I expected this post to include something about Smoltz’s performance the first time through the lineup vs. the second and third times (and how he is thus better suited as a reliever or how this is a function of his age or his having recently returned from an injury and we can expect improvement – after all, the Cardinals are using him as a setup man to Franklin). I also thought you might mine some PitchFX data and discover that when he misses with a pitch, he misses out over the plate – thus the high BABIP, HR/FB and LD percentages.
Numbers, even good ones like FIP, don’t always accurately predict things when they are completely stripped of context. Sure 40 IP is a small sample size, but there are other factors informing the bad numbers. Maybe Smoltz is just old and tires after 2 IP; maybe he needs more time to recover; maybe his stuff just isn’t good enough to get through the lineup 3 times anymore. Either way, this post is incomplete without even a mention of these factors.
And once again you miss a big factor, Dave.
Smoltz was missing bats and in the strike zone. He was also grooving a LOT of pitches. He was looking gassed by the 4th inning. He simply does not have the gas to start anymore.
He probably could serve a purpose out of the pen, but Smoltz the first time through the lineup =/= Smoltz after.
I’m as big a stathead as anyone, but this literally is one of those times where “the numbers don’t tell you everything.” John Smoltz has a great K/BB, but he just cannot pitch, especially to lefties. His slider doesn’t break, and his fastball is bordering on garbage. If he’s used as a ROOGY he’d be fine, but I’d be nervous if I were a Cards fan if he starts the rest of the way.
Absolutely agree with the comments. You really have to look at his repertoire. While the fastball-slider combo was pretty effective against righties, he just had no effective secondary pitch against lefties. The split was not going for strikes or getting many bites out of the zone. With that, left-handed batters were absolutely teeing off on his fastball, plus any sliders he might throw them.
vs. RH- .232/.259/.390
vs. LH- .444/.485/.767
Small sample, but those are striking splits. While I absolutely think the ERA overstates how bad Smoltz was, he simply isn’t a pitcher who can face an entire lineup. You’re not paying him much, just forget who he is and stick him in the pen as a ROOGY.
Yeah, I’m not sure where or why the Smoltz love. A 4.94 FIP is not good, it’s not good at all. In fact, if that continues he would have a worse FIP than Livan Hernandez, and just about every other starting pitcher with more than 100 innings pitched. So, I’m not sure what the point is. Weaver had a terrible stretch, and the reason he gets some rope is that he is very young and has the ability to work through this short bump in his career. Smoltz doesn’t have anytime to get better, there is no next year, and if he puts up a 4.90ish FIP with St Louis his time there will be really short.
If Jered Weaver was a 42 year old pitcher coming off shoulder surgery with the Angels in the midst of a playoff race, he would have been cut too. The comparison is not a good one.
Besides if you watched Smoltz pitch you can see his bad is not from bad luck. Watch this clip.
Because of off days, the Cardinals will only need a fifth starter 6 times the remainder of the season. The pitchers they have used to date in this slot have gone 10-16. At that rate, they would most likely have gone 2-4 in the remaining games. The worst that Smoltz could cost the team is 2 wins and the most likely outcome is that he doesn’t make a difference compared to what the other options (Boggs and Wellemeyer) would have done.
However, as has been mentioned numerous times, he has been very effective against right handers and the first time through the lineup. If the Cardinals make the playoffs, Smoltz won’t be starting any games and will be used in situations where he can be very effective coming out of the bullpen. For $100K, it’s a good pickup.
The other thing is: the peripheral stats could also be a small sample size issue. Yes, they predict a rebound of some kind, but to put any reliability on those as representing John Smoltz’s current skill set is probably not prudent.
Also, the data shows he is throwing strikes and not walking too many people. But the data are not sophisticated enough to show the kind of strikes he is throwing. They are over the middle of the plate most of the times. This could have been analyzed using pitch f/x, but not done here.
I agree with most commenters, Smoltz is going to be fairly limited in his usefulness.
I’ve made this point on other sites before, but guys pitching like Smoltz are right now are usually filtered out by the minors. It is possible for guys to be able to post high K’s, low BB’s, and still stink. For hitters, it becomes a game of “wait for the fat one and swing very hard at it” – leads to strikeouts, but a lot of XBHs.
FIP models the pitching population well, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t outliers. And 42 year olds with declining velocity and movement are good candidates for not fitting in well with everyone else.
“Cardinal fans just picked up a pretty good pitcher for the league minimum, thanks to the continued overestimation of the usefulness of ERA. The sooner people realize that it’s an obsolete pitching statistic, the better off baseball will be.”
