A Baseball Weblog

Friday, July 30, 2010

Durability from the Rays' rotation

Clearly, the Tampa Bay Rays are having an excellent season so far. They're now just a game out of first place (and the majors' best record) behind the Yankees. They are unique in that they've gotten starts from only five guys --- James Shields, Matt Garza, David Price, Jeff Niemann, and Wade Davis. They are the only team in the majors with this distinction. Next in line are the Braves, Cubs, and Marlins, who have each used 6 starters this year. On the other end of the spectrum, the Nationals lead the major leagues in starters used with 12.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Andy Marte pitches in

Who was the Indians' best pitcher in today's 11-4 loss to the Yankees? Undoubtedly, that honor belonged to third baseman Andy Marte. With the game out of hand, Marte pitched a 1-2-3 9th inning, picking up a swinging strikeout of Nick Swisher along the way. Marte looked pretty solid after falling behind leadoff hitter Robinson Cano 3-0. In addition to his third strike on Swisher, he picked up another swing and miss off of the third batter he faced, Marcus Thames. He threw his pitch (I guess you'd call it a fastball?) in the 80s, maxing at 89.2 mph on his final pitch to Thames.

What fun things you'll see in a sloppy blowout. Some time before the end of the season, I'm going to prepare a post dedicated to all of the position players who have pitched recently.

Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLBAM.

**EDIT** Apparently, Marte was intentionally throwing a sinker; he learned the grip on the fly from Fausto Carmona. Here's the video of Marte's appearance. His pitches had nice downward action and arm-side tail.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Acquiring Scott Downs

As we head into the last two months of the season, it's becoming pretty clear which teams are willing to buy and which are willing to sell; the teams that believe they're "in it" then have to decide whether or not to make a big push at the trade deadline. The Rangers, who now have the fourth best record in baseball, decided to make a splash earlier this month when they acquired Cliff Lee, and that trade has undoubtedly paid huge dividends so far. The Angels, who are now hovering around .500 and are 8 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, were also aggressive, trading for Dan Haren last weekend. The Red Sox are five games behind the Rays for the wildcard lead in the AL and would seem like the type of team that would be big-time buyers at the trading deadline, but it's also important to remember that they now have Victor Martinez, Josh Beckett, and Mike Cameron back on the team; all three missed many weeks during the season. The team could also have Dustin Pedroia back at second base within a month. Basically, the point is that they may have enough players returning from injury that they don't feel they need to make a big move at the trading deadline. The Yankees are currently in first place and have the best record in the majors. Depending on how long Andy Pettitte's groin injury sidelines him for, the team may be looking at another starting pitcher. With Lee and Haren off the market, it's realistic to figure that they would go after someone like Ted Lilly or Jake Westbrook.

What the Red Sox and Yankees seem most interested in is relief help; the Red Sox have a bullpen ERA/FIP/xFIP triple slash line of 4.45/4.81/4.68, and the Yankees' is 4.03/4.06/4.20. For the Sox, Hideki Okajima in particular has been a disappointment; his combination of increased walks (4.06 BB/9, a career high), decreased strikeouts (6.97 K/9, a career low), and an inability to get big outs (-1.18 WPA) has helped make him a below replacement level reliever so far. As for the Yankees, Damaso Marte's shoulder injury and Joba Chamberlain's habit of giving up a lot of hits have made them investigate the market for bullpen pitchers. The player that both teams are very interested in is Scott Downs. As of Sunday, they were considered by Fox Sports to be the front-runners in acquiring Downs. However, trading for him will certainly be difficult for both teams, as Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos has demaded a very strong return package. From the Red Sox, Anthopoulos said that he would trade Downs for no less than either Casey Kelly or Jose Iglesias, who are both currently in Double A (click on the links for minor league stats from Baseball-Reference). As for the Yankees, the Blue Jays seemed to be in fierce pursuit of Chamberlain, and have reportedly given the Yankees the option of substituting Jesus Montero in the deal.

