Saturday, 30 August 2014

Kyle Ryan's AAA Outings

Kyle Ryan has spent all of the month pitching at the AAA level, and today he makes the jump to the big leagues. What can those minor-league outings tell us about what we could expect to see against the White Sox?

I like to use QMAX, a system developed in the days of the Big Bad baseball Annual, itself a lineal descendant of Bill James' old abstracts. QMAX is helpfully thought of as a means of distinguishing the varying quality of quality and non-quality starts. I have always found it especially useful in helping to understand minor-league outings, even though it was designed with Major-League statistics. It looks at two components of pitching, the ability to miss bats (stuff) and the ability to pitch in the zone (command). Outings are categorised by where they fall on a matrix, such as 'the Success Square', 'the Hit Hard region' and some don't fit into any category at all. The 'Power Precipice' is a zone where pitchers who successfully overpower hitters still find themselves teetering on the brink of a fall because they walk too many. For young players, that's a hopeful sign, because improved command will supplement good stuff. By contrast, the Elite Square reflects the stingiest of pitchers in allowing chances for the opposition, and suggest a pitcher who is ready to try the next level. Here's a list of Kyle Ryan's performances at the AAA level.

2 August Elite Square
 8 August Elite Square
14 August Uncategorised
20 August Elite Square
25 August Success Square/Power Precipice

Now what we know about minor-league baseball is that for pitchers, a lack of command at AAA will mean problems walking batters in the big leagues. We also know that AAA fielders aren't quite as good as major-league ones, so pitchers will suffer a few more hits than they might. In terms of hits given up, the Toledo Mud Hens look to be around league average.

The AAA outings suggest that Ryan is ready to have a cup of coffee at the major-league level, as he has shown some ability at mastering AAA hitters. He is very good at keeping the ball in the strike zone, although it may be his success depends on being a little too crafty for major-league hitters (which is to say that they are harder to fool than minor-leaguers). His k/9s indicate he is a pitch-to-contact type, and his numbers at Erie (AA) might give a clearer idea of what we might expect in the hitter's park that the White Sox play in. There he gave up almost twice as many hits as he did at Toledo, and had an HR/9 of 1.1.
I suspect we'll see something on the order of 5 IP, 5 R, 6 H, 1 HR, 2 BB and 2 K. I'd settle for that.

Friday, 29 August 2014

2014 Tigers' Hitters' Batted Balls in Review #2

I haven't posted any of my batted ball or fielding surveys for quite a while, so I thought I'd start a new cycle with the Tigers, who have been most on my mind of late. This review uses a method involving batted balls to examine whether hitters might be regarded as 'unlucky'. Another way to think about it is to see who might be hitting over their heads, or who might be suffering from an excess of 'at 'em' balls and may be likely to improve.

As anyone familiar with sabermetrics knows, one can evaluate batting events by means of linear weights. What this means is that a single is worth about two-fifths of a run while a home run, because it can drive in the men on base, is worth over three times a single. Research has revealed that types of batted balls can assign similar values. Line drives are worth a lot, while infield flies are almost as good as strike outs. There is a problem in deciding what category to place a batted ball sometimes, especially the difference between a fly ball and a liner, as symbolised by the neologism 'fliner'. So one needs to treat these numbers with a degree of circumspection.

What this chart shows is the difference between a batted-ball linear weight and Fangraphs' wRC. wRC gives a supposed aggregate number of runs that should have been scored based on hitting events. Some people have flares falling in, while others hit the ball hard, but see it caught. The batted ball number also includes Ultimate Base Running, to make it more compatible with wRC. Note that the chart excludes pitchers' hitting. The first column is wRC, the second the batted ball expected runs and the third the positive or negative difference.

J.D.  Martinez         60     41    +19
Victor  Martinez      91     78    +13
Alex  Avila           43     35    + 8
Miguel  Cabrera       87     81    + 6
Rajai  Davis          48     49    - 1
Torii  Hunter         59     60    - 1
Ezequiel  Carrera      3      4    - 1
Eugenio  Suarez       25     26    - 1
Tyler  Collins         0      1    - 1
Alex  Gonzalez         1      4    - 3
Bryan  Holaday         9     12    - 3
Danny  Worth           1      5    - 4
Andrew  Romine        12     20    - 8
Nick  Castellanos     52     60    - 8
Don  Kelly            13     23    -10 
Austin  Jackson       49     60    -11
Ian  Kinsler          68     91    -23
JD-Mart continues to be fortunate on the outcomes of his batted balls, although his luck has faded quite a bit. At the other end of the scale, Ian Kinsler has slumped quite a bit. Most of the other players have moved slightly up or down, although Victor Martinez has continued to hit above his batted-ball weight at about the same pace. I predicted last time that a slump might lead to a run production problem, which as I discussed earlier in fact happened after the All-Star break. I think it is important to note that Rajai Davis has been an adequate replacement for Austin Jackson with the bat — especially with such a strong showing from Eugenio Suarez at shortstop and slight improvement from Torii Hunter — but let's see what the fielding numbers tell us about his defence.

