MASH Report (7/11/13) – In-Depth on Matt Cain and Yu Darvish

No HURT, PAIN or SLOW rankings today. Instead, I concentrated my time on looking at Cain’s possible injury and Darvish’s actual injury. Besides the those two, I examined Verlander, Jeter, the Uptons and a few pitchers coming off the DL.

• Rumors are flying around about Matt Cain being injured. Here are quotes from Cain, Bochy and Alex Pavlovic on Cain’s possible injury.

-Q: How did you feel coming out of your warm-ups?
-CAIN: I felt fine. Normal.
-Q: The conclusion someone might have after you only last two outs is that something is physically wrong. Is there anything wrong?
-CAIN: Nothing.
-Q: You’re fine?
-CAIN: Yep.
(source)

Manager Bruce Bochy said there is no health issue that has led to Cain’s struggles or the quick hook — Mike Kickham was warming up by the fourth batter and came in after Cain could not record the third out.

“I didn’t want it to become a health issue,” said Bochy, who added that he was worried about Cain’s first-inning pitch count that reached 36. “He’s fine. I had some concern there because he was a little off.
“I’ll be honest. You want to win every game, but you don’t want to risk someone to win a game. That’s why I got him.” (source)

No surprise after that first inning, but I’m told there have been in-house discussions about Cain’s health in recent days. (source)

Let’s see what we can find out. Here are the results from my pitcher injury finder at baseballheatmaps.

Velocity fine. No inconsistency issues (compare graph to Darvish’s graph below). The only issues is his recent inability to throw strikes. Here are his Zone%’s over the last 5 games:

6/18: 54%
6/23: 48%
6/29: 49%
7/5: 39%
7/10: 44%

A slow decline in Zone%, but not unheard of values.

My best guess on what happened, Bochy had Cain’s inablity to throw strikes in the previous few games in his head. As he said, he pulled him after the long inning to make sure he wasn’t hurt or didn’t get hurt. Bochy may have pulled the trigger a little too fast, but I would rather see a manager to error on the side of caution than leave a pitcher in and eventually get injured.

Yu Darvish went on the DL with shoulder issues. After going back at looking at some of Darvish’s data, it should be no surprise his shoulder gave out.

First, he has been throwing his slider over 30% of the time. Previously, I found pitchers who threw sliders over 30% of the time are more injury prone.

Second, he has issues throwing the ball in the strike zone (47% Zone%) and it has remained low throughout the 2012 season.

Third, his horizontal and vertical release points have varied by over a foot this season.

An inconsistent release point can put extra strain on his elbow. Finally, he has not been consistent (speed, release and break on fastballs) late in games (compare to Cain’s chart above).

The main cause for the high inconsistency values is a drop off in velocity at the end of games. Here is velocity chart from his last start.

Putting all the data together, Darvish was an injury waiting to happen. It is probably too late to sell high on him, if he comes back and throws a couple decent games, try then because only more DL time is in his future.

Justin Verlander is still struggling after finding the flaw in his mechanics. On Tuesday, he had one of the lowest average fastball velocities during a game ever.

While I don’t think the 30-year-old is injured, he may finally be seeing some aging effects.

• The B.J. Upton and Justin Upton are both struggling. My injury predictor, HURT, puts B.J. as one of the most likely hurt players. My bat speed indicator, SLOW, indicates Justin has one of the slowest bats in the league. Recently, both players addressed any possible injuries in an ESPN article:

Justin has had so much trouble catching up to high-octane fastballs, it’s fueled a run of Internet speculation about his health. You don’t have to search hard to find a blog advancing the theory that his hand is hurt or he’s toughing it out through an oblique injury. But he quickly lays that issue to rest.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” Justin says. “I’ve got no ailments.”

B.J. is healthy as well, unless you count wounded pride and battered self-esteem.

I can believe Justin is fine, but just not B.J.

Derek Jeter returns today to the Yankee’s lineup today as the DH. From all reports, his bat is fine, but his running may be limited by his ankle. For fantasy purposes, I would only expect his AVG to be a useful. Also, it will be interesting to see if he plays everyday which could be important in weekly lineup leagues.

Wei-Yin Chen‘s fastball velocity looks fine in his return.

Dan Haren‘s velocity is at 2012 and early 2013 levels.

• Rafael Bentancourt’s fastball velocity is down 2 mph in 2013 compared to 2012. After returning from the DL, it is up a bit.

Luis Ayala‘s velocity is down if you really care.

