Sunday, June 30, 2013

Free Agent Fantasy Team Update: Jason Grilli's Dominance

This time's Free Agent Fantasy Team Update contains a lot of roster moves, yet again.

I released J.C. Romero, who was on the MiLB DL and signed Randy Ruiz to take his place on the MiLB roster. I change Kevin Slowey's designation from SP to RP, as the Marlins have moved him to the bullpen. Roy Oswalt and Brian Bogusevic were promoted to the big league team, both get paid 234,240 dollars, unless something else is announced. Travis Ishikawa was promoted by the Orioles, but didn't play well and was quickly designated, so I just released him and won't take his numbers. Eric Chavez also goes to the big league team, coming off the DL. David Ross to the 7 day DL then the 60 day DL, so he goes to the inactive part of team and is a release candidate. Thomas Neal was optioned to minors so goes to minor league team, as does Melky Cabrera, who was placed on the 15 day DL. MLB team should be at 24. Hisanori Takahashi was traded from the Cubs to the Rockies, but will remain in AAA. It doesn't change his status on my team. I also signed Ben Francisco to fill out my minor league/inactive roster.

Since most teams have played about 81 games:

13.8 fWAR, 37.614 wins, 43.39 losses

14.2 bWAR, 38.014 wins, 42.99 losses

12.2 WARP, 38.12 wins, 42.88 losses

-.5 WAA, 40 wins, 41 losses

Yet again, WAA likes me the best, but I have now fallen below .500 according to all 4 metrics. WARP actually likes me more than the baseball reference WAR, which is a little strange considering WAA also comes from Baseball Reference (but I think comes from one of the biggest flaws in positional player WAR, as fielding and baserunning are weighed by average and the batting is weighed by replacement).

Jason Grilli was somewhat of an after thought signing for my team, just an attempt to use some extra money I had as a late signing and to make sure I had guaranteed bullpen depth. He has clearly been worth the money and has been one of the league's elite bullpen pitchers, proving that the good 2010-2011 seasons were no fluke. Grilli was a top prospect at the turn of the century, but he bounced around the league, with large inconsistencies.

For sake of comparison, let's look at Grilli's 2009 with the Rockies, where he was missing bats, but walking way too many hitters and had an ERA over 6, which even after a good 2008, ended his time as a member of the Rockies, as he was moved to the Rangers.

Here is Grilli so far in 2013:

He is a pure 2 pitch pitcher, and unless you believe the occasional changeup tag, this seems to be what he has been for virtually the whole Pitch F/X era (it seems that he used to throw a curve). This is a pretty dramatic change for their to be no real pitch usage changes. He has went from an arm side pitcher to a glove side pitcher, and is actually throwing the ball higher than he was before. Strangely, his average velocity of all pitches has stayed the same because he is throwing his fastball harder, yet his slider has lost velocity. Your guess is as good as mine as to how that it is possible.

There isn't a major release point change other than he is releasing the ball a little lower now, something that doesn't see to be unusual as a pitcher gets older. The location change, along with the fastball velocity uptick, seems to be why Grilli has improved. He isn't afraid to go high with the plus fastball and work on the other side of the plate.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ricky Nolasco and Pitching With Runners on Base

One of the more obvious trade candidates for the 2013 trade deadline is Ricky Nolasco of the Miami Marlins, a free agent at year's end. Nolasco has performed well this year, and has been an above average starter for his career according to defensive independent metrics, with a 3.77 career kwERA. 

Much has been written (but usually from a statistical perspective and not a Pitch F/X perspective) on Nolasco's inability to live up to his DIPS, particularly because of poor numbers while pitching with runners on base, for his career. However, this year, his ERA is actually better than his FIP. I wanted to take a pitch F/X look, using location, velocity, and pitch selection, at how he is pitching with runners on base compared to when there is not.

Since we are only really concerned about what he is now, we will only look at this season. I broke down all the pitches he threw with a runner on base (if I am using Baseball Savant right) and compared it to his pitches for the year on a whole. I am calling the FT designation a sinker, for no good reason (there were also a handful of cutters, I combined them with the fastball because there simply weren't very many of them).

So here are his average locations, broken down by MLBAM type with the average velocities in parenthesis (with the average release point and the average of all pitches for perspective) as a whole for 2013 regardless of situation (you can get a better look at the pictures by clicking on them):

Here is Nolasco with runners on base:

As far as velocity goes, both his fastballs are actually slightly harder with runners on base, no real difference, which isn't a surprise. With location, there is a difference, as nearly every pitch (the changeup is the exception) is more arm side when runners are not on base. This would suggest, though there isn't a real difference in release point, that he may have some problems finishing his pitches when out of the stretch. This doesn't seem to be entirely unusual as the Marlins on a whole for 2013 (just looking at 4-seam fastballs) keep the ball slightly more arm side with runners on base. It isn't quite as dramatic as Nolasco's (The Marlins average about .05 more arm side with runners on base, while Nolasco's is .11 on all pitches and .22 on fastballs), but it doesn't seem to be an unusual trend. The important thing I think is that the height's are virtually the same (he is actually throwing the splitter lower with runners on base), which I think rules out anything really wrong with his delivery out of the stretch, though cutting down on his effectiveness to throw to both sides of the plate could be harmful.

As far as pitch selection goes, the only real difference is that he throws more sinkers (or moving fastballs, FT) with runners on base, throwing less 4-seamers. This makes some sense as he may be trying to induce double plays, and he has become more of a groundball pitcher in recent years. It is hard to see which pitch is better than the other, as statistically, neither his fastball or sinker have been plus, and they have flip flopped in effectiveness. The increased sinker usage is obviously going to give him less whiffs, but more groundballs. He is a high fastball pitcher, actually pretty extreme at throwing his fastball high, and his sinker actually is more in the middle of the plate, so I do like the 4-seamer more and think, that even with his lack of velocity, he should be more willing to give up flyballs, ideally getting more strikeouts. The latest round of rumors have him pitching for the Giants or Dodgers, two parks that are friendly for fly-balls, so throwing more 4-seamers would at least seem to be a good strategy.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are Speed Players More Consistent?

We are often told that "speed never slumps", and the cliche itself is almost certainly true. While batting statistics go up and down in both small and large sample sizes, you wouldn't expect actual speed to have highs and lows (unless the player is injured). The implication of "speed never slumps" is usually that faster players go through less offensive slumps than those that are not fast. In fact, in a conversation about Yasiel Puig, I heard one commentator say that he shouldn't have long slumps because he runs well. The thought process is usually that when the fast player is "cold" at the plate, they will still beat out infield hits and be able to get on base with bunts. So I wanted to look at whether or not speed hitters go into slumps more than power hitters. I couldn't find any articles that actually tested this, there was one on defense, but couldn't find one on speed. There may be some out there, but hopefully they tested it differently (that is, I don't think I am copying anyone's ideas and did all my own work, but I am sure I am missing plenty of studies that I couldn't find. If you know of any good ones, leave them in the comments).

So I used FanGraphs leaderboards, and looked at the 694 qualified hitters since 2000, took the top 30 players by ISO and compared it to the top 30 hitters by speed score. I then looked at month by month (because this is easy to do with the FanGraphs leaderboards, and I had no idea what amount of time I should look at for slumps and cold streaks) for the 60 players, and used the standard deviation of all the months by wRC +, in order to measure the player offensively as a whole. I did this year by year, because skill sets obviously change over years. Then I used the average standard deviation of each year, followed by the average standard deviation of each group of 30 years. If you want to check my work, here are both sheets:

If the thesis that speed players slump offensively less was true, we would expect a smaller standard deviation from that group. That isn't what we got using this method though, with the power guys slumping slightly less. Dewayne Wise and Mike Trout (small sample size) seem to be the most streaky guys from month to month in the speed group, with Russell Branyan being the streakiest power guy. The most consistent power hitter was Alex Rodriguez, with Juan Pierre and Ben Revere (just 2 years of sample size) being the most consistent speed players.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez Scouting Report

Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, originally from Cuba, has been declared a free agent by Major League Baseball. A 25-26 (I read two different ages) year old right-handed pitcher, he is listed at 6-2 185. There aren't good scouting reports available online from what I can find, but the Dodgers and the Cubs are interested, along with some other teams that have been watching him throw.

