Archive for the ‘Vicente Padilla’ Category

It’s June, time for the collapse to begin

June 9, 2009

I write this in my head every day.  It’s the getting it out through my fingertips that is the problem.

I want the Rangers to win, I really do.  I want them to make the playoffs, to actually win a playoff series, to win it all.  I’d love it if it was this year.  But as a Rangers fan (and an Arsenal fan) I know that it is far too easy for a team to set you up and then knock you down.  Every day I am just waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the bandwagon to turn into a pumpkin.  That’s the way my mindset works.  The longer it takes for the Rangers to fall away, the worse it is going to be.  That tiny little feeling in the back of my mind that yes, they really are going to do it, is just going to end up a cruel joke.  And those folks who are getting on the bandwagon are going to be getting off in a hurry (Newy Scruggs, who has built his Dallas career on slamming the Rangers, had the gall on the radio today to be telling folks to shut up and enjoy the ride), and many of them will be having fun at my expense (all the people in my office who today are coming up to me and talking about “our” Rangers, in September they’ll be saying how much “your” team sucks for blowing it).  I can’t stand it, as Charlie Brown would appropriately say.

All of Tom Hicks’ teams are falling apart financially.  Even Liverpool lost fifty million pounds, seventy-five million dollars give or take, although they’re pretty much blaming the way he financed the team for that.  It’s funny, this is one of those cases where you’re enjoying a banker getting his, but then realizing what it could mean for the team.  Nolan Ryan as the owner?  Not many would say that was a bad thing.  But who else might want to get in on it?  David McDavid was rumored, not sure how a guy in the car business would get that kind of money these days.  And then there’s the man himself, Mr Cuban.  Out of the frying pan indeed.

You know what’s funny?  For years I’ve seen guys like Adam Dunn or Ryan Howard striking out near 200 times, and said who cares, it’s just an out, and they’re still hitting 40 home runs.  But when it’s one of ours, somehow it’s personal.  I think Chris Davis needs to go back to the minors, sad as that would be.  I just don’t want to see him flailing wildly again any more.  I’ve gotten to the point of closing my eyes or leaving the room when he bats.  It’s sad when they have to pinch-hit Andruw Jones for him to avoid a sombrero.

Wash was renewed today, of course, just a day after ESPN published a story saying how he wasn’t happy that he hadn’t been renewed yet.  Okay, technically he said he didn’t care, that he’d find something, but still, it was interesting timing.  I wish I had the dates from when he was extended last year, I’m pretty sure it came after a hot streak and was followed by the team’s collapse, but I may just be dreaming that (or foretelling it).

McCarthy is so brittle, they ought to check to make sure he has all his bones.  Although if they do, they’ll probably find another one he can break.  So much promise, so little on-field time.  You could argue that this comes so soon after his back-to-back 118 and 124 pitch starts, that surely they’re related.  I ought to make a chart showing the pitchers’ recent performances before their injuries.

Way back at the start of the season I said “I will bet you that one or more of these first four starters will be on the DL by the end of the month.”  Well, I was off a little, both in numbers and time.  The first five starters of the season were Millwood, Padilla, McCarthy, Benson and Harrison.  Four of them have now spent time on the DL.  Wow.  How are the Rangers still managing to win?  Maybe they are star-crossed this season.

You’re not a true DIYer until you’ve fallen through a ceiling.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Padilla is infuriating.  I’ve said before that I watch his starts hiding behind the chair, just peeking now and then, waiting for the meltdown to happen.  Was that whole waiver thing really an attempt at a wake-up call?  Could they really afford to dump him now, when there’s no-one else left to go into the rotation?

Holland isn’t going to be a big league starter.  Not with three pitches, one of which he throws 80 percent of the time.  You can blow a 97 mph fastball past AA players, but in the majors they feast on it all day long.  Have you noticed how the more he pitches, the more he’s hit, and the worse he looks?  Okay, he’s still young, but there’s a lot more development needed.

I’m going to predict right now that the Rangers will make a blockbuster trade this month, for a starting pitcher.  The sooner the better.  I’m not saying Halladay or Greinke caliber, but Bedard might be available (although not necessarily within the division), or maybe Cliff Lee?

