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Entries in featured (3)

Thursday
Aug222013

Killing the Win won't kill Max Scherzer

For those of you who are not on Twitter, get on Twitter. There is a trend that was started not too long ago by MLB Network's, Brian Kenny. That trend is aptly titled, "Kill the win." And it is a sentiment that I fully endorse. Especially in the cases of pitching analysis, projection and, in November, hardware handouts. 

Pitchers rarely actually deserved his team's "win." But I think even Brian Kenny would agree that when Clayton Kershaw, in his Opening Day start for the Dodgers, threw a complete game shutout while driving in his team's only run that day with a home run, truly earned the "W" next to his name. 

But in most cases, pitching wins are silly.

Let me show you what I mean. 

Let's compare two pitchers:

  • Pitcher A is fly ball pitcher and has a slight upper hand in the strikeout department.
  • Pitcher B is getting more outs on the ground but is better at limiting free passes. 

Neither of them is separating himself from the other, and are close enough to be considered similar. 

Let's go a little deeper 

  • Pitcher A has an advantage in OPS against by 82 points. Which is pretty significant.
  • But he also has a BABIP-against that is 43 points higher than Pitcher B, also significant. 

Luck has played a major factor in the success of Pitcher A.

And not to spoil the surprise, but that .248 BABIP-against is 56 points below Pitcher A's career average. Just saying.

Let's go a little broader

 

The wins and losses should be a telling sign of, at least, who Pitcher A is. If you haven't figured it out, Pitcher A is Tigers starter, Max Scherzer

Pitcher B, is Chris Sale

Why is it important that I compare these two pitchers?

Because Max Scherzer is the front runner for the American League Cy Young Award. And rightfully so. He has been dominant all season long. But Sale has been almost equally as dominant.

The biggest difference is run support. 

 

  • The Tigers average 5.9 runs per game when Pitcher A Scherzer is on the mound.
  • When Pitcher B Chris Sale makes a start for the White Sox, the Pale Hose average 3.1 runs per game.

 

Who would you rather pitch for? 

 

  • The White Sox have scored two runs or less in support of Chris Sale eight times this season in 24 starts. That's more than one-third of his starts.
  • That has happened only twice in the 26 games that Max Scherzer has started. 

 

 

  • The Tigers have scored more than five runs 17 times in support of Scherzer.
  • Chris Sale has received similar support only seven times this season.

 

Unfortunately for Sale, this is a matter of circumstance. He pitches for a bad team. The White Sox have the third worst record in baseball, and are only four games better than the Giancarlo Stantons Miami Marlins. Chris Sale would have had to have pitched like Clayton Kershaw this season to overcome what is one of the weakest offenses in baseball (they rank 29th in baseball in runs).

But aside from ERA - and maybe WHIP - Cy Young voters aren't going to be worried about whether or not Sale's K% was on par with Scherzer's when they fill out their ballots at the end of the season. They are going to see the numbers "19-1" and "9-12."

For as far as the BBWAA came when they handed the CYA to Zack Greinke and Felix Hernandez in 2009 and 2010, respectively, they still have a long way to go before they would look at two pitchers like Sale and Scherzer and find any similarities. 

Kill the win? 

Maybe not "kill it." But I would advocate beating it until it is in a vegetative state and unable to sway awards voters one way or another.

Tuesday
Aug132013

The Dodgers Turnaround Part 1: Offense

On June 21st, the Dodgers lost to the Padres dropping their record to 30-42 and leaving them 9.5 games behind the NL West leading Diamondbacks. Their team record $223 million payroll was buying the team nothing but a spot at the bottom of their weak division. And it wasn't just one part of the team that was performing below expectations, this was a team effort.

Since that date, the Dodgers have gone 39-8. Good enough for a winning percentage of .826 during that span. 

It took the entire team to fail. And it has taken the entire team to push itself back into contention.

Offense first

After play concluded on 6/21, the Dodgers offense was among the worst in the National League. The team's .696 OPS (11th in the NL at the time), was dragged sown by a team slugging percentage of .375. Which was good for 13th in the NL. Right ahead of the Mets and the Marlins.

Although the entire offense was offensive, none drew more ire than three-hole hitter, Matt Kemp.

Through 51 games, Kemp had two, TWO home runs.

This was the same player who two seasons ago was nearly a 40-40 player. And here he was struggling through 51 games with a slash line of .251/.305/.335. That .335 SLG percentage was only 11 points better than his 2011 batting average. And if the pitch wasn't right down the middle, Matt Kemp was getting weak contact.

Kemp wasn't the only offender. His target was just the biggest.

Andre Ethier was disappointing as well through the third week in June. His slash line of .254/.335/.377 was well below his career numbers: .288/.361/.468.

