Sunday, March 31, 2013

Plano West Scouting Reports

The main prospect at Plano West is Billy McKinney, who I wrote about here. In this post, I will look at some of the other players on the team.

Preston Betz is a really small looking right-handed pitcher with a violent delivery and mechanics

He would over throw at times, and his curveball would slip out of his hands a lot and hit right-handed batters. This make you wonder how big his hands are (and he didn't have a real feel for his off-speed stuff). His slow curve was too slow, but the fastball looked hard and can get gloveside tail.

Kosuke Nishitani is not a fast runner, and is a small leadoff hitter from the left side. He seems to have solid plate discipline with a quick bat. His swing doesn't lend to power, but he hit the ball hard the other way. The junior throws right-handed and also pitched. This was the weaker part of his game, as he threw a ton of curveballs, along with a soft arm-side fastball that would get some sink.

Connor Smith is a senior catcher (also strangely listed as a centerfielder). He was too glove happy at blocking balls. He didn't have a particularly strong or accurate arm. He just missed a pull homer, with a 5.06 second flyball the wall.

Mason Gentry is a very tall senior first baseman that is thin now. He struggled defensively on routine plays, and was not athletic, and had the awkward run that comes with the size. He should grow into this so to speak, but he is obviously staying at first base for his playing career. At the plate, he struggled with pitch recognition, but hit a 4.18 flyball to center.

Riley Wayland didn't show range at 3rd, and was a well below average runner (4.5-4.6 to first base). However, he will take pitches at the plate, and had a 5.66 pop up tome to shallow left. Aaron Draper showed decent range and arm at shortstop. The arm proved to be strong, but his angels to the ball were a little weird.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Billy McKinney Scouting Report

Billy McKinney is one of the higher rated (38th best according to Max Preps) high school prospects in the country, and is a TCU commit. Luckily, I got to see the senior at Plano West (the rest of the reports on the team should be the next post) play on March 28th.

The first thing I noticed, just by looking at him compared to his teammates in the intros, it was clear that he is not really tall (listed at 6-1) and he was pretty much average height for the team. However, he had some really broad shoulders. He wasn't skinny, so while you could see him get a little thicker, he probably isn't going to pack on a lot more weight (in a good way). He is listed as a first baseman/OF, but I don't see how he fits at first, he just doesn't have the size for it. He played center when I saw him. The arm is at least okay, probably passable from what I saw. He did have an arm injury his junior year, that evidently he came back early from. Obviously I have no access to his medicals like teams would, but that may be something interesting to watch. He seemed to play really shallow out in center. He didn't get a lot of chances, but when he did, there was a ball hit basically to the left-fielder that McKinney just ran down. He used good strides along with good tracking of the ball, showing very nice range. He also showed good awareness of game situations, not false hustling when there was no reason to, backing up bases well etc. I am not sure what this means other than I don't think he is just a raw athlete running into walls not knowing how to play baseball.

McKinney's 1st at-bat was not impressive. He chased a low pitch, the first pitch, with an uncontrolled uppercut and popped out.

His 2nd at-bat gave us more of a look. He got ahead 3-0, then watched a changeup for a strike at 3-1 (a change at 3-0 seems very rare in high school), and then took an outside fastball with the runner moving to make it a full count. Then, he got under a low pitch, flying out to left softly with a 5.79 hang time, another uppercut swing (on what looked like a ball to me). At this point, we aren't seeing the bat speed, and it was another pitch hit the other way.

The 3rd at-bat was even worse. The first pitch was a fastball in on his hands, and he tried to swing at it. While the bat seemed relatively quick, he popped out to the pitcher lazily without getting any air under the ball. We quickly see some flaws in what McKinney is doing. He is too upper cut happy, which makes him susceptible to popping up, and the high pitch. He also wasn't showing a bat that was getting around on the ball, not pulling it.

I think we are certainly seeing him at his worst. He went 0-3 (and his team was shut out), but he has a .465 batting average and .629 OBP. He is usually a successful high school player. He doesn't have a lot of 0 for 3 games I am guessing. Obviously this speaks to the problems with one game looks. With this said, I didn't really see great tools or anything that screamed big leaguer or first round pick.

He didn't really seem to be 1st round pick size, but I wanted a more concrete look. There were 14 outfielders drafted in the first round last year (including the supplemental round). Just going by listed size, which can be deceiving, the average outfielder was about 6 feet 1.79 inches. Barrett Barnes was exact same listed size, weight and height, as McKinney. Victor Roache was same listed height, but much bigger weight wise. James Ramsey was shorter, and 3 players were listed at 6-1 and less than 195 (including Byron Buxton). So he wasn't as small as far as listed size versus normal first rounders as I thought. Of course, size doesn't matter if he has elite speed, and I know high school stats are often incomplete or misleading, but he just has 5 stolen bases, which seems low. I didn't get a great look at his speed, so I don't know if I can say more.

I obviously wished I got better video, and I wish I got a better look at him on a whole. So, below, I am posting a video of McKinney taken by Steve Florindo (here is his Google Plus Page)

In the video, I see a little hitch to get the swing started and some definite upper cut in the swing. This is all fine as a whole, but he is going to struggle with up and in good fastballs. It is a significant hole in his game. It can be really easy to find flaws in high school players games, even the really high rated ones, but to me, it is a significant flaw, and I didn't really see the great tools around it. I am not as high on him as others it is probably safe to say.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Mark Hendrickson: Tall Sidearmer

I've been really fascinated by Mark Hendrickson's reinvention of himself. Hendrickson is a former NBA player that had a long (if rather poor) MLB career as a reliever as well. However, he has now come back with the Orioles as a 38 year old sidearmer.

Here is a picture of him pitching in Spring Training from one of the Orioles beat writers:

Everything just seems really simple in Hendrickson's new delivery. It is a repeatable delivery, which is important for his size. It is still a high release point, but he is coming out quite a bit. His plan against righties was just to sort of pitch around them, trying to throw changeups and throwing inside with fastballs. He isn't going to fool them, and probably won't get many out.

I had seen him a couple of times this spring training, but not with a broadcast radar gun (and the Florida spring training facilities do not have Pitch F/X), so Wednesday night was the first time I got a good look at his velocity. I put all the pitch velocities (according to the MASN gun, which looked accurate on known pitchers) in a spreadsheet, and here is how they broke down (with MLB comparisons in the Pitch F/X era):

Fastballs: 26 (74.3 %, Jim Johnson), 90 MPH maximum, 84 MPH minimum, 86.46 MPH average (Joe Beimel).

2 plane break curve: 4 (11.4%, Craig Stammen), 77 MPH maximum, 74 MPH minimum, 75.5 MPH average (David Pauley).

He threw a separate change, but did not have much movement at all: 5 (14.3 %, Brian Fuentes), 81 MPH maximum, 79 MPH minimum, 80.4 MPH average (Matt Herges)

When you look at Hendrickson's old pitch data, we basically see the same guy, with velocity down a tick or two. Since he took time off, we would sort of expect that anyway. 

Almost everything was thrown glove side, that is, outside to lefties. According to his old Pitch F/X data, he wasn't a guy that threw down and away a lot, he would either go arm side and low, or high and glove side. This is where we see the new release point most likely impacting his pitching philosophy. It is hard to see him going up and in a lot to righties or up and away from lefties just because of the release point.

Is he a MLB reliever at this point? Maybe as a lefty specialist if he can throw strikes, and there is nothing I've seen in Spring Training that tells me he can't. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Denton Guyer Scouting Reports

Here are some very short notes on Denton Guyer High School:

Jud Kinzy is a senior (with decent and athletic looking size, listed at 6-2 180, looks like he could add a little weight) right-handed pitcher that had a simple and easy delivery, though his arm slot was not always inconsistent. Many times, he would sling his arm behind his body and step off the mound awkwardly when landing.

He also plays shortstop according to the roster, but ran a 4.37 to first on a bunt, which is slow. He wasn't throwing real hard (I clocked him at 77 MPH), and hitters were really out in front, and he was really hittable against left-handed batters. Kinzy ended up throwing a lot off-speed pitches, a 62 MPH very soft pitch with okay, though not late, movement. Most everything was throw low away from right-handed batters. His fastball wasn't bad when he threw it in, but he just didn't do it often.