It says something when you’re unhappy about the Rangers splitting a road trip to NY and Boston.

As of when I write, the Rangers are leading the majors in Ultimate Zone Rating, or UZR, one of the better fielding ratings out there.  That’s going from dead last a year ago.  Really, the only significant change was moving Michael Young to third and bringing in Elvis at short.  Somehow, Michael is actually a worse third baseman than shortstop (you can make the excuse that he’s learning the position all you want.  I’ll just reply with the defensive spectrum, that short is a much harder position to field).  He’s even worse than the rag-tag mob that played there last year.  Between Elvis, who is head and shoulders above any other shortstop in baseball this year, and Kinsler, who has made a dramatic improvement, they’ve lifted the team a lot.  There are people who say the change this year is not the pitching, it’s the fielding, and they may be right.  Could all that losing of the last decade be placed on the horrible fielding from Michael Young?  If we’d had a decent shortstop in that time, could things have looked a lot different?  Something for the simulations, I guess.

2am.  This is why I don’t post that much.  Won’t even have any time for some Far Cry.  And only 17 hours until it all starts up again.

Finding Padilla

April 21, 2008

Vicente Padilla has been outstanding so far in 2008. This may be my attempt to jinx him, but he has been effective at the “bend, don’t break” strategy the Rangers have been working on (personally I think it should be “don’t bend or break”, because that leads to fewer collapses like the ones we’ve had the last few days in Boston). Today, I want to look at what he was doing last year and compare it to this year, using Pitchf/x data.

Through mid-June 2007 he was 3-8, 6.69, and went on the DL. He came back for eight starts in August and September and was 3-2, 3.86. When I was checking these numbers, it surprised me, I did not think he had pitched that well in the second half. Combining that with his early numbers in 2008, and it strongly lends itself to the idea that he was injured for the first half of 2007, which caused his bad numbers.

After four starts in 2007 he was 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA, and stinking up the place. His last four starts in 2007 were 2-1, 2.12. This year, with four starts down, he is currently sitting at 2-1 with a 3.12 ERA. I decided to use these three group of four starts to look at what he has changed in that time, to get clues as to his improvement. His pitch counts for the groups ranged from 284 to 335, so they are all in a similar quantity which should help us note differences visually.

Note that I wrote about the Rangers rotation back in June 07, just before he went on the DL, and those charts include the first half of last year’s data for him. The data I am working with now is the same, but utilizes several techniques that Pitchf/x researchers have developed more recently. In particular, the spin charts shown were first used (I think) by Alan Nathan and then Mike Fast, and it was a spreadsheet posted by Mike (created by Tangotiger, I believe) that contained the spin chart that I have adjusted for my use here. Much credit to all of them for their work on this.

Starting with the early 2007 chart:
Padilla early 2007 Spin

First, this polar plot maps the spin speed vs the spin angle. The angle is shown simply by it’s rotation around the circle. The speed is shown as distance from the center. In this case (and the others in this blog post) the center of the circle is 50mph, and it increases by 10mph at each step away from the center, until you get to the outer ring which is 100mph.

In my review last year, linked above, I said that Padilla was showing a fastball, curve, and slider, although the results were so mixed that it was hard to tell what was what. Reportedly he has a changeup as well, but I could not pick it out from this data. In fact, here you can see I have split the fastballs into 2 and 4 seam versions, that is something I was not able to do until working with the polar plot and some other tools.

The late 2007 chart shows some differences:
Padilla late 2007 Spin

Not only can you see much more distinction between the groups of pitches, you see the numbers have clearly changed. The groupings are much tighter than before, and the sliders (red) are clearly differentiated from the fastballs. The one thing I do have trouble with here is the curve, it appears that there are two distinct groups, suggesting one is a different pitch. None of the other charts I have show this difference, so I have left it all as a curve, but at two different speeds (the group closest to the center is around 60mph, the other is between 70 and 80 mph, which is kind of fast for a curve so is more likely to be a different pitch).

Let’s look at the early 2008 chart, then compare the three:
Padilla early 2008 Spin

Here you see a chart much more similar to the late 2007 than early 2007 one. If anything, the groupings are even more compressed this time around, and the distinction in the curve has pretty much disappeared. Of course, the curve has almost disappeared too.

