Archive for the ‘Roto Relevant Research’ Category

San Francisco Giants v Pittsburgh Pirates

There isn’t just one way to have a great change piece. Some tumble straight down, some are more about having arm-side fade. Some get grounders, some get whiffs. Some are hard. Some disappear.

But it’s clear that you need to do one of these things to have a good changeup. Given the ubiquity of the slider, there are plenty of pitchers that have been told they need a slider to avoid the dreaded platoon split that might send them to the bullpen. Dan Straily was basically forced to try 17 changeup grips. Justin Masterson told me last week that “he’s tried every single one” and lamented the one grip that worked in 2007 for half a season and then disappeared forever.

So there’s a class of pitchers that are trying to ply their trade with iffy changeups. We want to know, as fantasy players, which ones are likely to succeed.

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San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies

Last week, we talked about hitters that had problems with particular pitches. The quintessential Pedro Cerrano / Jobu / Curveball situation. “He can’t hit that.”

Then SABR threw a party called the Saber Seminar in Boston and all sorts of nerdery broke loose. One presentation was by SABR president Vince Gennaro. He put forth the idea that lineups could be better constructed if we knew how players did against similar pitchers. By using pitcher similarity scores, we could group certain pitchers by things like pitch repertoire, fastball velocity, release point, swinging strike percentage and zone percentage.

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pedro alvarez is El Toro

Pedro Cerrano: Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.

You can actually hide a weakness in the real life major leagues.

Consider the case of one Mike Zunino. The book on Zunino in Triple-A was that he couldn’t hit the curveball, and yet his major league strikeout rate (23.4%) works at his position (catchers strike out 20.2% of the time) and comes in a 100+ plate appearance, which is almost reliable. The problem with exploiting this weakness is that not every pitcher has a curveball. The league sees 9.6% curveballs, Zunino saw 10.6% before injury felled him. He didn’t do much with those curveballs — it was his worst pitch  by FanGraphs’ pitch-type values — but 90% of the pitches he saw weren’t curveballs.

So it’s possible. And that’s how you get major league hitters that have weaknesses, holes in their approach. Stephen Loftus at Beyond the Box Score set out to find those holes. By using the batting average on each pitch and then weighting things appropriately, he found the pitches that are kryptonite for different hitters around the league.

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

When Tom Wilhemsen went lost his job as the closer in Seattle, I picked Danny Farquhar as the replacement ninth inning guy for the Mariners. Wouldn’t you know it: the Mariners agreed. This preamble isn’t a flagrant plea for praise and compliments — though I would take them if offered — it’s for the “why”. I picked Danny Farquhar because of his arsenal.

Yoervis Medina had strikeouts and velocity, and Jack Moore once showed that those things matter. So he was interesting. But Yoervis Medina is a fastball/slider guy, and sliders have platoon splits, and lo and behold Medina’s strikeout rate drops and his walk rate doubles when he’s facing a lefty. If you don’t have pin-point command of that slider — in which case you can make the pitch tickle the inside corner — it’s a pitch that breaks into a lefty’s bat. So that’s why I went Farquhar.

Can we formalize this approach somehow? Does it hold up in the prism of history?

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Kansas City Royals v Chicago White Sox

A timeline:

  • May 22nd: Eno Sarris interviews the Royals about ideal ground ball and fly ball rates for hitters.
  • May 30th: George Brett takes over as the Royals hitting coach amid rumors that the team was too ground-ball heavy.
  • Since June 1: Extreme ground-baller Eric Hosmer has hit .311/.348/.517 with 10 homers while extreme fly-baller Mike Moustakas has hit .265/.317/.413 with 5 homers. Both have seen their ground- and fly-ball mixes even out.

So you’re welcome. (Gonna gloss over the fact that George Brett stepped down just the other day.)

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Toronto Blue Jays v Tampa Bay Rays

This is some next-level nerdery, probably. Because we’ve had catcher framing pieces. And we’ve had Edge% in these pages before. BUT HAVE WE PUT THEM TOGETHER YET???

On the other hand, I don’t have the skills of most of your research-level nerds. I only play one on the internets. So you’ll probably be able to follow along.

I saw Jeff Sullivan update his team framing pieces. And then he looked at all the pitchers that were getting extra strikes this year. And then I saw Bill Petti talk about which pitches are good for getting extra strikes on the edge. And then my brain farted.

Could we look at team framing rates and compare them to individual starting pitcher framing rates, and then use Edge% (and perhaps pitching mix) to identify pitchers that might be in line for more strikes going forward? I don’t know if we can, but let’s try.

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Washington Nationals v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two

Predicting baseball is hard y’all.

I say this not because it’s not obvious, but because I’m scanning my various leagues. Even in a great year for me, I have a few teams that just straight up stink.

Providing some solace in times like this is the occasional daily fantasy game. All I have to do is pick a few players for the night and try to beat people in a one-off. And, since it’s one night, there’s little doubt as to the role of chance. It’s hard to crow too loud when you got Alex Rios for his six-hit night when he’s never done that and he was the first to do it this year.

If you like daily fantasy, by the way, you can take me on in a battle this week. Free to enter, $300 on the line, all you have to do is pick a player from eight different tiers over at Draftstreet using this link, then watch the stats that night to see who won. Game on!

In any case, you have to try to win by all means necessary, says the man who’s been typing through pain because of a pickup basketball injury sustained while launching himself towards a meaningless steal in a meaningless game.

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