Ten Stray Thoughts On A Friday

For many, Friday represents the end of a long work week that was filled with heavy doses of sludging and drudging. It’s my hope that at the end of every week during the baseball season, at that moment that only occurs on a Friday afternoon when it’s too far away from closing time to leave work early, but too late in the day to start anything new, you’ll join us here to check out some random observations and contribute your own opinions to ten stray thoughts on a Friday.

So, without further ado:

What Ricky Romero Does

On the recent DJF podcast, we talked a little bit about the struggles of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Ricky Romero. Looking through his peripheral numbers, not a whole lot stands out from this season’s failures as being all together different from the success of previous seasons. The most talked about issue has been his command, or lack thereof. While his first pitch strike rate is down, as is his overall strikeout rate, the percentage of his pitches that end up in the strike zone are actually up.

So, what does that mean? Well, on the podcast Drew Fairservice suggested that Romero could be falling behind early in the count, and in an attempt to recover, he’s forced to throw more pitches in the strike zone. I like that idea, and it would seem to contribute to a small drop off in velocity that Romero has experienced this season, theoretically as he attempts to get better control of his pitches.

If we look at how often he’s allowing batters to get ahead in the count this season, we see it’s more often than in previous years, suggesting that the first pitch strike is as important as we believe it is.

  • 2010: 36.7% of plate appearances end with batter ahead in the count;
  • 2011: 35.7% of plate appearances end with batter ahead in the count;
  • 2012: 41.5% of plate appearances end with batter ahead in the count.

Further, we also see that Romero has been especially terrible this season against left handed batters, against whom he ranks as the sixth worst in all of baseball. Generally speaking, Romero struggling against left handed batters isn’t anything new. His best pitch is a change up, and, given its velocity and break, it’s not something he can use effectively against lefties. However, this has never been exaggerated more than this season, as he basically makes the average left handed hitter look like Jose Bautista.

Your Top Ten Most Annoyingly Blogged About Baseball Stories

  1. Any and every piece that compares, contrasts or mentions both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout.
  2. That Miami Marlins home run structure sure is gaudy.
  3. MLB needs to do something about terrible umpiring.
  4. Jamie Moyer is old.
  5. Jose Canseco did something crazy on Twitter.
  6. The [INSERT TEAM HERE] are a lot like my girlfriend.
  7. The Boston Red Sox have severe clubhouse issues.
  8. Poor Cubs fans.
  9. Josh Hamilton did something. Now, how will it affect his pending free agency?
  10. Are tired baseball story memes truly dead?

A.J. Burnett Is A Ground Ball Pitcher

A look at the leaders in inducing ground balls this season holds no surprises: Derek Lowe, Trevor Cahill, Jake Westbrook, Henderson Alvarez and … A.J. Burnett (!). Burnett has become much more reliant on what Brooks Baseball has labelled as a sinker, which would make sense, but he was also reliant on a sinker back in 2010 with the Yankees, but didn’t induce nearly as many grounders.

Burnett’s ground ball rate:

  • 2008: 48.5%
  • 2009: 42.8%
  • 2010: 44.9%
  • 2011: 49.2%
  • 2012: 57.1%

Well, in 2010, he basically threw only fastballs and sinkers until he’d get two strikes and then he’d throw his curve ball. This season, he’s taken a different approach by spreading out his fastball, sinker, curve and change up repertoire. Even on the first pitch of an at bat, he’s only using his fastball 50% of the time, compared to 65% in 2010.

For almost his entire career it’s been said that Burnett will be great when he becomes a pitcher as opposed to merely a thrower. It sounds cliche, and it most likely is, but given his success this season with the Pittsburgh Pirates, it might also be true.

Attendance Is Up

According to Major League Baseball, Major League Baseball is doing quite well. More specifically, Major League Baseball’s attendance is doing quite well. Buoyed by the third highest attendance totals in the 16 year history of interleague play, overall fan attendance is up 8.1% over what it was at during the same point last season.

Of course there’s never a simple explanation for such improvements, so before everyone starts crediting the changes to MLB’s playoff format for a revived interest in baseball, we should note a few things.

First of all, there’s this:

It’s been warmer than normal across most of the United States this Spring. Although I don’t have the market research on hand, I feel it’s somewhat safe to presume that warmer weather means more people willing to spend three hours outside at a baseball game.

