahead a few days, and be cautious now.
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
I've looked at both Tom Gorzelanny and Jason Marquis in the past couple months. Hit the links if you want to see their stuff in PITCHf/x. Now, the news.....
Lots of Runs
The Cubs offense is riding high, scoring 3/4 a run more than the NL average per game. The pitching and defense have been below average, and it shows in the box scores.
Facing the south-paw Gorzelanny, the Cubs will use Reed Johnson as the lead-off hitter. That will make him the third different lead-off hitter since Soriano was hurt - and the third in three days.
Reed has hit lead-off 354 times in his career, and has been effective, and/or has been used there when effective.
Scout.com has broken and confirmed that Matt Murton's last minute scratch from the Iowa@New Orleans game was indeed due to his call-up.
Look for Matt to get the start in left, with erstwhile outfielder Mark DeRosa bumping Mike Fontenot to the bench as he returns to the infield. Eric Patterson is a likely candidate for a demotion, but, if I were Felix Pie, I'd be shutting off my phone.
Maddog posted last night about a Lilly's disappearing curveball. He's right, Lilly is throwing an unusually small amount of curves.
Let's go back to July and see how many curveballs he's thrown in each start I have in my database.
Here's a plot of spin movement for Lilly's last 8 starts - 4 each from 2007 and 2008
I think there's a two-seam/four-seam split needing to be done.
It sure seems like Ted Lilly is throwing less curveballs, and it's probably not a fluke, either. One more week of this is really cause for question/concern - if it isn't already.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
The Cubs went for the sweep against Dusty's Reds, but got pounded by Joey Votto's five RBI. They're scoring a lot of runs, outside of today, and host the Pirates starting Friday.
Despite sweeping them in Pittsburgh, the Bucs pose a challenge tomorrow, in the form of Ian Snell. Snell is their ace, and will show you four pitches.
This is derived from Snell's last two home starts, one from 2007, one from 2008.
He really throws that two-seamer for strikes. Well, everything looks good.
Here's a breakdown of pitch outcomes
The four seamer is thrown up and out of the zone a lot, and he pounds the zone with the two seam fastball. The change is an anomaly, he rarely breaks it out, but the slider looks to be very nasty, indeed.
Using Josh Kalk's tool, here's what he throws on different counts. The numbers below don't distinguish the fastballs from each other, but I'm interested in when he throws the change and slider. For each pitch, you can see the number of that pitch thrown and the percentage thrown in that count.
FB 17 29%
SL 38 66%
CH 3 5%
FB 23 32%
SL 47 65%
CH 2 3%
FB 17 32%
SL 33 62%
CH 3 6%
FB 14 42%
SL 19 58%
CH 0 0%
FB 47 41%
SL 58 51%
CH 9 8%
FB 36 47%
SL 38 49%
CH 3 4%
FB 28 64%
SL 16 36%
CH 0 0%
FB 21 84%
SL 3 12%
CH 1 4%
FB 143 59%
SL 88 36%
CH 11 5%
FB 58 62%
SL 29 31%
CH 7 7%
FB 35 90%
SL 4 10%
CH 0 0%
FB 17 90%
SL 1 5%
CH 1 5%
Once he gets ahead, you get a lot more sliders, that's clear. Hard to tell on the change-up, since he doesn't throw many.
Rule V draftee Randy Wells was sent back to the Cubs today after clearing waivers.
The Blue Jays had hoped to keep Wells but were unable to work out a deal with the Cubs.
The Cubs must like him.
He got one inning of work for Toronto, so let's take a look.
Randy faced the Red Sox at home, and the roof was closed. It was the 9th inning of a blow-out. The Jays won 10-2. Due up to face Wells were Crisp, Lugo and Pedroia. He had to face David Ortiz after walking Pedroia on four pitches, but got him to ground out.
