Friday, April 29, 2011

The Save Rule Has Ruined Bullpen Usage

an Francisco Giants' Sergio Romo walks off the field during his MLB National League baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals in San Francisco, California, April 8, 2011.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

The save has destroyed the way the modern bullpen is utilized. I wrote earlier this month about the egregious bullpen usage of Bruce Bochy and he's not alone in using his bullpen in a less than optimal manor.

There is an excellent article written by Matthew Leach of that hits things spot on.
A culture has developed around one individual stat to the extent that some managers and pitching coaches sometimes seem to focus as much on that number as on winning a game. That statistic is the save. The culture of saves has changed baseball strategies and tactics, and not for the better.

The save rule unilaterally decrees that the most important outs of the game are the final outs. Sometimes, that's the case, but often a game hinges on at-bats in the eighth inning or even the seventh. And too many managers worry more about having their best reliever available for a ninth-inning lead that may not exist if they don't get through the eighth.
The modern bullpen is a hierarchy or roles with some flexibility in the lower tiers. Each pitcher has their set innings or roles that they pitch in and only in the very rare circumstance do things change. When it comes to the ninth inning with a save opportunity, things get even more rigid.

It's rather surprising to me that something that appears to be so suboptimal in such a fiercely competitive league where a marginal win is measured in the $5 million range boggles my mind. Things were not always this way and it has really only been since the 80's that things have changed. Before then, the relief ace was a "fireman" who came into get out of jams. Now, that very important task is left to pitchers who are less talented and paid much less.

For teams that have more than just one good pitcher, this isn't as big of an issue, but for teams where the drop off in talent is high, this could be difference between a win and never getting the chance to use a closer in a save situation.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Giants Biggest Problem

San Francisco Giants shorts stop Miguel  Tejada (L) tags out St. Louis Cardinals baserunner Jon  Jay (R) after Jay attempted to steal second base during the top of the eighth inning of their MLB National League baseball game in San Francisco, California, April 9, 2011.   REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach

David Schoenfield, in the sweet spot this morning, lists the five biggest problems for contending teams and to no one's surprise, the Giants are on the list for their crummy defense.
Make what you want of defensive metrics, but logic tells you the Giants have issues on defense: old man Tejada at shortstop, pondering Pat Burrell in left, Andres Torres on the DL, not-exactly-Brooks Robinson Pablo Sandoval at third, and Aubrey Huff, who was moved back to first base after his adventures in right field. Ultimate Zone Rating (UZR) has the Giants as the third-worst defensive team so far (although it grades Sandoval well at third). Considering Tejada isn't hitting either, how long will the Giants stick with him?
I think this is pretty spot on and partially describes why the Giants are not doing as well this year in the run prevention department as the have the last two years. It's still only part of the problem; the other being the free passes that always seem to bite them.

I stated early in the season that I don't expect this to be a major issue and, for the most part, I still stand by that. I think Pablo is much improved and looks to be above average now at third base now that he has settled down and not trying to do too much. That should help some with the defense on the left side of the infield.

The right side of the infield should be okay as well, with another average or maybe a little better guy at second in Sanchez matched with a decent to maybe slightly below average (but still better than he is in Right Field) Aubrey Huff. Putting those together will give you an average-ish infield defense on a team that doesn't depend on ground balls being turned into outs, which is perfect.

The outfield is another story. Burrell isn't going to win any awards for defense and I'm not buying his UZR from last season. He is below average and that's something that must be accepted. Rowand does a good enough job in center but he is no Torres, who is one of the best, and Ross is acceptable but not a gold glover.

Summing up the outfield doesn't look great with below average, average, and average playing in a large outfield. It will be better when Torres comes back and the pitchers will breath easier when they get a lead and Burrell can hit the showers early.

To me, the defense looks like it should be average and not horrible as the season progresses. The bigger problem for me is the anemic offense that they have showed so far, which I am less optimistic about turning around.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Walks are Killing the Giants

San Francisco pitcher Madison Bumgarner leaves the mound after the Giants allowed 4 runs in the fifth inning of his MLB National League baseball game against the Los Angeles Dodgers in San Francisco, California, April 11, 2011. REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach
It seems like every time a Giants pitcher issues a walk, it comes back to hurt them. The walks always come in the worst moments and compound the issues.