Statistically, the last year I can find that he played in the professional league in Cuba is 2009-2010. He had a ERA 2.13 better than league average, 6.99 K/9IP (19.2 K%), and 3.9 BB% (1.45 BB/9IP). League Average that year was 5.0 K/9IP and 3.83 BB/9IP. So Gonzalez was a lot better than league average, but when comparing him to other professional Cuban pitchers that came to the states, his strikeout rate is still pedestrian.

Reports are that he has a fastball, changeup, forkball, and curveball. This is the only video I can find of Gonzalez, and is what I used to write this article.

He really looks lanky in the video, but at his age, you don't expect him to really add weight. He seems to be able to locate his fastball low or high. It looks a little straight up high and the velocity doesn't look plus, but seems workable. He showed he can get in on lefties and break bats.

The change movement doesn't look great, but it looks like he gets on top of the curveball well. I wish I could see more of those two pitches. The forkball looks more like a splitter than the traditional forkball (at least compared to the ones you see in Japan) with quite a bit of arm side movement before dropping (almost looking like some kind of 2-seam hybrid).

Statistically, he had good command, and when teams see him throwing, they will obviously know his velocity, and without having very good readings,  it is hard to really speak to his ceiling or placement in a rotation in the Majors. He does seem to have at least two big league pitches, and should be able to pitch in the big leagues, but how effectively I can't really speak to.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Paco Rodriguez and the 82nd Overall Pick

Paco Rodriguez was drafted by the Dodgers in the 2nd round out of Florida as a left-handed reliever in 2012, and quickly became the first player in the 2012 draft to make the Majors, appearing in games before the season ended. He also made the team out of spring training meaning that he currently has 32 big league innings versus just 19.2 minor league innings. So far in the big leagues, he has been effective, with a high strikeout rate, low home run rate, but a high walk rate. Rodriguez has been used somewhat in the left-handed specialist role, with a 52% platoon advantage, which isn't quite Rapada or Choate like, but similar to Boone Logan.

Justin Hampson and John Parrish provide the best release point comparisons, neither big names obviously, but guys who had some success in the big leagues. Hampson had big platoon splits, while Parrish didn't. Paco also throws slightly harder than either of him, though his fastball averages below 90 MPH. Perhaps because of this, Paco is a pretty extreme low ball pitcher:

That graph also shows that he is a glove side pitcher for the most part, with a fastball that is pretty straight up, and the change isn't used a lot. His most effective pitch by far has been the curveball, while his fastball has had some issues, playing well below league average. I think this shows in his swinging strikes versus contact average locations (with fastball averages included as well)

Paco is the odd pitcher that actually gets more whiffs when he throws the fastball down than up. While MLBAM tags insist he doesn't really throw a sinker, the Brooks Baseball tags have him throwing a sinker the majority of the time, which makes sense to me based on the locations. The more he works glove side, and the more he works low, the better he pitches, at least that is how it has been so far.

Because of his fastball velocity, and apparent inability to start, Paco's ceiling is probably what we are seeing right now, effective but not dominant pitching out of the bullpen facing mostly left-handers. Out of the 2012 2nd round of the draft, only he and Alex Wood have even reached AA or higher (both of them have made the Majors obviously). So while there is no high ceiling for Paco, there is the floor that is hard to dispute with. Out of the Dodgers 56 all time 2nd round picks, Paco is already the 12th best according to rWAR, and that is if you include Chase Utley, who didn't sign and Lee Lacy, the second best WAR, who had the majority of his success elsewhere. The average WAR for the Dodgers 2nd round picks is 2.28 and the average rWAR of players picked 82nd overall is 1.09, including Phil Nevin, who didn't sign. Paco, barring some kind of injury, should blow right past this. This year's 82nd overall pick is a pitcher that looks like he will be a reliever, didn't start pitching until the last year, and only throws 90 MPH.

In the end, you need high ceiling guys, you can't draft all LOOGY's every year and build a team, and you have to find cheap controllable super stars to succeed as well, and the best way is via the draft. At the same time, when evaluating draft picks, especially beyond the first few picks, you have to take in consideration not only the odds of making the Majors and contributing as well, but also the amount of time it takes in the minors for a player to develop. Drafting guys that appear to be very close doesn't always work out (Marcus Stroman and Danny Hultzen seem to be examples of guys that were already expected to be up in the Majors but aren't), but when it does like with Rodriguez, I don't think you can knock the Dodgers for taking a player that can contribute on their roster six more years before free agency.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Behind the Improvement of Josh Donaldson

One of the dumbest baseball articles I ever wrote was last year when I wrote that Luke Hughes was an improvement over Josh Donaldson. Hughes would play all of 4 games for the Athletics, and then be demoted to AAA, then AA, then released. He would finish the year with the Blue Jays AAA, and as far as I know, is out of baseball. Donaldson however, has emerged into a really nice player. He would finish 2012 with acceptable numbers, though still below average. In 2013, Donaldson has become a well above average player, even if you don't believe the defensive numbers. While BABIP has helped, his walk and strikeout numbers have legitimately improved.

So far this year, he is seeing a lower velocity than he was before 2013,  87.5 MPH versus the 2013 86.81 MPH on average. His swinging strikes are coming on harder pitches (86.96 MPH before 2013, 87.85 MPH in 2013), but there isn't a real difference in the average velocity of the pitches he is swinging at (87.58 MPH before 2013, 87.24 MPH in 2013). The average pitcher he is seeing, by release point, is about the same, though slightly shorter (5.88 v, -6 h before 2013, 5.83 v, -.57 h in 2013), and he is swinging at missing at pitchers that are more out right-handed than before this year (5.84 v, -.84 h before 2013, 5.84 v, -1.07 h in 2013). This would seem to be an improvement, as it is more likely that far out right-handers are the ones that are making him miss rather than more standard pitchers. However, he is swinging at pitches that are more likely to be shorter and further out right-handed before this year (5.89 v, -.6 h before 2013 and 5.84 v, -.66 h in 2013).

As far as location goes, here is Donaldson's average strike zone, broken down between 2013 and before 2013:

The big difference is the whiffs. Donaldson is now swinging through pitches further outside and further up than he had in the past. Donaldson is whiffing a lot less in 2013, going from a hitter who was whiffing more than average, to below average, becoming a better contact hitter (which is another reason the success is most likely real rather than a hot streak). Since the average pitch he swings at is no more or less horizontal, it suggests that a change in approach isn't helping him avoid swinging and missing, that he is just able to make more contact.

With that said, it does seem that the approach is better, not just because of his improved BB% and lessened O-Swing %, but because he is being pitched a little further out on average, and yet his average swing is staying the same horizontal, and on pitches more up in the zone as well. He is making pitches come up more, giving him a chance to drive the ball better.

Out of the 44 pitches he has seen at 95 MPH or more (as of the time I was writing this article), with 8 swinging strikes (18.2 %) with just 5 contact plays (11.4 %). Before 2013, he saw 68 pitches 95 MPH or over, whiffing at 14 of them (20.6 %) with 9 contact plays (13.2%). So he hasn't improved against plus fastballs, and that is probably the best way to get him out, so it seems hard to argue that his bat speed has improved. Instead, the average velocity data above shows that it is more likely he has improved on slow stuff. So I looked at the 100 slowest pitches he has seen in 2013 and before 2013. He is whiffing less at the slow pitches, almost all curveballs, (9 whiffs before 2013 and 6 whiffs in 2013), but is making slightly less contact as well (19 contact plays to 17 contact plays). This suggests that he just isn't swinging at as many slow pitches as he was (but also suggests that he is a good breaking ball hitter).

More than anything, it seems that Donaldson's skill set hasn't really changed, he is just being more discriminate at what pitches he is swinging at, making them come more inside on him. This seems to be why he has improved both in walks and power.

How Important is it for Pitchers to Add and Subtract on their Fastballs?

It is often said, or at least i hear it especially on television broadcasts, that a pitcher "adds and subtracts" from his fastball. That is, the pitcher will throw his fastball intentionally at different speeds. This is said to be a good thing, which makes some sense. One could think of situations where a hitter knows that a pitcher's fastball is usually 92 MPH, and instead of going to a different pitch, the pitcher throws an 89 MPH fastball. Or, Justin Verlander is often credited for being able to throw 100 MPH, but sitting at a lower velocity and maxing out when he needs to (at the end of his outing, or with runners on base, etc.). I have really had no idea how to treat this aspect of pitching other than just using averages, so I wanted to see if I could test whether or not "adding and subtracting" to the fastball was in fact a good thing. Perhaps, one could imagine, consistency is good, as it shows that a pitcher can maintain his velocity.

