Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wataru Karashima Scouting Report

Wataru Karashima is a 22 year old left-handed pitcher for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles. He doesn't turn 23 until October, and yet has thrown 121 innings for the Eagles not counting his first start of 2013 on Wednesday, where he went 5 innings, giving up 2 runs. After cups of coffee in 2009 and 2010 with the Ichi-gun team, Karashima established himself on the Eagles in 2012, when he threw 103.1 innings with a kwERA of 3.75, about 13 percent better than league average. However, he hurt his throwing elbow before the 2013 season started, delaying his Ichi-gun season debut by about four months. He proved that he was healthy in the Ni-gun with a 1.57 ERA in 23 innings before being called up, with a 3.06 kwERA.

Clearly not an imposing figure on the mound, he is listed at just 5-8 and 159 pounds. He has an old style delivery, with a high leg kick and a dramatic pause while still in the air in an effort to gain deception and upset hitters' timing. After the pause, it looks like everything else in his delivery is really fast. This may just be perspective, which you could say is the point. A dramatic pause like that speeds everything else up. Here is what his leg kick looks like from close to a plate perspective (this is from last year)

As the size might suggest, he is clearly not overpowering with the fastball, and he was not throwing very hard. Unfortunately, Yahoo did not track the velocity of his pitches very well during the game, so the following velocities come from the pitches Yahoo did track, along with the broadcast readings from the game itself.

The fastball was anywhere from 77-87 MPH, and he really liked to throw inside on lefties, not letting them get their arms extended. Against righties, he kept the ball away, so he really seemed to be an arm side fastball pitcher. He used it like a back door cutter (with what I thought was cut like movement) though Yahoo never used the cutter tag.

Karashima got down to 58 MPH on his curveball and got it to break both ways. He would get it up to 64-67 MPH, still very slow. His slider was between 68-78 MPH. He got really nice late, but non-traditional, break. It broke glove side and he located it glove side, but the movement really looked odd.

His changeup  was about 69-74 MPH. He rarely threw it, but would throw it to fellow lefties, just like he would throw the slider to fellow righties. It wasn't a pitch he commanded very well, but he missed down, not leaving it up. He threw a couple of good ones arm side to righties, between it and the cutter, he has the pitches to get them out, so I don't think platoon splits in Japan, especially because he can make up for his fastball by being deceptive and keeping it away, should be a problem.

He also threw a moving fastball at 79 MPH, but I just saw one of these tags.

He clearly built up velocity as the game went along. For example, by the 4th he was sitting 85-86 MPH on his fastball. It is still technically early in the season for him, so I would be surprised to see him throw a little harder, or at least have the harder velocity more consistently as the year goes along. Unfortunately his outing was cut short by rain.

He was athletic on the mound, moving well and playing good defense. As long as he has the timing of his long leg kick down (not necessarily a guarantee of course), I don't think there is anything in his mechanics to worry about. I think Karashima can be successful in Japan (which is easier to say since he has already been successful) consistently if he stays healthy, even with below average NPB velocity. He has pitches that work, command, and deception. However, because of the obvious traits of his fastball velocity and size, I don't think he is a MLB prospect at anytime, which works for Rakuten, as they need their young arms to continue to progress to fill the massive void that will be left when Masahiro Tanaka leaves for the MLB.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Kim Kwang-Hyun Scouting Report

Kim Kwang-hyun is a left-handed Korea Baseball Organization pitcher who turned 25 last month. Once considered one of the top prospects in the KBO, the SK Wyverns pitcher, listed at 6-1 and 183 pounds, has a 1.3 ERA RAA and 5.4 FIP RAA on the season. Prorated over a full season (133 games), this is about a 9.2 FIP RAA, nearly a win over an average KBO pitcher, not exactly dominant, but pretty good.

His best year was in 2010 when he had a FIP WAA of about .6 in over 190 innings (by ERA his 2008-2010 stretch was more impressive, worth about 70 runs above average over those three seasons while current Dodgers' left-hander Ryu Hyun-Jin was worth about 55 runs above average over the period). The next two years he struggled, pitching at a well below average rate and not getting close to a hundred innings either season. He actually suffered a stroke, before having some arm problems. He has already pitched more innings in 2013 than he did in either 2011 or 2012. 

Before looking at his pitches, it may be helpful to look at his delivery from his last start through screenshots.

Here is the giant leg kick Kim uses to begin his delivery:

His glove gets tucked behind his thigh to give him some deception. But it also is an action that could be difficult to repeat, especially if he had any kind of hip or leg injury.