I ignored the ERA and concentrated on the 59 hits in 40 innings. Even Livan Hernandez thinks that sucks.
WHY THE FUCK DOES EVERYONE THINK SMOLTZ IS DIFFERENT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Here are some quotes from you guys in the comments section here:
“I ignored the ERA and concentrated on the 59 hits in 40 innings. Even Livan Hernandez thinks that sucks.”
“I have become convinced you guys look only at stats and never watch the games. Smoltz cannot locate pitches he is at best a right handed specialty reliever and little more.”
“They are over the middle of the plate most of the times. This could have been analyzed using pitch f/x, but not done here.”
“If you watched any of Smoltz’s innings from this year you’d see that he’s got a nice big fork sticking out of his back. ”
“Smoltz was missing bats and in the strike zone. He was also grooving a LOT of pitches. He was looking gassed by the 4th inning. He simply does not have the gas to start anymore.”
Just once. ONCE. Can somebody offer something to back up their opinions? You can say “why don’t you watch the games?” but until you offer some proof that what you are saying is true, PLEASE, just shut the fuck up and stop polluting the comments section.
The truth is Smoltz has put up a 4.32 xFIP in the toughest division in baseball. As Dave showed with Weaver, if this was ANYONE else, you would simply write it off as bad luck. But because Smoltz is 42, it MUST be meaningful. That’s fucking retarded. Smotlz still has above average stuff:
obviousley you people dont know who the cardinals have starting now. Its todd welemeyer or pj walters or its mitchell boggs thats our choice now at our fifth starter i will take my chances with the vetaran smoltz anyday
I have a question, Is the AL East the toughest division in baseball if you pitch for the Yankees or Red Sox? It certainly is if you’re the Blue Jays or Orioles, but if you belong to the team that make it the toughest division, is it really the toughest division for you?
Secondly, if anyone else came back from surgery — let’s say Sheets, the same questions would be asked.
And the Orioles are also in the upper half in the majors. And that doesn’t even consider that the offensives are supressed somewhat because the AL East is also one of the best pitching and defense divisions in baseball.
As you can see, the velocity’s and movement on all of his pitches are right about average. In addition to that, his O-Swing is excellent, at over 8 points above league average, and his contact rate is below average as well:
so help me, was going to say the exact same thing, although I would disagree in that the article is “though out” well. It’s just the wrong train of though. It’s not like Smoltz numbers would “mean revert” over time the way he was pitching. It was solid contact all over the field. He could get lucky in a small stretch and have liners right at fielders, that’s about it.
I really don’t care what Smoltz “advanced” numbers were in Boston, he sucked. He got some K’s and didn’t walk guys, but he got hit hard. Like, HARD. And he was clueless against lefties. I do not think he’s done, but he just can’t pitch in the AL East.
So, yeah, good pickup by the Cardinals, but letting him go wasn’t a bad decision by the Sox FO. He just wasn’t getting the job done there, period.
Comment by MerryGoByeBye — August 19, 2009 @ 7:55 pm
No he wasn’t. His LD rate was average at 18.1%. Again, FACTS, that’s why FanGraphs provides stats, so you don’t have to spew out bullshit.
tRA IS ON A RUN AVERAGE SCALE!!! SO HIS tERA WOULD BE 5.00. AND THAT DOESN”T ADJUST FOR HIS ELEVATED HR/FB RATIO!!!! HIS tRA* IS 4.95, WHICH TRANLATES TO A 4.50 ERA!!! THAT’s ABOUT LEAGUE AVERAGE IN THE AL EAST, PRETTY DAMN GOOD HUH?
Check where the strikes are. If that doesn’t give you a clue about the fact that there are different qualities of strikes thrown that a metric like FIP cannot distinguish, then I am afraid your intelligence will consign you to mindless screaming.
Did anyone really pay attention to his last start because I did and yes it seemed like it blew up but those home runs have to be the weakest home runs I’ve ever seen in my life. The way the ball carries in Yankee stadium is a line out to the right fielder in almost any other ballpark and after he came out the same thing happened to the Sox relievers. Yankee stadium is a joke and I can’t believe mlb let them set the park up that way and don’t tell me Stein didn’t know the wind currents while building that park and based it off his team because he did and the current was even above average that night cuz I was at the game and felt and saw it w/ my own eyes. I’m a Yankee fan of 52years and actually played in their farm system in the late 70’s and I never thought they would stoop to the level of the Redsox as in when they brought in the bullpen for Ted.
I’m happy to see Smoltz go because I am a Yankee fan but everyone who is judging smoltz knows nothing about baseball. Just because you sit in front of your computer and check stats doesn’t mean Jackshit. You will never know anything about the game and if you think any manager in baseball looks at any half of these obsurd stats that are made up these days are out of your friggin mind. Go play proffessional baseball and then make an assumption about someone until then shut the hell up.
