Monday, December 31, 2012

Greg Garcia Scouting Report

The Texas League (AA) had some really good shortstops in 2012. The headliner was obviously Jurickson Profar, but Josh Rutledge went on to have a little success in the Majors with the Rockies later in the year, Leury Garcia (when he wasn't stuck at 2nd) is an intriguing prospect, and Jean Segura was one of the main pieces that got the Angels Zack Greinke for the last 2 months of the season (and Segura has a shot of starting for the Brewers in 2013). However, none of those were the league's best hitter, as the best hitting middle infielder (qualified 2nd baseman or shortstops) was the Cardinals' Greg Garcia. In a league where the average player was about 24 years old, Garcia was 22 (meaning he wasn't too old for the league).

Since being drafted out of the University of Hawaii in the 7th round of the 2010 draft, Garcia has hit well in every level he has been in. He has 146 walks (12.3 %) and 185 strikeouts (15.6 %) so far in his career and had a 137 wRC + / 117 wOBA + /132 OPS + in AA in 2012. This kind of hitting makes it hard not to be noticed.

Supposedly, the Springfield Cardinals park is friendly for lefties, but it has played basically Texas League average (the league average slash line is .257/.327/.391) over the last two seasons as a whole. So while there are some reasons to be skeptical of his very slight power jump (.136 ISO and 10 homers versus .125 career ISO and just 6 homers in the 163 games before 2012). He did hit for more power at home (.454 SLG to .383 SLG on the road), but was a better OBP guy on the road. This is most likely who he is, a high OBP, low power guy, a skillset that works when you are a middle infielder. He has an extremely high GB % (over 50% in 2012), so it is unlikely that his high BABIPs (.320 and over in every level so far) will translate to the Majors. So there are some reasons to be a little skeptical of his bat statistically, at least not being as excited about him as his numbers say we should be. In watching him at the plate, the scrawny looking player has what looks like a quick bat along with some good bat control. He isn't afraid to uppercut his swing, which might be more of a concern (because of the inevitability of infield pop-ups and what appears to be below average power) if he didn't have such a high ground-ball percentage. The swing is smooth and he keeps his head on the barrel and the follow through is really pretty to watch.

While he had a positive FRAA in the APPY league in 2010, he mainly played second base. He had a negative FRAA in 2012, but he played only shortstop. With that said, he did have a better than average range factor at shortstop, making it seem like his 20 errors were the reason he didn't rate positively. Obviously when you are looking at prospects, it is much less worrisome if they lack polish defensively than whether or not they actually have the athleticism for the position. It seems that Garcia has plenty of athleticism, as I've clocked him as an above average runner, and he had a 5.1 speed score in 2012 (and throughout his short minor league career, he has hovered around 5.0). With that said, he isn't much of a stolen base threat, stealing just 18 bases (with 11 caught stealings) over the last two seasons. He appears to have a strong arm, further solidifying his role as a solid middle infielder.

Despite not showing up on hardly any Cardinals' prospect rankings from what I have seen, there is a lot to like about Garcia. Even if he moves to 2nd more permanently, that still provides him with good positional value and there are a lot of reasons to think that he will hit in the Majors. I don't see him hitting for much power, but he has good peripherals, along with a good average (that is, he isn't relying solely on walks, as prospects that do tend not to pan out. Of course, many of them are 1st base/DH types with slow bat speed) in the minors. There isn't anything alarming in his swing and he takes a lot of pitches. He does have big platoon splits in the minors, but they weren't as bad in 2012, as he held his own against lefties. Left-handed hitting middle infielders with solid/average tools are valuable (at the very least he is a platoon, and the good kind, one that can play 75 % of the time, utility infielder) and he is a guy that could help the Cardinals soon.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Collection of Minor League Velocity

Similar to what I have been doing with running times for position players, I wanted to start a velocity collection for pitchers in the minor leagues. I decided to use no players that have pitched in the Majors (as obviously you could just load their brooks baseball or FanGraphs page to get a more scientific view). This will not be scientific, but should be a useful and sortable list of minor league pitchers' velocity.

I wasn't sure whether or not I should include pitchers that have pitch f/x data due to spring training or AFL, but I decided to include them. I was sort of loose on RP/SP designations, but as a general rule I looked at how they have been used in the past couple of years more than their career (I mostly ignored projections of whether or not a pitcher will stick as a starter).

For pitchers that I hadn't written scouting reports myself on, I gathered data from a lot of different places, but Pirates Prospects, Orioles Nation, Red Sox Prospects, Perfect Game, and Baseball Prospect Nation were probably the biggest places. I figured that if there were 6 U.S. affiliates for each club, and if we assume every team uses 8 man bullpens (13 pitchers), then there are about 2340 minor league pitchers. Of course, we are taking out the ones that have pitched in the Majors at all, but we are probably still talking about 2000 different pitchers. I figured 500 was a good start and we will do some updates. I had to create ranges for the spreadsheet to sort right, so for pitchers I just had one velocity for, I just added and subtracted a MPH (for example, if all I have was 95, I changed it to 94-96). For pitchers' in which reports were not that specific (such as, "he throws in the low 90s"), I used this scale:
Low 90s= 90-93
Mid 90s= 94-96
Low to Mid 90s: 90-95
It is not scientific, but it should work. You should be able to download the spreadsheet by following the link (either click there or copy and paste the link below).

Again, it should be emphasized that this is not scientific by any means, this is just to create a place where you can see some estimated velocities for many minor leaguers. The mean was 90-94, which probably sounds about right considering MLB average is 91.7 MPH. Let me know in the comments or via email or twitter if there are any mistakes.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Dariel Alvarez Scouting Report

Dariel Alvarez (along with Aledmys Diaz) appears to be the latest Cuban native that has defected to pursue a MLB career. The 24 year old (soon to turn 25) right-handed outfielder reportedly stands at 6-2 190. He is currently playing winter ball in Mexico (not the official MLB version, but the Vera Cruz league) where he has been rather mediocre. While he is second in doubles, he only has 3 homers (to be in the top ten you need 9) and a mediocre OBP. 

He mainly played left-field in the Cuban Serie Nacional, with some center and right. According to Clay Davenport's ratings, he was below average defensively. His speed was also rated slightly below average according Davenport's formula. If you use traditional speed score ratings, Alvarez obviously rates below average with 13 steals over 5 seasons, with 21 caught stealings. Reports do seem to say that he has an above average arm, which may help him profile in right-field.

With the bat, when he first jumped into the league, he predictably struggled at age 19. He got incrementally better each year offensively until his last year in 2011 where he would hit .363/.404/.613. According to Clay Davenport's projections (which basically treats the CSN like A-ball), that year projects to a .303/.327/.494 season. If the statistics I am seeing are correct, he has insanely low walk and strikeout rates, and his 2011 would translate to just 12 walks and 33 strikeouts over 611 at-bats (when you include the previous years, there are many more strikeouts). This is something you would normally see in a slap hitting middle infielder, not a corner outfielder. It seems that Davenport conservatively projected Yeonis Cespedes in 2012, as he was a 3 win player in 2012 with the A's, with a .356 OBP and .505 SLG. Davenport had both his OBP and SLG lower by about .050 each. Cespedes did have a somewhat high BABIP, but he also played in a pretty pitcher friendly park (and as far as I know, the Davenport projection was neutralized, not taking into account Oakland's ballpark), so one could say those roughly even out. If you still want to neutralize the BABIP, assuming that Cespedes is not a naturally high BABIP player, and see how Cespedes would have hit with a .300 BABIP, we get a .260 batting average with a .324 OBP. This is still a little better than league average (and doesn't factor in his above average power), and still about .010 points of batting average higher than Davenport projected and nearly .025 points of OBP better. He walked a little more than expected, but he also hit for a slightly higher batting average. Now, it would most likely be foolish to just add those extra points onto Alvarez' projection, or even to scrap Davenport's projections altogether. Instead, lets look at the differences statistically between Cespedes and Alvarez. While Alvarez had solid but low K/BBs, Cespedes actually walked more than he struck out the last three years he was in Cuba (and he was criticized, by me as well, for his plate discipline). Cespedes pretty consistently hit for more power than Alvarez as well, though Alvarez' SLG in 2011 was very comparable to Cespedes' last three seasons. Defensively, Cespedes' was ranked as a very solid defender (with a couple of really awesome seasons) by Davenport, but UZR, DRS, and FRAA all thought he was below average defensively in the Majors. From just personal observations from watching Cespedes throughout the year, it seemed he had enough athleticism to be a good defender, but really struggled with jumps and reads (though it seems that he did get better throughout the year). If Cespedes was rated positively by Davenport then negatively by the traditional defensive metrics when with the Athletics, it is probably not to much of a leap to assume that Alvarez will be rated very poorly as a defender in the MLB. 

From watching video of Alvarez, it is clear that he has a large and somewhat violent stride to start his swing. He holds his bat up high and seems to uppercut his swing. The bat seems plenty quick and he seems to have good control of it (note that most of what I saw was just batting practice). 

His lack of apparent tools and positional value makes it imperative that he really hits. While for some reason I was under the impression that offensive statistics took a big jump from 2010 to 2011 in Cuba, this doesn't actually seem to be the case. So, at least statistically, there seems to be reason to believe that Alvarez has developed as he has aged and that his last year in Cuba was at least somewhat real. Using Davenport's methods, he would be an above average hitters in the Majors, with a low walk rate, but good average and power. This might be enough to make up for a lack of speed or defense and have him as a traditional corner outfielder with a big arm and big power. I thought somewhat of Nelson Cruz as a lazy comp, but if you only look at Cruz' road numbers (neutralizing the Ballpark in Arlington factor), Alvarez projects as a better hitter. While his mechanics as described above aren't necessarily pretty or perfect, he has the bat speed in my opinion, and could be a legitimate big league starter.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Coastal Carolina Scouting Report

Just like for my post on Manhattan college, I watched Coastal Carolina play in the college regionals for 2012 and wrote scouting reports on some of the players. Obviously I didn't include Seniors that were not drafted and I wrote about catcher Tucker Frawley, drafted by the Blue Jays, here.

Tyler Herb, who will be a Junior in 2013, was up to 92 MPH-93 MPH on the fastball. He sat a lot at 90 MPH with some arm-side tail or fade. Early on in the outing I watched, he was missing a lot arm side. Perhaps it is cliche, but his fastball has quite a bit of life, as it doesn't ever seem to be straight. He seems to have a separate 2-seamer that is in the mid to low 80s. Herb looks like a good athlete and his delivery looks pretty clean, though he brings his hands and leg up high, but it seems repeatable and fluid. However, his command was not really sharp at all. He threw a 81-84 MPH change rather frequently that may be some kind of splitter. He also went a lot later in his outing to a 71-76 MPH soft slider.

I really like the stuff, but the command has to improve. He did a good job of keeping the ball low and really taking advantage of impatient hitters, and if his fastball command improves, he could be a nice pitcher. Whether or not he shows real consistency in 2013 with velocity and command will dictate where he is drafted (he is definitely draft-able in my opinion). He relies a lot on the slider, which is somewhat concerning, not only for the arm health, but because it isn't a very traditional slider and I don't know how it will play in the upper minors.

