Archive for the ‘Kameron Loe’ Category

Rangers Review: Starters

October 14, 2007

This year the Rangers used fifteen different starters.  This continues a trend of the last several years, 2000 was the last time they used less than ten, and they’ve been as high as seventeen in that time.  The idea of stability in the rotation is not one that the Rangers have grasped recently.  Now, this year they were beset by injuries, but still, towards the end they pretty much were just randomly bringing guys up for a start.  There were few plans to be found, as soon as the front five fell apart they began cycling guys through, at one point they even sent Kam Loe down just to bring him back two days later.  The impression anyone would get from this team is “if we try enough guys, sooner or later some of them will work out”.

Millwood’s 172 innings led the team, the worst this century, with Kenny Roger’s 195 the next worst from a couple of years ago.  Plus there was a huge falloff, okay four guys ended up over 100 innings, but just barely.  Again, blame injuries all you want, but there is no-one on the team right now you could count on to lead them to the playoffs.   There was not a single complete game, which was supposedly the first time an American League team did not complete a game since the league began in 1901.  I haven’t counted the number of quality starts, but I bet it was close to if not definitely a record low for the team.  One of the themes of this blog during the year was how unprepared the team was.  They started the season badly, and they started games badly.  If they do it again like this next year, the Rangers will be out of it in May, again.  And right now there is little hope that the rotation will improve.

Kevin Millwood summary:  A season beset by injury, or at least that’s what the Rangers will tell you.  How frustrated is he getting?  His last season with the Indians, he won the ERA title, but didn’t get any support so didn’t win much.  Now, he’s with the Rangers, where he has the run support (usually) but has a bad ERA, so he’s still not winning.  And he’s got three years on his contract.  There was talk in the middle of the year that the Rangers should trade him, which gives him a chance to win something and gives us some prospects.  Problem is his contract, which means we’d have to add a bunch of money, his performance here, which leaves a lot to be desired, and his health.  Isn’t there something about him pitching really well every three years?  Next year is the third year.

Kameron Loe summary:  Injured and ineffective would be one way to describe Loe, but that would also help describe everyone else.  Had a good stretch in June/July, after being sent to the minors for two days, but otherwise was pretty bad.  Just had surgery, should be healthy in the spring, but I think he’s given up his chance at a rotation spot.  Back of the bullpen work beckons.

Vicente Padilla summary:  Injury may explain much of his first half, where he tried to pitch through the pain.  He ended up missing a couple of months because of it, and came back fairly strong at the end, helping to improve his numbers.  What didn’t help was his attitude, which many will tell you stinks, both within and outside the team.  He doesn’t talk to reporters, so you don’t get to hear what he is thinking.  He apparently doesn’t talk to his teammates either.  And then he does things like throw at a batter, which at the end of the season got him suspended for a week.  Now, a teammate like that can be a problem, but the bigger problem is his performance on the field and the two years remaining on his contract.  The Rangers knew what his attitude was when they gave him the three year deal, so they can’t go bailing out because of that.  They can be worried by the way he pitched, and they will be asking themselves whether the 2006 or 2007 version of Padilla will show up in 2008.

Brandon McCarthy summary:  Started badly, in part because of pressure from the John Danks trade.  Turned it around after May 1, and became arguably the Rangers best pitcher from then on.  Another one hit by injuries, he lost large swathes of the season on the DL, first with blisters on his fingers then with a broken shoulder blade, of all things.  If he ever gets healthy, he certainly looks like he could be an excellent pitcher, potentially a number two (on a staff filled with fours and fives, that’s pretty good).

Robinson Tejeda summary:  Chance after chance after chance was given to Tejeda, and every time he dropped the ball.  He should really have been sent down a month before he finally was, but there wasn’t anyone ready to replace him while everyone else was hitting the DL.  When they finally gave up, it was a mercy killing more than anything.  Needs to work hard to make his way back, but I don’t know if he has the attitude to do it.  He has great stuff, at times.  May be more suited to a bullpen role than starting, because with his speed he could very well blow people away.

Kason Gabbard summary:  Beat the Rangers in May, while pitching for the Red Sox, then came over in July in the Gagne trade.  From a marginal prospect, he turned out pretty good.  Big things will be expected of him next year, but that should be tempered with the thought that he really probably will fit in somewhere as a fourth starter, not necessarily a star.

Edinson Volquez summary:  This is definitely a case of being knocked down and proving that you can stand up again.  Sent all the way down to A ball, Volquez worked his way back to the majors during the year, and ended with some good starts, pushing himself back into strong contention for future consideration.  He is right now leading the race to be the fifth starter, but there are still five months to go.

Jamey Wright summary:  Did pretty much what was expected of him, which was not much.  Split time between the rotation and the bullpen, and was outstanding enough as a reliever (2.05 ERA) that they should leave him there.  Said at the end of the season he preferred starting, but he’ll go in the bullpen if he has to.  Since he’s a free agent, likely to go somewhere that will start him, but that’s likely to be a really bad team (as opposed to the Rangers, who are just bad).

Luis Mendoza summary:  He’d been going backwards until this year, when suddenly he rattled off a 15-4, 3.93 record at AA.  For some reason he was one of the guys dragged up for a start in Arlington, and ended up doing enough in a short time to slightly impress.  Will be back down to AAA next year, but he’s still on the fence regarding whether he can keep it all together.

John Koronka summary:  Couple of starts near the start of the year, nothing worth talking about, and was waived, claimed by Cleveland, where he did nothing in their minors and I think was released in September.  Career over?  Not likely, everyone wants pitching, but look for him to show up somewhere that has zero chance of contending (and I’m not necessarily talking about the Rangers).

Armando Galarraga summary:  A reward at the end of the season for going 11-8, 4.28 in the minors.  Like Mendoza,  probably shouldn’t have been near the Rangers, but at least he had been at AAA.  Also like Mendoza, could go either way in his prospecthood.  Mendoza is two years younger though, so more likely to succeed.

Relievers who started:
Willie Eyre, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker and AJ Murray started fifteen games between them (Rheinecker accounting for seven of those) but will be covered with relievers, as they either were mostly relievers just making spot starts, or started badly and relieved well (Rheinecker).

Minor league starters:  There are too many pitchers in the minors to deal with in a paragraph or two, so a full review of pitching in the minors will come separately.

2008:  Millwood, Padilla and McCarthy are locks for the rotation.  This is a problem because this season they pitched more like #3 and #4 starters, rather than top of the rotation guys the Rangers need.  A bunch of guys are battling for the end of the rotation, with Gabbard in the lead, and probably Volquez getting his chance again.  Can the Rangers attract any free agents to start?  Certainly not top-tier ones, they’ve proven that again and again.  Frankly, 2008 is a holding year anyway, so signing someone long-term will be a waste of money.  Keep growing the kids, and hope one works out.  Eric Hurley will lead the charge of the minor leaguers, there is some thought that he may make the big club out of spring training, but more likely he’ll be up later in the year.

2009 and beyond:  We’ll be in year four of Millwood, and the third (and final) year of Padilla.  McCarthy will of course be there.  Hopefully someone else will have stepped up and established themselves, working on experience for the team’s renaissance in 2010 or so.  Erik Hurley will probably get his first full season in 2009, which should be the start of a small trail of good minor league prospects.  Unfortunately they’re all in Low-A or below right now, so by the time 2010 comes around, many of them will have topped out or been traded already.  The odds of the Rangers growing good pitchers are just a little better than buying them.

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Runs, we need runs

August 25, 2007

Here’s an amusing little chart I just made:

Moving Average Runs

It’s a seven game moving average of the Rangers runs scored (blue) and conceded (red) this season. Click on it to enlarge. What’s the obvious thing you see? Of course, it’s the giant spike at the right hand end, showing what a freak show the 30 run game was, how much it affected things. It was a crazy score, something you will almost certainly never see again in your lifetime, something even my two year old will probably never see again. It was a once in a century score. And with moving average, we see just how far out of whack with the rest of the Rangers games this season it was. If I waited until the end of the season to show this, you would see that line drop way back down again, an extreme spike in an otherwise moribund year.

But we can use this chart educationally, to look at just how the Rangers have been doing. Using a moving average eliminates much of the jaggedness of the chart, giving slightly lower peaks and valleys, allowing you to see trends more easily. Now, comparing runs for and against, you can kind of follow along with the season. Long periods where the blue is below the red are the losing times, and where blue is above are winning times. If they run fairly even, the team should be about .500. You can see for most of the first half of the season, the Rangers were below, for a short time they were above, and then back to even and below again. You’d expect to see that reflected in winning, and in general you do.

There are however a few interesting things that the moving average does not eliminate, which includes excessive wins. Obviously the 30 run win obscures a lot of bad stuff around it, you can see the Rangers were falling into a hole approaching the worst of the season when they exploded (and everyone knows they’d been bad in the previous two games). Ignoring that though, May immediately sticks out to me. Remember May? It was the worst of times. The Rangers sucked hard in May, going 9-20 on the month, but looking at the chart they almost seemed decent. What’s going on? In May they scored 145 and conceded 160, which Pythagorean wins would show as a 13-16 month, not 9-20. In fact in May they had three wins of more than 10 runs, and apart from a 9 run loss their next biggest loss was by 6 runs. Those three big wins accounted for 42 of their runs for and 7 runs against, which is a huge margin in just three games. Take them out and you see they’re down to 103-157, which moves them back to a Pythag of 9-17, much closer to what they truly were. For May, they didn’t lose big, they just lost a lot of little games and the three big wins masked the trouble more than they should have.

