MASH Report (4/7/14) – Sonny Gray & Danny Salazar in Depth

Sonny Gray has me perplexed a bit. First, his velocity is down compared to last season.

More importantly, he has shifted to a new spot on the pitching rubber during each of his first two 2014 starts. He doesn’t continually move around, but makes a one time shift in the middle innings.  Here are the release points from his last three regular season games. His release point shifts more towards the middle of the plate around the 3rd or 4th inning in his 2014 starts (images are from the catcher’s perspective).

Here is Gray’s different positions on the rubber from his last start.

While it is not easy to see pitching rubber, he does move almost a foot on it towards first base. I have not heard/read why he is making the change yet, but will look more into it.

Danny Salazar is displaying a few injury characteristics. First, his velocity is down quite a bit compared to last season

Additionally, he was not able to keep a constant velocity across his one start.

Finally he reased his release point a bit compared to last season.

Last 2013 start

First 2014 start.

It would be nice to see him reverse these trends in his next start.

Clay Buchholz is throwing at the same speed as he ended last down … way down.

• In his first start off the DL, Jon Niese‘s fastball velocity looks fine.

• So did you Darvish’s fastball.

Ryan Braun, if playing, will be dealing with a sore thumb.

“The challenging thing is when I can’t take a normal swing,” Braun said. “I think the first series [against the Braves], I did, I took a lot of good swings and lined out quite a few times, had some good at-bats. [Friday], that wasn’t the case.

“It’s frustrating. I’ve dealt with it a long time. Like I said, I’m optimistic we’ll figure something out to make it better, but when it gets to a point I can’t come close to taking a normal swing, it’s counterproductive to the team and to me to continue to play.”

For his owners, I don’t know what would be the correct action in dealing with him. Trade him for pennies on the dollar while you can still get pennies? Play him with reduced production? Give up?

• If Ryan Zimmerman doesn’t go on the DL, he may be dealing with a sore shoulder for a bit.

Will Middlebrooks will be out a couple of weeks on the DL with a strained calf.

Bobby Parnell will go ahead and have Tommy John surgery instead of trying to rehab his partially torn MCL.

• On April 10th, Colby Lewis must be added to the Rangers MLB roster and last night was the last time he will pitch before the decision. For Round Rock, he threw five innings, walked three, struck out two and allowed four hits. We will find out in the next few days if the effort was enough for the Rangers to add him to their roster.

Omar Infante is going to play through a tender elbow caused by a bone spur.

Second basemanOmar Infante had a day off after each of his first two games for the Royals, but he’s seen as an everyday player despite his recurring right elbow tenderness.
“He’s going to be every day right now because we have off-days built in during April, four of them, and we’re going day to day with him, but he feels great,” manager Ned Yost said. “He hasn’t had any issues with it, and that’s good.

As usual, expect lower than expected production from him until the injury is healed.

Ryan Cook was activated from the DL today.

Josh Beckett may come off the DL and throw on Wednesday.

Jonathan Broxton (possible Reds closer) will be coming off the DL any day now.

• Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon, will under go Tommy John surgery.

Players on or Probably on the DL to Start the 2014 Season

(*) 15 Day Disabled List
(**) 60 Day Disabled List
(***) 7 Day Concussion List
(****) Free Agent
Red colored entries are updates since last report.

Major League Report


Minor League Report

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Jeff writes for FanGraphs, The Hardball Times and Royals Review, as well as his own website, Baseball Heat Maps with his brother Darrell. In tandem with Bill Petti, he won the 2013 SABR Analytics Research Award for Contemporary Analysis. Follow him on Twitter @jeffwzimmerman.

40 Responses to “MASH Report (4/7/14) – Sonny Gray & Danny Salazar in Depth”

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  1. ATrain says:

    Great stuff as always. I heard a rumor that Strasburg’s velocity was down. Any truth to that?

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  2. Bill says:

    Why the heck is Grays velocity down? I’m determining whether or not I should sell high on him while he still has good stats fantasy wise. ERA below one and a 1.33 whip (which isn’t great). If he goes out and gets walloped next time around, he is worth a heck of a lot less than in the next 4 days.

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    • big red machine says:

      Did you really just cite someone’s fantasy stats through 1 week of the season as if they are relevant?

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      • John Thacker says:

        Certainly seems relevant to the idea of whether you’d be able to sell high right now, yes.

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    • Emcee Peepants says:

      According to the Pitch f/x data, all his pitches were up about a MPH from his first start, but still down a bit from last year.

      Looking at his velocities from last year, he fluctuated from 94.0 to 92.2 on his four seamer and 93.0 to 91.1 on his 2 seamer (throwing out 1 outlier start where he was at 87.5).

      This year he has been 90.9 and 91.7 on the 4 and 90.2 and 91.3 on the 2. Breaking balls have been pretty much identical to last year.

      So while his velocity was significantly down in his first start (which I heard was very cold, weather-wise), it was mostly in line with his ranges from last year in his second start. Here’s hoping he’s just getting warmed up as the season starts.

      All that to say, I’m not panicking on him yet.

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    • Feeding the Abscess says:

      The Mariners and Indians have thrown out heavily left-handed lineups in his two starts. Gray had a fairly high walk rate against lefties last season, but was elite against righties. We’ll get a better idea of how he’s going to do full season once he starts facing more righties.

