Archive for Mining the News

Mining the News and Stuff

• In my last Sunday night chat, someone asked about swinging strike benchmarks and all I had was an article from 2014.

Eno Sarris has updated the values and to no one’s surprise, the benchmarks have increased.

Swinging Strike Rate Change (2008 to present)
Pitch 2008 Now
Fourseam 7.3% 10.4%
Sinker 5.4% 7.2%
Cutter 9.6% 12.3%
Slider 14.6% 16.4%
Curveball 10.8% 12.2%
Change 14.6% 15.9%

• I’ve been thinking about starting pitcher sample size, specifically, how many starts does a pitcher need to own a new skill set. Using three sources, the number is three to four starts.

1. Eno Sarris makes another appearance with his Stuff+ stabilizing around 300-400 pitches (3-4 games).

2. Next, FreezeStats took our stabilization points and converted them to average innings thrown. Here are the values that are the most telling to me with the number of games assuming 6 IP per start.

  • Strikeout rate: 17 IP (3 starts)
  • Walk rate: 45 IP (7 starts)
  • Groundball rate: 24.5 IP (4 starts)
  • Launch angle: 16.4 IP (3 starts)

The walk rate is a little higher than I’d like but the other three values stabilize in three to four games.

3. Finally, here is some work I did years ago but is still applicable. Pitchers need about three starts for their fastball velocity to stabilize.

Every metric, but walks, point to pitcher stats stabilizing in three to four starts. No stat website has just the last four games available, it’s intervals like two weeks or month. Two weeks encompasses two to three starts while a month could be from four to six starts. The sweet spot would be 21 days.

Just looking through the linked list, some pitchers who stand out are:

Name: SIERA

American League

Mariners

Ken Giles’s fastball averaged under 95 mph in his last appearance. When he was dominant from 2015 to 2019, his fastball averaged 97 to 98 mph. When he last pitched in 2020, it was down at 94 mph and he had control issues (9.8 BB/9). He’s had the same control issues in his rehab starts (7.7 BB/9 in A+, 10.8 BB/9 in AAA). He didn’t walk anyone in the appearance, but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Red Sox

Jackie Bradley Jr. had his eyesight corrected.

“Seeing is very vital to this game so I think there could be a correlation where I’m making more contact and not fouling off as many balls as I had been, and my strikeout rate has gone down,” he said. “I don’t know when it came about or how long I had it, though.”

On the season Bradley is hitting .233 with a .616 OPS, up from an abysmal .163 and .497 OPS in 134 games for Milwaukee last year. This year, he’s striking out 20.6 percent of the time, well below his 25.6 percent career average. At Fenway, he’s hitting .313 with an .832 OPS over 31 games with 11 doubles, a triple, a homer and 15 RBI. He can’t explain the home-road splits as he’s hitting just .151 with .393 OPS in 29 road games, but he’s working on it.

With 20/15 vision, Bradley wears the contact in his right eye only during games. It was hard to get used to at first during cold and windy April games. He’s still getting used to the feel of it and prefers to wear a pair of plastic sports eyeglasses during batting practice. But after those first few weeks, there was a clear improvement. His April OPS was .458, consistent with his awful 2021, but since the start of May he’s been at a .700 mark, exactly in line with his career average.

Twins

• Bryon Buxton will likely get half of as many at-bats going forward.

Byron Buxton was out of the starting lineup for a second straight game in Thursday’s series finale against the Guardians with a continued flare-up in the tendinitis in his right knee that makes it too painful for him to swing and run. Despite that, the Twins maintained that there are no plans for their center fielder to go on the injured list.

Buxton had also missed Wednesday’s 11-10 loss to Cleveland with the chronic knee pain and swelling, which the Twins had been managing day to day since the start of the season. The club will continue to do so, with the hope that Buxton’s knee will improve enough for him to play within one or two days.

“He’s done an admirable job and he’s going to continue to do an admirable job going forward dealing with this,” manager Rocco Baldelli said. “But, like I said, when you literally cannot swing or run, you can’t play the game. And there have been other days this year, earlier in the season, where he couldn’t do those things and he doesn’t play those days. And there are other days where we have to get him a day off his feet so it doesn’t get to the point where we’re talking like this.”

Why not place Buxton on the IL, then? Baldelli said there’s no guarantee that would even resolve the issue. What the Twins don’t want is for Buxton to have to miss a sizeable chunk of games and then be right back where they started within a matter of days upon his return.

This sucks. His managers will have no idea when he’ll start every week. And the pain has got to affect his performance when he is batting. He’s too good to drop but not playing enough to start.

White Sox

Lucas Giolito is working on fixing his fastball.