I took the time to painstakingly look through the play-by-play files to determine how many of those walks came into score and my tally was 27. [Side note: if someone knows a place that keeps track of this so I don't have to do it manually, leave me a comment.]

Breaking this down a little further, of the 76 walks, five were intentional, so we have 26 runs scored on 71 regular walks and one run scored on five intentional walks.

For the regular walks, the Giants pitchers have managed a strand rate of just 63.4%, which is far below the overall average this season of 69% and league average, which tends to be about 72%. This suggests that things will get better as the season goes on, but man, the early picture is not a pretty one.

This actually ties in with the picture painted by the overall team stats that I went over in the post about the Giants not having a claim to the best pitching staff in baseball. They rate well in two thirds of the stats that pitchers have the most control over, with the second best home run rate per nine and the third best strikeout rate per nine, but only the 19th best walk rate per nine.

When you add that to the fact that they haven't done well in keeping these base runners from scoring, it makes sense that the team is in the middle of the pack in ERA. If the Giants can do better in limiting the walks (I am not holding my breath, not with Jonathan Sanchez and Barry Zito in the rotation) or do a better job of stranding the runners they give a free pass to, things will get much better.

Until then, the walks will keep killing the Giants.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Ravings of the Lunatic Fringe: Pull Brian Wilson Edition

I've got a new weekly gig over at Davis Sports Deli talking about the Giants end of the Giants-Dodgers rivalry. My inaugural post looks at the early struggles of Brian Wilson and the ridiculous calls (I really need to listen to less KNBR) by some fans that a change needs to be made because his problems are mostly bad luck, which is the opposite of what's happening with Jonathan Broxton.
The ravings of the lunatic fringe at times can make a person want to pull out their hair. This has been illustrated perfectly the last few days after Brian Wilson, the Giants All-Star closer gave up three runs on Sunday handing the Braves the game and a series sweep.

His 9.82 ERA combined with the Giants four game losing streak have brought the crazies out of the wood work demanding a change in who closes out games. People are calling for him to shave the beard and to cut out the stupid act that he has going. People are questioning his focus now that he is staring in commercials. I guess his quirks aren’t as cute when things aren’t going so good.

I have a feeling that many of these people who are sharpening their pitchforks are new to the bandwagon and only know the dominate closer of the playoffs last year. Well here is a news flash that they need to hear, wonky things can and do happen in just 7 and 1/3 innings and there is nothing wrong with Brian Wilson.
Check out the whole thing and settle down because Wilson will be just fine (I hope).

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Nate Schierholtz: Pack Your Bags

The end appears to be near for local kid Nate Schierholtz. Jerry Crasnick is reporting the the Giants are sending out feelers to get an idea of the return possible for Schierholtz.

This is sad, but you really had to see it coming.

There is almost no way that the Giants would cut Aaron Rowand and his trade value with the albatross contract is probably zero without paying for just about all of it. At least if they trade Schierholtz, he could possibly fetch some prospect with value in return.

It's too bad that he's caught up in the roster crunch with Andres Torres and Santiago Casilla coming off the DL soon.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Do Giants Have Claim to Top Pitching Staff?

Giants fans were outraged when everyone and their Mother forgot about the 2010 playoffs and jumped on the Phillies bandwagon as the best in baseball. Many were incensed by the team that just beat each of these pitchers so casually being cast aside.

So far this season, the Giants have not done much to try regain the claim as the top pitching staff after their slow start.

By just about every traditional measure, the Giants are just not among the best in baseball. Here are the MLB rankings:

ERA - 3.92 (14th)
WHIP - 1.245 (12th)
ERA+ - 104 (13th)

However, if you take the time to dig a little bit deeper, you can see things are not as bad as the traditional stats would lead you to believe:

K/9 - 8.18 (3rd)
K/BB - 2.37 (6th)
FIP - 3.28 (3rd)
xFIP - 3.53 (4th)

All of these save for K/9 (which was 8.20 last year) are better than that historically great staff. This year's team is giving up more runs, but the biggest departure this year is they just haven't stranded as many base runners as normal.