After the leg kick, Kim's leg still moves out as he comes forward and lowers his body angle, going from the straight up set to bending his knee as he comes forward, leading with his glove:

Here is what his release point looks like from behind, a relatively low one, without great posture, with the head somewhat tilted:

Here is what his stride looks like from the side, as he tucks his glove in and stretches pretty far:

Kim's arm angle from the side:

That is mostly an over the top motion that doesn't play that high thanks to a lowered release point. This may hurt his ability to get horizontal movement on the ball, but it also shouldn't be easy for right-handers to see.

When I saw him, he often overthrew, causing an inconsistent landing point, and with it, inconsistent command. I assumed that the Naver scouting report velocities were out of date, so I just used it to help with classifications, but took the broadcast velocities from his last start.

4-seam fastball: 87-92 MPH, Kim can bury it and it has some movement. He would go into righties with it as well, not throwing just away with it. It got down to 83-86 MPH as the game wore on into the middle innings. He lost his velocity very quickly, but at least so far this year, he has been better as the game went along. Kim did get back up to 87-88 MPH with an occasional 89-91 MPH in the 6th. It seemed that he just turned it down for a little while and ramped it back up. His changeup also moved like his fastballs did, so it was easy to confuse the two at times, especially when he lost velocity.

2-seam fastball/sinker: 86-89 MPH that still was inside to righties, not like a usual 2-seamer that stays arm side. He would occasionally throw it away from lefties. The movement showed the difference between his 4-seamer and this pitch.

Slider: 80-84 MPH, not much sweeping action, thought it has horizontal movement. It is not the baby slider you see a lot in the Far East, and not really a natural slider either. To fellow lefties, he did get it down occasionally. Clearly not a plus pitch, and he would try to throw it in to righties as well.

Fork: 74-81 MPH, more of a change, with not a lot of movement. It honestly moved a lot like the slider, but was just thrown a little slower. The pitches are somewhat hard to distinguish except by velocity, and at times, platoon.

Curve: 66-70 MPH didn't always command it, no real feel for it. He rarely used it, and there is no reason for him to use it more.

Overall, he was a low ball pitcher in the full outing I watched, and threw more glove side than arm side in the game I saw. Despite this approach and lack of a consistent fork/change, he has actually been a reverse split pitcher so far in 2013, at least by batting average. His K/BB and homers (3 to righties one to lefties) probably suggests this isn't real.

To me, Kim didn't show a plus pitch except when he was able to get the fastball up to 92 MPH with movement. As a starter, it is pretty clear that he can't do that consistently. In the KBO, he will obviously stay as a starter, and should, if he is healthy, keep throwing at about an average to slightly above average rate. However, for him to have a future in the Majors, he would have to convert to a reliever (and prove that he is healthy long term considering his long health history). He may not want to, so my bet is that he will just stay in Korea and give the Wyverns a nice domestic option in the rotation.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Free Agent Fantasy Team Update: Grilli and Slowey to the DL

Another injury riddled and roster moved filled two weeks for the Free Agent Fantasy Team:

Grilli, Slowey and Bogusevic all went to the DL and were placed on the Inactive team. Luis Cruz also went to the DL, but I just released him because I didn't want to use a minor league roster spot to keep him around.

Thomas Neal was brought up to big league team, but then went back down. I obviously updated his stats, but he stays on inactive team. Loney did go on paternity leave, but came back, so no roster move.

Melky Cabrera was activated off the DL and went to big league team. I also signed Humberto Quintero, who signed a big league contract with the Mariners, to get my big league roster up to 21. Since we are about 104 games into the season, he will make $171,852. I released Bobby Wilson from my minor league team to make room, as he wasn't hitting in AAA and I have plenty of catching depth now, with 3 on the big league team and Kelly Shoppach still on the minor league team. I also released Clay Rapada to put my inactive team back at 15.

Assuming 104 games played:

16.1 fWAR, 46.7 wins, 57.3 losses

16.2 rWAR, 46.8 wins, 57.2 losses

13 WARP, 46.3 wins, 57.7 losses

-2.9 WAA, 49.1 wins, 54.9 losses

The three replacement level metrics are the  closest they have been all year, unifying as the wheels have absolutely fallen off of my team. 

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Jo Ji-Hoon Scouting Report

Jo Ji-Hoon is a 19 year old right-handed pitcher for the Hanwha Eagles, not turning 20 until April of 2014. The Eagles brought him up earlier in the season and had him throwing out of the bullpen before giving him his first start in the past week.

