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Update You can "replay" the chat at the link.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
With the Dodgers coming in for four, and the roster refreshed, the Cubs managed to take two out of three against the Pirates. Bottom line, the Cubs out pitched the Pirates.
Using "run values", I've rated all the pitches thrown in the series. Run values should add up to zero across a league-season, but my math is not quite right. I'm off about one run every 2500 pitches for 2009, so I'm either weighting events wrong or mis-estimating the run environment. Either way, the measure is good enough to use to make some direct comparisons.
It works by calculating the value of every pitch, based on the count and the outcome. No attention is paid to other aspects of game state, such as base runners, leverage or whatever. It's just about the pitch. 0 is average, or 0.04 in my world (for now), and negative is better for pitchers.
Once I had classified the pitches (I don't use Gameday's IDs), I ranked the best and the worst four ways each. rv, which is essentially a counting stat (like runs allowed) and rv100, which is a rate stat (like ERA). For rv100, it's the average pitch value x 100, for the plain rv it's simply the cumulative total.
Data covers the three-game series just completed this afternoon. And, yes, Neal Cotts' fastball leads a counting stat despite not seeing much action. He was that bad in his last bit of work before being demoted.
Zambrano Cutter -1.232
Marshall Slider -1.214
Duke Curveball -1.081
Duke Fastball -1.043
Ascanio Change-Up -1.034
rv100 (5+ pitches)
Ascanio Change-Up -10.34
Gorzelanny Curveball -10.30
Zambrano Cutter - 6.16
Chavez Fastball - 6.15
Guzman Fastball - 6.02
rv100 (10+ pitches)
Ascanio Change-Up -10.34
Zambrano Cutter - 6.16
Duke Curveball - 5.69
Zambrano Splitter - 5.41
Marshall Slider - 3.92
rv100 (20+ pitches)
Zambrano Cutter - 6.16
Marshall Slider - 3.92
Marshall Curveball - 3.48
Duke Fastball - 3.36
Duke Change-up - 0.31
Cotts Fastball 3.372
Dempster Slider 2.052
Snell Change-Up 1.478
Chavez Change-Up 1.472
Duke Sinker 1.343
rv100 (5+ pitches)
Cotts Fastball 25.94
Dempster Slider 14.66
Ascanio Fastball 13.36
Snell Change-Up 9.85
Meek Fastball 6.98
rv100 (10+ pitches)
Cotts Fastball 25.94
Dempster Slider 14.66
Snell Change-Up 9.85
Maholm Fastball 6.47
Duke Sinker 6.40
rv100 (20+ pitches)
Maholm Fastball 6.47
Duke Sinker 6.40
Dempster Fastball 2.98
Maholm Change-Up 2.95
Dempster Sinker 2.02
The issue with Neal Cotts was his control, so he got optioned to Iowa. Jason Waddell gets his first shot at the bigs, despite a history of control issues of his own. To compare the two lefties, I'll use Minor League Equivalents (MLE) for Waddell and MLB stats for Cotts. Career numbers in both cases.
I start with the Lefty-Righty match-up. From the little I've seen of Waddell, he may be fine against lefties but righties may get a good look at his low slung delivery. But I'll let the numbers, and not my eyes, do the talking:
B/9 5.8 5.4
K/9 6.7 6.9
HR/9 1.2 1.1
MLEs are nice, but not a guarantee. But, wow, that's not much of a difference. The comparison may not be fair, though. MLE for a short Minor League career against a career line for a Major League career going back to 2004. It gets us into the ballpark, and I'll go with a slight Edge to Cotts, all things considered (unscientifically).
B/9 3.4 3.6
K/9 7.7 10.1
HR/9 0.5 1.6
Waddell is much tougher on lefties, but the walk rate is still high according to MLE. Almost as high as Cott's career line. The bigger differences show up in their K and HR rates. Cotts gives up more home runs to lefties than righties, go figure. But he strikes them out a lot. Still, I'm giving Waddell the tentative edge against lefties.
Waddell has been pitching well lately, maybe the Cubs can ride the hot hand.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Which two would you keep? All three are in the Cubs bullpen, and the decision to punt on one, or more, is purely hypothetical. Maybe.
|Pitcher (# Pitches)||A (335)||B (219)||C (350)|
B:CS (umpire calls), IWZ (pitches in zone, 2 ft. plate), Swing (Swings/Pitches), Whiff (Whiffs/Swings), Chase (Swings out of zone), Watch (takes in the zone), nkSLG (total bases on all balls in play, including home runs), rv100 (a count-based linear weight, average should be 0, negative is good for pitchers), GB (ground balls), LD (line drives), IFFB (infield flies, mutually exclusive from other fly ball types), OFFB (outfield flies, mutually exclusive from other fly ball types), FBHR (fly ball home runs, mutually exclusive from other fly ball types)
Stats include 2009 pitches recorded by PITCHf/x.