Since pitchers' average fastball velocities can fluctuate from year to year (from start to start as well, but not as much) it probably isn't wise to look at multiple seasons, so I will look at just 2013 so far for this article. This gives us small sample size problems for the season when trying to grade performance, so we will look at the swinging strike percentage of the fastball, along with the FIP - of the season.

In order to measure how much a pitcher "adds and subtracts" from their fastball, I'll use the standard deviation of all 4-seam fastballs (FF designation), which should tell us the difference on average for each fastball, which I think should give us an idea of who "adds and subtracts" the most. Of course, we are relying on MLBAM tags, so there may be some problems, as it seems that slower than usual fastballs by pitchers are usually called changeups. I don't know of a way to sidestep this problem. I looked at pitchers with a minimum of 1000 pitches thrown (regardless of classification) and at least 30% of pitches being the 4-seamer to weed out relievers and give us a look at starters with a decent sample size who use the 4-seam fastball with some regularity.

According to MLBAM, Bartolo Colon wins the award of being able to add and subtract to his fastball. Jason Hammel adds and subtracts from his fastball the least. The average standard deviation is 1.35 for the selected pitchers.

The pitchers with an average ST or higher had a whiff percentage of 6.04, the ones with a below average ST had a 5.92 whiff percentage, not a real difference. The below average ST pitchers had a 99.36 FIP - on average, with the average to above average having a FIP - of 96.75, again slightly better, but not a big difference. The top 10 do a little better when it comes to FIP -, but do worse when it comes to swinging strikes. The ten worst ST pitchers have a pretty significantly worse FIP -, with a below average whiff percentage, but one that is still better than the top 10 ST pitchers.

I think what helps show that adding and subtracting doesn't seem to be a determiner of success either way is that there are three pitchers with whiff percentages on their fastball over 10% (Shelby Miller, Matt Harvey, and Julio Teheran) and one of them have an above average ST, one below, and one about average. The thing they do have in common though is velocity, being in the elite part of starters.

Just plain velocity is a much better indicator of fastball success (though the high whiff percentages of Hisashi Iwakuma and Jose Quintana are certainly interesting) than adding and subtracting velocity, which doesn't seem to help much, but doesn't really hurt either.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Kentucky and Mississipi Draft Notes: Mayers, Grundy, and Bailey

Here are notes on three of the pitchers that were drafted in the 2013 MLB draft from the Universities of Mississippi and Kentucky based on the SEC network broadcast gun in a SEC tournament matchup.

Mike Mayers is a right-handed pitcher drafted by the Cardinals in the 3rd round (93th overall) out of Ole Miss. He has two successful years as a starter, with basically identical seasons in 2012-2013.

Fastball with armside tail that he can sink: 87-93 MPH, 89.5 MPH.

As far as breaking balls and off-speed pitches, he threw pitches from anywhere from 76 to 82 MPH. It appeared to me that he had 3 different pitches besides his fastball, with a change that seemed to be harder than the other pitches (about 80-82 MPH), a slider that seemed to be a tick slower (78-80 MPH), and a curveball that was a little slower. The movement did appear to be different, but one could make the argument that the slider just got somewhat slurvy at times. Without looking at grips or interviewing the pitcher, I don't know how to be sure.

Jerad Grundy is a short senior lefty picked in the 10th round by the Oakland Athletics (311st overall). He was taken by the Twins in the 27th round in 2012, and the Rangers in the 46th round out of high school in 2009. He originally went to the University of Miami, but only threw 17.2 innings and spent the next year at Heartland Community College before two years at Kentucky. He wasn't a strikeout pitcher, but lowered his walk rate in his senior year (though he did see a home run rate increase).

Grundy was a little more difficult to classify. He maxed out at 88 MPH, and probably threw more glove side than arm side. The only real off-speed pitch he showed was a changeup he threw 75-79 MPH (about 76.5 MPH average). He would throw the pitch to both lefties and righties, it wasn't a pitch with usage that was dictated by platoon (the radar gun registered a few 65-67 MPH readings, but I don't really trust those).

Outside of that, he threw pitches from 84 MPH to 88 MPH. It would seem that he had a 2-seam or sinker, along with the harder 4-seam fastball, as he would sit 84-85 MPH at times and 87-88 MPH times.

Tanner Bailey is a 6-7 right-handed reliever that was picked by the Tigers out of Ole Miss in the 32nd round (966th overall). He is a senior that spent his first two years at Texarkana College. Strikeout and walk ratios actually went down from his junior year to his senior year at Mississippi. He has already signed and pitched in a game in the New York Penn League.

Used as a closer by Ole Miss, but very unlikely to have that role in professional baseball as his fastball was 88-91 MPH (89.36 MPH average). He was fastball heavy in his one outing, but he appeared to have 2 different breaking pitches, a slider at 83-84 MPH and a curveball at 81 MPH.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Velocity Pitch F/X Park Factors

A few months ago, one of my favorite Pitch F/X writers Jon Roegele posted what basically amounted to Pitch F/X park factors. I have used them in some of my articles before, but as he notes in the article, in his actual table when it came to velocity, he didn't control for pitch type (he notes the problem with this in the article, and does say that looking at just fastballs does change the data and gives some examples), so I wanted to do my own version, just looking at velocity in 2013. Unlike Roegele, I did not control for handedness.

The first thing I did was look at all 4-seam fastballs (FF in the classifications) for each team based on the home and road. This has some problems of its own, as we are dealing with MLBAM pitch classifications, which certainly are not perfect. However, I didn't want to include all pitches or all kinds of fastballs because we aren't controlling for pitch type, which could skew the velocity if a few pitchers changed their tendencies from home to road, of which there seem to be some cases. Of course, if there are tag biases in parks, it could affect the data in a way we can't control. There is also the problem of roster fluidity. Teams use different pitchers throughout the season, releasing and signing guys, using spot starters, having to put pitchers on the DL, etc. So some pitchers may pitch more on the road than home (this especially applies to spot starters). Depending on their velocities, this could mess with the data (also, sometimes it just works out where some pitchers pitch more on the road than home or vise versa). To control for that, I am putting two sets of data, the team home/road splits, along with the home/road splits of the pitcher on each team with the most fastballs thrown. I think I did it a little differently than Roegele, looking at each team individually, splitting the teams by home/road (and not separating by road parks). Baseball Savant made this really easy to do, so this is where I pulled the data from. 

Of course, this data will instantly out of date, so don't use the raw MPH data. This is only to get a better look at which parks have biases in velocity data. The differences are far more important than the actual velocities. I sorted the spreadsheet by the overall team difference.

Weirdly, it seems that the average velocity of all pitchers is slightly higher on the road. Obviously the bigger differences came from the individual pitchers, which would be expected due to sample size. The Blue Jays have the biggest difference when it comes to team, with Justin Masterson having the biggest home/road splits out of the 30 pitchers. The Braves results are really weird, as Mike Minor has an average velocity of nearly half a MPH on the road, but the park actually is the 2nd "hottest". The Royals park, usually thought of and tested as "hot" has played neutral as a team, but Ervin Santana has seen a big difference from home to road. Overall, the results for all parks aren't that far off on average, and I don't think it really changes much when it comes to analysis of individual pitchers.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Will Yasiel Puig be a Superstar?

Yasiel Puig has caught the baseball world by storm, after signing a large contract with the Dodgers out of Cuba, much of the baseball world scoffed at the enormity of the contract, especially since it seemed that he was far off from the big leagues. Puig then had a monstrous spring training that had some calling for him to make the team out of camp. After a dominating stint in AA and a couple of outfield injuries, Puig was eventually promoted, where, in a small sample size, he has been hitting well.

