dog fister

It might be the fantasy holy grail – what if you could figure out if a pitcher’s struggles were injury-related — before that hit the newswires? You’d look like a genius on your trades, at the very least.

We looked at off-season injury prediction here — based on past disabled list appearances, and pitch mix — but in-season would be sweet. Looks like there are at least some tools we can use in our efforts.

Jeff Zimmerman is the injury man, and he took up the cause left behind when Josh Kalk was signed by a major league team. Using Kalk’s original work, Zimmerman built an “injury zone” tool that can help us use a pitcher’s percentage of pitches inside the zone, velocity, and late-game consistency to analyze whether or not the results are hiding some sort of injury.

Of course, he debuted the tool with a look at James Shields that seemed to predict injury and maybe that hasn’t come to fruition. After years of consistency, Shields was showing a low zone % and late-game inconsistencies in his release point and delivery. Then again, Shields’ velocity was fairly steady. And if we look at Shields’ numbers this year, his zone percentage is back up, his velocity is steady, and according to this graph from Baseballheatmaps.com, he’s been fairly consistent at the end of his appearances:

shieldsconsistency

So maybe that particular instance didn’t work out so well. That doesn’t mean we can’t try to see who the tool doesn’t like this year, eh? Maybe we’ll even find someone who is lacking in all three categories.

Here are the players this year that have lost zone% over their career rates, and also lost more than .5 mph of gas. You’ll remember that August is peak velocity season, and that players can gain up to .7 mph from the beginning of the season to that point. So we’ll fudge our limit at .5 mph.

Name K/9 BB/9 ERA FIP Zone% (pfx) FBv Zone% Car. FBv Car. Zone% Diff. FBv Diff.
Doug Fister 7.08 1.48 3.62 2.74 0.469 88.3 0.539 89 -0.070 -0.7
Ryan Dempster 10.77 4.27 4.27 4.29 0.422 89.1 0.475 90.9 -0.053 -1.8
Jason Marquis 5.24 4.58 3.27 5.45 0.414 87.3 0.462 90.3 -0.048 -3
Mark Buehrle 5.67 2.67 6.33 5.53 0.441 84.6 0.487 86 -0.046 -1.4
Madison Bumgarner 8.95 2.31 3.09 2.98 0.494 90.8 0.534 91.3 -0.040 -0.5
Jon Garland 4.5 2.6 5.19 4.71 0.460 87.5 0.500 90 -0.040 -2.5
Felix Hernandez 9.3 1.55 2.07 2.23 0.488 91.3 0.522 94 -0.034 -2.7
Carlos Villanueva 6.15 2.39 3.93 4.31 0.444 86.7 0.477 88.7 -0.033 -2
Paul Maholm 7.33 3.17 3.83 3.7 0.467 86.9 0.498 88.7 -0.031 -1.8
R.A. Dickey 7.69 4.06 4.5 4.61 0.517 81.3 0.547 86 -0.030 -4.7
Ricky Nolasco 7.34 2.05 3.96 3.51 0.498 90.1 0.527 90.9 -0.029 -0.8
Alexi Ogando 6.7 3.44 3.08 4.18 0.500 92.8 0.527 95.4 -0.027 -2.6
Matt Cain 7.96 2.7 5.12 4.98 0.491 90.8 0.518 92.2 -0.027 -1.4
Yovani Gallardo 6.67 3.26 4.5 4.03 0.433 90.5 0.458 92.1 -0.025 -1.6
Kris Medlen 6.04 3.49 3.02 4.62 0.490 89.5 0.514 90 -0.024 -0.5
Tim Hudson 7.07 2.41 4.98 3.71 0.457 89.4 0.478 90.6 -0.021 -1.2
Marco Estrada 8.06 2.98 5.44 5.14 0.463 89.3 0.484 90.3 -0.021 -1
Trevor Cahill 6.67 3.72 2.48 3.67 0.456 89 0.476 89.6 -0.020 -0.6

Doug Fister had some intercostal, groin, and finger issues last year, but stayed off the DL and that probably kept attention off of him. But he did have some injuries and he leads qualified starters in zone loss and his fastball is down. And his late-game deliveries? Uh-oh:

fisterinconsisent

Let’s do one more, for the guy who actually hit the DL for shoulder problems last year. And is second in zone loss. And has lost almost two mph on his fastball. And has that crazy glove-waggle. Doesn’t look the same:

dempsterinjury

Anyway. Let’s not fill this post with pictures. You can play with the tool yourself if you own one of these pitchers, or somebody is peddling them to you.

Because it sure doesn’t *look* like Doug Fister is a great acquisition right now.