“We’re working on his fastball,” pitching coach Ethan Katz said in Houston. “Some of the stuff we saw on film and in its behavior was not his norm. It was kind of dipping below his vertical (movement), and the cutting was not the same straight pitch that he has had. We really wanted to dig into that and make sure the vertical was there.”

National League

Giants

• In Anthony DeSclafani’s first start off the IL, he averaged 93.4 mph with his fastball. That value is up from his first three starts (92.9 mph) but down from his 2021 value (94.1 mph). With pitching so thin, I think those managers with bench space must roster him but I can understand not starting him.

Marlins

Avisaíl García has been playing all banged up.

Like pretty much every ballplayer, García is banged up. He has dealt with hand inflammation and knee soreness. He was hit by a pitch over the weekend in New York.

He’s not universally rostered so if he starts to trend upward, it might be a sign that he’s healthy and worth buying back in.


Mining the News (6/9/22)

• Here is my latest Voit-Muncy player list that points out under the radar AAA hitters who are above average in strikeout rate, walk rate, flyball rate, and isolated power.

Voit-Muncy Hitters
NAME Team PA Age BB% So/PA GB% ISO wRC+
Alex Call Cleveland (AAA) 170 27 14% 18% 29% .200 141
Alex De Goti Astros (AAA) 225 27 12% 16% 41% .193 103
Brendon Davis Angels (AAA) 159 24 11% 19% 37% .221 96
Brian O’Keefe Mariners (AAA) 103 28 14% 16% 37% .250 152
David MacKinnon Angels (AAA) 207 27 14% 18% 37% .306 156
Drew Ellis Diamondbacks (AAA) 169 26 18% 20% 35% .184 100
Greg Bird Yankees (AAA) 160 29 14% 23% 41% .169 95
Isaac Paredes Rays (AAA) 113 23 12% 17% 36% .221 120
Jacob Nottingham Orioles (AAA) 108 27 16% 20% 37% .306 152
Jason Martin Dodgers (AAA) 193 26 13% 25% 38% .247 125
Kyle Stowers Orioles (AAA) 193 24 11% 24% 42% .301 137
Mark Mathias Brewers (AAA) 127 27 13% 19% 37% .215 154
Matthew Batten Padres (AAA) 199 27 15% 19% 32% .234 135
Miguel Vargas Dodgers (AAA) 249 22 13% 17% 32% .193 119
Nick Maton Phillies (AAA) 175 25 14% 22% 30% .221 120
Nomar Mazara Padres (AAA) 152 27 14% 19% 41% .273 172
Royce Lewis Twins (AAA) 153 23 12% 21% 43% .221 151
Sean Bouchard Rockies (AAA) 137 26 13% 21% 36% .310 156
Shea Langeliers Athletics (AAA) 207 24 12% 22% 40% .233 115
Triston Casas Red Sox (AAA) 156 22 15% 22% 35% .209 115
Vincent Pasquantino Royals (AAA) 223 24 12% 14% 34% .351 156
William Benson Cleveland (AAA) 220 24 16% 25% 40% .210 128

Alex Bregman says he has different swings for different pitches.

Laurila: You brought up swings when we chatted informally yesterday. How many do you have?

Bregman: “I think you’ve got to have a lot of different swings if you want to be able to cover every pitch. I don’t think you can cover an elite four-seamer up in the zone and an elite sinker down in the zone with the same swing, You have to either make an eye adjustment on where you’re trying to swing, or you need to have a swing adjustment on how you’re trying to hit that pitch. The [bat] path you take is going to be different for those two pitches.”

I’m not sure if this information is actionable, but maybe it’s possible to eventually figure out if a hitter has different hot zones (i.e. different swings) and them how having more swings is helpful.

American League

Athletics

Cristian Pache is trying to raise his launch angle.

So what might be causing Pache such poor luck? One key factor is his launch angle. Among qualified Major League hitters, Pache’s average launch angle of 3.5 degrees ranks 11th lowest in MLB (minimum 75 plate appearances). This means that despite the hard contact, he’s frequently hitting the ball on the ground.

How does one correct this flaw? Everidge says it should be an easier fix for Pache now that he’s increasingly started directing his balls in play to center and right field. The last piece of the puzzle is to get more lift on his swings, something the two have been working on constantly over the past couple of weeks through extra pregame work in the hitting cage.

Mariners

Robbie Ray just reintroduced his sinker.

At Minute Maid Park, arguably the most hitter-friendly venue in the Majors, walks prove costly because the threat of a multi-run homer constantly looms. So Ray opted for a “new look” when he returned for the third inning. He dropped in a few changeups and curveballs, but the more notable selection was for a two-seam fastball (also classified as a sinker), which he completely replaced his four-seamer with the rest of the way.