The average of all pitches Puig has seen so far is 86.64 MPH, which is about normal. The pitches he has swung and missed at have averaged 84.26 MPH and the ones he has made contact with have been 87.84 MPH. So he appears to be a dead fastball hitter. His average strike zone also shows that his problems, at least when it comes to swinging strikes, are on pitches low in the strike zone, usually non-fastballs

This chart also shows the average release points per each result. Not surprisingly, his success is coming on pitches released closer to the center of the rubber than far out right-handers. The strange part is that the swinging strikes are coming closer to left-handed than his success. I thought this might be because he is struggling against left-handed changeups, but he isn't (I have just 19 changeups faced according to MLBAM tags, with no swinging strikes). Instead, the problem was a few traditional breaking balls (curves and sliders) from lefties.

One thing you can poke a whole in Puig's numbers so far is that he hasn't walked yet, and in both spring training and the season he is relying on high BABIPs. This graph shows which pitches he has been chasing, the pitches he has swung at that are not in the traditional strike zone (labelled with MLBAM tags)

Obviously some of these are borderline pitches that he can't really be blamed with swinging at, but we see two general areas that he is chasing pitches at, low and away breaking balls, and inside fastballs. Pitchers have tried to throw him inside, and while he will swing, it is hard to argue that it is working real well, as his velocity on contact is higher than the average velocity he has seen.

As this spray chart from Texas Leaguers' shows, Puig has shown power to both fields, not pull happy, but not without pull power.

In the average strike zone above (the first graph) we see that his homers are actually coming on the outside of the plate, further away from him than the average pitch he saw or the average pitch he made contact with (which were virtually the same).

The power is real I think, as he can hit the ball out anywhere in the ballpark, and he likes to hit fastballs. The problem is that he isn't going to set a record for batting average on balls in play, which has been what has made his MLB and ST numbers look so absurd. He is going to have to walk eventually, or he's not going to get on base enough to be a real impact hitter. If the holes against breaking balls outside continue to be exposed, and he doesn't adjust, it is hard to imagine, even with his evident natural skill, that he will be successful in the big leagues. If he makes the adjustment, I do think he will be a star, an elite player, but at this point, it is hard to tell if he will or not. Perhaps the best thing for him would be for his BABIP to regress to worldly numbers, for him to struggle for a while, which would force him to make adjustments. When this happens, we will be able to evaluate Puig in a better manner than we can now, when everything is going right.
Thanks again to Daren Willman of Baseball Savant, as I got the regular season data from his website, and he also got me the Spring Training data.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Can Chris McGuiness be a Successful Big League Hitter

Chris McGuiness was a guy that I liked quite a bit offensively when I saw him in AA Frisco last year, and had a good Arizona Fall League season (which means nothing), but floundered in Spring Training as a Rule 5 pick with Cleveland. He went back to Texas, where he had a lot of success in AAA, and was brought up to the big league team, where he hasn't exactly started off hot. I wanted to take a look at his pitch data that he has seen so far, and see if we can make any judgments about whether McGuiness will succeed long term in the Majors as a hitter or not.*

Average Speed of all pitches seen: 86.64 MPH

Average Release Point of all pitches: Vertically: 5.62 Horizontally: -1.02

Average Spin of all pitches: 197 degrees

Swinging Strikes:

5.61 vertically -.9 horizontally

83.16 MPH

180 degrees

So he is whiffing at more breaking balls on average, which isn't anything unusual. It also isn't unusual, considering he is a left-handed hitter, that the closer to the center of the rubber (or more lefties) is giving him more problems than average.

Contact Plays:

85.43 MPH

5.68 vertically, -1.17 horizontally

203 degrees

Still not the average velocity of all pitches, but he is making contact with pitches that are harder on average, with more spin on average, than the pitches he is whiffing at, suggesting he is doing better with fastballs than breaking balls, nothing unusual. The release point data also isn't surprising, he is doing better the further out right-handed the pitcher is, and maybe not as usual, pitchers that are releasing the ball higher. 

Here are where pitchers have pitched McGuiness on average, along with his average swinging strike and average ball put in play:

Nothing unusual here, as he likes the ball a little more inside than he is normally pitched, and his swinging strikes are coming low, very low in this case. This shows us what the average spin and MPH of his whiffs (compared to all pitches seen) told us, he is having a lot of problems with breaking balls. However, something I found interesting was that his contact plays were still at a lower MPH than his average pitch seen. So here are all the pitches he has seen at 91 MPH and above, labelled with results, giving us an idea of how he is doing with velocity:

He is making plenty of contact in the zone with them, not missing many at all, but it is coming with a low BABIP, which of course, may not be his fault. Looking at all the balls he has put in play, labelled with the position McGuiness hit the ball to, may give us some kind of insight (and we should mention that his regular season BABIP is above league average so far in the very small sample size):

There clearly aren't many pitches high is the first thing you notice, and he is pulling everything from the middle of the plate in. For the most part, he is taking pitches outside the other way, though he tried to pull a couple low and away ones. The approach is certainly not bad, not too pull-happy, but willing to pull if the pitch is on the inside. At least so far (and plate discipline numbers usually make sense rather quickly), he is not swinging as much as an average hitter would, either in the zone or outside the zone. He has also shown good walk and strikeout numbers the last two years in AA and AAA suggesting a good approach.

To me, it seems that the skills are there (he can handle big league fastballs well), and the approach is there as well. I think he can be a good big league hitter if given the chance, especially if he adjusts his problems with breaking balls so far.

* Thanks to Daren Willman of Baseball Savant, as I got the regular season data from his website, and he also got me the Spring Training data, which was just 4 pitches, but I included them into the post. I did not include Arizona Fall League data.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Free Agent Fantasy Team Update: Kevin Gregg's Success as a Cub

This week's Free Agent Fantasy Team Update contains a lot of roster moves:

Rick Ankiel was DFA'd and then released by Mets, so he is released from my team. I had missed that Dewayne Wise was on the DL, so I moved him to the inactive part of my roster. John Lannan will be back with the the Phillies to start on Monday, so I am putting him back on the big league roster. Shawn Camp was activated from the DL as well, so he moves to the active part of my roster. Thomas Neal was recalled by the Yankees, so he also moves from the minors/inactive part of the roster to the MLB part of the roster. Assuming that he is making league minimum, he is now owed $284,000. Chien Wang was also signed by Blue Jays, so I signed him to big league roster. He will also be owed 284,000 dollars. This puts my payroll at about 100.5 million dollars for the season. This also puts my big league roster at a full 24. It also means I had 2 spots open for my minor league/inactive team, so I signed J.C. Romero and Clay Rapada relievers who signed MiLB contracts in the past couple of weeks. Apparently Travis Ishikawa has exercised his opt-out clause, but that will probably take a couple of days to play itself out, so I am going to keep him on the inactive part of the roster as there was no update at the time of publishing. Now, let's see how my team is doing:

Since about 70 games have been played this season:

12.4 fWAR, 32.98 wins and 37.02 losses

13 rWAR, 33.58 wins and 36.42 losses

10.5 WARP, 32.9 wins and 37.1 losses

.4 WAA, 35.4 wins and 34.6 losses

So the three WARs have congregated to about as close as they have been all year. WAA continues to be the one that rates my team the highest, and I am only above .500 according to that measure.

Since all the roster moves made the post long, I just wanted to take a quick look at why Kevin Gregg may be having more success. My guess was location (as his 2013 stuff is nothing special), so here is his average locations from 2012 and 2013:

 He is keeping the ball lower on average this year, which could really play a role in his success so far. Let's break it down by pitch (MLBAM tags). 2012:


The fastball is clearly more arm side, rather than in the middle of the plate, while his sinker is more glove side. He is also locating the slider and splitter lower in the zone, which, along with moving to the NL Central from the AL East, is probably playing a big role in his success so far with the Cubs.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ian Dickson Scouting Report

Ian Dickson is a 22 (will be 23 years old at the end of the season) right-handed pitcher that stands at a listed 6-5. The Cubs traded him to the Nationals for Henry Rodriguez (whom I wrote about here). Statistically, since being picked by the Cubs in the 35th round of the draft in 2011, Dickson has been mediocre, with a 4.33 kwERA and was moved to the bullpen early in 2013. So far this year in A-ball, Dickson has a 4.23 SIERA and 4.14 kwERA with an okay strikeout rate, but too many walks.

I watched his lone MiLB.TV outing (which was a start in April) in 2013 to get a better idea of what Dickson was throwing, as actual scouting reports on Dickson seem hard to find.

