Saturday, June 27, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
As advertised, right-handed Tigers rookie Rick Porcello is a sinker-baller, no doubt about it. I think the pictures and numbers will do the talking, but, in short, it's his only good pitch.
Pitch Characteristics (speed and spin)
Pitch Outcomes: Swings and Locations
Slices and Layers, all pitches:
Strike Zone Locations, selected pitches:
Pitch Outcomes: Batted Balls
Pitch Outcomes: Slugging and Run Value
Tigers righty Edwin Jackson is having a career year, and has drawn the opening start against the Cubs. Jackson will face Carlos Zambrano, who will likely insist on pinch hitting (at least!) in the last two games of the series.
The American League Champion Rays sent Jackson packing in a deal that sent Matt Joyce to Tampa Bay. Jackson showed signs of improvement in 2008, cutting down on his walks, and gave up one run in 4.1 innings of relief in the playoffs. Jackson is just 25-years old, and the Tigers appear to be beneficiaries of a live arm that seems to have found the strike zone.
PITCHf/x Exhibit A: Pitch Types
Before moving on, it's important to understand what Jackson throws. Albeit partially. I haven't split his two- and four-seam fastballs, which could end up being important. Or irrelevant.
Fastball 95 mph
A couple of notes on the pitch types and speeds:
- Jackson's fastball may have dropped a half a mph since 2007 and 2008, but that could simply be noise and/or some extra two-seamers; in any case he throws serious heat
- The change runs up to 90 mph far too often for my taste
- The slider can also hit 90, or run down to around 83—it's a good pitch
- The curve appeared a couple times in the limited 2007 data, but is getting more and more use; he'll run this pitch down into the 70s, also keeps it below slider speed
PITCHf/x Exhibit B: Pitch Selection
Pitch mix, by season and batter hand:
His change-up is being pushed away by better pitches—more the quality of these pitches below—something Detroit spotted that Tampa didn't?
PITCHf/x Exhibit C: Pitch Results
|Good news||Bad news|
|Fastball finds the zone a lot more (.552 to .610), SLGCON dropping (.639,.555,.424). "On pace" for a 30+ rvaa improvement over 2008||HR/FB is low, LD rate is lower, too, this could leave plenty of space for regression. BTW, his overall BABIP is .255 in 2009|
|No longer throws curve for strikes (.459 to .310) but hitters haven't figured that out yet (.450 chase, .586 swing rate); no one hits it hard (SLGCON .167) and it's mostly grounders (67%); rv100 an amazing -4.596, already saved 2.7 runs (-2.666 rvaa)||Lefties could start laying off the curve, which could bring about a change the the batter-pitcher balance|
|The change and slider balance out in terms of quality, and there have been no real changes in terms of results, but he is using the slider more often against lefties||The change is not a good pitch, it gets hit hard|
Gratuitous Flight Paths
- Edwin Jackson is throwing more strikes
- He's not getting hit hard, with some component of luck
- Lefties haven't adjusted to his now out-of-the-zone curveball
- He's a "different" pitcher with three quality pitches (FA,CU,SL) instead of two (FA,SL) and one crappy one (CH)
Other than small samples, I'm not looking at pitch movement (there are hints of a difference in the slider this year, maybe) and not breaking out the fastball beyond a generic classification.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Using some of my favorite PITCHf/x metrics, here are how the current Cubs have fared in 2009. I'm not including traded (Luis Vizcaino), injured (Chad Fox) or demoted (Jeff Samardzija). For individual pitch ratings, minimum 20 pitches thrown (that's not a a lot, but roll with it)
Run Value per 100 Pitches (rv100)
0 is "average", so a negative value means a pitcher (in this case) yields less runs per 100 than average.
Best Fastball Angel Guzman -1.664
Worst Fastball Sean Marshall 3.336
Best Sinker Jose Ascanio -5.760
Worst Sinker David Patton 2.933
Best Change/Split Jose Ascanio -2.739
Worst Change/Split Ted Lilly 1.703
Best Cutter Carlos Zambrano -3.260
Worst Cutter Jose Ascanio 3.377
Best Curve Jose Ascanio -1.982
Worst Curve Angel Guzman 3.190
Best Slider Randy Wells -2.627
Worst Slider Aaron Heilman 1.206
Best Reliever Angel Guzman -1.902
Worst Reliever David Patton 0.558
Best Starter Randy Wells -1.303
Worst Starter Rich Harden 0.551
Let's try some other metrics, too.
