Author Archive

Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 4/27/17

1:24
Eno Sarris: Dad admission: didn’t even know they made Viet Cong change their name didn’t even know they had a new album.

1:25
Eno Sarris: I like some of the new tunes like this one. Oh, and we had a beer with them over at October https://oct.co/articles/having-beer-preoccupations

12:02
Rick Sanchez: Is Bundy for real? Any concerns with the velo?

12:03
Eno Sarris: I am concerned with him. I’d be shopping pretty hard. First, there’s the injury concern. Then there’s a two mph dip in the last start, two mph off from last year. Velocity drop is the biggest indicator of injury.

12:03
botchatheny: trouble in st. louis ? –

12:03
Eno Sarris: Dude always shows up when I try to quantify managers, in a bad way.

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JC Ramirez Got Better As a Starter

It’s not uncommon for a pitcher to experience difficulty as a starter, move to the bullpen, and benefit from almost immediate success. That’s a story we’ve heard plenty. We’re seeing it in Arizona right now, for example — with both Archie Bradley and Jorge de la Rosa — but they’re hardly the only cases. Bullpens are littered with failed starters. The best relief pitcher ever began his major-league career with a collection of uninspiring starts.

In Anaheim, though, we might possibly be witnessing a more rare type of story. Right-hander JC Ramirez is working as a a starter right now — for the first time since Double-A in 2011, actually — and, well, there are plenty of reasons to think he’ll be a good at it. Dude’s posting the best strikeout rate of his career, and it makes sense when you look under the hood.

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You Can Probably Blame Rich Hill’s Blisters on His Curveball

Rich Hill is in the midst of a blister problem. It’s been going on since his breakout season last year. Since only three pitchers in 2016 threw more curveballs than Hill, it makes sense to blame the curve. Maybe there’s more at work, but also maybe not. It’s a pretty reasonable hypothesis.

I mean, for one, the pitcher himself believes it. “It’s right there, on the pad of my finger, where it touches the seams on my curveball,” said Hill on Tuesday night. Curious about the condition of his digit, I pushed: could I take a picture of the pad on his middle finger pad? “Nobody’s taking a picture of my finger,” he laughed. I didn’t pursue the matter any further.

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Why We Still Don’t Have a Great Command Metric

To start, we might as well revisit the difference between command and control, or at least the accepted version of that difference: control is the ability to throw the ball into the strike zone, while command is the ability to throw the ball to a particular location. While we can easily measure the first by looking at strike-zone percentage, it’s also immediately apparent that the second skill is more interesting. A pitcher often wants to throw the ball outside of the zone, after all.

We’ve tried to put a number on command many different ways. I’m not sure we’ve succeeded, despite significant and interesting advances.

You could consider strikeout minus walk rate (K-BB%) an attempt, but it also captures way too much “stuff” to be a reliable command metric — a dominant pitch, thrown into the strike zone with no command, could still earn a lot of strikeouts and limit walks.

COMMANDf/x represented a valiant attempt towards solving this problem by tracking how far the catcher’s glove moved from the original target to the actual location at which it acquired the ball. But there were problems with that method of analysis. For one, the stat was never made public. Even if it were, however, catchers don’t all show the target the same way. Chris Iannetta, for example, told me once that his relaxation moment, between showing a target and then trying to frame the ball, was something he had to monitor to become a better framer. Watch him receive this low pitch: does it seem like we could reliably affix the word “target” to one of these moments, and then judge the pitch by how far the glove traveled after that moment?

How about all those times when the catcher is basically just indicating inside vs. outside, and it’s up to the pitcher to determine degree? What happens when the catcher pats the ground to tell him to throw it low, or exaggerates his high target? There are more than a few questions about an approach affixed to a piece of equipment, sometimes haphazardly used.

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Tyler Chatwood’s New Tyler Chatwood

A tough thing about analyzing pitching is that it’s a moving target. You can get a decent sense of what a pitcher is like right now, and then he can completely change his approach over the next month and become a different pitcher. There’s evidence of this in the data: a pitcher’s exit velocity becomes stable relatively quickly, but then that stat’s predictability doesn’t actually improve as the sample increases. In other words, you can see what the pitcher’s got now, but what about tomorrow? Ask us then.

This is all relevant to Tyler Chatwood. You might have thought you had an idea of who he was as a pitcher — great sinker, uses his four-seamer for whiffs, and doesn’t have great secondary stuff, so it’s all about the ground balls. That’s who he was! It isn’t who he is right now, though. I had to ask him about who he is right now when I had the chance.

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Coaching Matt Bush

Once someone who’s erred has done his time, apologized, and satisfied society institutionally, there’s the matter of going on with life. This is true with every crime, however horrible, and the things Matt Bush did were horrible. He’s served his time — 39 months — and hopes we can forgive him. But that’s almost of secondary concern to him, at this point: life, and living, remains.