The Dodgers tried to inject some life into the lineup with a June 3rd callup of Yasiel Puig (you may have heard of him) who got off to a kind of OK start with a .455/.478/.773 slash line in the 17 games he played in leading up to 6/21. 

So, how have the Dodgers performed since getting hot?

What's the opposite of terrible?

First things first, the Dodgers brought back the thunder to the lineup.

Since 6/21, their team slugging percentage has been .427. That's the best in the NL for that time period.

Ditto for batting average (.287) and OPS (.773). They may be getting a smidge lucky with a team BABIP of .336 (NL average is .296), but with a team-wide line drive rate of 23.8% since 6/21, the higher BABIP should be expected.

Remember how terrible Matt Kemp was earlier?

Yeah, he's been almost a non-factor since then. But in the 37 at bats he has had since 6/21 (AKA, a super-duper small sample size), he is hitting a robust .324/.390/.622. I give credit where it is due, but Kemp hasn't been the one pulling this train.

That would be Hanley Ramirez.

Although currently dealing with a sore shoulder after crashing into the wall while playing in Wrigley Field last week, Hanley has been crushing pitchers to the tune of a .356/.415/.651 slash line since late June. And with runners in scoring position, Ramirez is literally the last Dodger an opposing pitcher wants to see at the plate with a .412/.524/.824 slash line with RISP during this run of success for the Dodgers. 

But it takes more than one man to win in baseball.

Just ask the Angels and Mike Trout.

Other offensive stars during that time frame include Puig (.341/.421/.518) and Adrian Gonzalez (.289/.325/.463). Even Zack Grienke has gotten into the act of hitting with a .450/.542/.550 slash line in 28 PA. Which was good enough for manager, Don Mattingly, to name him as an option to pinch hit.

The Dodgers are averaging 4.85 runs per game during this stretch of dominance, which, well, with the pitching staff that they have, that should be plenty.

We'll talk about the Dodgers pitching next.

Friday
Aug022013

Oh Darvish, Yu Good

Look out at the street.

Look. It is lined with the souls of pitchers from the Far East who failed to live up to the expectations that were placed before them upon their arrival in the US of A.

Their odd windups and magic pitches offered them brief success, but it up and vanished like a feather in the wind.

Pitchers like Hideo Nomo and Daisuke Matsuzaka came over with mountains of hype, pitched well for a couple of seasons, and then drifted to the island of mediocrity for the remainder of their careers. 

Yu Darvish arrived from Japan with similar hype. 

He arrived with magic pitches.

He arrived with an odd windup.

By this logic, Yu Darvish is your typical Japanese pitching import. But that doesn't mean he still isn't within that window of wowing fans with incredible performances. Performances like the one he had Thursday night for example.

Stellar work from the Whirling Darvish

Even more impressive than his 14 strikeouts on Thursday was that he walked no one during his seven innings of work. This puts him in a category with Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens as the only pitchers to ever have three 14 strikeout/zero walk performances in the same season. 

This was a very Yu Darvish performance.

 

Darvish generated lots of swings and misses (28% swing and miss rate) and lots of bad swings on pitches out of the zone (33.3% chase rate). He relied heavily on both his fastball (He threw 59 fastballs out of the 111 total pitches he threw on Thursday, or, 53.2%) and his slider (44 of 111, 39.6%). Getting seven strikeouts with each pitch.

He throws other pitches, but apparently didn't have much of a feel for them during his bullpen session prior to the game. Or he felt that he only needed the two pitches carve up the Diamondbacks offense. Either way, Darvish has transformed from a pitcher who was known for throwing any of his pitches at will into a fastball/slider pitcher with tricks up his sleeve if he needs them. And this approach was on full display the other night.

Strikeout pitchers are all the rage

Since the start of the 2012 season, 10 pitchers have registered 14 strikeout performances, seven have done it once, two have done it twice. Yu Darvish has done it four times. 

Outside of velocity (which Darvish has) strikeouts are the ultimate barometer for how dominant a pitcher is.

Darvish has 186 strikeouts to lead the Major Leagues. And his K/9 of 12.072 is 1.798 better than that of both Max Scherzer and Matt Harvey who have K/9's of 10.274. In fact, if the season were to end today, his K/9 would be the eighth best ever.

The Darvish fun factor

Yu Darvish is one of the funner pitchers to watch in all of baseball. Unless he's facing your favorite team. Then he's no fun at all.

He's still "new" to the league, so there's a chance that his brand of dominance won't last. There's a chance that he will end up like Dice-K. Or, he could end up being the Ichiro Suzuki of Japanese pitchers.

Please Yu, be the pitching Ichiro.