Sunday, February 24, 2013

Adam Plutko Pitch Data

I was able to see UCLA right-hander Adam Plutko pitch against Baylor on Friday February the 22nd.
This won't be much of a scouting report (my notes on UCLA as a team and Baylor will be up on the site later in the week), but instead I will just look at his pitch data, like I did with Jacob Stone and Tommy Burns.
I have seen the right-handed starter projected to be selected in the first round. I would have liked to have taken some video, but the lights and my crappy camera made things really blurry, so we will work basically exclusively with the pitch data.

This is according to Baylor's stadium gun, which anecdotally, seemed rather accurate. His fastball velocity range also seemed to roughly match other scouting reports I had read. I know I am missing at least 1 pitch, and maybe 2 pitches totally, and I have the results and location for 2 pitches, but not velocity (one was my fault, one was the stadium gun's fault). You will notice that I didn't do any pitch classification here. That is on purpose, and is mainly to minimize interpretation and error. Especially, as others have complained, the slider doesn't have dramatic movement.

 The average MPH of all pitches thrown 86.38, which is right at what John Lackey has been since 2007, in the top 5th of starting pitchers (143 out of 544). He hit 93 MPH once, and that is where he maxed out at.

Plutko's main breaking pitches are the change and the slider. He also throws a curve according to reports, but I don't think I saw it. We have seen that pitchers with no pitch under 80 MPH on average don't seem to turn into quality starters. Obviously Plutko threw just one pitch under 80 MPH. Also, the overall velocity is less impressive when you count that out of the pitches I label as a fastball (85 MPH, which there was only one, and over), he averaged just 88.09 MPH. Freddy Garcia and Ted Lilly (two veterans who used to throw harder) provide the best comparison in 4 seam fastballs. Josh Collmenter is the best comparison when trying to get rid of the veteran bias, although he has a quirky delivery. It is hard to find normal right-handed starter comparisons for pitchers that have only thrown in the Pitch F/X era. Josh Fogg and Josh Towers both threw about half a MPH harder than Plutko, and neither were really good pitchers in the Majors.

If we assume all 23 breaking pitches are changeups, they averaged 81.61 MPH. That is a below average change in velocity compared to MLB pitchers, and closest to Justin Germano's. In both whiff/swings % and groundball swing percentage, Germano's change is below average to awful. As a slider, it would be below average as well, closest to, as far as right-hander's go, Carlos Silva. Silva's slider was not awful, even when he was as a pitcher, but his slider was below average in getting whiffs and grounders in the Pitch F/X era.

What I am classifying as the fastball he threw about 64 times, or about 73.6 % of the time. Obviously there could be some classification errors (though I doubt 85-86 MPH were hard sliders), but that is a lot of fastballs. Even if you combine all fastballs together (2-seam, 4-seamer, sinker), only 1 starter in the Majors, Justin Masterson, threw that many fastballs on average (and he throws harder than Plutko by about 3 MPH on average).

Below is his Heat Map based on the location data that I collected. Just like with the Jacob Stone post, I removed the strike/no strike bias so there is a little less interpretation and chance for error

8 23 5
10 7 6
6 15 8

Obviously he loved to throw the ball high middle, and apparently this is well documented.High was his favorite height location, with low being 2nd, and the middle being the least. He worked arm side a little more than glove side, but preferred throwing in the middle of the plate. If you look at the pitchers in the Majors that most liked to throw in the upper middle portion of the strike zone, you see some good names, like Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, but you notice that most of them are hard throwers. If you look at the top 10 in frequency there, you see that they had an average fastball of 92.3 MPH. Bruce Chen is in the top 20, but obviously he is left-handed. Bronson Arroyo, who was 35th, is the first right-hander that threw softer than Putko and showed up frequently in the middle high part of the strike zone. It is rare that a pitcher that doesn't throw hard to throw high up in the zone, because they usually can't live up there.

When looking at the results, the first thing you notice is the disappointing amount of whiffs, just 4 (4.5 %). Obviously Baylor is a good college team, but it is a college team. If you are a first round pick, you should get more than 4 swing and misses.Here are the results of the rest of his pitches:

15 called strikes
1 pitchout
11 ground-balls, 7 for outs, 4 for no outs.
6 fly-balls. All outs
4 bunts (1 foul)
15 fouls
33 balls

He threw strikes a little more than 61% of the time, which is a little low, but acceptable. He really struggled with command early in the game, but got much better. He proved to be a ground-ball pitcher, at least in this outing, despite working high so much. Also note that all 6 fly-balls were turned into outs. This could be partly luck, but just from a general observation standpoint, he wasn't really hit hard at all.

Honestly, I wasn't very impressed by Plutko. He didn't look like a first round pick to me. While certainly he could add velocity (if he just hit 93 MPH, it would be helpful), his fastball was unimpressive, and he didn't show great breaking pitches. He wasn't bat control wise, but I would hesitate to call him advanced. While he has had major success in college, I am not sure this combination of stuff and locations would play in an upper level of the minors, especially because he likes to throw high, but doesn't have great swing or miss stuff.

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