Sometimes, finding nothing is interesting. It’s obviously not exciting as finding *something*, but it’s not a waste of time.
For example, Blake Murphy went looking for an expected walk rate for pitchers given different plate discipline peripherals. You’d think, if given a pitcher’s percentage of pitches in the zone, and batters’ propensity to reach (and miss) for pitches outside the zone, you might be able to get a sense of their future walk rate. After all, not walking a guy is as simple as throwing the ball in the zone, and getting batters to turn a couple walks into strikes for you, right?
Murphy couldn’t predict walk rate any better than previous walk rates. This, after finding some success predicting strikeout rates using velocity and swinging strike rates (FanGraphs’ Michael Barr had similar findings). That might be because there are confounding factors that aren’t easy to quantify — repeatability of mechanics, consistency of release points, and the severity of movement on the pitches — or it might be because we need to weight each of the variables differently to get there. Control (and command) is a difficult thing to suss. Even guys with similar walk rates have different levels of control and command.
But this wouldn’t be a good column if I just shrugged and said — eh, we can’t know! (Who knows if it’s a good column anyway, but there’s no need to give the opposition more evidence.)
In addition to swinging strikes and weak contact, San Francisco Giants fans will be counting on something else this evening when Madison Bumgarner makes his third start of the postseason. The 23-year-old left-hander’s penchant for clearing his nasal passages on the mound has become an endearing characteristic to supporters in San Francisco who go so far as to keep running tallies of his snot rockets throughout the season.
According to @Fawn_Liebowitz, the operator of bumgarnersnotrockets.mlblogs.com, Bumgarner blew 348 snot rockets during the 2012 regular season and 13 more in the post season prior to tonight’s start. That measures out to one farmer’s blow for every 2.5 batters faced, or almost one for as many species of wildlife that Chipper Jones has killed.
By now, my affections for the starting left-handed pitcher in San Francisco known as Madison Bumgarner are well-known. Put simply and with a minimum amount of exaltation, he pitches in a fashion that I admire.
Typically, he pounds the lower part of the zone early in the count to either get ahead or induce a ground ball. If the batter doesn’t ground out, Bumgarner will use his cutter low and inside or outside depending on the handedness of the batter or come up and in with his fastball.
His stuff isn’t particularly vicious in terms of velocity or movement. His fastball will normally sit around the low nineties, and his cutter comes in on average around 88 miles per hour. He also throws a sinking fastball, change up and curve ball from time to time, but not nearly as often as the other two pitches. What separates Bumgarner is his ability to locate.
There is about 25 minutes of show before the big reveal: I renounce any affiliation with Strasmas, declaring my dedication to Timmy and the Greater Good. In that 25 minutes, we talk about Big Hirok, the Red Sox drama and Madison Bumgarner. Then, to appease the oft-tortured Red Sox fans, we declare Josh Beckett Not That Good Any More. Cue the bounceback! (FYI, here is a link to the Getting Blanked podcast mentioned in the Beckett segment.)