"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Anatomy of ERA

take a look at these two lines for two houston astros SPs:

Pitcher A: 54.7 IP 54 H 14 BB 50 K 6 HR 3.50 DIPS
Pitcher B: 55.0 IP 58 H 16 BB 27 K 5 HR 4.34 DIPS

the difference in ERA for these 2 starters is a full run. for those of us who subscribe to voros mccracken's DIPS theorey, it would be expected that pitcher A has the lower ERA. that is not the case, though. pitcher A, wandy rodriguez, has an ERA of 4.45 while pitcher B, chris sampson, has an era of 3.44.

the main difference between these two pitchers' statistics is that wandy rodriguez has struck out 23 more batters than sampson. everything else is remarkably similar. according to DIPS, rodriguez's 23 extra strikeouts give him an advantage of 8 tenths of a run in expected ERA. what factor could possibly be significant enough to account for the 1.8 run difference between expected DIPS era and actual ERA?

the answer is not as sexy as one might think. it all comes down to the difference between pitching with the bases empty versus pitching with runners on. here are the numbers:

Chris Sampson:
bases empty: 133 PA .296/.338/.488 12 XBH 5 HR
men on: 99 PA .247/.320/.329 6 XBH 0 HR

Wandy Rodriguez
bases empty: 133 PA .262/.301/.421 12 XBH 3 HR
men on: 94 PA .256/.326/.476 11 XBH 3 HR

it really is that simple. 5 more XBH and 3 more HR with men on base led to 8 more runs scored on rodriguez than were scored on sampson in this situation.

i think this is a trend that warrants tracking through the rest of the season. i've seen it exhibited by relief pitchers such as geoff geary, and have had this to say in the past about it:
"to guess why there is such a profound difference between geary's performance with runners on base and with the bases empty, i would say that with the bases empty, geary elevates his fastball earlier in the count, leading to more solid contact against. without looking at video to confirm, i can only guess that geary's front side flies open in the windup, leading to the higher pitch location."

- steagles
-april 20, 2007
i have yet to follow up on geary's situation, but i will keep an eye on both he and sampson to see what similarities they posess.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

look out for:

rocky cherry, RHRP CHN

cherry is a the right handed equivalent of ray king. he is death on RHP. he does not get as many groundballs as the most notable ROOGY, chad bradford, and that'll take his ceiling down a little bit, but he can still be an extremely effective bullpen cog. he is currently riding the shuttle between chicago and iowa, but he has been effective thusfar at the major league level.

sean green, RHRP SEA

green is a standard issue AAAA RP, except for 2 things. he is 6'6", and he throws a 2 seam fastball with nasty sink. this combination leads to the complete domination of the game once he enters. his strikeout rate isn't great, and he walks a significant amount of batters, but because of his fastball, no hitter is going to drive what he throws.

wes littleton, RHRP TEX

a late addition, but he's worth it. littleton doesn't strike many hitters out, but he also doesn't walk them. he allows a fair share of homeruns, but that could be due more to the hitting environments that he has pitched in than anything he has control over. he has an awkward sidearm delivery that has proven to be effective versus hitters the first time around, but he may have trouble once hitters adjust to his motion. another cause for concern could be that he has a tendency to put on weight in the offseason.

but for now, he should be an effective bullpen cog for texas.

Saturday, May 5, 2007

john koronka

Raw data:
year  ORG   level    IP    H    K   BB  HR
2004 CHC AAA 153 164 116 65 19
2005 CHC AAA/MLB 151 154 106 56 14
2006 TEX AAA/MLB 144 164 78 54 19
2007 TEX AAA 35 38 25 13 4
this basically profiles koronka as a bottom of the rotation innings eater in the mold of a mark redman. but is that an apt comparison? here are their comparitive peripheral statistics from 2006:
player     IP   FIP   k/bb   GB%   +WPA
koronka 125 5.24 1.30 42.3 8.63
redman 167 5.04 1.21 44.4 12.47
well, i think we have a match. koronka's WPA added was about 30% less than redman's but he also pitched about 30% fewer innings. koronka has the advantage of being 7 years younger, but he has the disadvantages of being relatively unproven and having his only major league exposure in a hitter friendly environment.

redman's most successful campaign came in 2003 when he played in dolpin stadium with juan pierre and juan encarnacion manning the outfield along with miguel cabrera. the difference between his home era and his road era was about 1.5 runs, and he got slightly hit lucky, having a BABIP 25 points under his career average.

