Saturday, May 4, 2013

Charting Mark Appel

Mark Appel pitched in a much publicized game against Arizona State and another possible 1st rounder in Trevor Williams. Since the game was on ESPN U, it had a broadcast radar gun, so I decided to "chart" his outing. I don't feel the need to write a scouting report on Appel, because that has been done by several writers who would do it better than I would. He isn't exactly an unknown commodity, but I wanted to get his velocity numbers from the outing, and then compare him to MLB pitchers using Pitch F/X data (unfortunately, we will be dealing with the MLB AM tags when looking at the MLB pitchers, which obviously isn't ideal, but for this post necessary).

Of course the broadcast gun didn't pick up all the pitches, and I just ignored the ones that it didn't since I wasn't charting location or anything. In the 6th, evidently the gun stopped working for several pitches. Overall, ESPN had him at 121 pitches, but there were velocities for 112. Classification was somewhat difficult at times, but generally, the change is the pitch that "breaks" arm side, slider breaks glove for him (for the most part, I also went on whether or not the pitch actually appeared to break like a slider does). Here is Appel's breakdown:

56 fastballs, 50 %, 93.36 MPH average

34 changeups, 30.36 %, 82.97 MPH average.

22 sliders, 19.6 %, 85.27 MPH average.

In just fastball velocity for a right-handed pitcher, Mat Latos is the closest comparison (for qualified starters in the Pitch F/X era). Armando Gallaraga provides the best comparison in slider velocity, above average, but not elite. His closest changeup comparisons are Leake, Slowey, Hunter, Danks, and Hochevar, all who have softer fastballs than he does.

I would really like to see a curveball, something that didn't appear in the outing. Only two of the qualified starters in the Pitch F/X era have no curveballs to their name, Justin Masterson and Bud Norris. If you switched the slider and the changeup percentage, his pitch selection would be very similar to Bud Norris, as Jeremy Hellickson is the only pitcher with 30% changeups. The 19.6 % slider usage is right at Masterson, Jhoulys Chacin, and Ross Ohlendorf. It is hard to find a starting pitcher that throws some kind of fastball only 50 % of the time. John Smoltz seemed to do it, Carlos Villanueva does it, Hellickson nearly does it, Paul Byrd did it, as did Tim Stauffer, Mike Mussina (remember, this is all in the Pitch F/X era only), Anibal Sanchez, James Shields, Bronson Arroyo, Freddy Garcia, Jesse Litsch, Bruce Chen, R.A. Dickey, and Tim Wakefield.

These are all soft tossers or heavy slider pitchers. That is, except James Shields. Shields has had about an average fastball (not as good as Appel's), and throws a lot of changeups. However, Shields also throws a lot of curveballs and Wakefield is the only pitcher that threw just 3 different kind of pitches. Perhaps Appel just needs to develop a cutter to go along with his fastball (he didn't show one), but a curveball would be preferable.

In the actual outing, Appel threw almost a stupid amount of strikes, showing good control, though certainly not all of them were quality strikes (perhaps not good command, but Arizona State rarely made him pay). Appel did a good job of maintaining his velocity all game.

Certainly there are some MLB tools in the Mark Appel toolbox, but there are also some things missing. The fastball velocity is obviously very good, and his changeup movement (something we can't really quantify here) is big league esque. However, the lack of other pitches make real big league comparisons difficult.

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