Are you two the same Nick but undecided or two different posters?
Comment by PhillyPhantastico — August 19, 2009 @ 8:46 pm
And by the way Rich is the only person on this thread that has made any point that actually means something and he is right that Smoltz is having a hard time w/ his arm movement bringing it from over top w/ is why his velocity is a couple mph lower. If anyone is under estimating Dave Duncan to fix Smoltz off mechanics since surgery is in for an upset because Duncan is the smartest baseball mind I’ve ever met especially when it comes to pitching and catching. I used to play against Dave when he was a catcher and he was respected as the coach on the field and no one can run a game like dunc.
Wow, incredible insights. I guess you missed the one Melky absolutely crushed, which was one of the two HRs hit off of Smoltz. Or those screaming line drives that Yankees were hitting. Posada, Teixeira, guys like that.
Also, ironic that the author makes an argument based on stat, and everyone except for a couple of people disputes that based on what they saw. And some Pavlovian jerk comes back with “sit in front of computer and check stats” to disprove people that are making arguments based on what they saw. It doesn’t get any better, I suppose.
Just for kicks, from that same link look up Joba’s location during the same game and tell me if you can tell the difference (besides the fact that Joba threw a lot more pitches). We love to think that pitchers can paint the corners but even good pitchers leave a lot out over the middle of the plate.
There is one thing I think people ignore that doesn’t usually matter much, but K/9 and BB/9 are tied to how many batters/inning a pitcher sees, so thanks to a lousy HR/FB and BABIP Smoltz has seen extra batters inflating his per inning rate stats for Ks and BBs. The ratio stays the same, but holding the ratio equal more Ks is still better, I think.
All that said, I think Smoltz will help the Cards some and he costs them almost nothing, so that’s always a good move.
BABIP and stats like that can take a long time to regress. Get enough people to flip coins, and some will get 10 heads in a row. There are plenty of Phillies fans convinced J.A. Happ is a better than Hamels in any given game.
Nick- I almost hate to engage you since between the ALL CAPS and damn (oops I just added one) obscenities I’m afraid you’re either going to have a stroke or beat someone to death. However…….
I find it interesting that you mentioned his O-Swing rate but ‘forgot’ to mention his O-Contact% is nearly 40% above his career norms.
His K:BB rate as you’ve mentioned is 3.5, the fact that it’s LESS than 2 vs LHB’s doesn’t concern you at all? The fact that lefties are slugging .767 – you’re good with that?
His stuff is still ‘quite good’, yet he can’t get anyone out after 15 pitches? That doesn’t suggest that within a game it falls off quickly.
Bottom line – all of his stats this year are based on small sample sizes (including the ones you like). I’d suggest that current trends are pretty important in a 42 year old pitcher, feel free to SCREAM your rebuttal
Wow, never thought I’d see the ‘I played the game so I know more than you’ card played at Fangraphs. I think you typed the wrong web address in my friend. I believe you were looking for Joe Morgan or Harold Reynolds
What I do see is Halladay throws inside a lot and locate at the bottom of the zone at a higher frequency. Plus, there is a matter of what count he is throwing at, what pitch he is throwing at the middle of the plate, which this graph cannot distinguish at all.
So you believe a ZIPS forecast is more important than results for a 42 year old pitcher? Whether you agree or not his age is relevant and it does matter. Young pitchers struggle coming back from labrum surgeries, let alone 42 year olds.
Seriously, is Nick just an annoying Cardinals fan or is he actually related to John Smoltz? How much of an ignorant, strident douche do you have to be to just dismiss out of hand any value in actually watching a player perform? I’m embarrassed to have the same awesome name as him.
More importantly than stats being taken out of context, I think there is some faulty logic in this post. This point would be valid if Weaver had not pitched 16 more games this year or if 4.94 was a good FIP. While it is true that Smoltz has pitched pretty much as well as Weaver in the past couple of months, that is only because Weaver has been struggling. John Smoltz might equal the good Jered Weaver, but only when he’s pitching poorly, which sort of defeats the point in this article. And I think we can expect much more from Weaver going forward. Weaver pitched much better earlier in the season and there is no obvious reason that permanent damage has been done since then. Smoltz, on the other hand, has had shoulder surgery and is a full two years removed from his last effective major league season.
That said, I don’t think it’s a bad signing by the Cardinals. I think he’s worth a shot and since the Cardinals have a reasonably comfortable division lead at the moment, they are in more of a position to experiment than the Red Sox. But 8 starts with a 4.94 FIP does not prove that the Cardinals are getting an effective pitcher.