So, let’s look at the differences:

Much tighter groupings of pitches as time goes on. The suggestion I would have for this would be mastery of his pitches – as he has learned to throw each one, he’s gotten better at it and is more consistent. This would be more believable if he hadn’t been pitching in the majors for ten years – if he was 22 or 23, I might find this a convincing argument.

Ratio of pitch types has changed considerably. The slider has stayed almost constant at 12-14& of pitches, the fastball (both kinds) has grown from 73% to 81%, and the curve has disappeared, from 13 and 14% last year to 5% in 2008. The ratio of 4-seam to 2-seam fastballs has stayed roughly 2-1 in favor of the 4-seam, although late last year he threw more 2-seamers than in the other time periods.

Fastball speed is down. In late 07 and early 08, his top speed was 96.5mph, second best was 95.8. He beat 95.8mph 31 times in early 07, peaking at 98.6. This drop of peak speed is about 2mph, which curiously is not reflected in the overall average for the fastballs, which stayed just about the same for all groups, in the 91-92 range. He had a much bigger spread for the fastballs, but the average remained the same. Again, this leans toward someone learning how to throw more consistently.

The slider was more focused around the 80mph mark, instead of being spread around in the mid 80s. Like the fastball, he got better when he threw more consistently.

If I give you this link, you can go back and check out his release points for the first half of 2007. It contains a very ugly image, but the gist is that he was releasing over a very wide area, well over a foot square, and on a slope from bottom-left to top-right.

Compare it with this one, for the first part of 2008:
Padilla early 2008 release points

You see here a much cleaner release area. About 3/4 of a foot wide by a little over a half a foot tall. It is also very circular in pattern, compared to the angled release last year.

My conclusion is simple: Padilla was hurt early last year, and after a couple of months on the DL in the middle of the year came back and pitched much better at the end, and much better to begin 2008. He is releasing the pitch in a smaller area, suggesting he is not trying to compensate for where it hurts to move his arm. He is producing much clearer patterns of pitches, suggesting he has more confidence in what he is throwing, and better ability to throw it how and where he wants.

All-in-all, the much-maligned (especially by me) Vicente Padilla is probably a poster child for pitching healthy. I remember a lot of talk about how he wanted to pitch even when he was hurt, because he felt that was what he needed to do to be part of the team. This study shows that when pitching hurt, he (and presumably other pitchers) are not as effective, to the extent that they are hurting their team as much as themselves. Repairing the damage is a better option than pitching through it. As I recall, there were a number of complaints from his teammates about how slow he was at pitching, which disrupted their own rhythms of being in the game. Could it simply have been a case of him having to step off the mound after each pitch for long enough that his arm would stop hurting enough so he could throw again?

I’m still not convinced about Padilla’s ability, because every time he pitches I’m still expecting the roof to fall in at any moment. It will take a while for me to lose that fear, if ever. But at least when things are going wrong for him these days, I have some hope that it’s explainable, that he can work through it, and not just because he’s injured. This use of Pitchf/x was very helpful to me to understand why something happened, and not just accepting my own opinion that Padilla sucks.

Coming soon, I’m going to give the same treatment to Millwood, who has shown a surprisingly similar pattern to Padilla from last year to this. It will be interesting to see if we can discern something that explains his struggles and improvement as well as we could for Padilla.

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.

Yet another 70 win season

September 20, 2007

Ron Washington supposedly made Vicente Padilla apologize to the Rangers for his performance on Sunday, where he hit the second batter and was ejected, putting the bullpen in a bind.  Now, Ron had also said he didn’t think Padilla hit Swisher intentionally, so why would he make him apologize?  What did Padilla think of that?  Wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall while he was talking to the rest of the team?  Think any of them cared?  Doesn’t this all sound just a little high-school?  Or maybe kindergarten, where the teacher tells one kid to apologize to another?  Ron was supposedly going to be a player’s manager when he came aboard, a reputation which took a knock after the Tex brouhaha, and I think takes another knock here.