Personally, I have a hard time imagining either team saying yes to the Blue Jays. Kelly and Igleias are considered two of Boston's top prospects, and Montero is viewed the same way in New York. Chamberlain is obviously having his share of struggles this year, but the Yankees seem unwilling to part with a 24 year old who can throw in the upper 90s. Scott Downs is an excellent reliever: he has both strikeout and groundball tendencies while keeping walks to a minimum (he's posted an xFIP under 4 in all of his five previous seasons with the Blue Jays). But combine his age of 34 and his free agency at the end of the season with the fact that relievers are less valuable than starters, and you get a mismatch in terms of what the buyers and sellers want.

Stats are from Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"One and done" for Mitre as Moseley heads to the rotation

Before Monday's game, Joe Girardi announced that Dustin Moseley, and not Sergio Mitre, will be starting against the Indians on Thursday night. Mitre pitched poorly in his return from the DL last Saturday, while Moseley threw zeros for 4 2/3 innings in relief that game. Girardi said that given Mitre's current health, a return to the bullpen seemed more reasonable than starting every fifth day. This switch gives me the opportunity to examine Moseley's season thus far.

I'll make it quick, because there's only so much you can say about a 157 pitch sample over 4 appearances. Over 10 2/3 innings, Moseley has allowed 4 walks and has struck out 5, which are unimpressive numbers. He had a 2.2 BB/9 in 12 starts at Scranton this year, so I wonder if the walks will start returning to his minor league levels or if facing major league hitters will hurt his control. Early on, Moseley has a spectacular .625 ground ball rate, which matches up nicely with his .594 mark in the minors. Moseley's repertoire features a two-seam fastball (a bit less than 50% of the time), a cutter, a curveball, a changeup, and maybe a few four-seam fastballs. Over his four games, the fastball has averaged 89-90 mph, the cutter around 86, the change 83-84, and the curve 78. He fits a similar bill as Mitre as a ground-ball specialist with solid control; the Yankees are certainly hoping that he can perform better than Mitre has in the rotation.

Gameday data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed through Joe Lefkowitz's invaluable tool.
Other stats are from Baseball-Reference and Minor League Splits.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Garza pitches a no-hitter

Congratulations to the Rays' Matt Garza, who just completed the 5th no-hitter of 2010 and the first in Rays' franchise history. Garza made easy work of the Detroit Tigers, allowing only one baserunner on a second-inning walk; a double play immediately followed, and Garza wound up facing the minimum 27 over 9 innings. He also struck out six along the way. Hats off to him on his piece of history.

Interestingly, the Rays have now been involved in an astounding four no-hitters over the past two seasons. Last July, they were no-hit in the perfect game by Mark Buehrle; this past May, they were once again on the losing end of a perfect game, this one by Dallas Braden; in June, they were victimized by Edwin Jackson in his no-hitter.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Haren to the Angels

This deal just went down: Dan Haren, one of the top chips on the market, has been traded to the Angels. I find the package in return - Joe Saunders, Rafael Rodriguez, Patrick Corbin, and a player to be named - a bit curious, given Haren's caliber. (Did you know that he's 5th all time in K/BB ratio?) Saunders, who is 29, has been an unspectacular starter, for the most part; Rodriguez, 26 in September, has put up pedestrian numbers as a minor league starter and reliever since 2002; Corbin is 21 and, while he has posted excellent strikeout and walk rates, is only in Class A. I suppose that if the player to be named is a top prospect, the deal could look better for the Diamondbacks, but right now, it looks like kind of a steal for the Angels.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Welcome back, Serge

On Saturday, Sergio Mitre will make his return to the Yankees’ rotation, taking the place of the injured Andy Pettitte. Sergio hasn’t pitched for the big club in seven weeks, and has been on the DL since June 15th due to an oblique injury. I looked at Mitre’s stuff over the offseason, but I recently re-worked some of the classifications after learning more about his repertoire. With his upcoming return, I decided to revisit the data on Mitre in addition to what’s been compiled so far in 2010.

First, a bit on Mitre’s season thus far. He’s pitched twelve times in 2010, including two starts in May. He’s received good results in his first 25 innings, posting a 2.89 ERA; however, his controllable rates are trending poorly: his strikeouts are about the same as last year, but his groundball rate has dropped considerably and he’s walking one more batter per 9 innings than he was in 2009. This year, the balls in play have turned from hits to outs, and the flyballs he’s given up have turned into homers less frequently than last year. It’s probably not too realistic to expect his ERA to remain under 3 for that long, but surely the Yankees would be just fine with getting a mid 4 ERA out of their sixth starter. Onto the PITCHf/x data!

