A Baseball Weblog

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Royals' bullpen troubles

The Royals had a 2-0 lead in the 8th inning yesterday. They lost the game. This is typical for the Royals, who lead the majors with a mind-blowing seven blown saves (they have 8 wins on the season). Yesterday's starter and incumbent AL Cy Young award winner Zack Greinke has now had three wins taken away from him by his bullpen --- he still remains winless on the year.

To me, the most interesting (and agitating) thing about the Royals' bullpen is that they have one of the relief gems of the majors in Joakim Soria. As the closer, Joakim's job is to close out close games in the 9th inning. But in order to get there, the Royals need to preserve a lead throughout the 6th, 7th, and 8th innings. And that has been an extremely difficult task. While Soria is far and away the best reliever on the team in terms of WPA, and his 0.77 mark is 11th best in the majors, the primary setup crew has blown game after game. Robinson Tejeda (-1.13 wins), Juan Cruz (-0.57 wins before being cut last week), and Luis Mendoza (also -0.57 wins before being cut last week) are the team's three trailers in win probability, and now the team is choosing to go with more of Bruce Chen, Josh Rupe, and Dusty Hughes as the bridge to Soria.

Relievers are volatile from year to year, so it's often hard to put that much stock into "building a great bullpen" at the beginning of a season. However, the Royals' bullpen was dreadful last year, as well; their -2.96 WPA was 4th worst in the majors, and that includes 3.57 WPA season from Soria. Though GM Dayton Moore is blindly optimistic, the Royals really might have to make some radical changes. It would be an extremely risky move, but I would love to see Soria make regular two inning appearances in save situations. He's gone more than an inning in four of his seven relief games this year, and he pitched two full innings six times last year. However, the Royals would really have to pay attention to not overworking (aka "Proctoring") him, because losing him would undoubtedly be a bigger blow to the Royals than to other teams due to their apparent lack of bullpen depth. Until something changes, though, it would be wise to expect more blown saves. Sorry, Mr. Greinke.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hughes' gem

Last night, Phil Hughes pitched the game of his life for the Yankees. In the company of his parents, he went 7 1/3 innings, giving up just one hit, one run (allowed to score by Joba Chamberlain), and two walks, while striking out ten. His no-hit bid was broken up by an infield single by Eric Chavez to lead off the 8th inning.
Hughes was dominant the whole game. After walking Daric Barton in the 1st inning, he retired 20 straight Athletics before allowing the single to Chavez. I found it interesting that he didn't throw a single changeup in his appearance, and there weren't a whole lot of curves, either. Overall: 54 four-seamers, 33 cutters, and 14 curveballs. When I wrote about Hughes in November, I mentioned that he was throwing fewer curveballs than I had anticipated, and that seems to be carrying over to this year, at least so far. Of his ten strikeouts, here is the breakdown:

Total CalledSwinging


Apparently, Hughes is really loving his fastball. And why not? He got 9 swings-and-misses off of it yesterday out of 28 total swings --- that's a .321 whiff rate, which is more than double the league average for fastballs (somewhere around .14). Granted, the A's don't exactly have the most potent offense, but Hughes generated whiffs on his fastball at a superb rate last year as well.
The Yankees obviously have to be elated about a performance like this. Hughes, himself, said that his fastball command was "the best it's ever been."

Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed via this tool.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Baseball is a cruel game

Mariners reliever Kanekoa Texeira made his major league debut yesterday. Texeira, who was drafted by the White Sox in 2006, traded to the Yankees with Nick Swisher in 2008, and claimed in the Rule V draft by the Mariners a few months ago, had plenty of success as a reliever in the minors due to his high groundball and strikeout rates. His selection in the Rule V draft and his 15 strong innings in Spring Training gave him the inside track to make the Mariners' roster, when Opening Day rolled around, he found himself in the Mariner bullpen at the Oakland Coliseum.
What was Kanekoa's first situation in the big leagues? Tied 1-1, starting the bottom of the 9th! Adding to the pressure, Texeira loaded the bases in that inning and was down in the count, 3-1, on Daric Barton. He threw the strike that he needed, and got Barton to fly out to left field. Escaping the bases-loaded situation, Texeira pointed to the sky as he walked off the mound.
But that wasn't all. After the stressful 9th inning, manager Don Wakamatsu brought Texeira back out for the 10th. While retiring two more matters, he gave up three hits to lose the ballgame. I watched the end of this game on television, and I must say that it disappointed me. I remembered Texeira from the Yankees' minor league system last year, and I was impressed with his good numbers and awesome name; it was hard for me not to root for the guy. And also, if a guy is making his major league debut in a tough spot, you want to see him do well. At least for Texeira, it'll get better from here on.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A very brief thought on the expansion of instant replay