I’m pretty sure Buck Showalter’s streak, of teams winning the World Series the year after he leaves, is going to end.  You know, given that the Rangers are 18 games out of the wildcard, with 10 to play.  Oh yeah, they’re also not going to reach .500.  But they will have yet another season of mediocrity, a 70-something win season.  This will be nine seasons of winning 70-something, with the exceptions of 80 last year and 89 in 2004, which in retrospect was not so much a Great Leap Forward, but more of a One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.  Someone ought to tell them there’s no percentage in doing this every year, that they’ve got to bust out of the cycle.  Being a little below average every year is doom for a team.  You don’t go low enough for good draft picks (although that’s not as important as in football), and you don’t go high enough to contend.  A team with a record like this is just scaring away the good free agents.

Speaking of, Torii Hunter spoke out today, saying he’d like to join the Rangers next year.  Okay, that’s a stretch, but here’s the two quotes you need to know:  “Whatever moves they’re making, if they’re good, then I’m going to do it because they really do have a better chance than anybody [of signing me].”  That sounds good, doesn’t it?  But the second is “I still want to win, though, that’s what matters to me.”  Yeah.  Torii, much as I’d love to throw 75 million over five years at a 30-something in great risk of falling apart, the Rangers are better off without you, and you are better off without us.  The Rangers are not going to win anytime soon, and we have much better uses for 15 million a year, specifically pitching.  If we’re going to go for a veteran center fielder, it ought to be someone like Kenny Lofton this year, or potentially Mike Cameron next year, who we can bring in and trade in July for some prospects.  We need to be bringing young outfielders through, we have Borbon now in the minors with his clock ticking, he’d need to be up before a Torii contract was over, but better yet we have David Murphy right now.  He definitely needs more playing time, and a lot of it in center.  It’s a small sample size of course, but I’d have Murphy in center and Marlon Byrd floating next year.  Sorry Torii.  Better luck with a better team, but please don’t use us to try and drive up your price.

Speaking of dumb moves, Ron Washington says he wants Sosa back next year.  Apparently he’s been great in the clubhouse (which is worth exactly zero wins), and of course he is Mr Clutch when it comes to RBIs.  On my to-do list is a look at just how well he’s done with RBIs, compared to opportunity.  Yes, they keep harping on about how he’s leading the team, but for a couple of months he was the only person with any opportunities, because no-one was getting on base back in April and May.  I don’t want to bias my study before I do it though, but suffice to say every at-bat he has next year will be one lost to someone who would help the team in the future (can I hear a Jason Botts?).  No-one points out he’s also leading the team in strikeouts, and is sixth in runs scored.  And of the regulars, he’s one of the few with an OPS+ below 100 (he is at 98).  Depending on how you define regular, Laird, Vazquez, Cruz, and Hairston are the guys below him in OPS+ with more than 150 at-bats.  You want to build a team of those guys?  Will any of them be in Arlington next year?  Ron said that Sosa is still a fan favorite, I would love to know who that fan is.  There was total indifference around here when he hit his 600th homer.  And I don’t just mean me, I mean me, everyone I talked to about it, everyone at the ballpark who was barely watching, everyone watching on tv, and all the media here.  Remember Raffy’s 500th?  A hundred times the local interest.

And while I’m mentioning Botts, Jamey Newberg has been pointing out how he struggles for a month at every stop, and Jamey is very right about that.  Botts in August:  .593 OPS.  In September:  .924.   That doesn’t guarantee he’d have done it all year long, but it would have been worth trying him all year instead of Sosa’s .776.  Sosa’s best month?  September he’s at .952, but that’s only 21 at-bats.  Next best was his .855 from April, and it’s all downhill from there.

The Michael Young watch goes along, and it goes pretty well.  If I’m counting correctly, he needs 10 hits in 10 games.  Our next 7 games are at home, with a little luck he can do it there.  It was a great feeling to see him clinch the batting title at home a couple of years ago, so maybe we can repeat that in the next week.  Although his three errors yesterday may indicate he’s thinking more about the 200 hits, it’s just an aberration.  Kind of like Kinsler dropping the ball the other day to lose the game, he had worked well on his defense, and was doing much better than earlier in the year, so it’s annoying, but not something to worry about.  Just remind him what he needs to do, which is concentrate.  We could all do with some of that.

Who was that wearing the Padilla mask?