It looks like he throws a lot of moving fastballs. He kept them up, most of them middle of the plate or higher. This may help explain the home run rate in a relatively pitcher friendly league. Some did sink some to the glove side, which is probably what he is trying to do. It seemed to have a little bit better command as the game went along. He can work as a backdor moving fastball to right-handers and the velocity looked reasonably good (audio wasn't working on the broadcast so I am not sure what his velo was game in the game). With his very heavy usage of the pitch he just isn't going to miss a lot of bats with it. He threw an occasional 4-seam (just going by movement, as it was more straight) fastball  in on the hands of righties.
His delivery doesn't have a lot of moving parts to it, but the size is clearly not working to his advantage. Both in short season in 2012 and in full season in 2013, his groundball rate was really poor.
The only breaking or off-speed pitch I saw was a slider that seemed to sweep reasonably well, maybe a little bit soft and "loopy" (not real tight or hard). He located it like a traditional slider. Didn't throw it a ton, but he increased usage as the game went along. Dickson doesn't really have a tool to get lefties out, but so far in his minor league career, he actually has reverse splits.

It looks like Dickson is a probably just an organizational relief arm. It seems unlikely that he will really find any success in AA, if he makes it that far. He was drafted very late in the draft, and so far, he is performing like you expect a pitcher drafted late in the draft. He has just two real pitches, with none of them plus or really average, with control that is mediocre.

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Look at Reds, Mets, and Giants Draft Picks

In this post, I look at three MLB draft picks using videos available on YouTube. The videos I used to get a look at the specific players are linked under their name, with the name of the user that uploaded the video. Obviously, these are just my observations.

Zach Mathieu 1B: 16th round pick by the Mets

Video Two
Video Three

A really big guy, Mathieu has a good flat swing. He gets his body in good position when he makes contact, using his size well. Really text book mechanically with body strength to back it up. The swing isn't fast, but smooth.
He's a bat only guy from a place where we can't judge him statistically, but it looks like he has a good contact tool with good bat control. Is the bat speed good enough to take advantage of his strength?

Conner Simonetti LF: 35th round pick by the Reds


Definitely doesn't look like a traditional corner outfielder as he isn't very tall, more of the small left-fielder type. He may grow out a little more though as he seems to have pretty broad shoulders.

I am not a big fan of his swing at all. It doesn't appear to be much speed, and he runs out of the box a little bit. So probably not a power guy. Does a lot of rocking and moving in his swing.

Ryder Jones 3B: 2nd round pick by the Giants

Video 2

A pretty large left-handed hitter, Jones can probably can actually add weight. He takes a really big swing. It's ugly, and I don't know that it is fast, but it has good plate coverage. Really ugly hitch to begin the swing that comes with a heavy load, which caused him to overcommitt to early in the videos. Most of the video is from a year ago, but he was really raw. I can't imagine that most of it is fixed, and I have to imagine that it is going to take a lot of work in the Giants system to get him straightened out at the plate.

He looked like a pretty awkward runner as well, and I got him at about a 4.4 to first. So speed isn't one of his tools.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Indiana and Florida State MLB Draft Picks

Here are a few of the players that were drafted from Florida State and Indiana, with notes based on watching them play against each other in the Super-Regionals.

Aaron Slegers Indiana RHP Twins 140 overall

Standing at an insane 6-10, Slegers is about as tall of a prospect that there is.
Not a hard thrower, he was sitting mainly 89-92 MPH, sometimes getting down to 87-88 MPH.  So he has about average velocity now with maybe the potential to add more. The size obviously provides quite the downward plane along with extension. He seemed to keep the fastball low even though it didn't seem to be a sinker, and it can get some arm side run on it occasionally.
His main breaking pitch is a 80-81 MPH baby slider that sometimes breaks down, could be called a slurve. He seems to be able to throw it for strikes, but it isn't a plus pitch.
His change at 84 MPH also isn't plus. It has a little arm side run, but not much overall movement. He wasn't really missing bats and I think that has something to do with his lack of quality breaking pitches.

Dustin Demuth Indiana 3rd base Twins 230 overall

A left-handed hitter with nice size, may grow into body a little more, probably not enough to take him off the position. Unfortunately, I didn't get a read on his defense, and his speed is probably average at best.

He really seemed to struggle with outside fastballs. The bat not real quick, but his swing seems to cover a lot of the zone. He was at least able to turn on up and in and drive it up the middle. Demuth seems to handle all inside pitches well, at least at averagish right-handed velocity. His power is more line drive than home run, but his swing ppercut, probably leading a lot of fly-balls, which is probably not a great thing for him. I am definitely not in love with the swing, and he seemed a little susceptible to pitches that break low an din out of the strike zone.

Ryan Halstead Indiana RHP Twins 770th overall

Another pretty big righty (6-4), but probably not going to grow out much more. He has a short step delivery, where he kicks his leg in the middle of the air, and takes a short stride. He ends up getting pretty low at the time of delivery.

His fastball is 86-90 MPH with a little movement, almost moves like a change, so probably more of a sinker. Very rarely went to any kind of off-speed. When he did, it was a changeup that was really just a the sinker with velocity taken off.

Robert Coles Florida State RHP Mets 836th overall

Coles has a lot of herk and jerk motion in his delivery. It looks like he had some deception, hitters (especially right-handed hitters)seemed to have a hard time seeing his breaking ball.

88-90 MPH fastball, can get 2-seam run and get it to backdoor back into the strike zone. Throws it low and away from lefties.

75-77 MPH soft slider, good horizontal movement, can sometimes get it to the other batters box in the dirt. Seems to be his favorite pitch against righties. Doesn't quite break like a traditional slider but it doesn't appear to be a curveball. It sometimes broke like a change, but the usage made it obvious that it wasn't a change.

Peter Miller Florida State RHP Dodgers 484th overall

Fastball below average velocity wise, 87-90 MPH, lot of arm side run. Miller was throwing it high, not traditional for a moving fastball. His control of it was very spotty.

His breaking pitch was a big curveball at 74-76 MPH. Can throw it for strikes with decent vertical depth. Very little horizontal movement, but usually threw it glove side.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tool WAA and the 2013 Draft

On another site that I contribute to, I introduced the idea of Tool WAA to measure players statistically in college, and then later ranked draft eligible college players by the measure. Now that the draft is over, I thought it would be interesting to go back and check on which players were drafted, which weren't, and how teams did by Tool WAA. So below is the list of players from the pre-draft list, with their Tool WAAs, along with their (for the ones that were drafted) draft positions and teams they were drafted by:

So 84 eligible players were drafted, just 2 of them in the first round. The average of the ones drafted was -1.64, while the average of the ones not drafted was -3.11. The highest one not to be drafted was Aaron Cornell of Oklahoma State, whose numbers were boosted because his numbers from Eastern Oklahoma were included. He really hasn't been excellent or anything at Oklahoma State. Daniel Palka, the Tool WAA leader, was drafted in the 3rd round by the Diamondbacks. Here is how the average Tool WAAs broke down by round:

Rounds 1-5: -.22
6-10: -1.12
11-20: -2.47
21-30: -1.96
30-40: -4.08

Not surprisingly, it broke down about how you would expect, other than the 30 round plus guys were actually worse (there were only 5 of them) than the non-drafted players.

Here is how it broke down by team, with the vertical side being the actual Tool WAA and the horizontal side being how many players taken:

No surprise that the Padres were the top team. It should be noted that all 3 of the Mets' relevant picks were positive Tool WAA players.  The Astros took 7 players that were eligible, while no one else took 5. Obviously we will have to see how the players turn out and which teams picked the right players to really know, but I really like how the Padres draft on a whole.

Jose Alvarez Scouting Report: Behind His Successful Debut

Jose Alvarez was called up by the Detroit Tigers to make a spot start on Sunday and was very successful over 6 innings. He was sent back down after the game, but the success in his debut could be called surprising since he was signed as a MiLB free agent in the off-season. Alvarez, a 24 year old left-handed pitcher, was originally signed out of Venezuela by the Red Sox in 2005 and topped out at A+ in the organization. He was traded in 2009 to the Marlins for Jeremy Hermida where he would top out at AA before becoming a free agent after 2012. He was very mediocre in AA in 2012, striking out just 12.5 % of batters.

The Tigers assigned him to AAA to start the year, and he was a completely different pitcher over 12 starts, striking out 25.8% of batters in a higher level, with a 2.92 kwERA. This is what earned him his spot start.