Shortstop Brian Pruett has a really strong arm, though I didn't get a great read on him defensively. He was 3.67 to first on a bunt from the right side, which is pretty quick. He has really good speed, but his bat hasn't played well at Coastal and he doesn't seem to be a patient hitter with a swing that has ground-ball tendencies.

Jacob May was probably the best position player prospect on the team, as he played centerfield and made good jumps and reads. He clearly has some athleticism and good looking run. A switch hitter, May will be a junior in 2013. He is actually listed as a shortstop by some and was drafted as such in the 39th round in 2010 by the Reds. He didn't have great numbers, and didn't hit for much power, and I don't think he really will with his frame and swing.

Ted Blackmon played left-field, but is not really build like a corner outfielder. He was the leadoff hitter and has a swing like a leadoff man, as it isn't going to produce much power. He will uppercut his swing and chase, but he seems to have a good contact tool.

Tripp Martin made had some bad reaction times and athleticism at 3rd base. He will be a junior, and has good size, so he is probably a corner outfielder ideally defensively (his arm accuracy was spotty, but it seemed strong). Speed wise, he was about 4.31 to first. At the plate, he has a pretty wild swing that gets him out totally out of his body. His shoulder motion is not fluid, but at least he does generate some bat speed. His plate discipline looks pretty poor as well, perhaps because of all the things that go into his swing. He will take advantage of mistakes up high.

Justin Creel is a 2nd baseman that will be a senior in 2013. He has a somewhat of a closed stance and does not have a great swing, especially on balls up and in. It is basically a uppercut swing that isn't especially quick.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

2012 Manhattan College Scouting Report

Manhattan College's baseball team made the college regionals in the past summer, and here is my scouting report on some of the players on the team. They had no one drafted, so I am obviously didn't include any seniors.

Sophomore, so will be a junior, RHP Scott Mcclennan was the starter I saw. He has a 3/4ths delivery and it looks really awkward as his arm is not going with his body. He has a mid 80s fastball that for the most part isn't straight, and it seems to have some sink. His change has some arm-side tail and is anywhere between 76 MPH-82 MPH. He was really changeup heavy, relying on the pitch the most.
Curveball is a little different, some two plane break, pretty slow at 69-71 MPH. He seemed to use it heavily the second time through the order. Since it isn't real swing and miss stuff, Mcclennan was obviously pitching to contact. Coming off the mound, he was not a great athlete and has sort of a large build.

Anthony Vega, the centerfielder is a track star at the school, but I never really got to see him display his speed. The junior didn't get drafted, so he will be a senior for 2013. He is a left-handed hitter that doesn't seem to have the quickest bat or a swing that generates a lot of power, as he seems to want to go the other way. Despite the good build, there may just be too much swing and miss in his bat, especially with the lack of apparent power. The arm is not great out in the field.

Kyle Murphy played 1st base and will be a senior for the 2013 season. He is a right-handed hitter with corner outfielder build, but I got him at 4.41 to first (2 stolen bases all year). He has a good baseball body, but evidently not a ton of athleticism. He seemed to be a solid defender though. His swing is smooth and fluid, working well with his body, but it isn't very quick and the path isn't great (which could be why his statistics were pretty bad in 2013).

Ramon Ortega is also going to be a senior and is a catcher that is a large individual. He may not stick behind the plate and be confined to a 1st/DH role. I don't like his swing, but his frame alone will give him the ability to hit for some power (but it comes with swing and miss). The arm behind the plate doesn't look great.

Joe Mcclennan has a good glove and reaction times at 3rd base. He seems to have arm strength, but he wasn't always accurate. A big looking player, he would take a walk, but doesn't take advantage of the high pitch like you would want him to (his numbers bear that out as well, with a decent K/BB and OBP but not much power). He also seems like he is not much of a runner.

Yoandry Golan has no power, but the 2013 junior has a really good glove at shortstop. Statistically, he got better as a sophomore, especially his peripherals. He doesn't seem to have great athleticism or quickness, but just has great range and anticipation. His arm isn't great, and he really has to be great with on defense to stand any kind of chance professionally.

Jacob Marchus will be a Junior and is the team's closer. He has some fantastic ERAs, but not because of his K/BB but because he hasn't given up a homer yet. This certainly seems like an impressive feat, even with more repressed offense in the college game. While college stats in general aren't predictive, I would bet K/BB is more predictive than HR rates. Marchus has a very underwhelming right-handed fastball that seemed to sit at 86-87 MPH. He did have good changeup movement at about 83 MPH and also has a slow curve. He has a weird delivery that you actually see a lot in minor league and college lefties, with a high leg kick but no real stride or any kind of fluid motion. That just isn't big league or prospect stuff, and he doesn't even seem to have great pitchability or control.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chris Marrero: Adam Laroche Insurance?

The Nationals are reportedly still in talks with Adam Laroche in an attempt to re-sign him. Of course, they don't have a deal yet, so it is not clear whether or not he will be returning. So if we played a little "what if" game and assumed that Laroche wasn't returning, what would be the Nationals options at first base? The most obvious option seems to be platooning Tyler Moore and Chad Tracy.
Another more inventive option, especially if they believe Anthony Rendon is ready, would be to move Ryan Zimmerman and his ugly throwing motion to 1st base. When you look at their minor league options from 2012 (using Baseball Reference's organizational depth chart), most of them weren't pretty. Mark DeRosa's (who was with the big league team in 2012) baseball career is probably over, Mark Teahen wasn't an option and signed elsewhere, Jason Michaels was terrible in AAA, AA first baseman Tim Pahuta is 29 years old, and Justin Bloxom is not ready for the Majors (at least not according to a cursory look at his career path/statistics). Enter an interesting 3rd option, one that the Nationals turned to, unsuccessfully, in 2011 for a short time:

Chris Marrero was a 1st round pick (15th overall) in 2006, and was even ranked as the 27th best prospect in baseball, despite playing mainly 1st base, by Baseball America in 2008. However, he struggled in 2011 (-1.1 WAA in 31 games) when he reached the Majors, and has had major injury issues. This combo caused Marrero to not reach the Majors in 2012. In fact, he played in 5 different minor league levels in 2012. He played just 53 games in all (37 in AAA) in 2012, thanks to a hamstring tear. In 2008, he broke his right fibula.

With that kind of injury history, there is not many empirical reasons to believe he will be healthy in 2013, though he was pretty healthy through 2009-2011. As a first baseman (he played the corner outfield positions before his injury in '08), he obviously lacks speed (2.0 speed score in 2011 in AAA, 2.5 in AAA in 2012), and he doesn't seem to be a good defensive 1st baseman either with bad FRAAs in 2012 and most of his career in the minors. With the bat, his 2012 was a disappointment, as he was terrible in AAA. In 2011, he was solid in AAA (129 wRC +, tied with Matt Hague), but not overwhelming for a first baseman, 6th in the International League. However, he was younger than all of the players above him. In fact, in 2012, no IL player 22 years or younger had a 129 wRC + or better (Starling Marte was 23). Dayan Viciedo was better in 2011, as was Jesus Montero and Freddie Freeman (both 20) in 2010. Obviously there are mixed results in the Majors with those players so far (Dustin Pedroia was the only player 22 years or younger with a 129 wRC + or better in the IL in either 2006 or 2007), but it does at least give the impression that Marrero was some kind of prospect before the 2012 injury. He has always been a guy with elite (or at least nearly elite) power but his reputation is of one that has struggled with breaking balls. The latter certainly played out in the Majors, as he struck out 27 times and walked just 4 times, with 0 homers and 5 doubles. His swing at the plate definitely needs a lot of work, as he keeps his hands low, and it really affects his swing path, which is not one you would expect from a power hitter. According to his swing maps, he was very aggressive (3.58 P/PA, which stabilizes very quickly), and had some serious holes in his swing.

Marrero is not really an option for 2013 for me. He should start in AAA while the Nationals exercise one of the options listed in the above paragraph (and exercise Marrero's 2nd option). In the minors, Marrero has been significantly better against lefties than he has against righties, especially when it comes to K/BB. Unfortunately, when he was in the Majors, he had to face a lot more righties than lefties. He may turn out to be just a platoon 1st baseman/pinch hitter or he could even be a AAAA hitter. He has put up legitimate numbers in the minors despite having serious holes that stop him from being a big league player. This, and the injuries that will continue to keep him off the field/diminish his skill set, really makes it hard to be a big fan of Marrero.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Are Harder Curves or Slower Curves Better?

Mainly as a point of curiosity, I wanted to see if slow curves or hard curves worked better in the Majors. I expected to find, if there is any correlation between velocity and effectiveness in curves, that the harder and the slower curves prefered the best, while the ones closest to the mean were probably the worst. 

Brooks Baseball/Baseball Prospectus counts 254 pitchers who have thrown at least 200 curveballs since 2007. I looked at whiff/swing and GB/FB and split the curveballs down into different sections. The top 24 of the curves averaged 80 MPH or harder. Those curves averaged a 31.53 Whiff/Swing % and had a GB/FB of 2.61.
78-80 MPH: 28.29 Whiff/Swing %, 2.36 GB/FB
76-77.99 MPH: 25.98 Whiff/Swing %, 2.51 GB/FB
74-75.99 MPH: 24.51 Whiff/Swing %, 1.94 GB/FB
72-73.99 MPH: 25.35 Whiff/Swing %, 2.29 GB/FB
70-71.99 MPH: 24.14 Whiff/Swing %, 1.68 GB/FB
Under 70 MPH: 26.08 Whiff/Swing %, 1.75 GB/FB
So, at least by GB/FB, there is a pretty clear regression (other than the blip of 72-73.99 MPH) as the curves get slower. It isn't a leap to say that the harder the curve is, the more likely it is to cause ground-balls. When it comes to whiffs, the data seemed to somewhat support my original guess, the harder curves were the best, while the slowest curves were better than ones closest to the mean. However, it is pretty clear that the harder the curve, the more whiffs it got. 

Fangraphs allows us to easily break down pitchers into 30 pitcher chunks. I just looked at 2012. I looked wCU and wCU/C, and then went to each player's page to see their career wRC + against their curveballs were. I used a sample size of at least 80 for the wRC +.