The sinker has gotten poor results with a 38% GB% and 4% SwStr%.

Kyle Lewis will get many off days when he’s on the roster.

Sunday’s decision, per manager Scott Servais, was the result of a combination of factors — it was a day game after a late night game, a cross-country trip to Baltimore loomed and an off-day on Monday would allow Lewis two full days of rest. But it also underscored that the Mariners will be easing up on the gas pedal with the slugger periodically, at least for now.

On their planned days off, players typically don’t take part in a pregame routine and don’t stay warmed up throughout the game. In that context, the Mariners calling on Lewis in a pinch would have gone completely against the long-term plan that the team had mapped out with him. That much was clear when, twice asked about the decision following the game, Servais reiterated that “Kyle was not available today.”

Orioles

Tyler Wells will have games when he doesn’t throw as many pitches.

Since Wells threw 88 pitches in six innings on May 30 and 77 pitches and five innings on May 25, Saturday’s outing was gonna be pre-empted. In fact, the Orioles decided pregame they’d pull Wells around the 65-pitch range.

“That was the plan going into the game,” Hyde said. “He was throwing the ball well. He did have two walks during the fourth inning. But with an extra day of rest also here coming up, we’re always gonna side with caution with him this year. … This was gonna be a day of a shortened outing.”

Bruce Zimmermann needs to place his changeup low in the zone. Also, he thought he was tipping his pitches in his last start.

“I think the only time I’m getting hurt with that changeup is when it’s up in the zone, which it’s been a little bit more up as of late,” Zimmermann said. “The back half of this outing, I was able to establish it at the bottom of the zone and through the bottom of the zone, and able to play that one-seam [sinker] off of that. … I kind of wish I had done that from the get-go today.”

“The changeup didn’t have the depth that it had earlier in the season,” Hyde added. “Something to work on, but I thought he did pitch better as the game went on.”

Zimmermann will also take Friday with a grain of salt. Following his last two outings in New York and Boston, during which he allowed nine home runs, Zimmermann met with the Orioles’ pitching brain trust, fearing that he was tipping something off the mound. That resulted in a different delivery on Friday evening — something Zimmermann will continue to work with, knowing it’s difficult to implement such a stark change in one go.

Rangers

• Whenever Leody Taveras gets promoted, it’ll be permanently.

“Leody (Taveras) was probably the other option that got the most consideration,” president of baseball operations Jon Daniels said on Sunday. “Actually, at the time we were having the discussion — we made the decision to bring Steele in the night before last and we weren’t sure Josh Smith was going to be on the IL yet at that point. So (Zach) Reks wasn’t even really an option without an IL (placement). I think with Leody — and we’ve communicated this to him — he’s really close. When we go get him, we want it to be, ideally, for the last time and have him up here for good.”

Royals

Jackson Kowar reworked his fastball.

Kowar threw 36 fastballs in his one big-league outing this season. They averaged 95.6 mph, but hitters batted .600 and slugged 1.200 against them because they essentially dropped and moved arm side almost an equal amount. The more vertical spin compared with sidespin for Kowar’s four-seamer, the more effectiveness his fastball pitch will have, especially against lefties. And the more Kowar could execute effective fastballs in different counts, the better his entire repertoire would be.

“My room for error, for sure, goes up (with the different movement on the fastball),” Kowar said. “As well as, to get to that tilt, my delivery gets to be more linear, which is something I’ve always fought anyway. It’s kind of a two-for-one, which is what I think sold me on it initially.”

Tigers

Javier Báez is struggling with sliders away.

In fact, Detroit signed Báez this offseason thinking he could take the Tigers to the next level. But entering Sunday’s action, he is hitting .190 with three home runs and 13 RBIs. Opposing pitchers have thrown a steady diet of sliders his way, and he is swinging at that pitch.

“I think we are all frustrated,” Hinch said. “The lack of recognition and swinging outside the strike zone is part of what [Báez] has done. It begs for some adjustments [at the plate]. We want better for him. He wants better for himself. We have to get inside the strike zone because the league is obviously going to continue to tease him around the strike zone until he adjusts.”

He’s seen more sliders (35%) than any other pitch and has a 34% SwStr% (26% in 2021) against them. And it’s just that one spot.

Twins

Devin Smeltzer finally got a neck injury fixed.

“It was almost a sigh of relief,” Smeltzer said. “It gave me answers on why I was feeling the way I was feeling. The way the neck doctor explained it was I would have kept rehabbing my elbow over and over again until my neck finally presented itself because my arm was never hurt. It was because of the neck. Once that came out, we were able to just attack it, rehab it, do what I needed to do to get ready. Then velo came back, feel came back, everything came back.”