Reid Battles is a senior catcher that looked quite big. He is listed at 6-4 173, but he didn't appear to be thin (which is what that weight would definitely imply), but he should fill out more. Predictably, he is not much of a runner (ran a not horrible 4.37 to first though). His arm didn't appear to be strong, but he had an okay 2.12 pop time. He hit a 5.37 second fly-ball to center, and hit another curveball well.

Domenic Pickering is a large senior that also evidently played on the defensive line in football. He struggled chasing high fastballs, but when he got one up and in, he pulled it for a homer (it isn't surprising that he is so strong if he also played on the defensive line for what is usually a good football program, though I don't follow high school football very closely anymore).

Chris Monroe is a senior shortstop that didn't look like a shortstop. While he was clearly smaller than some of the bigger players listed above (5-10), he was too big for to play shortstop without some really hidden athleticism. He is not fast, but the arm does work there, so perhaps 3rd base isn't impossible. He hit a 4.44 on an infield fly-ball.

Junior Zak Koehler ran a 4.5 to first from the right side. Daulton Horton played first base, didn't look his listed size, stocky, not real tall, ran about 4.6 to first. Tristan Brown is another junior that is pretty small, but he did run pretty well.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wichita Falls High School Scouting Reports

Here are my scouting reports on Wichita Falls:

Kade Hutchins was the starting pitcher, and the short right-hander comes over the top. He threw some solid high fastballs at 78-79 MPH, with an okay breaking ball that had decent vertical tilt but was sort of soft. It acted like a big curve sometimes, getting down to 62-65 MPH and up to 70 MPH. He also had something that broke armside, either a change or 2-seamer that he could occasionally get to fade.

Pete Thomas played shortstop, and showed off not only a strong arm, but range and athleticism as well. He hit a towering fly-ball as well, so maybe there is some power there. He also pitched, even though he is really too short for the mound. His fastball had some gloveside movement and he could sink it. However, his delivery was complicated and he couldn't throw strikes.

Pryor Johnson is a small guy who played 2nd base with good range and plus speed. However, his arm wasn't very good. Zack Murphy is a DH with decent size. He ran 4.4 to first from the right side with sloppy running form. Bucky Daws is slow, and a pretty big 1st baseman (listed at 6-5). He showed some pull power with the platoon advantage. Tyler Blair hit a popup that stayed up in the air for 5.69 seconds.

Koy Daws is just a sophomore, but showed some impressive tools as the starting catcher. has a sitting down style catching, but he isn't even that big. It helped him block balls in the dirt. He was a quiet receiver and framer, and seemed to have a quick release when he threw the ball. With the bat, he pulled a ball that nearly hit the wall at 5.75 seconds, and then hit another breaking ball up the middle.

Garron Bates is a junior corner outfielder that showed some impressive raw pop (but didn't hit for any raw power last year), hitting a foul infield popup that stayed in the air for a tick over 7 seconds. He then pulled the pitch to the the wall. He is not overly athletic or fast though.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Comparing Left-Handed Bullpen Candidates: Robertson and Ortiz

The Texas Rangers' have been looking for a second lefty in the bullpen (now that Robbie Ross is in the bullpen again), and since Michael Kirkman is in the competition for the 5th starter, I wanted to compare two lefties that seem to have some chance of making the team as spring training, Joe Ortiz, who is on the 40 man roster, and Nate Robertson is not. So in this post I will look at the Pitch F/X data of both from this spring training.

I saw Ortiz pitch in person last season, and was impressed (I've seen both pitch on television this spring training, but I'll put that aside for now and just focus on the data). He looked like a future big leaguer to me as a reliever. Both Robertson and Ortiz are really quirky pitchers. Ortiz is extremely short for a pitcher, while Robertson has been reinventing himself as a sidearmer after having some success (but injuries) as a traditional starting pitcher.

First let's compare their fastballs, which seems like a good place to start when talking about pitchers:

Ortiz' fourseam fastball is averaging 91.65 MPH in spring training, while Robertson's is averaging 90.15 MPH according to Brooks Baseball. However, Robertson's is getting more movement both horizontally and vertically than Ortiz'.

They both also throw sinkers. Ortiz throws his at the same velocity as his 4-seamer, while Robertson takes quite a bit off of his, throwing it 86.75 MPH. Robertson gets slightly more horizontal movement on his than Ortiz', while Ortiz gets better vertical movement.

Let's compare their release points:

Here is Ortiz:

Here is Robertson:

Obviously Robertson released some sinkers much differently than the rest of his pitches. I wasn't sure if this was some kind of error (we have seen weird release point errors with Kameron Loe) or something he just did in my outing. When I looked at other games from this spring training, he did the same thing. So he releases some pitches way differently. It would seem that this would be on purpose. Can we find the situation? It didn't seem to be based on splits, as they (the stray marks) appeared against both lefties and righties. It didn't appear to be on two strikes, and it wasn't all of his sinkers, and there appears to be at least one fastball he released strangely.

What does it mean? It isn't exactly clear. Inconsistencies are usually bad, mainly for health reasons. It would also seem that he is doing some kind of pitch tipping, though again, it isn't all of his sinkers.

I promised comparisons. We see that both pitchers are releasing the ball from basically the same height (5.48 feet on Ortiz' fastballs, and about 5.35 on average for Robertson, who I added up all the pitches because of the difference), with Robertson a little lower. Obviously Robertson is releasing the ball sidearm, but Ortiz is mainly just short (though he is coming out quite a bit, about 2.7 feet on average). This is the biggest difference, as Robertson is releasing the ball much further out than Ortiz. This will make him tougher against lefties, though much less likely to be able to get righties out. 

Though it should be emphasized that Ortiz is coming out quite a bit, and while he has been decent against righties, he has been rather significantly (about a run per 9 innings depending on which estimator you use) better against lefties. This picture may help emphasize that he is coming out quite a bit:

Both look like left-handed specialists. So I created this nifty little chart comparing the 2013 movement data for Ortiz and Robertson's spring training versus the movement data (career wise) of some other notable (my definition) "LOOGYs" in the Pitch F/X era.

This is average movement per pitch regardless of classification. What we see is that Robertson is getting a silly amount of horizontal movement on his pitches, which is probably because of his release point (note that Rapada, a noted sidearmer, is 2nd). Ortiz gets slightly better vertical movement, which makes sense considering that we saw that his release point was a little higher (I have no idea what is going on with Randy Choate). Out of the 6 or 7 pitchers that you might consider "active", Ortiz has the best vertical movement.

One of the things that make comparing Robertson and Ortiz interesting is that they throw the same 4 pitches according the the Brooks Baseball tags, Fastball, Sinker, Slider, and Changeup. I hate to make too much out of pitch selection with such small sample sizes, and in games that don't officially matter, but Robertson seems to like his change more than his slider, and Ortiz is vice versa. Not surprisingly, Ortiz throws his slider harder than Robertson, while Robertson throws his change harder than Ortiz (by just .03 MPH). This makes the pitch selection make more sense.

Ortiz gets some pretty odd movement on his slider, seemingly very similar to Raul Valdes, who throws his nearly 5 MPH softer. Valdes is another short lefty, though not quite as short, and the MLBAM tags call his slider a curveball. However, when you look at spin graphs, Valdes is clearly not throwing a curveball:

When we look at Ortiz, we see the same thing:

It doesn't have traditional movement (that is, it has what you might call "top spin") for a slider, but it definitely has too much spin for a curveball. Sean Burnett's slider is pretty similar as well (and both Valdes and Burnett have good whiff, average groundball sliders), and we find a few right-handed ones like Strop, Jansen, Albuquerque, and Esmil Rogers as well (and Fu-Te Ni had a curveball that was similar in movement). These are mostly good names, but it is sort of an odd pitch.

Robertson's is a more traditional slider, but it doesn't move much, especially when we look at horizontal movement, which he got a lot of as a whole. Mark Lowe and maybe perhaps Eric O'Flaherty provide the best movement comparisons, but both are about 5 MPH harder than his. The changeup has the high horizontal movement that helped his overall movement above, but it is hard to draw comparisons for Robertson's change because it moves so well horizontally, but doesn't move much vertically. He gets more horizontal movement than either of these, but Fuentes and Burke Badenhop provide good comparisons in just the difference of vertical and horizontal movement. Ortiz' is actually much more traditional, sort of a left-handed Guillermo Mota (a very successful change) changeup.

