A Baseball Weblog

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Brett Anderson f/x scouting

The Yankees took the first game of the three-game set in Oakland yesterday behind a masterfully brilliant complete-game shutout by Bartolo Colon.  After getting Trevor Cahill yesterday, the Yankees will face another young pitching star tonight in southpaw Brett Anderson.  The short scoop on Anderson is that he's pretty much like Cahill except with better strikeout and walk rates.  His groundball per ball in play rate of 56% is, along with Cahill's, one of the best in the league.  Basically, he's really good, and also like Cahill, he's only 23.  I'm liking the spin deflection charts these days, so here they are for Anderson's 2011, along with pitch results in tabular form below.

mph#Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateBall RatensCall RateGB Rate


Anderson's signature pitch is his slider.  He throws it a ton (40% of the time to both righties and lefties), and looks to be pretty effective despite a below league-average whiff rate.  He throws it over the plate a lot and gets called strikes with it; when batters hit it, they usually hit it into the ground.  Anderson's sinker generates a ton of grounders as well, and his other fastball isn't bad at getting grounders compared to other four-seamers.  As for his other pitches: his curve is just a slower version of his slider (like CC Sabathia's curve), and his changeup is his weakest pitch, only shown to right-handed batters.  

Pie charts for selection based on batter-handedness:

Anderson likes to go with his sinker in on lefties and four-seamer in on righties:

He'll keep the ball below the middle-third about 30% of the time, especially with his sinker and slider:

Anderson is not a bat-misser, but he's around the zone and has a nasty arsenal of pitches for picking up grounders.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Yanks visit Cahill

Following a disappointing three-game set in Seattle, the Yankees will begin a three-game series against the Athletics in California this afternoon.  The Yankees will start the well-rested (and brilliant) Bartolo Colon, and the A's will counter with sinkerballer Trevor Cahill.  Cahill is just 23 years old and appears to be improving since his 2009 debut.  The short story is that he gets a ton of groundballs (54% of balls in play this year) and is improving his strikeout rate (4.5 K/9 in 2009, 5.4 in 2010, 7.1 so far in 2011).  His walk rate has hovered around 3 per 9 over his career, which is certainly good enough considering his other skills.  I wrote about Cahill for the Hardball Times in April, so I'll refer you to that for a more in depth look.  One of my points in that piece was that Cahill seemed to have abandoned his slider this year; since the time that article was published, Cahill has reintroduced the pitch.  Again, this is just a quick one to update on Cahill's 2011 numbers.  Spin charts and result tables for his five pitches are below.

mph#Swing RateWhiff RateZone RatensCall Rate*GB Rate


non-swing call rate - percentage of called strikes on pitches not swung at (called strike divided by called strikes plus balls)

Now for some plate locations, split up into five horizontal and vertical regions (dividing the zone into thirds with two "out of zone" areas on either side).  For these purposes, the strikezone extends one foot from either side of the center of the plate and includes pitches 1.5 to 3.5 feet above the ground, normalized for the batter's strikezone.

I'll be posting some league averages at THT soon; for now I'll say that Cahill's sinker, vertically, is where most sinkers are.  Horizontally, he is more apt to throw it inside to lefties and away to righties than is the typical major leaguer.

Closing thoughts: his sinker is good, his four-seamer less so.  I'd probably say that his curveball is his best out-pitch, based on this and last year's performance.  After that hiatus in April, the slider is back and is being thrown a few times per game; it really just seems like a "show-me" pitch and not one that Cahill's going to use to put away hitters.  Overall, he has a good repertoire of pitches to pick up groundballs and a strikeout when he needs to, and he seems to be getting better all the time.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Nova's fielding independent problem

Ivan Nova had a rough day yesterday, giving up four runs and failing to pitch four innings.  He allowed four free passes (three walks and a hit batsman) while only striking out one.  It was his worst game of the season it terms of strikeout-walk differential, but he hasn't been good in this category for the whole year.  A good way to quantify this is kwERA (strikeout-walk ERA), which is a Tom Tango metric that is scaled to ERA and only uses strikeouts and walks as the inputs (walks include hit batsmen and exclude intentional passes).  The formula scaled to the 2011 American League run environment is 4.87 - (12*(K-BB)).  Nova's kwERA of 4.83 is fourth-worst in the league better than only Tyler Chatwood, Kyle Drabek, and Wade Davis.  The chart below shows the in-game kwERA for each of Nova's starts, this time scaled to 100 as the league average (with each number away from 100 representing a 1% difference from the average).

