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  1. *insert random snarks about the National League inferiority”

    Comment by RollingWave — June 25, 2009 @ 10:32 pm

  2. could this be a repeat of last year with nolasco–he added a new pitch and suddenly everything fell into place?

    Comment by nate — June 26, 2009 @ 1:01 am

  3. for some reason i can’t comment on the neftali feliz article, and i want to get my thoughts off my chest, so i’m going just going to post it here for now.

    uhhh, saying that moving a young pitcher into the bullpen kills his development is one of the dumbest things i’ve ever read and flies in the face of most baseball history. that used to be THE preferred way to bring along young pitchers, giving them experience against major league batters, acclimating them to pitching in the majors, but still controlling and putting them in positions to succeed.

    liriano was brought along in the bullpen. billingsley was brought along in the bullpen. santana was brought through the bullpen.

    as keith law said today, “it’s a way to ease Feliz into the big leagues and do so in a role where he could help the big club this year. Breaking in starters as relievers is a great developmental philosophy.”

    so yea… what in god’s name are you talking about.

    Comment by big baby — June 26, 2009 @ 1:04 am

  4. I specifically said in the piece that he didn’t add a new pitch, which makes it all the more odd. He just suddenly really reduced contact on OOZ pitches.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — June 26, 2009 @ 6:20 am

  5. He is throwing his slider a lot more, though.

    Comment by DavidCEisen — June 26, 2009 @ 7:56 am

  6. Again, mentioned in the article. Throwing slider more, curve less, but do you really think going from 15-19% on the slider and 12-8% on the curve could make such a vast difference? It might be as simple as that but I’m initially skeptical, as we see pitchers make adjustments like that quite often and few have seen such tremendous K/9 increases.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — June 26, 2009 @ 8:00 am

  7. One thing you didn’t mention in the article is that he’s suffered from an unlucky 16.7% HR/FB. Accordingly, his 3.97 xFIP is much more impressive (and probably a better indicator of how he’s likely to pitch the rest of the season) than his 4.82 FIP.

    Besides his unlucky HR/FB, he’s been giving up more home runs because his GB% has dropped to 38.5%, which is substantially lower than his career rate of 44.3%. It’s possible that he’ll get back to his career average GB% for the rest of the season, but the drop in ground balls might also be a consequence of whatever he’s been doing to get more strikeouts, so there could be a tradeoff there.

    Comment by NadavT — June 26, 2009 @ 9:03 am

  8. See the thing with that is I’m not sure if it’s unlucky or the result of where he is pitching. One of the things I’ve been pondering, to pen either in extended essay or short post form is that it seems we have all become reliant on looking at numbers above or below average and simply writing them off as regression-bound. This may be the case sometimes but certainly not all. I don’t feel confident saying Blanton is unlucky due to a 16.7% HR/FB when he pitches in a bandbox stadium at home. Some sort of HR/FB park factors could clue us into this. Again, I’m not arguing with your point at all but rather pointing out that it might be his new diggs, not lack of luck. It could be poor location. Your second idea I wholeheartedly agree with – he’s probably whiffing hitters at the expense of grounders.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — June 26, 2009 @ 9:07 am

  9. Both Liriano and Billingsley spent their entire minor league development period as starters. Liriano started in 90 games in the minor leagues before he was called up to Minnesota, 34 of which were at AA or higher. Billingsley started in 68 games in the minor leagues, with 39 coming at AA or higher. Both pitchers spent large portions of their first full seasons in the majors in the bullpen, but during their initial callups, they got their fair share of experience starting (4 games for Liriano, 16 games for Billingsley). In both cases, their development in the minor leagues never focused on relieving, and it wasn’t until they reached the majors that they were put in that position. Putting a pitcher in the major-league bullpen to ease him into starting or because the rotation is already full is very different from changing how a pitcher is handled in mid-development. If, as Matthew says, Feliz’s weakness is in his secondary stuff, then the only way he’s going to improve in that area is by working on those pitches–as a starter–in the low-pressure environment of the minor leagues.

    As Mariner fans have seen with Brandon Morrow, interrupting a pitcher’s development as a starter in order to provide a short-term boost to the major league bullpen can seriously hinder a talented player’s development. Maybe Feliz’s situation is different, but moves like this look a lot like sacrificing future potential to provide a small benefit today.

    Comment by NadavT — June 26, 2009 @ 9:19 am

  10. they are likely moving him to the bullpen very briefly in the minors so that he’s ready to be a bullpen guy in the majors right away.

    just like joba.

    morrow was turned into a closer. that’s not an analogous situation, unless you want to be chicken little and every time the word “bullpen” is mentioned with a starting pitcher you run around screaming that the sky is falling.

    nothing against matthew, but i’m going to have to side with the rangers on how far feliz’s breaking pitches have come a long.
    they aren’t turning him into a reliever for good. they’re merely using him in a role where he both help the team after making the value judgment that it won’t hurt his development. it’s a move that’s been done many times before and is a well regarded method for bringing along young pitchers.

    additionally, there is no way feliz will be able to succeed as a reliever without a breaking ball, so if he is as deficient as matthew claims, then he’ll likely fail as a reliever and the experiment will come to an end.

    Comment by big baby — June 26, 2009 @ 9:28 am

  11. Good thing half the games he’s pitched in have been interleague play, huh ?

    Comment by Bill — June 26, 2009 @ 9:51 am

  12. Grant Balfour 2008: 2.22 FIP, 91.3% fastballs
    Matt Thornton 2009: 2.56 FIP, 90.1% fastballs
    David Aardsma 2009: 2.77 FIP, 88.9% fastballs

    Those are the more extreme examples, but there are many others that show the same point: It’s very possible to succeed as a major-league reliever with little else besides a blazing fastball. You can throw harder from the bullpen, so if your fastball is good enough, you can get by without quality offspeed stuff. That’s why, if Feliz still needs any work in developing his breaking-ball pitches, he’s not going to get it as a reliever, either in the minors or with the Rangers.