Hardest 30: 82-86.2 MPH range, 13.4 wCU (.45 wCU per pitcher), 87.01 wCU/C (2.9 wCU/C per pitcher), 36.75 wRC +

Next 30: 81-82 MPH, 44.5 wCU (1.48 per pitcher), 27.37 wCU/C (.91 wCU/C per pitcher), 68.83 wRC +

Next 30: 79.9-81 MPH, 15.4 wCU (.51 per pitcher), -16.45 wCU/C (-.55 wCU/C), 64.8 wRC +

Next 30: 79.1-79.8 MPH, -12.3 wCU (-.41 per pitcher), -10.31 wCU/C (-.34 wCU/C per pitcher), 62 wRC +

Next 30: 78.5-79.1 MPH, 4.7 wCU (.16 per pitcher), -76.25 wCU/C (-2.54 wCU/C) 85.29 wRC +

Next 30: 77.9-78.5 MPH, -17.4 wCU (-.58 per pitcher), -20.81 wCU/C (-.69 wCU/C per pitcher) 68.44 wRC +

Next 30: 77.3-77.9 MPH, -1.3 wCU (-.04 per pitcher), -18.01 wCU/C (-.6 wCU/C) 73.04 wRC +

Next 30: 76.6-77.2 MPH, 4.97 wCU (.17 wCU), -13.92 wCU/C (-.464 wCU/C), 70.13 wRC +

Next 30: 75.8-76.6 MPH, -10.4 wCU (-.35 wCU), -22.02 (-.734 wCU/C), 71.43 wRC +

Next 30: 75.2-75.6 MPH,  -14.9 wCU (-.5 wCU per pitcher), -18.87 wCU/C (-.629 wCU/C), 70.41 wRC +

Next 30: 74.1-75.1 MPH, 27.2 wCU (.91 wCU per pitcher), 4.7 wCU/C (.16 wCU/C per pitcher), 67.68 wRC +

Next 30: 72.7-74.1 MPH, -6.6 wCU (-.22 wCU per pitcher), -25.34 wCU/C (-.84 wCU/C), 75.67 wRC +

Next 30: 70.6-72.7 MPH, 6.4 wCU (.21 wCU per pitcher), -40.22 wCU/C (-1.34 wCU/C), 67.89 wRC +

Last/Slowest 21: 63.2-70.6 MPH, -13.2 wCU (-.63 wCU per pitcher), -11.17 wCU/C (-.53 wCU/C), 72.05 wRC +

By wCU:
81-82 MPH

By wCU/C:


By wRC +:

The correlation here is not as strong, but it does seem like the harder curves fared better than the rest. Overall, this data somewhat surprised me. I didn't think having a "hard" curve was a plus, in fact, I have been long been fascinated by the slow curves of Jered Weaver, Yu Darvish, and many others you see on the other side of the Pacific. This data suggests that it is better to have a hard curve, like King Felix, Matt Moore, or Stephen Strasburg. As long as these aren't classification errors (such as sliders being called curves), this has some big implications for scouting.

I did want to look at knuckle curves too, but according to Fangraphs, in the Pitch F/X era (2007-2012) only A.J. Burnett, Vin Mazzero, and Nathan Adcock (and maybe Chad Gaudin once) have thrown knuckle curves. So obviously there isn't enough data to look at.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Rookies, Velocity, and Minor League Projections

In what is my final planned post on this subject (maybe something else will come up), I wanted to look at what translated into success in the Majors better, minor league statistics or fastball velocity. So I looked at rookie qualified pitchers from 2009-2012 (via FanGraphs), and compared velocity (again, via FanGraphs) versus ZIPs projection systems for that season versus their FIP - that season.
ZIPs uses a version of MLEs (Minor League Equivalents, and idea by Bill James not really used in the scouting or prospecting circles, but still used some in advanced fantasy and projection circles. If one wanted to really simplify it, it is basically how minor league statistics translate to the Majors. I've used my own, with varying levels of success, but they did seem to outperform ZIPs) that creator Dan Szymborski calls "translations". If you want to break down what I am doing here, I am basically trying to see if minor league numbers or velocity is more predictive.  I couldn't get a hold of the ZIPs 2011 spreadsheet, so we are looking at 2009-2010, and 2012 ZIPs projections. However, we are looking at all rookie eligible pitchers from 2009 to 2012 when it comes to velocity. I used ERA, even though I would rather have used ERA +,  but the 2009 projection didn't have ERA +.The best 16 pitchers according to ZIPs projections (the ones below 4.00 ERA)had an average of 105.375 FIP -. The rest of the breakdown:

ZIPS 4.00-4.20 ERA: 79.7 FIP -
ZIPS 4.21-4.39 ERA: 92.6 FIP -
ZIPS 4.4-4.59 ERA: 103 FIP -
ZIPS 4.6-4.79 ERA: 96.1 FIP -
ZIPS 4.8-4.99 ERA: 112.8 FIP -
ZIPS 5.00-5.19 ERA: 107.2 FIP -
ZIPS 5.20-5.39 ERA: 96.6 FIP -
ZIPS 5.40-5.59 ERA: 103.7 FIP -
ZIPS 5.60-5.79 ERA: 102.5 FIP -
ZIPS 5.8-5.99 ERA: 103.1 FIP -
ZIPS 6.00 and over: 103.5 FIP -

It is hard to make much sense of this order. The best ZIPs pitchers were actually some of the worst, while the second set of ZIPs pitchers were actually the best. The regression order doesn't make a lot of sense and is sort of jumbled.

 (If for some reason you want the spreadsheet or the PDF version of the data, sorted by either ZIPs, Velocity, or FIP -, just email me. Blogger won't let me upload the file on the blog. All I did was use FanGraphs and exported the data I wanted and then manually plugged in their ZIPs projections from that year.)

By velocity:
97 MPH + (top 9): 72.25 FIP -
95-96.9 MPH: 87.54 FIP -
93-94.99 MPH: 98.65 FIP -
91-92.99 MPH: 110.17 FIP -
89-90.99 MPH: 106.95 FIP -
88.9 MPH and lower: 112 FIP -

This isn't perfect correlation by any means, but it appears to be pretty darn predictive. In our series of looking at the correlation of velocity and statistics between levels, there is no question that velocity was better, even better than advanced statistics. The actual correlation between velocity and success in the future league varied, but it seemed to be solid, especially here (the strongest correlations were here and from the Ni-gun to the NPB).

Sunday, December 23, 2012

NPB Velocity and MLB Success

Continuing our look at the link between velocity and numbers between leagues, I wanted to look at the many NPB (Professional Baseball in Japan) that have come to the United States and pitch and see if we see the same kind of things we have been seeing in other posts. For pitchers that didn't have Fangraphs or NPB tracker data, I just used scouting reports or articles. I used NPB FIP (nFIP) when I could, but, especially with older data, I had to use ERA some, as especially home run totals (Baseball Cube has strikeouts, walks, innings, ERA and the like, but sometimes didn't have homers for older NPB pitchers) were sometimes hard to find. nERA obviously means I used ERA, nFIP means I used FIP. I ranked them by velocity.

Hideki Irabu: 95 MPH, 109 FIP -, 3.60 nERA

Ryota Igarashi: 92.9 MPH, 115 FIP -, 3.30 nFIP

Yu Darvish: 92.6 MPH, 74 FIP -, 2.61 nFIP

Hiroki Kuroda: 92.2 MPH, 91 FIP -, 3.93 nFIP

Takashi Saito: 92 MPH, 65 FIP -, 3.74 nFIP

Masato Yoshii: 92 MPH, 103 FIP -, 3.86 nERA

Daisuke Matsuzaka: 91.7 MPH, 98 FIP -, 3.18 nFIP

Wei-Yin Chen: 91 MPH, 104 FIP -, 3.33 nFIP

Akinori Otsuka: 91 MPH, 70 FIP -, 2.46 nFIP

Yasuhiko Yabuta: 90.5 MPH, 123 FIP -, 4.49 nFIP

Masa Kobayashi: 90.4 MPH,  113 FIP -, 3.34 nFIP

Hisashi Iwakuma: 90.3 MPH, 112 FIP -, 4.11 nFIP

Hideo Nomo: 90 MPH, 101 FIP -, 3.15 nERA

Keiichi Yabu: 89.9 MPH, 101 FIP -, 4.05 nFIP

Kenshin Kawakami: 89.5 MPH, 104 FIP -, 3.59 nFIP

Kazuhiro Sasaki: 89 MPH, 79 FIP -, 2.41 nERA

Hisanori Takahashi: 88.8 MPH, 97 FIP -, 3.95 nFIP

Koji Uehara: 88 MPH, 68 FIP -, 3.30 nFIP

Tomo Ohka: 87.9 MPH, 104 FIP -, 4.40 nFIP

Kei Igawa: 87.8 MPH, 139 FIP -, 3.46 nFIP

Ken Takahashi: 87.8 MPH, 100 FIP -, 4.74 nFIP

Hideki Okajima: 87 MPH, 86 FIP -, 3.72 nFIP

Yoshinori Tateyama: 86.9 MPH, 104 FIP -, 3.19 nFIP

Kazuhisa Ishii: 86.35 MPH, 124 FIP -, 3.95 nFIP

Kazuhito Tadano: 85.48 MPH, 95 FIP -, 4.49 nFIP

Masumi Kuwata: 85.1 MPH, 183 FIP -, 3.82 nFIP

The 26 pitchers averaged 89.66 MPH on their fastballs, and had an average FIP - of 102.38. The pitchers above average in velocity had a 98.5 FIP -, while the pitcher below average had a 106.92 FIP -. When you split the pitchers into quarters, the lowest velocity seven pitchers had a 118.71 FIP -, the next six pitchers had a 92.17 FIP -. The next seven pitchers had a 103 FIP -, while the top six pitchers had a 92.83 FIP -. So the best pitchers velocity wise were the 2nd best pitchers (but above average, for what it is worth) in the Majors. The worst pitchers were the worst velocity pitchers, sort of unlike what we have been seeing (where the worst pitchers have been the 2nd best pitchers, with the high velocity guys being the best). The pitchers closest to the mean, especially the ones just below it, were actually the best this time. What about numbers? Ranking the 26 players by nFIP (and nERA), we get this breakdown:
nFIP of over 4.00: 105.83 FIP -
nFIP of 3.8-3.95: 119.6 FIP -
nFIP of 3.6-3.86: 109.2 FIP -
nFIP of 3.3-3.59: 106.17 FIP -
nFIP of under 3.3: 91.57 FIP - (the three with nFIPs of under 3 had a 74.33 FIP -)

The elite NPB pitchers were definitely better in the MLB pitchers than the rest, but below that, the results are really muddled (the worst NPB pitchers were the 2nd best MLB pitchers). So there is some correlation on top, and you could say, based just on empirical probability, that an elite NPB pitcher statistically has a better chance of success in the Majors than a generic NPB pitcher with better velocity. This is not what we have been seeing in the other leagues we have looked at when it comes to this.

I also wanted to look the other way, pitchers who came from the MLB to the NPB. I used the list of pitchers with NPB Tracker data and found all the ones I could that pitched at least a decent amount in the Majors and the NPB (didn't use a hard cutoff, but it was something like 30 innings). I used Fangraphs data when I could, but when it wasn't available (which I believe was just a couple), I used the NPB Tracker data. I wasn't sure how to deal with Colby Lewis, Scott Atchison, and Ryan Vogelsong as they not only came back to the Majors, they came back better. I decided to leave them out. Kameron Loe and Carlos Torres came back, but weren't really better, so I included them. Again, I sorted by velocity.