This is what his stuff looked like via spin and speed chart

So really about an average fastball, maybe slightly less, averaging just shy of 90 MPH if you include all fastballs from the 55 feet mark. It also looks like he threw a lot of sliders, a beavy of slow changeups, and a handful of curveballs at a similar velocity. The MLBAM tags just called them all sliders, even though there is a difference in some of them both by spin and by vertical movement.

Jeff Francis and Chris Capuano are the closest comparisons when it comes to release points, both soft-tossing far out lefties with huge platoon splits. In the minors Alvarez really hasn't had platoon splits, basically equally good against lefties and righties. Considering the stuff and amount of changeups, those two might not be bad comparisons for Alvarez. Here is what his release point in graph form looks like, along with the average locations of each of his pitches (MLBAM tags):

The average pitch is in a spot that is routine, but the fastball is a little more arm side than you would expect. The changeup doesn't quite get all the way down, while his slider is an extreme glove side pitch.

He used the slider against both righties and lefties, while he only used one changeup against a left-handed hitter. This usage makes some sense since his changeup is so slow. Out of the 191 left-handed starters that have thrown a changeup in the Pitch F/X era, Alvarez' change is the 177th fastest. There doesn't seem to be much of a correlation between velocity and success of a changeup (the top 15 whiff changeups from lefties that have thrown at least 500 of them is only about .1 MPH harder than the 15 worst whiff changeups) so I am not real sure what to make of it. Watching the pitch in video, it clearly fooled some hitters, but it doesn't have much real movement. It has a little bit of noticeable downward movement, but for the most part, he seems to be relying on speed differential. My suspicion is that hitters will adjust to this, just because it isn't devastating. When you watch other slow changeups that have been successful, like say Dallas Braden's, they move quite well, both horizontally and vertically. Of course, Braden's Pitch F/X movements are nothing special, but they were better than Alvarez's, whose movement numbers are very pedestrian.

Thus, I am skeptical that Alvarez can get righties out at the big league level, even at a Francis and Capuano level. Those two pitchers success seem to be driven at least in part by their changeups. At best, Alvarez is a back of the rotation starter, but more likely, some kind of swing-man.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pitch F/X data from the Netherlands WBC Team

In Spring Training, the Netherlands World Baseball Classic team played against the Seattle Mariners in their spring training park. This means we got Pitch F/X data on the pitchers, so I thought it might at least be fun to look at the pitch data and see what the Netherlands pitchers were throwing.

Tom Stuifbergen is the only one that has experience in organized baseball, and has been in the Minnesota Twins' organization since 2007. Stuifbergen is a 24 year old right-hander listed at 255 pounds. He has just one appearance in AA, so he is a little behind as a prospect, excelling when he repeated A+. He has been a low walk, mediocre strikeout, low home run pitcher in his minor league career. Here is what his stuff looks like, via a spin and speed chart:

An acceptable fastball, along with probably a change and slider. He has a pretty standard release point, but it may have been a little more inconsistent than you would want.

Here are where he threw his pitches on average in his outing, based on the MLBAM tags:

He has to get the change and slider down a little more, and his fastball was extreme arm side, and probably was too high in the zone. He needs to get on top of the ball better than he did in the outing.

David Bergman is a 31 year old pitcher that has 94 career starts in the Dutch Major Leagues. We need to get some context statistically for the league (I don't have park factors for the league). We don't really know the talent level of the league, and just using the data from baseball reference, it seems to be a league that is incredibly unbalanced. One team went 34-7, and another team went 5-37 in 2012. Only 3 of the 8 teams were under .600, but they all won less than 20% of their games. So far in 2013, one team is 2-25, another is 23-3. As a league, over the past three seasons the average ERA has been 4.11, 5.05 Runs Per Game, and 3.53 FIP (homers are very rare, lot of walks, not many strikeouts comparitively). So we will use those numbers for comparing to league average. Bergman has numbers in the league since 2007, and has a career 42 ERA -, 47 R/G -, and 68 FIP -. In 2013, he has a 28 ERA -, .42 R/G-, and 50 FIP -. In other words, he has been really dominant in the league and is still on top of his game. He has a mediocre fastball, getting it up to just over 90 a couple of times, but mainly sitting at 85 MPH:

 It also loooks like he has a changeup, slider and curveball. His release point is relatively standard, perhaps a little more out and a little lower than the average right-hander:

Using the MLBAM tags, here are his average locations:
It seems that he had problems commanding the slider, but got the curve down, with a very high fastball on average. It is hard to imagine he would have success in a more competitive league with that high of a fastball with that little of velocity.

Kevin Heijstek is a 25 year old with data since 2007 in the Dutch Major Leagues. The 6-4 right-hander has a career 47 ERA -, 48 R/G -, and 76 FIP - in his career. In 2013, he has a 14 ERA - (not a typo), 19 ERA -, and 53 FIP -. His fastball didn't get up to the Bergman's, or even 90 MPH, but his average fastball might be a little bit better.

 He also seems to have curve, change, and slider. His release point is also further out than Bergman's, and not any higher:

The MLBAM tags says he throws only three different pitches:

In his outing, he did a better job of getting the fastball down than Bergman, but the change stayed up, and he located the curve like a slider.

Berry Van Driel is a 28 year old 6-6 right-hander with data since 2007 in the Dutch Major Leagues. He has worked mainly as a reliever with a career 59 ERA -, 62 R/G -, and 93 FIP -. So far in 2013, he has a 14 ERA -, 23 R/G -, and 53 FIP -. His fastball seems to be much better than Bergman or Heijstek:

His release point is very similar to Heijstek's, but was really inconsistent in his outing:
This seems to explain why his average strike zone looks pretty bad:

It sure doesn't look like he was finishing his delivery.

Johnny Balentina appears to actually be a position player in the Netherlands, at least that is the only Johnny Balentina I can find. He's a left-handed sidearmer:

He's also an extreme soft-tosser:

Really just two pitches, nothing over 83 MPH, fastball/curveball. The MLBAM tags called all his fastballs "changeups", but since he didn't throw anything harder, I just called them fastballs:

The "slider" designated by the MLBAM tags is probably a curveball. 

Here are the average locations of all pitches thrown for each of the 5 pitchers:

You can see that Berry Van Driel had his serious problems, and Stuifbergen was a little too high as well. Balentina was pretty standard for a lefty, while Hiejstek pitched low in the zone and glove side, with Bergman having a very standard right-handed pitcher location.

Monday, June 10, 2013

MLB Draft Pick Scouting Reports From Virginia and Mississippi State

A few notes on draft picks from the Virginia/Mississippi State Super Regional:

Chad Gioroda of Mississippi State (Blue Jays 265th overall) is a left-handed pitcher with a specialist type arm slot. He will go down and drop sidearm to throw breaking ball. His fastball is about 87-90 MPH with a 77-78 MPH, down to 74 MPH changeup that looked very unimpressive. Just tries to throw it for strikes, really uses it a lot to righties. I don't think this stuff will play real well professionally, especially in the upper levels.

Hunter Renfroe, 13th overall pick in the draft by the Padres, has really good looking size. The bat speed looks plenty quick, along with good plate coverage. He was chasing a lot of off-speed pitches and changeups. Good contact skills though, along with a nice 2 strike foul-off-pitches approach. Saw a ton of breaking balls, and because he chased, he didn't get fastballs, and it was hard to evaluate him. A slightly above average runner, so he has good size/speed combo, but approach needs a lot of work, probably too pull happy on outside pitches. With that said, he did a good job of taking an inside fastball the other way, hitting it with some force.

Reed Gragnani of Virginia was drafted 623rd overall by the Red Sox. A good sized 2nd baseman with good contact skills and bat control. He got a pitch low and out of the zone for a well hit base hit. He took some close breaking balls, but chased with two strikes.

Adam Frazier of Mississippi State is a shortstop picked by the Pirates 179th overall. A small left-handed hitter, he chased some bad breaking balls. Seemed to struggle without the platoon advantage. He does have a good contact tool, but he is going to swing at just about everything and doesn't hit for power.