A: Aaron Heilman
B: David Patton
C: Kevin Gregg
Thursday, May 21, 2009
During a recent game, pmayo noticed Ryan Theriot had learned to turn on the inside pitch, and opponents were paying the price. After running the numbers, I had confirmed* it.
*I realize batted ball direction matters, so that's an overstated conclusion
By cutting all pitches seen by Theriot by "slice", you can see the changes from year-to-year. Click for a large version:
- For the most part, Theriot is swinging a little more. He already had a lower than average swing rate, so he certainly had room to go up. He hasn't increased his swing rate on Tight pitches, but that's the slice that gets the fewest pitches, giving it little weight.
- Theriot is also whiffing more, except on "In" pitches. Theriot has always carried a low whiff rate, so this is noticeable (small sample size warning).
- Power. Theriot has found a little bit of it, especially middle-in.
Here's a breakdown of Theriot's "in" slice. That covers the inner 3.5 inches of the plate, and 3.5 inches off the plate.
year # nkSLG Swing Whiff
2007 202 0.231 0.564 0.070
2008 427 0.358 0.466 0.050
2009 86 0.677 0.535 0.044
And, by year, plate locations for doubles and home runs:
I've got a new post that takes a look at the swing tendencies against Pineiro and Carpenter in the last two games. The results may not be what you expect.
5/21/2009 08:06:00 AM
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Instead of moping, I decided to admire Joel Pineiro's shut-out of the Cubs. To do so, I compared his sinker from Tuesday night to the sinkers thrown by Derek Lowe and Brandon Webb (both during August 2008 in St. Louis).
Enjoy the pictures. Click for larger versions.
First up is spin movement, in inches. It's the catcher's view, and it shows how much the pitch deviated from the path of a spin-less ball. Gravity alone would predict 0 inches of vertical movement. Pineiro's sinker has less tail than Lowe's, less sink than Webb's. Webb has an exceptional sinker, and a change-up that drops even more.
A cousin of the spin movement chart is the spin axis. Here it is, with velocity on the y-axis. As you can see, Pineiro and Lowe have similar velocities, and there's just a bit more tilt on the axis for Lowe. Webb is a notch slower, but the spin angle relates directly to the amount of sink he gets. Remember, Webb is gravity + some top-spin, based on the first chart.
Oddly, Lowe and Webb release the pitch from about the same spot. Pineiro seems to vary his slot, based on the angle and dispersion of release points. Lowe is the most consistent, you may not even be able to make out his dots, they are a tight blob in the middle of Webb's.
When it comes to location, all three pitchers kept it down in the starts we're looking at. Lowe's control was phenomenal with his sinker. Low but in the zone. Pineiro missed low, while Webb, somewhat surprisingly, missed high a few times. All had good control of the sinker, though.
Putting it all together, the flight paths. Be sure to click for the big version, and squint to see the three paths, there is a ton of overlap.
Pineiro's sinker may not have the movement of Lowe's or Webb's, but it's still impressive. Cubs fans shouldn't lament the shut-out, he's not the same pitcher we've seen in the past.
The variance in Pineiro's arm angle makes me wonder what's going on, but that will require another look.
Sunday, May 17, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Thanks to a rainy Friday in Chicago, Randy Wells has been bumped to Saturday's game against Roy Oswalt and the Houston Astros. Sean Marshall, originally scheduled to face Oswalt, will spend a turn of the rotation in the bullpen. He's expected to start later next week against St. Louis, according to cubs.com.
The Astros flipped Friday starter Brian Moehler to Sunday, knocking Felipe Paulino off the Cubs' radar screen. Moehler will face Rich Harden. Sunday's High-A game for the Daytona Cubs will feature Carlos Zambrano, making a rehab start. Cubs.com says Big Z could be back to face the Friars on May 22 in San Diego.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The opening night of a six-game homestand at Wrigley went well for the Cubs. They came back behind six solid innings from Rich Harden, and they did it against none other than Jake Peavy. I've got some comments about Jake and Rich at Out of the Ivy.
The focus here will be on the array of sliders thrown by both both pitching staffs.