Marc Kroon: 94.48 MPH, 139 FIP -, 2.36 nFIP

Dennis Sarfate: 94.1 MPH, 98 FIP -, 2.36 nFIP

Kam Mickolio: 93.9 MPH, 69 FIP -, 2.96 nFIP

Scott Mathieson: 93.6 MPH, 123 FIP -, 2.01 nFIP

Brian Falkenborg: 93.6 MPH, 116 FIP -, 1.46 nFIP

Kelvin Jimenez: 93.6 MPH, 121 FIP -, 3.99 nFIP

Chris Bootcheck: 93.5 MPH, 111 FIP -, 4.63 nFIP

Bob Keppel: 93.2 MPH, 112 FIP -, 4.08 nFIP

Brian Wolfe: 93.1 MPH,110 FIP -, 3.24 nFIP

Yhency Brazoban: 92.9 MPH, 104 FIP -, 2.64 nFIP

Randy Messenger: 92.2 MPH, 108 FIP -, 3.32 nFIP

Alfredo Figaro: 92.2 MPH, 119 FIP -, 3.55 nFIP

Chan Ho Park: 91.9 MPH, 104 FIP -, 3.99 nFIP

Hayden Penn: 91.7 MPH, 152 FIP -, 3.89 nFIP

Jonah Bayliss: 91.6 MPH, 124 FIP -, 4.99 nFIP

Jorge Sosa: 91.6 MPH, 117 FIP -, 2.73 nFIP

Bryan Bullington: 91.5 MPH, 124 FIP-, 3.00 nFIP

Carlos Torres: 91.1 MPH, 101 FIP -, 4.93 nFIP

Vinnie Chulk: 91.1 MPH, 98 FIP -, 3.04 nFIP

Bryan Corey: 91.1 MPH, 104 FIP -, 5.35 nFIP

Jon Leicester: 91 MPH, 115 FIP -, 3.43 nFIP

Jason Standridge: 90.5 MPH, 139 FIP -, 3.33 nFIP

John Wasdin: 90.5 MPH, 107 FIP -, 4.60 nFIP

Stephen Randolph: 90.4 MPH, 128 FIP -, 4.00 nFIP

Buddy Carlyle: 89.8 MPH, 115 FIP -, 4.32 nFIP

Kameron Loe: 89.5 MPH, 95 FIP -, 4.16 nFIP

D.J. Houlton: 89.2 MPH, 121 FIP -, 3.58 nFIP

John Bale: 89.1 MPH, 91 FIP -, 4.80 nFIP

Eric Stults: 88.9 MPH, 112 FIP -, 5.32 nFIP

Dicky Gonzalez: 88.54 MPH, 89 FIP -, 3.36 nFIP

Darrell Rasner: 88.2 MPH, 109 FIP -, 3.87 nFIP

Seth Griesinger: 88.13 MPH, 113 FIP -, 3.17 nFIP

Brian Sweeney: 88.1 MPH, 104 FIP -, 4.82 nFIP

Justin Germano: 88 MPH, 115 FIP -, 3.52 nFIP

Ryan Glynn: 87.91 MPH, 125 FIP -, 4.32 nFIP

Casey Fossum: 87.2 MPH, 110 FIP -, 4.85 nFIP

The 36 pitchers had an average fastball velocity of 91.03, actually close to MLB averages (and better than the pitchers that the NPB has imported). The 20 pitchers with above average velocity had an average nFIP of 3.43. The 16 below had an average nFIP of 3.88, which shows some correlation, but not exactly drastic correlation. When you split them into quarters (9 pitchers per each), and the bottom 9 had a 4.23 nFIP, the next 10 up (to avoid an artificial tiebreaker) had a 4.07 nFIP. The next 9 (I guess, the above average but not elite group) had a 3.48 nFIP, while the elite eight had a 2.98 nFIP. So here, actually got a good ranking as far as correlation, and we didn't see the bottom pitchers do well while the pitchers towards the mean struggle, as we have before. If we sort by MPH:
94: 2.36 nFIP
93: 3.20 nFIP
92: 3.17 nFIP
91: 3.93 nFIP
90: 3.98 nFIP
89: 4.22 nFIP
88: 4.01 nFIP
87: 4.59 nFIP

This isn't perfect order, but it at least is a pattern. What about statistics? The average FIP - of the 36 was  112.28 (obviously, you would expect those pitchers to be worse than league average). The best 6 pitchers in the Majors, the 6 with a FIP - of under 100, had a 3.45 nFIP on average. The worst 7 (124-152, keeping it at 7 to avoid an artificial tiebreaker) had a nFIP of 3.7 on average. Continuing the breakdown:
101-107 FIP -: 4.39 nFIP
108-111 FIP -: 3.97 nFIP
112-115 FIP -: 4.06 nFIP
116-123 FIP -: 2.89 nFIP

It is hard to make any sense of that order, so there appears to be little to no correlation between NPB success and prior MLB numbers. So the below data seems to fit with out hypothesis that velocity is a better predictor than numbers from league to league, while the above data seems to counter it. I find it a little strange that fastball velocity seemed to matter less than NPB numbers when coming to the Majors, but it could speak to the other variables (breaking pitches, control, etc.) that it takes to be a successful pitcher in the Majors. We aren't done though, as we will continue to look at the correlation between fastball velocity, statistics, and success from league to league.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brewers interested in Alfredo Figaro: Scouting Report

Alfredo Figaro had reportedly signed with the Brewers, but the deal is being held up because of a contract issue with the Orix Buffaloes of the NPB. So it isn't official yet, but I decided to write a scouting report on him anyway. He has pitched the past two years for Orix with a 3.31 ERA and 3.55 FIP.

In the NPB, 2011 league average was 3.25 ERA and 3.23 FIP while 2012 league average was 3.35 ERA and 3.46 FIP. Even Figaro's K/BB/HR rates in isolation are around NPB averages. He seems to be the ideal mid-rotation (or number 3) starter in the NPB.

Figaro is a 28 year old right-handed pitcher that stands at just 6 feet tall. One would figure that because of the height bias (which has some validity in scouting, bias doesn't exactly mean wrong in this case) and the fact that he is a mid-rotation NPB pitcher, he will be a reliever in the minors or majors. He was signed by the Tigers out of the Dominican, and his whole affiliated career was with Detroit. He pitched in 31.2 innings in the Majors (in both starting and relieving roles), and projected as 4th starter as a prospect. His MLB time didn't go well, as he had a 0 fWAR and 119 FIP -.

He threw 3 pitches in the Majors according to Fangraphs: 92.2 MPH fastball, a 81.2 MPH curveball, and 80.6 MPH changeup. However, in what seems to happen to every pitcher (or at least all the ones I write about), there is a classification problem. Brooks Baseball calls the pitch a slider, and says he threw a separate curveball a handful of times. NPB Tracker tends to agree with Brooks Baseball, saying he threw mainly a slider with some curveballs (but more than Brooks said he did) mixed in. The curve averaged 78.37 MPH, while the slider averaged 81.62 MPH. The fastball averaged 92.04 MPH over the two years, and was stronger in 2012.

His delivery is somewhat similar to what you see a lot in Japan. He comes set and starts his windup in a dramatic way similar to what you see a lot in pitcher from the East, and then uses a leg kick that hides the ball (which is helped by him bring the ball and glove low for a split second) before delivering the ball in a fairly standard fashion. His fastball is pretty straight, and he clearly likes to throw it high. His slider isn't a great pitch, at least in movement, but it can be effective when he throws it down and away from right-handers. He uses his fastball as the putaway pitch, he just wants to blow it by people. While his velocity is good, it doesn't seem that it is overpowering enough to do that in the Majors.

Friday, December 21, 2012

KBO, WAR, and Velocity (Again)

MLB Park did a KBO WAR ranking (if you just want to see the image look here) by year, based on their own methods. This seems to be a ranking of the best foreign KBO players by WAR. Dan K. of MyKBO translated the names and teams here. I wanted to see how this ranking fit in with my theory about velocity and success between leagues.

We will use average/median velocity along with their MLB numbers. A lot, perhaps most, of the MLB numbers are small sample sizes, but that is the data we have to deal with. I decided to just use MLB FIP (I wanted to use ballpark adjusted FIP, but I couldn't do it for many of the older pitchers). I used Fangraphs velocity when I could. As far as order, I left the original order of the WAR ranking alone, and took out duplicates.

1.Danny Rios: ~90 MPH. 9.94 MLB FIP

2. Denny Harriger: ???. 5.72 MLB FIP

3.Aquilino Lopez: 90.4 MPH. 4.26 MLB FIP

4.Brandon Knight: 90.9 MPH. 6.06 MLB FIP

5.Gary Rath: ???  7.76 MLB FIP

6.Dustin Nippert: 93.3 MPH, 4.87 MLB FIP

7.Fernando Hernandez: ??? 7.75 MLB FIP

8. Seth Greisinger: 88.13 MPH, 5.13 MLB FIP

9.Shane Youman: 88 MPH, 4.75 MLB FIP

10.Ben Jukich: 87.73 MPH, No MLB FIP

11.Mickey Callaway: 89 MPH, 4.87 MLB FIP

12.Matt Randel: ???,No MLB FIP

13. Rick Guttormson: ???, No MLB FIP

14.Elvira Narciso: ???, 3.80 MLB FIP

15.Ken Kadokura: ~90 MPH, No MLB FIP

16.Mark Kiefer: ??? 5.17 MLB FIP

17.Kelvin Jimenez: 93.6 MPH, 5.20 MLB FIP

18.Mark Fyhrie: Under 90 MPH, 4.23 MLB FIP

19.Cedrick Bowers: 91.6 MPH, 6.53 MLB FIP

20.Ryan Sadowski: 89.5 MPH, 4.72 MLB FIP

21.Kenny Rayborn: ??, No MLB FIP

22.Jamie Brown: ?? 4.74 MLB FIP

23.Andy Van Hekken: 86.49 MPH, 4.10 MLB FIP

24. Radhames Liz: 93.8 MPH, 6.26 MLB FIP

25.Satoshi Iriki: ???, No MLB FIP

26.Francisco Cruceta: 93 MPH, 6.34 MLB FIP

27.Henry Sosa: 93.1 MPH, 4.77 MLB FIP

28.Victor Cole: ???, 4.13 MLB FIP

29.Chris Oxspring: ???. 4.85 MLB FIP

30.Travis Smith: ??, 5.58 MLB FIP

31.Emiliano Giron: ??, No MLB FIP

32.Mike Romano: ??, 7.26 MLB FIP

33.Kevin Hodges: ??,7.53 MLB FIP

34.Tim Harikkala: ??, 5.27 MLB FIP

35.Julio Manon: ??, 5.88 MLB FIP

36.Scott Baker: ??, 6.38 MLB FIP

37.Melqui Torres: ??, No MLB FIP

38.Efrain Valdez: ??,5.12 MLB FIP

39.Ravelo Manzanillo: ???, 5.42 MLB FIP

40.Kerry Taylor: ???,5.02 MLB FIP

41.Mike Farmer: ???, 7.14 MLB FIP

42.Jason Scobie: ???, No MLB FIP

43.Martin Vargas: ???,No MLB FIP

44.Adrian Burnsides: ???, No MLB FIP

I am making the assumption that pitchers that never pitched in the Majors are worse than pitched in the Majors, which seems to be close to what the data says. The average Rank of the No MLB numbers pitchers is 26.63, with no one ranked over 11th. Pitchers with a MLB FIP under 5 (the mean of the group was about 4.50) had an average rank of 17.5. The one pitcher with a FIP under 4 was ranked 14th.  The pitchers with a FIP between 5 and 6 had an average rank of 28.8. The rest of the pitchers, the ones that had a FIP over 6, had an average rank of 22.1. It is really hard to argue that there is a lot of correlation there, other than that the better MLB pitchers did tend to do better on average in the KBO. Let's see if the correlation for pitching velocity is any better.