No, I’m sick of people making comments that have absolutely no proof behind them.
It happens all of the time on this site, and because everyone is unanimous (including me), nobody is held accountable. This post has been a prime example of that.
Here is what “your” arguments have been:
*His stuff is crap/below average
*players are hitting him harder than anyone else
*He’s throwing everything right down the middle
*FIP doesn’t work for Smoltz because he’s 42
No one has offered a shread of proof of the first three ones, and I have offered much proof to the contrary; including Pitch f/x data and all kinds of stats.
The last one is unprovable, yet all signs, including his stuff, point to the fact that he is still within the realm of the major league population.
And their is obviously something to watching people pitch, but nobody here is a professional scout, and everyone succomes to conformation biases. Also, when there is tangibel evidence to the contrary (like the pitch f/x data), subjective observation can be taken with a grain of salt.
Obviously, I overreacted, but people making unfounded statements is a problem, and it ruins otherwise great sites like FanGraphs. People get to hide behind their screen names, and discount things that Dave say, while offering no proof to the contrary, and it’s bullshit.
So yes, I may have acted like a strident douche, but the rest of them are much, much worse. They are the type of people who present statements as fact with no proof behind them.
That does make sense about the outer half, because Halladay throws a cutter. It is irrelevant to the point, because it did show Smoltz’s location was not good.
And where did you get data on “lower half” and “upper half”? Care to share?
And I showed you where to find data on the kind of pitches and the counts. Go do it for every start with Smoltz. You will find a pattern.
And confirmation bias? Of what, exactly? That Smoltz has not pitched well?
You continuously fail to understand the limitations of a tool like FIP and peripherals. Statistics and scouting are not at odds, and when people see something, it does not necessarily mean that it is wrong if the stats fail to vindicate that. It could just mean that the underlying statistical model is not sophisticated enough to uncover all causal impacts.
Any other moronic insults you have in your stock, or are you this limited in your insults?
I’ve included the horizontal and vertical position of the ball, the horizontal and vertical movement and the speed.
And “conformation bias” is not an insult. You had it in your mind that Smoltz was not locating well, yet you really had no proof to that. So when you saw my first plot, which is hard to decipher, you immediately went to your predisposed position.
And I’m not arguing for FIP anymore, I’m arguing that Smoltz stuff is still good (which is supported by the fact that his velocity and movement are about average, and he is getting batters to swing and miss at an above average rate), and that his control is good (which is supported by his BB/9, zone rate, and the fact that he has been been keeping the ball down)
im sorry, but regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the conclusions – i happen to agree that smoltz is probably not done, but do not agree whatsoever that the reason the cardinals got him and red sox gave up on him was “thanks to the continued overestimation of the usefulness of ERA,” that’s just silly and the author should be, and is, above that – the bottom line is this is just a lazy, incomplete post hence all of the uproar…
Yes, people saying Smoltz wasn’t bad with Boston just didn’t watch the guy pitch. He was pretty bad.
Comment by MerryGoByeBye — August 19, 2009 @ 10:55 pm
Now that we’ve all settled down a little, speaking only for myself
1) I don’t think his stuff is crap/below average. But the numbers clearly suggest it regresses quickly. Until you can show that his movement/velocity hold up on the 2nd turn through the order (and I don’t know how you’d do that) those numbers should stand.
2) Players are hitting him harder than anyone else. Fine ignore the .390 BABiP for the moment. Explain the fact that over 42% of the hits are for extra bases. We aren’t talking about 15 hoppers and bloopers just falling in here. You think that the 8 HR’s in 40 innings are a fluke – balls don’t go over the fence unless they’re hit hard. I’m not sure what you’re arguing here?
3) Ok, maybe here the frustration with your tone wore me down. I will say however you keep insisting that his low BB rate = good command. I disagree, low BB rate means you’re throwing strikes.
4) You’re making a total over-statement. The fact that he’s 42 and coming off a major surgery that even young pitchers frequently struggle to recover from is significant and makes this year’s sample size relevant. It’s the only sample we have to consider post-surgery.
Several people, including myself, stated that he’s be a good situational reliever. That’s different than saying he’s totally washed-up. When you present some evidence to suggest that his stuff holds up long enough to start I’m open-minded enough to listen.
Last point – the comment about people disagreeing with Dave is crap to be quite frank. Dave is far smarter than myself, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to blindly agree with what he or other authors here say. That isn’t what the site is supposed to be about. As soon as he compared a 42 year old pitcher coming off labral surgery to a (presumably) healthy 26 year old, and beat us with the ERA card he opened the door for criticism
Should we hold people accountable for screwing up anonymous and unanimous?
