Monday, September 2, 2013

Oklahoma City Relievers: DeLeon, Stoffel, and LeBlanc

When I watched Oklahoma City live, the Astros' AAA team used three relievers, the following are my notes on their outings, along with GIFs and Pitch F/X data.

Jorge DeLeon has gotten in to two MLB games so far this year, but the 26 year old only started pitching in 2010, after washing out as a middle infielder. In 2012, he struggled in Lancaster, an extreme hitter friendly environment (though even his peripherals weren't that great). This year, he started in AA, but his strikeout rate still wasn't very high and he actually gave up more homers. The one positive was that he started limiting walks better. In 15 AAA innings, he did an even better job of limiting walks, hence the September call-up (not to mention that he has been on the 40 man for some time and the Astros need to see what they have). The first thing I noticed when I saw him live was that he was really slender looking (listed at 6-0 185, he certainly looks like a middle infielder).

 It is a pretty aggressive delivery, and this GIF shows one of his better landing points. At other times, he nearly fell off the mound. He pauses with his leg kick and brings his arm way back before coming over the top. It is pretty hard and violent, but at the same time, his arm seems to be in tune with his body coming forward.

DeLeon was the hardest thrower on either team in the game and it really wasn't close. Unfortunately, even though they were fastballs, the radar gun didn't pick up two of his first three pitches.

The slider has quite a bit of slide but the command was not good. According to MLBAM tags, he has averaged just over 95 MPH with his fastball, with a cutter, slider, and change all in the mid-80s.

Jason Stoffel was acquired by the Astros from the San Francisco Giants in the Jeff Keppinger trade in the middle of 2011. A 24 year old RHP at 6-2 225, he was originally a 4th round pick out of the University of Arizona. Other than a leg kick that keeps him back to begin with, the rest of the delivery seems pretty cookie cutter:

Stoffel dominated AA in 2012, but he was repeating the level after mixed results at the level for both the Giants and the Astros in 2011. So far in 2013, he is having a nice AAA season, mainly because he doesn't give up homers.

While Stoffel has never pitched in the Majors, he has pitched in the Arizona Fall League, so we have some Pitch F/X data on him (more pitches than DeLeon even). According to Brooks Baseball's tags, he has a 4-seamer, sinker, and slider, averaging about 93 MPH on the first two pitches and 83 MPH with the slider. Because of this, he showed himself to be mainly a low and arm side pitcher. He didn't get close to this fastball velocity when I saw him and was extremely slider heavy:
If that is all he has in the tank, then it is hard to see him as a MLB pitcher. If he can return to his stuff that he showed in Arizona, then he could be a bullpen piece.

Wade LeBlanc is a 29 year old veteran with 417 career MLB innings, with more starts than relief appearances. He pitched in the Padres organization from 2006-2011, but he has split 2013 between the Marlins, the Astros, and the Astros' AAA (he was recently removed from the Astros 40 man). He has also split time between the starting rotation and the bullpen. Overall, he has been a below average but above replacement pitcher, both in 2013 and his career as a whole. When I saw him in the Astros AAA, he was brought in out of the bullpen to face a couple of left-handed batters. However, for his career, Leblanc has been a reverse split pitcher, meaning he is better against lefties than righties. While his arm angle comes out, perhaps one reason for this is the deception built into his delivery:

In his short outing, he showed a mid-80s fastball, but mainly a lot of slow breaking balls.
Looking at some Pitch F/X data may help show us why he doesn't pitch against lefties as well as he does right-handed batters. Because this is where he spent most of the MLB 2013 season, I only looked at his data from his time with the Marlins in 2013.

By using Baseball Savant to find pitches released in his general release point area (5 feet 10 inches tall to 6 feet 7 inches tall, 1.5 feet to 2.5 feet horizontally, or over 98 % of LeBlanc's pitches), we see that LeBlanc has a pretty standard release point, with almost all of Cole Hamels, Jon Lester, CC Sabathia, Madison Bumgarner, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and David Price's pitches falling in this range. If we look at his average release point (6.24 tall, 2.04 feet to the side), Hamels, Scott Rice, and Rex Brothers are the closest comparisons. Those three pitchers are all better against lefties than righties, so release point has nothing to do with his reverse splits. The locations of his pitches might:

He keeps his moving fastball and change away from righties really well, which contributes to his success to that platoon (along with his ability to use a low cutter glove side). He keeps the 4-seamer away from lefties well, but the problem is what looks like a lack of breaking ball. He doesn't have a slider and while he locates the curve well, he doesn't throw it often (or at least hasn't in the Majors, it seemed that he used it frequently in the game I saw). This means that he doesn't have the pitch that sweeps away from lefties, something that breaks away for them to swing and miss.

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