Jo is listed at just over 6 feet tall, and 200 pounds, though he didn't seem to be  heavy to me. Either way, he is unlikely to add weight, so adding velocity seems unlikely, though it is always tricky to tell.

I saw him work out of then pen, getting up to 89 MPH, which even for the KBO, is below average top end velocity. With that said, he had really good numbers in the KBO minor leagues, and at 19, even for a really bad team, to get a start (not to mention his success in the bullpen before the start) shows that he seems to have some advanced feel for pitching.

Mechanically, he swings his arm pretty far back, but he comes forward in a pretty traditional manner. He doesn't provide the deception that many of the pitchers in the KBO might have, but they don't look as hard to repeat, other than quite a long stride, as many pitchers' mechanics. 

Ji-Hoon proved to be difficult to classify. He topped out at 143 KMH, which is about 89 MPH, throwing one pitch that hard. The slowest pitch he threw was a curveball around 73 MPH, not having the traditionally slow curve.

The easiest way to break down his pitches is by three simple classifications, fastball, curveball, and changeup. The biggest challenge was differing from the fastball and changeup which was tough. There were some pitches in the 80-83 MPH range that didn't really drop like you would expect a changeup. I tried my best, just by watching the pitches. This way of classifying him has his fastball averaging about 85.9 MPH, between 82-89 MPH (133-143 KMH), thrown 59 % of the time.

The changeup averaged about 79.6 MPH, 75-84 MPH (121-135 KMH), thrown 19 % of the time. The curve averaged 79.4 MPH, 73-78 MPH (117-126 KMH), thrown 22 % of the time.

However, this is an overly simplistic way of looking at how Jo threw the ball, as it doesn't appreciate the different things he was doing with his pitches. I think you can identify seven different pitches Ji-Hoon was throwing if you break his fastballs into three parts. He was throwing the straight 4-seam fastball, but he also threw a lot of sinkers, with pretty good locations at the bottom of the zone and some movement. You could also explain his slower fastballs by looking by calling it a 2-seamer, as some of them tailed inside to righties. It wasn't a good pitch, but it might help explain what was going on rather than just really inconsistent velocity (which could be true since he is again, just 19).

Some of his harder curves did look like sliders, so you could break that pitch in two if you needed to. The traditional curveball had really nice break to it (I thought it was his best pitch) and he could throw it for strikes, while the pitches that looked like sliders to me didn't sweep or go horizontal much, but they had a different vertical break, a lot like the slider that you see a lot of Korean and Japanese pitchers throw.

He also seemed to alternate from a traditional changeup and a forkball, this based just by observation on movement. The change breaks more arm side and is less sudden, while the forkball spikes in the dirt. He seemed to have both.

Anecdotally, he seemed to work fastball heavy early and then went really breaking ball/off-speed heavy later in the game. Here is a graph of his pitch velocities (by KMH instead of MPH) sorted by pitch count, the first pitch being the far left, and the last pitch being the far right (I manually logged the velocities based on the broadcast, so there are a few missing that weren't shown for whatever reason):

I think, because of the velocity, Jo's ceiling is quite limited. He is not going to be a guy that MLB teams will be scouting a lot, and I don't see him emerging as an elite pitcher in the KBO. However, his advanced command for his age, along with his selection of pitches, should allow him to have some success now, and be at least a stabilizer in the Eagles rotation, who need a lot of guys who can get outs, and he is young, so barring some kind of injury or unforeseen regression, he should be around for quite a long time.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Notes on Three NC Dinos Relievers

The NC Dinos are the newest team in the Korea Baseball Organization, so they predictably have a lot of unknown players. Naver has scouting reports on most of the players in the KBO, but usually they don't have reports on the newest players. In this post, I wanted to look at three relatively young NC Dinos relievers that don't have Naver scouting reports.

Lee Sung-Min is a 23 years old right-handed pitcher (all three are right-handed) that has a -6 FIP RAA and -11 ERA RAA so far this season. He has an
extreme sling motion in his delivery, making it seem like his arm and body is on some kind of spring. He pauses at his highest point, making balance extremely important. He has a very high leg kick and a knee movement while up in the air, so seems like he has a lot of deception to his delivery. The delivery is less dramatic with runners on base, but it doesn't turn into a normal delivery or anything. He is probably easy to run on, and I would think that delivery repetition would be a problem.