Even without taking into account age or roster status, Ortiz seems to be the better pitcher. His pitches are thrown a little harder on average, and he seems to be less of a trick pitcher. Robertson seems to rely too heavily on throwing pitches with extreme horizontal movement with his way out arm slot to be anything more than a one batter specialist. He will be tough on lefties, throwing with decent velocity and an array of pitches from the side, but he isn't as balanced as Ortiz. Ortiz has strangeness as well, but a balance of pitches, a repeatable release point, ability to throw strikes, okay velocity, and good movement makes it look like he is the kind of guy that can pitch in the big leagues for quite a while as long as his body holds up (he is short, but he is not small).

Monday, March 25, 2013

LD Bell Scouting Reports

I watched LD Bell high school last year, and this year, I was able to watch the high school that produces some college players again. Here are just some short notes on a few of the players on the team.

Jordan Satterwhite is a 6-0 sophomore right-handed pitcher. He has a delivery that is not fluid, but not complicated either. He comes over the top and tries to use the angle to get on top of the ball.

He seems to have a solid fastball, and either took some off for a change or a sinker. Talking about command at this age seems kind of silly, but it was much better than you would expect, and he had a really good outing. He looks like a name to watch, already starting on Friday nights and having success at a big school.

Satterwhite a long and slow swing and struggled at the plate. If there is a college or professional future for Satterwhite, it is with the bat.

Sydney Daley is a senior that played centerfield and batted leadoff. He showed off a solid arm, but some pretty unorthodox mechanics that don't give him a real quick release. He has very good size and is tall (6-4) and just eats up ground in center with some long strides. I got about a 4.31 from the right side though, which is about average speed. I wasn't sure if he was running his hardest because his motion is so fluid and easy looking, but I got similar times later in the game. At the plate, he drove the ball really well when he had the platoon advantage. Below is some video I took of him hitting:

Caleb Rose is a junior right-fielder that had the best outfield arm on the team, a legitimate middle of the outfield to the plate arm. It is not surprising that he pitches. Unfortunately, I only saw him in warmups, as he didn't start. He is stocky, and I wonder if this speaks to a lack of other tools.

Zach Plunkett, the junior catcher, had an impressive 6.03 foul pop up time. His swing had a lot of issues, but he drilled a ball to the wall another time, showing that there is some real strength there.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Cisco Junior College Scouting Reports

Here are my scouting reports on Cisco Junior College, who Perfect Game recently called the top Junior College program in the country. 

Nate Cole is a 6-2 right-handed pitcher that is already filled out and a little older than most of his competition as he is already 21. He has a pretty standard delivery, with a release point that is a little over the top

He was throwing 85-87 MPH fastball that really seemed to lack zip, finish, or any movement. He broke out a slow curve that he threw a lot of righties. It was effective and had a little bit of horizontal tilt. He clearly throws a change as well, or at least takes some off his fastball. At times, he really struggled to throw strikes, and really had a lot of problems spiking pitches that didn't make it to the plate late in the game. He seemed to work mainly away from hitters, regardless of platoons, but he could move the fastball low and into righties. Overall, it seemed (I didn't chart pitches), that he threw a low percentage of fastballs.

Andres Nelo is another guy that is a little old, as a redshirt sophomore. The small (5-7) left-handed batter swung through a lot of pitches. He didn't get a lot of chances at 2nd, but his arm seemed to be solid. He has average to slightly above average speed, timed him at about 4.2 to first from the left side.

Alex Montero is a big 3rd baseman, a bit of a bad body player (listed at 6-2 225). The arm is okay, but as expected, he isn't very mobile at 3rd. He can't really run, with about a 4.9 to first. He did hit a ball the other way, and another one up the middle, very well. The swing is smooth.

Jace Reese is a big 6'4 245 freshman first baseman with an uppercut swing. Earlier in the game, he got sort of jammed on a pitch that didn't seem to be that good and just kinda flipped it up the middle for a bloop hit. Initially I thought that his natural strength (just based on size) must not really play in game situations or with is swing, but later, he pulled a low breaking ball over the fence for a home run. He is a big strong man with some bat skills.

Michael Baca is a sophomore shortstop that struggled defensively in the game. He hit lead-off, but was really an averagish runner, and saw a lot of off-speed pitches because he would chase them.

Christian Simmons is a left-handed hitting centerfielder that looked a little smaller than his listed height and weight. He was really overwhelmed on pitches thrown away and really struggled at the plate. Patrick McLendon ran a slow 7.56 1st to third, but it may not have been max effort.

Cameron Massengill didn't really look like a catcher, but he ran like one, at about a 4.7 to first base. Behind the plate, he seemed to struggle on throw downs, and I got a 2.15 pop time from him. He did make a nice play on a bunt though, and blocked pitches well. His swing is a little long and not really smooth, but he still made some hard contact.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

WBC Pitch F/X Data: Yamaguchi, Sugiuchi, Wakui

In previous posts, I looked at the Pitch F/X data from the WBC of Kenta Maeda, followed by Tadashi Settsu and Atsushi Nohmi. In this post, I will look at the other three NPB pitchers that pitched in their game against Puerto Rico.

Tetsuya Yamaguchi

Yamaguchi is a lefty with okay velocity, getting up to 90.8 MPH, averaging 89.41 in his outing. This is right about where he has been in Japan. Since he is a reliever in Japan, this is his normal velocity, he isn't getting an artificial boost by being able to ramp up more than he usually does. The slider and changeup velocity were also on point as well.

His fastballs get a low rate of spin compared to other fastballs, while the sliders get a high rate of spin compared to other sliders (I am not sure why the MLBAM tags separated one of his fastballs to just a fastball). The manual tags change 3 of the fastballs to sinkers, which makes sense considering he also has that in his bag of tricks in Japan according to NPB Tracker (he has went to a lot more moving fastballs over the past year if the data is correct). However, it is really difficult to pick them up based on spin:

It may be a little easier to tell just based on movement, if you think the difference in (less) vertical movement and (more) horizontal movement is convincing enough. Whether you separate them or not, his fastball has above average horizontal movement, and well below average vertical movement.

This may explain why he was throwing mainly gloveside, with both his slider and fastball:

The release point is almost exactly like Oliver Perez', just like what we saw with Nohmi, meaning he is probably a guy who has big platoon splits, or would have big platoon splits in the Majors.

Toshiya Sugiuchi

Sugiuchi is a lefty that comes even further out than Nohmi or Yamaguchi

You can see why one was called a cutter, as it clearly moved (and spun. His overall spin chart is really weird, with the slider spinning a ton, and the fastball not spinning at all, and the curve spinning more than you would expect) a little, though not significantly different, than the other sliders:

Just by velocity, it would be the slowest cutter (compared to relievers) in the Pitch F/X era. It also has more horizontal movement than cutters, and well above average vertical movement as a cutter. As a slider, it is still slow, but makes much more sense when it comes to movement. I think it is just a misclassified slider that he threw a little bit differently. This means 11 of his 21 pitches were sliders, an extremely high amount, though there is an occasional reliever that does this, percentage of sliders. His percentages aren't that high in Japan, but according to NPB Tracker, he did throw a lot more in 2012, up to nearly 38%. It is an extreme horizontal, very little vertical movement slider.

His velocity got all the way down to 86 MPH on average as a starter last season. In the WBC, he maxed out at 87.3 MPH, and averaged 86.59. So it doesn't seem that, even though he was in relief in this outing, that he was adding much velocity. This could just be him not wanting to overthrow, or he could be losing even more velocity.

With that low of velocity, and that release point, it is obvious that getting lefties out is going to be a big problem. He is going to have to try to fool righties, and you would think throw a lot of changeups. He threw just 2 changes, but as you can tell with the following chart, he kept them away:

We actually have Pitch F/X data on Sugiuchi from 2009 (I am assuming from the WBC), and I think it really illustrates how much velocity he has lost, 3.79 MPH since that time according to the manual tags. He has also lost movement on his pitches, and changed his release point according to the Pitch F/X data, as evidenced here:

He just isn't the same guy.

Hideaki Wakui

Here is a low and out right-hander with a consistent release point. He has a little more traditional spin rates compared to other MLB pitcher. He also has what is closer to MLB velocity. His fastball averaged 90.33 MPH, and got up to 91.5 MPH. This is obviously well below MLB average for right-handed pitchers, but it is a better starting point, and better velocity than we have been seeing from the NPB pitchers in the WBC data.

