Tuesday, September 20, 2016
Laurila drawing insight from Buchholz on pitching.
I think the cutter is the best pitch in baseball, as far as the stats go. Actually, I know that for a fact. [Red Sox director of pitching analysis and development] Brian Bannister and I were talking about that awhile ago — the numbers on guys who throw cutters. It’s the best pitch in baseball, in front of the split. Hard-sinking changeups are the third-best pitch. A four-seam fastball is the worst pitch as far as hard contact and batting average on balls put into play.
The game has evolved. When I got called up, a lot of guys were high-ball hitters. They would take that pitch and hit it out. You were taught to throw the ball down, down, down. Now everybody is worried about their bat path and how they can get that ball going down and lift it. There are a lot more low-ball hitters in the game today than there were 10 years ago.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
So what does this tell us? Does DRA confirm or negate the previous findings suggesting that groundball pitchers are more effective at run prevention? There appear to be three conclusions:
1. In modern baseball, using the most sophisticated measure of run prevention, higher groundball rates are well correlated to fewer runs allowed. It’s not an ironclad relationship—Scherzer and Verlander don’t get a lot of grounders—but inducing groundballs is a positive attribute.
2. To James’ point, if we look over the arc of baseball history, the conclusion above decays with time. Getting groundballs is really good today. It wasn’t necessarily good 40-60 years ago. So while we can say “groundball pitchers are generally better” today, that statement’s time-limited.
3. This illustrates the limitation of single-variable analysis in baseball. Inducing groundballs is positively correlated with run prevention. So is getting strikeouts. But grounders and whiffs are negatively correlated—groundball pitchers get fewer strikeouts than flyball pitchers. So getting a lot of grounders, just like getting a lot of strikeouts, isn’t enough to guarantee success. Among ERA qualifiers this year, Edinson Volquez has the seventh-highest groundball rate, and Ian Kennedy’s no. 18 in strikeout rate. Their ERA/FIP/DRAs are 4.99/4.38/4.85 and 4.03/4.92/3.95, respectively; the American League average is 4.21.
I’ll concede that James has a point about durable pitchers over the past 60 years. But I’ll stick with what I wrote in June, “I’m not backing away from the view that in contemporary baseball, groundball pitchers, in aggregate, are more valuable the flyball pitchers, in aggregate,” and DRA’s got my back.
Sunday, July 10, 2016
Boz examines pitching philosophies:
The Nats put the arms of Strasburg and Jordan Zimmerman, now a Tiger, ahead of short-term considerations. Those two are guaranteed to make more than $340 million in their careers. All five of the current young Mets starters combined, including Wheeler, are assured 1/30th of that. Is that exploitation? Do the Mets want to “win now” too much? Or the Nats too little?
Strasburg is 12-0, but it’ll take a few years to see how this turns out.
Saturday, July 09, 2016
We begin today’s story with MARS.
Not the delicious candy bar that sticks to your teeth; nor the planet that can grow Matt Damon’s potatoes. Rather, it is Multi-variate Adaptive Regression Splines, or MARS for short. MARS is a trademarked term, so the R or Python implementation is usually referred to as “earth.” Essentially, the MARS approach to regression improves upon basic multiple linear regression in three ways:
It breaks apart each regression line into multiple formulae (for example, incremental fastball velocity below 94 mph has a different value curve than velocity above 94 mph).
It prunes terms that aren’t beneficial to the model and pares it down to the important factors.
It can uncover relationships between variables (say, location and velocity).
I’ll step away here and encourage you to read the Wikipedia article linked above for a more thorough explanation.
Posted: July 09, 2016 at 11:31 AM | 0 comment(s)
Sunday, June 05, 2016
I hope your head isn’t spinning.
On setting up hitters with spin: “A lot of people think about pitching as setting up the batter based on pitch location. I think more of setting up batters with spin. If I throw a good hard fastball with good backspin, and then rip over a curveball from that same slot, it’s going to be hard for the batter to tell the difference. It will be hard for him to tell the difference between the four-seam I just threw at the thigh, versus my hard, 12-6 breaking ball at the thigh.
“It doesn’t have to be the greatest location. It’s about fooling the batter. I’m trying to rip over my curveball as hard as I can to create as much downward spin as possible. I don’t want the batter being able to tell, based on the spin, which pitch is coming. A lot of hitters will talk about, ‘Oh, I hit in the cage with numbers on the ball,’ or ‘I hit in the cage with different color seams, because I’m trying to pick up the seams.’ Well, if you make your ball look like a cue ball, that’s going to give you the advantage even if the pitch wasn’t executed as well as it could have been. I got some outs last night on pitches that weren’t executed how I wanted. Because of the way I spin the ball, I was able to get away with them.
“I don’t know what my four-seam spin rate is, but my curveball is between 2,800 and 3,100 at any given time. I know my fastball spin could be better. Sometimes I get a little bit of a rifle spin to it, which is kind of the shape that a cutter would be, only it’s not cutting like a cutter.