August 27, 2007

The game reports I read online tonight said that Padilla was good in getting his first win in over two months.  Having watched the game on tv, I have to respectfully disagree.  Granted, it was one of his better performances of the season.  His game score of 61 was in fact tied for his second best of the year (behind the 65 he got against KC two weeks ago), and only the fifth time he’d gotten above 50 all year.  He threw six innings (technically 6+, since he faced three batters in the 7th without retiring any of them), the most he’s thrown since May.  He threw strikes all day long, at a 70% rate which is above average.  He didn’t walk anyone, and only gave up five hits, all singles, and three of those were in the 7th.  The numbers by themselves show that it was a good outing.  So why do I disagree?  Maybe because he’s Padilla?  A little of that, in fact.  Maybe it was because I spent the entire game waiting for the other shoe to drop.  Maybe because he has so many times flown through a couple of innings, even three or four, and suddenly imploded, giving up a bunch of runs before they got him out of there (often even without them deciding to get him out at all).  But I realize that this is the way I’m always going to think about Padilla, for the next two years of his contract at least.  A ticking time-bomb, just waiting for something bad to happen to mess up his mind and make him fall apart.  He’s given us so much of that, and I don’t know what else to think about him right now.  It will take several good outings, and not just for the rest of this year (because I know he has the ability to revert again next year), to turn around my opinion of him.

But it was a nice win, excellent relief work from Frankie coming in with two on and none out, and retiring the side without giving up a run (and making Lopez look foolish while he did it).  Jack was Jack, perfectly efficient, and CJ, well, I just think he has a mentality that if it isn’t a tough situation, he’s not really up for it.  It seems like he’s a little less intense if things are too easy for him.  Looking at his numbers this year, he’s come into the game nine times with a one run lead and not given up a single run.  In fourteen appearances with a two to four run lead, he’s given up eight runs.  That does seem to bear out my suggestion of intensity, doesn’t it?  On the other hand, in seven games that were ties when he entered, he gave up four runs, and in six games when down by a run, he didn’t give up any.  I would have to say small sample size effect.  Hopefully we’ll have a lot more situations in the future to judge how he does when the game is on the line.  Either way, Drew Davison in the game story on the Rangers site said “C.J. Wilson nearly cost Padilla the victory.”, and that’s a load of hooey.  Even when he got the lead down to two, and had wild pitched in a run, I didn’t once think we were going to blow this game, and that’s the exact opposite of my feeling while Padilla was in.

Why did Mark Connor pull Padilla, instead of Ron Washington?  Did he go out to talk to him, and have Padilla say he was done?  I’m surprised Connor then pulled him, for two reasons.  One, I wouldn’t have thought he would have the authority, it’s the manager’s job to do that (albeit with the advice of the pitching coach, of course).  And two, even if you decide he’s done, walk back in and tell Ron, and have Ron go get him.  Not for the authority thing, but simply because you give your reliever an extra minute to warm up.  Okay, he might be warm, and ready to go, in which case I guess you could do it.  But how many times do you see a team waste time to get a reliever ready?  The catcher walks out to the mound, then back.  The pitching coach walks out and back.  One of the infielders walks in there and back.  Then finally, at the last possible second, the manager steps out to the mound slowly, and pulls the pitcher.  I didn’t see when Frankie got up to get warm, but since Padilla gave up three straight singles, and then Frankie came in, he must have gotten up when the inning began, or after the first hit.  Just a weird set of circumstances.

Sosa now says he’s going to play next year, whether for the Rangers or someone else.  A change of tune from May, when he thought he would be able to play five more years, and he’d love to finish his career with the team that first had him.  You have to ask yourself who in their right mind would take him next year.  Of course, you asked yourself that last year, too, and see where he ended up then.  But is there seriously a team that could use him?  He can only be in the AL, because he can’t field much anymore so needs to DH, but he’s not even hitting well enough to do that.  He is hitting lefties though (.956 OPS, vs .664 against righties), so he might get a bench spot somewhere.  I just can’t see anyone wanting to play him every day.  The true contenders won’t, because they don’t have the space to allow a luxury like him.  The terrible teams won’t, because they’re all trying to go young.  Which leaves the teams in the middle, like the Rangers this year.  He’s dead to the Orioles, who’d be a good target for him like they are other washed up expensive players, but of course they already tried him.  White Sox?  Doubtful, with his whole history in Chicago.  Toronto have too much class.  Oakland have taken on some cheap old guys lately.  I’d put it between them and Tampa, who are a terrible team and supposed to be bringing up young players, but they’re also one of the dumbest teams around, so they might look at him and see a few thousand extra bodies in their empty ballpark.  Anyone as long as it’s not us, I guess.