National League

Brewers

Christian Yelich has struggled with inside fastballs.

It was just a few weeks ago when some wondered if Yelich was turning a corner. It’s a reminder that as rough as things have looked recently, he certainly may have more hot streaks in him. But pitchers have succeeded against Yelich by pounding him inside with fastballs. He has struggled against velocity, and he’s been unable to get the barrel of the bat on fastballs. Moving him down the order may not be much of a solution.

Yelich is not struggling against fastballs, but he’s not been his dominant self. Here are his vs OPS+ over the years on fastballs.

Season: vsOPS+
2013: 148
2014: 184
2015: 171
2016: 151
2017: 186
2018: 209
2019: 213
2020: 216
2021: 118
2022: 144

He’s still way off his peak values and might not recover.

Lorenzo Cain was going to lose playing time before Hunter Renfroe got hurt.

“Mentally, honestly, I don’t know what to do up there right now,” Cain said on Friday. “My swing is kind of all over the place. I haven’t been able to figure things out. They already told me before [right fielder Hunter] Renfroe got hurt that my playing time was probably going to be a lot less. But Renfroe got hurt, so I’ve had to get in there probably more than they want me to right now.

Cain said the word about his planned drop in playing time came from manager Craig Counsell in a conversation several days before the start of the Brewers’ last marathon road trip. But in the first game of that trip, Renfroe strained his right hamstring scoring from first base on a double and landed on the 10-day injured list the next day. Renfroe has been in rehab mode since then and lately has been hitting and running on the field.

I don’t expect him to play much into the future.

Cubs

• Scouts don’t think Nick Madrigal at the strength to be a major league hitter.

Scouts who have watched Madrigal of late pointed out that opponents are “shrinking” the field on him, and perhaps he’s finally reached a level of the game where he’s just not big enough. Through 110 plate appearances this season, Madrigal has just two extra-base hits (both doubles) and a .029 ISO. For batters with at least 100 plate appearances this year, only Tucker Barnhardt has a lower ISO.

One scout who had always been high on Madrigal wondered if he was just flat-out being overpowered. That was never the case for him in the past when he was on Team USA in high school or playing in the Pac-12 in college. Madrigal always looked like he belonged and often thrived against high-level competition. Now he’s struggling to hit the ball with authority and at times doesn’t seem confident at the plate. He continues to say all the right things, but a significant injury followed by extreme struggles can’t be easy to take.

It’s not a good sign when defenses treat you like a pitcher.

Mets

Dominic Smith played through a shoulder tear last season.

Smith told SI.com in March that he played through a small tear of the labrum in his right shoulder last year, and it’s certainly possible there are (or were) some lingering effects of that issue.

Pirates

Mitch Keller has been throwing Clay Holmes’s sinker.

When I talked with Mitch Keller a few days ago about pitches he’d like to steal from other pitchers — look for that story Friday, by the way — he mentioned that Yankees sensation (and former Pirates reliever) Clay Holmes has helped polish Keller’s new sinker.

“Clay and I are friends, so I texted him for a couple of days about it,” Keller said. “He’s helped me with different finger placements to make my sinker move more. Clay’s very smart about the analytics of baseball and pitch design, and he was pretty open about it with me.”

Keller unveiled his sinker in his May 31 start against the Dodgers. It figures to play a bigger role in his arsenal over the rest of the season.

He’s used the sinker for three games and has an 8.8 K/9, 5.0 BB/9, 55% GB%, 2.51 ERA, and 4.37 xFIP during that time.

Reds

Graham Ashcraft is getting more spin on his slider.

After getting Robles looking, Ashcraft spun from the mound and pumped his fist with excitement. According to Statcast, the slider’s spin rate averaged 2,790 rpm, higher than his average of 2,678 and much higher than the league average of 2,403. It averaged 86.5 mph.

“That’s something we’ve been trying to work on over the last couple bullpens,” Ashcraft said. “We just made a quick, small, little tweak on it, keep your hand back and not try to get your fingers off the ball. That made it hard to hit.”

Where possible, I think Ashcraft is a must roster to see where his talent level stabilizes.


Mining the News (5/19/22)

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

General

Yusei Kikuchi was targeted because his fastball velocity was high for a left-handed pitcher.

Kikuchi’s fastball was one of the main draws for the Blue Jays when they signed him, though. A right-hander who averages 95 mph and reaches up to 97 doesn’t raise as many eyebrows, but a starter doing that from the left side certainly does. Kikuchi’s average four-seam fastball velocity ranks him sixth among left-handed MLB starters (min. 25 pitches), and as he continues to see the results, it’s becoming a pitch he wants to throw more and more.