Comment by walkoffblast — August 19, 2009 @ 11:04 pm
I’ll reply to your points in order
1) “Regresses quickly” is a vague term. Obviously his stuff isn’t as good as it was in the past, but I still say it’s above average. His pitch f/x data found here on FanGraphs, and his pitch results (swinging strikes, contact rate, etc.) suggest I am right.
As for his velocity decreasing, here is his speed plot for all pitches this season:
It doesn’t appear that he loses much velocity in the later innings.
2) BABIP includes extra base hits. So if, say, he has one of the worst left fielders in baseball (like Jason Bay) who allows a lot of balls to get by him that would normally be caught, his BABIP would reflect that.
Also, a lot of his BABIP damage is being one on ground balls, and they are mostly singles, which implies that they have been getting through the holes.
If you regress that to the league average rate of .237, then he loses 5 hits, which brings his season BABIP down to .348, which would lower his RA a lot.
His LD rate is right about league average, so unless you can provide any evidence that he’s been getting hit harder than than the average player, this won’t go anywhere.
3) I have no evidence to say good command, but neither do you.
I already provided all of Smotlz’s pitches this year in Pitch f/x to Sam, and if you want to investigate those numbers further, feel free. The one thing I did find was that he’s been keeping the ball down, with over 58% of his pitches in the lower half of the strike zone, which is better than Roy Halladay.
4) Obviously, this year’s sample size is relevant, which is why we have to maximize that data. That does NOT mean using ERA or even FIP. You need to regress EVERYTHING so that it is fair.
Again, there is no evidence that Smoltz is unlike other pitchers. If this was any other guy, you would gladly except his xFIP and be done with it. Smoltz has shown good stuff and good control (not necessarily “command” but we don’t know that for sure). There is no evidence that Smoltz shouldn’t be looked at through xFIP or tRA*.
I love FIP. I love K/BB. However I love one more stat that no one on this board has mentioned…wins…. Okay just kidding put down your pitchforks. The stat that no one has mentioned is swings and misses. I watched half of his starts and Smoltz failed to get many. I do not a site where I can this info by game, but I recal for instance that in his last start against the Yankees he only recorded 2 swings and misses. Pitching to contact is not a skill. It is the sign of a pitcher whose stuff is no longer able to get major league batters out effectively. This would seem to make sense in this case as we are talking about a pitcher coming off a major injury and is 13 years away from recieving his AARP card.
2) You’ve totally lost me with your BABiP rebuttal. How is 42% of his hits going for extra bases not a indication of hard hit balls? What % of doubles/homers are weakly hit? Oh, before you hit me with ‘doubles off the Green Monster’ – don’t bother. You’re Jason Bay comment was irrelevant. According to the Baseball Reference hit chart 10 of 59 hits have gone to LF. This isn’t suprising since it’s lefties that are absolutely murdering him….
3) I’m not interested in getting into command minutae so I guess I’ll concede to whatever you want. I will say though that we probably shouldn’t compare Halladay/Smoltz much. Halladay’s GB/FB ratio is nearly double Smoltz’s (1.94/1.09).
4) Never once have I mentioned ERA or FIP so you’d have to address those comments elsewhere. My point is that any statistic is going to have outliers. I think Smoltz’s age/health/platoon splits/rapid decline in performance in-game/XBH rate/O-Contact % suggest fundamental problems that aren’t going to disappear just by moving to the easier league/better pitchers park. I think the league/park will help his results some, but come on, how much worse can they get.
Seriously. The Red Sox front office employs the inventor of FIP as a special pitching advisor. I’m sure they’re aware his peripherals are good. In fact, they probably even know more about the game than Billy Bob Baseball Blogger! They are, you know, trying to go to the playoffs and can’t continue to lose more games when they are barely holding on to a wildcard lead while they wait for Smoltz’s BABIP to go down. That is gambling millions of dollars. A safer bet is to start Tazawa.
It’s absolutely ludicrous to say the only reason they let him go is ERA. I’d even say it’s downright dishonest and only serves to create some kind of false dichotomy between statheads who actually work for the Red Sox and ones who write for blogs.
There’s another half to confirmation basis, which is that if you see something that doesn’t match the stats you accept as golden, and reject what you see, then you’re biased as well.
Look, I think Smoltz has value. I think the Dodgers were dumb to sign Padilla over him. But the Red Sox gave him a shot, and it looks like Tazawa is doing fine in his place. To compare to a guy who was an early favorite to win the CYA this year the first couple months of the season and hit a rough patch is silly.