Lee throws about 89 MPH, down to 87 on the fastball, with pretty good movement on it, and it goes everywhere. The only other pitch I saw him throw in a one inning look was an 81 MPH changeup without great movement.

Im Chang-Min is 27, about to turn 28, with a -1 FIP RAA and 2 ERA RAA this season so far. He is a lanky RHP with a delivery that has a little bit of deception with a high straight leg kick before coming forward and breaking his hands. He doesn't really get on top of the ball at all because he doesn't get low at the time of delivery, so just guessing without release point data, he probably has a high release point.

Im features a 87-88 MPH fastball, along with a 82-84 MPH change. The latter stays arm side but with a pretty low amount of movement. He threw two real quality changes to get bad swings in the inning I saw him work. His breaking ball was 79-81 MPH. It seems to be a little hard for a curve compared to his fastball, but it breaks like one. He had problems getting it down.

Yoon Kang-Min is a 22 years old RHP, that doesn't turns 23 until after the season ends. He has only pitched in one outing in the KBO (the one I saw), and in the Futures (the minors) he's really struggled.

Yoon has a somewhat low and out release point, though not a real sidearm delivery.  He just gets really low by the time he lets go of the ball. He flew open and didn't finish delivery sometimes. The ball was staying too far up, even for 4-seam fastball. His fastball was 88-92 MPH, and Yoon was very fastball heavy. He could sink it occasionally, but very rarely. His second pitch was an 85-86 MPH slider that went glove side and low, but didn't really break, at least not consistently. It was used very rarely. He also showed off a 78 MPH change that he threw armside to a righty. It had good movement, but the usage and command were both low.

Yoon really needs a lot of work on mechanics and developing a real breaking ball. Obviously he shouldn't be with the big club right now.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Why Pitchers Struggle in the First Inning

It is no secret that starting pitchers struggle in the first inning compared to the later innings of the ballgame. So far in 2013, starting pitchers have a 4.31 ERA in the first inning, with an opposing OPS of .742. In the second inning, the OPS drops to .720, with an ERA of 3.74. Part of this probably has something to do with quality of hitter, though so far this year spots 4-6 in the order have an OPS of .752, while 1-3 in the order has an OPS of .750.

So I looked at the all pitches thrown in the 1st inning of 2013, along with all the pitches thrown in the 2nd inning of 2013. I took out all the unknown pitch types. I also ignored things like pitchouts, intentional walks, and the FA tag (though these last three things weren't removed until after, so they still played in the percentages). I sorted the pitches by MLBAM pitch type and looked at their average locations and velocities, comparing all the pitches thrown in the two innings to see if there was a discernible difference.

Here is the first inning graph, showing where each individual pitch was located on average, regardless of platoon and handedness:

By contrast, the second inning:

The average vertical release point is the same in total from inning one to inning two, so there doesn't appear to be anything obvious going on with pitchers' deliveries, or at least how they end.

From the first inning to the second inning, there is a drop in four seam fastball usage of nearly four percent, and there is an increase in slider usage of two percent. Moving fastball usage drops about a percent, while sinker usage stays about the same and cutter usage is the same. Changeups see an increased usage of about a percent, while curveballs saw an increase of over a percent.

As far as average location difference goes, the 4-seam fastball is located better in the 2nd inning, as it is closer to the center of the strike zone slightly (meaning it is thrown to both sides of the plate more on average), and slightly higher. It isn't a dramatic change, but with the large sample size, any small change is pretty significant. The cutter is located a little lower on average, while the slider is about the same, and the curve is actually thrown a little higher on average. The moving fastball is similar to the 4-seamer, in that it is located closer to the center of the plate on average and a little higher.

Dickey, the only one to throw knuckleballs in the first two innings of a ballgame this season, improved from the first to the second just like league average. The knuckle is actually a tick softer in the 2nd inning, and he locates it more arm side on average (though it is slightly higher).

Hector Santiago is the only one that throws a screwball, and he locates it, on average in the first two innings, outside of the strike zone, and that is why it doesn't show up in the graphs. He is actually a lot better than in the first inning than the second inning. In the second inning, his screwball is actually lower on average and closer to the strike zone.

To me, it seems that the biggest difference is fastball usage and fastball location. The fastball is the pitch most pitchers throw the most, but it usually isn't as effective as off-speed pitches. For example, curveballs this year have a 10.8 % swinging strike rate, and changeups have a 14.8 % swinging strike rate, both of these rates much higher than fastballs, so it would make sense that pitchers would have more success by throwing the fastball a little less and more breaking balls if they can locate them (of course, fastball velocity is still very important, and there is a point of no return, but there is no correlation between fastball usage and overall success, as qualified pitchers have a -.097 between fastball percentage and FIP -).