April has been a tough month for the Giants, so I expect that the rankings will improve as the season progresses, but I think maybe that some of that over confidence in having the best pitching in baseball might have been too much. This is still a very good pitching team, but I'm not as sure that they still have a claim as the best.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Haters Gonna Hate, but Pat the Bat is Not as Bad as You Think.

San Francisco Giants' Pat Burrell throws his bat after striking out against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the fourth inning in their Opening Day MLB National League baseball game in Los Angeles, California March 31, 2011.    REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

Pat Burrell has gotten a bunch of criticism this season, especially before he went off for four hits in the last two games, raising his average from .208 to .250. Much of this criticism has been undeserved.

Burrell has been one of the best hitters on this Giants team this season and, on top of everything, he is a bargain at $1 million for this year. Yes, even with all of those strikeouts and a batting average barely above his weight, he's still a bargain.

Here is his ranks among the team:

wOBA- 2nd (.385)
OPS+- 2nd (135)
OBP- 5th (.348)
SLG- 2nd (.533)
HR- 1st (5)
BB- 2nd (7)

When you put all of that together, that is a very nice hitter and there isn't another player that the Giants could substitute into left field that could give close to the production of what Burrell is giving right now.

He has issues that he can improve upon (namely strikeouts, defense, and his struggles against left handed pitchers). I can look past those issues, however, when he can hit for power when he puts the ball in play and he can continue to have patient at-bats. He also has the ability to work the pitcher. He should have an everyday spot in the lineup.

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Saturday, April 23, 2011

Bargain or Bust: The 2010 Giants Salaries

The Giants last season were very much feast or famine in getting value from their players. They had some huge bargains and some huge busts but not a lot of players that earned what they "deserved."

This is pretty interesting to me and I wonder if this is a normal occurrence around baseball or if the Giants were a special case last year. Unless someone knows off the top of their head, that could be something interesting to look at another day.

Here are the 2010 Salaries, WAR turned into Value ($4.25 million per win), and then the difference.

Marginal Value
$ 426,000
$ 25,500,000
$ 25,074,000
$ 3,000,000
$ 24,225,000
$ 21,225,000
$ 400,000
$ 16,575,000
$ 16,175,000
$ 9,000,000
$ 21,675,000
$ 12,675,000
$ 4,583,333
$ 17,000,000
$ 12,416,667
$ 300,000
$ 11,475,000
$ 11,175,000
$ 3,250,000
$ 13,600,000
$ 10,350,000
$ 2,100,000
$ 11,050,000
$ 8,950,000
$ 400,000
$ 8,500,000
$ 8,100,000
$ 465,000
$ 8,075,000
$ 7,610,000
$ 6,000,000
$ 11,475,000
$ 5,475,000
$ 6,500,000
$ 11,475,000
$ 4,975,000
$ 416,500
$ 5,100,000
$ 4,683,500
$ 400,000
$ 3,825,000
$ 3,425,000
$ 405,000
$ 2,975,000
$ 2,570,000
$ 416,500
$ 2,125,000
$ 1,708,500
$ 400,500
$ 1,700,000
$ 1,299,500
$ 417,000
$ 1,275,000
$ 858,000
$ 750,000
$ 1,275,000
$ 525,000
$ 4,000,000
$ 850,000
$ (3,150,000)
$ 10,000,000
$ 5,525,000
$ (4,475,000)
$ 18,500,000
$ 8,925,000
$ (9,575,000)
$ 13,600,000
$ 2,125,000
$ (11,475,000)

It isn't surprising (or at least shouldn't be if you watched the team last year), but Rowand and Zito are the worst offenders, with Huff and Torres leading the team. Torres is unreal; according to this calculation, he was worth nearly 60 times what the Giants paid him!

What was most surprising to me is only two guys were within $1 million of their pay and value. Even then, Mota, who is closest, was worth 70% more than what the Giants paid him.

All very interesting.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Should FIELDf/x Go Public?