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  3. joe says:

    Oscar Taveras is in action. He played since the beginning of minor league season. I don’t have a source but you can check his stats (on this site)

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  4. Saman says:

    In regards to Salazar, perhaps he’s still getting his arm strength back up? He did only pitch 10 spring innings.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      He could turn it around. Strasburg did. It is just my job to make sure our great readers (until we put a ranking up) have all the useful facts.

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    • Roger says:

      I searched to see what velocity reports he had during spring training. He was 91-98 around the middle of March, but he told an interviewer that he was saving his bullets for the season. I couldn’t find anything from later in the spring.

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  5. isavage30 says:

    Justin Masterson’s velocity was down so much in his start yesterday that pitch f/x classified a bunch of his pitches as changeups

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  6. whoa_now says:

    In Gray’s 2nd start – was his velo back up..or did it match his 1st start? Thanks.

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  7. BubbaBiscuit says:

    Very interesting about Gray’s movement during the game. After reading The Book, I have wondered about moving your position on the rubber each time through the lineup, if that would help maintain the advantage the pitcher has against batters that first time through the lineup?
    Similarly, I have wondered about pitchers with bad splits against opposite handed batters, if they would benefit from having a spot on the rubber they use when they face righties and one they use when they face lefties?

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      I am not sure about the first park, but it could work.

      On the batterhandedness, there are a few pitchers who do change depending on the batter’s handedness.

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  8. drewbradley2116 says:

    What should we make of Jim Henderson’s start to the year?

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  9. Zach says:

    Could Salazar’s velocity have been affected slightly by the windy conditions during his first start?

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  10. Lipson says:

    Thoughts on Buchholz’s first start? Sign of things to come or just a bad day at the office?

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  11. jB4s7 says:

    Trade Braun for Buxton in a keeper league? Much like our esteemed author Mr. Zimmerman, I have no idea what to do with this guy.

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    • kman says:

      even in a redraft league, I’m wondering if I could get another high risk high reward type in return, like a Josh Hamilton, or Matt Kemp, or even a mid-level guy like Billy Butler or Brandon Belt (for those who don’t think he’s in the middle of a breakout)…

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      • jB4s7 says:

        In a redraft I think the writing is on the wall for Braun. If I could get Kemp or even Belt for him I’d pull the trigger.

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    • Jon L. says:

      Aren’t people jumping the gun on Ryan Braun? He’s had 6 2/5 superior seasons (0 non-superior), he’s only 30, and it’s not his spine, it’s his thumb.

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      • croggs says:

        I tend to agree with you about the overreaction. Still, there are definitely concerns in a redraft league(since he may not get his power back, or even worse, he could opt for surgery and give you 0 production).

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  12. tribetime19 says:

    I am not worried about Salazar yet….word from inside the Indians clubhouse is that they made a deliberate attempt to bring his release point up this season, I’m not sure why. Also, decreased velocity could be influenced by freezing cold and windy conditions, it was gusting 35 mph that day. However, this is an optimistic Tribe fan talking so if it stays down his next few starts I will be officially WORRIED. Especially considering he’s already had tommy john surgery. *keeps fingers crossed for whole season*

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  13. DanBC says:

    It’s early……exhale slowly……if nothing changes by the end of the month, then, start to be worried.
    Not many expect mid-season form in the first week of April.

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  14. Grayt Expectations says:

    You can’t see the rubber in the pictures of Gray, but check out his cap relative to the netsuite padding of the sign. He goes from the far right side of the gap to the far left side. And both of the pitches are against lefties.

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  15. Steve Z says:

    Bill, did you decide to trade Gray? I’m thinking about doing the same thing

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  16. Ol' Abner says:

    OK, This is a slow pitch unlimited arch softball reference but it may be applicable to Gray’s position change on the rubber. During a tournament that lasted five games I witnessed a pitcher get 11 strikeouts and he gave credit to two things. The first was giving the batter too much of the location he liked to swing at. If he liked it outside he would induce foul ball strikes by throwing outside the zone balls that tantalized eager hitters. If he got to two strikes he would move to the other side of the rubber and give the look of an obvious ball call but would land in the strike zone. Of those 11 strikeouts, most of them had the batter dropping his hands and waiting for the expected ball call. In the first couple games their were multiple batter umpire ‘discussions’. Later the ‘strike three’ call was met with the batters watching the ball into the strike zone and realizing they had set themselves up. There were no strikeouts in the last game because batters were swinging at everything and nobody was hitting the ball well. In the end the weakest offensive team with the cleverest starting pitcher won the tournament and pitching rubber change was given the credit by the pitcher. Scouting, command, and hitter arrogance had a bit to do with it as well.

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  17. Adam says:

    Jeff, any closers showing red flags for injury thus far?

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  18. napster says:

    That chart you show compares one start from this season with a string of starts from last season starting in July. This means you cannot fairly compare that one start with the second half of the previous year. What was his line progression from April through May from last year? It’s not there. We don’t have that data in the graph that is shown above. You can’t compare the trend from July to September because it’s not starting at the same time.

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  19. Mick says:

    Is Salazar’s 2014 velocity being compared to his 2013 MLB velocity, i.e. July of 2013 to April of 2014. With him not pitching much in Spring Training, wouldn’t that explain a good portion of the decrease?

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