Opening Day 2010 had its fair share of exciting moments --- Jason Heyward's dramatic home run, Mark Buehrle's insane defense, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia's walk-off, to name some highlights. However, there were two other notable plays that have gone under the radar today. Actually, they were pretty much the same play. Both Nate McLouth and Rajai Davis made disputed catches in the outfield, and in both situations, replay verified that the ball touched the ground. Now, we all know that umpires have an insanely tough job, and it's only human to miss a few calls every once in a while. However, it brings up an interesting point --- if we have instant replay installed for home runs, what exactly is holding us back for using it on plays like these? You could make the argument that if we open it up at all, it could be abused by overuse (it ruins the spirit of the game, it would wind up taking too long, etc.). But if the technology is there, why are we not taking advantage of it? If the umpires are convening, anyway (which is what happened with McClouth's catch), shouldn't they take the few minutes to verify it with video? As the season goes on, I'm sure that the debate over the proper use of replay will heat back up.

EDIT: While I couldn't find an online clip of Davis' trap-catch, here is the play by McLouth, courtesy of MLB.com.

It's because he's perfect

Most definitely one of the best plays you will ever see. It's impossible to call it the play of the year at this point in the season, but check back in October and I bet it'll be up at the top of the list.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Opening Night, 2010: CC Sabathia vs. Josh Beckett

It's here! After the always excruciatingly long wait, real baseball is back. And what better way to kick it off than with the Yankees and Red Sox dueling at Fenway. Slated to toe the slab are CC Sabathia for the defending World Champions and Josh Beckett for the Sawx. As is typically my wont for these things, I have prepared a PITCHf/x profile (mostly numbers, since there's not a whole lot for me to say) for these two aces so we can get a quick look at their stuff before heading into the season. I'll start with Sabathia.


The big man from California had an extremely successful first season in the Bronx, winning 19 games in the regular season and adding two gems in ALCS against the Angels. If you're a hard throwing lefty that can keep the ball in the strikezone, you've got an inside track to success in the big leagues. Here are the splits from 2009.

Pitch Data

Average SpeedMax Speedpfx_xpfx_z

Pitch Results

Pitch#Pitch%Swing RateWhiff RateWide Zone RateZone Whiff RateChase RateWatch Rate






Sabathia has a lot of confidence in his changeup, as evidenced by the high percentage of pitches in all counts. While groundballs are not really his forte, he got a ton of them off of his sinking fastball.


Sabathia's right-handed counterpart is Josh Beckett. He, too, has electric stuff.

Pitch Data

Average SpeedMax Speedpfx_xpfx_z

Pitch Results

Pitch#Pitch%Swing RateWhiff RateWide Zone RateZone Whiff RateChase RateWatch Rate






Like Sabathia, Beckett gets more grounders on the two-seamer, but sustained a higher overall groundball rate of just under 50%, well above the league average of ~43.5%. Though he did not miss as many bats as Sabathia did last year, he was able to make up for it with a lot of called strikes on the curveball.


I didn't really need to roll out all of these numbers to say that the first day of the regular season will feature a spectacular pitching matchup. It's always fun when two ace-type pitchers go head-to-head, and when one is on the Yankees and the other is on the Red Sox, it's even more fun. So on Sunday night, sit back, relax, and enjoy the beginning of what will surely be another spectacular season of baseball.

Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed via this tool.