Highest GB% David Patton 56.1%
Lowest GB% Ted Lilly 32.7%
Highest LD% Aaron Heilman 20.5%
Lowest LD% Angel Guzman 12.4%
Highest HR/FB David Patton 0.188
Lowest HR/FB Carlos Marmol 0.031
Highest IFFB/FB Carlos Marmol 0.531
Lowest IFFB/FB David Patton 0.063
Highest Whiff Rich Harden 0.317
Lowest Whiff Carlos Zambrano 0.157
Highest IWZ Ted Lilly 0.625
Lowest IWZ Aaron Heilman 0.484
BTW, Lilly leads the majors in pitches In Wide Zone (2 ft plate).
You can download all the data used for this post (Excel).
Saturday, June 20, 2009
It's Sunday, and the Cubs will try and sweep the Indians and 26 year old lefty Jeremy Sowers. Today was supposed to be an extra night at home with a day off Monday, but the rain laden Cubs will jet to Atlanta for one game before making their way back to interleague play in Detroit Tuesday.
Hello, Mr. Sowers
Sowers was one of several candidates for the back of the Cleveland rotation heading into 2009:
Jeremy Sowers might be the most familiar name on this list, though his chances of cracking the starting rotation appear quite grim. The finesse lefty has posted a FIP in excess of five in the big leagues in ‘07 and ‘08, and even his 2006 showing that got people talking (3.57 ERA) produced just a 4.57 FIP. Sowers is basically Aaron Laffey without the groundballs. At best, he’s an adequate fifth starter in the majors.
David Golebiewski on Sowers' shot at the Indians' rotation (2/15/09 Fangraphs)
While he didn't make the cut out of camp, Sowers got his second call-up of the season on May 25. Facing the Rays at home, Sowers only threw 57 pitches in 5 innings (source.
Next four starts:
Just the last three:
Sowers is stretching out, and threw 99 pitches the last two times out. His performance is fair, but he's sitting at a 5.03 FIP for 2009, which matches his career number.
While he has been impressive during his minor league career, Sowers has never been overpowering with his stuff:
AAA (Int'l League)
291 IP (6.32 per start)
26 HR (0.4 per 9IP)
78 BB (2.4)
187 SO (5.8)
Sowers' two-seam fastball (F2) adds more tail than sink off his fastball (F4), and matches up (spin-wise) with his change-up (CH). His slider (SL) gets slurvey and usually has good horizontal movement. It's the sink on the breaking pitch that tends to vary.
So, to summarize, blah blah blah and now the graphs. For each pitch, clockwise from the top-left ... "Strikes" pitches in the "wide" zone, which is two-feet across and set to the top/bottom values for each hitter in PITCHf/x (averaged out over all games), charted against whiff rate (misses/swings) ... Batted Ball types are marked by the MLB stringers ... Run Value Above Average ("rvaa") is a linear weight based stat (0=average) based on each pitch's result, and is the counting version .... "rv100" is the rate version, simply the run value of the pitch per 100 times thrown. Negative numbers are better, so you'll notice (for the run values) the y-axis is upside-down.
It's as if the slider and the change can't co-exist peacefully. And that four-seam fastball isn't really a quality pitch, although Sowers is having more success with it in 2009.
Tomo Ohka faces the Cubs on Saturday, as the Indians try and recover from Friday's loss. The Cubs came back to win, despite being down 7-0 against Cliff Lee.
A brief history
Ohka is a 33 years old and appeared in 34 games over five years in Japan before being sold to the Red Sox in 1999. Cleveland is the eighth franchise for the right-hander. Ohka went from Boston to Montreal and made the move to D.C. when the Expos became the Nationals.
After a stint with the Brewers, Ohka was back in Canada in 2007 as a Blue Jay. Released by Toronto that June, Ohka was picked-up by the Cardinals. He never got past Memphis, and in mid-July the Mariners signed him to yet another minor-league deal. Tacoma was his final stop there, although he did at least make it through the season.
The White Sox were the next gambler, and Ohka spent 2008 in Triple-A Charlotte, having signed as a minor league free agent. The Indians signed Ohka to his next contract, he was eventually assigned to Columbus. After nine starts in Triple-A, Ohka was summoned to the majors at the end of May.
sources: Baseball Reference and Wikipedia
Ohka throws a bunch of pitches, delivers close to over-the-top, and tends to put some cut on his fastball. His slider can go from sluttery to slurvey.