His two off-speed pitchers were a change and a slider, both thrown at MLB type speeds. The change gets above average vertical movement, and the horizontal movement is really good. He only threw one, and it got similar break to the fastball, and it it looks sort of like the fastball from above, so there is a chance that it was just a slow fastball:

Wakui is usually a reliever, so the velocity rates should be about the same. However his fastball is up about a tick, and he usually throws his changeup at 81 MPH (which is actually the big boost it saw in 2012 from previous years). Since his changeup was thrown around 85 MPH, it was probably just a bad fastball.

Wakui's slider gets good movement both ways according to Pitch F/X, and was also slightly harder than what he threw in the NPB in 2012. Wakui saw the uptick in velocity from 2011 to 2012 thanks to his move to the 'pen (he was a starter from 2007-2011, throwing nearly 1000 innings before his 26th birthday). It is probably not smart to take too much from the data we have as to why he had better velocity in the WBC than in 2012. He is 26, and could be just getting better (this is unlikely), he could have more a rejuvenated arm because of the time on the calender, or the move to the 'pen, or he could have just been amped up from what he saw as an important game. There is no reason to question the Pitch F/X gun in San Francisco, or the NPB Tracker data, as every time I have looked at the latter, it has been right on point. It may be something to watch though in 2013. Wakui also throws a forkball, a moving fastball, and a slow curve, but we didn't see any of those pitches in the WBC.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Times to First: Part 20

The first update since December (it is kind of hard to get times when no baseball is going on). Links mean that I got the time from somewhere else, and you can follow the link to see the tweet.

1. Chad Oberacker (Athletics A +): 11.42 (on a triple)

2. Tucker Frawley (Blue Jays A-): 4.27

3. Marlon Bryd (Mets): 4.34

4. Michael Taylor (Nationals): 4.20

5. Kensuke Tanaka (Giants): 4.00

6. Mitch Maier (Red Sox): 4.32

7. Evan Gattis (Braves): 4.49

8. Joe Leonard (Braves): 4.46

9. Kyle Blanks (Padres): 4.29

10. Jose Pereza (Braves): 4.01 (on a bunt)

11. Roman Quinn (Phillies): 3.81 (on a bunt)

12. Yasiel Puig (Dodgers): 4.04

13. Joey Gallo (Rangers): 6.65 (from 2nd to home)

14. Jake Elmore (Astros): 4.23

15. Ty Wright (Cubs): 4.34

16. Angel Villalona (Giants): 5.21

17. Lance Berkman (Rangers): 4.34

18. Jim Adduci (Rangers): 10.97 (1st to home)

19. Dustin Ackley (Mariners): 4.16

20. Javier Baez (Cubs): 4.31

I uploaded all the times we have so far (399) to a spreadsheet that you can view below. I sorted by times to first (but the other times, at least for players we have just one time for, should be sorted as well as you scroll down), and the team should be the current team, but let me know if there are any errors.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

NPB Pitch F/X Data: Settsu and Nohmi

After looking at Kenta Maeda, in this post I will look at two other NPB pitchers that pitched in the WBC using Pitch F/X data.

Tadashi Settsu has had quite of bit of success in Japan, with a 3.39 kwERA in 4 seasons. He started out as a reliever in his first two years, and after absolutely dominating, was made a starter, in which he has not really lost much statistically.

There are tons of pitch classification problems in his short WBC outing. Despite this, the fastball velocity is roughly the same, around 86.5 MPH, according to all 3 different tags. Obviously this alone, especially as a right-hander, makes him almost automatically a non-MLB prospect.

The manual tags (done by Harry Pavlidis) have Settsu throwing a curve and a "slow curve". The MLBAM tags combine the curveballs, and the NPB Tracker data seem to just have the slow curves. From best I can tell, just based on the velocity, the NPB Tracker data combines the harder curve and the slider (since the slider is about 78 MPH and the harder curve is 72 MPH according to the manual tags, and NPB Tracker has the slow curve velocity just about right, but the slider at about 75 MPH for 2012).

Weirdly, the MLBAM tags labelled his hardest pitch (a whopping 87.6 MPH) as a changeup. It seems best to ignore the classifications, and just work with the pitches themselves. The average pitch he threw was 80.13 MPH, which would be in the bottom of 6% of MLB starters. He is pretty close to Koji Uehara when he started games, as well as Josh Banks (who was horrible in the Majors).

Settsu got really good spin on three pitches, way more of the rest of the pitches. They were all classified as changeups, and they were thrown 80-81 MPH.This classification makes sense, and were probably the only 3 changeups he threw, which makes it seem like the manual tags are correct. The slow curves also got less spin than his harder curve, so it makes sense to distinguish the curveballs based on both velocity and the harder curve.

The average movement on his pitches was -1.92 inches horizontally, and 1.50 vertically. This overall movement is actually really similar to Tim Hudson, but Hudson throws about 5 MPH harder on average. Trevor Bauer and Justin Germano, are both similar, with Germano having similar overall velocity. Germano is sort of convenient of a comparison, as he has pitched some in the Majors, but not very successfully, and has pitched in Japan and Korea.

Considering his control, I found his inconsistent release point really surprising:

Of course, his arm action is really complicated (video here), so it is amazing he can throw strikes at all, and doesn't have to have elbow surgery after every pitch. At 5-11, it is also amazing he has the durability to throw over 190 innings like he did in 2012, and obviously explains his vertical release point.

Atsushi Nohmi

Nohmi (or Nomi) is a little older at 33, but has also been successful in the NPB, mainly as a starter, with a 3.53 kwERA.

The lefty's classifications are a little more clear, or at least you can distiguish his fastball from everything else. He maxed out at 90.6, but his fastball averaged 89.68 MPH. This is much better fastball velocity than he has shown in Japan (averaging 86.54 MPH in 2012), most likely because he was pitching in a short relief role and was able to max out more. He threw 11 of the 13 fastballs for strikes.

His breaking/off-speed pitches are pretty soft velocity wise. The biggest classification differences between the manual tags and MLBAM is the changeup. Weirdly, all 21 pitches he threw were to righties (when he didn't have the platoon advantage), so it is hard to look at usage to help. There is a good chance that the "2-seam fastball", which is about 10 MPH slower according to the MLBAM tags, is actually the forkball, a pitch which Nohmi has used about 20% of the time in the past, and 10 % of the time in 2012. He also seems to have added an occasional cutter, at least according to his NPB Tracker data. The manual tags combine the "2-seam fastball" into a changeup. From best I can tell, the change and "2-seamer" get the same speed and rotation, but the "2-seam fastball" is just about 5 MPH harder. I think they are definitely different pitches, and "forkball" probably makes sense (even though there isn't a real Pitch F/X tag) than calling it a 2-seamer (and it is probably not the cutter based on usage).

Nohmi has a much more consistent release point than Settsu, and it is really similar to Chris Capuano. Jason Vargas is sort of similar, but Oliver Perez might be the best comparison. The Capuano and Vargas comparisons make sense when it comes to velocity, while the Perez comparison doesn't. However, these are all guys that have pretty heavy platoon splits.

The horizontal movement on everything (except for one pitch, the slider), is really similar.

It is also really good horizontal movement, with the average pitch getting 8.12 inches of horizontal movement. There have been no MLB starting pitchers with at least 100 pitches and that much average horizontal movement (on all pitches). Just one reliever, Jay Marshall, had more horizontal movement on their average pitch than Nomi in the Pitch F/X era. Evidently Nomi does this with a real lack of spin.

Nohmi is more of a MLB prospect than Settsu, but mainly as a left-handed specialist. This is because the release point screams platoon splits, and he is able to ramp up his fastball to a respectable rate out of the 'pen, while his starting fastball velocity (using the NPB tags) doesn't seem to point to a successful starter. My guess is that salary problems would make this impossible, making him a non prospect in the context of the MLB (though as he gets older, perhaps he will take a minor league contract as a free agent if he really just wants a chance at pitching in the big leagues. Whether or not this is a goal for him, or if he just happy being a very successful pitcher in Japan, is unknown).