According to MLB.com, Randy threw 10 fastballs, one slider and one change. I agree, although one fastball, his first pitch, looks a little like a two seamer. I doubt it, it could just be a glitch, besides the fact it was his first Big League appearance.
Here's his spin movement chart, along with MPH for each pitch
Here are plate locations - notice Mr. 89 (the first pitch he threw) was waaaay outside to Coco Crisp (who was hitting lefty against Wells).
Up Next: Ian Snell preview, as the Cubs prepare for a three game set against the Pirates, at Wrigley Field
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Red's reliever Todd Coffey had an honest appraisal of his lousy outing against the Cubs on Tuesday night
"The way I'm throwing right now, I'm embarrassed," Coffey said on Wednesday. "I'm embarrassed for the team, [manager] Dusty [Baker], [pitching coach] Dick [Pole], the bullpen. I don't care what I have to do -- even if I have to throw left-handed -- I've got to get these guys out."
Coffey came in to face Ryan Theriot with the Cubs looking for insurance runs. With one out and Reed Johnson on first, Ryan Theriot homered to put the game away.
For the play-by-play check out Gameday. You can also see similar (cooler) pitch plots there for the second chart below.
Here are cumulative plots of each AB showing vertical and horizontal "spin movement", or "PFX". The vertical is movement beyond the effects of gravity (so, +10 would seem to be a rising fastball, -12 a huge curveball dropping). The pitch put in play is a bigger dot below. Units are in inches.
At a glance, Todd throws a slider and a fastball. That's what Gameday reports, too. Fangraphs lists the occasional change in 2008, which I can't find, but otherwise agrees.
The fastball was clocked last night between 89 and 92. The slider was down at 80-83. Coffey threw nothing but fastballs to Derrek Lee, but an even mix was tossed at the others.
Ramirez hit a grounder on a slider up and away. If you look back at the PFX, you can see it was a hanger.
Theriot and Lee did their damage on middle-in fastballs, and Fukudome sent the last slider he saw to Corey Patterson for the final out of the inning. Fukudome's slider was a pretty good one, it was up an in the zone with good movement. Well, Coffey's slider isn't too nasty, so good movement for him.
The following chart is in feet, not inches.
This isn't fair, but let's compare him to Carlos Marmol. Here's one of my first PITCHf/x charts. Marmol has three pitches (have I ever bother to finish posting that?). This shows two.
Now, that's a lot of movement.
Big surprise to me, Matt Murton stays in Iowa, Eric Patterson comes up to take Alfonso Soriano's roster spot. I suspect this means even more AB's in left for Mark DeRosa.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
The early news on Alfonso Soriano's calf strain is not terrible, according to Cubs.com
His status was day-to-day
I suspect that we'll know tomorrow, with more certainty, what the extent of the injury is.
We're almost half-way through tonight's game, and the Cubs are down a run and a player.
Alfonso Soriano strained his right calf on a routine fly-ball 3rd out in the 1st inning. Mike Fontenot hit lead-off after Soriano was helped to the clubhouse. Mark DeRosa replaced him in left and Fontenot stayed in at second.
DeRosa hit a 2-run homer that gave the Cubs the lead, but Ken Griffey came right back with a 2-run shot of his own. Junior's homer was the 595th of his career. Not sure how many Mark has, offhand, but I think it is less than Griffey's total.
Ryan Dempster is pitching OK, but not great. His control isn't as sharp as his first two starts, but he's in the game, and the wind is blowing straight out. Or so it seems on the radio.
Also, Corey Patterson flew out to Felix Pie. Much to my relief, this proves that they are not the same person.
Back in February I fretted about Sori's leg(s). If he gets DL'd, I suspect a lot of Matt Murton fans will come back out of the woodwork. Like me, for one.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I've been looking at a way to get at arm angle and location on the rubber via PITCHf/x. I've added height to my database, just for the Cubs at the moment, to help put some stuff together.