Change (CH) 81.8 mph (blue)
Curve (CU) 75.1 (coral)
Two-Seam Fastball (F2) 87.6 (dark red)
Four-Seam Fastball (F4) 88.4 (yellow)
Splitter (FS) 81.0 (red)
Slider (SL) 83.0 (black)
Here is Ohka's spin movement plot (values are in inches, catcher's view).
Ohka is a different pitcher than he was two years ago. First, his pitch mix has changed. Keep in mind, these are small samples, less than 750 pitches are available in PITCHf/x for Ohka.
That's a big change. How about the results? Using run values derived from the pitch-by-pitch data, Ohka is a below average pitcher overall, but has kicked a few things up a bit in 2009.
I'm going to start with rv100 (run value above average per 100 pitches, negative numbers are better for pitchers) over the two partial seasons available, and then convert that rate stat to a counting stat (straight up RVAA) for both seasons. Finally, the RVAA for 2009 alone.
Other than the whopping change in pitch mix, Ohka's slider and change have improved.
Liners have turned into grounders, a few more whiffs
GB/FB/LD 33/34/33 54/41/5
Whiff 0.102 0.132
Grounders and liners have become flies, SLGCON plummeted
GB/FB/LD 40/20/40 25/75/0
SLGCON 1.100 0.250
Stay hot, Cubs. Ohka may be a nice break from Cliff Lee, and a quicker route to that lovely Cleveland bullpen.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Thursday, June 18, 2009
Cliff Lee is amazing. His increased use of a sinker in 2008 helped take him from the verge of washing out to a Cy Young Award. Lee had a little bit of a slow start in 2009, but is throwing strikes and getting outs at impressive rates. His near no-hitter in his last start serves as a bad omen for the Cubs.
Cliff Lee's Pitches
Breaking down Lee's pitches wasn't horribly difficult, but there are over 5000 of them available in PITCHf/x dating to 2007.
# vs LHH vs RHH MPH DEG RPM
Change 717 0.2% 19.7% 84 129 2079
Curve 431 11.4% 7.3% 76 321 1650
Sinker 1745 23.3% 38.6% 92 137 2382
Fastball 1755 49.3% 28.3% 91 158 2307
Cutter 391 11.9% 5.9% 86 205 1091
Slider 64 4.0% 0.1% 79 230 535
The slider is a rarely used weapon, essentially a change-up from his cutter. Notice the spin axis (DEG) for the change and how it is closely aligns with this sinker (two-seam fastball).
Before getting into the quality/outcomes of his stuff, here are three looks at Lee's flight paths. All six pitches, followed by the four he most often throws to left-handed hitters and then the three he throws to righties.
No, I didn't split the last two sets of flight paths by batter hand. The images are made of the average all pitches to all batters Lee faced under the watchful eye of PITCHf/x.
My most favoriteist way of measuring "quality" lately has been run values. Based on the expected runs for a given count, the average pitch(er) will pile-up a run value of zero. Negative numbers are good for pitchers, meaning less runs allowed than average. The stat is typically expressed in terms of run value per 100 pitches (rv100). You can get more info on the run values I'm using over here.
rv100 2007 2008 2009
Change 3.04 -0.48 1.68
Curve 0.67 -0.50 0.96
Sinker 3.21 -1.24 -1.25
Fastball -2.30 -1.36 -0.55
Cutter 6.59 0.36 0.10
Slider 3.93 -5.62 -0.29
As I write this, the possibility (liklihood) of tweaking the basis for the run values exists. It shouldn't dramatically impact what you're seeing here, though. I'll let you know if it does.
Don't get too excited about that slider, he threw 40 of them all of 2008. If I use cumulative run values above average (RVAA) instead of using the rate stat rv100, I can compare, accounting for pitch mix, the total value of each pitch. To do so, I'm doing something quick-and-dirty. Lee threw 2.3x more pitches in 2008 than in 2009. Go figure, it's only June. So, I'm just multiplying Lee's run values by 2.3.
Behind those run values are real events, like batted balls, swinging strikes and everything else. In Lee's case, the changes are being driven by a few factors, based on a comparison to 2008.