Unfortunately, we only have pitch data for 17 of the 44 pitchers. The max velocity was 93.8, Liz, who is 24th overall (below average out of the 44) and 12th out of the 17th we have velocity for. In fact, there are just 5 pitchers out of the 17 with fastballs over 93 MPH on average, and 3 of those were the worst velocity pitchers (average rank of 10.6 out of 17, extremely poor). 10 of the 17 pitchers had fastballs that averaged at least 90 MPH. Their average rank was 8.8. The other 7 averaged 9.14, so the difference was negligible at best.

As mentioned above, since we don't really know the formulas for the WARs above (my guess is that they just plugged in the FanGraphs and Baseball Reference formulas. If they didn't adjust the league average/replacement levels, it would lead to screwy results, but perhaps the same order). So I decided to use my own and see what results we got from it. So I looked at the 17 pitchers with velocity data and sorted by their career KBO FIP WAAs divided by years played in the KBO (so basically FIP WAA per year). To introduce a new variable, one with a better sample size, I looked at their AAA statistics instead of their MLB statistics, to see if there was any correlation there. Because the two AAA levels are so different in offensive friendliness, I am using K%-BB%. I don't like not counting homers, but I think it helps us conflate the two leagues better.

I couldn't find Ken Kadokura's numbers (older KBO numbers are hard to find if you can't read Korean. Dan K of MyKBO was a big help as always), so I replaced him with Gary Glover. I sorted by velocity here.

Liz: 93.8 MPH, .21 FIP WAA, 13.6 AAA K%-BB%

Jimenez: 93.6 MPH, -.16 FIP WAA, 9.6 AAA K%-BB%

Dustin Nippert: 93.3 MPH, .43 FIP WAA,12.76 AAA K%-BB%

Henry Sosa: 93.1 MPH .66 FIP WAA, 93.1 MPH, 5.34 AAA K%-BB%

Gary Glover: 93 MPH, -.73 FIP WAA, 9.04 AAA K%-BB%

Francisco Cruceta: 93 MPH, -.99 FIP WAA, 13.46 AAA K%-BB %

Bowers: 91.6 MPH, -.45 FIP WAA, 9.2 AAA K%-BB %

Knight: 90.9 MPH, -.15 FIP WAA, 13 AAA K%-BB%

Aquilino Lopez: 90.4, .14 FIP WAA, 18.4 AAA K%-BB %

Danny Rios: 90 MPH, .39 FIP WAA, 4.14 AAA K%-BB %

Fyhrie: Under 90 MPH, -1.44 FIP WAA, 8.56 AAA K%-BB %

Sadowski: 89.5 MPH, -.73 FIP WAA, 8.7 AAA K%-BB%

Callaway: 89 MPH, .16 FIP WAA, 7.5 AAA K%-BB%

Seth Greisinger: 88.13 FIP WAA, 1.11 FIP WAA, 7.9 AAA K%-BB%

Youman: 88 MPH, 1.00 FIP WAA, 6.27 AAA K%-BB%

Ben Jukich: 87.73 MPH, 1.04 FIP WAA, 12.13 AAA K%-BB%

Van Hekken: 86.49 MPH, 1.01 FIP WAA, 7.55 AAA K%-BB%

When you split the 17 pitchers into three groups by AAA K%-BB%, the best group (top 5) has a -.36 FIP WAA in the KBO, the median group (7) had a -1.36 FIP WAA, while the bottom 5 had a 3.17 FIP WAA. So the worst AAA pitchers were actually the best in the KBO. Using AAA statistics do not seem helpful. How about velocity? Breaking down the pitchers into thirds again, we see that the top 5 velocity pitchers had a .41 FIP WAA, the median 7 had a -3.23 FIP WAA, while the 5 worst had a 4.32 FIP WAA. The slowest pitchers were the best, while the median pitchers were the worst. This puts a major ding in the theory that fastball velocity is a good predictor of success across leagues, but again, cross league statistics performed poorly. We saw in previous posts that the pitchers with the worst velocities performed not as good as the high velocity guys but better than pitchers with velocities closest to the mean. Perhaps this is good news for a guy like Adam Wilk, who has a well below average fastball, but some pitchability, and just signed with the Dinos (filling out an expansion roster is tough, but I have liked a lot of what they have done). Regardless, we will continue to look at evidence and data to see whether or not this theory has any support.

Twins Sign Bryan Augenstein: Scouting Report

The Twins have long been known for their love of contact pitchers, that get a lot of ground-balls, don't walk many batters, and don't strikeout many either. The Twins continued this line of thinking this off-season by passing on bringing the volatile Francisco Liraino back, and signing Mike Pelfrey and Kevin Correia. However, there is a minor league free agent that the club signed, 26 year old right-hander Bryan Augenstein, that doesn't quite fit this mold. Augenstein's background is control pitching, as Baseball America ranked him as the best control pitcher in the Midwest League (A-ball) in 2008 and the best control pitcher in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization in 2009. He was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 7th round in 2007 and rose high enough that BA ranked him as the 11th best prospect in the system in 2009. He broke into the Majors that year, throwing 17 innings at a replacement level. However, he didn't pitch in the Majors in 2010 and spent most of the year as a starter in Reno, where DIPs really thought he pitched well. He made the Cardinals bullpen in 2011, but was hurt very early in the season and threw more AAA innings than MLB innings (just 5.2) by the end of the year. His 22.2 career innings in the Majors aren't enough to play with numbers, but it does give us some Pitch F/X data.

He has a well below average fastball (much more sinkers than fastballs), averaging under 89 MPH. Classification systems seem to have problems determining whether or not his main breaking pitch is a curve or slider (traditionally, it would be a slider considering his large sinker usage, but Brooks Baseball calls it a curve and it averages just over 77 MPH), but he throws it about a third of the time. He also throws a changeup that is a little harder at almost 80 MPH.

In 2011, he was better than league average as a reliever in the PCL, though his home ballpark played pitcher friendly. He had very large home/road splits as well, struggling across the board on the road with bad strikeout/walk/and homer rates. At home, he was excellent. In 2012, he appeared in 23 games (1 start) with AAA Durham in the International League with the Tampa Bay Rays organization. Even though the Durham park plays about neutral, Augenstein again struggled mightily on the road. Overall, he was very solid, with a FIP over 1 run below league average thanks to a .42 HR/9IP, 8.3 HR/OFB % (10.6 % was league average), and .121 ISO. His GB % was okay, but he relied on his IFFB % more. He has also had massive platoon splits over the last two years, much better against righties than lefties, against whom he has had massive home run problems.

In watching him, he is clearly a deception type pitcher, using a high leg kick while standing straight up before moving his arm-slot down into a traditional sidearm position. He ran the fastball up to 90-92 MPH, but it doesn't have much movement. It did seem to me that he was throwing a separate fastball and sinker (though sometimes it moves more like a 2 seamer). I would definitely call his slider/curve a slider, as it breaks in hard into lefties (and got up to 83 MPH on the Durham Bulls radar gun), more horizontally than vertically (it just doesn't look like anything you would call a curveball). While it is easy to see why he has big platoon splits because of his sidearm delivery, I really thought the hard slider in would help minimize that. His change has a slight late drop, but it is not all that impressive, and was usually sitting at about 78 MPH. Predictably, he is changeup happy to lefties (he threw it a lot against righties too from what I saw), and I just don't think the pitch is as good as the slider.

Of course, I am not saying that this signals any kind of change in the Twins' organization, I was just noting that Augenstein is interesting because he is a little different than the traditional Twins pitcher. While the Twins didn't have much platoon splits in 2012 (equally horrible against both), the bullpen was pretty bad, 21st in fWAR. This will give Augenstein a chance to make the team as a right-handed specialist.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Shinya Kayama and Ni-Gun Projections (Updated)

Shinya Kayama is a Fukuoka Softbank Hawks pitcher in the NPB that had an awesome 2.19 ERA, with a 22.6 K% in the NPB minor leagues or the "ni-gun". The 22 year old is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League and through 5 starts Fangraphs gave him a SCOUT - of 94. However, according to NPB Tracker, his fastball sits just around 86 MPH. This velocity versus numbers thing is something that has always been at the heart of scouting and something I have been exploring here on the blog.As I have been doing with the KBO (another post on that is on the way), I wanted to see if velocity is more predictive than numbers from the Ni-Gun to the NPB.

I looked at 2008 and 2009 Ni-gun numbers, giving enough time for pitchers to either establish themselves or fail in the NPB. I used the first year recorded average velocity in the NPB. Of course there is survivor bias, as we only get MPH data from those who pitch in the actual NPB, and thus only use those players (and only players I could find, as I had a problem with a couple of the names). I hate using ERA, but we are using the Ni-gun ERA, partially just because it is easier. I used career NPB FIP (or nFIP) as the determining factor for who fared the best in the NPB (because it translates best from ERA, rather than using a WAR based metric and comparing it to Ni-gun ERA).

Sorted by velocity:

Maximo Nelson: 92.53 MPH, .56 Ni-gun ERA, 3.71 nFIP
Michael Schultz: 92.38 MPH, 1.50 Ni-gun ERA, 2.76 nFIP
Daisuke Yamai: 89.82 MPH, 2.38 Ni-gun ERA, 3.68 nFIP
Akinobu Shimizu: 89.13 MPH, 3.69 Ni-gun ERA, 3.77 nFIP
Masafumi Hirai: 88.84 MPH, 1.96 Ni-gun ERA, 4.28 nFIP
Yohei Yanagawa: 88.42 MPH, 2.81 Ni-gun ERA, 2.89 nFIP
Naoto Tsuru: 88.37 MPH, 3.34 Ni-gun ERA, 3.93 nFIP
Hidetaka Kawagoe: 88.28 MPH, .68 Ni-gun ERA, 4.14 nFIP
Tomoyuki Kubota: 88.12 MPH, 2.59 Ni-gun ERA, 3.48 nFIP
Hiroki Kongo: 88.09 MPH, 3.21 Ni-gun ERA, 3.90 nFIP
Kentaro Hashimoto: 88.07 MPH, 2.14 Ni-gun ERA, 4.48 nFIP
Ken Nishimura: 87.83 MPH, 2.20 Ni-gun ERA, 3.35 nFIP
Singo Tatsumi: 87.78 MPH. 4.87 Ni-gun ERA, 8.41 nFIP
Tatsya Kajimoto: 87.69 MPH, 4.29 Ni-gun ERA, 6.84 nFIP
Keisuke Imai: 87.60 MPH, 3.75 Ni-gun ERA, 4.07 nFIP
Atsushi Nohmi: 87.50 MPH, .83 Ni-gun ERA, 3.01 nFIP
Atsushi Nakazato: 87.35 MPH, 2.75 Ni-gun ERA, 3.96 nFIP
Shinsuke Ogura: 86.82 MPH, .43 Ni-gun ERA, 4.98 nFIP
Toru Takahashi: 85.77 MPH, 3.49 Ni-gun ERA, 5.1 nFIP
Hirofumi Ueno: 85.75 MPH, 1.69 Ni-gun ERA, 4.95 nFIP
Hayato Aoki: 83.52 MPH, 4.74 Ni-gun ERA, 4.37 nFIP
Tatsuya Kojima: 83.37 MPH, 3.29 Ni-gun ERA, 3.67 nFIP