He's only had one game above average this year; that was his May 16th start against the Rays.  Nova has a little more freedom than other pitchers  due to his mid 50% ground ball rate and low home run totals, but it's going to be very difficult for him to succeed by walking as many as he strikes out.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Pineda PITCHf/x

Michael Pineda is undoubtedly the best rookie pitcher in the league.  The way he's looked recently, he's probably in the discussion for the best pitcher in the league overall.  Consider some overall numbers and his rank among American Leaguers:

MetricPerformance Rank
Fangraphs' WAR1.97

Keep in mind that he's only 21.  Both Baseball Info Solutions and PITCHf/x agree that Pineda throws the hardest fastball in the majors this year, averaging just under 96 mph, so he's certainly got good stuff.  In addition to his hard four-seam fastball, he throws a slider that he'll vary from the low to high 80s and a changeup that's usually around 89 mph (click the links for photos of Pineda's pitch grips).  There might be some sinkers in there as well, but his fastball is pretty much going to be of the four-seam variety.  I've included the spin deflection chart of his pitches below, even though Safeco calibration can get messy at times.  I'm guessing there's not as much spread on his fastball movement as the graph might have you believe.  

NOTE: The sinkers I classified (exactly three of them) are lumped in with the four-seamers on this chart, and I noticed that there are a small handful of changeups that still have a fastball distinction (Gameday's algorithm had a world of trouble with that); my apologies. 

As you would suspect, Pineda does a good job at getting batters to swing and miss at his pitches.  In fact, his fastball has the fifth best whiff rate (minimum 150 swings) in the majors so far this year (well, it did as of earlier this week).  Whiff numbers, along with some others that I like to use, are in the table below.  

mph#Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateBall RateCalled RateGB Rate


Pineda is an extreme fly-ball pitcher, but he's got the spacious Safeco Field on his side to help with home run prevention.  As you can see, he doesn't throw a ton of changeups, and it's by far his worst pitch.  It's "still in development," you might say.  These minor quibbles aside, we've got a young ace on our hands here.  I definitely look forward to seeing him go to work tonight.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Villanueva opens the series for the Jays

Carlos Villanueva will make his first start since 2009 and his first of his Blue Jays career later today.  I took a look at Villanueva's stuff last December, so I'm not going to do a full f/x profile today.  Just a refresher.  Or, more accurately, a refresher with updates.

  • Villanueva won't blow you away with velocity, as he'll average 89 or so with a very straight four-seam fastball.  
  • To compensate for his unspectacular fastball, he'll throw around 65% (or there abouts) offspeed pitches.  His non-fastball arsenal includes a low 80s slider and changeup, and two kinds of curves.  There might be two different kinds of changeups in there, one that looks like a four-seamer and one that looks like a two-seamer.
  • His curve is usually in the low or mid 70s, but he's also increased usage of an eephus that is usually in the 60s but dropped down to the mid 50s upon occasion.  I count only six from 2010, or less than 1% of his total pitch mix, but I see eight already this year (around 2%).  
  • The slider looks like Villanueva's best pitch.  Last year it garnered 44.1% whiffs on swings, and somehow it's at the exact same number this year through 34 swings. 

He's definitely a "crafty" finesse pitcher, but the quality of his off-speed stuff allow him to get a lot of strikeouts (just over 8 K/9 for his career, and a career-best 11.8 out of the 'pen last year).  It should be a fun matchup tonight against the brilliant Bartolo Colon

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Quick f/x: Zach Britton

 The rejuvenated (you heard me) Yankees start a quick two game series tonight against the Orioles at Camden, and on the mound for the birds will be rookie Zach Britton.  Britton has impressed so far with five wins and a 2.42 ERA.  I'd expect that to rise to the high 3s based on his peripherals, but that's still pretty good anyway.  Britton's a groundball-pitcher, grounder on 55% of balls in play this year.  He comes at hitters with four different offerings: two-seam fastball, four-seam fastballchangeup, and slider (click links for pitch grips).  He throws his fastballs in the low 90s, his changeup in the mid-high 80s (very little speed difference; tough to split them up from the fastballs sometimes) and his slider, which he reserves for lefties, a bit below that.  Individual pitch metrics for Britton in his young career:

#Swing RateWhiff RateZone RateBall RateCalled RateGB Rate

The changeup is definitely his best pitch (it's early, but look at that groundball rate!), and he's not afraid to throw it to lefties.  He's got good stuff, but he will give up hits.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nova returns to the hill, but will his slider come with him?