There were three more NPB pitchers that pitched in San Francisco for the WBC, and I will look at their Pitch F/X data in a later (but hopefully not too much later) post.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

University of Georgia Prospects: Crumley and Cole

The University of Georgia is not really loaded with prospects this year, but when I watched them on TV, I noticed a couple of interesting 2014 draft prospects and wrote a little about each below.

Luke Crumley is a tall right-handed pitcher, standing at 6-6 with some projection. As a Freshman in 2012, he wasn't that impressive, splitting between the rotation and the bullpen, struggling with walks, and not missing many bats.

His delivery had an inconsistent landing point, with a small hop-looking type finish. Crumly was 88-91 MPH on his mostly unimpressive fastball, that was pretty straight and hittable. There were too many left up high, and it was a short outing for him against Texas A&M.

His main breaking pitch was a soft slider with a lot of vertical movement. It was called a slider (by the announcing crew based on information given to them by the school), but it looked like a curveball. The change has good dip when down, but he left it up for horrible pitch and homer. 

Hunter Cole is another 2014 guy that was originally picked out of the 49th round by the Nationals out of high school.

Cole is not big, and is sort of lanky at 6-1 195. At the plate, he has a pretty knee bent stance. He played basically full time as a freshman and played pretty well with a .823 OPS. He had a 2.36 Tool WAA, which is not bad considering he was a Freshman, but not really high draft material. However, it was his plate discipline that drug it down, as he was an above average home run hitter and had a good speed score, the two more predictive parts of Tool WAA. At least statistically, he is interesting going forward, depending on how this season goes.

Defensively, he seemed to have some problems with reads in center. He also had a really ugly drop. A little bit of an awkward runner, he doesn't look especially athletic. He pitched a lot in high school, so it is probably safe to have him down as a plus arm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Kenta Maeda Pitch F/X Scouting Report

Kenta Maeda pitched in the WBC against Puerto Rico in San Francisco, which means we now have Pitch F/X data. In this post, I will look at some interesting things in the data, and compare it with his NPB Tracker data. Maeda is a 24 year old that has already made 135 starts in the NPB with a 3.48 kwERA. He has already racked up 940.2 innings in the NPB (not to mention the High School and Ni-Gun innings, often without pitch counts, and the extremely long bullpen sessions Japanese Pitchers go through). From best I can tell, since 2000, Felix Hernandez has racked up the most MLB innings before age 25 at 1154.2, nearly 200 more innings than anyone else. The other 3 that threw more than 900 innings were Jeremy Bonderman, C.C. Sabathia, and Clayton Kershaw. While Felix has seen some rapid velocity loss, it is much too early to tell what that mileage has down to Kershaw or Sabathia (it would seem that Sabathia has aged very well through it), and Bonderman had some serious arm problems that cut his career short. Even compared to NPB standards, this is a lot of innings at a young age at the highest level, as if you look at all the 24 year old or younger pitchers in the Central League of the NPB, no one is even close to Maeda in NPB innings, with the closest being 571.1 innings. Just like in America, pitchers in the minors (Ni-Gun) in Japan pitch less innings than pitchers at the highest level. The Ni-Gun leader in innings in 2012 was 127.1 (with no one within 15 innings of him). Maeda hasn't thrown that few innings since I guess 2007 (when he didn't pitch in the NPB. I can't find Ni-Gun statistics for before 2008). In 2008, at age 20, he threw 40.1 innings in the Ni-Gun and then threw 109.2 innings in the NPB. By comparison, only 8 pitchers at age 20 since 2000 have thrown at least 100 innings in the Majors. So Maeda has shown he is an advanced pitcher for his age, but one that has a lot of miles on his arm already.

Every pitcher is unique, so no comparison is complete, perfect, or even that good, but comparisons, especially using Pitch F/X data, can give us a better picture of what kind of pitcher Maeda is, and extrapolating this out, can tell us whether he is a good MLB prospect (or more accurately judge the quality of the pitcher).

The MLBAM Tags have Maeda throwing 7 different pitches. By contrast, NPB Tracker has him throwing 5 different pitches (at least since the tags say he has quit throwing the cut fastball and forkball in 2011). The MLB AM tags have him throwing 7 cutters, and for some reason, have him throwing 1 "fastball" and 25 4-seam fastballs. He threw 1 2-seam fastball as well, which matches as the shutto in NPB Tracker. Ironically, he started throwing the 2-seamer more in 2012. Whether this is just classification problems, him just avoiding it this outings, or him going back away from it as any real part of his repertoire again, isn't really clear.

The ~89 MPH fastball (depending on which fastball you look at) is about what he has shown in Japan, as he averaged 89.89 MPH on his fastball (Kyle Kendrick is the closest comparison with right-handed starters) and 89.43 MPH on his "shutto" in 2012. The fastest pitch he threw against Puerto Rico was at 91.4 MPH, not a big jump, meaning even when he throws his hardest, he still only throws about an average fastball. He threw some version of the fastball (including the cutter) 34 times, or 42.5 % of the time. This matches up pretty well with his 2012 number (43.2 %). This seems like a low percentage of fastballs, and out of the 196 qualified starting pitchers since 2007, only about 9 of them have a lower fastball percentage. 2 of them are knuckleballers, and other than Freddy Garcia, the rest throw a high volume of cutter. Garcia is a really unique pitcher, but maybe Maeda provides a decent comparison, another guy that has a well below average fastball.

Maeda threw the slider 20 times (25% of the time), a pretty high volume. It saw a slight uptick in velocity from 2011 to 2012, but was slightly down at 79.51 MPH in his WBC outing. Obviously this slider is well below average in velocity, but Jered Weaver is actually the closest comparison velocity wise, and Maeda's gets better movement than Weaver's and Weaver's slider is a really successful slider in the Majors.

Maeda clearly releases his curveball higher than the rest of his pitches:

I separated by inning and saw it had nothing to do with inning by inning as it was pretty consistent. We see that many pitchers release their curveballs higher than the rest of their pitches, and that it isn't a big deal at all. However, this is about as significant of a difference as I have seen. With that said, he threw a stupid amount of strikes with the pitch, as 11 of the 12 were thrown for strikes. He only got one whiff, but 9 of them were throw for strikes not in play (SNIPs, with league average being around 44 percent).

His curve is clearly a slow curve, averaging around 70 MPH in Japan and 70.91 MPH against Puerto Rico. There have really only been about 7 or 8 starting pitcher MLB curves that slow in the Majors since '07, and they haven't been that successful. However, his curve gets elite vertical drop, similar to Barry Zito and Ted Lilly's. Horizontally, it moved almost exactly like his slider, really elite for a slider, and good for a curveball. Speaking of Ted Lilly, Maeda's cutter moves horizontally like Lilly's, and has good vertical movement (better than Lilly's).

Looking at his release point further, that is a pretty low and out delivery for a starter (especially ignoring the curveballs). At 6-0, he obviously isn't very tall for a starting pitcher, and that definitely plays a role. Alexander Cobb and Erasmo Ramirez have similar vertical release points, but Cobb releases his closer to his body, while Ramirez releases the ball dramatically more out (Shawn Hill is also not a horrible comparison). Blake Hawksworth is a great comparison (5.66 to 5.62 vertically/ -2.31 to -2.33 horizontally. This is best picture I could find of him releasing the ball). Hawksworth is a hard thrower, with a fastball average of around 95 MPH, and although there isn't a large sample size of him in the Majors, he has pretty large platoon splits (though not horrifyingly so) when you look at defensive independent metrics.

The changeup looked like Maeda's best pitch at times, with some unconventional looking break, but it got him some really ugly looking whiffs. It averaged 82.16 MPH, just slightly under what he threw it in 2012. The pitch has a lot of spin, but it gets very little vertical movement, with similar vertical movement to Josh Tomlin and Mike Pelfrey, which is a mixed bag, as Pelfrey has a solid change, while Tomlin has a horrible change.

I found Harry Pavlidis' classifications interesting. He gives Maeda 3 extra sliders, but takes away some changeups and curveballs (and adds the two stray fastballs to his fastball and spreads the cutter out). This adds a little bit of vertical movement to Maeda's slider, but subtracts 3 times as much horizontal movement. Pavlidis' classifications make the fastball velocity versus the moving fastball (shutto/sinker) difference a little larger than the MLB AM tags or the NPB Tracker classifications. While the change and slider are almost exactly the same, the curveball gets a slight bump from the MLB AM tags and about a MPH and a half higher than his 2012 NPB Tracker curveball.