Looking a little earlier, April was another bad month, barely above water all the way. You can in fact show that through mid-June, the Rangers averaged about 5 runs for and 6 runs against, which is a deadly combination when you’re trying to kick off your season (the actual averages through June 15 were 4.94 for and 5.86 against). At that point it’s even hard to decide who to blame. The offense seems decent at 5 runs per game, pitching is of course bad near 6, but even then I remember complaining a lot about how the offense was struggling. I suspect it is consistency that is the key, meaning that they never got in a stretch where you felt they would get five runs every night, but more a week of two or three runs then one game of 15 to balance it out, as they did in May. At least the pitching was consistently bad.

The high point of the year was late June to late July, a period when they went 23-14 and things seemed to be working. The chart shows the second half of June as being the best of times, when the offense was much the best of the year, and the pitching was running well too. That two to three run gap turned into a lot of wins, but was unfortunately a very short streak. While the pitching kept going well through July, the offense fell away to the same level, leading to a 14-12 July in which the team was outscored by 15 runs. Slow increases on both sides ended up with the pitching going higher and hitting going lower in August, leaving the team (and it’s fans) flat once again. Interestingly, as a whole, both the Rangers and their opponents combined have scored a lot fewer runs per game in the second half. 10.8 runs per game through June 30, 8.3 from July 1 to August 21 (just over 9 through today, which again shows the large impact of 30 runs in one game, it raised the average for two months by 0.7 runs per game). Everyone always says the Rangers start well but fall apart when it gets hot, is this a sign of that? Not just on the Rangers, but their opponents too, scoring 2.5 runs per game fewer between them. Good pitching and bad hitting, something you would never expect to hear about a Rangers team.

This almost turned into a season review kind of thing, which was not what I intended. I was simply trying to show how far out the 30 run game could throw things. I ought to just copy and paste most of this once we get round to October and I do a real review. Now I’ll have to think of something else to say.

Hey, something I haven’t researched, but I’d be willing to bet that the 29 hits the Rangers got on Wednesday is a record for a team that was no-hit in the same season (certainly in the modern era, can’t guarantee those pre-1900 teams). If I had a good database, I could find this out, but a cursory look shows that the D-Backs were no-hit last year and also had a 20 hit game. 29 is of course much more rare than 20, but even that goes to show that a no-hitter is another kind of fluke. Now the Rangers have been close to being no-hit a couple of other times this year, which would make the 29 hit game even more improbable, if that’s possible.

Some comments on other things going on lately, specifically Ron Washington. He (and presumably Mark Connor) have badly mismanaged the team this week. I was shocked that Millwood went out for the 9th inning tonight, he had clearly hit a limit, and in fact ended up giving up an insurance run that took the wind out of the sails. He lost a quality start, his Game Score fell from 51 to 43, all of the positives we could have taken out of it were blown away simply because they wanted to get him a complete game. What’s the benefit of a complete game loss? Especially when you have just one strikeout, and 13 hits, to show for it. Millwood was not on today, but struggled throughout, and to keep him out in the 9th was kind of like putting a nail in the coffin. The unfortunate thing for Millwood is that he’s had no run support lately, he’s been pitching well but has nothing to show for it.

The other one was yesterday, Kam Loe’s start. Remembering that Loe has just spent time on the DL, and had just one game back where he only went five innings, how long do you think he should be left in? You’d start at five innings, but you might want to go to six if his pitch count isn’t too high. You’d certainly be aware of keeping a close eye on him when you hit five innings, wouldn’t you? In fact, in the middle of the 6th, when he gives up a leadoff homer, then loads the bases with one out, you’d have someone ready in the bullpen to come in and save the day, especially with a 3-2 lead. On the other hand, you’ve got the 8 and 9 hitters up, and even though he’s thrown 89 pitches already, you want to take another positive out of it. When Jose Lopez singles to make it 3-3, you think about pulling the pitcher again. Even when Betancourt pops out to the catcher, you think about it, because now you’ve got a tired pitcher, bases loaded, and Ichiro coming up. What do you think will happen? I’ll tell you what will happen, in fact I said it right before the at-bat began. Ichiro isn’t going to hit a home run, because he doesn’t have good power, but I predicted he would double and clear the bases, and sure enough he doubled and cleared the bases. Then what happens? You bring in Mike Wood, and he serves up a home run to Vidro on the first pitch. Boom, game gone, anything positive for the pitcher gone.

This would probably be my primary criticism of Ron Washington this year. He leaves pitchers in too long. Is it Mark Connor’s fault? Yes, at least some of it, because it’s his job to tell Ron when it’s time to get the guy out of there. Of course, Connor looks clueless every time you see him, so if you’re trusting in him you’re already in trouble. But ultimately it’s down to Washington, and with all his experience he hasn’t learned when to get a pitcher out of the game. In mitigation, he spent his coaching years in Oakland where they rode their horses into the ground (Hudson, Mulder, Zito), but if he can’t recognize that our pitchers are not of that quality then he has even more issues than knowing when to pull them.

One of the things I don’t have, and am not sure where to find (without creating it myself) is a database of how pitchers performed against their last batter faced in a game, or in the last inning. I’m sure it’s horrendous, since that’s why they’re pulled, but it would be interesting to compare pitchers and/or teams and see how the results stack up. I’d be willing to bet there’s a lot of cases where Washington has allowed people to get into bad situations before getting them out of the game. One method would be to look at ERA by inning for starters, but that doesn’t really tell how far down they got right at the end of their outing. Another would be to see where they were when they left the game, but again doesn’t tell the whole story. If you knew just the numbers on Kam Loe when he left the game yesterday, you’d see that he left with two out in the 6th, runner on 2nd and down by 3. That doesn’t tell you if he is down 0-3, 7-4, or 30-27. It doesn’t tell you if he gave up three runs in the first, then pitched a no-hitter until giving up a double in the 6th and being pulled. Or alternatively if he no-hit them for 5.2 innings, then fell apart. More detailed analysis might help. In particular I’d like to look at the comparison between the start of the last inning pitched, and when he was pulled. In this case, he’d be at 1 run, 6 hits, 4 k’s, in 5 innings, a pretty decent outing. Comparing perhaps the win probability of the start of the inning to when the pitcher was pulled, and see just how much that changed. Then compare that across pitchers, teams, managers, and see just how Washington compares to other teams. That’s a long project, I think, but it’ll go in my list of things to do.

Willie Eyre is going to have Tommy John surgery, and will miss all of 2008, at least. From the start of the season through June 24, he had a 3.00 ERA in 36 innings. On June 26 he had a spot start, and from that point on his ERA was 7.59 in 32 innings. Pretty clear what the two halves of his year were, huh? I won’t say the spot start did him in, he pitched 4.2 innings in that game (69 pitches), on five occasions before that he’d gone at least 3 innings, once even throwing 71 pitches. I remember that for a month before that game I had said he ought to be considered for a start (we were crying out for pitching at that time). I don’t know if it was the workload in that one game, or in the games after, but he had been struggling. He had a second start on August 4, giving up 7 runs in 2.1 innings, which would appear to be a much more likely indicator of trouble. Sorry to see him go, but ultimately the long man spot in the bullpen is one that you can fill easily and cheaply.

The team is in a funk again and so am I. Every game report you read for the next week or two (possibly even the rest of the season) will mention the 30 run game, usually along the lines of “the Rangers haven’t done anything since they scored a record 30 runs”. The chart I started with shows they’ve not been doing anything for almost two months now. I don’t have a clue what to do to get them going. I don’t think they have a clue either.

You spin me right round baby

August 4, 2007

I’ve been pondering a question all day today. It’s something I’ve thought and written about a few times recently, it’s something all Rangers fans think about now and again, it’s something that fans of any other team immediately think about when you mention the Rangers. It is, of course, where’s the pitching? More specifically, for today, my question is: who’s going to be in the rotation next year?

For the last few weeks, every time I wrote about trading Tex, or the trade deadline in general, my main theme was always pitching, pitching, pitching. In trading the three players that they did, they got nine in return, of whom only two are major league ready, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Kason Gabbard, one (Matt Harrison) is about AA level, and the rest are prospects, years away if they ever make it. In fact, of the nine, they ended up with four pitchers, which totally blows away my theory of getting more pitching. Not only that, but much of the criticism has been based on how many they got and how low they were. In other words, why trade Tex for five players, mostly low prospects, when a team might have been willing to go with two high prospects. I had set my sights on guys who were ready for the big leagues, AAA types, and they didn’t materialize. Oh, we got Gabbard, who I’m actually very pleased about, but what might we have had if we’d said forget the other two players in this deal, give us one single higher level player, a Jon Lester type guy (though not necessarily actually him). Again, to be fair, the deal with Boston got us much more than I ever hoped, I was expecting one AA level player for Gagne, to get a major league pitcher plus two others for him was excellent. But turn back to the Tex trade, and ask why we would make Salty the centerpiece, when we could have had one of their top pitching prospects? No offense to him, I expect him to become a top player for us, but why are we insisting on getting a first baseman back (yes, okay, he plays catcher sometimes too), when first baseman grow on trees and pitchers are what is coveted?

So, to get back to the point of this blog entry, how does our rotations shape up for 2008? Yes, asking that in the middle of the 2007 season is asking to be second guessed all the way, but since the team has to be thinking 2008 at this point, we may as well address it too.