Finally, someone else mentioned this in the last thread but it bears repeating:
Pitcher A strikes out the first 12 batters he faces. Walks the next 3. Gives up a bases clearing double, gets a groundout, then a popout. 12K 3BB 0HR 5IP looks good for FIP, but it’s not pitching well if it happens 8 times in a row.
Thanks for the spreadsheets, but I couldn’t open them. Anyway, I think we will just have to agree to disagree on this one. The data is just not fine enough to make any definitive conclusions. It doesn’t say anything about the count in the AB, or the pitch count, or the inning. I guess one could make that data, but probably not worth the time and effort for settling an argument.
Which is where perhaps scouting plays some role. I am sure Cardinals did their scouting, so we will see. But I will be surprised if Smoltz is used primarily as a starter.
It’s such an easy assumption to make, though, isn’t it? Any MLB team does something that isn’t backed by advanced statistical analysis, they must be acting out of ignorance, there’s never any other explanation. Think Cameron really even believes what he wrote?
As soon as I saw a “Smoltz is still good” article, I knew the Sox fans would come through.
Let me say first that I am one of them, so I too have watched his starts. Having said that, I would like to say that Smoltz is an old, bitter, tremendously stubborn prick. Any pitcher in the world who was doing as poorly as he was should have been willing to accept a temporary trip to AAA to convert to the bullpen. But Smoltz, and his entitlement to as many chances to produce just a quality start or two despite being in the middle of a dwindling race to the postseason, was offended by this logical conclusion, and refused assignment. Instead, he accepted an offer to pitch in a weaker competitive environment where his superficial individual stats will “back up” his supersized ego.
Personally, I wanted the guy to stay. I always wanted him on the Sox, and I always found him to be the October equivalent of Curt Schilling. But this season he’s revealed himself to be no better than that other old asshole that couldn’t shut up on the way out – Tom Glavine.
And also, Smoltz, just shave that head, man. That horseshoe look has been out since the year you won your only WS.
Wow Mick, you have just reinforced every negative stereotype I have of Yankees fans. The poor spelling and grammar, the foul language, the mindless rants – Wow, I can smell the cheap beer on your breath.
The Red Sox could not guaranteee that Smoltz would be called up on Sept. 1st, or be given another opportunity to start, so I don’t see why he shouldn’t choose to go elsewhere. Everything isn’t either a good guy/bad guy or stupid guy/smart guy situation. Sometimes, everyone can be trying to do what’s best, and thinking rationally and intelligently, and it just doesn’t work out the way you’d like it to work out.
It’s also possible that we (and possibly GM’s) are weighting past performance too much.
In this small of a sample size, neither ERA nor FIP matters too much. Instead, you’d like to get some kind of scouting info. However, the high ERA and ton’s of hits allowed tend to skew peoples impressions of each start.
The unbiased form of scouting, like Pitch f/x data, shows that Smoltz’s stuff is still good. His velocity and movement remain at least average on his pitches, and his swinging strike rate and O-Swing are above average, suggesting he’s still fooling hitters.
Why is no one talking about the level of competition Smoltz has faced? In his starts before the Yankees, he’s faced the Rangers (strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk at all), the Nationals (they actually do walk quite a bit), the Athletics (doesn’t walk at all), the Royals (lol) and the Orioles (doesn’t walk either) three times. Maybe I’m looking at this wrong, but I can definitely imagine the offensive tendencies of these teams skewing Smoltz’s peripherals over a SSS. The Yankees were the first above average team Smoltz faced this entire season and he predictably got destroyed.
That said, this would also indicate that a move to the NL would do him some good, especially in the hapless Central.
There are times when statistical analysis of a pitcher as whole does not give a complete view of his abilities in specific situations that ultimately determine his effectiveness, and this is one of them. If Smoltz comes into the game and strikes out the side for 3 innings straight, and then in the 4th gives up 2 walks and a home run, throws 35 pitches in the inning, and gets yanked his overall line is
3 Earned Runs
His FIP actually looks pretty good, and his pitch FX data, his xFIP and all the other data will say it was an ok outing. However, all these things will mask the fact that in the 4th the pitcher came out and completely lost his stuff and got drilled. In as much as advanced statistical analysis can, and should be used to reveal underlying trends that reveal bad luck as a contributing factor to a pitchers bad performance it can also be true the advanced statistics can hide what really happened.
Just watching the game isn’t enough to determine a performance, but neither is looking at the whole of a games stats and disregarding the worst innings.
And to answer your question Nick. No, good pitchers do not miss their spots that badly in that situation. Jeremy Guthrie does, but really good pitchers don’t, and if you can look at that Cabrera homer at tell me honestly that pitch is anything but batting practice then you just aren’t on the same planet as the rest of us.