The Yankees will square off against the Royals in the rubber game of their three-game series tonight.  Toeing the slab for New York will be Ivan Nova, who is coming off the best start of his career (one run in 7 1/3 innings).  Nova's been pitching better recently after a rough start, but he's still only struck out as many as he's walked or hit.  Interestingly, he's completely ditched his slider over his past three starts after relying on it over his first three:

(click to enlarge)

Nova attributed his Spring Training success to the new slider, so it seems strange that he'd stop using it so soon.  It didn't look like a terrible pitch when he used it - of the 26 he threw this year, 15 were thrown for balls, three were called strikes, six were swung on and missed, and two were hit into play.  That's a lot of pitches out of the zone, so maybe Nova feels that using the slider too much prohibits him from pounding the strikezone?  I can only speculate.  Nova currently has the 7th lowest whiff rate among starters, so bringing back the slider, especially on 0-2 and 1-2 counts, might be good for him. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Davies kicks off the series

The Royals, who are actually playing good baseball, are in town to kick off the Yankees' homestand.  Opposing Freddy Garcia will be Kyle Davies, who is pitching to the tune of a 7.32 ERA so far this year.  His peripherals aren't good, but his 5.01 FIP and 4.48 xFIP are more reasonable estimates for Davies' ERA moving forward.  I'm keeping this quick - no charts or graphs today, but here are a few things about Davies' stuff and pitching style (from looking at 2010 data):

  • Davies works with four pitches.  He throws a four-seamer that averages 91-92, a cutter at about 88, a low-80s changeup, and a high-70s curveball.  There may be some sinking two-seamers thrown in with the fastball group, but he seems to be four-seam heavy.  
  • He's a flyball pitcher, averaging only 39% groundballs over his 145 career appearances.  Last year he could pick up grounders with his cutter (55%) and curve (49%), but his heater and changeup were both down around 30%. 
  • His control is suspect.  Last year he threw over 40% balls with his fastball (league average 36%), cutter (35%), and curve (41%).  His changeup was above-average in this regard.  
  • Overall, Davies will allow contact at about the league average, with below-average whiff rates on the fastball, cutter, and curve.  His changeup elicited 37% whiffs on swings last year, making it a good pitch to go to in strikeout situations.

Davies is no ace, but he's not as bad as a 7.32 ERA.  He's average at best in many categories, but his changeup looks pretty solid.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Gardner's bunts

There's been some talk recently on the Twittersphere and the webbernets about Brett Gardner's bunting.  He has attempted to bunt ten times this year and has yet to get a hit.  Over the course of his career, he hasn't been terrible, but he hasn't been great.  Consider Gardner's 2008-2011 numbers against some league averages:

Brett Gardner.530.205.386.409.333
League Average.502.184.520.286.392

Fair% is fair bunts per total bunt attempts; hit% is bunt hits per fair bunts; sac% is sacrifice bunts per fair bunts; out% is bunt outs per fair bunts; average is bunt hits per non-sacrifice bunt.  League averages are from 2008-2010 (I should update those soon).  

Gardner's about average at getting the bunt fair, but once it's in play, he's more prone to being thrown out at first base than the average bunter.  What is Gardner doing this year?


I don't want to look too seriously at a ten-pitch sample; Gardner has hit it fair more, but hasn't had much success with the bunt in play.  Gardner's four bunt-outs this year include a bunt pop-up to first and two fielder's-choice outs that allowed the runner to be thrown out at third base.

Overall, I'm not in favor of Gardner bunting so much.  Despite his great speed, he can't bunt for a very high average, and due to his unspectacular rate of fair bunts, he can't be relied on for a sacrifice (which probably shouldn't be used much anyway).  Joe Girardi recently acknowledged Gardner's bunting struggles, saying that "the only way to get better at it is to do it."  That may be true, but I'd much prefer to see Gardner use his excellent on-base skills than waste an opportunity trying to lay down a bunt.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Yankees pitch metrics, early 2011 edition

Somehow, we're already five weeks into the season.  I've re-classified all of the pitches thrown by Yankees up to this point - or, more accurately, those that were picked up by the PITCHf/x cameras (only a handful of pitches are missing).  Some pitchers have pitches that cluster pretty easily - for example, Mariano Rivera only throws two pitches, one that cuts and one that tails, so it's easy to distinguish his pitch types.  Joba Chamberlain and Lance Pendleton, who have both shown four pitches this year, also have pretty easy pitch clusters.  But other pitchers, like Freddy Garcia and Rafael Soriano, are not so easy to work with.  Garcia's extremely difficult as his four-seamer runs in with his two-seamer, his change looks like his split, and some splits might be labeled as sliders.  For Soriano, his four-seam fastball blends in with his cut fastball.  So, remember that there are always going to be some classification issues, though I do feel pretty confident in most of my IDs here.  With that in mind, I'd like to roll out some early season pitch data for the Yankees.  First off, average fastball velocities (minimum of 10 pitches to avoid small-sample calibration errors):