Albert Lyu has an article up on Fangraphs about whether or not FIELDf/x will be available to the public and even if it will should it be within the reach of all of us.

I believe that the answer should be yes to both of these.

Lyu's argument why it might not be available to the average Joe is threefold.
  1. Stat savvy team will want a competitive advantage and keeping it exclusive will stop lazy teams from using free analysis from us hard working bloggers.
  2. There is too much data. Keeping track of every single player over the course of a game throws off tons of data and the everyday guy who does this for a hobby will not have the expertise or space to handle this.
  3. Fans don't care and don't need this information. 
Of these arguments the only one I am buying is number 1. There would be some teams that really are interested in this data while others could probably care less, or at least not care so much if it isn't given away for free like PITCHf/x currently is.

For the data deluge, this might be a problem in the short term but as storage and processing costs fall this will be less and less of an issue. This also ties in with number 3, those that want this information will find a way to use it if it is available. This isn't going to be a mainstream product but neither is PITCHf/x, but there is a nice community around it that absolutely loves it.

If I had a vote in the matter I want this to be available to the widest amount of people and be able to harness the collective knowledge of the widest set of people. This has great potential and I would hate to see it crippled.

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Giants Link Round-Up 4/22

It's Friday and that means it's time for some links. Here is the best of the best from around the Giants Blogoshpere:

Bay City Ball: Otis gives us a nice piece on Ball in Play Types for Pitchers.

Baseball Monk: The monks take a swing at answering the very tough question: When Does Cheating Overshadow Greatness?

Splashing Pumpkins: Julian is the barer of bad news and try's to rain on everyone's parade with his worries about Aubrey Huff.

Fangraphs: Along the same lines as the piece from the Splashing Pumpkins, Joe Pawlikowski has some longer term concerns about the decisions that the Giants face with Belt and Huff.

Optioned to Fresno: Kevin, who is a contributor here at the Crabbers, has a new blog that focuses on prospects and minor league baseball, specifically the Giants farm system. Add this to your reading lists and check out his post Why Brandon Belt 's Stint Wasn't a Total Disappointment.

Also, sign up for our free newsletter to get your Giants updates twice a week. It will give you the top stories and links to all the best things happening around the inter-webs related to the Giants.

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Giants vs. Braves Series Preview

The NLDS rematch.


Friday, April 22, 7:15 PM
0-2, 7.36 ERA, 7.60 tRA
1-3, 3.86 ERA, 4.75 tRA

My worry level has crept up with each start from Bumgarner. He has shown flashes of putting things together, but has not yet done it for a full game. He hasn’t allowed less than three runs in any of his outings and has walked more than he has struck out.

He looked much better in the second half of his start against the D-Backs, so hopefully that is sign of his mechanics clicking.

Hanson, like Bumgarner, has gotten off to a little bit of a rough start. He had one good start against the Marlins and the rest were less than stellar.

His strikeouts have dropped off a little bit, reaching back to the middle of last year and have been disappointing thus far this season as well. His 9K game against the Mets in his last outing should give some comfort to Braves fans.

Saturday, April 23, 1:10 PM
2-1 1.67 ERA, 2.01 tRA
2-2, 4.05 ERA, 2.93 tRA

Lincecum has been really really good to start this season. He had a no hitter going into the seventh inning at Coors Field and notched his second 10+ strikeout game of the season.

His fastball has life again and his slider is a consistent out pitch. It is early, but it looks like the makings of another special season for Lincecum. Also, remember what happened last time he faced the Braves.

Hudson is his usual groundball inducing self, getting 64% of his balls in play hit on the ground. His ERA is a little inflated because he hasn’t as many of the base runners (just 59% compared to his career 74% mark). His tRA also shows that he has been tough on hitters.

This should be a very nice pitching matchup and a tough day for the hitters.

Sunday, April 24, 1:05 PM
2-1, 3.13 ERA, 2.51 tRA
1-1, 3.86 ERA, 3.85 tRA

Sanchez has pitched well in the number two spot of the rotation this season. Sure he has had his days where he walks too many, but he has continued to miss bats at an elite rate.