what can he do to improve?

i think koronka could be a moderately effective pitcher if used correctly. his flyball tendencies would play best in a city with a large ballpark and a speedy outfield. specifically, though, there is one thing that i think he needs to improve. assuming there is nothing he can do about his homerun rate due to the environments in which he will pitch, koronka needs to throw his changeup early in the count, especially while he is in AAA.

batters teed off against him when he was behind in the count. if he could turn his changeup into a pitch that he can throw over the plate for a strike, at will, he would benefit from being less predictable as well as from having a pitch that would throw off the rythm of right handed batters.

i like koronka. i think he can be a useful part on a team that is smart enough to put him alongside the right pieces. he's certainly more valuable than esteban loaiza, horacio ramirez, and david wells.

Friday, May 4, 2007

yorman bazardo

bazardo is not particularly interesting. he has a nice name, and he has a nice track record, but beyond that, there isn't much of note.

bazardo is only on my radar because of the fact that the Seattle Mariners general manager, Bill Bavasi, designated the 22 year old righthander for assignment just prior to the opening of spring training because there was no room on the mariner's 40 man roster. he was traded to detroit for a minor league outfielder before passing through waivers, and was added to the tigers' 40 man roster immedietly thereafter.

Raw stats:
year  age  level  ORG    IP   H     K   BB   HR
2005 21 AA FLA/SEA 142 146 99 47 16
2006 22 AA SEA 138 144 80 45 10
2007 23 AAA DET 26 29 16 9 0
as i said, he's nothing special. but he's young, and we can work with it. lets look a little deeper at the possible effects of switching organizations 3 times in 3 years:

OPS with Men on Base vs Bases Empty by organization in the last 3 seasons:
ORG    Men on    bases empty
FLA .792 .704
SEA .678 .761
DET .856 .651

the sample size with detroit renders their numbers almost insignificant, but even looking only at the florida and seattle numbers, it is apparent that bazardo's profile has changed over the last 2+ seasons. with florida, bazardo pitched well out of the windup, but was moderately below league average from the stretch. that trend reversed itself with seattle, but the park bazardo pitched out of leaned significantly towards favoring pitchers.

OPS vs. left and right handed batters by organization in the last 3 seasons:
ORG   vs. LHB    vs. RHB
FLA .760 .731
SEA .727 .780
DET .735 .758

again, bazardo's profile has fluctuated between organizations. so, basically he's a 23 year old pitcher trying to figure out what works at the upper levels of the minors. the fact that he has had as many as 4 pitching coaches in the last 2+ seasons is probobly not a good thing, but could serve him well down the road.

so, what can he do to get better:

i'm not going to attempt to be another voice in his ear (you know, if he's the type to read newly launched blogs by philadelphia area college students). i think he should be allowed to pitch however he feels comfortable with minimal input from his pitching coach or catcher except when prompted. bazardo should be allowed to find his own style, because he's probobly heard enough suggestions from various pitching coaches in his professional career that he should already have a good idea of what he wants to do. it's his career, and he's still young enough that he will get plenty of chances to prove his worth, so long as his head is squarely on his shoulders.

as for anything more concrete, the data is too random for me to offer up a legitimate suggestion. i'll just have to see how he does with a more meaningful sample size in toledo.

Ryan Madson

originally posted on april 19, 2007

raw stats:

2004 77 55 19 6 68 2.34
2005 87 75 25 11 84 4.15
2006 134 99 50 20 176 5.69

looking deeper:

2004 3.56 .276 1.21
2005 3.74 .299 1.25
2006 4.58 .358 1.69

madson was great in 2004. by any metric, he was a very good relief pitcher. in 2005, madson was still pretty good, but his homerun rate climbed from its 2004 level, as did his hit rate.

if looking at the lines from 2004 and 2005, it would be within reason to have expected madson to bounce back in 2006. his babip was moderately high in the 2005 season, and if it regressed back to league average levels, he would have remained a slightly above league average pitcher.

but it didn't regress. it became even more of a statistical outlier. the average major league BABIP is between .270 and .290. there is very little variation in this number because the amount of control that an individual pitcher has over balls in play is extremely limited.

a .358 BABIP is all but unheard of; it indicates something that goes beyond luck, something that happens while madson was on the mound that caused balls in play to fall in for hits at a higher than normal rate.

but is this outlier unique to ryan madson? here's a look at the phillies three other right handed relievers that logged 50 innings:

last name BABIP ERA
geary .330 2.96
gordon .303 3.34
franklin .284 4.58

geary has the exact same bloated batting average on balls in play (BABIP) that madson has. gordon's is also a little high. franklin's is significant only in that he had the potential of having an era north of 6 were his BABIP were more in line with the rest of the staff.

i'll be monitoring this effect more as this season goes on, and the sample sizes grow. right now, i'm not quite sure how these numbers will affect madson and geary in 2007.