Mean velocity is 87.865 MPH for these players (meaning the average velocity of these pitchers is lower the average KBO rotation velocity). There isn't a large deviation in velocity in these pitchers, with a heavy concentration of pitchers throwing 87-88 MPH.
Top 5: 3.64 nFIP
6-10: 3.67 nFIP
11-15: 5.43 nFIP
16-22: 4.29 nFIP
These findings are very similar to what we saw in the KBO velocity article. The best pitchers are the hardest throwing ones, while the ones closer to the mean are the worst and the softer throwing ones are better than the ones close to the mean.
When we sort the players by their Ni-gun ERAs, it didn't predict the best 10 pitchers as well, but it predicted the bottom pitchers better than sorting by velocity did.
Top 5: 3.72 nFIP
6-10: 4.15 nFIP
11-15: 3.63 nFIP
16-22: 5.18 nFIP

So it seems, that in the NPB Ni-gun, you can predict with a decent expectation of success who will be the best pitchers in the NPB by their velocity, or even their Ni-gun numbers. The pitchers with good ni-gun numbers but bad velocity had really mixed results. It does seem that velocity has the better correlation, though the high velocity guys had mostly good Ni-gun numbers (which sort of raises the question as to whether or not they had good Ni-gun numbers because they had good velocity, or could it be that the two things didn't have much to do with each other. Most of the pitchers that really struggled in the ni-gun were the softer tossers). So, we could perhaps say that we have some correlation, but as of now, we don't really have causation, and frankly, we would like to see more correlation. I will continue looking at projections from league to league using either numbers or velocity and see how the two stack up and see whether or not we can say that our hypothesis laid out previously (that velocity is a better predictor of success between leagues than numbers) is correct or even close to right with any degree of certainty.

As for Kayama himself, he falls in the below average velocity but good Ni-gun numbers camp. From a scouting perspective, the lefty is incredibly small, listed at just 5-7 143 pounds. He has a dramatic pause in his delivery where his leg just sits up the air for (according to my stop watch) about 1.36 seconds before coming over the top. I always wonder about these guys, as when they have baserunners on they have to change their delivery pretty dramatically. He apparently tucks his leg back, in a move that we see a lot in the NPB (and some in the KBO as well). Most of his pitches seem to move arm-side, but they don't come with exceptional break. Even though he is a lefty with similar velocity, I don't like Kayama as much as Kasahara.

Update: Jason Coskrey, a NPB writer for the the Japan Times, brought up a point and objection that I thought was relevant. I didn't really consider whether or not the pitchers had experience in the NPB, as some of them turned out to be veterans. This could introduce variables in the Ni-gun numbers that might mess with the data. So, I looked at the 2007 Western League, which is still a small sample size, but it gives us a little more to work with.As far as I know, these players didn't have extensive (subjective term) NPB experience before 2007. I sorted this one by Ni-gun ERA.

Ryota Katsuki: 87.16 MPH, 1.40 Ni-gun ERA, 3.76 nFIP
Kazuki Kondo: 88.26 MPH, 2.76 Ni-gun ERA, 4.20 nFIP
Shinya Nakayama: 85.43 MPH, 2.90 Ni-gun ERA, 3.78 nFIP
Kazuki Yoshimi: 88.62 MPH, 2.92 Ni-gun ERA, 3.23 nFIP
Keisuke Katto: 89.08 MPH, 3.15 Ni-gun ERA, 3.41 nFIP
Kazuya Tsutsui: 86.51 MPH, 3.38 Ni-gun ERA, 3.85 nFIP
Kenta Maeda: 87.90 MPH, 3.99 Ni-gun ERA, 3.18 nFIP
Kenta Abe: 86.54 MPH, 4.63 Ni-gun ERA, 4.14 nFIP
Takayuki Oshima: 86.43 MPH, 5.48 Ni-gun ERA, 4.31 nFIP

The average velocity of these pitchers was similar to the ones above, actually a little slower at 87.33 MPH, with no one with an average fastball over 90 MPH. The above average velocity pitchers had a 3.51 nFIP, while the below average had a 3.97 nFIP. If we use Ni-gun ERA, the bottom 4 had a 3.87 nFIP while the top 4 (leaving out the median pitcher, Keisuke Katto) while the top 4 had a 3.74 nFIP, a correlation, but not as good as the velocity. Again, small sample size, but similar results from what we have been seeing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Shoki Kasahara Scouting Report

Shoki Kasahara is a 21 year old pitcher in the NPB that is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winer League. He has pitched in just 4 games in the actual NPB, so there isn't a lot of data on him.

Fangraphs had him at a Scout - of 89 (100 is average, lower is better, just like FIP -) in the Puerto Rican Winter League through 5 starts. In 6 starts, he has a 4.736 FIP, with a 4/1 K/BB and 1.08 GO/AO but a high home run rate. Against right-handers, he has a 16/1 K/BB, but 4 homers in 15.2 innings. From what I can see, league average HR/9IP is just .61. Obviously small sample size applies and Kasahara is younger than his competition, but he is still struggling with homers nonetheless. 

The right-handed pitcher has good size at 6-3 210 with a high leg kick and quite a dramatic pause in his delivery. He has a strange leg drag in his delivery where his body is almost already lunged forward before his leg actually strides. Eventually, this causes his body to get pretty low before delivery the ball (something I have seen in a few Dominican native pitchers, though the pause and leg kick is Asian baseball in nature).

According to his NPB tracker data, he has 7 different pitches, but his fastball is just 86 MPH (according to this video, he has hit nearly 90 MPH). He throws a "shutto" (2-seamer basically) and a sinker, along with a slow 70 MPH curve, very soft slider (74 MPH), a change and forkball. 

I had a hard time telling the difference between the moving fastball, the 4-seamer, and the sinker. Velocity and placement is mainly what I would go on, because I didn't see a big difference in movement.  He would throw some down in the zone with a little bit of movement with the velocity of a 4-seamer. 

In video I saw of him, he seemed to like his slider, but he couldn't really get it down. It broke like what is usually described as sort of a "baby slider". His curve breaks the same way, vertically not horizontally, but is more dramatic, and obviously, slower. The pitch gets down to 67.5 MPH.

Despite his great selection of pitches, his favorite pitch still seems to be the high fastball. Kasahara seems to work high then low (or vise versa) about as well as you are going to see any pitcher. He seems to be able to run his fastball into lefties (it doesn't move quite like a cutter, though perhaps you could call it one just on movement).

Obviously the fastball velocity limits what Kasahara can be, but the selection of pitches is, at the very least, interesting. You always wonder about pitchers with this many pitches, as to whether or not they have too many "tools in the toolbox". If he can use them right and limit walks (and repeat his delivery, which is a feat in itself), he won't be overpowering, but he may develop into a decent NPB pitcher by keeping hitters off balance. Because even the breaking pitches aren't spectacular, I don't think he is a guy who could come to the MLB and have real success. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nationals sign Tyler Herron: Scouting Report

The Washington Nationals have signed Tyler Herron according to Baseball America. Herron, 26 years old, was a 1st round (46th overall) pick by Cardinals in 2005. He was released after reaching AA in 2009 and pitched a little for the Pirates in AA. Herron spent 2010 in the Frontier League, pitching mostly as a reliever in 36 innings with a 3.73 FIP (in a league with a 3.92 FIP and 4.84 ERA. I'm guessing defense was the reason for the big difference. Whether it was because of park, bad defense, or just poor pitching, Herron's team had a league worst 6.42 ERA, so all things considered, including small sample size, Herron was very solid), but didn't pitch at all in 2011, then spent all of 2012 with Fargo-Moorhead of the American Associaton. Herron was mainly a starter (but also made 6 relief appearances), throwing 123 innings with a 3.07 FIP. League average ERA was 4.62, with 5.31 runs per game, and 3.93 FIP. The team was the best offensively and in pitching, so it is really hard to say anything about their park factors.

He is currently pitching in the Puerto Rican Winter League. As far as I know, they don't have any streams or anyway to watch the games, but FanGraphs' "Scout" has him rated as the 10th best pitcher in the league (I will be honest, while the data that goes into "Scout" is pretty straight forward, I simply don't know how predictive it is, especially with Winter League statistics. If anyone knows of a good evaluation of it, send it to me or leave it in the comments). In Puerto Rico, he has a 1.38 GO/AO in 6 starts, with a 2.84 FIP in 6 starts. That FIP, if it was his ERA, would be the 5th best in the league, but the crowd above him is mixed. One is a guy who has been out of affiliated baseball since 2010, a guy who has been out of affiliated ball since 2008, a Mexican Leaguer, and
Hector Santiago, who had success out of the White Sox bullpen in 2012. Especially considering the sample size, it is hard to put much stock in these numbers.

Since all Winnipeg Goldeyes (an American Association team) games (or at least home games) are available on YouTube, that is where I am getting the empirical observations from.

He is still listed at 6-3 190, but it seems that he is heavier than that now. Reportedly, Herron still has a fastball of 89-93 MPH, along with a change-up and a soft curveball doesn't have exceptional loop or break. It registered as low as 66-70 MPH on the radar gun, but didn't have the dramatic loop you see in most slow curves. Nothing he throws is straight, as his fastball has some pretty dramatic arm-side tail (though occasionally it would cut inside to left-handed hitters). When I saw him, he was mainly 87-89 MPH according to the broadcast radar gun, and was very fastball heavy. He didn't seem to have the best command either. The changeup didn't provide much speed differential, as it sat between 82-85 MPH (and it seemed he threw it more against righties than lefties for some reason, perhaps because of the cutter). It doesn't move a lot and his command of it was iffy at best.

Obviously this latter empirical data doesn't suggest a big league pitcher, and the statistics in the American Association and winter ball are not concrete enough to overrule the lack of stuff. At his age, the Nationals could use him as an old AA pitcher, or more likely, give him a shot in AAA. It is just really hard to see him ever making a MLB impact, as he doesn't have the breaking pitches or deception to live with a below average fastball. I believe he will go where his fastball takes him.