When looking at release points, I want to just look at height of pitcher vs. release height (z0). For now, that is, as I'm trying to see if I can get some basic groupings that way. To avoid noisy data, I'm only aggregating pitches that are fast enough to not have the high release on some curveballs. Yes, that is quick-and-dirty. A real run requires proper pitch ID's and corrected release points.
For this quick-and-dirty trial, with just Cubs, I only look where y0=50, start_speed > 80 and only games at Wrigley. There is game-to-game noise there, but, to avoid the correction effort, I'm assuming the fluctuations are roughly the same across each player (not likely, given the varied sample sizes). Lazy.
For what it's worth, I think it shakes out pretty well as a first pass.
Here's the same thing, but the bubbles are now size according to the distance from the middle of the rubber (x0) - righties usually have negative numbers (which is left from catcher's view, naturally), so those sizes are based on absolute values.
Using these charts as a "guide", here's what you can estimate - actually, just from the first chart:
The guys who throw overhand
3/4, at varying degrees (going from more overhand to more sidearm)
A lower arm slot than 3/4
Things that can mess this up, not already mentioned, include pitching style (more or less aggressive leg drive) and posture, presumably. Well, something is messed up, but I think it gets pretty close to the target. More information (e.g. x0 values) and more, cleaner, data are needed to make any real sense out of this. If it starts to approximate reality as I tune and improve, I can try and incorporate it into pitch identification and plotting.
So, I hope you've enjoyed today's edition of Thinking Out Loud.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Yes, legendary Arizona first baseman Mark Grace is part of the venerable 10th Anniversary Team for the Arizona Diamondbacks. The 2001 World Series champions dominate the squad, otherwise, I'm sure Tony Clark or Erubiel Durazo would get the nod. Other ex-Cubs on the team include Damian Miller (2003), Tony Womack (2003,2006), Luis Gonzalez (1995,1996), plus current broadcaster Bob Brenly.
In their third extra-inning game of the road trip, Kerry Wood threw two shutout innings for the win. Mark DeRosa's controversial home run was a big key, but it was Chase Utley's throwing error that made the difference in the end.
Jason Marquis threw five innings, managing to keep the team in the game despite walking five, hitting one batter and unleashing one wild pitch. Michael Wuertz gave up three runs without retiring a single batter to blow the save. The last time he had such a bad inning was July 8, 2005. The Cubs also won that game.
Derrek Lee had three hits, two RBI's and a slick play to save the game in the 9th inning. He snagged a Carlos Ruiz grounder for the unassisted put-out, with two out and the winning run on 2nd base.
Off-day tomorrow, then the Reds for three.
After a six game, seven day swing through Pennsylvania, the Cubs start a three game series against the Cincinnati Reds on Tuesday. The first two home night games of the season will kick off the homestand. The Pirates and the Mets are up next.
For the next few days, I'll have a chance to focus on the Cubs' PITCHf/x numbers, as Doug Gray at Reds Pitch f/x has the Reds well covered.
Here are some links to the Reds' probable pitchers
Aaron Harang - one of the best, and most under-rated, pitchers in the National League
Josh Fogg - the former Pirate and Rockie has a mixed record against the Cubs
Edinson Volquez - a quality young starter, came over in the Josh Hamilton trade with Texas.
Check out Doug's blog, and this update on our man Corey Patterson.
As I've noted a few times, the Gameday pitch ID's are a little odd. Not like mine are perfect, but one issue has been addressed, per Dan Fox at BP's Unfiltered Blog
as of this week I am happy to report that changes have been made to the system to restrict the repertoire for each pitcher, which should in large part solve the problem of a pitch being identified as one that the pitcher doesn’t actually throw.
I've recognized the importance of this when I, on occasion, apply criteria to all pitches to select, for example, curveballs. I end up with plenty of slurves, sliders and such. Now, if they could distinguish 4-seam from 2-seam fastballs, that would be great.
With just a few hours to recover from a rough beating at the hands of Cole Hamels, the Cubs need a win Sunday to turn the season's first road trip into a winning one.