Sanchez currently sits in second place with a K/9 of 10.96 behind only Matt Garza and ahead of teammate Lincecum.

If he can keep doing what he is doing, I am confident that he will put together an excellent season.

Beachy is a rookie pitcher who has done very well in his early stint in the majors. I don’t know much about him, so here is what John Sickels wrote about him:

“The 24-year-old Beachy has a 90-94 MPH fastball to go with a solid curveball and changeup, and he has an excellent feel for pitching. It is hard to believe that a guy like this went undrafted, but he's come a long way very quickly. Although many scouts still see him as "just" a number four starter, he outpitched many more-heralded prospects last year, and could certainly do so again this season, making him a sleeper candidate for National League Rookie of the Year.”


The Braves are a good team but they have gotten off to a slow start. Even though they are below .500, they have a positive run differential. They have a great pitching staff, a good bullpen, and a solid lineup. This should be a tough match-up for the Giants, just like it was in the playoffs.

The Giants have some good mojo going after taking two out of three against the Rockies, so hopefully it carries over coming back home. The long ball has been the Giants friend, but that will be hard against the ground ball heavy Braves, but maybe they can take advantage of some mistakes.

This should be close and I think it could go either way, but it would be big if the Giants can win another series before going on a ten game east coast road trip.

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Injuries that make me hold my breath

The injury bug has bitten the Giants lately. First, it was Cody Ross, then Brian Wilson, then Andres Torres, and then the $126 million man, Barry Zito. These injuries have challenged the Giants and tested their depth but haven't been a knockout blow to the team.

Yesterday, there were two times that I nearly freaked out. The first was when Pablo Sandoval had to leave the field after batting practice with an injury and the second was when Buster Posey was hit on the hand while catching.

These were "hold your breath" moments and if they turned into something serious, it could have changed the trajectory of this season.

We know that the Giants are built around pitching and it would be pretty obvious that losing any of their main four starters would be a really bad thing. Even losing Zito isn't great but hopefully Ryan Vogelsong has some magic and can hold things down. What I hadn't thought much about was how fragile this burgeoning middle of the order is.

Right now, the Giants have a legit middle of the order that other teams must worry about. It's really nice to have, seeing as we are still a stone's throw from the Bengie Molina cleanup hitter era. The Huff-Posey-Sandoval threesome is wonderful, but we are a couple freak plays away from Padres style futility.

May the luck be with us.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why Brandon Belt 's Stint Wasn't a Total Disappointment

One of the first posts on the new blog I'm starting at Optioned to Fresno, which concentrates on prospects and minor league baseball, specifically the Giants farm system.

Before today's 10-2 shellacking at the hands of the Rockies, the Giants activated Cody Ross of the disabled list and predictably sent down Brandon Belt to Fresno. The decision was expected after Belt's much-anticipated, but somewhat disappointing Major League debut. Despite hitting .282 with three home runs in Spring Training, Belt looked overmatched at times at the plate during the regular season and only hit .192 in 17 games.

While most people would look at Belt's callup as a bit of a failure, Giants fans have to be somewhat relieved with Belt's cup of coffee stint this year. While the average wasn't pretty (sub-.200 averages never are), a lot of his numbers were actually very promising. In 60 plate appearances, he scored seven runs, drew eight walks, hit a home run and had four RBI. His walk rate calculated to 13.3 percent, and despite striking out 13 times (a 25 percent strikeout percentage), his BB/K ratio was still solid at 0.62.

Additionally, Belt's plate discipline numbers were comforting as well. His O-swing percentage (swings outside the strike zone percentage) was 21.5 percent, which is below league average. Of course, his contact percentage was a bit below league average at 77.5 percent (league average is about 80 percent) and his swinging strike percentage was above league average at 9.5 percent (league average is around 8 percent). However, you have to remember Belt had only 61 plate appearances above Double-A going into this year. To break into the Major Leagues despite having only 61 plate appearances in Fresno, and show pretty above-average plate discipline is a testament to him as a hitter.