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Possible KBO Projection Using Velocity: Richmond, Rodriguez, Eveland

In just the past couple of days, the KBO has brought in 3 new MLB/MiLB pitchers. Dana Eveland is going to Hanwha, while Scott Richmond is going to replace Ryan Sadowski in Lotte. As I was getting ready to finish this post, it was also announced that Aneury Rodriquez is signing with Samsung. As we have tried to do in the past, some kind of conversion metric between the MLB and MiLB would become increasingly helpful and we have gotten mixed results just from statistical comparisons. I had an idea and wanted to test it out and see if it would work in the transition from the MLB to the KBO (then perhaps try to test it vise versa and even, if we are feeling extremely ambitious, see if I could come up with some kind of velocity metric from the minors to Majors). Basically it goes like this, there is a good correlation between velocity and success, at least in the Majors, perhaps one could do some sort of project based on fastball velocity alone. Of course, there are many other factors that make a pitcher good/bad, but I wanted to see if velocity was a better indicator between leagues than actual statistics.

Here, we will use FIP WAA, Maximum Velocity (MV) and Median (perhaps "mid-range" is more appropriate, as we are adding the lowest number and the highest number and divide by two as they do not have average velocity listed) Velocity (AV) according to Naver KBO Data. I will look at the top 5 in innings for each team, in order to get decent sample sizes and I am using the number 5 as it gives us some semblance of a rotation. Later, I will separate the velocities into "bins", but I'll explain that when we get there. On the original lists, I will keep it in KMH (just for ease), but I will change the averages to MPH later on.


Nippert: -3.83 FIP WAA, 152 MV, 145.5 AV

Kim Sun-Woo: -.79 FIP WAA, 148 MV, 141.5 AV

Lee, Yong-Chan: .733 FIP WAA,133 MV, 127 AV

Noh Kyung-eun: .7298 FIP WAA ,152 MV, 145.5 AV

Kim Seung-hee: -.414 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 142.5 AV


Youman: 1.00 FIP WAA, 150 MV, 144.5 AV

Song Seung-jun: .17 FIP WAA, 149 MV, 140 AV

Sadowski: .311 FIP WAA, 150 MV, 144.5 AV

Lee Young-hoon: .51 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 140.5 AV

Ko Won-jun: -.83 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 139 AV


Jukich: .609 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 141.5 AV

Liz:  1.04 FIP WAA, 162 MV, 152 AV

Kim Kwang-sam: -.06 FIP WAA, 145 MV, 140.5 AV

Woo Kyu-min: .81 FIP WAA, 143 MV, 139.5 AV

Lee Seung-woo: -.814 FIP WAA, 141 MV, 137 AV


Yoon Hee-sang: .2 FIP WAA, 148 MV, 142 AV

Song Eun-beom: -.1 FIP WAA, 153 MV, 144.5 AV

Santiago: -.46 FIP WAA, 153 MV, 147 AV

Park Hee-soo: 1.41 FIP WAA, 148 MV, 141 AV

Kim Kwang-hyun: -.5292 FIP WAA, 150 MV, 142 AV


Lerew: -1.35 FIP WAA, 155 MV,  148.5 AV

Seo Jae-woong: .48 FIP WAA, 147 MV, 140 AV

Yoon Suk-Min: 1.63 FIP WAA, 153 MV, 146.5 AV

Sosa: .66 FIP WAA, 156 MV, 149 AV

Kim Jin-woo: 1.15 FIP WAA, 152 MV, 148 AV


Ryu Hyun-Jin: 2.58 FIP WAA, 153 MV, 146.5 AV

Kim Hyuk-min: .41 FIP WAA, 153 MV, 147 AV

Park Chan-ho: -1.03 FIP WAA, 149 MV, 142.5 AV

Yoo Chang-sik: -1.972 FIP WAA, 150 MV, 141.5 AV

Yang Hoon: -.899 FIP WAA, 152 MV, 145 AV


Brandon Knight: .98 FIP WAA, 151 MV, 145 AV

Van Hekken: -.2822 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 139.5 AV

Kim Young-min: -.85 FIP WAA, 154 MV, 146 AV

Kang Yoon-gu: -.86 FIP WAA, 151 MV, 144.5 AV

Han Hyun-hee: .34 FIP WAA, 148 MV, 137.5 AV


Bae Young-soo: .7 FIP WAA, 148 MV, 143.5 AV

Jang Won-Sam: 1.9 FIP WAA, 146 MV, 141.5 AV

Talbot: -.55 FIP WAA, 149 MV, 144 AV

Gordon: -.11 FIP WAA, 149 MV, 143 AV

Yoon Sung-hwan: .80 FIP WAA 147 MV, 140.5 AV

League Average "Rotation" MV is 92.535 MPH (all speed measurements are now in MPH)

League Average "Rotation" AV is 88.6135 MPH

FIP WAA of 40 rotation members (this brings the survivor bias up front, as you would expect that the best pitchers would pitch the most innings): 4.8542

So the baseline is not really zero, as we are using the top 5 innings pitchers per each team. We would expect that if we added the rest of the pitchers in the KBO, they would have about a -4.8542 FIP WAA, unless the math behind the metric is off somehow (more likely, I just miscalculated a few guys numbers, as I did test this against league averages when I originally designed it).

Team Averages (the FIP WAA is the total, sorted by MV):

 KIA: 2.57 FIP WAA, 94.612 MV, 90.768 AV

Hanwha: -.911 FIP WAA, 93.868 MV, 89.59 AV

 SK: .5208 FIP WAA, 93.248 MV, 88.846 AV

Nexen: -.6722 FIP WAA, 93 MV, 88.35 AV

 Lotte: 1.161 FIP WAA, 91.884 MV, 88.102 AV

Samsung: 2.74 FIP WAA, 91.636 MV, 88.35 AV

LG: 1.585 FIP WAA, 91.388 MV  88.102 AV

Doosan: -3.5712 FIP WAA, 90.644 MV, 87.048 AV

We sort of see what we expected here. The hardest throwing team, KIA, is the 2nd best team according to FIP WAA. Doosan, the slowest throwing team, is the worst pitching team. If we sorted it by average velocity, we would change the bottom of the order a little, but there wasn't much difference in team rank between median velocity and max velocity (which I expected). However, Lotte, Samsung, and LG were towards the bottom and were all better than average teams. The bottom 4 teams+ had a 1.9148 FIP WAA, while the top 4 teams had a 2.9394 FIP WAA. So while there isn't a great correlation, and there were obvious exceptions in a small sample size, it does seem that teams that throw harder have a better chance (or are more likely) to be better.

The team averages above were mainly to see that the pattern that harder throwers are usually better held in the KBO. I was looking to see if I could do a projection based off velocity data, so now I will separate the 40 pitchers into 4 different "bins" based on velocity, an elite bin, an above average bin, a below average bin, and a "poor" bin. The Poor and Above Average bins will have 10 players each, but just so I didn't have to break up pitchers with the same MV or come up with an arbitrary tiebreaker, the Below Average Bin will have 11 and the Elite will have 9.  First we will do it for MV (Maximum Velocity) and then AV (Median Velocity):

Poor: 82.46 MPH to 90.52 MPH range. 2.1618 FIP WAA or .21618 FIP WAA per pitcher.

Below Average: 91.14 MPH to 92.38 MPH range. 1.62 FIP WAA or .14727 FIP WAA per pitcher.

Above Average: 93 MPH to 94.24 MPH range. -3.9194 FIP WAA or - .39194 FIP WAA per pitcher

Elite: 94.86 MPH to 100.44 MPH range. 3.56 FIP WAA or  .39556 FIP WAA per pitcher

Obviously the above average section is hurt by Nippert's struggles (mainly that he pitched a lot of innings, one of the league leaders, at a below average/above replacement level). However, it is still negative if you decided to take him out.
The Elite velocity pitchers proved to the be the best, while the poor velocity pitchers proved to be the 2nd best. Here is my theory: While the best fastballs usually make the best pitchers, for a below average pitcher to continue pitching (survivor bias, as we don't see the many soft tossers that are rarely used here or just failed), they must have something else, such as great movement, control, or breaking pitches. Perhaps these are the KBO's Jered Weavers, Shaun Marcums, and Ryan Dempsters (or even, to use an extreme example, R.A. Dickeys). It is not as if pitchers with below average velocity are automatically good, it is just that the ones that survive have to show something else impressive to get over velocity bias in talent evaluators. The worst velocity pitcher, Lee Yong-Chan is a perhaps a perfect example. Let's sort by average velocity and see if we see the same results. For this one, in order to avoid arbitrary tie breakers, we put 11 in the poor bin, 9 in the below average bin, 9 in the above average bin, and 11 in the elite bin.

Poor: 78.74 MPH to 87.11 MPH. 1.8568 FIP WAA or .1688 FIP WAA per pitcher

Below Average: 87.42 MPH to 88.35 MPH. -.6162 FIP WAA or -.06847 FIP WAA per pitcher

Above Average: 88.66 MPH to 89.9 MPH. .472 FIP WAA or .05244 FIP WAA per pitcher

Elite: 90.21 MPH to 94.24 MPH. 1.7098 FIP WAA or .15544 FIP WAA per pitcher

So here, the poor velocity pitchers are actually the best. The average and below average pitchers are the worst again (seemingly validating the idea that the pitchers closest to the mean are the worst, while the slower and faster pitchers are the best), but at least it is in the right order this time. Nippert appeared in the elite this time, bringing down the results big time. If you remove him, and he was tied for the lowest velocity in the elite group, the elite group is the best group easily. Only 4 of the 11 elite pitchers in median velocity were below 0 FIP WAA and 4 of 10 elite pitchers in maximum velocity were below 0 FIP WAA.

So now, let's bring Dana Eveland and Scott Richmond into this. We will use both Fangraphs (fMPH) and Brooks Baseball (bbMPH) for average fastball velocity and Fangraphs for a max MPH. Using career for averages, just 2012 for Max MPH.

Scott Richmond: 91.89 bbMPH, 91.2 fMPH, 92 Max MPH

Dana Eveland: 90.64 bbMPH, 89.1 fMPH, 92.2 Max MPH

Richmond clearly will fall into the elite category in average velocity, while he actually falls into the below average category when it comes to maximum velocity.

Eveland is an elite velocity pitcher according to Brooks Baseball, while an above average velocity pitcher according to Fangraphs. Of course, this is not an insignificant difference and depends on which one you trust more. If you average the two, he falls under 90 MPH and into the "above average" category. Like Richmond, his max velocity falls into the "below average" category, which may introduce a classification/data difference problem. This makes actual projection difficult. However, just like in the Majors, it does seem there is a correlation when it comes to elite league velocity and success.

Let's see the effect when it comes to velocity in replacing Sadowski with Richmond for Lotte and Ryu and Park for Eveland (so we will just average the 4) for Hanwha.  

Lotte: 91.684 MV (From 5th to 6th in the KBO), 88.424 AV (Using FanGraphs' MPH. Improves them from 5th to 4th)

Hanwha: 93.575 MV (stay at 2nd place), 89.4675 AV (stay at 2nd, but like MV, the number drops slightly).

Hanwha obviously needs to use a different pitcher more to make up for losing Park (since he was terrible, he should be easy to replace, and an average pitcher replacing Park would also help make up for Ryu, as there isn't much from a statistical point of view to suggest that Eveland will be near as good as Ryu), and those innings could very likely go to their other foreign pitcher Denny Bautista, who threw 86 innings in 2012 (of course, another pitcher would have to take his innings).

