I take immense pride in my ability to set a sufficiently low bar. Exhibit A: 2016’s Bold Predictions. I got one. One right. The downside to that is self-explanatory. The upside is that any improvement would make for a dramatic one. So let’s see how I did?
All rankings used are from ESPN’s Player Rater Read the rest of this entry »
About a month ago, I started searching for the league’s underthrown pitches. Pitches that despite inducing elite swing-and-miss, ground ball, and pop-up rates, are thrown with scarcity relative to other inferior offerings. It was as an enlightening a topic to research, as it dealt with untapped potential, as it was a fun series to write. Though to be honest, there wasn’t a whole lot of actionable fantasy advice to be gleamed. But in the process of writing those pieces, I had to grade each pitch. And arsenal scores, a subject of interest to the RotoGraphs community over the years, were just a stone’s throw from away from the groundwork I’d already laid.
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Over the last several weeks, I’ve scoured Baseball Prospectus’ PitchF/x leaderboards for the league’s underthrown pitches. We’ve covered two different pitch types each week starting with four-seam fastballs and sinkers in the first installment, cutters and curves in the second, and sliders and changeups last week. This week, we put it all together. Now that we’ve identified the most underthrown pitches, who should consider overhauling his entire pitch mix to make the most of his electric stuff?
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Welcome back to the third and penultimate installment of Underthrown Pitches and the Pitchers Who Underthrow Them. Over the last several weeks, we’ve identified high performing four-seamers, sinkers, cutters, and curves and the pitchers who should consider throwing them more often. We’ve defined “high performing” based on a Pitch Score that factors an offering’s proclivity towards inducing whiffs, ground balls, and pop-ups. We’ve also defined the degree that a pitch is “underthrown” using a simple measure of pitch score to frequency.
For a more detailed recap of the results and methodology to-date, check out the previous installments linked below.
Vol 1: Four-seamers and Sinkers
Vol 2: Cutters and Curves Read the rest of this entry »
Two weeks ago, I went searching for some of the league’s underthrown pitches. Which offerings by virtue of their paucity, despite excelling at inducing whiffs and weak contact, should be thrown more often? We’ve seen it so many times in the past, when a pitcher of whom we think a known quantity, suddenly leans on one pitch just a little more heavily and reinvents himself. Last week, we looked at the league’s underthrown four-seam fastballs and sinkers. This week, we turn to cutters and curves.
Identifying pitching breakouts as they happen can be hard. Anticipating them, even harder. Savvy readers of sites such as this rely on plate discipline metrics, batted ball data, and other indicators designed to tease out luck from results in order to uncover which performances have staying power and which are fleeting. And while we’ve arrived at the point in the season when most pitching rates have stabilized, a simple change in pitch mix can render those indicators obsolete. Think Matt Shoemaker and his splitter, Jake Arrieta and his cutter, Max Scherzer and his curveball, or Sonny Gray and his slider.
If you can spot a pitcher pulling unexpected arrows from his quiver as he does it, then cheers to you. But it’s difficult to do that at scale. While trying to anticipate a change in pitch mix before it happens may seem futile at times, doing so is a bet on potential. And what we talk about when we talk about “stuff,” is really potential. One of the components upon which that potential relies, aside from command and health, is an optimal pitch mix.
To identify which pitchers could benefit by throwing their more effective offerings a little more frequently, we have a number of tools at our disposal. Today, we’ll use some of those tools to identify the league’s underthrown four-seam fast balls and sinkers and the pitchers who underthrow them.
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The sheer amount of data points we have at our fingertips these days, while immensely useful, can be overwhelming. Seemingly, any one player, particularly this early in the season, can surge to the top of the leaderboard of your most trusted stat. One of my favorite heuristics for identifying sustainable breakout performances is very simple. Based on a handful of my favorite peripherals, I filter the leaderboards for those performing above average across all of them, in effect isolating standouts while hedging against the inherent volatility of performing well in a single stat. It’s not perfect but it’s a quick-and-dirty methodology that serves its purpose.
Last week, I presented a list of pitchers who were better than average across K-BB%, swinging strike rate, Zone-Contact percentage, and ground ball rate. I focused on a few available starters while promising to cover some of the relievers this week. Lowering the innings threshold a tad (min. 14 IP), here are the relief pitchers all boasting better than average performances across the board in the aforementioned stats along with their ownership rates in Yahoo! leagues.
The leaderboards at FanGraphs is a fun place to poke around. Behold this list of pitchers:
What do they all have in common? Aside from having thrown at least 20 innings, these are the only hurlers in baseball who rank in the upper half of the stats I first look to when evaluating pitchers. Namely, they all boast better than average K-BB%, GB%, Z-Contact%, and swinging strike rates. There are some obviously great pitchers on this list but I’m not interested in talking about Clayton Kershaw, Jon Lester, or Carlos Martinez. Though if you’re a little frustrated with Lester or CarMar, I both empathize and suggest exercising a little patience. Rather, I’d like to dive deeper into some of the list’s lesser-owned and lesser-known players who won’t cost nearly as much to acquire. Read the rest of this entry »
It really pains me to do this but today I’m going to tell you about Justin Smoak. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. A former top prospect, Smoak is now 30 years old and playing in his third season in Toronto. He’s been the subject of dozens of articles over the years with largely the same outcome, disappointment. In over 2600 Major League plate appearances, Smoak owns a career wRC+ of 95. He’s been a serviceable major leaguer who’s never fully lived up to his tantalizing potential. So, it’s only in the context of a Deep League Waiver Wire piece that I’d continue beating this dead horse after so many years. Read the rest of this entry »
Tumult and turnover has plagued bullpens far earlier than they did last season. Already, just shy of the four-week mark, we’ve seen closers relieved of duties in Washington and Philadelphia due to poor performance, lost to injury in Los Angeles (AL) and Baltimore, and in Texas, we’ve seen volatility due to some combination of the two. Oakland continues to confound us with a bullpen-by-committee and up and down the closer grid, last year’s elite and upper tier closers struggle.
Here in the Chacon Zone, we search for those widely available middle relievers toiling away in waiver wire obscurity, who may prove more productive than less talented pitchers benefiting from ninth inning opportunity. Luckily for save punters and deep leaguers, there are plenty to discuss.