A Baseball Weblog

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Arrieta PITCHf/x

25-year old Jake Arrieta will take the mound for the Orioles as they try to salvage a split against the Yankees.  You can view Arrieta's season in a number of different ways: 10 wins on a terrible team is a good thing, 5.12 ERA is pretty frightening.  Even more frightening is his 5.29 FIP, due to a monstrous home run rate.  xFIP likes him more, pegging him at 4.32, which is serviceable.  Arrieta has a full five pitch mix, with good velocity and a huge curveball.  His slider can look like a cutter sometimes.  Enjoy the charts and graphs.




Saturday, July 30, 2011

The midseason Nova profile

As Joe Girardi put it, Ivan Nova will make his return to the majors in the tonight "unless something freaky happens."  Nova's had his ups and downs in his time as the Yankees' nominal fourth starter in 2011, and overall it would be fair to say that he did a serviceable job in the back-end of the rotation.  As a little refresher on Nova, here are the charts and graphs that you typically see around these parts. 

mph#LHB%RHB%SwingWhiff ZoneChaseWatchBallnsCallGB Rate



Nova has good tools, with his primary offering being a four-seam fastball that can get into the mid-90s with natural sink.  Despite his cross-seam grip and propensity to keep it up in the zone, the four-seamer generates plenty of ground balls.  His curveball is hard and has plenty of break, but it doesn't elicit nearly enough swings and whiffs for the amount of times it's thrown for a ball.  His changeup is pretty much a show-me pitch at this point.  I've mentioned his slider a few times on this site, and it still looks like an intriguing pitch with plenty of potential given that he keeps it down and has been able to miss bats with it.  He's brought it back into his repertoire after exiling it from April 19th to May 28th, though he still prefers the curve as his main offspeed pitch.

No doubt, this will be a big start for Nova.  Phil Hughes does not look like the pitcher he was last year, and if Nova makes a good impression tonight, he could be looked at as someone to take Hughes's rotation spot.

Burnett's adjustment on the mound

After yesterday's game, the Star Ledger's Marc Carig noted on Twitter that A.J. Burnett had shifted towards the third base side of the rubber in order to get a better angle to the plate.  The chart below, with "release" indicating the location of the ball at 50 feet from home plate, confirms this:

Only 2011 home games were used in order to limit the amount of park calibration variation.  You can see that his most recent start is a big horizontal release outlier, as he's shifted about a foot towards third base (or "negatively," since this is from the catcher's perspective) from where he usually is.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hey, Doug Fister

The Mariners haven't won since July 5th.  They stumbled into New York and now are owners of a sixteen game losing streak.  Tonight, they will turn to Doug Fister, who has pitched well but has not much to show for it - he has a 3.30 ERA, but only a 3-11 record.  His best skill is his ability to prevent free passes, as his 2 walks per 9 innings is one of the best rates in the league.  He's striking out a few more guys this year than last year, but that's not really his game.  Isolated metrics for his five pitches are below.

He's primarily a sinkerballer these days, reserving the four-seam cheese for only a few occurrences per game.  

mph#LHB%RHB%SwingWhiff ZoneChaseBallnsCallGB Rate



Grounders come from the sinker, which is located higher in the zone than the typical sinker:

As for horizontal locations, the sinker, curve, and change are aimed gloveside, while the four-seamer and cutter go armside:

None of his pitches stand out as plus offerings, but his ability to get the ball over the plate consistently makes him at the very least a league average starter.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What to make of Harden?

Rich Harden is back with the Athletics, and he will take on A.J. Burnett and the Yankees this afternoon.  After beginning the year on the DL, he's made three July starts, pitching to a 5 ERA but with much better peripherals.  He's coming off of a terrible year in Arlington in which he lost his ability to strike hitters out while issuing a career high walk rate.  He's looking a lot better in his first three starts this year, but his patented changeup is not fooling hitters like it once was.  Considering the strikeout is such a huge part of Harden's game, here are the whiff rates on his two-pitch* arsenal dating back to 2008.

*he sometimes throws a two-seamer, but it's rare.  Also of note is that his changeup looks more like a traditional slider than a changeup.