Evidently, Samsung is not bringing Gordon back (so Rodriguez would replace him as one of their two foreign pitchers), so we can project how their rotation will look velocity wise.

Aneury Rodriguez: 91 fMPH, 92.9 Max MPH. Elite in average velocity and below average in max velocity, pretty much like Richmond and Eveland.

Samsung adjusted: 91.74 MV (Slightly goes up, but not in rank), 88.818 AV (This would jump them up to 3rd best in the KBO)

As far as I know, there is no real way to compare pitchers using Brooks Baseball or Fangraphs' Pitch F/X leaderboards by Maximum Velocity (the only way I could think of is to sort by average velocity, go to each individual's page, say the top 30 or so, to get the hardest thrown pitch, then compare which ranking worked better against FIP -. This would take quite a bit of time, but I may do it in the future), so it is really hard to see whether average velocity or max velocity has a better correlation to success. Just rationally, it seems to make more sense that it is more important what your velocity is on average than your best pitch, as obviously you are throwing your average fastball more than your best fastball. When scouting, people usually say that a pitcher sits at XX-XX and touches XX. Considering the data we have, I would trust the average velocity more. This would have Eveland, Rodriguez, and Richmond as elite velocity pitchers, with a 63.6 % (each) empirical probability of being above average KBO pitchers with a .46632 expected FIP WAA between the three of them. Unfortunately, for now, we have to sit and wait and see how they do in order to get more evidence and see whether this is predictive or not.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ryan Sadowski Signs with Giants: Scouting Report

Ryan Sadowski has returned to the United States after 3 years in the KBO, signing a minor league deal with the San Francisco Giants. He spent the last three years with the Lotte Giants and (as noted in the KBO WAR article), he had a -.9 eWAA and .311 FIP WAA in 2012.

For his 3 year KBO career, he had a 5.16 eWAR and -1.28 eWAA. His career FIP was actually worse than his ERA in the KBO (4.21 to 4.03), which is a 4.249 FIP WAR (or about 1.4 WAR a season) and -2.19 FIP WAA. So he was a below average pitcher in the KBO according to the WAR metric. However, Lotte's ballpark is the most hitter friendly park in the KBO according to 2007-2011 park factors (for whatever reason, Google Docs doesn't really let me open that link in a new tab, if it does the same for you, I apologize). If we just use FIP (so we only really neutralize the HR part of the park. I don't really buy K/BB park factors unless there is some kind of weird batter's eye), we can subtract 8% of the homers Sadowski gave up and adjust his FIP to about 4.12, which would make his FIP WAA about -1.72 and FIP WAR about 4.72 for his 3 years in the KBO. The difference is minimal and his actual ERA in Lotte's home stadium (16 games, 85 innings) was 4.13 in 2012. He had an ERA of 6 in over 13 innings in KIA's stadium and Nexen's stadium. Combined, those parks are about neutral, so it has to do with randomness/Sadowski not pitching well/lineups. I find it hard to blame the park for Sadowski's struggles in the KBO, especially when his 2011 splits say that he was better at home as well.

In the Majors, he actually got to make 6 starts with the Giants (28.1 innings) in 2009 where he was about average according to ERA (0.0 WAA), but he walked as many batters as he struck out. He spent most of the year in AAA, where he struggled with a 5.11 FIP in 89.1 innings.

Sadowski was originally a 12th round pick of out of the University of Florida by the San Francisco Giants. Depending on which system of classification you trust (Fangraphs has him throwing less sinkers than Brooks), Sadowski was mainly a sinker/slider guy. He was a ground-ball guy in his short stint in the Majors, and had nearly 2 ground-balls per every flyball in 2012 with Lotte. The right-hander's velocity was below average in the Majors, sitting around 90 MPH on his 4-seamer. Again, depending on which system you believe, he either threw a lot of cutters or no cutters (basically, Brooks Baseball believes that his slider is a cutter). Sadowski evidently calls it a cutter, while others call it a slider (in seeing it, it does look more like a cutter to me).

He also threw an occasional changeup, but relied on the curveball as a pitch with 2 strikes or ahead in the count, especially against lefties. In 2012, he walked nearly as many right-handed batters as he struck out and was better against lefties. In 2011, the splits were just about the opposite, as he struggled against lefties and was better against righties.

According to his KBO Data scouting report, he throws a cutter, but mainly likes to throw it, along with the 4-seamer, early in the count (which is the opposite of his MLB stay, as he mainly threw his cutter/slider late, mainly against righties). The report also says that he throws a slider and a two-seamer. It says he throws the cutter at a high frequency (so this should be the pitch he threw in the majors) and the slider in a low frequency (along with a changeup in a low frequency). He also throws the sinker and the curve at a common frequency according to the report.

In watching video of him from his time in the KBO, the tall, somewhat lanky pitcher threw a lot of sinkers that almost flutter and move arm side in the 89-91 MPH range. His delivery looks like a delivery that you often see in Korea, as there are a lot of legs are arms coming at the hitter via a high leg kick. This delivery is at least somewhat different (though he did come at hitters with a lot of legs and arms) than his MLB days, as it seems he is now coming a little less over the top and the overall motion seems much more fluid. He also begins his motion by almost rocking back and forth, something he didnt do in the Majors, and something that seems to get his delivery working more fluidly. Since he is not a hard thrower, he has to make up for it with movement, and basically everything he throws moves pretty well. However, as the walk rates suggest, he doesn't exactly have good command/control.

I fully expect to see Sadowski pitching in the PCL this year, as I don't think he will be very helpful at the Major League level. The deception and ability to mix pitches may lead to a good minor league season, but it is hard to see him overcoming the lack of stuff and consistency to pitch well in the Majors in 2012.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Times to First: Part 19

1. Derek Dietrich (Rays AA): 11.23 (on a triple)

2. Zach Collier (Phillies A +): 4.03

3. Cody Asche (Phillies AA): 4.34/4.27

4. Rymer Liraino (Padres AA): 4.27

5. Hunter Morris (Brewers AA): 4.3

6. Nick Castellanos (Tigers AA): 4.21

7. Christian Yelich (Marlins A+): 4.26

8. Mike Zunino (Mariners AA): 4.45

9. Cesar Puello (Mets A +): 4.19

10. Cody Stanley (Cardinals A+): 4.30

11. Randal Grichuk (Angels A+): 4.30

12. Matt Curry (Pirates AAA): 4.27

13. A.J. Kirby-Jones (Padres A+): 4.92

14. Nate Roberts (Twins A+): 4.21

15. Nate Freiman (Padres AA): 4.39

16. Anthony Rendon (Nationals AA): 4.31

17. Juan Lagares (Mets AA): 4.28

18. Wil Myers (Rays AAA): 11.49 on a triple

19. Kevin Mattison (Marlins): 10.79 on a triple

20. James Baldwin (Dodgers A): 10.86 on a triple

So these should be all the times we have so far (as always, if there is a mistake etc., just comment or let me know):

Javier Herrera Signs with the Giants: Scouting Report

The San Francisco Giants signed Javier Herrera from the Frontier League to a minor league contract. Herrera spent the year between two teams in the league and played mainly right field. Herrera is a 27 year old right-handed hitter that was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Oakland A's. He developed into a top prospect, rated as the 68th best prospect in all of baseball by Baseball America in 2005, and as the 74th best in 2006 and was seen as an extremely high ceiling player. However, he didn't play at all in 2006 (Tommy John Surgery) and played in just 1 game in 2009. He played just 14 games in 2010, and it was in independent ball (despite signing with the Yankees on a minor league deal). He then didn't play at all again in 2011, before getting back into independent ball in 2012 (playing in 93 games, his most since 2005). When he went on the DL with a hamstring injury in 2008, it was his 4th straight year that he went on the DL. In 2003, he was airlifted from a game after crashing into a wall. He was clearly a guy who had all the tools, but the solid numbers didn't translate from the lower levels to the upper levels and he had his career ruined by injuries.

Herrera had a .920 OPS in the Frontier League in 2012. League average is .716, as the league has a slugging percentage of just .379, while the batting average is similar to MLB averages and the OBP is higher. Of course, finding the context for these statistics from Herrera will be difficult, if not impossible. Park Factors, as far as I can see, are impossible to find, platoon/ballpark splits are unavailable (not to mention he played for two different teams), and we (or I don't) simply don't know how independent league statistics translate to the minors or big leagues. There does seem to be quite a deviation though, as either there is a great competition gulf between teams or some pretty extreme park factors. In the Majors in 2012, the worst offensive team was the Astros who scored 3.60 runs per game. The Rangers were the best team, and they scored 4.99 runs per game (Colorado gave up 5.49 runs per game, while Tampa Bay gave up 3.56 runs per game). In the Frontier League, the best offensive team scored 5.95 runs per game, while the worst offensive team scored 3.40 runs per game, a bigger difference obviously. It may be safe to say that the Rockford RiverHawks (Herrera played for the Southern Illinois Miners and RiverHawks) played in an offensive friendly environment, as they scored 5.01 runs per game and gave up 6.19 runs per game. Of course, the alternative explanation would be that their pitching was horrible but they had good hitters. The pitcher that lead the team in starts (Cody Hallahan) was 24 years old and has no stats in either college (at least not a Major college that would show up on Baseball Cube) or the minors (or even any independent league stats before 2012). They simply may have just had bad pitchers (they also had Jimmy Parque on offense, who has been signed by the Cardinals I believe) or even a bad defense.

To be fair, the Frontier League website does have some advanced statistics available, and Herrera was 4th in the league in runs created, the best out of outfielders. His K/BB was unimpressive, but this was this the case in the minors as well. His ISO of .204 wasn't overly impressive either, ranked 22nd from my count. His 93 games don't sound like a lot, but teams only play 96 games a year in the Frontier League, showing that he was finally able to stay healthy. That number is more meaningful to me than any of his actual statistics in 2012.

I wanted to see if there was any change in Herrera at the plate, and videos of him in both the minors and in the Frontier League were easy to find, so I shared them below:

Swing from '07:

Swing from 2012:

The two swings seem basically the same to me, he keeps his hands up high and then dips his shoulder before driving the ball with an uppercut swing. While he shows good control with the bat, the overall mechanics are not exactly pretty.

Defensively, ROTZ data liked him in the outfield when he was in the minors, playing mostly centerfield, though FRAA wasn't much of a fan. I wouldn't trust range factor data from the independent leagues (though perhaps minor league data probably isn't much better). However, it is extremely likely that the injuries have sapped Herrera's speed and defensive skills at least somewhat. In 2008 (in AA Midland), he had a 6.2 speed score, and according to the crude speed score metric I used in the KBO WAR, he had a 5.33 speed score in 2012, not running a lot, but not getting caught a lot. This would suggest a regression, but only a slight one and he would still be an above average baserunner.

Already 27, with 5 career games in AAA (back in '05!), the corner outfielder's likelihood of impact is obviously small to non-existent just based on odds. He has never had a season of more than 14 homers at any level, which is not something you want to say for a corner outfielder, even a good defensive one. There should be place for him in AAA, but whether he provides any kind of value depends on how much his defensive/baserunning skill set has eroded.