Things are getting so boring around here, the media is actually trying to make a story out of John Danks coming back to Texas this week.  Rumors are flying that he’ll be starting Tuesday, or Thursday (according to the White Sox site, so this is probably the one to believe), or he won’t start at all, or maybe he’ll pitch every inning of every game, presumably beating us with three no-hitters in a row.  That’s the kind of absurdity you will hear in the next few days.  Tonight during one of the game breaks they said “Former Ranger John Danks will pitch Tuesday”.  Excuse me?  Danks was never a Ranger.  He was in the Rangers system, yes, but he never played for the Rangers.  Most of the guys on this team will only know him from spring training, and by media reports, and even then not so much.  Yes, he was one of the heralded minor leaguers in our system, and yes when we traded him it was a shock, but I for one am very happy with the way things have gone so far with McCarthy.  I have nothing against Danks, I know many of the fans wished him well when he left and would like to see him do well, but frankly he’s not part of our team any more so I have little feeling toward him.  Danks and McCarthy have both had interesting years, and I’ll try and do a better analysis of the two later in the week.

A day off tomorrow, which is good both for Michael Young’s back and our patience.  I have a lot of thoughts I’m trying to get out about Ron Washington, I’m going to try and make a run at it tomorrow and see what happens.

I’ll try and work harder too

August 15, 2007

So the Rangers finally inked first round pick Blake Beavan to a contract, one day before the deadline for signing players. With that one day to go, there are still a few players left that the Rangers won’t want to get away, so expect the possibility of another signing or two being announced tomorrow. Of course, chances are some of them won’t want to sign, and will be back in the draft next year (or later, depending on what their eligibility will be). If that’s the case, the Rangers will get compensatory picks in the same spots next year (e.g. Beavan was the 17th pick this year, if he hadn’t signed the Rangers would have gotten a compensation pick after the 17th pick next year), which to me sounds like an extremely unworkable solution, which is going to need some accountants to keep track of in a year or three. What if the Rangers didn’t sign that comp pick next year? Would they get another one the year after? Would it still be after the 17th pick, or would it be after the 18th, since that’s where it would effectively be next year (assuming all other teams signed their players)? What if the team drafting 17th next year also didn’t sign their player? And so on. You can imagine the team drafting 30th overall next year actually getting about the 35th player (if five teams don’t sign their first picks this year), and the year after that 30th pick might actually be the 40th player, and so on and so on. An accounting nightmare that only an Enron fan could love (sorry, had to throw that in since I’m reading a book about the Enron scandals right now).

Anyway, they got their man, at last. You can now expect to see Beavan in the Rangers rotation in about five years time. Well, expect is a strong word, since I’m guessing there’s probably about a10% chance he a) won’t get injured, b) will still be a rotation candidate instead of in the bullpen, c) will still be with the Rangers instead of being traded, or d) won’t have veered off into some other interests, like football, or girls, or drugs, or any of 1.5 million other distractions that an 18 year old with 1.5 million dollars might have. In fact, you’ll love this quote, when asked about a timetable on reaching the Rangers he said “It depends how hard I work in order to get there”. Uhhh, yeah, sure it does, kid. Hey, why don’t you spend some of that money on a PR person, someone who’ll tell you not to say really stupid things that will make people question your work ethic the day you sign a million dollar contract? I’ve been irritated at him before on this blog, and I can see that’s not going to stop. If he ever does make the majors, I have the strong feeling that my thoughts about him will always be colored by the dumb things he has said, and the holding out he did because he wanted more money. Ironically, just a few days ago one of the Rangers’ other first round picks, Michael Main, was promoted a level after pitching well at his first stop in pro baseball. Who are you going to root for more, the guy who signed, got on with the job, and stepped one rung closer to the majors, or the guy who held out for a few thousand more dollars, threatened to go to college, didn’t pitch at all this year, didn’t get any development done, and isn’t eligible to pitch until next year?