After sweeping the Pirates, the Cubs have been limited to just four runs, while Ted Lilly and Rich Hill each struggled in their outings at Citizens Bank Park. The two nights in Philly have not been pleasant for the visitors.
Sunday, the Cubs have their first day game since Monday's PNC Home Opener. Jason Marquis will face veteran Jamie Moyer, who was a Cub before color TV was invented.
Moyer throws five pitches, each one is slower than the last. His fastballs won't blow your doors off, that's for sure. But, at this point, it's like golf. If Jamie keeps his fastball's top speed below his age, people buy him drinks after the game.
The Cubs did poorly against Hamels' straight change today, but Moyer's isn't truly straight, like Hamels'. In terms of effectiveness and outcomes, Moyer does his damage with it, too.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
Friday, April 11, 2008
Updated 3/20/2008 - corrected PFX chart label
Cole Hamels, one of the best young pitchers in the game, will try and give the Phillies a second straight win against the Cubs. Using over 800 pitches from July 2007 thru last week, I'm able to pick out three pitches in the PITCHf/x data. More than half of what he throws are fastballs, around 90mph, touching 95 on occasion (if you believe the data). 32% of his pitches are the change-up, which is a nasty pitch, and the rest curves.
There was a lot of noise from park-to-park, and Philly looks messed-up this year. I haven't looked at the Friday night game at this writing, but I will before Hamels takes the hill tomorrow against Ted Lilly.
|Swing Rate||Whiff Rate||B:CS|
Spin Movement chart:
ESPN's scouting report shows the same three pitches and Gameday 2008 agrees with the these pitch IDs, with one exception. Gameday gave an FC to less than 10 pitches in his 4/2/08 start, but that one game had to be adjusted a few inches. So, I'll see if there's more of those in 2008 (e.g. new pitch from '07) after/during tomorrow's game. Also, ESPN says he throws a slider to LHH 1% of the time, but, otherwise, they list the same three pitches. Fangraphs matches ESPN, too.
Should be a tough match-up for the Cubs tomorrow. Forecast indicates around 70°, windy with some rain showers possible.
The Rollins-less Phillies were too much to handle. Brett Myers pitched very well tonight, despite yielding gopher balls to Lee, Ramirez and Soriano. Carlos Zambrano took the loss in six so-so innings of work.
The good news is, he only allowed one walk. The bad news is, he gave up nine hits. Even worse, he gave up three doubles and a homer. The stark lack of walks, compared to the past two seasons in particular, is a nice change of pace. We'll see if that continues, since he's gone on the roller coaster with his command before.
Felix Pie appears to be riding pine. I didn't hear the pre-game with Lou, so I only know that he sat tonight, while Ward and Fukudome rotated from bench-to-right-to-center.
With two lefties coming up, and a Kosuke day off tomorrow, Pie still won't play, as Reed Johnson will get the nod Saturday. Tonight, Reed Johnson pinch hit against a righty with Felix on the bench.
Rotoworld mentions Pie's sore hand, but I'm not sure that's still the issue, directly. He may not be in his rhythm for a variety of reasons, beyond the wrist. His Spring was interrupted a couple times, as we are all painfully aware, and he's hitting in front of the pitcher, and not every day.
Rob at TCR thinks Murton is due back up, with Felix heading to Iowa.
As for Felix Pie, let's say I wouldn't be too surprised if he gets sent down soon and Matt Murton gets called up. Reed Johnson would take over full-time CF duties, Murton would roam the outfield and Kosuke would probably be the CF backup, much like he's doing tonight.
It is possible, and, while Ward was roaming right, I wondered how much better a team we'd be with Matt out there tomorrow instead of DeRosa. At least for now.
If Felix can learn the strike zone, he'll be just fine, and he's still very young. But he certainly isn't making a positive impact at the moment, outside of his defense.