When it comes to fastball effectiveness, I’ve never divided lefties and righties. It’s something I’ll consider in the future. Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (5/5/22)

American League

Blue Jays

Yusei Kikuchi has tinkered with his mechanics and dropped his cutter for a slider.

It’s been less than a month since Kikuchi last faced the Yankees and didn’t make it out of the fourth inning, but in that short time, the Blue Jays pitching coaching staff, led by Walker, have been tinkering with Kikuchi’s mechanics and repertoire. It was last outing, against the Houston Astros, that Kikuchi showed a new delivery on the mound with a toned-down leg kick. They’ve also shifted the target behind the plate. And Kikuchi has scrapped his cutter entirely and instead has introduced a new, harder slider instead.

Making in-season adjustments isn’t easy and requires patience. Let’s also remember that Kikuchi has had to do this while facing an absolute gauntlet of a first stretch starting against the Yankees twice, the Red Sox and the Astros twice.

He might be worth a bench and watch to see if the changes lead to permanent improvements. Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (4/21/22)

American League

Angels

Anthony Rendon may get every Sunday off to start the season.

Orioles

Keegan Akin and Mike Baumann will remain as long relievers.

Meanwhile, the Orioles watched starting prospects like Akin and Baumann make more traditional conversions into relievers. Now, suddenly searching for ways to fill a John Means-sized rotation hole, Hyde said he prefers to keep Akin and Baumann in bulk-relief roles despite their starter history.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (4/13/22)

The in-season Mining the News will generally be focused on players who could be available on the waiver or could be dropped. There will be little to nothing on the likes of Gerrit Cole and Mike Trout. I just don’t have the time to grind out the information on players who, no matter what, will just remain in a fantasy team’s lineup.

American League

Astros

Chas McCormick and Jose Siri will be sharing the centerfield job.

McCormick started against right-handers and Siri against lefties, but Baker didn’t commit to that going forward.

“Just depends on who I think the matchup is best for and what kind of defense that we need,” he said. “They’re both going to play. Everybody is going to play here. I don’t like guys going too long without playing.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Hodgepodge of Notes

I’m in a state where I don’t have lineups to review before the weekend but Spring Training is over, all the roster speculation is over. I’m going to go over some pieces of information that could be useful from Spring Training and yesterday’s games.

• First, here are the strikeout minus walk leaders from Spring Training. Besides news of velocity and arsenal changes, I find this information the most useful. It shows that the pitcher is being productive while throwing quite a few innings.


Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (4/5/22)

American League

Angels

• For now, Brandon Marsh, Jo Adell, and Taylor Ward will be splitting time between two outfield spots.

Marsh might have to start taking better care of it, because odds are it’ll get plenty dirty in 2022. After the Angels designated incumbent Justin Upton for assignment, Marsh, former top prospect Jo Adell and fifth-year grinder Taylor Ward are the only outfielders aside from Trout left on the roster.

Three days before Opening Day — by manager Joe Maddon’s own admission — there still isn’t much of a set plan for the Marsh-Adell-Ward carousel.

“To be honest with you, I think it’s going to be a group effort,” Marsh said. “I don’t know what the positions are. I know Trout’s in center … we’re going to fill in the corners.”


Anticipating injury and frequent platooning, Maddon said it’s likely the three end up with a similar number of at-bats once the season ends.

Here is how the trio is projected to hit this season:

It’s interesting to see Ward projected to hit better than Adell.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (3/30/22) Pt. 2

American League

Astros

Framber Valdez added a cutter.

The first spring start of Grapefruit League play this year went much more smoothly for Valdez, who threw 30 pitches in three scoreless innings in Monday’s 2-1 win over the Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium. Valdez also debuted a cutter he picked up in the offseason that he hopes to add as a viable weapon with his sinker and curveball with an elite spin rate.

Read the rest of this entry »


Mining the News (3/30/22) Pt. 1

American League

Astros

Cristian Javier will start the season in the bullpen.

Astros manager Dusty Baker said on Monday that Cristian Javier will likely begin the season in the bullpen, because the club will need some long relievers in April.

Athletics

• According to manager Make Kotsay, Lou Trivino should be the closer.

Who begins the year as closer remains under wraps. However, A’s manager Mark Kotsay mentioned that Trivino’s track record does give him a leg up on the competition.

“When we put this roster together, we’ll try to identify roles,” Kotsay said. “But [Trivino] obviously has the most experience on the roster closing games, so it seems like he would be ahead of the curve.”

Read the rest of this entry »