Daily Notes: Saturday’s Games, Considered for Your Pleasure

Table of Contents
Here’s the table of contents for today’s edition of the Daily Notes.

1. Mostly Idle Thoughts Regarding Garrett Richards
2. Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
3. Today’s Game Odds, Translated into Winning Percentages

Mostly Idle Thoughts Regarding Garrett Richards
Regarding Angels right-hander Garrett Richards — who makes his first start of the season tonight in place of the recently injured Jered Weaver — it has generally been the case that he’s possessed a plus fastball but little else to complement it. As a result, his strikeout numbers (20.9% K in the minors, 14.7% in the majors) have been somewhat lower than one might expect from a pitcher who sits at 94-95 mph.

Richards, however, has begun the season in promising fashion so far as strikeouts are concerned, recording 5 of them against the first 19 batters he’s faced (26.3%) while also halving his major-league walk rate, as well.

Here are some idle, but eventually relevant, points regarding Richards’s success so far, and how it will or won’t carry over to his starting role (all of which points one might augment by reading Jack Moore’s own recent piece on Richards, as well).

• Richards has thrown exclusively in relief so far — whereas his numbers from previous seasons include a plurality of innings from starts, in which capacity pitchers are almost always less effective.

• One reason pitchers are more effective in relief is because they’re generally able to throw harder. That hasn’t been the case for Richards so far, whose fastball has actually been 0.5-1.0 mph lower on average than in previous seasons.

Another reason pitchers are more effective in relief is because it’s possible for managers to leverage them more frequently into platoon advantages. This has been the case for Richards so far: after facing a nearly identical number of left- and right-handed batters in previous season, he’s faced 12 right-handers so far and only 7 lefties.

• In fact, for his career (now 89.1 IP), Richards has posted almost identical strikeout rates against left- and right-handed batters: 15.2% and 15.4%, respectively.

• A considerable difference for Richards, though — so far as his platoon splits are concerned — is in his walk rates, which stand at 13.2% and 7.7% against left- and right-handers, respectively. He’s had considerable more difficulty with left-handers in this regard, in other words.

• A second considerable difference is his BABIP-allowed: .364 for left-handers, just .234 for right-handers — which, it’s not uncommon at all for pitchers to exhibit platoon splits so far as BABIP is concerned.

• It’s entirely possible that Richards’ walk rates and batted-ball profiles are related — which is to say that Richards, aware that left-handers hit him well, makes a concerted effort to pitch towards the edges of the strike zone.

• This pair of charts (courtesy Texas Leaguers and from the catcher’s point-of-view) appears to bear that out. Richards’ pitch locations against left-handed batters are on the left; right-handed ones, on the right. Richards’ offerings to right-handed batters appear rather centrally oriented. Against left-handers, meanwhile, Richards gravitates to the lower-outside corner. (Click to embiggen.)

Richards LHB and RHB

• What to watch for, then, in Richards’s start against Houston is this: how Richards handles left-handers (and, conversely, how left-handers handle him). Does he pitch around them? Do they hit him harder than right-handers?

Today’s Notable Games (Including MLB.TV Free Game)
New York NL at Minnesota | 16:10 ET
Matt Harvey (14.0 IP, 2.57 xFIP) and Matt Harvey’s cruel slider face the Twins.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: New York NL Television.

Philadelphia at Miami | 19:10 ET
Miami right-hander and 20-year-old wunderkind Jose Fernandez made his major-league debut and posted this line (box): 5.0 IP, 19 TBF, 8 K, 1 BB, 4 GB on 10 batted-balls (40.0% GB), 1.64 xFIP. He faces Cole Hamels (10.2 IP, 5.61 xFIP).

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Philadelphia Radio.

Colorado at San Diego | 20:40 ET ***MLB.TV Free Game***
This January, our Jack Moore wrote a piece on the differences in Edinson Volquez‘s pitch selection — and, specifically, how Volquez relies more heavily on the four-seamer at Petco and then his sinker on the road. This is his first home start of the season, which likely means more reliance on the former. (Although, at least so far as our classifications suggest, Volquez might have thrown more road four-seamers than usual so far.)

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: San Diego Television.

Houston at Los Angeles AL | 21:05 ET
Garrett Richards makes his first start of the season in place of the injured Jered Weaver. See above for scattered thoughts on same.

Readers’ Preferred Broadcast: Houston Television.

Today’s Game Odds, Translated into Winning Percentages
Note: the very proprietary and also critically acclaimed NERD game scores will become available again at the end of April/beginning of May.

Here — for purposes entirely of entertainment and not for gambling, which is a Scourge of Propriety — are all of today’s games with moneyline odds (from relatively “sharp” sportsbook Pinnacle Sports) translated into projected winning percentages (and adjusted to account for the vigorish).

Games are listed in Eastern Time, as the author has recently bothered to learn how to convert time zones in Excel. Game presented in order of (a) National League and then (b) American League and, finally, then (c) interleague play.

***Note: omitted from the following — because no odds were available on Friday night — are the Boston-Tampa Bay (13:05 ET, Jon Lester vs. David Price) and Baltimore-New York AL (16:05 ET, Jason Hammel vs. Phil Hughes) games.***

Game Teams Starters Line Win%
13:05 San Francisco Giants Madison Bumgarner 1.78 55.0%
ET Chicago Cubs Jeff Samardzija 2.18 45.0%
13:05 Atlanta Braves Tim Hudson 2.36 41.6%
ET Washington Nationals Stephen Strasburg 1.68 58.4%
16:15 Milwaukee Brewers Yovani Gallardo 2.56 38.3%
ET St. Louis Cardinals Adam Wainwright 1.59 61.7%
19:05 Cincinnati Reds Johnny Cueto 1.65 59.3%
ET Pittsburgh Pirates Jeff Locke 2.41 40.7%
19:10 Philadelphia Phillies Cole Hamels 1.71 57.2%
ET Miami Marlins Jose Fernandez 2.29 42.8%
20:10 Los Angeles Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu 2.11 46.5%
ET Arizona Diamondbacks Ian Kennedy 1.83 53.5%
20:40 Colorado Rockies Jhoulys Chacin 1.89 52.0%
ET San Diego Padres Edinson Volquez 2.04 48.0%
16:05 Chicago White Sox Chris Sale 1.76 55.6%
ET Cleveland Indians Zach McAllister 2.21 44.4%
16:05 Detroit Tigers Justin Verlander 1.87 52.4%
ET Oakland Athletics Brett Anderson 2.06 47.6%
19:10 Toronto Blue Jays R.A. Dickey 2.22 44.2%
ET Kansas City Royals James Shields 1.76 55.8%
21:05 Houston Astros Lucas Harrell 2.62 37.4%
ET LAA Angels Garrett Richards 1.57 62.6%
21:10 Texas Rangers Alexi Ogando 1.68 58.5%
ET Seattle Mariners Joe Saunders 2.36 41.5%
16:10 New York Mets Matt Harvey 1.80 54.4%
ET Minnesota Twins Scott Diamond 2.15 45.6%

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How is Verlander vs. Anderson not a notable game??

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The author has finally run out of interesting things to say about Justin Verlander?