Maeda's vertical fastball (working with Pavlidis' classifications) movement is below average, closest to Chris Volstad (who you would think would have good vertical movement because he is a sinkerballer, but Sam Deduno and Justin Masterson have the smallest amount of vertical movement on their fastballs). What Pavlidis calls his sinker is also well below average in vertical movement, closest to Erasmo Ramirez, who didn't get many whiffs (9.86 %)with his in 2012, even compared to other sinkers.

When you look at his overall spin graph, you notice that his curve rotates more than most curves.

Most curves seem to be around the very bottom left of these graphs, no real spin, and no real rotation. The slider also, while having normal spin, has more rotation than you usually see as well. His fastballs also seem to get a little bit below average spin, but a lot of rotation.

Even with the low release point and lack of height mentioned above (many times short pitchers or low release point pitchers have problems keeping the ball low or "getting on top of the ball"), Maeda keeps the ball pretty low

It is hard to see a real trend armside or gloveside, other than the fact that he missed badly armside so many times (he was really struggling with his grip of the baseball, as you could tell while watching the game). I think it is clear that this was not intentional. The thing I really noticed though is that he was not trying to make anyone whiff on high fastballs. If you look at his last start of 2012 (140 pitches!), the same theme plays out, a lot of middle/low, and a lot of armside pitches (we could go through and input his whole season, but that would take a while, this illustrates the point well enough):

When you look at Pitch selection, the first thing that stuck out to me is that he didn't throw a single changeup to right-handed hitters. It is clearly a platoon disadvantage pitch that he tries to use to get lefties out and limit his platoon splits. No matter the count (but especially with two strikes), he threw a ton of sliders to right-handers. He threw this pitch mainly away from righties, but threw it for strikes most of the time, and it wasn't a pitch he buried. That the slider works like this showed against lefties, when the only time he really threw it frequently was when the batter was ahead. He knows he can throw strikes with it, so in this sense it is a pretty unconventional slider. Out of the 7 pitches he threw with a full count, 5 of them were sliders (6 of the 10 pitches he threw with 3 balls were sliders). He didn't throw hardly any moving fastballs/sinkers against righties, saving it for early in counts to lefties. Of course, it needs to be noted again that this is just one start, so this is definitely a small sample size and could be misleading. It does seem that he wanted to keep the ball way, no matter what platoon the batter was:

If we assume that the ball isn't just slipping out of his hand against lefties and his location is on purpose, than it is an awareness by Maeda that he doesn't have overpowering stuff. What you wouldn't want to see, if you were a MLB team interested in Maeda, is to see him with below average stuff (or at least a below average fastball) succeeding because he is just challenging inferior hitters. Instead, it looks like he is just keeping the ball away from them, keeping them off balance with either the slider or the change (depending on platoon) and mixing in the fastball every once in a while.

This may just be small sample size noise, but the fastballs and the curveball Maeda threw with 2 strikes were harder than the pitches in previous counts, which would seem to mean he has the ability to ramp it up a little when he is getting close to a strikeout. This can be good for strikeouts, but seemingly bad for health reasons

Reports indicate that scouts view Maeda as a back of the rotation piece and that he probably won't be posted after the 2013 season. This is not a Hyun-Jin Ryu situation (to make a lazy comparison) when looking at a young pitcher with a lot of innings. Maeda is not nearly as big as Ryu, and one would think at least, that he would be less able to withstand such a workload than Ryu. The high volume of sliders is also really concerning when it comes to Maeda's arm. There are a lot of health concerns with Maeda, at least going forward.

The actual pitcher Maeda, in a vacuum, has below average velocity across the board, with his average pitch thrown at 83.58 MPH, which would be in the bottom 30 % of starting pitchers since 2007. Despite the good movement on his breaking pitches, his fastball doesn't move a lot, and all his pitches are below average velocity wise. He has good control and pitchability, placing the ball away from hitters and working backwards, which will help him not be too hittable. However, I question whether or not he will be able to get lefties out, since his release point is so out, and he isn't going to challenge them. Unless he paints the black perfectly, they just aren't going to swing and I would imagine he would have a high walk rate against lefties, even though walks isn't a big part of his profile. The eye test told me the changeup was a pretty good, though really unorthodox pitch, while the Pitch F/X data says it has a lot of spin but not great movement. Will the spin make up for it and fool enough lefties. I am not sure.

In conclusion, while you can point to several teams that are planning on using worse starters than Maeda in the Majors, his profile seems to fit more as a reliever to me, just like, you could argue, Freddy Garcia's does at this point in his career. The MLB is dominated by fastball starters, and that is clearly not what Maeda is.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Pitch F/X Notes on 3 Angels Minor Leaguers

Mark Sappington is the 8th best prospect in the weak (usually considered the worst minor league system in baseball) Angels organization according to Mark Anderson.

He gets that ranking with his big time fastball, that would be (by using his average fastball velocity in his Pitch F/X outing) in the top 8 % of relief fastballs in the Majors, closest to Wily Peralta and Josh Johnson pitching in relief. Adam Russell is the closest real reliever to Sappington. Comparatively, the horizontally fastball movement that he showed in the Pitch F/X outing was actually better than his velocity. The vertical movement was less elite, but still well above average.

His slider velocity is similarly, though not quite as, elite, in the top 17.6 % of sliders. However, he didn't show much movement with it, and it got a really weird amount of spin at times:

 Most sliders don't have that much spin, in fact, it is hard to have more spin than that. When you look at some really good MLB sliders, such as Mark Rogers and Yu Darvish, you see that they do not get much spin on their sliders. Slider movement is not dictated by spin, as we see with Sappington, and more spin can actually make it a worse pitch. You see that one of his sliders had a normal amount of spin, but it was the others that had high spin. Maybe he just messed up 4 out of 5 times (though the weird release point differences were on his fastball). He is, after all, a young pitcher, a 2012 draftee in the 5th round. We didn't see Sappington's change that Anderson talks about in the article linked to above.

Sappington has a high release point (over 6 feet 6 inches on average) that probably helps his fastball sink (that is what Anderson believes,though again, it was the horizontal movement that was actually better than the vertical movement comparatively). It does come out quite a bit, over two feet most of the time. It was also inconsistent, which isn't surprising. The horizontal release point probably is one of the reasons that he gets so much horizontal movement on his fastball, and as you can see in his outing, he was working mostly middle to glove side.

R.J. Alvarez is the 7th best Angels' prospect (a 3rd round pick in 2012, though that was the Angels first pick) according to Anderson, and has reportedly "touched triple digits". He didn't really get close to this in the outing, but he averaged 96.61 MPH, an even better fastball (hence the better ranking) than Sappington. Alvarez' fastball also gets very good vertical movement.

There is no list of a curveball for Alvarez from Anderson, but the breaking pitch he threw had (a lot) of top spin, so it is probably truly a curveball and not the slider Anderson calls it. The curve is about average in velocity compared to other relief pitchers in the Majors. He also has a changeup that we didn't see, but evidently it isn't good anyway. He releases the ball slightly under 6 feet, but at around 1.5 feet horizontally on average, it isn't sidearm by any means.

While his fastball is better than Sappington's, he doesn't get on top of the ball as well, and Alvarez' breaking pitches aren't as good as Sappington's. It is really hard to argue with that fastball though. Also, for what it is worth, he did keep his fastball low in his short outing, though that kind of fastball is probably best thrown high in order to get whiffs. His curveball was the pitch he threw high, but it is clear that he just lost the release point on it.

Matt Oye doesn't really fit in with the other two pitchers, as he isn't a ranked prospect in the system or much of a prospect at all in the traditional sense of the term. He is already 27, but he has good size at 6-5 230. He strangely got more starts than he ever had before in 2012.

His fastball velocity was closest to Dylan Axelrod and Brian Sanches, which fits into the bottom 15 percent of relief pitchers since 2007. He is clearly not a hard thrower like Alvarez or Sappington.

Oye does get good vertical movement on his fastball (the horizontal movement is a little weird, and sometimes in Arizona it turns out that way for some reason, so we will ignore it for now), similar to Pedro Strop, Kiko Calero, and Stephen Pryor, all whom have/had good whiff fastballs (even with some pretty extreme variance in velocity).

