Collin Mchugh Newsbeat
Saturday, August 30, 2014
Pitchers, by and large, are working lower. The called strike zone has followed them... Hitters are… swinging at more pitches in the lower third… Contact rates on pitches up have declined. Contact rates on pitches down have very slightly improved… here’s what this has led to: in 2008, hitters slugged 30 points better against high strikes than they did against low strikes. The next season, they slugged 51 points better. Fast-forward now to 2014, and you’ll observe that now hitters are slugging 10 points worse against those same high strikes…
Yet, pitchers continue to work down. It’s how they’ve long been instructed, and it’s where offspeed pitches are usually supposed to go… From a recent Business Week Astros profile:
advanced data yielded a useful insight: Major league hitters had become so adept at hitting low pitches that they were vulnerable to high ones. [Billy] Beane had discovered a particularly clever countermove. “Beane stayed ahead of the curve,” says [Astros pitching coach Brent] Strom, “by finding hitters with a steep upward swing path to counter the sinking action of pitchers trying to induce ground balls.”
Billy Beane put together a baseball team constructed to fight those low pitches… The Astros had Collin McHugh start to throw more elevated four-seam fastballs… McHugh is having an outstanding season out of nowhere…
So this is how we proceed in the league’s hunt for equilibrium. For years, pitchers worked to throw down more and more often… The league has started to respond… [and] now the league will eventually respond to the response, re-establishing the upper parts of the zone. McHugh is one example… And then, in time, there [will] just be a response to the response to the response. Look closely enough and there’s no such thing as equilibrium at all.
Thursday, August 28, 2014
We were selling jeans here!
when [current Astros GM] Jeff Luhnow showed up for his first day of work as the St. Louis Cardinals’ vice president for baseball development, he already had two strikes against him: He was a former management consultant at McKinsey, brought in to shake up the organization. And the sum total of his baseball experience was the McKinsey fantasy league and a business school paper he’d written on how the Chicago Cubs could win the World Series…
Luhnow’s appreciation of the predictive power of data grew out of his experience selling designer jeans. In the early 2000s, with a former president of Levi Strauss, he co-founded an online custom apparel company that made jeans for Lands’ End (LE) shoppers… if wishful thinking led customers to order jeans that didn’t fit, they would send them back. Over time the company amassed enough data to anticipate and correct for these tendencies…
Astros’ analysts noticed that [Collin] McHugh had a world-class curveball. Most curves spin at about 1,500 times per minute; McHugh’s spins 2,000 times… Houston snapped him up… After consulting with the analytics staff, pitching coach Brent Strom altered McHugh’s repertoire. Gone was the sinker… here again, advanced data yielded a useful insight: Major league hitters had become so adept at hitting low pitches that they were vulnerable to high ones. [Billy] Beane had discovered a particularly clever countermove. “Beane stayed ahead of the curve,” says Strom, “by finding hitters with a steep upward swing path to counter the sinking action of pitchers trying to induce ground balls.” It worked: The A’s hit the fewest ground balls and into the fewest double plays in the league. So the Astros began teaching their pitchers how to adapt… McHugh won a spot in the Astros’ starting rotation and has gone on to lead the team in strikeouts and deliver a sterling 3.03 ERA…
The attacks on Luhnow and the Astros highlight a big difference between his old job and his new one: Turnarounds at McKinsey didn’t play out on as public a stage as baseball’s… Nevertheless, Luhnow insists the Astros’ project remains on track. “I learned at McKinsey how to have a thick skin,” he says, “and that’s carried over into baseball.”
for his generous support.
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