And Matt Bush, now perhaps the closer for the Texas Rangers, is doing his best to be a good baseball player because that’s the path in front of him. He believes any success he experiences in that role is due to the help he’s gotten. “Our pitching coaches are great, man, really great,” he suggested multiple times in our talk before a game against the Athletics this week.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 4/20/16

2:05
Eno Sarris: The internet is wonderful. I was here, with my dad, and really enjoyed this song, It’s Ice:

12:01
Broseph: Any chance Zunino starts doing things at the plate anytime soon? Or should I jump ship and grab another flier like Hedges or Bandy?

12:02
Eno Sarris: Players like Zunino are super streaky. Still it’s not good that he’s striking out EVEN MORE. I’d give Bandy a shot. That’s at least a league average K%.

12:02
grimoren189: Updated thoughts on Amir Garrett?

12:03
Eno Sarris: He was 91.5 mph on the fastball and actually got whiffs on it yesterday. Still not a great fastball guy but his secondaries are fine. I like him more.

12:03
Nientsniew: Is it bad that I never ask baseball questions in this chat? In related news, I am using the bathroom

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Charlie Blackmon and the Good Side

Take a look at Charlie Blackmon‘s defensive charts and you’ll notice that he has a good side, one where he’s made a higher percentage of catches than the other. On the one hand, that seems strange: humans are largely symmetrical creatures. On the other, maybe it makes perfect sense: most people have dominant hands and eyes and move better in certain directions.

Nowhere is the latter point more painfully clear to me, personally, than on the basketball court. As much as I practice going to my left, I usually do something very silly when I attempt the feat in a game. If I get to the left and actually get to the hoop, my mechanics fall apart when I get there, and I end up doing a strange thing with my right hand that leads to cuss words more often than points.

So when I saw this map for Blackmon, I figured it was all about that first step. See those hits over his left shoulder that are colored blue? Those are relatively high-percentage catches that have fallen into play against him. Must not be stepping well in that direction, I figured.

But when I asked the outfielder about those hits and his first step, he laughed. First, he thanked me for highlighting his shortcomings. Then he said something surprising — “I prefer the ball to my left,” he said. “There’s something I don’t like about running towards a ball to my right.”

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What Happens the Game After a Marathon Extra-Inning Game?

Last Thursday, baseball got weird and the Mets and Marlins played past midnight. After Travis d’Arnaud hit the go-ahead homer in the 16th, the catcher slowly trotted around the bases, admitting afterwards that he needed the invigorating effects of that moment just to complete the task. “The emotions of the home run helped lift my legs a little bit,” he said to James Wagner after the game regarding his tired knees. After the dust had settled and all the exhausted quotes were collected, though, the teams had to play another game later that day. What sort of effect would the marathon game have on that game?

Intuitively, you might expect the teams to have trouble scoring runs the next day. Tired legs, tired minds, tired bats, you’d think. Turns out that instinct is accurate… sort of.

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Which Pitcher Stats Have Relevance This Early (With a Note on Clayton Kershaw)

It’s very frustrating to do baseball analysis in the offseason — there’s no actual baseball to analyze! It’s very frustrating to do baseball analysis during spring training — the results don’t matter and we don’t get all the same stats! It’s very frustrating to do baseball analysis in the first few weeks — it’s all a small sample size! The lesson overall? It’s very frustrating to do baseball analysis.

But it’s also very rewarding, and so we make a go of it even when we’ve barely completed 10 games of a 162-game season. One thing to which we turn at this point of the season is pitch velocity and movement. My personal sense is that these things become meaningful quickly. Very quickly.

While there’s research that has pushed me in that direction, I hadn’t seen work that looked at precisely how quickly movement and velocity stats stabilize, or become meaningful. So I asked Brian Cartwright to run the numbers.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 4/13/16

1:52
Eno Sarris: Let’s get in trouble together.

1:53
Eno Sarris:

12:02
J.D.: I know you’ve looked at guys with statistical indications of “closer stuff” before. Anyone stand out from the leaderboards who’s not closing yet?

12:04
Eno Sarris: Neris of course. Nothing else is obvious though if there were no cost concerns, I’d say Arodys would take over for JIm Johnson pretty soon. Rosenthal for Oh might happen by velo and ks…

12:04
annoying cubs fan: the Cubs keep grounding into double plays. I know it’s April, but they weren’t really a big double play team last year. Should I be worried?

12:04
Eno Sarris: Not the kind of thing that’s really sticky and they don’t seem like a ground-ball team.

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The Angels’ Kings of Spin

The Angels have an interesting situation at the back end of their bullpen. It’s not unique in that it’s a timeshare — in their own division, the Athletics are adamant that Sean Doolittle and Santiago Casilla are both closers, depending on the handedness of the opposing ninth-inning lineup — but it’s still a little different. Andrew Bailey and Cam Bedrosian, the two heads of that monster, have two unique pitches that power their success.

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Where Did Alex Cobb’s Changeup Go?

Alex Cobb once had a power changeup so nasty we gave it a nickname. The Thing even had progeny: Cobb taught the grip to Jake Odorizzi, and Thing Two is now the latter pitcher’s best secondary pitch.