The only breaking pitch he has shown in Pitch F/X is a slider at 81.25 MPH. This is in the slowest 21 % of sliders. He also gets very little horizontal movement, and gets unconventional topspin on his slider. The traditional MLB AM tags does something much different in classification, perhaps because of this topspin, saying he threw one change and one curve. I doubt he throws an 80 MPH curve, just because pitchers that throw 80 MPH curveballs usually have harder fastballs than Oye has. However, it is hard to call them both changes, as they both moved so differently, both vertically and horizontally.

He doesn't release the ball high (just at 6 foot), but is not hardly out at all either, closer to his body than either Sappington or Alvarez.

 The consistency seems to show that he is much closer to pitching in the Majors than Alvarez or Sappington, which obviously isn't surprising. With some consistency and command, it isn't hard to believe that Oye would be able to get some hitters out in the big leagues in low leverage roles. He certainly doesn't have the ceiling of the previous two, but may be able to help the weak looking bullpen in 2013.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Notes on Burleson Centennial and Waco University

I saw Burleson Centennial play Waco University (high school baseball) play. I really wanted to see Casey Shane, the Texas A&M commit at Burleson, but he wasn't pitching that day. So I just combined the scouting reports into one post.

Turner Jenkins is a decent sized senior right-handed pitcher with an over the top delivery. The ball remains very high when doesn't finish it. He would leave a lot way up. He keeps his glove up the entire time, which seemed a little strange. He had a very underwhelming fastball that I clocked in the high 70s. He got some 2 seam glove side tail. This was his best pitch against right-handed batters. He has a 12-6 type curve with some vertical horizontal break. It was very slow and soft and got down to 62-63 MPH. He really fell in love with it sometimes and it was effective when buried and thrown a little harder. As a hitter, he ran a 4.45 to first from the right side.

Colton Anderson is a small leadoff shortstop. The sophomore (it is impressive that he is already batting lead-off) has no real power at the point, but the bat gets through the zone pretty well. Unfortunately, he didn't show good or great speed.

Jacob Martin is a junior that played centerfield. He has decent looking size and bats from left size. He looked slower, but I got 4.24 to first base. He showed a little pop, but his swing was behind some fastballs.

Bryce Bennett is not tall, but has decent size, though he is perhaps a little big. Slow, the senior showed the ability to make good contact by going down and getting a low ball.

RF Parker Sutherland is a senior with below average speed. Despite not have a pretty or sweet swing, he showed a quick bat with some pull power.

Waco University:

Eric Guerrero is an undersized freshman pitcher. He looks like a small middle infielder. A soft tossing righty, he has a 3/4ths delivery that makes it pretty easy to see the ball. Nearly everything he threw went glove side, including a soft breaking ball and a big curve that didn't sweep as much as the other pitch. He really had no control at all and got torched and didn't make it out of the 2nd inning. Obviously he will grow, and I feel silly saying anything about his delivery repetition problems or even his velocity because he is so young.

Dominic De Leon is a taller pitcher, but he didn't throw very hard either (but harder than Guerrero). He has some deception, putting his glove out front and his arm behind his back. He threw mainly high fastballs, but also seemed to take a little bit off for a changeup.

Quentin Trice was the DH, and had some really ugly hacks on breaking balls. He was holding his hands too low, which made it really difficult to adjust to pitches. He has a quick bat and was able to scream some line drives, but I don't think he has enough tools to go with it.

Mike Jimenez was the catcher. He was not real athletic, but has a decent arm. He got under the ball at the plate and there is some pop in there.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Velocity Notes on Gausman, Bundy, Belfiore

I watched the Orioles play the Rays in a Spring Training broadcast. There was a broadcast gun, so I charted all the pitches I could for three Orioles pitchers. I put them all in this spreadsheet, which you can see by clicking on the link (I didn't put it in the post because it is just the numbers and kind of boring really).

I thought the velocity on the broadcast was a little down, as Jeff Niemann (though there were stories that his velocity is just down right now) and Jim Johnson seemed to both be down a tick.

Kevin Gausman was the Orioles first round pick in 2012 and he started the game.

Overall Average: 88.9 MPH

Fastball Average: 92.72 MPH

Garrett Richards is the closest comparison as far as overall velocity for starting pitchers, which is very good, of course, with a bias of Gausman throwing a lot of fastballs. Kyle Weiland is actually the best comparison for him fastball wise, right at 92.72 MPH, in the top 26 % of pitchers, very solid velocity.

I had some problems differing from what I call his slider and I call his changeup, especially since they were so similar in velocity. From the best I can tell:

Curve/Slider: 78.88 MPH

Change: 80.5 MPH

From Mark Anderson's scouting report on Gausman, his fastball averages between 92-93 MPH, which is what we saw. Unfortunately, Anderson (nor Perfect Game) has velocities on the breaking pitch, but the "curveball" is 12-6 in nature, and that is not the pitch I saw. While he has good hard curve velocity, it breaks like a slider. It has well below average velocity, as does the change. Of course, their may be some misclassifications on my part, but his breaking pitches (his non fastball averaged 79.73 as a whole) don't really match his fastball in velocity.

Dylan Bundy

Overall: 91.04

Fastball: 93.47

Change: 85.73

Slider: 79 MPH

We do have a little bit of Pitch F/X data on Bundy thanks to his promotion to the big leagues at the end of 2012. Even though he threw fastballs 63% of the time, his average pitch was thrown 85.20 MPH, below average for a reliever. The heavier dosage of fastballs in his relief outing that I saw helps his overall velocity to a pretty elite category. Comparing the velocity of his pitches to his time in the MLB is a little tricky as well. Comparing his velocities to his Brooks Baseball velocities, he is down across the board, something that he himself as complained about. However, when you look at the MLB AM data (at say, FanGraphs), the fastball is just over .2 MPH slower, and the change just about .4 MPH slower. This is because MLB AM and Brooks measure velocity a little bit differently. From what I understand, Brooks measures velocity starting from 55 feet away from the plate, trying to take in account a general release point, while the MLB AM measurements measures more like a traditional radar gun. So it isn't surprising that a stadium and broadcast gun would show some differences from Brooks (that is why, if you are using Brooks', use Brooks' leaderboards to compare velocities, and if you are using the MLB AM velocities, use FanGraphs' leaderboard). With all this said, while Bundy is still throwing hard, and I don't know if it is enough for it to be concerning, he does seem to be down velocity wise.

I saw Mike Belfiore pitch in AFL broadcasts, but I couldn't find any Pitch F/X data on him:

Overall: 87.75

Fastball: 89.6

Obviously didn't throw many breaking pitches, so the overall velocity has some bias. The fastball is obviously well below average for a reliever.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Donnie Joseph Pitch F/X profile

Donnie Joseph is a 25 year old left-handed reliever (no starts in the minors) that was originally drafted in the 3rd round in 2009 by the Reds. He has a career 2.92 kwERA in the minors, and was traded to the Kansas City Royals in the Jonathan Broxton trade.

Joseph actually has spring training Pitch F/X data going back to 2010, despite never pitching in a MLB game. His best fastball velocity was in 2012, when it was 92.77 MPH on average. This year in spring training, he is back down to where he was in 2010, at 89.60 MPH. The pitches per appearance is roughly the same, so the velocity differences are really strange, and make him hard to evaluate. Not quite 93 MPH is below average out of the bullpen, but it is significantly different (better) than shy of 90 MPH on average. We have just one outing in 2010, and just one outing in 2012, but they were measured at the same park (the Mariners/Padres facility).

We see quite a bit of difference in delivery for those two outings (sorry for the weird formatting):

That is a really drastic difference. Of course, it was a 2 year difference, and Joseph was coming off a sub-par year (especially compared to his stellar 2010), so some delivery tweaks, even drastic ones, isn't that surprising (I am sure that if we had access to minor league data, we would see similar tweaks in many pitchers). Ironically, he was throwing harder out of the more inconsistent delivery (though his 2010 delivery wasn't a great model of consistency). He also was probably just feeling out a new delivery (assuming all of this was intentional). Since there was no real height difference, it could have just been him moving on the rubber instead of actually releasing the ball closer to his body. We see a huge difference in horizontal break from the two outings as well. We also see a difference in what looks like a plan or just an angle. Compare the top view Pitch Trajectories and the strike zone locations. Here is Joseph from 2010:

As you can see, he was coming more out, and he was clearly focused on moving the ball glove side, into righties, away from lefties. How about when he was more straight up in 2012?