During the WGN radio broadcast, Pat mentioned Doug Davis, who had his cancerous thyroid removed today. With the successful surgery behind him, Davis will return home in a day. He plans on coming back to pitch at Wrigley in early May. That's great news. I hope he heals quickly and adjusts to the medications well. Get Well Soon.
I'm working on Cole Hamels for a later post. He'll face Ted Lilly tomorrow.
Maddog posted on the completion of a trade.
Today the Craig Monroe deal was completed as the Minnesota Twins sent 25-year old outfielder Doug Deeds to the Cubs.
Aside from a now obscure Gary Cooper reference which is now an Adam Sandler reference, this is pretty meaningless. So, who plays a better 'Babe', Winona Ryder or Jean Arthur?
Deeds struggled in AAA last year (was he hurt? only 86 games). Maddog suspects he'll go to AA, but I think he'll end up in Iowa. Where he'll stay. We have enough young left-handed outfielders.
In this article from MLB.com on Jamie Moyer's longevity, Jason Marquis is mentioned as Sunday's starter. Glad to hear Jason's feeling better, and no emergency starter is needed.
Fukudome is playing center and batting 2nd tonight against Brett Meyers, who I quickly previewed last night. Daryle Ward gets the nod in right.
It could rain, which the Cubs don't need at all. A long outing by Zambrano is in order, after the short night for Hill and the two long extra-inning games in Pittsburgh.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
With Jason Marquis out until at least Sunday, Lou has had to shuffle the rotation. Given the days off, Carlos Zambrano and Ted Lilly now go on their normal rest in the first two games. They were originally slated to throw the weekend games, Jason's strep throat changed things. Sunday's pitcher is still TBD.
The Cubs are riding a five game winning streak, including their first three road games, which were also their first three at night. It took a toll on the bullpen, so another solid outing by Zambrano is needed.
Brett Meyers will face Zambrano on Friday night. Saturday night's game will be lefty vs. lefty, with Cole Hamels battling Ted Lilly. Sunday's matinee will feature former Cubs pitcher Jamie Moyer. The veteran lefty is in his 73rd season in the majors, and still hasn't lost a bit of his 82 MPH fastball.
We'll examine his stuff another time. Here's a brief look at Brett Meyers. The Phillies game I pulled from 2008 needed about 7 inches of adjustment for the pfx_x numbers. The key thing is the '07 games are as a closer, not as a starter.
As you can see, he has gone back to throwing a fourth pitch as a starter. Let's dig in a bit. He's got a fastball, slider and a curveball. And, as a starter, a change/cutter type pitch.
In Effective Curves, I looked at the best curveballs in terms of actual effectiveness. This time, it's impressive curveballs, the ones with the biggest drop or sweep.
I'm going to dump a lot of data on ya here, so hold on tight.
First the tables. Note the three Cubs lefty starters in the pfx_z (drop ball) group. If you're reading this on Cubs f/x, you can click and sort the columns.
For each group, I picked just the guys with curveballs that had either pfx_x or pfx_z of 8.5 inches or more. In the data below, everything is converted to positive numbers, so lefty and right curves break the same way, and the normally negative numbers for the pfx_z are positive. There are 15 in the Yakker group, 16 in the Sweeper group. Only submariner Chad Bradford appears on both groups. I think I'll re-visit him later. I really want to start getting at the pitch trajectory/arm angle thing somehow. You may have noticed some charts that included pitcher height with release points plotted, but I digress.....
Barry Zito is Mr. 12-to-6. Tom Shearn is a distant second, with less drop and more sweep. Zito is a freak.
As promised, today's Victim of the Occasionally Active Cubs' Bats, Matt Morris, makes the cut.