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Velocity in the NPB All Star Games

The NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, the main baseball league in Japan) plays three all-star games, which, if nothing else, gives an extended look at some of the best players the league has to offer. Instead of scouting notes, I looked at the pitch data provided on Yahoo in order to get a look at how hard some of the pitchers throw in a relief role, along with a glimpse at the opposing hitters' bat speed.

I looked at all pitches registered at 147 KM/H, which is roughly 91 MPH, or higher in the three all-star games, about 179 pitches tracked. I labelled the pitches by which pitcher threw it, which hitter saw it, the result, and the Yahoo classification of the pitch.

Out of the pitchers that had at least one pitch 91 MPH/147 KM/H, here are their max velocity in their outing:

You can see why there is so much hype around Otani, as he threw the hardest pitch (over 97 MPH) in the All-Star game, and it wasn't all that close. Masahiro Tanaka of the Golden Eagles, who will probably be posted this off-season and come to the United States, had the second hardest max velocity. Kodai Senga had the most pitches 91 MPH or higher, with 27, but Otani had the 6 hardest pitches thrown in the three games.

Virtually all of the pitches were 4-seam fastballs, while Tanaka threw one pitch classified as a cutter at about 92 MPH. Tanaka also threw two pitches classified as 2-seamers at about 93 MPH, and Hirokazu Sawamura threw two 2-seamers as well at about the 91 MPH cutoff mark (one at 147 KM/H, and the other at 148 KM/H).

As far as results go, 73.2 % of the pitches were strikes, which is a really high number. However, 20.7 % of the 179 pitches were swinging strikes. 43 of the pitches (24% of pitches) were put into play, with a 15/20 groundout/flyout ratio. As far as individual hitters go, Takashi Toritani, Sho Nakata, Norihiro Nakamura, and Nobuhiro Matsuda all had three whiffs. Matsuda did have a triple, while Otani (as a hitter) and Yuya Hasegawa had doubles (Otani's coming off a 93 MPH fastball). Tsuyoshi Nishioka, the former Twin, was the unluckiest hitter in the all-star games, with 15 pitches seen 147 KM/H or above. He didn't whiff at a single one, and had a hit, along with two flyballs and a grounder. Considering his success with the above average velocity pitches, and his failure in the Majors, I think struggles with velocity is significant, especially when it comes to bat speed. This is why Yoshio Itoi's two whiffs out of six pitches seen can be problematic, especially since Andruw Jones had the same ratio, with clearly declined bat speed.

Shinnosuke Abe saw just three good velocity pitches, and put two of them in play, while the other one was a ball. Hisayoshi Chono had the same ratio, except both of them were flyballs. Matt Murton saw 9, didn't put any in play, but fouled 7 of them off. Otani saw 7 as a batter, with a whiff, but two balls in play, with three fouls.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Notes from the KBO All-Star Game

The Korea Baseball Organization's All-star game was last week, so I thought it was a good way to get a look at some of the better players in the league, and took some short scouting notes on many of the players in the game.

These aren't notes on everyone that played in the game, but a good number of them. I tried not to focus too much on "foreign" pitchers as they are somewhat known commodities. The broadcast strangely didn't have pitch velocities so I gathered them from Naver's scouting reports. They don't have reports on everyone though, so if there are no velocities are in parenthesis, then there is no available data. Naver also uses large MPH ranges, which should be kept in mind. I also inserted the players' WAA according to my formula next to the player, but I used runs  instead of wins to avoid a lot of decimal points in the post (I also rounded to full numbers), and for position players I only looked at offense. For pitchers, I just used the ERA RAA.

Radhames Liz (9 RAA) of the LG Twins is a foreign pitcher that I think can find a home in a MLB bullpen with his fastball, threw a lot of breaking balls (79-88 on slider, 74-81 on curve) despite his elite fastball (88 MPH to 100 MPH). He didn't get them down real well, and gave up quite a bit of fly-balls.

Right-handed pitcher from Lotte Giants Song Seung-jun (-6 RAA) is somewhat 
short and stocky, listed at about 6 feet 235 pounds. His curve (69 MPH to 79 MPH)
had some serious command problems and there was not a lot of life on his
 fastballs (81 MPH to 92 MPH). It does tail arm side, and he tries to use the back
 door corner against lefties and would also throw the slider (75 MPH to 84 MPH)
 in to lefties. The curve was more to right-handers, and he would elevate more of a
 4-seam fastball to righties, though he would still throw the more 2-seam fastball 
(81 MPH to 90 MPH) to righties as well.