Here’s who I think the candidates are currently: Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kameron Loe, Brandon McCarthy, Mike Wood, John Rheinecker, Robinson Tejeda, Jamey Wright, Willie Eyre, Kason Gabbard, Eric Hurley, Josh Rupe, Armando Galarraga, Edinson Volquez. Now, some of these guys are locks, some of them are from my hopes or dreams, some of them may require a lot of other people to fall down in front of them, but all of them have to be considered legitimate candidates.

Locks: Millwood, Padilla, Loe, McCarthy. Does that seriously seem reasonable, that you’d have four locks for five slots already? No, of course not. In fact, quite honestly I’d say there’s only one lock right now, and that’s McCarthy. Apart from pitching very well since the beginning of May (once he got his nerves from the trade out of the way), he’s also one of Jon Daniels’ major trade acquisitions, received for the blue chip prospect John Danks (checked him out lately? I know it’s his first season in the bigs, but I’d take McCarthy over him, especially given his home run rate), which means Daniels has a lot riding on his success. His injury worries this year have been relatively minor (blisters on his fingers), and something that a competent pitching coach should be able to improve. Of the others, Padilla has been on the DL for weeks, although he may be back soonish, and has a big contract that a) is too big to be moved, and b) means he won’t be sent to the bullpen. As long as he’s healthy, he’s in the rotation. Kam Loe went on the DL today, with a stressed back, which is hard to tell from what they said how bad it will be. Given his performances though, he’ll be in. Millwood has had injury and ineffectiveness problems all year, but he also has a huge contract. He’s been making some noise about wanting to contend, not rebuild. If he makes enough noise, and we eat enough of the contract, he could be gone, but right now you’ve got to think he’s in. So that’s four.

Bubbles: Kason Gabbard. Mike Wood. John Rheinecker. Gabbard has to be the front runner, simply because of his success this year, but also because of the desire to show something from the Gagne trade. Wood and Rheinecker have pretty much proven themselves in AAA, but haven’t made a breakthrough in the majors yet. They both have mid-3 ERAs in Oklahoma, and mid-5s in the majors. Wood has a few years on him now, but hasn’t grasped the brass ring, and Rheinecker has had a little taste here and there but not taken it either. Remember Rheinecker’s comments before the trade deadline, about how if the Rangers didn’t want him, there were plenty of teams ready to trade? Laughable, really. They’re both getting a little old (27 and 28) to be pushing their prospect status, they’ll likely make it as journeymen if anything.

Rising: Eric Hurley. Hurley is the stud of the minors, and it’s highly possible he’ll get a few starts in September. Good work in those, plus a good spring, will put him on the bubble too.

Slipping: Robinson Tejeda. Jamey Wright. Willie Eyre. Tejeda you know about, back in AAA after a miserable half season in Arlington, I’m guessing it’s at least a year before he’s back, and even then he might have converted to a reliever. Wright lost his rotation spot to Gabbard, showing where he is in the team’s plans, which is interesting because he wasn’t horrible in the Arlington rotation (4.57 ERA, although far too many walks and too few strikeouts), but he’s just as likely to be a free agent as to be in the team’s plans. Willie Eyre isn’t slipping really, he’s simply been too valuable in the bullpen as the long man, and his lone start notwithstanding, if he comes back that’s probably his destination.

Not yet: Armando Galarraga. Edinson Volquez. Josh Rupe. Galarraga might prove to be the most successful result from the Soriano trade. His numbers across the board in Frisco were good, enough to get him a promotion to AAA, but he’s 25 and running out of prospect time. Won’t make it in 2008, but should be a candidate for 2009. Volquez, well, he was rushed too far too fast, and fell back to earth with a crash. Don’t forget he’s only 24, and should never have been in Arlington the last two years. Got himself back on track somewhat this year, but he’s also a year or more away from getting back to the show. Rupe was coming up and up, getting some time in the last two years, but injury has curtailed him a lot. He’s been decent as a starter in AAA this year, which puts him in this list, but my guess is he goes back to OKC to get more time in there.

So, throwing out the wildcards, the guys not likely to be here next year (either in the minors for sure or in another organization), what do we have left? Millwood, Padilla, Loe, McCarthy, Gabbard as the front five. Wood, Rheinecker and Hurley as the next three. The others are all unlikelies.

In the greatest teams, you look at their rotations and you don’t see a number one, two, three, four and five pitcher, you see a couple of ones, a couple of twos and a three. In most any playoff team, you’ll get a one, one or two twos, one or two threes, and a four (did you get all that?). Whatever you have, you need a one, and every five you have reduces your chances (and if you have sixes and sevens in there, you’re dead).  There aren’t that many ones (Clemens, Maddux, Santana, maybe a couple of others hanging around would qualify in the last few years), and there are far too many fives for anyone.

Millwood, at his absolute best, might have been considered a number one pitcher for maybe two seasons, and a number two for a couple more. Most of the time he’s been a three, which is probably where he’s at right now. What’s interesting, I just read somewhere in the last day or two but I don’t remember where, looking at his career, is how every three years he’s had a huge leap for a season, and 2008 will be a third year. How likely is that to continue next year, given that he’ll be 33?

Padilla had a decent year last year, and parleyed that into a three year deal with the Rangers, which we regretted pretty much from signing. A career 101 ERA+, meaning just barely better than league average, last year was in fact the first time since 2003 that he’d gotten over 100, and even then he only made it to 104. This year, 69. If he can’t get over his injury woes, or his mood swings, he’ll be a millstone on the team, but in fact if he does get over them, he’ll merely be a dragging anchor. I would never have considered him anything more than a number four starter, and probably even a five.

Loe just went on the DL today, hopefully for a short period but of long term concern, since he said it was his back and to be expected because he’s so tall. Well, unless he’s planning on losing a few inches, that might continue to rear it’s ugly head. Now at age 25, he put together half a dozen good starts which appeared to be a breakthrough, but then he regressed again.  Which Loe will show up next year?  The 7.40 ERA from the start of the season through early June, or the 3.30 ERA for the rest of June and most of July?  At this stage, he’s reliably a four, with the possibility of a three.

McCarthy continues to impress every time he pitches.  As noted before, a 3.69 ERA since the beginning of May.  Hopefully he’s gotten over new team jitters and will continue to pitch like this, and if that’s the case he can only get better as he ages into his prime.  Biggest concern is the 39 to 47 walk to strikeout ratio, and how he can get that to get better.  It is quite a bit lower than prior years, so can he return to the old ways?  I would say he’s probably a three, with bad luck he’s a four but with good luck he’ll be a two in a couple of years.

Gabbard is an unknown quantity to Ranger fans.  His career numbers look surprisingly similar to McCarthy’s 2007 numbers though, and that’s probably a good thing.  To have a 3.73 ERA for Boston in the pennant race is good, too.  Everything I’ve read about him suggests he’s doing better than anyone expected, and they don’t seem to think it will last.  I’m honestly not sure where to put him, I feel like he’ll be somewhere between a three and a five, like McCarthy it all depends on luck.  Let’s call him a four just to make it even.

Wood and Rheinecker are fives, at best.  The fact that they were kept in the minors while Tejeda did what he did speaks volumes about the team’s belief in them.  They’re only getting starts when there are gaps, such as tomorrow when Wood will go for Loe, and Rheinecker being in the rotation after both Padilla and Tejeda went out.  As mentioned, their age really hurts them when considering them as prospects.

I’m not even going to rank Hurley, because he doesn’t have one big league pitch to his name.  You want to think he’s a number one, and who knows, maybe one day he might be.  For starting next year though, you’d call him a five and hope for a four.  His 39 to 111 walks to strikeouts rate is phenomenal though, so he could be good.  Just remember he’s still only 21.

So the front five will be, barring trades or free agents, the same as it was starting this year, with the exception of Gabbard for Tejeda.  And herein lies the problem of the Rangers.  The guys that might help are years away, the guys that are here are largely mediocre, and we’re relying on the bats to cover over the cracks.  When the bats go silent, as they did at the start of the year, the huge hole is exposed.  When the pitchers pitch well, as they did in July, again the bats let them down.  Yes, it’s hard getting everything working in tune, but it’s even harder when you’re going with a couple of threes and three fours in your rotation, and trying to pretend they’re anything other than what they are.  Unless the Rangers blow someone away with a free agent offer (which hasn’t happened in the last 30 years) or a trade (and the biggest chip just left town), they’re waiting for some of these prospects to grow up and become number one and number two pitchers, all before they reach free agency themselves and take the prime of their careers to greener (and deeper) pastures.

Finally, can anyone actually define a number one pitcher, or number two pitcher, or so on?  Have the Rangers ever had a one?  Maybe I need to come up with my own rankings, and see what I can come up with.  It seems like the annual free agent rankings from Elias ought to be useful in calculating starter status, but I don’t think they’re available for any but the most recent years, and the algorithms that make them are certainly not free.  If I can find some of those rankings, and throw in a dash of my own calculation, I might be able to get something workable going.  Give me some time to think about it.  I guarantee I’ll answer the question before the Rangers have a true number one pitcher.

Kameron Loe and the random strike zone

July 28, 2007

As you know, Kam Loe started the season poorly, so much so that he was sent to the minors for a couple of days, whereupon he came back and put together a hot streak. Right after the All-Star break he slumped in two bad starts, but then improved in his last start on Tuesday. His next start should be tomorrow in Kansas City. At this point the Rangers consider him the number two starter behind Millwood, although arguably it should be McCarthy, Loe, then Millwood, but the argument can be made for any of the three in any order. In fact, their season ERA+ is almost identical, Millwood and McCarthy at 83 and Loe at 82. Depending on how far back you go, and how you slice and dice the numbers, you can get any of them to be the “best” this season. What bodes well for the Rangers is that there are three pitchers who are competitive, and who over anything from one to three months have performed well, with ERAs under 4 depending on the time period you choose. If they can put that together for a longer timeframe (e.g. the 2008 season), the Rangers might be able to step up and contend.

