Thursday in Caracas, los Tigres de Aragua defeated los Leones de Caracas in Game 6 of the Venezuelan Winter League Championship. Aragua was Rich Hill's team, but you'll recognize the top of their order - Sam Fuld and Ronny Cedeno.
He didn't get the ball Thursday, but, if Caracas has the lead at the end of Friday night's Game 7, the ball will go to closer Jose Ascanio. If you're so inclined, you can tune in and watch the game for online. The official site of Liga Venezolana de Beisbol Profesional streams LVBPTV live, and replay, for "free".
The broadcast is in Spanish, but the little ads at the bottom are in English. The stream has been stable and reliable lately, which wasn't the case all season.
Anyway, it should be a lively crowd - Caracas is the big team in Venezuela but Aragua is the two-time defending champion. And maybe Sam Fuld will do another full speed face plant into the wall. The image doesn't truly do it justice, I saw the replays Wednesday during Game 5, and he didn't seem to slow down, or get hurt.
Thursday, January 29, 2009
Thursday in Caracas, los Tigres de Aragua defeated los Leones de Caracas in Game 6 of the Venezuelan Winter League Championship. Aragua was Rich Hill's team, but you'll recognize the top of their order - Sam Fuld and Ronny Cedeno.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
I thought this thread died when Seattle acquired Heilman, but the Cubs, in effect, have gotten rid of Felix Pie and Ronny Cedeno for Aaron Heilman. Pie was traded to Balimore for Garret Olson, who was flipped, along with Cedeno, to Seattle.
I reviewed Heilman's stuff not too long ago and followed-up with this update. I'm not sure how his desire to be starter fits with the Cubs plans, but we'll find out soon enough.
Monday, January 26, 2009
The Hardball Times Season Preview 2009 has gone to the printers. David Gassko has a rundown of the nooks and crannies of the new edition, including sample pages. The feature articles include pieces by Victor Wang, Chris Neault, and Derek Carty. Yours truly provided the Cubs section.
If you buy the book, you all the team previews and player capsules, you get also THT's projections. You can pick it up at Acta's site, or read more about it in Gassko's article at THT.
Friday, January 23, 2009
Looks like the deal between the Cubs and Under Armour has fallen apart. The details are not clear, but it looks like the Cubs terminated the deal, although there appear to be enough lose ends to take it to court, according to Darren Rovell:
Sources are telling me that it's very clear that the Cubs terminated the agreement and that the suit more has to do with not signing a new deal, which was at a substantially higher per annum price that the previous one.
Under Armour also sponsored a High School All Star Game at Wrigley, I'm not sure if that's part of the ad deal or not.
1/23/2009 08:42:00 AM
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I've lamented several times about how slow the Cubs have been to add guys to the Marshall/Cotts pile. Now the Cubs add Mike Stanton and Bill White off the scrap heap. White popped up in my LOOGY post. Stanton, now 41, probably had his last good season in 2001.
Both lefties were signed to minor-league deals with invitations to the major league camp in Mesa. Given the severe lack of depth in this area, a couple of veteran relievers who don't cost the Cubs a roster spot or a lot of money make a lot of sense. And these two aren't awful picks, rather good picks, in that context.
Stanton's probably still around since he's (a) left-handed and (b) a veteran of six Fall Classics. That's no reason to let him pitch, though. Marcel pegs Stanton at a FIP of 4.23, which isn't too bad. Hard to say what a projection can tell you about a 41 year old who just took a year off (the Reds punted him early in 2008), and the low reliability score on that Marcel (.41) reflects that.
White is a two-time September call-up (he did sneak in a game in August once) who just turned 30. He's walked 18 in 13.1 innings. In four innings last year, he posted a gnarly 1:11 K:BB ratio. Looking at his projections on Fangraphs, he falls near a FIP of 5.00. However, White's Marcel is even less reliable (.10) than Stanton's.
Using their PITCHf/x data, we can look at their stuff, however.
White throws a fastball, slider and some type of change-up. I'm not certain if he's using a four- or two-seam fastball, but they appear to be of one variety.