Here are a bunch of line graphs - each one sorted by a particular stat, to show the best-to-least for each group. There are a couple interesting things, and I'll have to go back and look at this across the whole population, not just one extreme or another. And re-evaluate the methodology.
pfx_z (vertical spin movement - drop caused by spin beyond the effects of gravity and trajectory)
pfx_x (horizontal spin movement)
Balls to CS Ratio
In this last one, Sean Marshall and Jason Isringhausen are the outliers. They do have very high swing rates, too.
Matt Morris took one for the team, as the Pirates starter spent seven innings on the mound, despite giving up a 5-spot in the 6th. He threw 112 pitches before yielding to Evan Meek.
Jon Lieber was the hero for the Cubs. Both teams' bullpens were wiped-out in the 15 inning game last night, and Rich Hill took 72 pitches to get through three innings. Lou double-switched Pie out with Hill, moving Reed Johnson into the 9th spot.
There was some displeasure expressed by a few over at ACB, prompting this post by Maddog. I do think it is tough on the guy to bat 8th, but I don't think the double-switch was punishment or a lack of confidence in Felix.
Lieber ended up working into the 8th inning, and Howry and Wood polished it off. No save for Woody, but some good work before the short flight to Philly.
Given the situation and the need to leave Lieber in, the double-switch was a necessity. Despite Pie's weak performance, Lou didn't do it for any other reason than the short 'pen. Pittsburgh got what they needed from Morris, Hill wilted during his warm-ups.
Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Geovany Soto's 2nd career 4-hit game.
Felix Pie has put up great numbers at a young age, in the Minor Leagues. Thing is, he's pretty hideous in the bigs. His lack of zone judgment is very clear just watching him hit, and the PITCHf/x data has supported that. He's looking even worse now.
Broken down by location nine ways (8 out of zone, 1 in the zone), we don't have enough data to make sense of 2008. So I'm crudely cutting it into out of zone and in strike zone (OOZ and ISZ) in order to quickly compare the two years (324 pitches for 2007 and 75 for this year).
He's swinging more, in and out of the zone. He's also whiffing more often. As a result of all those swings, he is putting the ball in play more often.
As far as his hitting stats, well, again, terribly small sample to deal with, but he is doing very poorly. Last year, he had a B:K rate of 14:43, this year 0:5 (thru seven games). His OPS+ has dropped from 53 to 16, which is just absurd and, effectively, meaningless at this stage of the season. But, it is quite obvious, Felix Pie is not getting any better. Should that sentence end with a "yet" ?
Cubs take on Pittsburgh for what I can only hope will be a nine inning game. The first two games covered 27 innings and a lot of, shall we say, interesting baseball. Up two to none, the Cubs go for the sweep against Matt Morris.
He throws fastball, slider and curve, plus the occasional change. It is dead on the fastball, movement-wise, but a few MPH slower.
Morris' curve, at 8.8 pfx_x, is the 16th biggest sweeper I have in my database. The avearge horizontal spin movement on a curveball is 5.4 in., with a handful of players in double-digits. More on those impressive curveballs later. The real impressive ones are the big 12-to-6 yakkers, like Zito's. Three Cub lefties will show-up on that list.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
Cliff went back to the DL, an all too familiar place. The Rays knew the risk of signing him, and the Cubs know the effect. Even if you throw out his September call-up in 1993, Cliff has averaged less than 109 games per season, though 2007.
Naturally, Cliff was hitting the ball well when he got hurt. In his five games, he was 5-for-15 with two walks, two homers and a double. He managed to post an OPS+ of 102 last season, and has really had just one bad season, numbers-wise, since turning 23.
The Rays called up Justin Ruggiano to replace Cliff.
Listening to the game, still. Going to the 13th inning, Pat Hughes just said the Cubs are playing in "Western PA" and I heard it as "western Pie". Just for a split second, I was confused. These extra inning games will be the death of me.
Marquis may not make his start tomorrow, so Hill is on call. It is
not his turn, but it is his 5th day. Marshall is up to take his spot,
if needed. Carmen Pignatiello was sent down to make room. Lou claims
it isn't performance related.