Through his first three starts, the fastball is back to its 2008-2009 rate, but the changeup is still about where it was last year.  In response to the question posed as the title of this post: it's impossible to know this early in his season.  We'll need more data to determine whether the A's are getting the 2008-2009 Rich Harden or the 2010 one. 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Musing on David Robertson's changeup

For the 8th inning of the Yankees' 5-4 win over the Rays on Monday, David Robertson came on and struck out two batters, something that is fairly typical for him.  However, both strikeouts came on a changeup, which is the least frequently used of Robertson's three pitches.  Given that his shutdown eighth was a big moment in the game and many people were watching, now is probably a good time to discuss D-Rob's change:

  • Robertson has thrown 20 changeups this year, and 19 of them have been to left-handed batters (the exception was to Nelson Cruz on April 15th).
  • It might not sound like a lot, but it's plenty more than he threw last year (five all year, and just one from June through August). 
  • At just under 87 mph, it's only about six off of his fastball, but it does have about eight inches more armside tail (something batters are not used to seeing from Robertson, who throws a cutting four-seam fastball and does not use a sinker).
  • He doesn't like using it in save situations; he usually only throws the change when behind, tied, or with a big lead (more on this later).

Like I said, Robertson has only thrown 20 changeups this year, so take the numbers below for what they're worth; basically, he misses with it a lot, and when he doesn't, batters do.

mph#LHBRHBBallCalledSwingingFoulIn ZoneIn Play

Now returning to the fourth bullet-point: Robertson has shown an unwillingness to stray from his two more comfortable pitches in save situations.  The chart below shows the situation in which he threw each of his changeups.

DateInningBallsStrikesScore (ahead/behind)

Only two of his changeups have been thrown in save situations, though that doesn't necessarily mean that he's not comfortable using it in big spots, given his reliance on it in tied games such as yesterday's.  He's proven that he really doesn't need more than two pitches to be lights-out as a reliever, but being able to show the changeup to lefties, as he did yesterday, will make him nastier than he already is.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cobb f/x

After getting beaten up in the first two games of the second half, the Yankees were able to salvage a series-split with Blue Jays in Canada.  They'll now begin an important four-game series with the Rays at Tropicana Field - if Tampa has a poor week, they could be forced to become sellers at the trade deadline.  The set will kick off with A.J. Burnett getting the ball against Rays' rookie Alex Cobb.  Cobb, who will be 24 in October, has been posting good minor league numbers, including a strikeout rate over 9 per 9 innings and a walk rate at about 2 and a half per 9 innings since 2010.  He's been in Triple A for most of this year, but has made five of his starts for the big club.  

Cobb is working with four pitches this year.  He'll throw two types of 91 mph fastballs, one that's pretty straight (four-seam grip) and another that sinks and tails (two-seam grip).  His primary offspeed pitch is a mid-80s splitter (picture here) that often dives straight down but sometimes moves more like a sinker (the few that appear to be cutting are due to some calibration offsets at Tropicana Field).  He also has a high 70s curveball in his arsenal.  He hasn't been great at missing bats, and his control is suspect.  He will, however, get the ball on the ground with all of his pitches but the four-seamer.  Charts and graphs are below; click the graphs to enlarge them.

mph#LHB%RHB%Swing WhiffZoneBallnsCallGB%



Looking at pitch heights split into five different zones (below the zone, low in the zone, middle, high in the zone, above the zone), we can see that Cobb keeps his four-seamer up, his sinker a little lower, and his offspeed stuff low.  

Friday, July 8, 2011

Hellickson stuff preview

Tonight, Jeremy Hellickson will take on the Yankees, who are enduring something of a mini-slump before the break.  Hellickson is a rookie with a great minor league track record and a good ERA this year despite unspectacular peripherals.  You could call him a three-pitch pitcher, but more accurately, he throws six.  I have five ID'd: a four-seam fastball, a straight change, a curve, and some rare sinkers and cutters.  His fastballs are extremely difficult to distinguish; there are probably some inaccuracies surrounding the splits I made between four-seam/sinker/cutter.  He's predominately four-seamers, though.  The other gray area is around his curveball, which is slurvey and often ranges in movement and velocity.  Hellickson has said that he throws a harder version of the curve with two strikes; for now, I'm lumping all of breaking pitches into a curve group.

Onto the details of his stuff ...

mph#LHB%RHB%Swing Whiff Zone Ball Called GB%



He's an extreme fly-ball guy.  Some changeups are very good at getting ground balls; Hellickson's is not.  It's slow and doesn't sink a whole lot, which leads to plenty of missed bats but not many ground balls.  The change is certainly his best pitch, regardless, as he can throw it for strikes and pick up whiffs.  Hellickson is very comfortable using the change against right-handed batters.  The slurve has a nice swing-and-miss rate, but it's thrown for a ball quite a bit.  His fastball doesn't look too impressive; it's probably best used to get over the plate early in the count to set up the changeup, but it is worse than average in zone rate and balls per pitch.

Hellickson's K/BB ratio is down to 1.7 after being consistently above 3 in the minor leagues.  He's having trouble locating his fastball, and it's leading to way too many free passes (3.4 per 9 this year, with an unspectacular strikeout rate of 5.9).  His changeup does look very good, though.

Here is a link to a 2010 article about Hellickson's repertoire.