Carlos Marmol, Kevin Gregg, Aaron Heilman, Jake Peavy, Edwin Moreno and Cla Meredith all threw some sliders on Monday night. They also threw fastballs, of course. Some throw more than one type. In those cases, I picked their primary pitch for comparison.
|Slider Movement (inches)|
|Pitcher||Spin Movement||Diff. from Fastball|
Marmol and Peavy are not just best of this pack, but amongst all pitchers in the majors. Meredith's looks weak, but, remember, he's a submariner.
Enough yammering, click the images for full-sized versions.
- Harden looked good, average 92.4 mph and maxing out at 94.7 in his final inning.
- Heilman may have scrapped the splitter, he threw one of his old change-ups and none of his new pitch.
- Marmol's five sliders were all against left-handed batters.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
A quick note on some of the stuff covered here at Cubs f/x since the season began. Check out the archives in the sidebar for background.
- Geovany Soto has his bat off his shoulder now, attacking pitches in the zone. He's not hitting anything very hard, but his zone judgment is sharp.
- Alfonso Soriano is starting to take a few too many strikes, while also swinging at a few more out of the zone He's still crushing the ball, but his free swinging is starting to take its toll.
- Kosuke Fukudome is still showing fantastic zone judgment and getting his share of hits. But he's not hitting the ball as hard, which may be why he's seeing a few more strikes these days.
- Milton Bradley is swinging a lot more, mostly at strikes. He's starting to square it up and smack it, too.
- Sean Marshall has not added velocity. He's losing it. Instead of maxing out around 91/92, and contrary to rumors that he would add a couple MPH this year, he has just a single pitch above 87 MPH in his last three starts. He did show good velocity in his second start of the season, topping 92 MPH while tossing 37 pitches over 87 MPH, but it's gone down since.
- Rich Harden has been inconsistent with his velocity, but he's fine. ACB has that topic covered.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Lou said something after Aaron Heilman's May 2 outing about a new pitch. A splitter to replace his change-up. Indeed, he's got a new pitch that is a bit faster and with different spin. Instead of drop and tail that's close to the sinker's movement, it has more drop and, for lack of a better word, cut.
Pictures are worth more words, and better words, than I can provide. Blue "CH" is the old change-up, Dark Red "F2" is his sinking fastball, Black "SL" the slider and the all new Red "FS" split-fingered fastball.
I'll follow-up on the results as a little more time passes on.
data includes home games from 2009; Heilman also threw the splitter in Houston on the 7th
Thursday, May 7, 2009
Randy Wells will be called-up to start Friday's game in Milwaukee. This isn't his first trip, as the Rule 5 pick got an inning as a Blue Jay before being returned to the Cubs. The Cubs also found a few innings for Wells in 2008.
Over four total outings (5.1 IP), Wells didn't allow any hits, fell behind often and didn't miss many bats with any pitch. He ended up with just one strike out against three walks. All the walks, and the K, came against right-handed hitters.
In the minors, Wells has maintained a 3:1 K:BB ratio, and he lowered his BB/9 from 3.9 in 2007 to about 2.5 for 2008 and 2009. 2009 has been a tidy year, and Wells has been tough to hit in the Pacific Coast League.
Hopefully the GO:AO ratio that he put up (9:5) in 2008 was for real. That ratio corresponds to a 64% ground ball rate that isn't in line with his minor league career. For the most part, Wells has been in the upper 40s, although his early returns for 2009 are a good 10 points higher (source).
I hope that is a real improvement. Wells throws a four-seam fastball (F4), a sinking two-seam fastball (F2), change-up (CH) and slider (SL). A good sinker is a valuable weapon, so I wouldn't be surprised if that is at least some significant part of his recent development based on his recent numbers. I'm guessing though, totally guessing.
Here's his stuff, flight paths at the end.
During his 2008 stint, Wells liked to go to the change when ahead and the fastball when behind, but balanced of all four pitches on 0-0 counts. Not like he was throwing strikes, but at least he has stuff that he's willing work with more than one time through an order. A steady stream of first-pitch fastballs would not bode well for a prospective starter, so it's nice to see Wells mixed it up in the majors, even if the results weren't there.
The Graph - three views of the pitch flight, and the slices/layers chart snuck in there (the scale on the latter is 45%, btw, since this is a beta version of this chart, the labels are too small/fuzzy).
Click for a full-sized version
Russ Ortiz is back in the majors after a year away. And you though Mike Hampton was retired? Russ has changed his make-up a bit since 2007, but his basic repertoire is the same.
His most effective pitches are the curve and the sinker, with the change a close third. The fastball and slider are below average. He leaves the slider over the plate too much, and it gets clobbered. The fastball also gets hit pretty hard, but he manages to miss the zone more often than not (and I'm using a two foot wide plate). That's poor for a four-seamer.