On the other hand, who knows? Maybe he has just the right attitude to turn himself into another Roger Clemens, or Nolan Ryan. As always with prospects, only time will tell.

Nice win against KC today. Gerald Laird pulls off a bunt to hit a three run homer, and of course it’s all about him being questioned as the catcher going forward. You know, four years ago when he made his debut I thought he might have the chance to be the new Pudge, setting up to be the Rangers catcher for the next ten years or so. Of course, that kind of got derailed, not only by various little injuries but also by the idea that Rod Barajas was better than him, and by Showalter not liking him for some reason. I think if he’d gotten the chances he deserved, he might have made something more of himself. Instead he’s going to be another one of those guys who, if not traded beforehand, will be looking elsewhere once free agency comes along simply because the Rangers didn’t give him those opportunities. It’s got to be really annoying for them to trade for Salty, say he’s going to catch just a little, then two weeks later turn around and say that they’ll split time behind the plate, to see what Salty can do. Yeah, that might be good for the team, but it’s irritating for the player. Gerald has shown he can field with the best of them, he’s just had trouble getting his bat going, which since he’s been jerked around so much isn’t surprising. Right now I’d give more than even odds that Laird will be with another team next year, because JD doesn’t have the skin in the game where Laird is concerned, not compared to Salty who he traded for instead of inheriting. Laird should be worth yet another prospect, in JD’s chase to have the best minor league system around.

Padilla is going to start tomorrow. Quote: “We hope he throws well,” Connor said. “The Minor League starts don’t indicate he’s back to where he needs to be, but those are Minor League starts. Some guys don’t pitch very well in those starts.” Yeah, right. What do you call players who don’t pitch very well in the minors? Scrubs, usually. But usually you don’t give them 20 million dollar contracts. And then usually you don’t risk bringing them back up when they’ve had a 8 something ERA in 12 innings over 6 starts in the minors. That’s right, in his rehab he has averaged two innings per start. Do you think he’ll make it through two innings tomorrow? My prediction, he sucks tomorrow, and in the next couple of starts, and will eventually have season ending surgery, then will be back in the mix in spring training.

Speaking of season ending, that’s what they’re saying about Aki. Remember back in early July, when he first got injured? They didn’t put him on the DL for a couple of weeks, they kept saying it was a day to day thing, they kept hoping he’d be okay so his trade value wouldn’t be damaged. Now, six weeks later, they still don’t know when he’ll be back, if at all this year. This is another example of a pitching coach who doesn’t know what he’s doing, who is gambling with million dollar arms and losing more often than he wins. It’s not a coincidence that all these pitchers are getting hurt this year, there’s something deeper underlying it. If Blake Beavan wants to increase his 10% chance, he shouldn’t even shake hands with Mark Connor, let alone listen to his advice.

TR Sullivan took a look at where the Rangers are for next year. In a couple of places he talks about what the Rangers have to do to contend in 2008. The scary part is that Rangers ownership and management might be looking at this and getting ideas about winning next year. You know what the Rangers have to do to contend next year? Become the Angels. Seriously. If you think this team, which a while ago was almost guaranteed to lose 100 games but have improved so much they might only lose 90, is going to contend next year, then I’ve got some bridges you might be interested in. Yes, theoretically it’s possible they might contend, but in reality that’s maybe a 2% chance. They haven’t done anything to improve the major league team, they’ve got a rotation which I talked about the other day as being full of #4 and #5 starters, nothing to scare anyone, and they’re a franchise that has been drifting for years. They are going to plug in a couple of stop-gap free agents, pretend they’re big stars who are going to put the team over the top, and muddle their way back to another 70-80 win season. They don’t have the guts to tear it all down, they don’t have the minor league system to trade for the people they need, and they don’t have enough money to get the free agent pitching they need (they will get the mediocrities, the Chan Ho Park’s that will take a lot of dollars for a little result, and trumpet them as saviors). It doesn’t really matter what they do for the next year or two, they simply have to sit back and try not to destroy anything while the kids develop into a winning team in 3-5 years time.

Apologies for not getting Rusty photos uploaded yet, as I promised I would on the weekend.  Maybe tomorrow, if time doesn’t get away from me again.