Today I’m focusing on Loe’s last four starts, because that contains his two bad starts surrounded by two good ones. Having crunched a bunch of numbers, I surprisingly did not come up with any great conclusions based on things like his release point, what he was throwing, break, etc. For a good start with a lot of sink on his pitch, I also found a bad start with a lot of sink. Movement in and out, the same. Break, the same. Speed, the same.

Looking just at speed as an example, we can see there were slight differences there, but nothing that jumps out and shows us something. In his good start on July 6, his fastball was running 85-91. The bad start on July 14 it was 83-89. Bad start on July 19 was 87-90. Good start on July 24 was 87-92. Of these starts, three were at home and the speed was measured at 50 feet from home plate, while the fourth, the July 14 start, was in Anaheim and measured at 40 feet, which would suppress the speed a little. Given that the speed as it crossed the plate was almost identical between the four starts, I’d suspect the difference between a 40 foot and 50 foot measurement is about two miles an hour, which would push the July 14 speed up to 85-91, the same as the prior start. So he showed pretty much the same speed in all starts, with a low from 85-87 and a high from 90-92.

The one place I have not looked at in great detail was where the ball crosses the plate. This could be considered the ultimate position to look at, because it makes all the difference between a ball and a strike, and whether a hitter is going to swing. If it’s too far off, advantage batter. Too close, and you better have good stuff or they’re going to tee off on you. So looking at this might tell us something.

First of all, a little explanation of what I did. I broke down each start by the description of the pitch in the data. I then took the balls and called strikes and charted them, to get an idea of where the strike zone was being called on that day. This can differ quite significantly. By using just balls and called strikes, we’re not seeing how the batter influenced the call (by swinging his bat or hitting the ball), so this should be what the umpire’s influence is. John Walsh has done some great work on how the strike zone is being interpreted compared to Gameday, much more detailed that I am doing here. In my analysis of these four starts, I found the strike zone varied a little, but the left side (from the catcher’s viewpoint) was around 1.2 feet off the center of the plate, and the right side about 0.5 feet off center, except the last start where it was 1.1 feet off. This seems to show a huge bias toward the left side, or the inside for a right handed batter. All I’m doing is looking at a chart of the pitches and see where the umpire stopped calling strikes and started calling balls, which of course can get a little mixed up, as sometimes they call balls inside of where they call strikes. So not necessarily mathematically accurate, but I think good enough for my purposes. As for vertical, this gets a lot more confusing, because players are all different heights, but in general the strike zone was about 1.8 to 3.2 feet off the ground in these starts. I’ll show the strike zone for each start, and you can see how it varies from game to game.

All these charts are sized the same, from -2 to 2 feet horizontally, and 0 to 4 feet vertically. Although I continually reference a right hand batter, for orientation purposes, the charts do show all pitches regardless of who was batting. These charts show fouls, swinging strikes, balls in play that were outs, and balls in play that were hits (which includes the variation they term “in play, run(s)”, although technically something like a sac fly is an out as well, but I chose to include it here because it was a bad thing for Loe). So effectively this is a chart of “what the batter swung at”.

Loe SZ 7-6

The 7-6 start was Loe’s best of the four starts, with a game score of 62. He pitched six innings, gave up five hits and three walks, struck out three, and didn’t give up a run. You can see that they mostly only swung in the strike zone, or a little down. The chart of balls and called strikes (not shown) shows a lot of pitches down, a lot of pitches inside, a few outside, and a few up and in to a right hand batter. The pitches swung at down out of the strike zone suggest that he was getting good vertical movement. There is no great pattern to see here for individual result types. The hits (red dots) are a little more central, as you’d expect, and the swinging strikes are all down and in (to a right hand batter), but remember the small sample size effect, there are only five and three of these respectively.

Loe SZ 7-14

On 7-14 in Anaheim, Loe had his worst start of the four, only lasting 67 pitches in 2.2 innings, ending up with five runs on five hits and five walks, with two strikeouts. The balls and called strikes were all either down or inside, mostly inside. This is the start where they said afterwards that he’d had a lot of trouble keeping it in the strike zone. Again not much of a pattern, a lot of pitches down and away, or down in the strikezone, not much up. This almost seems the opposite of what you’d expect, in that usually the advice is to keep the ball down and you’ll stay out of trouble. In this case, they’re swinging at a lot fewer pitches up high, and got better results from it. Could it be possible that he was getting too much movement, and it was moving out of the strike zone? Comparing the called strike zone, very similar to the last start vertically, but horizontally it was called much more inside to the right hand batter. This is also counter-intuitive, you’d expect a wider strike zone to benefit the pitcher.

Loe SZ 7-19

This start on 7-19 looks closer to 7-6 than to 7-14, although really what I see is that hitters are swinging at a lot more pitches out of the strike zone. Again, that should mean advantage pitcher, but note how much narrower the strike zone is, the right hand side stays the same but the left side is down to almost one foot, and the smaller strike zone means advantage hitter. This start ended up being six innings, six runs, on six hits and four walks, with two strikeouts. Balls and called strikes were much wider inside and outside than the previous two starts, and not as many were low. This time the vertical hold was okay, but the horizontal hold was messed up. Although it is much more variable, there is still no pattern to the result types, with them coming everywhere across the strike zone.  If you look closely, you’ll see the red dot at bottom right in the strike zone (just down and right of a green dot), that red dot is the only home run he gave up in these four games.

Loe SZ 7-24

His last start was back to being good (although with a game score of 51, good is a relative term, maybe average would be more like it).  6.2 innings, three runs on seven hits and two walks, five strikeouts.  Any pattern here?  Results are throughout the strike zone.  Hits are all on the left side of the plate.  A lot of swinging strikes down.  Balls and swinging strikes show everything down, or inside.  But still, overall, nothing that leaps out and grabs you.  The strike zone is much wider, with the right side finally getting away from the six inch mark, and jumping over a foot to be even with the left.  I’ll have to go back and take a look at other pitchers, and see if they showed similar variation, and whether it can be traced to different umpires, or a different way the Gameday system is measuring the strike zone.  I would have thought it would measure evenly across the plate, since that is a fixed position, but it’s possible it could be off for a while, since many of the other stats have shown a bias in one direction or the other.

So what’s the grand result of all this?  Not much at all.  From these starts I cannot prove anything about location in the strike zone causing specific results.  There may simply be too little data to show the patterns we desire.  He’s giving up hits everywhere, foul balls everywhere, and making outs everywhere.  Swings and misses are down more often than not, which you would have predicted knowing that he’s a sinkerballer who will drop more than the usual pitcher, causing batters to swing over the ball as it drops below the bat.

I’m a little disappointed in this conclusion though.  I would have loved to see something stand out and be able to say “oh, that’s why he was being beaten”, but there’s nothing there.  At best, I can look at the strike percentages and see a pattern:  in his two good starts, he threw 61% and 66% strikes, but in both bad starts it was 55%.  Doesn’t seem like much, does it, but if you’re throwing a hundred pitches it’s six or eleven extra strikes, which means either fewer walks or more balls swung at.

There was a famous study a few years ago which created a stat called BABIP, which stands for Batting Average on Balls in Play.  Basically it took away strikeouts and home runs, things that fielders couldn’t affect, and looked at what happened to balls actually hit by batters.  It showed that for pitchers, there was no consistency, in that anyone from a Roger Clemens to a Vicente Padilla could have a similar BABIP.  The deciding factor on how good pitchers turned out to be was the strikeouts, home runs, and walks, in that a good pitcher gave up less of these, and a bad pitcher gave up more.  My very tentative conclusion, looking at just these four starts from Kam Loe, is kind of similar:  if he throws balls, he will end up with bad results, but if he throws strikes, it is not what he threw but what the batter does that matters.  Once it is in the strike zone, the result across the zone is so variable it can’t be seen (in these starts).  It’s when the batter makes contact that counts, and what the pitcher is throwing doesn’t seem to affect the outcome.  Is this true?  Hardly believable, but then neither was the BABIP study.  Maybe this is simply a manifestation of what BABIP shows, that if the pitcher isn’t throwing a ball, the result after that is random.  Before I make this a firm conclusion though, I’d want to look at a lot more pitchers and a lot more games.

The Loe-down on Kam’s Saturday night

July 16, 2007

So what happened to Kam Loe on Saturday night?  After a string of successful games, five wins in a row, he struggled mightily and couldn’t do anything against the Angels.  Not only did he get the loss, he walked more than he’d walked all year, he gave up almost as many runs (5) as he’d given up in those last five starts (6), and ended with a game score half of what he’d been pitching.  His ERA, which had been tumbling down, from a height of 7.40 down to 5.36, didn’t gain much, only sneaking back up to 5.49.  It wasn’t really the hits, because the five he gave up was as few as he’d given up in the last five games, so it was, as they say, the walks that killed him.  Why was he so wild?  Was it the extra rest from the All-Star break, in fact the first time he’d had seven days rest since the season started?  Was it just time, that he was due, that he ran into a hot team?