Thursday, May 26, 2016
Also, Scott and Lassus Have Been The Best 1-2 Punch on the Self-Immolation Thread…
The Mets lead in K-BB%, GB%, FIP and xFIP. They trail only the Cubs in ERA and only the Nationals in strikeouts per nine innings. They place 4th in this group in WAR, although that is primarily a function of the fact that they have the fewest innings of the bunch — the Mets have 17 starts from this duo while the other couplings have 19 or 20. This is owing to the fact that Syndergaard has yet to make his tenth start and Matz missed one turn in the rotation.
This is just a snapshot of the present, not a promise of the future, but it is easy to see the Mets duo continuing on this torrid pace, while some of these other pairs are outperforming what we might expect of them. For instance, Cueto and Strasburg are each veterans beating their career ERAs by about one run. Even though Strasburg’s emergence looks sustainable, it’s likely that Cueto is more of a 3.25 ERA pitcher than a 2.38 ERA pitcher. Other pitchers are wildly outperforming their peripherals, most notably Quintana who has a 0.14 HR/9 and is beating his xFIP by over a run, and Hammel who has a 2.17 ERA despite a K-BB% which is actually worse than league average. Even Arrieta, as great as he is, is probably closer to his FIP (2.71) than his ERA (1.72).
As for the young Mets, Syndergaard alone has staked a claim to “best pitcher, non-Kershaw division” by playing 2nd in FIP, 2nd in K-BB%, and 3rd in WAR in this group. Matz, for his part, has pitched to a microscopic 1.13 ERA/2.15 FIP with a sterling 23.2 K-BB% since his one disaster inning in his first start on April 11th.
There is a good argument to be made for most of these duos, although I would probably rank the Dodgers (Kershaw/Maeda), Mets (Syndergaard/Matz) and White Sox (Sale/Quintana) a little ahead of the rest, with the Nationals (Strasburg/Scherzer) as potential spoilers if Scherzer gets back on track.
Nonetheless, you’ve got to be impressed with Syndergaard and Matz, who lead in two other categories I forgot to mention: average fastball velocity (their average of 95.8 mph is more than 2 mph faster than the Cubs) and lowest salaries.
Thursday, April 28, 2016
In each of the last three full seasons, [Jose Quintana]‘s topped 200 innings and put up a K/BB ratio of 3.41. He’s done that despite over his career pitching almost half his innings in homer-friendly U.S. Cellular Field and ceding the platoon advantage to 73.7 percent of the batters he’s faced.
As well, Quintana is in his age-27 season at present, so it’s possible his peak has not yet been realized. (His slight bump in fastball and sinker velocity this season, during a month when gun readings tend to be down, is something to watch on this front.) If that’s the case, then the White Sox may well have a pair of aces under contract through 2019.
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
Perceived Velocity is a great addition for our understanding of the game.
That Syndergaard appears is hardly a shock—after all, he lit up radar guns in his first start this year and his 97.4 mph average fastball led starting pitchers in 2015. Of course, he’s also listed as 6-foot-6, and his extension of just under 7 feet was third among starters, behind only Michael Wacha and John Lamb. That helped his perceived velocity look like 98.4 mph, because a hard pitch thrown from closer to the plate will, of course, seem harder.
Fernandez’s return from Tommy John surgery couldn’t have gone better, as his 96.4 mph four-seamer was the fourth-hardest of any starter, behind Syndergaard, Eovaldi, and Yordano Ventura. His extension of 6 1/2 feet isn’t quite what Syndergaard gets, but it’s still above average, and that combination is how his plate time is just under four-tenths of a second. Good luck trying to hit that.
It may not sound like much of a difference between elite and below-average. In real-world terms, it may not be much. But in baseball terms, that fraction of a second can mean everything. Scientific studies have shown that it takes, at best, 0.215 seconds for a hitter to look, think, decide and act—that’s begin to swing, not fully swing—which is more than half the time the ball is actually in the air against baseball’s best. Seconds, or more accurately, tiny fractions of a second, count for a lot.I
Monday, April 11, 2016
House has a few more tricks up his sleeve. A big one involves the pitcher’s stride as he delivers the ball. The average stride-length for a pitcher is 77 to 87 percent of his height. He calculates that for every extra foot he can squeeze out of a pitcher’s stride, the hitter sees a virtual three-mile-per-hour gain in fastball speed. Put it this way, a 95-mile-per-hour fastball from 50 feet looks faster than from 53 feet. Same velocity on the radar gun, but because a hitter has less time to react, it just seems faster.
One of the most extreme examples of a pitcher’s bending visual reality is 170-pound Tim Lincecum, who won back-to-back Cy Young Awards, in 2008 and 2009, with the San Francisco Giants — not because he threw 100 miles per hour but partly because his stride reached seven-and-a-half feet, or roughly 129 percent of his 5-foot-11 height.
Posted: April 11, 2016 at 11:21 AM | 1 comment(s)
Tuesday, April 05, 2016
I’ll add it to my reading queue.
This dedication to find every story sets the book apart from less ambitious projects, but it also sets itself apart from the competition in two other ways. One is by weaving in the stories of Hudson and Coffey. The pair are ever present throughout the book; their tales of trouble and triumph get their own chapters, but also pepper the chapters that focus on others. The other is by not just looking for stories, but also for solutions.
Posted: April 05, 2016 at 09:13 AM | 0 comment(s)
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