I think Sox fans are just pissed off that their team owes something like $5 billion to players currently on our roster. We’ll make that $100K selling Bud Light in the first three innings of our next home game. So ANY value that John Smoltz adds is a bonus.
We don’t need WAR from a guy who we’re paying at replacement level, to replace guys who are pitching below replacement level. To put it simply, our only question is whether the benefits of Smoltz outweigh the opportunity cost of sitting Todd Wellemeyer or Jason Motte on the bench.
In any case, this deal actually smells a lot like the other Weaver, in 2006.
The situation you described is what we call luck. Pitchers do no possess an innate ability to control timing. I know it may seem that way to you, because you “watch the games”, but the facts are simply not true.
Javier Vasquez, to use an example, has always had very strong peripherals. Yet his ERA bounced up and down year to year, due to a fluctuation in his ability to strand runners. Last year, his strand rate was one of the lowest in the league, this year, it is one of the highest.
As to this: “And to answer your question Nick. No, good pitchers do not miss their spots that badly in that situation.”
Are you really going to tell me that good pitchers never miss their spot? Roy Halladay has walked 96 hitters in his career on the 3-0 pitch. That means, that 96 times, when all he had to do was throw it right down the middle, he threw it at least 1 foot off his target.
What do you expect? The article was based on a premise (the Red Sox cut Smoltz solely because of a high ERA) that was flimsy at best, downright dishonest at worst. Stats are great and all, but even the best stat without context can easily end up anywhere from totally useless to horribly misleading.
Pitchers do not have an innate sense of timing but 42 year old pitchers who have had shoulder surgery can, and do, lack stamina. I am not saying that Smoltz is done as a pitcher. Clearly, he has plenty of stuff left to get guys out. However, he is done as a starter and his insistence in starting is going to render him much less useful than he would otherwise be.
By coincidence Javier Vazquez is a perfect example. His peripheral stats have been better than his ERA since he moved to the AL. I’m from Chicago and I can tell you why. Vazquez was absolutely untouchable from inning 1-5 and then, probably because of a combination of an AL lineup and his own poor conditioning, Vazquez simply ran out of gas and would get pounded in the 6th or 7th. Ozzy’s insistence in sending him out never helped.
Consider Vazquez’s ERA by pitch count in 2008.
Compared to Roy Halladay 2008
Pitch 90-105=4.45 with a WHIP of .89 (ridiculous)
That’s finishing strong, and it’s not an accident.
Now this year Vasquez is better in that last inning because more often he’s pitching to the bottom of the NL batting order, he a smarter stronger pitcher, and Cox is a better manager. This is going to help Smoltz too, except that Smoltz isn’t even reaching the 5th.
Smoltz ERA per pitch
Pitch 46-60 6.35 with a WHIP of 2.47 (at least he’s working out of his jams)
Pitch 61-75 13.50 with a WHIP of 1.95 (clearly his stranded runners are scoring)
Interestingly, his WHIP on pitches 1-30 is 1.21 and his BAA is .218. His ERA is a little high, but I think that IS bad luck as he’s clearly not allowing the baserunners and homers (0) that he is as the pitch count rises.
He’s a closer, or he could be if he wasn’t such a jackass.
No one who goes to FanGraphs just “watches the games”. We’re here because we fervently believe in statistical analysis. The analysis of those statistics is another matter, and actually watching the games doesn’t hurt.
Also, walking people is a legit strategy. A closer comparison would be how many times have you seen Halladay lace a belt high, straight, 89 MPH fastball right down the middle of the plate with two runners on, in a close game, against a division rival, in playoff race, when the catcher wanted a 1-2 fastball low and off the plate… and then repeat that about 6-7 times in a month.
Are you seriously this dense? Pitcher’s arms get tired and batters better know what to expect the second time they face them. If a pitcher’s season ERA (you can pretend it’s FIP or xFIP if you want it makes no difference) by inning is something like:
1st inning: 1.2 ERA
2nd inning: 2 ERA
3rd inning: 5 ERA
4th inning: 8 ERA
5th inning: 14 ERA
Would you honestly chalk that up to just luck or would you notice some kind of trend? By the way, that is what Pedro Martinez’s line was like in 2007-08, though I can’t find the exact splits right now. Did Pedro’s luck just get worse as he moved through the innings? Or is he, you know, an old guy with lots of injuries?
Another thing I’m wondering is has a pitcher ever come back from shoulder surgery and been really dominating out of the rotation? I can’t think of anyone.