Players on the DL

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

14 Responses to “MASH Report (7/11/13) – In-Depth on Matt Cain and Yu Darvish”

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  1. Scott says:

    Crap….do we have any examples of pitchers showing the same traits as Darvish NOT getting re-injured? Can we get a comparison to Cueto’s graphs/back issues this season? Ugh….displeased Darvish owner that dealt Greinke/M Carpenter for him

    :(

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      I am sure there are some examples, there will always be an exception.

      I would not want to compare Cueto with Darvish. Cueto’s injuries are because of motion and Darvish’s are from his arm.

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      • Scott says:

        Re-reading the article that 5mph velo drop looks pretty troublesome. I am left to wonder whether Darvish’s stellar stretch run in 2012 and early dominance in 2013 was predicated on an unsustainable approach throwing so many sliders and so few pitches overall in the zone. One would hope with his crazy assortment

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      • Scott says:

        Re-reading the article that 5mph velo drop looks pretty troublesome too. I am left to wonder whether Darvish’s stellar stretch run in 2012 and early dominance in 2013 was predicated on an unsustainable approach throwing so many sliders and so few pitches overall in the zone. One would hope with his crazy assortment of pitches that he could curb the slider usage to save his arm a little and go to the slow yakker/etc. w/ plenty of success.

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  2. Huisj says:

    Of note about Verlander’s low velocity is that lots of guys who pitched in the Sox-Tigers series this weeks showed unusually low velocity. Jose Quintana had unusually low velocity the same night that Verlander did. So did Simon Castro–he could barely hit 90 even though reports on him say he throws harder than that.

    Last night, Axelrod, who never throws hard, was throwing even softer than usual according to the data. Porcello’s supposed velocity was way way down too. Today, Sale seemed to only be hitting 89-91 most of the time, a lot lower than his recent zip, and Addison Reed was only hitting 91 in the 9th inning too. Someone better go check the cameras or guns or something at Comerica Park, because it can’t be that pretty much every pitcher in a 3-game series had their worst velocity of the year. Check the plots on this site–for all of them, the fastball velocity is way down from normal.

    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=8700&position=P&pitch=FA
    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=2717&position=P&pitch=FT
    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=11423&position=P&pitch=FA
    http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfxo.aspx?playerid=9303&position=P&pitch=FA

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  3. sailenac says:

    Let’s be real. All of your analysis is moot. The Rangers are simply giving him a few weeks off primarily so he doesn’t have to pitch the All Star game. He has such a different delivery that it warrants some rest. He is fine. Just giving him a mid season rest.

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    • KillahYeast says:

      I don’t see why both Jeff’s analysis and your analysis cannot be true simultaneously. The guy is on the DL and the Rangers are hoping he returns better than he has been the past couple games. Maybe that is physical toll on his arm, maybe he just needs rest, maybe he needs a mental break to get back in the game, maybe he doesn’t want to be in New York in the middle of July. Maybe multiple issues here. I’m not sure that makes the point moot that it is clearly visible that something is wrong leading him to a (hopefully brief) stint on the DL. But, it is possible both that he is having arm problems and that Texas thinks he just needs a little break. One doesn’t preclude the other.

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    • Jeff Zimmerman says:

      Out of all the values I brought up, the one that scares me the most in the huge velocity drop in the last game. I 5 mph drop is not normal.

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  4. Petruchio says:

    Matt Cain’s lowered arm slot could be masking what may be a shoulder issue. I’m trying to trade him now in my keeper league before the Giants blow the lid off of the news, since nobody in San Francisco wants to comment publicly on the change.

    What I do know is, Cain’s gained the ability to strike out more batters since his arm slot lowered, but he’s lost significant command of his pitches (leading to so many meatballs getting hit out of the park) as well as some control. It’s not a good trade off, I took a waiver on Colon in one of my other leagues because Wins, ERA, and WHIP are three independent categories while K is just one. I’d prefer a pitcher who owns in three to one any day of the week.

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  5. Peter says:

    Happened to have been searching for an update, so thought I would pass along updated Luebke news:

    http://sandiego.padres.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20130710&content_id=53349134&notebook_id=53350158&vkey=notebook_sd&c_id=sd

    (throwing from 120, hoping for late-August/early-September)

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  6. TheRotoFeed says:

    I’d definitely buy Yarvish from people spooked by this “DL” stint. The slider may be causing more fatigue, but not injury. I also think you’re putting your thumb over certain data with this talk of velocity dropoffs. First of all, Darvish outings are averaging a healthy 109 pitches, with no downward trend. The only late game velocity dropoffs are occurring after the 105th pitches (i.e. an exhausted starter),and there’s no discernable dropoff at all before the 100th pitch in any game. In his shortest outing of the last 8 weeks he threw a 96MPH fastball before leaving. He threw a 94.5MPH fastball on pitch 102 of his last (113 pitch) outing.

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