His slider is a little unusual - it may actually back-up, based on the spin movement.
Looking at the flight path, I don't really see that has being something a hitter would perceive - it probably looks like it drops straight down.
In a true LOOGY role, White would throw mostly sliders. The change-up, used against righties, isn't very effective, as you'll see below.
White has a problem here - he can't find the zone, but when he does, it's fat. ISZ is pitches in the rule book zone - plate is 17 inches, and the top/bottom are based on each player's average across all PITCHf/x at bats. IWZ takes the plate to 24 inches, which is pretty close to how the game is actually played - in terms of calls and swings. FatIns are pitches on the middle eight inches plus the next four inches in. FIISZ and FIIWZ are just the FatIns per Strike.
White is below league avearage for throwing strikes, by about .070. His FIISZ is nearly .100 above the league average - meaning a higher proportion of his strikes are fat than "normal".
His B:CS rates are not good - especially with the fastball. The slider is actually not bad. White isn't able to get swings out of the zone very often, but seems to get a lot of takes in the zone - again with the fastball in particular.
Here you can see something else about a fastball gets a lot of takes for balls and strikes - .347 swing rate. Again the fastball looks below average, the change-up awful and the slider pretty good. Again, I smell a tendency to make mistakes, but now I'm reading tea leaves.
White walked 11 batters in 2008. He struck out one. We'll see what he can do come Spring, but he has decent enough stuff to merit a look.
If you clicked the thumbnail of Stanton above, you'll have been reminded of his alleged PED use. I guess that makes him younger than 41 - or 42, which is his seasonal age for 2009. Stanton pitched in the majors in 2007 (hence the PITCHf/x data) but was released by Cincinnati on April 8 after one inning of work in A ball.
Stanton is a bit unusual for a reliever - he'll use two breaking pitches, two fastballs and a change-up. That's enough kit to be a starter. Well, in quantity, if not quality.
Stanton's slider doesn't sink too much, may be a smidge towards the slutter/cutter end of the scale.
Stanton's two-seam fastball and change-up are added to the mix against lefties. Lefties see a lot of sliders, and he'll throw the curve just about the same to lefties and righties.
Obviously, Stanton isn't look for called strikes with the change. He's kind of nibbly, except with the slider.
The opposite of White, Stanton gets a lot of swings out of the zone, but not a lot of takes in it. The curveball is the exception, and seems to be universally watched. The two-seamer may be difficult to pick-up, since it is both chased and watched a lot, and that's unusual.
The fastballs, even the two-seamer, get hit HARD. When batters do choose to swing at the curve, they do well with it. Nibble, nibble, mistake. That's my read on Stanton.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Today was a day of minor-league signings and invitations to Spring Training. So far, the Cubs have invited the following non-roster players to the big league camp:
Darwin Barney (SS)
Andres Blanco (INF)
Eduardo Campusano (LHP)
Esmailin Caridad (RHP)
Andrew Cashner (RHP)
Wellington Castillo (C)
Steve Clevenger (C)
Doug Deeds (OF)
Jason Dubois (OF)
Chad Fox (RHP)
Mark Johnson (C)
Ken Kadokora (RHP)
J.R. Mathes (LHP)
Luis Rivas (INF)
Rocky Roquet (RHP)
Bobby Scales (INF)
Matt Smith (LHP)
Mike Stanton (LHP)
So Taguchi (OF)
Jason Waddell (LHP)
Bill White (LHP)
Despite earlier reports, Joseph Colon and Erick Almonte were not extended an invitation.
White and Stanton have some PITCHf/x data, which I'll go through later tonight. You can find more about Chad Fox here and here.
No arbitration hearings once again for Cubs GM Jim Hendry. KAAL TV reports Mike Wuertz has signed a deal for '09:
A source tells ABC 6 Sports the 30-year-old signed a one-year contract worth $1.1 million.
Monday, January 19, 2009
According to a report on Rotoworld, the Cubs signed Japanese pitcher Ken Kadokura to a minor league contract on Monday that includes an invitation to Spring Training.