And yet, much like I anticipated, Belt simply hasn't developed enough yet to have an immediate impact at the next level with the Giants. His power numbers (.077 ISO) were extremely down in comparison to what we saw last year in the minors (his ISO was .286 and .333 in Richmond and Fresno, respectively), and his BABIP was low to boot (.237). While some of this could be blamed on him just being unlucky, his low line drive rate (15.7 percent) and GB/FB ratio (2.00) probably show that he was overmatched a bit and needs to regain and retool a little bit before his next Major League callup. Thankfully for Giants fans, it's early in the season and it's not farfetched to think that if Belt can regain his form and power in Fresno (which is highly possible because the PCL is notoriously known as a hitter's league), he'll be back on the Giants 25-man roster sometime in July or August.

Overall, it would have been nice to see Belt break onto the scene like Buster Posey did last year and be a favorite for the Rookie of the Year award (like some people thought). But unfortunately, those expectations were probably a little too high and unfair on Belt. Belt had less professional experience than last year's Rookie of the Year (Posey had 208 plate appearances with the Grizzlies in 2010 before he was called up), and he really never was a prospect of Posey's caliber. Posey was the fifth overall pick in the draft, had signed the highest signing bonus for a draft pick in team history, and in 2010 was the seventh-best prospect in baseball according to Baseball America. Belt was a fifth-round pick and was the 23rd-best prospect going into the 2011 season (he was unranked going into last season). So the Posey-Belt comparison was probably a case of overreaching by Giants fans.

That being said, Belt still has the chance to be good, and I think he still should be the Giants' first baseman of the future as expected. The skill set is there, and the good foundation with his plate discipline is going to bode good things when he gets back to the Major League level. Furthermore, unlike Posey's situation when he was called up, there really isn't a dire need for a first baseman. Aubrey Huff is best-suited for the first base position, and our defense is a lot better with Ross and Nate Scheirholtz in right rather than Huff.

Thus, there needs to be no need to panic for Giants fans or Giants management. Belt is going to be a solid, productive player for this Giants organization down the line. He just needs a little more development (as expected), and he's still young enough and early enough in his career to go through some more development in the minors. I expect him to do well in Fresno this year, where a lot of position prospects have been fostered nicely in the last few years (Posey, Nate Schierholtz and John Bowker being prime examples...they all had very good offensive campaigns with the Grizzlies).

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The End of the Brandon Belt Experiment

Brandon Belt is going back to Fresno.

The Giants apparently feel that he is "over-matched" and needs more "seasoning." The organization feels that heading to Fresno will help him rebuild his "bat speed" and "confidence."

I say baloney. This was a numbers game and they made the tough decision based on a small sample size of MLB at-bats.

I don't think anyone's opinion of him as a prospect has changed. He still has excellent pitch recognition and approach. MLB pitchers have just found a slight hole in his swing and he hasn't made an adjustment to it yet. He played in 17 big league games and had 52 at bats. The hits didn't fall and he got off to a slow start and when the roster crunch came, he was held with the short straw.

I was surprised when he made the team out of spring and I wanted them to take the cautious route and wait until he had some more at-bats in Fresno to show that last year wasn't a flash in the pan and relieve some pressure that would come with the Opening Day nod. The Giants saw it differently. They thought he was ready for the Big Show and I thought it was a fair assessment. Now, they are not so sure and think he needs more time.

The way this happened wasn't anybody's first choice, but this was something that I saw coming and made me worried. This was the high risk, medium reward route and I think it has blown up in their face a little bit.

Hopefully this is just a minor set back and the struggles and the short leash won't get into his head.

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Home Run Rates and Fastball Movement

In the offseason, there was a lively debate about Matt Cain and his ability to keep the ball in the park. There was one hypothesis that suggested that pitchers who throw a hard, rising fastball* give up less home runs per fly ball than would be expected.

I did some initial research into this and found that there is a fairly strong negative correlation between vertical movement and home run rate. My initial research looked just at individual starting pitchers and was not able to isolate just fastballs, giving my concern that there might be a lot of noise that could have distorted the true effects. Well, now I have much better data that gives me every fastball tracked by Pitch F/X from 2008 through last night's games to study from.