Where does madson go from here?

as much as i talked about it in this posting, BABIP was not madson's only problem. his k rate dropped, while his BB and HR rate rose. this combination alone would have made for a mediocre season regardless of BABIP. so, what can be done to return madson to his 2004 form?

1. madson cannot go back to throwing only his fastball and changeup. he needs to develop a third pitch. i don't think a curveball is the right pitch for him because of its similar velocity to his changeup. i'd be thinking more along the lines of a cut fastball or a sinker that would be about 4-5 MPH off from his fastball and 10-15 MPH off from his changeup. this pitch would not be a strikeout pitch, per se, but more of a pitch that he can rely on to limit the amount of contact that hitters can make off of him.

2. madson should be put back into a situation where he can log a significant amount of innings. whether it is in kansas city, tampa bay, or ottawa, doesn't much matter, but what is important is that he should not continue to function in a 6th/7th inning role. that is not going to help him get back to his 2004 form.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Question: Why does this blog exist?

Answer: JD Durbin.

Durbin came into spring training this year as the twins 10th best prospect, as rated by Baseball
America. He was out of options, so he would either have to make the team outright, or pass through waivers to get to AAA.

Durbin didn't make the opening day roster and on March 29, the Minnesota Twins designated Durbin for assignment to AAA. Before he got there, he was claimed by the Arizona Diamondbacks on waivers, and made the trip out to
Arizona for one appearance, in which he allowed 7 runs on 7 hits in the span of 2/3 of an inning. Not surprisingly, he was waived by the diamondbacks the next day.

Durbin was claimed again, this time by the red sox, and spent 4 days waiting to be added to their 40 man roster. But that didn't happen, and he was designated for assignment again on April 11.

The Phillies picked Durbin up on waivers and attempted the same procedure. This time Durbin passed through untouched, and he was assigned to AAA Ottawa. He has yet to report.

As evidenced by the fact that he was claimed on waivers by 3 different teams in the span of 3 weeks, Durbin has good value. There are general managers and scouts who think that, at some point in the near future, Durbin will be an effective major league ballplayer.

It’s just that none of them, other than Josh Byrnes, were willing to put their necks on the line and let him get some innings at the major league level to work through his issues.

Durbin threw 89 innings in AAA last season at a 2.33 era. Thanks to his page at minorleaguesplits.com, we can see that he has three faces that come out in different situations:

Vs. LHB:

Against LHB, Durbin dominates the pace of the game. His K and BB rates are both significantly above league average, but the rest of his line is wholly unremarkable. He seems to use all of his pitches, but his location is mediocre. If AAA batters swing, they K or put the ball into play weakly. If they’re patient, they walk.

Vs. RHB:

Against RHB, Durbin pitches to contact. He gets a lot of pop-ups and he gets a lot of line drives. He seems to primarily throw a heavy fastball, which limits the amount of outfield flies, but increases every other batted ball event.

W/ Men on base:

In this situation, Durbin seems to lose control. He allows a lot of baserunners and he throws a lot of pitches, but hitters don’t seem to be able to drive his pitches. He gets by on his raw stuff alone, which works well in AAA, but won’t cut it in the majors.

What can he do to improve?

Here’s the problem: Durbin has no control of his changeup. His curveball is an effective out pitch, but again, he can’t locate it for a strike. He has also had labrum issues, which makes it likely that his command issues are not entirely within his control.

But, his fastball is really nice, and would be an effective pitch if he could develop a secondary pitch to keep hitters off balance.

Were he willing to put his career on the line, I would suggest that he throw his curveball early and often when he gets back to AAA. If he could turn his curve into a reliable secondary pitch that he can locate for a strike, he could be an effective bullpen arm in the major leagues for as long as his arm held together.