They also picked up Matt Smith, Erick Almonte and Joseph Colon - more at CCO.
Rich Harden has no business in the WBC. At least our friends to the North don't actually seem to expect him to pitch, right?
Rich Harden was named to Canada's 45-man provisional roster on Monday, but might not be available when Canada opens the event March 7 against the United States because of health concerns.
The Chicago Sun-Times reported over the weekend that the Victoria native has a slight tear in his shoulder.
"We're trying to work things through with Rich Harden to see if we can create a comfort zone with him and the ball club," Greg Hamilton, Baseball Canada's director of national teams, told Toronto sports radio the FAN 590 on Monday.
His comfort zone for March is in the trainer's room in Mesa.
Updated "Tough decision". Sure.
Rich decides to do the right thing:
"I missed the last (2006) WBC too, because I was coming off surgery, and that just killed me to be in the stands watching . . . and this time it will be just as difficult to watch because I want to play and represent Canada," said the Victoria product, from his winter training base in Phoenix.
As expected, Kevin Gregg signed without the full arbitration process. Jim Hendry hasn't had a single player go through it during his tenure as Cubs GM. Michael Wuertz is the only Cub unsigned for 2009, and that should wrap-up soon, too.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
Felix Pie is gone gone gone to Baltimore, back into the warm embrace of Andy MacPhail. The Cubs get a minor-leaguer (Henry Williamson) and lefty Garrett Olson. This trade was hinted at back in November, which prompted me to take a look at Olson. He's not all that impressive.
Today we get news of a tear in Rich Harden's shoulder joint. From Gordon Wittenmyer:
sources also confirmed Saturday that Harden has a tear in the joint, just severe enough that some players might seek surgery but slight enough to be in a range often treated effectively with a strengthening program, therapy and a well- managed work schedule.
So, Harden is going the non-surgical route. I had penciled him in for about 130 innings in 2009. I may not be far off. Lou is a bit more optimistic:
"I don't think he'll be a question mark," Piniella said, adding that 25 or 26 starts each from Harden and lefty Sean Marshall will make the Cubs happy -- underscoring the need to add or develop a sixth starter for the rotation.
I love this line about the "project" otherwise known as Veal's bid to make the team:
[The Pirates] did not fully grasp how much of a project until new pitching coach Joe Kerrigan and minor league pitching coordinator Troy Buckley began working with him
Also a keeper:
his control issue was easy to detect with the occasional ball flying well over the catcher's head.
The coaches are talking about a more mechanical approach to pitching, while Veal is talking about being less mechanical. Things are off to a great start.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
It's playoff time in the Caribbean. Playoffs are underway in Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Mexico and Venezuela. That's where Jose Ascanio is, saving games for Caracas, the premier club the VWL. Given that status, Ascanio should move on, in some capacity, and represent Venezuela in the Caribbean World Series. I'd expect him in the bullpen in the WBC, too, but further on down the bench. The 2006 Venezuelan entry included some less prominent pitchers than Ascanio.
Ascanio hasn't been the only closer this Winter for los Leones. He lost the job to Jorge Julio, but won it back*. Julio was a little wild, and has an exaggerated ERA that's five runs higher than Ascanio's. Julio worked just over a third as much as Ascanio but finished with one less save (six).
*I did a comparison of the two Caracas closers back in November when Julio first took over. I thought Julio had the better stuff, but it looks like Ascanio is advancing, or has advanced. I'm also not sure why Julio is out of the picture - he left for "personal reasons" in December, but take that for what it's worth.
The post-season has been a different story. The Venezuelan Winter League conducts a round robin phase to start their playoffs, so the teams play a bunch games before the head-to-head championship series. So far, Caracas is 7-6 and Jose Ascanio has closed the deal each time they've needed it to be done - five saves in five opportunities.
A year ago, Carlos Marmol was thrust into the closer's job for Licey. Like Caracas in Venezuela, Licey is the most popular and successful team in the Dominican. I'm just pointing that out as a fond remembrance. Nothing more. Maybe.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Updated 2/2 Wuertz and Hill traded and so much more - see the front page for the latest, this post is being retired at last.