Jung Sung-hoon, the LG Twins (9 RAA) 3rd baseman, seemed solid defensively. He
showed some good athleticism, could block balls in front of him, and could go get 
balls, though he botched a really easy play. He had a really strong arm.

Lee Jin-young LG Twins (10 RAA), is lanky and thin. He's got a lot to his swing,

swings really hard, and was fooled badly on a breaking ball. Lee does stay back
on high pitches well and can drive them up the middle. 

Lee Byung-kyu, also of the LG Twins (16 RAA), has an upright stance, good bat 
speed, and a pretty short stroke, causing him to handle up and in pitches well.
The plate discipline seems to be lacking but he's got good contact skills.

Kim Yong-yi, of the LG Twins (-1 RAA), is pretty thin, but he can pull the ball with 

power, especially on balls up. He holds bat high, with not an extremely quick
swing, so it seems that you can bust him in.

Son Joo-in (-2 RAA) is thicker than a lot of his LG Twins teammates, but he has a

mostly other way stoke. 

I liked Jeon Jun-woo (4 RAA) of the Lotte Giants, especially his bat control.
He showed some raw power to the pull side, with good size, and a little bit of 
speed as well. 

Lee Seung-yeop (-1 RAA) of the Samsung Lions appears to be a low ball hitter,

keeping the bat well away from body. He swings a lot, showing pretty good bat 
control and contact, but his plate discipline is lacking, and you can get him to 
ground out on breaking balls.

Kim Hyun-soo (12 RAA) of the Doosan Bears is a massive left-handed hitter. The

 bat isn't fast, but he will change his swing to where the ball is pitched. This seems 
to hurt him as he will swing at pitches he shouldn't. I thought Kim moved okay for
 size, especially out in right field where he played defensively.

Kim Dae-woo (3 RAA) is a good sized Lotte Giants left-handed hitter. I am not in 

love with the swing, more of a contact pull swing, really robbing him of power. 
Kim does run pretty well. 

Shin Bon-ki (-6 RAA) of the Lotte Giants has a good contact tool, and pulled a low
pitch well. Unfortunately, he clearly has no speed.

Kim Tae-goon (-5 RAA) is the NC Dinos catcher. Sort of a bad body type player, 
and his swing wasn't great either.

Park Byung-ho (29 RAA) of Nexen has size and raw power that you have to like,

but his swing angle may cut into his ability to hit the ball in the air with authority
on a consistent basis against better competition.

Lee Jae-hak (5 RAA) of the NC Dinos is a young right-handed pitcher who throws 

a lot of 2-seamers away. There is a lot of pause and movement in his mechanics 
and in the game, his control was really off. Lee slings his arm at end of his 
delivery and creates a somewhat low arm angle along with a strange body position.
The slingshot action gives him good movement, but the ability to repeat and 
command has to be a question. He was really just throwing the same pitch over
 and over again, but the movement and location made it a little hard to tell where 
it was going. It is most likely a contact pitch and not a whiff pitch, so high is not a
 good location for it. Lee can occasionally take a little off for what looks like some
 kind of changeup, though he would throw it with the platoon advantage.

Kang Yoon-gu (3 RAA) is a Nexen Heros LHP that moves his fastball (86-94) all 

around and out of the zone. It seemed to me that there were two different fastballs,
 as he could move a 2-seamer low in the zone (Naver does not list a two seamer).
 His changeup (75-85) fooled Lotte's Kang Min-ho (-1 RAA), but he never really got 
it low. If he fooled anyone with it, it was just because of speed differential, not 
movement or location. The curveball (64-77) also looked mediocre in both 
movement and velocity.

Kim Sung-bae (4 RAA) is a Lotte Giants RHP with a low arm slot, basically a side 

arm guy. He has a straight down type slider (75-81), though it looks like he is just 
taking some velocity off the fastball and the ball dips a little bit lower. It could be a
 changeup, though he throws it with the platoon advantage. Against lefties, he 
threw arm side off-speed pitches and fastballs (78-89) low and in.