- Lee is actually missing more bats with his change up (.24 whiff, up from .18 in 2008) but it's still getting hit hard (SLGCON .583, up from .455)
- The increased slugging against the change seems related to an increase in line drives (18% from 13%) and even an oddly high rate of line drives leaving the park (18%, I think that's 3-4x higher than average, but I have to re-check that)
- It's a similar story with Lee's four-seam fastball. His ground ball rate has dropped from 37% down to 28%, with seven of those nine percentage points going to his line drive rate
- Still, his SLGON has barely crept up (.453 from .435) against the fastball; he's lost a run per 100 fastballs not put in play, though
- Lee's strike rate with his fastball, measured by IWZ (in wide zone, two foot plate) has dropped from .64 to .60 and umpires are calling more balls (1.6 B:CS ratio, up from 1.2). Still, good stats, just not as pristine as last season
- While the sinker, to a lesser extent than the fastball, has found the zone, and the umpire's favor, less often this year, it has been effective when put in play
- Sporting a 51% ground ball rate, the sinker only yields a SLGCON of .370. Result: an rv100 of -3.11 on balls in play, which is insane. Just being below zero is impressive enough
Well, at least the Cubs have Rich Harden facing this guy.
Cliff Lee is going to pound the strike zone with all of his pitches, so don't be surprised if the Cubs swing early.
Updated 6/20 Tom Tango noted some of the wOBA values were high, so I re-checked and found an under-count of some plate appearances. Looks better now, and the table below has been updated.
Thanks to Tom Tango and the many fine folks who hang around his blog (too many to thank) have made this possible. For a complete discussion and lots of resources, I suggest checking out this thread at Tango's site.
Using 2007-2009 data, from MLBAM's Gameday, I calculated the wOBA of each count, bounced that off a set of linear weights sussed out in the thread linked above, and re-checked my work. I'd greatly appreciate some external validation of the numbers, if anyone is will or finds something that doesn't pass the sniff test.
The following table is the result of the effort, and should look familiar (check that link for even more background/rationale on this method to rating pitches). I've added columns for HBP and Foul balls. Neither are necessary, as you can choose to handle the two-strike fouls in query/code and the HBP uses the same weight as a walk. I chose to create distinct columns for two reasons.
First, it keeps the query simpler in regards to handling two-strike counts. I simply don't address it in the look-ups I may run for a pitcher, since it is built into the table. Second, it leaves things readily open to using a distinct value for hit batters, and for future adjustments on two-strike values. We may find a way of assigning a value to fouling off pitches with two strikes some day. You'll also notice strike outs and other "nkOuts" are weighted the same, which is also tweakable if you wish.
The table is sortable if you're curious, but feel free to grab it and crank out your own pitch analysis with it. I do suggest reading the thread at Tango's so you get a feel for the assumptions/limitations/alternatives.
Monday, June 15, 2009
Saturday, June 13, 2009
The Cubs will face the Twins sometime after noon today. It's raining in Chicago, but that will clear up and rookie Anthony Swarzak will face the Cubs and Rich Harden (who is on a pitch count of about 85).
Swarzak has made four starts since being called up before Memorial Day. His first outing was his best.
date vs dec IP H ER BB SO
2009-05-23 MIL W 7.0 5 0 2 3
2009-05-28 BOS L 6.0 5 3 4 3
2009-06-03 CLE - 4.0 9 6 0 3
2009-06-08 oak - 3.2 4 3 3 3
Swarzak throws a sinker along with a slurvey slider, four-seam fastball and change-up.
|Type||#||vs LHH||vs RHH||MPH|
Oddly, Swarzak looks to have thrown no four-seam fastballs in his latest, and shortest, outing. More on that after a segue into pitch classifcations. First, the spin movement and spin axis scatter graphs. Scroll on down if these make your eyes glaze over.
- Movement is in inches, catcher's perspective. Bubble size in the movement chart is based on speed.
- For the second chart for each start, spin axis is flipped to match the movement graphs, speed is on the y-axis and bubble size is based on spin rate.
- Spin axis has the arm angle subtracted out, spin movement does not.
- Confused? Leave questions in the comments.
The spin axis on the change, and therefore the movement, match the sinker, so I can see how that combination could be more effective/deceptive. And you could argue there were a few four-seamers in the mix on June 8. In any case, I'm not sure why he'd drop a pitch like that.
One way of looking at a pitch's effectiveness is to use linear weights, or run values. An average pitch would be rated a 0, and anything below 0 is good for the pitchers. Fangraphs shows you these numbers now, but I use my own data, pitch classifications and weight calculations, and I leave negative #'s negative, so you'll find differences if you compare the stats. Also, my weights are based on pitch count and outcome only, and are not adjusted for park factors.
Run value is cumulative and rv100 is a rate stat, averaged and adjusted to 100 pitches.