Updated 1/15 Today, as expected, only two Cubs filed for arbitration, Kevin Gregg and Mike Wuertz. Neither will even sniff an actual arbitration proceeding. Jim Hendry doesn't roll that way.
Things are NOT settling down in Cubville. Hendry is on the prowl, seeking a 5th starter that would keep Marshall in the bullpen (such as Randy Wolf).
With Felix Pie, Rich Hill and Ronny Cedeno out of options, any or all of them could be moved, and Rich Aurilia still a possible free agent pick-up. Amongst that and other things, the Trib is just realizing that Aaron Miles may not be a starter and Jeff Samardzija could be in AAA come April.
In other news and notes from the past couple weeks, there's been talk about signing a lefty from Japan. And, of course, Milton Bradley in, Luis Vizcaino in, Jason Marquis, out.
Updated 1/5/09 Happy New Year everyone. Things are in place, with Marquis for Vizcaino wrapping up and Milton Bradley en route for a physical. Here's a quick note on Milton and some analysis of Vizcaino and his troublesome splitter.
Updated 12/31 Well, Happy New Year Jim Hendry. Aaron Miles, welcome to Chicago. Mark DeRosa, welcome to Cleveland. And here's my latest cut at the 25-man roster.
Updated 12/30 Yes, it has been that slow. But, suddenly, not so slow.
First, Marquis to Colorado for Hirsh was rumored, now it's Vizcaino instead - and almost a done deal.
A couple veterans from Japan could be in camp.
And Bradley will land soon.
Updated 12/20 Another Yawn (another ht MLBTR)
Yawn (ht MLBTR) link expired
Updated 12/17 Night I have to really stretch for this update. Nothing much happened in Cub land today. Elsewhere, Furcal is going to end up in LA. There was a brief mention that the Twins still cling to some sort of Mark DeRosa deal. And Pie must really be low on the depth chart.
Updated 12/17 Morning Figuring I'll have at least one update to this today .... The Cubs are checking on Derek Lowe, according to SI. This would be a great pick-up, but, given his age and contract demands, I'm not so sure. At least, in this case, the Cubs would lose draft picks, not a boat load of players, as with Peavy. I've taken a SWAG at the 25-man. I already disagree with myself.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, SWAG is a Scientific Wild Ass Guess. A step-up from a plain old WAG.
The whole Furcal thing is getting weird (more below). Rafael may be reneging on a "gentleman's agreement" with Atlanta. Did something similar happen with him in the Cubs three years ago? Teixeira could land soon, and Manny will probably go next. Adam Dunn is seemingly invisible.
Oh, and take the Felix Pie poll (in the right-sidebar), just got the first "Clears Waivers" vote.
Updated 12/16 So, Furcal goes to Atlanta, as widely reported at the moment. Could this mean Escobar to San Diego in a Peavy deal? We'll see. I've come around on the Joey Gathright deal (update done deal), and the Cubs may have another pitcher on the radar - Fu-Te Ni, according to Bleeding Blue and Teal (ht MLBTR). He's from Taiwan, and you can find more here - it appears the M's made him an offer already. From Lookout Landing:
Having seen him pitch, he's sort of a lefty sidearmer in the high 80s low 90s. in the majors I'm guessing he would profile as a LOOGY most of the time , though he wasn't all that effective vs lefty in Taiwan (but it was mostly singles. the underlying preriphals were very good,)
Updated 12/15 Joey Gathright - Seriously? Other news is slow, but it does sound like Randy Johnson and Milton Bradley are top priorities at the moment.
Updated 12/12 As usual, lots of goodies at MLBTR. Ibanez to the Phillies (3/30), Bradley and Abreu still possibilities for the Cubs. I still think Shoeneweis for Marquis + $$ makes sense for both teams. I'm fully prepared for a Soriano-Johnson/Fukudome-Bradley outfield in 2009. I foresee either DeRosa and/or Fontenot losing playing time in any case.