Likely the product of what appears to be an organization-wide focus on the changeup, Thing One was an impressive pitch. Unfortunately, it’s gone. At least for now. For the moment, it doesn’t resemble what it used to be, and Cobb is using it less and less often with each start. The weird part is, Cobb might still be okay, anyway.

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Brandon Finnegan Improves, Again, Probably

With the switch from the standard PITCHf/x pitch-tracking system to Trackman, a few missteps are to be expected. Dave Cameron, for example, recently pointed out that we have to be careful about reporting velocity right now. Jeff Zimmerman gave us a way to convert old velocities into today’s reality, and Tom Tango offered up way to use current readings to approximate velocities as they were calculated by the previous methodology. For those interested in the simplest possible method, it appears as though subtracting three-quarters of a mile per hour from a pitcher’s reported velocity arrives at roughly the same figure as the previous system would have produced.

But that doesn’t account for the situation in its entirety. If we look at what Brandon Finnegan did in his first (excellent) start, we’ll notice that the movement numbers are also a little off right now. It’s enough to want to throw your hands up and just emote, as I did on the latest episode of our Sleeper and The Bust podcast.

It’s okay to express frustration. It’s cathartic and release is good. Breathe deeply through the nose.

But we also need to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off. Finnegan did not, as the leaderboards suggest, just record the ninth-most ride on a fastball that we’ve witnessed over the last 15 years. That’s not what was so impressive about the movement and velocities of his pitches in his 2017 debut. But discovering what was impressive can help us better navigate the suddenly unsteady waters of pitcher analysis.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 4/6/16

1:48
Eno Sarris: Two things are funny to me about this video. 1) When I grew up in Jamaica, I heard reggae covers of everything, I learned the words to Billy Jean that way. 2) The early season is sort of strange and new, but also something totally normal and comfortable. Like a cover.

12:01
Ben WMD: Who’s more worthless – Delino DeShields or Travis Jankowski?

12:01
Eno Sarris: DDs bats from the right side, so it’s him.

12:02
Hannah Hochevar: Read all your advice, listened to all your pods, and somehow the only thing I took away was that I needed to get Lonnie Chisenhall on my team…

12:02
Eno Sarris: P Weird.

12:02
RotoLando: Who do you believe in more, Eric Thames or Jesus Aguilar?

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Introducing Baseball’s Next Top Changeup

Last spring, in Dodgers camp, a remarkable thing happened without any of us noticing. It’s not uncommon, of course, for a young prospect to seek out a veteran starting pitcher for conversation. That sort of thing happens all the time. But when Jharel Cotton was soaking in knowledge from Scott Kazmir that day, something unique was happening. Baseball’s top changeup was hanging out with baseball’s second-best changeup. A baton was being passed.

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About Clayton Kershaw’s Changeups

There was plenty about Clayton Kershaw‘s Opening Day start that was predictable. He sat between 92 and 93 on that straight, riding fastball. He showed command of the pitch and didn’t walk anyone. He threw a fastball on his lone 3-1 count. The box score says he threw 27 sliders and got five whiffs — an excellent rate. His 15 curves got two whiffs and two outs on five swings. So a lot of Monday’s start was just vintage Kershaw. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t show us something a bit different.

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Christian Bethancourt and Two-Way Players of the Past, Future

Christian Bethancourt made the Padres! This is exciting, because he’s making the team as a catcher and a reliever at the same time. His existence challenges norms in a sport that’s known for the specialized roles of its participants. That said, we’ll have to see if he’s more Brooks Kieschnick or more Kenley Jansen eventually. Because hitter-slash-pitcher Kieschnick was nearly a unicorn, while Jansen — though a special reliever since abandoning his work as a catcher — has a story that’s been told in baseball’s history before.

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Taijuan Walker: Spring’s Most Improved Starter*

By now, the most prolific pitchers of the spring have put in the equivalent of three major-league starts, some close to four with how short the average start has become. And as much as we talk about the inconsistent talent level in the spring, these starters have mostly faced major-league-quality hitters because the first four to five innings of spring baseball is a decent approximation of regular-season ball. It’s not entirely irresponsible to make certain observations about a pitcher two weeks into the season, so we might as well do it now, too. So let’s talk about Taijuan Walker. Again.

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Eno Sarris Baseball Chat — 3/30/17

1:20
Eno Sarris: was going to play some mac dre, but this is close enough, and has better visuals

12:00
Borkins: Ello, mate!

12:00
Borkins: Cody Reed to the bullpen because…..????

12:01
Eno Sarris: They have too many starters! I dunno. I figure Feldman or Arroyo will flame out or Rookie Davis won’t have enough secondary stuff and he’ll be back.

12:02
Ragingtwig: I think this decision is ridiculously easy, but am waffling nonetheless: can keep Yoan Moncada ($3) or David Dahl ($8) in keep 6, $2 inflation, both for the next three years. OBP and SLG league. It’s Dahl right?

12:02
Eno Sarris: You get at least a half year more PT, and then Dahl also offers much more floor. I’d do him. Pause.

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