A Baseball Weblog

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Brian Bannister interview with Baseball Prospectus Radio

Quick link dump here ... earlier today, I came across an awesome interview with Kansas City Royals' pitcher Brian Bannister, administered by Baseball Prospectus Radio. He talks about a lot of things, including his teammates, photography, music, and, of course, baseball. He's stated before that he is a fan of a sabermetric approach to pitching, and it is great to hear him talk about how he uses statistical techniques to help his performance. Here is the link.

Hat tip to the Kings of Kauffman blog.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Carlos Marmol is on a roll

Carlos Marmol continued his ridiculous run of dominance yesterday, striking out the side in a save against Texas. Marmol now has 44 strikeouts out of the bullpen, which bests Tyler Clippard's number by eleven. His 17.47 K/9 is also far and away the best in the majors. His success could be attributed to his slider. Marmol is one of the few pitchers that throws more breaking pitches than fastballs. So far, he has thrown 59% sliders in favor of 41% fastballs. Of the 108 sliders that have been swung at, 51 have been missed, which makes for a .472 whiff rate; that is well over the ~33% average rate for sliders. But the fastball, in more limited duty, has been just as impressive. With 52 swings, it has been whiffed at a rate of .346, also well over the pitch type average of ~16%.

Certainly, Marmol's biggest problem is his control. His fastball has been out of the zone more than 50% of the time, which is unusual; also, his 5.56 BB/9 is actually an improvement over 2009's ridiculous 7.91 mark. His ability to keep the ball out of play helps him in that regard, though, since he'll be more apt to strand the runners he lets reach.

Gameday PITCHf/x data is from MLB Advanced Media; it can be easily accessed via this tool.
Also, a big thanks to Harry Pavlidis and his article on pitch type benchmarks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Brooks Conrad's in the history books

A quick note about just how rare the Braves' miraculous 7-run 9th inning comeback yesterday was: Brooks Conrad's 9th inning grand slam marked only the 24th time in MLB history that a player hit a game-winning grand slam with his team down by three (thank you to David Fleitz's site for this data). That makes it almost as rare as a perfect game. Conrad is now the fourth player this century to hit one of these grand slams, joining Brian Giles (2001), Jason Giambi (2002), and Adam Dunn (2006).

Oh, and just for fun, here is the win expectancy chart (thank you to Fangraphs) for yesterday's Reds/Braves game.

Reds @ Braves - Thursday, May 20, 2010

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Yankees' bullpen disaster

The Yankees' bullpen has had a horrible three days. Three late inning leads (some larger than others) have gone by the wayside, and two of the games have resulted in crushing losses. First, it was Sunday, when the Yankees had a 3-1 lead entering the 8th inning. Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera changed that in one inning:
Chamberlain/Rivera: 1 IP, 3 H, 5 R, 5 ER, 1 HR, 2 BB, 2 K, -.753 WPA

The next day, it was Boone Logan and Chan Ho Park in the 6th and 8th innings respectively, as Chamberlain was unavailable for setup duty after his long outing the day before. This implosion was saved by some dramatic 9th inning home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Marcus Thames.
Logan/Park: 2+ IP, 6 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, -.517 WPA

And yesterday might have been the oddest situation. The Yankees had a 5-1 lead in the 8th --- not even a save situation. Chamberlain came in and gave up all four runs, and Rivera gave up two more in the ninth. They were hurt by some misplays by Monday's heroes, Rodriguez and Thames, but the end result is clearly still very ugly:
Chamberlain/Rivera: 2 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 3 ER, 0 HR, 0 BB, 0 K, -.740 WPA

Put all of that together, throw in the few positive appearances by the relief corps (including a clutch 2 inning performance by David Robertson on Sunday), and you get an accumulated -1.75 WPA for the bullpen over the past three games. It's particularly shocking since two of the games were blown by the Yankees' best relievers, Rivera and Chamberlain. Obviously, this streak is not indicative of their talent, and they were undeniably hurt by poor defense in yesterday's game. However, it's clear that something has to get back on track.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Plate discipline in 2010

Below is a plate discipline graph for hitters in 2010. The x-axis represents swings out of the zone, and the y-axis represents swings inside the zone.

The modest trend is that the greater the outside zone swing rate, the higher the inside zone swing rate. (And Vladimir Guerrerro just swings at absolutely everything.) The ideal player in terms of plate discipline (with all contact abilities aside) would be one who swings at pitches inside the zone and lays off the pitches outside the zone. Dividing the inside zone swing rate by the outside zone swing rate gives us a simple but effective way to measure how good a hitter is at recognizing which pitches to swing at. In 2010, the league average for outside zone swing rate is .274 and the league average for inside zone swing rate is .635; using these numbers, we can get a plate discipline score centered around the league average (a la ERA+ and OPS+).

NameZ SwingOZ SwingPlate Discipline
Tony Gwynn.586.117216
Chipper Jones.665.143201
Geovany Soto.574.128193
Josh Willingham.631.144189
Adam LaRoche.664.161178
Alex Gonzalez.628.43762
Julio Borbon.597.39665
Brandon Wood.637.41966
Rod Barajas.663.41968
Will Venable.629.39669

Remember, this has to do only with discipline/pitch recognition. Clearly, hitters that have other skills (raw contact, power, speed) have a lot of worth to a team even if they have poor plate discipline. Brett Gardner is a great example of this. While Brett may take too many pitches, he almost never swings and misses. His .938 contact rate is fifth best in the majors, and on swings in the zone, he makes contact 99.3% of the time, which is best in the majors.