This is small sample size, but he seems to not have that cross tilt, and seems to be working more just generally low than glove side. How about in 2013? We actually see that he is further out than he has ever been before, as this comparison chart shows

This seems really bizarre. Why would he move, not only back out, but more out than he was previously? Again, we don't see a difference in vertical height, so he is not becoming strictly sidearm, but it does seem like it has something to do with his velocity, when he is more out, he throws softer, when he is closer to the center, he throws harder. His slider, at least in his 2013 outings, has lost a dramatic amount of movement both vertically and horizontally, and over 2 MPH of velocity. He is also getting less overall spin on his pitches as well. I am not sure why he keeps changing his delivery, but he is clearly a worse pitcher than he was in 2012 according to the data.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Notes on Two Baylor Pitchers

I saw Baylor earlier this year, but as I saw them again when I watched Illinois, I saw a couple of pitchers I hadn't seen this year and took some notes on them.

I watched Kolt Browder pitch a little bit last year, but thought a new year deserved a new writeup. At 6-0, he is pretty short, but mostly filled out at 205. A Senior now, Browder has pitched exclusively out of the bullpen in his Baylor career, and not racked up many innings doing so, with a 3.00 FIP in 61 innings. Evidently my velocity readings were wrong or I didn't proof-read and made a typo when I wrote about him last year. He was throwing 87-88 MPH, and seemed to get on top of the ball pretty well (especially for his height) and kept it low. He threw a 83-86 MPH change that was without great movement but it did have occasional sink. He moved well off the mound, looking relatively athletic for his size. He is already 23, and without the real fastball, I don't think he is a professional baseball prospect, even with the solid strikeout numbers at a Major college.

Austin Stone started the 2nd game of the doubleheader I saw. The Sophomore was also undrafted out of high school, and is a little short for a right-handed starter at 6-1. As a freshman, he split time between the bullpen and the starting rotation and mostly struggled, with barely more strikeouts than walks. He sort of comes out with his release point, probably a little more than average. He was throwing 90-92 MPH on his fastball, 91 MPH being the most common. He also got down to 89 MPH a few times and even 87-88 MPH in a long inning. It had nice downward movement, but his control was spotty and he threw too many in the dirt. He got pretty consistent whiffs on it, even when it was low. If nothing else, he is going to get quite a bit of groundballs. Stone has a starter's repertoire of breaking and off-speed pitches. He threw a 83-84 MPH off-speed with unimpressive break and no real feel. He didn't throw that one very often. He had another separate off-speed (from my angle, which you can see in the Illinois video, it was often tough to tell difference in break etc.) he threw at 78-80 MPH that broke down. He had nice movement on it and kept it down, and it was better looking than the harder pitch, or at least more effective. Especially if the pitch was harder (or gets harder), you could say he had two MLB pitches. He also threw a couple of 75-77 MPH curveballs. It wasn't good in command, leaving it up and it not breaking down. It is hard to make any judgments on that pitch yet.

I think there is some stuff to like here, and you aren't really evaluating him as a MLB prospect until 2014 anyway, so command isn't a big problem if you believe in his delivery. A bullpen move would allow him to emphasize his better breaking pitches and have his fastball more consistently at 92 MPH and probably hitting 93-94 MPH (just assuming he works about normal in the bullpen versus starting).

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Michael Roth: Future Loogy?

Michael Roth just turned 23 last month, and we also got Pitch F/X data on him for the first time. In the context of college baseball pitchers, Roth goes down as one of the greatest of all time. His outings, including those in huge College World Series games, will go down in history as some of the best performances of all time. College numbers aren't predictive for pitchers, but, he had a 1.91 ERA and 3.05 FIP in his 4 year career at South Carolina. Of course, numbers don't neccessarily make a prospect, and this is the case with Roth.

When talking about Roth, I am reminded of an ESPN segment with Keith Law and Ben Mcdonald, in which they discussed Roth's above average command as a college pitcher, but the fact that, because of his lack of a fastball and big league stuff, he wasn't a big league prospect. He was drafted in the 9th round by the Angels anyway, but I saw him, just from seeing him pitch in college, as more of a left-handed specialist reliever. Pitching in the Pioneer League after the draft, the sample sizes were much to small to speak intelligibly about him at all, much less his splits. He faced 99 hitters, got 34 of them to hit ground-balls, 21 of them to strikeout, walked 11, and gave up two homers.

His 5 fastballs that Pitch F/X tracked averaged 91.45 MPH, respectable, even when we understand it in context. It was a relief outing, but is still a slightly above average fastball from the left side in relief, closest to Dan Meyer, who last pitched in the big leagues in 2010.

Roth's release point is rather low and somewhat out (which supports my initial thesis that he is a left-handed specialist), as you can see here:

However, it isn't as out or as sidearm as a Chris Sale or Randy Choate

Those two pitchers have extreme platoon splits (even though Sale is a starter who just got an extension), and it seems Roth is more "normal" or standard than them. I compared Roth to Meyer earlier, and as we see with Meyer's release point, the horizontal release is basically the same, perhaps even a little more out, though Meyer clearly releases the ball higher.

Meyer didn't have much success in his MLB career, and his platoon splits were pretty weird. OPS wise, he was better against righties, but his DIPs were borderline acceptable against lefties, and horrible against righties. Meyer was basically a fastball/cutter pitcher, but he also threw a changeup 14 % of the time. Meyer's change was nearly 5 MPH slower than Roth's, and while it got better horizontal movement, the vertical movement Roth gets is much better. Meyer's change was terrible, with a 138 wRC + against. Meyer's 4-seam fastball also moved better than Roth's did in his outing, and Meyer's fastball was even worse than his changeup in the Majors.

The closest comparison I could find in release point to Roth is Craig Breslow. It is also a convenient comparison when it comes to fastball velocity as well (though Breslow's movement is a lot better). At the risk of having too many pictures, here is a release point graph from a recent Breslow outing:

Even though Breslow doesn't throw a great deal of strikes (61.7 %), he has had a relatively successful career, especially if you believe his ability to outperform his FIP with low BABIPs is real (strangely, he had a high BABIP in 2011 in his last year in Oakland, but he had a lower than league average BABIP in 2012 with the Diamondbacks and Red Sox, two relatively hitter friendly parks). For his career, his BABIP and batting average has been virtually the same when it comes to lefties and righties, though his defensive independent metrics are stronger against lefties (but he is still acceptable against righties). So this release point doesn't seem to constrain Roth, even with his fastball, to being a left-handed specialist as a more extreme one might.

Roth's horizontal movement on his fastball is well below average, as is his vertical movement. It is going to take some really special command to make up for this, and even then, big league hitters can still take advantage of below average pitches that are well located. I count 21 relievers in the Pitch F/X era with fastballs of 91-91.99 MPH, and 20 of those pitches have better vertical movement on their fastballs than Roth's.

Roth's changeup is a little more interesting, especially in velocity terms. Averaging nearly 85 MPH, it is a pretty hard changeup, with only 5 relief lefties having a harder change than 85 MPH in the Pitch F/X era. He doesn't get a lot of horizontal movement on it, but it does get vertical dip. His closest comparisons are not that attractive in either grounders or whiffs, but one could picture this being a big league pitch and help him keep his platoon splits down.

Obviously we didn't see a third pitch, which isn't that big of a deal for our purposes, since I don't see him as a starter anyway.

I am not sure what to make of his lack of spin:

Most pitchers' fastballs usually sit around 250 degrees, and spin is usually good on fastballs.

This is obviously a small amount of data, and early spring training data, which is what this is, may be taken with a grain of salt if necessary. However, we can look at the data and allow us to make some conclusions on Roth until more data becomes available. The fastball is underwhelming for different reasons than I initially believed, he can succeed with his release point, and his change may actually be a good pitch. Lack of overall movement hurts Roth's chances, especially as an older prospect who needs to move very quickly. It would seem wise for the Angels to try to fast track him by moving him to the bullpen for 2013, and see if the fastball is good enough to get middle to high level minor leaguers out. If not, then he is probably just a minor league filler player. Just because of the pedigree, you can see why the Angels would take him in the 9th round, but because of his fastball, he comes with a lot of risk.