    Also, I’m not sure if Joba is the best example to support your point. He was a very effective reliever, but his transition to starting hasn’t been that smooth. And Feliz doesn’t even have to struggle for this to work out sub-optimally. Like Papelbon, he could be an amazing reliever and decide that he’d rather do that than start — he’d still provide value to the team, but likely much less than he would as a starting pitcher.

    Of course, it’s possible that this move could work out well, but I don’t think Matthew’s at all off base in questioning it.

    Comment by NadavT — June 26, 2009 @ 10:20 am

  13. I hate to act like the stern father here, but if you guys continue to talk about Feliz, and NOT in the Feliz thread, I’m going to delete all comments. This is a post about Blanton, not Feliz. Go post in the Feliz thread, or bring it up to David Appelman that there is an issue commenting there.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — June 26, 2009 @ 10:23 am

  14. Sorry that our debate bothered you, Eric. But since Appelman doesn’t publish his email address on the website, there aren’t many ways for us to bring the issue to his attention, other than through comments on other posts, as big baby did. If you could let him know about the issue for us, that would probably be the fastest way to resolve the problem.

    Comment by NadavT — June 26, 2009 @ 10:39 am

  15. The debate itself is fine! It just doesn’t belong here, that’s all. I’ll let him know.

    Comment by Eric Seidman — June 26, 2009 @ 10:41 am

  16. Three is half of 14? What kind of bizarro world am I in?!?

    Comment by Chris — June 26, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  17. Unless of course you meant half of his last 6 games. In which case I’ll go hide in that corner over there.

    Comment by Chris — June 26, 2009 @ 10:53 am

  18. Eric, I agree that the tendency now is among some to think all above or below average performances are regression bound, and that sometimes that isn’t the case, so I would love to see that essay when you get around to it.

    Comment by wobatus — June 26, 2009 @ 10:54 am

  19. Three out of 14 doesn’t equal half. What’s weird is three of those first eight starts came vs. Washington.

    Comment by brian — June 26, 2009 @ 11:58 am

  20. Blanton has always been someone who works quickly and pounds the strike zone, and batters have gotten use to this knowing they can step in and swing away at his hittable pitches. Blanton has been a typical pitch to contact pitcher. Now that Blanton is throwing pitches that are further out of the zone, making them less hittable – hitters seem to be stepping in and swinging away just like normal, not realizing he’s become less hittable by throwing more pitches further out of the strike zone. This has definitely seemed to increase his K rate, making him appear effective for the time being.

    Comment by Nick — June 26, 2009 @ 1:20 pm

  21. I agree!

    Like wobatus, I would have put this comment under Eric’s, but I guess the software doesn’t allow a reply to a reply.

    I’d like an article like this. It seems like there are more new stats and data coming out than most of us can keep up with and it’s useful sometimes to take a step back and look at the nature of stats/data again after seeing them in use for analysis. E.g., the post on DWright’s BABIP spawned some interesting threads here, on the Book blog, and at BTF, on the difference between regressing BABIP vs. K rate.

    It would make a good companion to the “When Samples Become Reliable” article.

    Comment by puck — June 26, 2009 @ 3:02 pm

  22. along those lines of reliable samples is when you have notorious lefty/righty killers who are struggling markedly against that side of the plate. like last year, dan uggla was AWFUL against lefties. but you’d usually consider it foolhardy to allow a LOOGY to face him. but should you? if it’s august/september and he’s been awful against lefties all year long, is it wrong to use a lefty against him? is it significant, maybe just for that year?

    Comment by big baby — June 26, 2009 @ 4:08 pm

  23. This makes statistical and baseball sense. If this really is the cause for his performance gains, the question still becomes “What can we expect next?” Should we expect hitters to adjust to Blanton pitching off the plate more, thus allowing for some sort of regression (or perhaps more likely a digression considering this is a different type of Blanton than his previously established career marks)?

    Assuming that Blanton’s “stuff” has not changed, one would expect batters to change their approach to Blanton, swinging at fewer pitches. Blanton would then begin to walk more than his career line, while his strikeouts would remain higher than his career line albeit lower than his current line.

    However, if Blanton’s “stuff” has changed, say he’s throwing a killer slider rather than just a solid one, then all bets are off. I would guess his performance would normalize a bit, but in comparison to having a fairly good guess as to what a “new approach, same stuff” Blanton would bring who knows what a “new stuff” Blanton would bring.

    Comment by nobodyinparticular — June 26, 2009 @ 8:05 pm

  24. Having followed Blanton since he first came up with the A’s, I can tell you that he constantly makes adjustments. He came up with tremendous control and got a lot of groundballs. At a certain point it became apparent he was going to need to strike out more batters. The next year he started striking out more batters. He didn’t add velocity or a new pitch – he just pitched differently.

    The two things that have been constant about Joe: He’s a pretty smart pitcher, and he has plus command. So I do think he’s able to change his pitching patterns and make small adjustments in his pitches to shift him on the spectrum from strikeouts to groundballs. At Oakland he could afford to give up some groundballs for flyball outs and strikeouts.

    I bet if you did a close analysis of his pitching pattern you’d see he was doing something different. Locating a first pitch somewhere new. Going to the slider on the all important 1-1 pitch. Something like that.

    Comment by DavidS — June 27, 2009 @ 11:56 pm

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