RankPitcherPitch Typemph
1Rafael SorianoSinker94.0
2Joba ChamberlainFastball93.8
3A.J. BurnettSinker92.8
4CC SabathiaFastball92.8
5Bartolo ColonFastball92.6
6A.J. BurnettFastball92.4
7Boone LoganSinker92.1
8David RobertsonFastball92.0
9Rafael SorianoFastball91.8
10CC SabathiaSinker91.8
11Luis AyalaFastball91.7
12Boone LoganFastball91.7
13Ivan NovaFastball91.6
14Luis AyalaSinker91.4
15Mariano RiveraSinker90.9
16Bartolo ColonSinker90.7
17Mariano RiveraCutter90.5
18Phil HughesFastball89.2
19Buddy CarlyleFastball89.1
20Lance PendletonFastball88.4
21Freddy GarciaSinker87.1
22Freddy GarciaFastball86.7

Who's been throwing the ball over the plate?  The minimum for this strikezone% leaderboard is 60 pitches:

RankPitcherPitch TypeZone Rate
1Bartolo ColonSinker.594
2Boone LoganFastball.576
3David RobertsonFastball.510
4Joba ChamberlainFastball.504
5CC SabathiaFastball.500
6Freddy GarciaSinker.487
7A.J. BurnettFastball.475
8CC SabathiaSlider.472
9Rafael SorianoSlider.471
10Rafael SorianoFastball.464
11Mariano RiveraCutter.462
12Phil HughesFastball.460
13Freddy GarciaSlider.444
14Ivan NovaFastball.440
15CC SabathiaChangeup.427
16Bartolo ColonFastball.418
17Freddy GarciaFastball.408
18Ivan NovaCurveball.357
19Joba ChamberlainSlider.352
20CC SabathiaSinker.341
21Freddy GarciaSplitter.299
22A.J. BurnettCurveball.270

Remember, sometimes it's good to not be in the strikezone.  I like seeing Burnett's curveball at the bottom of this list because when A.J.'s right, he's keeping his curveball low and getting empty swings.  Conversely, I don't like seeing the Sabathia and Soriano sliders so high on this list.  In a similar vein, the next leaderboard shows ball% (called balls per pitch), which factors in the hitter's ability to take pitches out of the zone.  This one's sorted from lowest to highest:

RankPitcherPitch TypeBall Rate
1Joba ChamberlainSlider.268
2Mariano RiveraCutter.277
3Bartolo Colon Sinker.288
4CC SabathiaSlider.299
5CC SabathiaChangeup.321
6David RobertsonFastball.325
7A.J. BurnettFastball.332
8Boone LoganFastball.333
9Phil HughesFastball.336
10CC SabathiaFastball.345
11Rafael SorianoFastball.348
12Freddy GarciaSlider.361
13CC SabathiaSinker.371
14Rafael SorianoSlider.371
15Freddy GarciaSinker.395
16Ivan NovaFastball.402
17Freddy GarciaSplitter.403
18Bartolo ColonFastball.408
19Joba ChamberlainFastball.412
20Ivan NovaCurveball.429
21A.J. BurnettCurveball.454
22Freddy GarciaFastball.461

Well, it looks A.J. isn't getting batters to swing on that curveball out of the zone as much as we might like.  Joba's slider has the good combination of both a low ball rate and a low zone rate (lots of chases out of the zone).   

And to wrap this up with my favorite metric, a look at the whiff rates (swinging strikes per swing) on the team, with a modest minimum of 25 swings:

RankPitcherPitch TypeWhiff Rate
1Joba ChamberlainSlider.475
2Freddy GarciaSplitter.447
3A.J. BurnettCurveball.395
4CC SabathiaChangeup.382
5CC SabathiaSinker.296
6Bartolo ColonFastball.271
7CC SabathiaSlider.271
8Freddy GarciaSlider.265
9David RobertsonCurveball.258
10A.J. BurnettChangeup.207
11Ivan NovaCurveball.207
12Rafael SorianoSlider.188
13Rafael SorianoFastball.179
14Boone LoganFastball.143
15Mariano RiveraCutter.142
16David RobertsonFastball.132
17CC SabathiaFastball.129
18Lance PendletonFastball.120
19Joba ChamberlainFastball.118
20A.J. BurnettFastball.103
21Ivan NovaFastball.099
22Phil HughesCutter.080
23Bartolo ColonSinker.072
24Freddy GarciaSinker.071
25Phil HughesFastball.036
Joba's slider looks really, really good.  Also, hello Freddy Garcia!  That pitch (labeled here as a splitter, though there may be changeups or sliders included in this group as well) has done a very good job at fooling hitters so far this year.

For context, refer to this post with league averages for these metrics by pitch type.