This new sample is huge (54,396 pitches) and should hopefully give me some robust answers as I work with it. My first exercise was to break the pitches into buckets grouped by vertical movement and look at the corresponding home run rate.

The correlation here is pretty astounding (R2 of 97). In my previous study, there was some correlation but nothing close to the magnitude here. This seems to lend credence to my theory that fastballs that drop less than expected induce more "lazy" fly balls than hard hit fly balls.

To me, this seems like common sense reasoning as well. Most would tend to agree that if a pitch has more sink, it would have more gravity that would cause batters to hit the top portion of the ball and induce ground balls.The opposite should be true as well. If a pitch fails to drop as much as gravity suggests, batters would hit the bottom portion of the ball and induce more pop ups and fly balls.

The next step will be to create a regression estimate including everything that goes into explaining a pitcher's home run per fly ball rate. At least this gives me an idea that I am on the right path.

*The fastball is not literally rising but would be in a gravity neutral environment. The vertical movement described here means that the pitch is dropping less than expected.

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Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Five Best Tim Lincecum Pitching Performances

After a dominating performance in Colorado last night where Tim Lincecum took a no hitter into the 7th inning, it seems fitting to bask in the glow of this majestic pitching performance and remember some of the other great pitching performances from "The Franchise."

Here are the five best from his career.

5. July 27, 2009 Giants: 4, Pirates 2

9.0 4 2 0 3 15 0 115 80 87 34

This is Lincecum's 15 strikeout gem that represents his career high in strikeouts. He gave up two runs but both were the unearned variety due to an error from Edgar Renteria. Lincecum absolutely pounded the strike zone, with 80 of his 115 pitches going for strikes and the Pirates were unable to do anything against him all day.

He beautifully mixed his fastball with his new change-up and his big curve ball.

4. September 13, 2008: Giants 7, Padres 0

9.0 4 0 0 3 12 0 138 86 88 33

This was probably the game that put him over the top for Cy Young #1. There were some concerns at the time about him being overused and that the Giants were being short sighted in letting him ring up 138 pitches in a game that was a blowout and meaningless for the standings.

The heavy work load doesn't seem to have hurt anything, as Lincecum seems as strong as ever and, even in this game, he had an amazing fastball that averaged 94.4 mph and touched 96.6. The Padres managed four hits (all singles) while Lincecum struck out 12 and walked three.

3. November 1, 2010: Giants 3, Rangers 1


The World Series masterpiece.

There may have been better statistical games that are being left of this list, but none of those can compare with this game to the magnitude and pressure of this games. Lincecum was absolutely dominate, out-dueling media darling Clif Lee. The only blemish on the stat sheet is a lone home run to Nelson Cruz. Beyond that, the Rangers never really got anything going.

Lincecum mowed through the Rangers with his new out pitch; his slider. This was a beautiful game and one that Giants fans could watch over and over again.

2. June 29, 2009: Giants 10, Cardinals 0

9.0 20008095609129

This is the closest Lincecum has come to perfection. He came out dealing and never looked back. This was an efficient game, with Lincecum never throwing more then 13 pitches in an inning and if it weren't for the offensive barrage from the Giants this game, he could have been finished in less than two hours.

Lincecum only brought the perfect game into the fifth inning, but that doesn't take anything away from the greatness of this game. This also was his second complete game in a row and came as part of a 31 inning scoreless streak. So yeah, he was dialed in.

1. October 7, 2010: Giants 1, Braves 0

9.0 2001140119759630

This outing came on the heels of Roy Halladay's no hitter of the Reds but in many respects, it was a much more impressive feat. This game was incredibly close, as Derek Lowe shut down the Giants offense with the only run coming on a blown call on a Buster Posey stolen base and a seeing eye ground ball through the 5-6 hole. Lincecum had no margin for error and he made the one run of support stand up.

This is also the game that he introduced the nationwide audience to his slider and it was down right unfair on this night. He got an astounding 28 swing and misses on his way to 14 strikeouts. This game set the tone for the rest of the playoffs for the Giants. They had the best pitching in baseball and were good enough to shut down any lineup.

This game was a classic and so far represents the pinnacle of Lincecum's career, but I have a feeling that the best is yet to come.

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