Though Mitre is a sinkerballer for the vast majority (65.5% sinkers this year, 67.9% last year), he does have a five-pitch arsenal. He also works with a four-seamer, a tight curveball, a changeup, and a slider. This year, there’s been a greater rate of four-seamers and sliders; from what I could see, the slider as it is now was not utilized at all last year. To compare pitch percentages from 2009 to 2010, here are the pitch column charts.

As for Mitre’s groundball rate, which has dropped from .572 last year to .507 this year: it appears that the drop has to do with Mitre’s secondary pitches, since the rate on Mitre’s sinker has remained constant - .586 last year to .591 this year. For what it’s worth, this is significantly above the major league average of ~.52 for sinking/two-seam pitches. Between the small sample we’re working with and the fact that most pitches put in play are going to be on Mitre’s sinker, I’m not too concerned right now about the decrease in ground balls.

Another thing to mention about Mitre is his decreased velocity this year. I assumed that one more year removed from arm surgery, he would be throwing harder than he was last year, but this hasn’t been the case so far:

Pitch2009 mph2010 mph

Now, it’s not uncommon for pitchers to gain velocity throughout the course of a season, so I don’t know if it’s reasonable to fret about the one and a half mph drop at this point in the season. I could go on about Mitre’s splits (whiff rates, etc.), but I’m not convinced that it would be productive given the relatively limited sample this season - after the sinker, the pitch that’s been swung at most frequently has been the changeup, which has been swung at only 23 times. That’s not really giving us a whole lot to work with.

To conclude - I’m sure many Yankee fans are not too thrilled with seeing Mitre take the ball every fifth day for the next month, given his weak performance last year. And if Mitre falters, it’s certainly not a given that he makes the rest of Pettitte’s starts, particularly since the Yankees have the talented Ivan Nova ready to go at Triple A.

Gameday data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed through Joe Lefkowitz's invaluable tool.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The 100 mph club

Hard-throwers are always a lot of fun to watch. Why? I don’t know. But they are. In particular, it’s pretty awesome to see triple digits on the radar gun, which is always an impressive feat. This year, per PITCHf/x, 16 different pitchers have combined to throw 391 pitches registering at 100 mph (technically 99.5 or harder). Here are the members of the 2010 “100 club.”

(sorted by maximum velocity)

MLB RankPitcherMax Velocity
1Joel Zumaya102.2
2Neftali Feliz101.6
3Henry Rodriguez101.1
4Justin Verlander101
5Daniel Bard100.8
6Ubaldo Jimenez100.6
7Stephen Strasburg100.4
8Jonathan Broxton100.2
9Andrew Cashner100.1
10Jason Motte100.1
11Kyle Farnsworth100.1
12Brandon Morrow99.8
13Santiago Casilla99.7
14Zack Greinke99.7
15David Price99.6
16Robinson Tejeda99.5

(sorted by number of pitches at or greater than 99.5 mph)

MLB RankPitcher#
1Joel Zumaya230
2Neftali Feliz36
3Daniel Bard26
4Justin Verlander20
5Ubaldo Jimenez19
6Stephen Strasburg17
7Henry Rodriguez12
8Andrew Cashner10
9Kyle Farnsworth6
10Jonathan Broxton4
11Jason Motte3
12Santiago Casilla2
13Brandon Morrow1
14Zack Greinke1
15Robinson Tejeda 1
16David Price1

First of all, how about Joel Zumaya. Talk about blowing away the competition. Now let’s hope that he can recover from the brutal arm injury he suffered last month against the Twins.

Second, an important note - these numbers are coming directly from the PITCHf/x data and have not been adjusted for ballpark errors. The 100 mph pitches from Tejada and Morrow were recorded at Kauffman Stadium and Progressive Field, respectively; both of those parks at least appear to be running “hot” this year. Any input on this front is always more than welcome.

Gameday data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed through Joe Lefkowitz's invaluable tool.