Same lineup today, Reed in center.
Update: Marshall is working from the 'pen and isn't expected to start. He mentioned that he can throw 75 pitches if needed, so he is available for an emergency spot start or long relief appearance.
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
Matt Craig landed back in Tennessee this year, despite being 27 and more than ready for AAA.
The Dallas native batted a respectable .273 with four homers and 25 RBIs in 31 games with Chicago's top farm team but found himself back with Tennessee after the Cubs' returned players like Matt Murton, ex-Smoky Sam Fuld and Micah Hoffpauir, who had a sensational spring training (.382), to the minors.
He gets to play everyday in AA, but, at his age, this can't be that good of a sign.
Aramis Ramirez is back in his old home city, and is happy to be healthy
"It wasn't any fun last season," Ramirez lamented. "I hurt my knee and I missed up to, I don't know, 30 games? But we still had a good season and we made the playoffs and had a good season."
With Derrek Lee back to form, a healthy Ramirez means a lot of runs. We'll see how he looks in July.
One guy who isn't looking great is Michael Barret. The Padres put him on the DL with an elbow injury, and called up Colt Morton. This is all good news for Josh Bard fans and his fantasy owners.
Last, but not least, the Pirates may start Brian Bixler at shortstop Wednesday.
Manager John Russell hinted that the rookie shortstop, whose base-running hesitation Monday cost the Pirates the potential game-winning run in the home opener, could be in the starting lineup tonight against the Chicago Cubs.
This would be Bixler's first big league start. To date, he has a pinch hitting appearance (K'd) and the ill fated pinch running assignment Monday.
Here's a look at Zach Duke to get you ready for his match-up against Dempster.
Who has the most effective curveball? Taking all the curveballs together, the average outcomes in terms of Home Runs allowed, Swings and Whiffs, B:CS ratio were calculated.
First, the benchmarks - league averages.
Swing Rate 40.8%
Whiff Rate 25.3 %
So, if you're better than average on all these, you throw strikes, get hitters to swing and miss, and don't give up homers.
Who makes the cut? Ten pitchers. Some superstars, some not. Here is their PFX chart - I'm using the absolute value of pfx_x to show lefties and righties together.
Here are the numbers for each pitcher
Wednesday night I'll post on Impressive Curves. Hill and Zito come to mind.
Monday, April 7, 2008
Really, Meek gave it up.
The Cubs drew 11 free passes in 12 innings. That's just one less than Neifi Perez drew in all of 2006 and 2007 (387 PA). Evan Meek gave up five all by himself, along with two wild pitches. That was enough to get two runs across without a hit. Cubs Win.
Talking about walks, Carmen Pignatiello threw 8 pitches - all missed the zone. He was yanked after those two walks.
As seen in the past, Carmen throws a fastball, change and a breaking ball.
There's something askew with the PFX data, it is off by a few inches. But the plate locations look alright. In a really not right kind of way. Checking it out on MLB.TV, it looks like the plate locations (or lack thereof) are on, but not my pitch id's on one or two (Gameday did a little better, maybe, on one). I need to work more on reliably picking out a "curve" from a "slider" with this guy.
Jon Lieber pitched the 9th, 10th and 11th innings to get his first win since putting the Cubs uniform back on. He did give up two walks and two doubles in the process.
Whatever Matt Sinatro did with Geo before Sunday's game worked. Geovany threw out two base runners - two very fast base runners who don't get caught. Soto managed to get two guys who had combined career totals of 43 SB in 48 attempts. Make that 50 attempts. Soto improves to 2/9 on the year.
Tuesday is an off-day, Ryan Dempster and Zach Duke are scheduled to start on Wednesday night.
Career numbers against Duke. You can scroll down to the next post, or click the link for his PITCHf/x data.
Ronny Cedeno, anyone? Hey Lou, give Theriot another day off tomorrow. I'll take Ronny's seven singles over what Theriot has done against Duke.