I did a similar post a few months ago; thanks again to Joe Pawlikowski of River Ave. Blues for getting me thinking about this topic.

Data is from Fangraphs.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A duel of epic proportions

Earlier this afternoon, Astros infielder Kazuo Matsui had a 15 pitch at-bat against Giants closer Brian Wilson. That, alone, is impressive, as it was the first 15 pitch at-bat sequence of the year so far --- a 14 pitch at-bat on April 8th between Justin Masterson and Alexei Ramirez is the second longest so far. However, what made the exchange between Matsui and Wilson so remarkable was the game state. The score was 2-1 Giants, the bases were loaded, there were two outs, and the count (by the time of the final pitch) was full. That situation represents a ridiculous 9.1 leverage index. And in addition, Wilson was trying to save the game for Tim Lincecum, who had had his bullpen blow three consecutive wins for him coming into the game. That's drama if I've ever seen it.

**EDIT** On the 15th pitch, Matsui ended the game with a flyout to left fielder Andres Torres.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Early season dominance

Here are the top 10 pitches in terms of whiff rate (swinging strikes/swings) so far in 2010. Unsurprisingly, all of the pitches are offspeed, either changeups, splitters, or sliders. The data is through May 6th, and I'm using a 50-swing minimum as my cut-off.

MLB RankPitcherPitch TypeSwingsWhiff Rate
1Brandon MorrowSlider58.569
2Shaun MarcumChangeup83.518
3Cole HamelsChangeup93.495
4Roy HalladayChangeup59.492
5Carlos MarmolSlider60.483
6Carlos ZambranoSplitter55.473
7Tim LincecumChangeup130.469
8Clay BuchholzChangeup58.466
9Tyler ClippardChangeup50.460
10Francisco LirianoSlider 90.456

I've only re-classified the pitches of a handful of pitchers, so this is a conglomeration of my classifications and (mainly) MLBAM's. So unfortunately, there will be some mis-classifications. Any input on this front is always appreciated.

A few notes:

Tyler Clippard is having a pretty good go of it so far. Along with his 4 relief wins, 1.44 accumulated WPA, 10.55 K/9, and sparking 0.42 ERA, he has two top-tier whiff pitches --- his changeup, as shown above, is 9th best of all pitches (6th best changeup), and his four-seamer, with a .323 whiff rate, is second best to Matt Thornton's .344 mark.

There is only one curveball that ranks in the top 20 in whiff rate so far this year. Roy Halladay's hook, swung-and-missed at 40% of the time, is the 20th best whiff pitch in the majors.

On the other end of the spectrum: two-seam fastballs seem to have the most trouble getting whiffs so far. The sinking pitches of Kyle Lohse, Paul Maholm, Jason Varags, Nick Blackburn, and Ryan Dempster have all whiff rates under 4%.

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

Monday, May 3, 2010

Some offensive leaders and trailers

Here are offensive leaders and trailers for some rates through the first four weeks of the regular season, minimum 80 plate appearances.


League batting average so far in the majors is .257.

Robinson CanoYankees.387
Austin JacksonTigers.367
Andre EthierDodgers.365
Ryan TheriotCubs.355
David FreeseCardinals.355
Nick JohnsonYankees.141
Travis SniderBlue Jays.149
Aramis RamirezCubs.155
Carlos QuentinWhite Sox.173
Drew StubbsReds.179


Based on walks/plate appearance. League average Isolated Discipline (IsoD) so far in the majors is .088.

Nick JohnsonYankees.241
Josh WillinghamNationals.194
Chone FigginsMariners.189
David WrightMets.187
Chipper JonesBraves.186
Yuniesky BetancourtRoyals.010
Pedro FelizAstros.011
Alexei RamirezWhite Sox.012
Julio BorbonRangers.013
Placido PolancoPhillies.019


Based on Isolated Power ((TB-H)/AB). League average IsoP so far is .151.

Paul KonerkoWhite Sox.494
Kelly JohnsonDiamondbacks.417
Ty WiggintonOrioles.400
Robinson CanoYankees.376
Andre EthierDodgers.365
Chris CoghlanMarlins.000
Juan PierreWhite Sox.000
Scott PodsednikRoyals.022
Jerry Hairston, Jr.Padres.026
Melky CabreraBraves.038


Based on Bill James' speed score, in which 5 is considered average and 10 is maximum.

Julio BorbonRangers9.4
Brett GardnerYankees9.2
Will VenablePadres9.2
Drew StubbsReds9.1
Rafael FurcalDodgers9.1
Brandon IngeTigers0.1
Paul KonerkoWhite Sox0.2
Hideki MatsuiAngels0.3
Jason KubelTwins0.4
Travis HafnerIndians0.7


Based on my personal favorite metric for gauging overall player production, wOBA. wOBA is scaled to on-base average, so league average wOBA is around .330-.335.

Robinson CanoYankees.495
Andre EthierDodgers.490
Paul KonerkoWhite Sox.487
Justin MorneauTwins.482
Ty Wigginton Orioles.475
Chris CoghlanMarlins.207
Carlos LeeAstros.208
Jerry Hairston, Jr.Padres.221
Aramis RamirezCubs.222
Julio BorbonRangers.222

Well, well. How about that Robinson Cano. Though he is still not good at taking walks, his newfound power skills have turned him into one of the best players in the game. Personally, I was surprised to see such a lack of Albert Pujols on these lists, though it's not like he's having a bad season (.445 wOBA). I wonder how many of these same players will be up at the top of these leaderboards at the all-star break.