Also Ed:http://www.theonion.com/content/news_briefs/controversial . This is clearly the world that Nick lives in. Results, games, penant races, none of these things matter. Baseball is just like flipping coins…if it’s heads 50 times in a row it has to come up tails. Just like how the last 50 hits Smoltz has given up were bases clearing doubles off the green monster, the next 40 hits he has to give up will be infield singles.
Smoltz has been terrible this year. Terrible. But he is John Smoltz, future Hall of Famer, so a strict adherence to statistical analysis should yield to the more romantic notion that this Old Gunslinger still has a few bullets left in the gun. The Cardinals will probably have to handle him with extreme care as he builds up arm strength and gets used to the new post-surgery arm slot and its impact on his command. But let him be. The stuff is there, and if he regains his command, the results will be there, too. In a playoff series, I’d take my chances that Smoltz will have the better chance of defeating a ManRam or Kung Fu Panda in a tight relief spot than anyone on the Cards excluding Ryan Franklin. Why? Because he’s John Smoltz, and his competitors are not.
Smoltz will start as the #5 starter, which for the Cards is only about 3-4 more starts because of rest days. By second week of september he will be in pen as a ROOGY. Come playoffs his arm will be stronger and he will be effective setting up Franklin.
I completely disagree, and think recollections and observations are exclusively where it’s at even in the face of enormous evidence presented to the contrary. This is how I know Smoltz is done, and Jim Rice is a slam-dunk Hall of Famer.
Comment by Hall of Fame Voter — August 20, 2009 @ 5:01 pm
Super-sized ego my ass. He’s 42 and may not have much time left to start games or pitch in the majors, period. I have no problem whatsoever with him not wanting to undergo another conversion to relief or trip to the minors. He knew full well there were teams out there that would give him a crack at starting, and he was right.
I hold nothing against Smoltz for putting his desires above the needs of a team he’s been with for a few months. You’re just pissed off because the needs of that team are more important to you personally.
And that’s fine, too. But: It doesn’t make Smoltz a “bitter prick” by any stretch.
To be fair, Playoff race and Halladay haven’t exactly gone hand in hand over the years.
And like I said before (despite Nick’s insistence that we all think Smoltz sucks despite his xFIP and how we’re all idiots blah blah blah), Smoltz clearly can still get outs. He can still be a 7-8 K/9 guy. But seeing him hit the wall over and over again after a few innings tells me that he’s more suited for a middle relief/late inning role than a starting role at this stage of his career. Is that really that convoversial?
It might, I’m not a statistician. It’s better to look at pitch f/x data for this kind of stuff, so that you can find a reason and not be a slave to the numbers. Smoltz’s velo hasn’t declined much and neither has his movement in the later innings. I would say that it’s probably just luck.
As I said, those numbers were from two seasons of Pedro pitching for the Mets. It’s not a small sample size. It’s a recognizable pattern: old guy with a ton of injuries gets hammered as his pitch count rises and he goes later in the game. Smoltz’s start today was great, but they were smart in keeping him at 75 pitches.
I mean, this is a pattern with elite pitchers and relievers too. If you leave them in too long opponents’ OPS rises with their pitch/inning count. Guys who are 40+ and have had a million surgeries obviously have less stamina so it comes into play earlier.
I’m not disputing that he has the talent to be a 5th starter and I would put money on him pitching better than Pedro has the rest of the season. However, no SP is like the pitching robot I linked to earlier. Splits are definitely real. Look at Dan Haren’s career pre- and post- ASB numbers: 651 IP 3.08 ERA before and 520 IP 4.19 ERA after. He has been predictably bad 5 seasons in a row after the ASB. Is he just unlucky?
I shouldn’t say not predictive, but predictive to varying degrees. So a 140 inning sample, in which maybe 1/3 or those reveals the split in question, will only be, say, 20% predictive, meaning you would need to regress heavily to the mean. Over 5-6 years? You probably need very little regression.
At any rate, I took a look at Pedro’s velocity by inning in last year:
And he doesn’t appear to have lost much velocity. He had a slight rise in the 4th, and a slight drop in the 6th, but nothing so severe as to explain his splits. I would take a look at movement, but it’s a lot more tedioius.
It is way too tedious to look at pitch f/x, but I will say as your arm fatigues you lose command and serve up fat pitches. That’s what makes someone like Halladay such a horse; he doesn’t seem to get fatigued. I agree pitchers can’t control their luck but they can definitely affect their opponents OPS, whether by not giving out walks or LD doubles sent down the middle of the plate,
yway I wouldn’t mind continuing this discussion over email so we don’t clog the thread up too much more. My email address is under the website link.