I ran a bunch of numbers today, produced some pretty graphs, and ended up throwing out a lot of stuff that I’d generated.  In fact, I did come to some conclusions, but I’m not 100% sure what they mean.  The biggest problem is the way Gameday is measuring things.  As I mentioned before, they’ve been tinkering for a while with the way they measure some stuff.  Today, they were measuring the release point 40 feet from home plate.  At the beginning of the season they were at 55 feet, in early June at the Ballpark in Arlington they moved to 40 feet, then in late June and early July went back to 50 feet.  So direct comparisons are difficult, because the small differences between these measurements can end up meaning large differences later on.  So in the numbers today, I’m going to try and compare to previous starts that may accomplish removing some of the differences.  In particular, I’ll look at Loe’s previous start, at TBIA, at 50 feet, and his start prior to that, on June 20, which was measured at 40 feet.  I’ll do the same with the comparison pitches, McCarthy and Millwood, looking at both distances for Millwood but only the last game for McCarthy at 50 feet (he doesn’t have a 40 foot game this year).

A second problem is comparing the two different ballparks; as I and others have discovered, the measurements appear to be slightly different in each park, where one park is a little faster, and measures a little higher, than another.  Some of it may be weather conditions, but it also is the way it is measured.  Having said that, let’s get to some of the numbers.

Speed:   I’m concerned primarily here with the fastball of Loe.  He throws a sinker, and every time he pitches you’ll hear how well he is throwing it.  Without getting into detailed analysis of every pitch, basically I’m throwing out any slow pitches, and looking at the rest, both for Loe and the other pitchers I mentioned.  In each case, they have a clear distinction between their curves and their faster pitches, whether sliders or fastballs or something else, and I’m taking that distinction line and removing everything below it.

On Saturday night Loe threw 46 “fast” pitches, averaging 86.7 mph with a max of 90.4 and min of 83.1.  On July 6 he had thrown 71 pitches at 88.4 mph, max 90.9 and min 85.3, while on June 20 he had 58 pitches at 88.1, max 90.9, min 85.6.  The first thing to note is how similar the previous two starts were, in all three categories (ave, min, max) the largest difference was 0.3 mph.  On Saturday, he was about 1.5 mph slower on average, his max was 0.5 mph slower, and his min was about 2.4 mph slower.  These are significantly slower, but are they real, or is it a ballpark effect?

Compare it to Millwood and McCarthy:  Millwood on 6-22 averaged 87.8, on 7-8 averaged 88.8, and on 7-13 averaged 88.5.  I would say there’s little difference there, his Friday start being between the other two and all within 1 mph.  McCarthy on 7-7 averaged 87.9 and on 7-15 averaged 88.4.  Slightly faster on Sunday than a week ago.  For both of them, you’d say that they were within reason, and the differences were due to the way they pitched rather than any systemic difference between Arlington and Anaheim.  If all three dropped a little this weekend, I’d say that would be something, but the variations are enough (on this simple level) to say that Loe was throwing slower on Saturday than in his previous starts, by about 1.5 mph.  A difference, not big, but perhaps big enough at the big league level.  The cause, I don’t know – could have been arm tiredness, or rather lack of use, or since I didn’t separate out his pitches other than to call them “fast” or “not fast”, he simply might have thrown more of the slower “fast” kind than the faster “fast” kind (did you get that?).

Horizontal movement:  Movement across the plate can be very effective in getting batters to swing and miss, or at least to get them to hit it off the end of the bat or the handle, which will induce weak grounders and shallow flies.

On Saturday Loe averaged -7.66 inches of horizontal movement, compared to -8.83 inches on 7-6 and -8.71 inches on 6-20.  With the two Arlington dates being almost the same, he lost about an inch of horizontal movement in Anaheim.  Curiously enough, both his maximum and minimum movements were all very similar, within half an inch of each other, so it wasn’t extremes causing this difference but rather the average pitch.  McCarthy and Millwood both moved back and forth on their averages, again no ballpark difference, but their recent starts were still within about 0.3 inches of each other.  So in this case, Loe was a slightly bigger difference, but I’m not sure how much of an effect an inch would have on a batted ball, horizontally.

Vertical drop:  As mentioned, Loe is a sinkerballer.  There is at least some correlation between how far the ball drops and how hard it is hit.  Being a sinkerballer, when Loe is on he can be very effective, but when he is not he can get in trouble.  I believe vertical drop is much more important than horizontal, because as mentioned, if you miss by an inch horizontally, the batter is still going to hit it almost the same, but if you miss by an inch vertically, it’s often going to be the difference between a ground ball and a fly ball.

On Saturday Loe’s average “fast” pitch had a vertical movement of 4.28 inches.  On 7-6 it was 2.98 inches, and on 6-20 it was 2.29 inches.  I would say that’s quite a difference, an inch and a quarter over the 7-6 start and two inches over the 6-20 start.  Systematic?  Millwood in his three starts we mentioned scored 7.13, 7.97 and 9.87, while McCarthy went 12.54, 12.07 and 11.89.  Millwood keeps going up, like Loe, but McCarthy actually went down.  I am tempted to say, without deeper analysis, that perhaps McCarthy’s drop was due to him being more effective, given the sporadic nature of his recent starts.  Possibly he is trying to pitch lower, and succeeding slightly.  I want to say that Millwood comparing to Loe actually lends more credence to the idea that it was the ballpark, not what Loe did.  Millwood has been fairly consistent in his last three starts, stats-wise, so to suggest that both he and Loe jumped a couple of inches just by coming to Anaheim is a little too coincidental for me.  I’ll leave the idea that their pitches jumped alone, at least until I can go back and take a look at the Anaheim pitchers and see how they fare in their own ballpark.

All the other usual suspects in these stats, break length, break angle, and so on, ended up showing little or no differences, certainly not enough to sustain an argument that they were the cause.  What it comes down to is mostly the speed and the vertical movement.  The vertical movement is a little suspect, although two inches is enough to mean a batter centering the ball versus beating it into the ground, or simply missing it.   The fact that they didn’t beat him on hits tends to rule that out a little too.  The fact that his walks jumped to five may be a clue, although a two inch change in vertical movement shouldn’t be enough to make that many pitches be balls.  Speed is certainly an issue, as mentioned 1.5 mph slower which may be due to the extra time off leaving him a little less strong, although they should be compensating for that between starts.

So, what was wrong?  Everything is inconclusive, until you read the news reports:

“I just struggled with my command,” Loe said. “I just wasn’t locating it very well. I wasn’t on top of my pitches. I felt a little rusty. It came down to fastball command.”

“He didn’t have his sinker working, which is his bread-and-butter pitch,” manager Ron Washington said. “I didn’t see the good bite on it. He just couldn’t keep it in the strike zone. If he has his command, I think it would have been a different story.”

“He just wasn’t putting the ball on the plate. He was trying to go to the corners,” Washington said.
There you go.  They knew exactly what was wrong all along: command.  He wasn’t able to put the pitches where he wanted to, and that caused him to walk people, and that caused him to lose.  Now, how do you measure that in Gameday numbers?  You can measure where it crosses the plate, but you don’t know where he intended to put it.  You can assume he’s trying to throw strikes, but they don’t try and do that on every pitch, because sometimes they want a guy to chase something outside the strike zone.  You can see Ron’s comment about his sinker not having bite, but we have already seen that it was only a couple of inches, and that may have been ballpark noise, not reality.  As for not keeping it in the strike zone, again, two inches is not going to move it out of the strike zone enough for the umpire to tell, is it?

I think I’m going to take a look at the numbers a little more closely.  If the aggregate doesn’t work, maybe the individual will.  Keep reading and I’ll see what I can come up with.

Oh Henry

June 26, 2007

I’ve mentioned before that I’m an Arsenal fan. This past weekend was one of the most gut-wrenching weekends in Arsenal history, with the sale of Thierry Henry to Barcelona. If you don’t follow soccer, I don’t know if I can explain how much this means. Think of A-Rod going to the Yankees, if A-Rod was one of the most beloved Rangers players ever (at the time I would have said admired yes, but beloved no). Maybe think of A-Rod coming to the Rangers, from a Seattle point of view. Maybe think of Jeter leaving the Yankees, although Barcelona are pretty much the Yankees of world soccer now. Thierry Henry is Arsenal’s all-time leading scorer, was the main cog of a hugely successful team over the last several years, was twice runner-up for World Player of the Year, and scorer of what I would say is probably the best goal I ever saw. It is a huge blow to Arsenal to lose him, and a huge coup for Barcelona to gain him. To give you an idea of what he means to Barcelona, after his press conference announcing his signing, he went out to meet the fans, and there were 30,000 of them there to see him. Yes, I said thirty thousand people came to see him join the club, more, it seems, than show up to see half of the Rangers games. How many were there when A-Rod arrived in Texas?

So when I see all this trade talk around Teixeira or Gagne or Aki or whoever, I have to put it in perspective. None of them mean nearly that much to the Rangers. To be fair, there are eleven players on a soccer team, and only nine on a baseball team (regardless of squads), but if you are a dominant soccer player you can be worth much more to your team. If you’re a great player in baseball, you’re still only going to get four or five at-bats during a game, just like everyone else on the team. If you’re Thierry Henry, you’re going to score 30 out of the 73 goals your team scored in 2003-04, 41% of the goals. What has the best player of all time scored in baseball?  I would guess it wouldn’t even be 20% of his team’s runs (or RBIs, or any other production metric you might want to throw out there).  Yes, Tex and co. mean a lot to Rangers fans, but in terms of production they’re much more easily replaceable than a Thierry Henry is.