Kyle Crockett of Virginia is a left-handed pitcher taken by the Indians in the 4th round. His fastball sat at 88-92, touching 93 MPH when I saw him out of the bullpen and his release point is a little out, which seems to help his fastball get some movement, but is probably easy for righties to see. He has had back problems and there is a lot of swing to his delivery. Crockett has a off-speed pitch that he throws to both lefties and righties. He really likes it against righties and tends to hang it and it only gets up to 80-81 MPH.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Vanderbilt and Louisville Drafted Players Scouting Reports

Here are some notes on some of the drafted players from the Louisville and Vanderbilt Super Regional.

Spencer Navin (334th overall, Dodgers) is Vanderbilt's junior catcher. The arm looks good, but the blocking fundamentals weren't solid as he tried to just glove the ball. Good body, pop times of 2 flat,1.91, 1.93, good times. At the plate, he seemed to struggle with good fastballs, especially up high. Wasn't really impressed with anything he brought to the plate offensively, which I guess isn't surprising since he batted 8th.

Chad Green Louisville RHP (336th overall, Tigers). Lanky, could add some weight, but already has good velocity. He showed a 92-94 MPH fastball, with some downward plane and movement. He could really tie up right-handed hitters with it. His main breaking pitch was a 79-81 MPH Curve that he liked but couldn't really get down. He had really poor command of pitch. Green also tended to fall off the mound, which would pull the ball way off the plate glove side. His least frequent used pitch was a 83 MPH change moves arm side. It is a good pitch if he can command it.

Adam Engel CF (573 White Sox). He does not have a great swing plane or swing start, but the bat seems to be pretty quick, can hit the ball up the middle with authority. Does have good plate coverage, but is a little too agressive, doesn't have much power. He does have plus speed, should stick in center.

Jeffery (Jeff) Thompson RHP (94th overall, Tigers)
A really big guy at 6-7, he offers no projection but has really good size. His delivery is a really easy motion. He was down to 89-91 MPH as game went along but started at  92-94 touching 95 MPH with a little armside or downward movement. The fastball was not straight. The first breaking pitch was 83-84 MPH soft moving slider. He throws it glove side, and without the platoon advantage, and it also needs to be tighter and preferably harder. He did show a couple of ones with good vertical depth. He also got down to 80 MPH on what looked like a separte curve. It predictably has better vertical depth.

Ty Young 3rd base (218th overall, Rays). A really good looking defender. The range is clearly there and above average. Made some plays that many MLB 3rd baseman wouldn't make. I am not totally sure on the arm though. A lefty hitter, he comes out of the box a little bit but gets the bat through the zone very quick and can go up the middle.

Coco Johnson OF (332nd overall, Marlins). He looks athletic but does not really plus speed. Good size (finished growing out probably) but a little awkward in the field, not a plus fielder and stuck in a corner, though apparently has an arm (didn't see it, just heard about it). The swing isn't real powerful, but he can pull the ball, flat swing.

Cody Ege LHP (460th overall, Rangers). A reliever with really good numbers.
Has an out release point, somewhat sidearm. 88-89 MPH sweeps arm side.
74-77 MPH soft slider looking pitch. Lefty specialist

Oregon State Draft Prospects: Blue Jays, White Sox, Phillies and Astros

Oregon State had several players drafted in the 2013 MLB draft, and I was able to see 5 of them play on television against Kansas State in the Super Regionals.

Matt Boyd P Blue Jays (175 overall):

Boyd has always had nice numbers in college, but before 2013, the now senior was a reliever. The ESPN U scouting report said he threw a slider, changeup, curveball along with his fastball, but I didn't see the slider. I charted the pitches according to the ESPN U gun and he had an average fastball of 87.24 MPH, which is closest to Pedro Feliciano in the Pitch F/X era. He threw it 68 percent of the time. His curveball averaged 72.43 and his changeup averaged 74 MPH.

Boyd has a really high leg kick in which he straightens out his leg. It seems like he has a lot going on mechanically. He's got good size on the mound, listed at 6-3 and over 200 pounds. Boyd had a lot of problems missing glove side early on, pulling the ball.

His fastball doesn't look like quite like a sinker, but he keeps the fastball low for the most part. The curve doesn't have much vertical depth, and though he used it first, his change was more prevalent. He wasn't afraid to work fastball on hands of righties and was fastball heavy to begin the game, very traditional usage. He has the really soft college change, which won't work in Majors. I could only really tell the difference from it and the curve by vertical movement as it obviously had less. He would use change against lefties as well as righties.
He isn't a strikeout pitcher, but he got whiffs against lefties on fastball. He seems to be the kind of pitcher that likes working inside, throwing glove side to righties, and arm side to lefties. Relatively athletic in field, not bad, not great. There were a few pitches where he flat didn't finish his delivery. Slow pace, especially with runners on, lot of pickoff throws, move seemed decent. Overall, he got plenty of infield fly-balls.

I think maybe he has a future as a lefty specialist. The stuff won't cut it in a traditional relief role and he isn't a starter professionally in my opinion.

Daniel (or Danny) Hayes 1B White Sox (393 overall):

Despite his position, he batted towards the bottom of the order. Another senior, will probably be an easy and cheap sign to help them sign other draft picks. Doesn't look like a 1st baseman, a tall, but lanky, left-handed hitter. He's got a lot to his swing, as it looks quick, but he has to get it started soon to get all of the wiggle out of it. Because of this, up and in is a problem for him. He had to face a left-hander with a bit of an arm drop in his release point, which made it a little tough on him. He did see fastballs out of the zone well, didn't even flinch. On the other hand, he had problems with the breaking ball.

Defensively just saw routine plays other than a decent pick. Most likely organizational filler. Positional value is low to non existent, obvious holes in swing.

Scott Shultz P Marlins (502)

A somewhat funky delivery, as he has somewhat of a pause when his leg gets all the way up. He gets on top of the ball, can throw it low, fastball is a little straight. Short outing, just threw 4 fastballs that averaged 88.5 MPH, can get up to 94MPH according to reports. Tough to tell, depends on where his fastball velocity sits as a professional, was a successful college pitcher, mainly because he didn't walk hardly anyone.

Daniel Child P Phillies (541)

Another guy with good numbers because of a low walk rate and okay strikeout rate. Tall (listed at 6-5), but probably not going to add much more weight. Really aesthetically ugly mechanics .He brings a high leg kick and a body rock backwards with an arm action that almost looks like a shot put. With that said, he brought better velocity than the above pitchers, throwing 92-94 MPH on his fastball. He also threw one 79 MPH change (?) without real command. He's a fastball pitcher. Everything moves arm side for himand he threw the fastball low quite a bit.

There is MLB velocity there, I guess how you rate him depends on whether you think his mechanics will impede him from throwing strikes or not allow him to stay healthy. He didn't have a good outing and gave up some groundball hits, I don't think it means much as he has had good numbers for the past two seasons, serving mostly as a starter.

Jake Rodriguez C Astros (557)

Batted 8th, very mediocre numbers. Short at 5-9, Rodriguez is stout, without real growth potential. His receiving seemed good, and his arm looked strong, and he blocked well.

At the plate, he had a clear otherway swing, but seems to get it started quick with relatively good speed. He is not going to hit for much power it appears, but the bat control might be good enough to have him hit for a decent average. Predictably has little to no foot speed.

He was a little too aggressive, and does not have good plate discipline. Defense will carry him in the organization and he has the potential to be one of those guys that hang around organized baseball for a long time and could get a cup of coffee in the Majors.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

My Own Draft 2013

Just like last year, this year I am doing my own "draft". Basically, I can select any where spot in a round, with one player per round. Since there were two "competitive balance" rounds, I selected one player from those "rounds. The rules are simple, I get one per round, but can skip one to overdraft a player, and I have to have seen the player play, whether on TV or in person (video such as YouTube doesn't count). At the end of the regular season, I will update my "draft" by showing which ones signed and which ones did not, and update how they are doing statistically (along with updating how my 2012 draft is doing). I consider this my "team", so eventually, I'll be able to compare my players to other team's drafts.

Hopefully I don't have the rash of unsigned players like last year. I'll probably do two different posts to update my 2012 and 2013 drafts at the end of the year.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Scouting Oh Seung-hwan

According to recent rumors, MLB scouts have been watching 30 year old (turns 31 in July) Korean right-handed reliever Oh Seung-hwan. The Samsung Lions' closer has a career ERA of 1.64, 2.18 kwERA, and 2.20 FIP in the Korea Baseball Organization.