Hong Sang-sam (7 RAA) is a 23 year old Doosan RHP with quite a bit of deception.
It starts with a little bit of a hip turn to the plate, with a slow delivery that must 
drive hitters bananas. His body looks like it is going to come forward, but he stops
it almost mid motion to get his legs going forward before he delivers the ball at a
pretty high 3/4ths angle. He really liked his curveball (68-79), which appeared to be
a really nice pitch with some really good vertical drop. He gets on top of the fastball
86-93), giving it some downward plane, but for the most part, the pitch did not look 
impressive. The changeup (Naver calls it a fork instead of a change, 78-86) is
clearly a work in progress, as it also has vertical movement, and he will throw it to
lefties, but he was having some problems getting it down. 

Kim Hyuk-min (-20 RAA), the Hanwha Eagles RHP, is sort of thin, though too old to 

really expect to add weight. He uses a high leg kick and a mid glove set in his 
delivery to create a little deception. The fastball (87-95) might have a little tail on it
and he seems to get on top of it reasonably well. The breaking ball (slider, 76-87) 
was rare and had real command issues.

Oh Hyun-taek (8 RAA) is a Doosan sidearmer RHP with a classic slurvy breaking

 ball that he used heavily. Hiding the ball with a little bit of a leg kick in his delivery,
 he uses a two seam fastball on the outside part of the plate when he has to face 

Song Chang-sik (-1 RAA) is a hefty RHP for Hanwha that showed off a really 

good split/fork, and also seemed to have a separate change that was less 
impressive. His pitching philosophy seemed to be soft, soft, and softer. I thought 
this pitch selection might make him a reverse split pitcher, and so far this year,
lefties have a much higher average against him, but he has a better K/BB against
lefties as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Anthony Ranaudo Pitch F/X Data

In the final look at the Pitch F/X data from the Futures game, I wanted to look at the pitcher who threw the most pitches, the Red Sox' Anthony Ranaudo. Before saying anything else, we should note that he threw the most pitches in the game because he struggled. 

Ranaudo's average release point was the highest release point in the Futures Game thanks to his height. Here are where his points looked like in graph form

 As far as comparisons go, because he is so tall, it is hard to find one when it comes to release point, but Joba Chamberlain is somewhat close, as is Jeremy Hefner and Bronson Arroyo.

On average, Ranaudo threw the ball lower than most of the pitchers in the Futures game, especially when it comes to the fastball. Here are where all of his pitches were located.

Perhaps bizarrely, Ranaudo's home run allowed came on one of the low glove side fastballs and not one of the changeups that he threw high above the zone.

For a cleaner look, here are the average locations, along with velocities, of all his pitches:

 The fastball is slightly above average for a pitcher coming out of the bullpen, but the main thing the graph shows is the absolute wildness of his changeup. He couldn't even get close to finishing that pitch.
I usually don't do this, because often it is misleading, but there is a reasonably dramatic difference in how he was releasing his changeup and fastball:

Was this why he couldn't get the pitch to the strike zone? Maybe it plays a part, though I would expect that arm speed and the confidence to still throw the pitch hard plays a role as well. 

Here are Ranaudo's locations classified by results (balls aren't included obviously):

He gave up a lot of contact overall, and only got one swinging strike. It wasn't a very good outing for him at all. His minor league numbers are really good, so either he just had a really bad day trying to throw out of the bullpen, or perhaps he is getting away with mistakes, especially with the changeup, at the minor league level.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Miguel Sano's Pitch F/X Data

Miguel Sano is well known as the power hitting 3rd baseman in the Twins organization, and was one of the team's Futures Game representatives. He was the hitter that saw the most pitches (22) in the game according to Pitch F/X (he was 0-2, with a walk and a HBP), and because of that, I wanted to take a look at his data during the game, to see what he pitches he saw, and how he reacted to them.

Compared to other Futures Game hitters, Sano was pitched really low on average, but swung at pitches that were higher and more inside (he is a right-handed hitter) on average, and had one of the biggest differences between average pitch seen and average pitch swung at, as far as location, in the Futures Game. Sano also only saw pitches against right-handed pitchers, meaning he never had the platoon advantage during the game, as the following graph shows:

He saw some pretty distinct release points, including a couple of pitches delivered basically behind him. Not surprisingly, his two contact plays came on balls delivered closer to the center of the rubber.

The following graph contains the pitches Miguel Sano swung at. As you will notice, the entire graph is the strike zone, as Sano was not one of the players that swung at a pitch outside of the traditional strike zone in the game.

All fastballs, and all in the zone. Here are the results and the velocities of those pitches.

He managed to foul off a fastball close to a 100 MPH, and both of the balls he put in play were over 95 MPH, so even with the whiff, the bat speed looks like it is there. 