Today is the non-tender deadline - keep track @ MLBTR
Updated 12/11 b Schoeneweis fits the veteran LOOGY bill (update - he's a D-Back now), Paul Bako could replace Hank White.
Updated 12/11 No dice on Peavy after all - but Big Unit back in play, from Maddog's note. Donald Veal gone via the Rule V draft, along with two other minor leaguers. If the Pirates do keep Veal on the roster, at least we'll get some PITCHf/x data on the guy. Milton Bradley Milton Bradley Milton Bradley. MLBTR says Abreu could be going to Chicago - South Side, that is. Ibanez still in play. I don't see anything about the Cubs and Dunn other than "no". Woody is going to be an Indian any moment now, and the Mets have K Rod and JJ Putz now. Stuff is happening.
Updated 12/10 Phillies/Cubs/Padres close to deal, according to Steve Phillips (so, you know, whatever).
So far, the Orioles, Phillies and Twins have all been mentioned as the "third team" - as if someone got a glimpse of them on the grassy knoll or something. Patience may be required, but Kevin Towers almost has to unload Peavy now.
Kerry Wood is a physical away from being a member of the Cleveland Indians. Milton Bradley is talking to the Cubs.
Late Update Are teams lining up replacements for pieces of the trade? Phillies add a catcher, Cubs check on a super-utility guy.
Updated 12/8 Wow, a lot going on. Keeping up with MLBTR alone is tough.
Raul Ibanez is in play, but the Cubs are reported to prefer Abreu over Ibanez, and either over Dunn/Bradley.
DeRo a Phillie?
Chad Fox, yet another comeback.
Updated 12/6 Hey, that's a long hiatus. I'm back.
If you check-out MLBTR today, you'll see a lot of relevant info, and, taking it all in over the past week or so, here's what I suspect will go down at or after the Winter Meetings.
- Cubs find new home for Marquis, taking on part of the salary - but don't execute the deal
- The Cubs sign or acquire a left-handed hitting right-fielder, and then the big one.....
- My guess: A three-team trade, with Pie, Cedeno, Player X, Player Y and Vitters taking a hike. Cubs end up wth Jake Peavy, Orioles get Pie and Player X, Friars get Vitters, Garret Olson, Player Y, Cedeno and Adam Scott.
- Marquis goes
Please see this hot stove and cub rumor archive post for pre-December updates and a table of PITCHf/x stats on some relevant players.
Rejected titles for this post included "Are the Cubs Hungry for the Wolf?". Self-censorship is a must.
Randy Wolf is, according to Bruce Miles, on the Cubs radar screen. Looking to keep Sean Marshall in the swing, the Cubs could add the lefty as their 5th starter.
I've taken looks at Wolf before, mostly because he has a big, slow yakker of a curveball. Now I'm caught up through the end of 2008, so it's time for an update.
Wolf throws a four- and two-seam fastball (not many sinkers to the lefties, though), slider, change and the curve.
Obviously, Wolf doesn't throw very hard. But that curveball takes .6 seconds to reach the plate - so these flight paths are extended about a tenth of second more than usual.
The slider gets a little slurvey, and even slutterly at times. In any case, I'll treat him as a straight five-pitch guy.
So, you can see that the pitch mix is quite different by batter hand.
A little more on the effectiveness (this is mostly new stuff, you can find more at Beyond the Boxscore)
Here's what Wolf throws by count/situation to each side.
First, to lefties:
Basically a four-seam and a slider, plus the curveball to mix it up.
Now the righties:
I'm somewhat struck by the usage pattern on the fastballs against RHH. Let's zoom in on that a little
Two Most Likely Pitches by Situation and Batter Hand
First F4 SL F2 CU
Even F4 SL F4 CU
Ahead F4 SL F4 CU
Behind F4 SL F2 CH
Full F4 SL F4 F2
All F4 SL F2 F4
This raises some questions about how effective he is, same metrics as above, but by batter hand/situation. If the Cubs actually sign the guy, I'll take look at that.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Today, I steal an idea from Fire Jim Bowden - a metric designed to estimate the impact of luck on a pitcher's ERA.