Looking at the changes in mix, I'm not sure what's all of what's he's doing in 2009 is to his own advantage, but it most of it is. I'm a little surprised he doesn't throw more sinkers, but he does have some trouble finding the zone with it.
For the most part, Ortiz is using his better pitches more. Also, when compared to 2007, most of his pitches are at about the same run value per 100 pitches or a little better, and his curveball is vastly improved.
Here's what he threw against the Cubs last month:
Today's post at Mouthpiece is about Derrek's neck. If you're not familiar with his injury, or what happens when you have a herniated disc, you should check it out. If you enjoy extraneious Richard Simmons references, same thing, check it out.
BTW, the new blog now claims three authors, I'm "odd days", Bob is "even days" and Sarah has the live home game coverage from the press box.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
I've been pretty much on mute over here since posting the Nolasco stuff. Tending to some other gardens ... so today's post is about me and what I've been up to. My narcissism will return to its subtle state next time...
This week for the Hardball Times I've paid homage to Geoff Jenkins and Corey Patterson. A little PITCHf/x, a little run value, and hopefully a little bit of fun and food for thought.
At Beyond the Box Score, I posted some information last night on pitchers who debuted last week. That's going to be a weekly thing for me, and I post a few times a week at BtB pretty much at random. If you like flight path charts, you'll like this week's edition.
Last, and certainly not least, something new. Mouthpiece Sports (a Chicago sports site) has started a new Cubs blog. My first entry is about filling Zambrano's spot in the rotation. I'll be posting non-PITCHf/x type stuff over there regularly, along with another blogger to be named and MPS' Cubs correspondent, Sarah Spain. She's much prettier than I am, very smart and funny, and a total sports nut. Plus, she interviews players and other luminaries, you've probably seen some of her stuff at MPS or MLB.com. She live blogs home games from the press box, so you'll probably want to check that out. Her legit journalism skills and inside access will be a good counter-balance to the view from Mom's basement that I usually provide.
5/05/2009 08:45:00 AM
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Ricky Nolasco was a Cub, almost. Drafted in 2001, the big kid from California was traded from Chicago to Florida along with Sergio Mitre and Reynel Pinto for Juan Pierre. Sorry to remind you of that. Unless you're a Marlins fan, then "you're welcome".
Nolasco has interesting stuff. He throws three breaking pitches, a fastball (F4), the occasional sinker (F2) and a change-up (CH). I really think he has two curveballs and a slider, but, for labeling purposes I'm going with cutter (FC), slider (SL) and curve (CU).
It's kitchen sink minus the slider against lefties, fastball/cutter/slider against righties. A few other observations before the charts:
- May work a little more from the first base side of the rubber when facing righties
- Gets ahead and throws strikes, particularly to righties
- Hit "average" hard despite not being behind - you'd hope to take better advantage
- High whiff rates - against righties, all six pitches > 20% and 27% overall.
- Not as nifty against lefties, they can hit his fastball more often (but not any harder) but still end up whiffing 24% overall.
- Ends up being very average overall, which isn't a bad thing considering he's a starter who should give them another 200 IP—assuming he stays healthy
Flight paths - all six, then split into fastballs/change-up and breaking
Slices and layers based on plate location show just how many strikes Nolasco throws (a lot):
And, finally, his pitch mix by situation (count):
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Ted Lilly struck out 10 batters while not issuing a single walk on Saturday. The Marlins were presented with a strike zone full of pitches, while Lilly's offerings—including off-speed and breaking—were finding the mark. Lilly found the "wide" zone with over 2/3 of his pitches. Most pitchers would be pleased with 55-60%. For reference, Rich Harden ended up at 50% on Friday.
Lilly's aggressive and controlled approach led the Marlins to put the first pitch in play on over 17% of their at bats. Amazingly, nearly 30% of Lilly's 0-0 cutters were put in play. Quick outs, short innings with just four singles and a home run allowed—it was a very impressive outing.
Of Lilly's 104 pitches, 19 were curveballs. He threw 49 fastballs, 27 cutter/slutter/sliders and just seven change-ups. I found two sinkers that are a bit of surprise, but they looked pretty distinct.
Those "fastballs" averaged around 87 mph (it helps if you add the two sinkers, gets it closer to 87). Lilly's change was a hair under 80, the slutter around 81 and the curve floated in at 70 mph.