Secondly, there happens to be a new stadium in Miami which has seen the largest increase in attendance over last year across all of baseball. The next highest increase has been seen in Texas where the Rangers have the best record in the Majors. Baltimore and Washington have also seen a large increase in the number of people coming out to baseball games, but both teams spent much of the early going in first place in their respective divisions, so it’s hard to connect higher attendance figures to the changes in the playoff format, as opposed to just more fans merely wanting to see a winning team.

In fact, the only team that really stands out as perhaps benefiting from the new rules are the Toronto Blue Jays, who’ve seen the fourth largest increase in attendance despite sitting 6.5 games back of their division lead, but only two games out of a Wild Card playoff game. But it’s not all good. Surprisingly, the only two teams in the American League Central with winning records have both seen decreases in attendance to this point compared to last season.

Of course, it’s all early, and I don’t expect that we can really properly compare numbers until that point in the dog days of summer when fans stop showing up because their team is double digits back.

Splitsville

The top three things I learned looking at splits leaders for this season:

  1. Justin Morneau has been awful against left handed pitching this year, collecting outs in more than 85% of his plate appearances against southpaws. Over his career, he’s been an average hitter against lefties, but this season has been especially trying.
  2. Of the top ten power hitters against right handed pitching, only two hit from the right side: Jose Bautista and Mark Trumbo. Much has been made of Trumbo’s .347 BABIP this season being the result of luck, and I think I might be inclined to agree given that his batted ball data is all incredibly similar to last season while his HR/FB ratio is way up.
  3. Against Max Scherzer of the Detroit Tigers this season, the average left handed batter has hit like Matt Holiday, while the average right hander has numbers most in common with Gordon Beckham. His strike out to walk ratio against righties makes him look like Stephen Strasburg, while against lefties he has more in common with Homer Bailey.

Cot For Choice

Before last night’s deadline, I voted for Carlos Ruiz to be the National League starting catcher over one of my favourite players, Buster Posey. This wasn’t just because Chooch, as he’s affectionately known, has put up batting numbers only beaten by the superhuman known as Joey Votto, it was also because of this:

 

Popular Players

Yesterday’s five most popular player profiles at Baseball Reference were:

  1. Derek Jeter
  2. Mike Trout
  3. Albert Pujols
  4. Alex Rodriguez
  5. David Ortiz

Over at FanGraphs, the last 24 hours has seen these player profiles visited the most:

  1. Felix Hernandez
  2. Andrew Cashner
  3. Madison Bumgarner
  4. Mike Trout
  5. Franklin Morales

Shameless Self Promotion

Have you guys subscribed to the Getting Blanked Show on YouTube yet? All the cool kids are doing it because all the cool kids want to watch our daily video show where we talk about each other and the Los Angeles Dodgers in a derogatory manner.

As always, you can also check out the Getting Blanked Facebook page by clicking here, and if you’re into it, try “liking” us to get updates on new videos and funny pictures in your own Facebook news feed, as well as the occasional link back to the blog. Staying on the social media train, you can also follow Getting Blanked on Twitter to get regular links to all of our content and fresh bits of sarcasm.

While we’re on the subject, feel free to subscribe to our iTunes feed as well, which will bring all the audio goodness of our podcasts and live streams and other things featuring our ugly mugs to your computer free of charge, including our daily show. Speaking of which, I’m going to be away next week, but we’ve got some excellent guests filling in for me while I’m gone that you’re sure to enjoy.

Why All The Hate For Amy G?

Amy Gutierrez is the baseball equivalent to a “sideline” reporter for the Bay Area’s Comcast Sports Network, who broadcast the great majority of San Francisco Giants games. She’s so reviled by Giants fans that she might as well dress in Dodgers blue and be in the constant process of poisoning Tim Lincecum.

I never really understood the vitriol reserved for Amy G. I mean it’s not as though she’s breaking any ground on the forefront of investigative journalism with her mid game reports, but she’s cheery, generally inoffensive and doesn’t seem to be very arrogant.

These were my feelings prior to viewing this:

How was this interview, with such an eager participant, so awful? They even talked about snot rockets.

WAR Graph Of The Week

Finally, your WAR Graph Of The Week:


Source: FanGraphs