Pitch Run Value rv100
Change 1.947 3.973
Sinker -1.583 -0.707
Fastball -1.496 -2.771
Slurve 2.547 6.703
Often, a pitcher's best pitch isn't the one he'll throw the most. Maybe the infrequency is what makes it work. For a sinker baller, the four-seam is a "change" of sorts, and one that seems to have been used effectively, for three starts. If you're a Twins fan, you'll want him to bring it back today.
Bobby Scales is down to Iowa. Hart not up, as that would require another move. I must've imagined that (correction from earlier note here)
Monday, June 8, 2009
Data is from April only. Initial velocity in MPH as measured by HITf/x. Nothing "new" from the charts I posted this weekend, but the colors have shifted a slot over.
Here are the Astros and Cubs current players, including Aaron Miles and Rich Harden, and Aramis Ramirez. Click for larger versions.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
HITf/x is here-ish. A limited amount of data has been released in advance of the 2009 PITCHf/x Summit.
The data that's available to summit attendees (registration info at the link) comes from the month of April, and includes information about batted balls that's similar to what we get for pitches. With one big exception - spin. But we get speed (more below) and direction (which I'm still exploring).
The first charts I've put together are batted ball speed charts. Blocking everything in to 10 mph chunks (100+ goes up to the 116 range, actually) and graphing the distribution from red (hard hit) to blue (weak hit) creates an interesting visual. Don't stare too long or operate heavy machinary while under the influence of HITf/x.
The charts include guys who are still on the team, plus Joey Gathright for kicks. No Chad Fox or Luis Vizcaino.
Click to zoom. (new versions based on MB21's suggestions)
Friday, June 5, 2009
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Mr. Sinker, Derek Lowe, faces the Cubs tonight in Atlanta. Here's the history of match-ups in the PITCHf/x era. Tables are sortable, just click the headers.
Fontenot and Lee have had some success against Lowe. The others, well, not so much. Small samples, naturally
Catching up with the weekend series against the Dodgers, here's a list of the best and worst of the pitches used during the series. You'll notice the Cubs out-pitched the Dodgers, for the most part.
For this small sample surveys, I'm using run value as a counting stat, but I'm showing rv100 (the rate stat) along side. Do the math and you'll realize Ramon Troncoso's two fastballs were enough to put him on the Worst Pitches - Relievers list.
Best Pitches - Starters
Best Pitches - Relievers
Worst Pitches - Starters
Worst Pitches - Relievers
|Guillermo Mota||Change Up||0.412||6.87|
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Mike Minor, a LHP from Vanderbilt, isn't likely to be around when the Cubs pick 31st on June 9. But he was still around in the MLB Outsider's mock draft, so I picked him. A little more about the pick, and the Cubs' recent draft history, is in my write-up at MVN. Be sure to check out the rest of the picks.
Participating in the mock draft was a learning experience for me, I think I lucked out having a guy like Minor slide all the way to the Cubs' slot. Who would you pick?
6/02/2009 01:15:00 PM
Monday, June 1, 2009
The Cubs will miss Javier Vazquez (good) and Kris Medlen (ah, too bad). Here's the PITCHf/x from 2009 for the current Braves pitching staff. Starting with my opinions followed by the data I used. Draw your own conclusions.
F4 (four-seam fastball); F2 (two-seam fastball or sinker); FC (cutter); SL (sliders and slurves); CU (curveballs); CH (change-ups)
Best Change-Up Vazquez O'Flaherty
Best Breaking Pitch Vazquez (CU) O'Flaherty (SL)
Best Fastball Lowe (F2) Soriano (F4)
Best Stuff Vazquez O'Flaherty
Worst Change-Up Lowe Campillo
Worst Breaking Pitch Lowe (SL) Bennett (SL)
Worst Fastball Kawakami (F4) Campillo (F4)
Worst Stuff Medlen Bennett
Sleeper Jurrjens Soriano
Don't Forget Kawakami Gonzalez
Tables are sortable, just click the headers.
|pitcher||cfx||#||vs LHH||vs RHH||MPH||PFX_X||PFX_Z||DEG||RPM|
Been quiet here again, sorry. That will change. For now, check out my latest on Geovany Soto's struggles at Out of the Ivy. Jason Waddell is included in the New Arms of the Week at Beyond the Box Score (something I do every Monday over there).
In a final act of self-promotion, join me tonight at 643 Sports, a call-in Internet Radio show. I'll be on a little after 7:00 CST (8 Eastern) to talk about PITCHf/x with Rich and Jon.