Short story: Luck = tRA* - .40 - ERA
Long story: follow the links
Being lazy, I just picked a few pitchers. Harden's numbers are as a Cub only. Continuing my complete rip-off of Steven's work, some more "traditional" stats that involve some luck are included for comparison.
ERA BABIP HR/FB LOB tRA* Luck
Harden 1.77 0.229 7.9% 86.3% 4.20 2.03
Samardzija 2.28 0.312 0.0% 70.0% 4.41 1.73
Dempster 2.96 0.288 7.7% 76.7% 4.06 0.70
Marshall 3.86 0.288 11.4% 79.3% 4.67 0.41
Zambrano 3.91 0.277 9.0% 73.4% 4.54 0.23
Marmol 2.68 0.185 9.9% 78.1% 3.18 0.10
Lilly 4.09 0.283 12.1% 76.0% 4.43 -0.06
Cotts 4.29 0.350 17.1% 80.6% 3.93 -0.76
Neal Cotts is should bounce-back, Harden and Samardzija will regress (which is fairly predictable based on the ERAs alone). What's interesting is how little luck there was for Marmol and Lilly, relatively speaking.
Monday, January 12, 2009
According to Japan-based Sports Hochi, the Cubs are close to signing left-handed pitcher Ken Takahashi to a one-year contract. A Cubs official would not confirm the report.
The lack of a denial seems to indicate this is for real.
According to Japanesebaseball.com, Takahashi had some shoulder issues last Fall. Experienced as both a starter and reliever, Takahashi sports a career ERA of 4.23 over 1429.7 innings. More stats at the link.
Saturday, January 10, 2009
John Dewan likes the Milton Bradley signing, and Mike Fontenot:
The final three reasons to like what the Cubs are doing this winter: Mike Fontenot, Mike Fontenot and Mike Fontenot.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Jason Marquis has moved on to Colorado, and the Cubs have added another bullpen arm. From mlb.com:
The Cubs bullpen will definitely have a different look in 2009 with the addition of Vizcaino, Gregg, and possibly Rule 5 Draft pick David Patton and Jeff Stevens, acquired from the Indians in the DeRosa deal.
Don't most ML bullpens have a different look year-to-year?
Sunday, January 4, 2009
I have a philosophy about team building at work. I'd rather reign people in than bump them up. It's a matter of style, preference and comfort - it isn't for everyone. Milton Bradley may be my kind of guy. But is he a fit for the Cubs?
"Milton wants to win as much as any player I've ever been around," Rangers manager Ron Washington told the Sporting News. "Sometimes, that's misunderstood, and that's unfortunate. Milton gets a bad rap, and it's not because he doesn't care. It's because he cares too much."
I do hope the Cubs sign Bradley. He's a very good baseball player and could really add some fire and balance to the club. Mostly, though, I like that he'll hit like crazy, get on base a lot, run well and play good defense. Even if he misses a 40-50 games, he'll be worth it.
Friday, January 2, 2009
Go read it.
one of those evaluators made the argument that DeRosa may have been the Cubs' best player last season
First, that's hard to back-up. I think Geovany Soto was the best player. DeRosa was very good, and highly valuable on the 2008 club. To assume he'll have the same value in 2009, and another career year, is dubious.
the same evaluators say none of the pitchers is a Grade A prospect.
So? How many A prospects does each organization have? C prospects can help a team, if you cast a wide enough net.
The Cubs could've kept DeRosa and re-signed Jim Edmonds
First, Edmonds was not worth keeping. Take the good year and be happy. Second, he may retire. Third, DeRosa was one of the few pieces Hendry had that he could move. Keeping Edmonds and DeRosa would've just tied him up more.
could've re-signed Edmonds and used the extra money to finish the proposed deal with the Padres for Jake Peavy
The money needs to be approved by an owner to be named later. Towers also wanted the entire farm system and half the roster. This didn't come down to money alone.