In regard to all that, I happened to be watching Fox 4 tonight, and they had a short interview with Michael Young. He reiterated a few things, that it wasn’t the manager’s fault, the players had been playing poorly, and that it’s all well and good to draft a bunch of young players but they aren’t going to help for several years and he wants to win now. He doesn’t want to rebuild, blah blah blah. You’ve heard it all before, just substitute A-Rod for Michael Young and I think that’s where we are heading. He just signed a big multi-year deal, so I guess the Rangers will have to throw in a ton of money to offset that, and once again we get to pay someone else’s payroll. It was probably an inadvisable contract in the beginning, but it’s a whole lot worse when just six months down the road the player is already complaining about the team. I’ve lost a little respect for Michael recently.

A couple of interesting links around the net today. First, go to Baseball Analysts, they have a little review of the Rangers, basically questioning why the Rangers would give Jon Daniels an extension when he hasn’t proven anything, and looking at his track record so far. I have to say I agree with most everything they have to say. The other link is the next installment in the Management By Baseball interview with JD. This time he explains how he got the job, and tells us the surprising note that this year they had their first organizational meeting (as an organization, not as parts of one) in seven years. I think this might have helped do some damage to the team, since people aren’t getting together to compare notes and know what each other is doing. This is yet another indictment of the John Hart era. One of the things I’ve noticed in this series of articles is that Jeff Angus (the MBB author) hasn’t mentioned is how badly the Rangers are doing. His interviews were conducted in spring training, so he couldn’t ask JD about it, but surely he could put in something to say “hey look, JD said we’d do this and that but it didn’t work at all”. Much of his thesis in fact appears to be just the opposite, praising JD for his management skills and seeing lessons others can learn.

Well pitched game tonight for Kam Loe, now 3-0 after being sent to the minors for two days. I think it’s time to get plane tickets for Tejeda and Millwood. As they repeatedly pointed out, he didn’t do much striking out, but he got a lot of ground balls. Unfortunately Detroit doesn’t have the full Gameday service, and only one out of three of his starts since he came back has it (and that one was at home against the Cubs, the least effective of the three), so there’s not much data to look at and see what if anything he’s doing differently. Hopefully he’ll keep it up and a few more starts will give us more info.

The Rangers are looking to Willie Eyre to start tomorrow, something I asked about a couple of weeks ago. The question is how long can he go, but then that’s a question we ask about every Rangers pitcher whenever they start. All he needs is five innings and he’ll be doing about as well as the rest of them. He certainly won’t be any worse than Kronk would be. I’m glad they brought Scott Feldman back up, he needs to do something to get his ERA off the 6.66 it is at right now.

Brandon McCarthy is going to start in Frisco on Friday night, I have vague thoughts of going to see him. When Marian reads this, she’ll be surprised, because I haven’t mentioned it yet, but since she works almost next door to the Roughriders ballpark, it might just be a good night to be there. I can indulge my little fanboy crush on McCarthy, and Josh can enjoy another ballgame.

Rangers Rotation Release Points Redux

June 25, 2007

In my previous posts on the Gameday data, I first looked at the release points of the Rangers rotation, then looked at each player’s pitch types. Here in part three I will put the two together, in an effort to see if they are tipping their pitches by where they release them. As I noted the other day, it would be counter-intuitive to discover such a thing, because if a pitcher releases their different pitches from different locations, batters will quickly catch on and be able to tell what they are throwing. On to the charts:

Kameron Loe:

Kameron Loe Release Point by Pitch Type

Loe shows three pitches, a fastball/sinker, changeup and curve. I have not been able to differentiate between a regular fastball and a sinker in his data, so I am treating them the same at the moment. From his chart I see little or no differentiation between pitches, none of the colors stand out as being separate from the others. Without mathematically analyzing the three groups (something I may do later), I would say he is not showing hitters anything from where he is releasing the pitch. Interestingly, his last two starts were very good, after spending a couple of days in the minors, but I have not looked at those starts to see what they might show differently.

Robinson Tejeda:

Robinson Tejeda Release Point by Pitch Type

Cursed with only two pitches, a fastball and a slider, he’s also cursed with tipping them a little. Okay, it’s not much, but I can see that the blue sliders are higher than the red fastballs. In the small group at the bottom right, which I believe was a glitch in Gameday which caused one day’s data to measure off a little, you can clearly see the difference (in fact, although every other chart today is on the same scale, I had to increase this one vertically by a foot to show that extra data). Overall, although the horizontal release point is very similar, I would guess the vertical release point is about three inches higher for the slider. I know what you’re thinking, three inches is not that much, especially from 55 feet away (where Gameday measures release points from home plate). But remember, these guys are able to hit a ball that is 2 7/8 inches wide, travelling at 95 mph. They are able to tell what type of pitch based on what the stitches on a ball are doing as they come towards them at that speed. I think a three inch difference would help them a lot.

Brandon McCarthy:

Brandon McCarthy Release Point by Pitch Type

I didn’t color this one very well, but I was trying to diminish the effect of the fastball, because it was so dominant. I also wanted to keep it at the same scale as the others, to show how much smaller the area of McCarthy’s release point is. Click on the picture to go to my Flickr site and see it larger if you want to. What it shows is that his pitches are very similar, except for the curveball (red), which he appears to release a little further up and to the right compared to the others. Not much, but as noted they may not need much. The advantage he has is that it is still in an area which is filled with the other pitch types. If a hitter was to see the ball coming from top right, he wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell what it was, but if it came from bottom left he might be able to know that it is not a curveball.

Vicente Padilla:

Vicente Padilla Release Point by Pitch Type

The most troublesome pitcher to identify his pitches, and I took these ones a step further than in my previous study. I believe I found a way to differentiate between his changeup and slider, and have marked those pitches in this study. I will elaborate on that in a later analysis. In the meantime, Padilla is all over the place. His changeups are mostly in the top right, while his sliders are mostly bottom left. The other two pitches are scattered all around.  I note that Padilla went on the DL today, and in part of the reasoning they said that he was pitching okay for a couple of innings but then his elbow would tighten up and not allow him to throw properly.  Could his wide area of release be caused by the injury?  That seems like a prime cause, if you can’t throw the same way each time you’re going to be all over the place.

Kevin Millwood:

Kevin Millwood Release Point by Pitch Type

Once again I save the best to last.  Kevin Millwood is a veteran pitcher going through a tough year.  We’re not really sure what’s wrong with him, but this is a huge clue to me.  A bunch of bright orange to the top right, all the blue and green bottom left.  He’s throwing the curve and slider in a similar position, but the fastball is being released
about 7 inches right and 5 inches higher.  Tell me that’s not a huge difference!  I believe a major league hitter would pick up on this and be able to tell fastball or not, and that could very easily be the difference in being able to hit it or not.

Summary:

We can see that McCarthy, Loe and Padilla are throwing their pitches throughout their zones.  Padilla probably due to his injury, and Loe due to being a little uncontrolled, but McCarthy appears to have good control (a tight release zone) and pitches spread throughout.  This suggests he has been the best of the Ranger pitchers (remember my first study which showed that the tighter your release points, the lower the ERA), and in fact right now he is the only Rangers starter with an ERA below 6.00.  Tejeda is already in trouble by only having two pitches, but with the possibility that he is showing them by the way he releases, that’s a double blow for him.  Noting that his ERA has gone up and up as time goes on, other teams might have caught on to this.  Millwood shows even more differentiation in his pitches, which could lead to him being hit more as time goes on.  I can’t imagine that a veteran could have gone so many years without this being noticed before, so it is possible it is a new and correctable problem.

Now we know where they’re releasing their pitches and what they are throwing.  Next up will be a look at when they are throwing it:  vs left or right, what count, what score, what baserunners.  This will be a more complicated analysis, and I will have to rein myself in to not do too much at once, and bury the signal within the noise.  At this point I have several hundred pitches for each starter, but I will try and not chop it down so finely that the number of pitches is meaningless (the old “9th inning or later, score tied, runner on third, with the temperature below 58” problem).  The next article will hopefully only take a week or so to post.

Rangers Rotation pitch types

June 18, 2007

In the previous part of this study, we saw where each of the pitchers in the Rangers rotation was releasing their pitch. Here in part two, we’ll see if we can determine what pitches they’re throwing.

Kevin Millwood:

First up, Kevin Millwood. Searching online, various sites say that he has a fastball that runs 91-93, a slider, a 12-6 curve and some say a changeup. Let’s look at his charts from Gameday:

Kevin Millwood Horizontal vs Vertical Break

This first chart shows how his pitches break horizontally (blue) and vertically (red) in relation to speed. There are three basic clusters, all fairly well differentiated. The top pair are his fastball, which is running at 90-95 mph, breaking a little horizontally and not very much vertically (the vertical is kind of hard to understand, it’s actually how much it is breaking vs a “normal” pitch, in this case it is staying up. See this Hardball Times article for more explanation than I can give). His second pitch, at 85-90, breaks less in both directions. I’m going to guess this is his slider. His third pitch, running 72-77, is moving in the opposite direction to the others, and this is his curve.

Kevin Millwood Speed vs Break Length

This next chart shows why the bottom one is his curve. It is breaking much more than the others, between 16-20 while the others are from 2-10. Here you can see the slider breaking slightly more than the fastball.

Kevin Millwood Both Breaks vs Speed

The third chart for Millwood shows his horizontal and vertical breaks again, this time the horizontal is left to right and the vertical is up and down (as they should be). These pitches are colored by speed. This is how the pitches would look to the catcher if they were all thrown at the same spot. The fastball would stay up and to the left, the slider would be closer to the middle, and the curve would be down and to the right. Actually that’s a simplistic explanation of how they would look to the catcher, but it should suffice to give a general idea. If anyone can explain it better, please leave a comment. The chart does show a clear progression of pitches according to speed, with the slow curves in blue at bottom left, the fastballs in red at top right and the green sliders in the middle.