Finally, it’s been fun to see some of the people that have linked to this blog over time. I’ve gotten a number of links from some high profile places in the baseball geek world. I recently passed a milestone, 1000 page views (in four months, although it took a couple of months to get to 50, so things have been getting better and better), and those page views only count people who browse or come in from other links, not those of you who read my feed, which would put the number a lot higher. It’s always an honor when I get a link, because it gives some validation to what I write and encourages me to continue. It’s especially pleasing from somewhere that I read regularly, like the Batter’s Box site that mentioned me nicely the other day in their preview of the Rangers-Blue Jays series. But today I got perhaps my biggest link ever, from Slate magazine discussing the online analysis of the Gameday system.  I’ve read Slate for years, they’re one of the premier online magazines around.  To get mentioned in there is definitely the highlight of this blog so far, even if their implication is that I’m among the geekiest of the geeks.  I’m proud to be a geek, and I’m proud to get that link.  Thanks to all who read.

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.

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.

Drib-drab

June 22, 2007

A win is a win, I guess, despite knowing nothing about it until after it was over. Once again, Padilla staked to a big lead and blows it, this time rescued in the bottom of the ninth.  Reports are now appearing that he has been pitching in pain for a while, which is the cause of all his problems.  If that’s the case, they should be looking at what it will take to get him healthy for next year, and that should include the possibility of surgery or shutting him down for a while.  No point making it worse this year, with nothing to play for.

The Rangers have now won five out of seven, although still no more than two in a row. Of course, those five have come against Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and the Cubs, not exactly Murderers Row. Can we ask if we can switch over to the NL?

This story will tell you that the Rangers are not the worst team in baseball, that they have simply badly underperformed, and should get better and pass a few other teams by the end of the year.  I don’t want them to now, I want that number one pick in the draft.  In particular it says that some of the pitchers must turn it around a little.  Regression to the mean agrees, they can’t be this bad forever, even just dumb luck would make them better.

Gagne said he’d like to stay in Texas awhile, but understands the business aspect.  If he likes it here, do you think he’d agree to be traded with an understanding we’d bring him back next year?  Would he live up to that?  Would we?  Would it even be legal?

Reports say that several teams are zeroing in on both Gagne and Aki, either separately or (in the case of the Tigers) together.  It’s time to extract maximum value for them, each one needs to bring a near major league ready starter.  I don’t care about this year, or even next year necessarily.  I want a guy who can be good in 2010, and I want him to be a potential number one starter.  It’s about time we had one of those around here, I don’t remember the last time we did, if ever.  Something else to look into.

Congrats to Rusty Greer, who will be the only inductee into the Rangers Hall of Fame this year.  He totally deserves it.  We had season tickets in section 5 for a couple of years behind Rusty, literally staring directly at his back.  He wore a small patch in the grass because of where he stood in the outfield.  He is to this day the only player I have ever written to, I sent him good wishes when he was injured along with a baseball card which he signed and returned, and I gave my wife for her birthday.  Thank you, Rusty, not just for that but for everything you ever did on the field.

Has anyone ever questioned A-Rod and steroids?  I mean, here’s a guy who is poised to be the youngest to 500, having already done it to 400 and 300 and a whole bunch besides.  He’s played on the Rangers with a bunch of guys who’ve gotten tarred with the steroid brush, and on the Yankees with them too.  Come on, if the guy can cheat on his wife, why not take a few steroids too?  He’s not Mr Squeaky Clean, he’s a dirty rat both on the field and off it.

Here’s a question that’s so obvious that no-one would ask it:  can you tell what type of pitch a pitcher is throwing based on how he throws it?  Marian asked that the other day, after reading my recent posts on release points and what the Rangers starters are throwing.  I responded with an of course not, if anyone did that other teams would notice how they were throwing and pretty soon they’d be knocked all over the place.  Well guess what?  I’m not as smart as I think.  A little bit of graphing presents a few new  charts, and you will be surprised at the results, some of them are about as counter-intuitive as they can get.  But it might help to explain a few things about this year’s rotation results.  Keep an eye out for it, I should post it sometime this weekend.

In the meantime, the Astros come to town for the last interleague games of the year.  We have a 2-1 lead in the fight for the Silver Boot, may as well pick up some silverware this year, right?

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.