Bradley is a fine hitter who is coming off an excellent offensive season
Ignore the defense and base-running, why doncha?
I'll let someone else back this up with WAR and what not.
While Colorado and the Cubs wait for Luis Vizcaino and Jason Marquis to pass their physicals, I'm going to look more at Vizcaino and, in particular, his struggles in 2008.
The issue in 2008 seemed to be the lefty/righty splits. Since the small samples for a relief pitcher get tiny when doing splits, it is important to consider his recent, and career, performance alongside.
RHH 238/314/404 (1313)
LHH 249/330/439 (965)
RHH 213/314/354 (195)
LHH 265/362/427 (139)
RHH 170/252/277 (107)
LHH 372/432/744 (96)
Well, that was an ugly season indeed. 2007 was good, in line with career stats, but, in 2008, everything was whacked. I would expect both splits to regress towards the career line in 2009.
Still, the performance was poor. Whether or not is was predictive or meaningful, what can we uncover about it?
Starting with his stuff, Vizcaino throws a fastball/slider combo to righties, and adds a splitter against lefties. He may throw another change-up type as well, but I haven't been able to isolate it reliably. So, the splitter is our first candidate for exploration. Only thrown to lefties, it could help explain the unusual splits - or at least one side of them.
Starting with spin movement and flight paths, Luis' fastball averages 92.7 mph at release, the splitter runs in the high 80s (87.9mph) and then the slider (84.1).
Here are some metrics (a few new ones) on how this stuff works out (definitions below):
OK, what is this? B:CS is what it seems, ISZ is the rate of pitches in the rule book zone (league/PFX average is .40), FatIns is a 12 inch slice of the zone - four inches "out" from the middle and eight inches "in" (.27).
FIISZ is the rate of pitches in the zone that are FatIns (average is .67), then you have Swing Rate, and the HR, Foul and Whiff rates (all are based on swings).
nkSLG is total bases on home runs and balls in play divided by pitches put in play (.509), and TBP is total bases yielded divided by all pitches thrown (.09).
Vizcaino's slider and fastball are actually quite good - nice whiff rates, and all the numbers look good. That's very promising...but about that splitter. The whiff rate is absurdly low - that's a fastball whiff rate for a lot of guys. And, yes, Luis has a very high whiff rate on his fastball.
So, back to the splitter - there are more things that are odd about it.
For example, the ISZ - it's near the league average for all pitches, which is unusually high for a split. He also throws it harder than most pitchers do, for whatever that's worth (smaller gap to the fastball speed?).
Here's some context - L-Viz splitter vs. other splitters I've ID'd, and change-ups, too.
The problem is, as you can see, is that the Vizcaino's splitter gets pounded. Thrown to lefties, kept outside, not fat, thrown pretty hard with average movement for such a pitch, but crushed.
Here are the plate locations against LHH. It should reinforce that nice low FIISZ. BTW, the lowest overall FIISZ in the database is Tom Glavine, just around .511 (IIRC).
One thing I notice is that the ball tends to be up. For most pitchers, I need to extend the chart range down below the ground. Amazingly, L-Viz doesn't throw anything in the dirt (short of the plate, at least).
So, I think we have two components to the problem. The splitter may not be enough of a speed change to mess-up a hitter's timing, and, while not a fat pitch, it catches to much of the plate too far up in the zone.
Is he too predictable with it? Take a look at pitch selection by situation, vs. LHH only.
He's backwards. Throws it the least when he's ahead in the count. Throws it the most on first pitches. I can't say he's overly predictable in any case, since this pitch mix is pretty nice compared to what I typically see.
So, back to the three options for this guy
1. Trade Bait - sure, still a possibility. But I think the Cubs want a veteran in the pen and Samardzija in the Iowa rotation.
2. Set-up Guy - quite possibly. His success against righties in 2008 was amazing, but not enough to off-set getting crushed by lefties. He'll have to improve on that to qualify.
3. ROOGY - is there such a thing? If he doesn't fix the splitter, he might be one.
How does he fix the splitter? Take a little off it, get it lower in the zone, if at all in the zone.