Brandon McCarthy:

Next is Brandon McCarthy. Online seems to agree that he has a fastball from 87-93, a changeup at 77-81 and a curve from 74-77. Let’s see:

Brandon McCarthy Horizontal vs Vertical Break

A clear cluster at the top is his fastball, as noted it’s about 87-93. His curve at the bottom is about 71-75 and his changeup is about 75-78. It appears there might be something in the middle, in about the 77-85 range, where the red is crossing to the center and the blue is a little right of it. It’s pretty spread out, and hard to tell if it’s another pitch or just noise in the data, maybe other pitches that were thrown a little off, for example a curveball that failed to curve because it was thrown a little hard. If I were to imagine really hard, I’d also see a small group of blue pitches out to the bottom left of the fastballs, with the associated red group out to the bottom left of the red fastballs too.

Brandon McCarthy Speed vs Break Length

This doesn’t clarify that extra pitch, although it does add a little more data. The fastball is clear at top left, the curves are clear at bottom right. The cluster that is the changeup is middle left, off to the side a bit, at the 10 inch break point in the 75-77 mph range. It’s the path of dots between the curve and the fastball that are interesting. Are they another pitch, or just the noise as described above? There is just not the cluster that you’d want to see to truly define it as a pitch.

Brandon McCarthy Both Breaks vs Speed

In here we see the fastball in red, and the curve in dark blue at bottom right. The lighter blue of 75-79 mph changeups appears up and to the left, just next to the fastball. The dark green is the 80-84 pitches, a smattering of them just above the curves, and a few more mixed in with the rest of the fastball/changeup group. It really does seem like another pitch, doesn’t it? There are at least semi-distinct groupings in all three charts, and I’d call it something like a slider maybe. The fact that there are so many variations leads me to feel there is something there, maybe he’s been trying something out? Of course, he pitched pretty badly for a few starts, maybe those are just pitches that didn’t work. Later I will go look at the game by game data and see what I can isolate.

Kameron Loe:

Kameron Loe reportedly throws a fastball in the high 80’s, which is a sinker, and has a changeup and a curve to go with it.

Kameron Loe Horizontal vs Vertical Break

Here’s a large cluster of fastballs, thrown 87-93. That’s quite a bit faster than the reference I found which said he throws high 80’s. I don’t remember how old that reference was, so it’s possible he’s gained speed in the meantime. I do know there have been several comments that he relies too much on his sinker, and looking at this you can see how much he’s thrown it compared to the other pitches. The grouping below 80 with the red on the left and the blue on the right is the curve, so in the middle at 80-85 is his changeup.

Kameron Loe Speed vs Break Length

This one is just about what you’d expect, although there’s really no big gap between the curve and the changeup, but there wasn’t in the previous chart either.

Kameron Loe Both Breaks vs Speed

His curves are all slow, under 80, and blue. The rest are very mixed together, and I’d probably say show the same pattern, kind of kidney shaped. I’m not sure why that would be. Millwood and McCarthy also clustered their pitches better, look at the red dots on them and they are very close, whereas Loe is quite spread apart. Is it lack of consistency, or control?

Vicente Padilla:

I saved Vicente Padilla until after the first three, because I wanted to present them as kind of similar, with clusters of each pitch type, although somewhat spread apart in some cases. Padilla shows something completely different. He reportedly has a low-90s fastball, a curve, slider and changeup.

Vicente Padilla Horizontal vs Vertical Break

First, notice that this chart drops down to 55 mph, whereas the others didn’t go below 70. Padilla has a significant number of pitches down there, and they are presumably curveballs. Why he is so slow with them, I don’t know. But also notice that after the group of fastballs, the rest is a wide mish-mash, there is nothing grouped about these pitches at all. It looks like a waterfall. Is this his problem, lack of control, or lack of ability to throw it where he wants? It seems to me that apart from his fastball, the rest of the pitches he’s just throwing and hoping, without knowing where they will go. That would explain why he has been pummelled this year.

Okay, look a little closer. Between about 72 and 80 mph there is a group of blue dots on the left, in the middle of the red, and vice versa on the other side. That is probably one of his other pitches, but is it the slider or changeup? Too hard for me to tell from this. If the rest of them are curves though, then he’s throwing his curve anywhere from 55 to 80 mph, and I don’t believe that. It would be such a wide range to be throwing one pitch in. Also, note that his fastball is running from about 88 to 98. That’s serious heat. But just like Loe, it appears he is relying on it too much.

Vicente Padilla Speed vs Break Length

Now look at this one. Big cluster of fastballs at the top. Long tail of curves at the bottom. But right there in the middle, in the 75-80 mph range, you can see two distinct groups. One could be the top of the curves, but the other, to the left, is something else. Slider or change?

Vicente Padilla  Both Breaks vs Speed

Almost all the blue pitches are at bottom right, those are curves. Almost all red pitches are at top left, those are fastballs. But there’s the little group of green in the middle, that’s the third pitch. Now, going back to the previous pitchers, Millwood throws a slider while McCarthy and Loe throw changeups. Millwood’s slider is down and to the right of his fastball, and in green. Both Loe and McCarthy don’t have that clear distinct group, their changeups are mixed in with their fastballs in their versions of this graph. So, on the basis of that, I’m going to say that Padilla is throwing a slider for his third pitch. Is there a changeup anywhere? Not that I can see.

Robinson Tejeda:

Our final man in the rotation is Robinson Tejeda. In various places, I read that he has a quality 96 mph fastball, a plus changeup, an average slider and is developing a curveball.

Robinson Tejeda Horizontal vs Vertical Break

Not so fast. Actually his fastball is that fast, in fact it has touched 98, but he’s throwing it anywhere from about 92-98, averaging about 95, and that is quality. But he’s only showing one other pitch here, from 80-87, and it’s definitely not a curve. It’s either a slider or changeup.

Robinson Tejeda Speed vs Break Length

This doesn’t show us much of anything. Still two clusters, nothing outstanding about them. The only thing I’d say is that the two guys we decided are throwing sliders had that grouping down and to the right of the fastball, which is what this shows.

Robinson Tejeda Both Breaks vs Speed

Uh-oh, another mish-mash. Fastball is clear, and the green grouping shows just like Millwood and Padilla, so I’m going to call this one a slider too. But the question remains, where’s his third pitch? A starter can’t get by in the big leagues with only two pitches, once the opposition has seen them enough they know what they’re looking for. And especially since his slowest pitches are around 80, that means they don’t need to look for the slower curve and don’t have to adjust as much. If you’re only looking at a range of 80-98, that’s easier than looking at 70-95. This shows in his career stats: First time through the order, the opponent has an 88 OPS+ against him. Second time it’s 99, and third time it’s 128. Yes, most pitchers show this sort of movement, but I’d say it’s harder to fool them the third time through when you only have two pitches. My guess, it won’t be too long before he moves to the bullpen. I also think that he’ll be a star in the bullpen, because with a 98 fastball he’s got closer written all over him.

Summary:

Well that’s enough for this post. That’s a lot of information to read and absorb at once. A bunch of pretty pictures, a little analysis of what they mean, and a few questions left here and there. Next time, I’m going to dig a little deeper into the numbers, see how often they’re throwing each pitch, what their average speeds and breaks are, things like that. After that I want to see why they’re choosing to throw a particular pitch, on what counts and against lefties or righties, maybe even what the score is and who’s on base. But all that is for another day.

Rotation Release Points

June 14, 2007

This is part one of what I expect to be a series of studies of the Rangers rotation, based on the Enhanced Gameday data provided by MLB.com. This data is proving to be a treasure trove for stats nuts, of which I am proud to say I am one, and I’ve been digging through it for a long time. I’m trying to get some of my thoughts about the data down before I get too lost, because every time I start looking at something I end up finding some other little piece of info and sidetracking all over the place.

In this study, I’m going to start at the start, which is usually the best place to begin. In this case, the start in the data is the release point of the ball. The Gameday data provides three fields, called x0, y0 and z0, which are able to define a three dimensional position where the ball is released by the pitcher. y0 is always 55, which means it is being measured at 55 feet from home plate, in other words right about where the pitcher lets go of the ball as he comes off the mound. x0 and z0 are the horizontal and vertical positions of the ball at that distance, with z0 being feet off the ground, and x0 being a distance from a central point, presumably somewhere centered on the pitching rubber, also in feet. Since it is measured as from the catcher’s view, an x0 that is negative is a release point that is to the left of the mound, in other words that has been thrown by a right-hand pitcher, and a positive x0 is to the right of the mound or a left-hand pitcher.

So, on to the pictures:

Rangers Rotation Release Points

The first graph shows the five members of the Rangers rotation who have pitched the most games this season. All five are right-handers, so all have negative numbers in the x (horizontal) direction, and the graph shows they all throw in a range of about five to eight feet from the ground.