With Aaron Heilman striking out the side—and throwing the hardest stuff of the game, crossing 94 mph—the Cubs easily handled the Marlins. All of the Chicago runs came in the first four innings, followed by three shut-out innings from Hayden Penn. Kiko Calero pitched the eighth, allowing one hit while striking out two.
Penn had a good outing, allowing a hit and a walk while striking out four. Lilly matched him and kept the game safely tucked away. Penn reached 93 (one notch below Heilman's fastest), but the Cubs struggled most with his curveball. Penn only used it seven times, but the Cubs swung at balls and took strikes. Penn's change-up was no easier, although the Cubs did find themselves able to lay off it. Thing is, when they did swing at it they whiffed on half their tries.
The Marlins relief duo wasn't enough to make up for the runs scored off Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez had trouble finding the zone, and ended up with an intriguing mix of whiffs (36% of swings missed) and hard hit balls (1.2 bases per ball in play, which is 2x average).
The Cubs will be looking for three straight wins, but will be short a pinch-hitter tomorrow. Big Z takes on Ricky Nolasco at 1:20.
I didn't see an of Friday's game, but it sounded ugly for Harden. Looked ugly in PITCHf/x, too. Thank you Ryan Theriot and congratulations David Patton (more and Mr. Rule 5 later).
The Cubs stood around and watched a lot of strikes from Marlins rookie Graham Taylor. It cost them as the game progressed, as Taylor started throwing more strikes.
Meanwhile, Florida stopped swinging at balls and Harden stopped throwing them change-ups in the fourth inning. An inning he didn't finish.
Pitch Selections by Inning
Strikes and Swings
Taylor's In Wide Zone (IWZ; 2 ft. plate, hitter's own top/bottom) happens to match his Swing rate for three innings (the joy of small samples). Amazingly, as the strikes starting arriving, the bats stopped swinging.
The Marlins really found their hitting eye as the game progressed. They stopped chasing pitches out of the zone, although they did take too many strikes in the third inning. They watched and let Harden go wild in the fourth, and got him out of the game. Not like it did Florida any good, though.
Here's a better look at Harden's wildness. His IWZ rate doesn't tell the story.
You can see he basically lost it in the fourth. The drift started in the third, or so it appears.
Same thing for Taylor (click all these images for larger versions, btw), opposite direction, as he improved he really improved.
I guess Taylor may have good command after all.
Bleacher Nation has the latest tally of blogger votes on the Top Cubs Prospects.
My ballot, for your amusement/shredding
Friday, May 1, 2009
The Fish better hope Hanley is back tonight. Harden has owned virtually everyone of them that he's faced to date. Actually, owned is too strong. He's made them whiff a lot, but he's given up some hard hit balls, too.
Marlins rookie Graham Taylor is excited to pitch today (source):
Taylor in awe of Wrigley: Graham Taylor, who will make is second career start today, said it's "a dream come true" pitching in Wrigley Field.
"This is the first time I've been here, and it's pretty awesome to say the least," Taylor said. "It's really exciting to go out there and just the history that's in this ballpark, it's awesome."
He allowed four runs on four hits and six walks in 3 2/3 innings Sunday against Philadelphia in his major-league debut.
Taylor admitted he was too anxious. "I'm just trying to stay under control," he said.
Taylor's parents, other family members and friends will make the four- to five-hour drive from the family home in Villa Hills, Ky., to Chicago.
About that debut .... if you poke around the interwebs, you'll find that Taylor came through the lower rungs of the Marlins system based on impressive control. That certainly wasn't on display against the Phillies.
Going back a few months to look at Taylor's latest work in the minors, there may have been a hint of control issues—despite the sterling reputation.
Taylor finished 2008 in AA and made three starts there in 2009 before jumping into the Marlins rotation. It isn't much to go on, but here are his AA numbers (source):
Neither those 40 innings in the Southern League or the 3 in the Major League tell us anything with certainty, but it may take a little shine of his reputation.
Control is going to be the name of the game for the young lefty. Why? Well, he's already being compared to Jamie Moyer. Here's what he throws:
Sinker (F2): 85 mph
Fastball (F4): 86
Change-up (CH): 80
Slider (SL): 76
I haven't looked closely at the PITCHf/x data from 2009 to have a good grip on park-to-park differences, so take the following flight paths—the release points in particular—with a grain of salt. He appears to be coming from the extreme first base side of the mound. After his start in Wrigley, we'll have a better idea on his stuff, all around. Click the images for a larger version.
He'll face Rich Harden today. Should be interesting.
These pitch classifications are slightly updated from what I had in an earlier note at Beyond the Box Score. They are not based on Gameday's classifications.