Samsung's park plays neutral (not my park factors) in the KBO, so we don't have to worry about that. According to my FIP WAA measure, he was worth 1.75 wins above an average pitcher in 2012, which was better than Scott Proctor (who has since retired after struggling in AAA in 2013) and Yoon Suk-Min, a starting pitcher who is represented by Scott Boras and rumored to be coming to the MLB some time soon. So statistically, he looks like the real deal comparatively, striking out 33 % of Korean hitters in his career.

Physically, he isn't real tall, but has a pretty broad frame, looking somewhat big, but not hefty or overweight. In fact, he is listed at just 5.84 feet (about 5'10) and just over 200 pounds. Despite this, he seems to get good plane on the ball, with some downward movement on some of his fastball. 

According to Naver, Oh features a 90-97 MPH fastball, with a slider he throws 80-89 MPH, and an occasional curve at 71-79 MPH. When high, the fastball is pretty straight (which seems to be his preferred location) and the general average I saw was about 93 MPH. It seems to me that he throws a separate fastball and sinker, and features one or the other depending on the outing (at least it seemed this way based on video). I am not real impressed with his slider movement wise, as it does get glove side, but doesn't break sharply. It bites more downwardly than sideways, and does a good job of changing eye levels at least. His curveball doesn't have great vertical depth, and is a little slow, but he gets it to move glove side.

The Naver scouting reports also say he throws an occasional two-seam fastball to lefties, which sounds like a cutter to me. I never saw one in the videos I watched of Oh. They question his ability to use a breaking ball other than a slider, which may lead to platoon splits in the MLB (so far this year in the KBO, he has struck out 11 lefties and walked 0, for whatever small sample size KBO splits are worth). Even though the scouting report doesn't mention it, I also saw him throw some arm-side changes at 86-87 MPH. It isn't a big part of his repertoire and he doesn't seem to have much control over it. 

His heat maps suggest that he likes to keep the ball arm side for the most part. Mechanically he is relatively simple (though he has a high leg kick), but perhaps jerks the ball a little bit too much with a violent over the top motion. While walks have never been a problem for Oh in his career, in videos I saw him struggle with command, it was because he was missing glove side by jerking the ball too much. His stride is somewhat normal, but the delivery is really quick (especially with runners on base, as he ditches the leg kick). His landing point isn't always consistent or smooth. At the time of release point, his back seems relatively upright, but is leaning to the left a bit.

The elbow (2010 and college) and shoulder (2009) injuries are going to rightfully scare some teams. Though, since he has been a reliever for the entirety of his KBO career (as far as I can see), it is doubtful that he has had to endure the high pitch counts that have become somewhat notorious in the East Asia. At 31 years of age at the time of signing, he will be on the "downslope" of his career, but he has a track record of professional dominance, a big league average to plus fastball, a useable breaking ball and mechanics that shouldn't bring up any major control problems. He looks like a big league reliever to me, one that can at least fit in a MLB bullpen and get a lot of right-handed hitters out.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Why Henry Rodriguez Has Failed In the Majors

Henry Rodriguez was designated for assignment by the Washington Nationals after posting a career 4.46 kwERA and 99 FIP - in 144.2 innings. The problem was most simply walks, as he wasn't hittable in terms of BABIP or homers, with both well below league average, but his strikeout rate wasn't overwhelming either (just less than 23%). Of course, Rodriguez started his career with the Athletics, but we will look at all his data.

Rodriguez has been one of the top velocity fastball pitchers in the entire Pitch F/X era, which makes his struggles so interesting. According to average velocity by the MLBAM tags, he has steadily lost velocity, and it seems that he has had a statistical decline to go with it. However, when you look at the velocity of his top 25% pitches by year, the decline is less dramatic.

2013: 99.28 MPH

2012: 99.26 MPH

2011: 99.43 MPH

2010: 100.37 MPH

2009: 100.03 MPH

So really he didn't lose top end velocity in any way that should really have changed anything. The average of all pitches thrown in the Majors was 94.57 MPH, let's see how his how his velocity and release point data breaks down with results for his career:

Whiffs: 93.56 MPH, 6.27 v,-1.14 h
Run Scoring Plays: 95.01, 6.27 v, -1.24 h
Outs: 96.12, 6.25 v ,-1.19 h
In Play, No Outs: 94.64 MPH, 6.28 v, -1.19 h

Not surprisingly, the closer to the center of the rubber he releases the ball, the better the result (though it didn't affect the results BABIP plays). The velocity is a little more complicated, as the hardest group is the one that is turned into outs, and the softest group is the whiffs. The ones in between were the hits and runs. Perhaps his fastest fastballs are turned into outs, while his slider and change are getting whiffs. Vertical movement didn't have a real difference.

The average vertical movement of his 4-seam fastball is 9.13, which is good movement, and even better than the average whiff on a plus fastball this season. Movement is clearly not the problem.

Here are his average locations by pitch type:

That is a good place to put a moving fastball, and the change and slider are in somewhat standard spots, though perhaps lower and less to the edge of the plate than usual, suggesting that he is burying them and not really throwing them for strikes often. His 4-seamer being glove side on average and not arm side is unusual. This means he clearly isn't having a problem finishing his delivery, but may be pulling the ball.

His average locations by result:

Other than his average pitch being glove side, this isn't that unusual (the outs being above the hits is, but BABIP could be an explanation). He is getting his whiffs down and glove side, suggesting his slider (which would explain the lower MPH on whiffs) is getting the job done. Throwing glove side doesn't seem to be his problem as most of his runs allowed are on arm side pitches, suggesting the 2-seamer or change isn't getting the job done.

Even though release point data suggests that he is releasing the ball at a higher point than when he first came up, he hasn't really changed pitching location by year, other than his 2011 season, probably not coincidentally his best season, is the lowest

Rodriguez' problems don't seem to be the traditional answers like "too many balls up" or that his fastball was "too straight". Instead, as his walk rates suggests, he may just not be throwing enough strikes.

He threw strikes just 58% of the time in 2012 and 58.9 % of the time for his career, which is Carlos Marmolian territory. With that said, he pitches in the zone 43.2 % of the time, which is better than notable relievers Huston Street, Scott Downs, along with notable starters Gio Gonzalez, Jeremy Hellickson, and Jarrod Parker. So the zone percentage is actually acceptable, but his strike percentage lags behind, suggesting he isn't getting swings and misses out of the zone to make up for the zone percentage. The other 11 pitchers that have his identical outside the zone swing percentage (according to Fangraphs, with at least 100 innings since Rodriguez' debut) have an average zone percentage of 45.63 %, suggesting that Rodriguez isn't living with the amount of pitches he throws in the zone because he isn't getting the swings at pitches out of the zone. This suggests that his stuff either a) his stuff (especially his breaking balls) isn't good enough to get hitters to chase or b) when he is out of the zone, he is so far out of the zone that hitters aren't tempted to chase. Both of these are hard to test, but the first one seems unlikely since he has a good swinging strike percentage.

The problem probably isn't that Rodriguez throws such a heavy dosage of fastballs, as there have been some successful closers with an even higher percentage of fastballs (such as Valverde, Perez, Balfour, Feliz, Chapman, and Walden). With his velocity, that shouldn't be a problem unless his release point is just easy to see, which anecdotally doesn't seem to be the case, though when he comes further out, he is less likely to succeed. According to Brooks Baseball his slider gets above average horizontal movement and below average vertical movement. His change gets slightly above average horizontal movement and slightly better vertical movement, yet it is his slider that seems to be the better pitch.

Perhaps when Rodriguez misses out of the zone, it is just too much out of the zone. While wild pitches can be a subjective stat, often just in the hands of the official scorer, Rodriguez throws a wild pitch .055 times per batter faced. League average in 2012 was .008, which means that Rodriguez, in his time in the Majors, has thrown nearly 31 more wild pitches than an average pitcher would. This matches up with what I (and probably most Nationals' fans) have seen when watching Rodriguez. He sometimes self destructs and can't get anything close to the zone, which I think explains, even with his stuff, why he can't get swings at pitches out of the zone, and therefore, can't get hitters out at an exceptional or even average rate in the Majors despite his exceptional velocity. I would always take chances on guys like this, and it might not be a bad idea for a team to claim him and see if they can pitch him in low leverage situations and tweak or overhaul his mechanics, because if he ever does get around the zone, he should be really good.