Here were all the fastballs Sano saw in the game by location, labelled with result:

 Due to the nature of the Futures Game, Sano didn't see any pitches labelled as changeups, and saw just 4 breaking balls (not swinging at any of them):

We didn't see Sano's power in the Futures Game, but there is nothing that tells us that the power isn't legitimate. Small sample sizes obviously apply, but we saw a glimpse of good bat speed and good plate discipline in the Futures Game from Sano.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Evaluating Futures Game Hitters

Continuing the look at the Futures Game from a Pitch F/X perspective, in this post, I'll look at the pitches that the hitters in the game saw and swung at, just to get an idea of general plate discipline. Then, I'll compare how the hitters reacted to pitches versus how the MLB All Stars reacted in their game.

Here are where the hitters in the Futures Game were pitched on average, by hitter

Obviously small sample size rules the day, but C.J Cron, Miguel Sano, and Billy Hamilton were all pitched very low on average. George Springer and A.J. Jimenez were pitched very high on average. Still, we see the two, maybe three, general clusters of where most hitters were pitched.

How hitters react to where they are pitched seems to be more important (especially since I doubt the Futures Game pitchers were given real in depth scouting reports on where to pitch to these guys. I imagine that they just pitched to their strengths, though I could be wrong) than just where they are pitched. So, here are where the individuals swung at pitches on average

This graph actually has more uniformity than the first graph. I wanted to see which hitters had the the biggest difference between the pitches they saw, and the pitches they swung at, so here is a graph showing the horizontal (should be the blue) and the vertical difference (should be the red) between the average location of their swings versus the average location of all the pitches they saw:

 Maikel Franco had very little of a difference in which pitch he swung at versus which pitches he saw on average, while Garin Cecchini had no difference between where he was pitched on average and which pitch he swung at. James McCann, who had problems chasing pitches well outside the strike zone, also had little difference. Brandon Nimmo had perhaps the biggest diffference, at least horizontally, while A.J. Jimenez seemed to be the most discriminate vertically.

Broken down by platoon, here are the average pitch that was swung at, versus the average pitch that was a called strike (entire graph is strike zone)

Perhaps just because there were very few left-handed hitter called strikes, we see the biggest difference. Right-handers, on average, waited for the ball to get slightly more inside and higher before swinging. The average called strike was not on the outside part of the plate, which was surprising.

Compare this to the MLB All-Star Game, where the called strike tendencies make more sense:

 The swing tendencies also make sense, as hitters on both sides waited for the ball to get more in, with right-handers making it get significantly higher on average before swinging.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Control and Delivery Repitition in the Futures Game

Continuing our look at the Pitch F/X data from the Futures Game, I wanted to get a further look at the pitchers' command. By my count, about 55.6 % of pitches in the Futures Game were thrown in the traditional strike zone, while in the MLB All Star game, 51.4 % of pitches were thrown in the strike zone. So, if I am counting right, there were more pitches in the strike zone (and a lot more) in the Futures game than in the MLB All Star Game, which is somewhat surprising. What it exactly means probably isn't worth speculating about, but it is notable when talking about the command of the Futures Game's pitchers.

I wanted to look at some of the worst commanded pitches in the game, and see which pitchers' names keep popping up. Here are the worst pitches in the game, by height (both lowest and highest) and by horizontal location (left to right):

Ynoa had two of the worst pitches, a fastball that he clearly didn't finish his delivery on, and then a curve he spiked. 

The following are the worst pitches (defined by the furthest out of the strike zone) broken down by pitch type, starting with fastballs

Ynoa's fastball shows up obviously, but we also get a very high pitch from Walker, and another pitch from Andre Rienzo.


Some different names on this list, though I guess it shouldn't be surprising Romero appears considering his gets so much movement. 


 Some more familiar names.


Carlos Contreras shows up again, Archie Bradley makes his only appearance.

To get a further look at possible command, I wanted to look at how well the pitchers' repeated their deliveries by release points. I also put their walk rates from their career in the minor leagues for reference. Sorted by horizontal difference per pitch:

Almonte's appearance at the top is no surprise, considering what may be a Pitch F/X error (at least that is the assumption I have been operating under). 

Neither horizontal or vertical standard deviation when it comes to release points in the Futures Game correlate very well to the minor league walk rates, with horizontal standard deviation correlating a little better (-.1 to -.16). It probably doesn't help that there is a pitch number bias (the more pitches you throw, the more likely the standard deviation will be higher), which is probably why Riefenhauser rated so well.