29 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

National League action reigns supreme for a change at the top, although the Nationals are going to have to play under American-League rules during their visit to Seattle. Those two teams have top-notch bullpens, one of the highest bullpen scores I've seen for a series. They also have the best pitching match-up of the day going for them, with blog favourite Jordan Zimmermann facing Felix Hernandez. The AL Central Division clash between Cleveland and Kansas City this weekend has a lot of potential for unsettling the playoff race. a sweep by Cleveland has the potential to bring several fringe teams, including the Indians, into the hunt for October. The match-up between Danny Salazar and Jason Vargas is not without its charms. Meanwhile, pity the poor Arizona Diamondbacks, once again at the bottom of the table, who send Josh Collmenter against Christian Bergman.
Milwaukee vs San Francisco  61
Washington vs Seattle       61
Cleveland vs Kansas City    58
Miami vs Atlanta            58
Cincinnati vs Pittsburgh    54
Detroit vs White Sox        54
Cubs vs St Louis            50
Yankees vs Toronto          48
Oakland vs Angels           46
Minnesota vs Baltimore      45
Boston vs Tampa Bay         44
Philadelphia vs Mets        43
Texas vs Houston            43
Dodgers vs San Diego        42
Colorado vs Arizona         41
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

28 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

By virtue of its value in the race for the second Wild Card spot in the American League, this afternoon's game between the Yankees and the Tigers is potentially the most entertaining game of the day, by a little bit, over the game between the Rockies and the Giants. The Tigers once again have to draw on their minor-league reserves to send Kyle Lobstein out against Hiroki Kuroda. Overall, it is a mediocre, at best, day for marquee starting pitcher match-ups. Your best bet in this regard is, by a single point a surprising one — Collin McHugh vs Nick Tepesch, in the battle for Texas.
Yankees vs Detroit        60
Colorado vs San Francisco 57
Atlanta vs Mets           54
Minnesota vs Kansas City  53
Tampa Bay vs Baltimore    47
Cleveland vs White Sox    45
Oakland vs Angels         45
Texas vs Houston          43
Cubs vs Cincinnati        42
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

27 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

The order of today's games is almost identical to that of yesterday's, although Clayton Kershaw versus Wade Miley is a highly entertaining pitching match-up, pulling the Dodgers vs Arizona game up several places off the bottom. (I caught some of yesterday's game, which was no advertisement for the replay system.) Today's top pitching pair is in Detroit, where Shane Greene takes on David Price. However, if one includes bullpens in the calculation, you'll want to watch Atlanta versus the Mets.
Texas vs Seattle            60
Yankees vs Detroit          59
Colorado vs San Francisco   58
St Louis vs Pittsburgh      58
Minnesota vs Kansas City    54
Atlanta vs Mets             55
Tampa Bay vs Baltimore      47
Cleveland vs White Sox      47
Miami vs Angels             45
Boston vs Toronto           45
Milwaukee vs San Diego      45
Dodgers vs Arizona          45
Oakland vs Houston          44
Washington vs Philadelphia  42
Cubs vs Cincinnati          43
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.

Tigers 2014 Game 130: V-Mart vs McCarthy

Victor Martinez' duel with Brandon McCarthy last night showed exactly why baseball is a game of fine distinctions, and well worth one's close attention. Let me show you three strike-zone plots from BrooksBaseball.net.

1st inning

3rd inning

6th inning

V-Mart, as I like to call him, went 1 for 3, which is a .333 batting average, so he did rather well by traditional standards. More than that, though, we can see that in the first plate appearance McCarthy kept changing the plane on V-Mart, until V-Mart chased a pitch well off the plate that he foul-tipped into the catcher's glove. Tom Gage, of the Detroit News, tweeted that it was 'a heckuva pitch', which put me on alert.

In the third, V-Mart swung at the first pitch, a sinker to a spot that McCarthy hadn't used in the first PA, and sent a grounder to Mark Teixeira at first. Teixeira made the play unassisted.

In the sixth, the two previous PAs came together. McCarthy went back to working highish, outside and away. When that didn't work, he went back to the sinker, only this time he reversed the first PA, now working down and over the plate. V-Mart connected for a single on this one, and eventually would score on Nick Castellanos' single.

The only slight cloud on the evening was the nine hits that Rick Porcello surrendered. He made up for that with not issuing a single walk, but his performance was not dominant, and explains why I never felt comfortable given the Tigers' bullpen uncertainties. This was a good win for the Tigers, despite Alex Gordon's walk-off in Kansas City, which meant the Tigers could only keep pace with the Royals. I'm afraid I'm not entirely sold on #RoyalsDevilMagic yet, no matter how frequently Rany Jazayerli tweets about it. I'm still going with Jim Price's view that 'the MoJo is moving towards Detroit'.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

26 August 2014: Potentially Entertaining Game Scores

Today's top pitching match-up is in Philadelphia, between Gio Gonzalez and Cole Hamels. Despite this fact, the game itself is deemed as potentially not very entertaining at all. Why is this? Three factors are involved. The first is that as the Nationals are very likely to make the playoffs and the Phillies are improbable playoff contenders, the game carries little weight in terms of playoff value. A Nationals loss isn't going to hurt their chances all that much, and a Phillies win isn't going to put them in the running for a spot. Secondly, the Phillies bullpen isn't particularly watchable, largely because of a dreadful Left-on-Base percentage. Thirdly, Philles hitters lack power and don't run the bases very well. Basically, the Phillies are dragging down the game's value. So there. Also, I noticed that Detroit now has sneaked ahead of Kansas City in playoff probability. Meanwhile, Yankee fans should take note that their playoff odds are actually worse than those of Cincinnati. That should put things into context.
Texas vs Seattle            60
Yankees vs Detroit          59
Colorado vs San Francisco   58
Minnesota vs Kansas City    56
St Louis vs Pittsburgh      55
Atlanta vs Mets             55
Tampa Bay vs Baltimore      48
Miami vs Angels             47
Boston vs Toronto           46
Cleveland vs White Sox      46
Milwaukee vs San Diego      45
Oakland vs Houston          45
Washington vs Philadelphia  44
Dodgers vs Arizona          44
Cubs vs Cincinnati          43
This is the BETA version of a method of rating games for their potential to provide entertaining baseball. The formula is still in development, but is refined enough at the moment that it can guide you towards games where the batters will get on base and hit for power, the fielders cover ground and throw well and the pitchers induce the batter to swing. Games are rated on the 20-80 scale, with 50 being an average score.