Before I continue, I should note that I have found some inconsistencies in the data, most noticeably between ballparks but also some within ballparks. The between ballparks issue appears to be an alignment problem, where all parks are not calibrated the same. Within ballparks the numbers match up fairly well for individual pitchers (meaning if they threw it at the six feet mark one day, they will also be about the six feet mark in every start, not some at five and some at seven). The exceptions within ballparks appear to be problems with the cameras taking the measurements, I have blogged before that it appears some cameras will be bumped during a game and lose their readings, or start measuring slightly off. An example of this appears to be in the Tejeda data, where he has most of his pitches around the 5.5 to 6.5 height, but you can see a small section of the light blue dots down and to the right, at between the 4.5 and 5.0 height. I have not investigated his starts to determine definitively if this is the case (I am leaving that to a later study where I want to show some of the problems in the data). Thus, all the values you see in the charts today are the raw data, not in any way adjusted. I should also point out that there are a very few outliers outside these graphs, for example in this graph there were a couple of points over at the +3 feet mark, which, unless a Ranger pitcher suddenly decided to throw a couple of pitches left-handed, are clearly erroneous and can be ignored.

What you see in this graph is five pitchers who are among the worst in the league this season. Having looked at some more of the release point data, I can immediately tell that these are pretty widely scattered release points for all these pitchers. I had a theory that the more experienced a pitcher, the tighter their release point, but that proved not to be the case. As it turns out, and you will see below, the more closely bunched together the release points are, the better the pitcher’s ERA.

Looking at the Rangers, you can see Brandon McCarthy up at the top right, very straight and almost vertical in his release. The spread of his pitches is about a foot in each direction. The other four pitchers are releasing from similar areas. Loe is also about a foot square, Millwood about 18 inches horizontally and a foot vertically, Padilla about 18 inches by 15 inches, and Tejeda is probably the best of the lot at about a foot by about 10 inches. All in all, fairly spread out, and given that their ERA+’s range from 58 (Millwood) to 77 (McCarthy), this could be a good indicator that this is where their problems begin.

Let’s look at another one:
Angels Rotation Release Points

This belongs to the Anaheim Angels. The scale is the same in both directions. Their two best pitchers are Lackey (ERA+ of 163) and Escobar (146). Weaver is league average at 102, while Santana (80) and Colon (74) are very Rangers-rotation like in their quality this year.

Now, what I said earlier about different ballparks appears to be in play here. Look at Escobar, in bright red the easiest to read. He has a large cluster of points vertically between 6.5 and 7, and a smaller cluster between about 6.2 and 6.5. By looking in the data, and sorting by the z0 value, I can tell you that every single pitch below 6.5 was thrown in Chicago on 4/29. There are a few pitches above 6.5 thrown on that date, but the highest was at 6.6, which is the bottom of the main cluster of pitches. It is obvious that the measurements in the White Sox ballpark are showing the pitches about 5 inches below everywhere else. For the Angels, Escobar, Santana and Weaver each pitched in that stadium during that series. Although not so easily detected, there does appear to be a slight shift down for the other two pitchers as well.

So, throw out that start, and I see Escobar as being about 9 inches wide by 6 inches tall. Lackey, the other outstanding pitcher for the Angels this year, is about 11 inches by 8 inches. Average Weaver is about a foot by 10 inches (allowing for a Chicago start). The two bottom guys are both about a foot by a foot. Using these numbers, and matching them to the Rangers, all the pitchers with a below average ERA+ are throwing in an area about a foot by a foot, or more, whereas the better pitchers are much smaller areas, half or less the size of the bad pitchers.

One more team:
Athletics Rotation Release Points

This is the graph of the Oakland A’s. Only four pitchers this time, because they have not had a consistent fifth starter like the other two teams. Note that one of these guys, Joe Kennedy, is a left-hander, and his release is way over to the right. Note also that the scales are slightly different, to allow for Kennedy.

I chose the Rangers because they are pitching bad (and because this blog is about the Rangers), the Angels because they are leading the division with decent pitching, and the A’s because they have the best pitching in the league. All four of these guys have a much better than average ERA+, with Blanton and Kennedy both around 120, Gaudin at 175, and Haren an incredible 270. If you weren’t entirely sure what ERA+ is, this tells you that Haren is about 2.7 times better than the average American League pitcher, and his 1.58 ERA reflects that. He is having an incredible season so far.

But Haren upsets the applecart here. Look at his release points, in the green. They are about 15 inches wide and 18 inches high, much wider than even the bad pitchers on the other teams. What’s going on? Without investigating deeply, it does appear that most of the starts down and to the left were made in Oakland, with the up and to the right starts being around the league. I would suspect this to be the problem except that it does not manifest itself for either Kennedy or Gaudin, who are showing smaller ball-shaped release points. This is probably something to look into further as well. If you actually take Haren, rotate him so he is horizontal, and remove the Oakland bias, he is probably about a foot by 6 inches, which would put him back in the top of the bunch.

Gaudin is very good this year, and has a small release area to show for it. Blanton and Kennedy are similar in ERA+, although Kennedy shows a much smaller area of release. Either way, each of these pitchers are showing they have control of their release points more than the other teams do.

So, in summary, it appears that the better the control of your release point, the better you will pitch. I’m sure this is just one factor, but it is probably one that is more coachable than some things that are out of their control. I surmise that if a pitcher gets in a good rhythm and all his mechanics are working well, the end result will be better, and if he is flailing about, not controlling his body, the pitch is going to go anywhere other than to a well-controlled point, and that will lead to better pitches to hit. A good pitching coach ought to be working on these things with the players, making them aware of how open they are getting when they release, and how variable they are. Age (and thus experience) do not appear to be factors, as none of the A’s are over 28, the Angels are split with a good and bad pitcher under 28 and a good and bad pitcher over 28 (and their best pitcher exactly 28), while the Rangers range from 23 to 32 with nothing resembling any kind of quality pattern.

Whether the Rangers have the personnel or ability to deal with this problem is unknown. Once more of this kind of data is available, we may be able to see patterns emerge showing that players can improve, or decline, in this ability. Eventually we may even be able to use this to evaluate pitching coaches. For now though, we can just look at what we have and see the beginnings of some interesting analysis to come.

[Update 6/14 at 7pm:  I inadvertently switched the names of McCarthy and Loe when I pulled the dataset for this study.  Although the results are still the same, I have corrected the Rangers chart and changed the names of Loe and McCarthy in the text where appropriate.  I am going to take steps to correct this problem.  My thanks to John Walsh of The Hardball Times for helping me discover this error through a related email I had sent him.]

Please relieve me, let me go

June 6, 2007

I had this theory today, and tested it out during the spanking the Rangers got this evening. It was related to the Mark Connor as pitching coach comments I made a few days ago, and how the starters don’t seem to be prepared. I wanted to compare those pitchers who have started and relieved this year, and see how they did. We all know the starters have been terrible and the relievers good, that’s been obvious since just about day one of the season. Right now starters are 14-30 with a 6.64 ERA, while relievers are 7-7 with a 3.49 ERA. This is a difference between night and day, and it’s not a small sample size issue, as starters have pitched 294 innings and relievers 211. That in itself is its own story, that relievers are having to come in so early.

Brandon McCarthy is 4-4 with a 6.65 ERA in 10 starts, 43 innings. He’s 0-0, 0.00 ERA in one relief appearance covering two innings.

Mike Wood is 1-1, 5.59 in 19 innings over 4 starts. 0-0, 3.86 in one relief appearance of 2 1/3 innings.

Kam Loe is 1-5, 6.53 in 9 starts, 51 innings, and 0-0, 5.40 in 5 relief appearances and 8 innings.

All are better as relievers than starters, but that is pretty meaningless because this clearly has a small sample size attached to it.

As a comparison, for the AL overall (including the Rangers), starters have a 4.54 ERA and relievers 4.23. So Rangers relievers are pitching better than the league, but starters are way below league. Starters have 4678 innings, relievers 2403. Thus starters are pitching about 66% of innings, compared to the Rangers 58%. It’s lucky the bullpen is stepping up, otherwise the Rangers would be even further in the tank.

In 2006 Rangers starters had a 5.11 ERA, relievers 3.78.

In 2005 starters were 5.04, relievers 4.85.

In 2004 starters 5.16, relievers 3.51.

In 2003 starters 6.24, relievers 4.92.

In 2002 starters 5.26, relievers 4.99.

In 2001 starters 6.00, relievers 5.19.

Mark Connor was the bullpen coach from 2003-05, and pitching coach 2006-07. Orel Hershiser was the pitching coach from 2003-05. Dom Chiti has been bullpen coach in 2006 and 2007.

You could almost imagine an effect in 2004, when the relievers pitched so well compared to previous seasons. Through all the seasons, you could hardly imagine an effect on the starters at all, as they have fluctuated up and down. You could also imagine that the relievers have been much better since Connor left the bullpen to become the pitching coach. And you could imagine an effect on the starters when he became pitching coach, as the ERA for starters began going back up after a couple of years of improvement. Or this could all be random chance, and the coach means nothing. But who wants to believe that? I’d rather wish for Connor to be fired and Chiti to get a promotion.

Should Willie Eyre be considered for the rotation? His minor league stats show he’s started 66 games, but maybe he hasn’t done it enough lately to be able to start? Still, maybe we keep stretching him out and by the end of the year he might be able to go 5 innings, which is about average for a Rangers starter this year.

I enjoyed the comments from Ron Washington on the pre-game radio show. He said that you don’t steal on Pudge, you steal on the pitcher, in relation to Ian Kinsler’s two stolen bases yesterday. Pudge, of course, is the best defensive catcher ever to play the game. His career caught stealing average as a catcher is about 48.5%, when the league overall tends to about 33%. I asked earlier this week if there’d be more cheers for Pudge than for the Rangers, and when he homered today I’m pretty sure there were. I know I was cheering for him – but only because the game was already out of reach. Yeah, that’s the reason I was cheering. Right.