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Entries in high walk rate (2)

Friday
Jul122013

Bill Shanks is Right, Even if he is Kind of a Jerk

Earlier this week, Bill Shanks wrote an article. Which is nothing new. Shanks is a columnist for The Macon Telegraph. He writes articles on a regular basis. It's his job. It's what he does. The article, Statheads see a different game" was in response to the response he got to this article, "Heyward following Francoeur’s career path" in which he dubs Jason Heyward the new Jeff Francoeur. Which is a really quick way to ruffle up the feathers of both Atlanta Braves fans and statistics-minded fans alike. 

Note #1: Do not ruffle the feathers of a statistics-minded fan. They are smart, snarky and generally lack any sort of brain-to-mouth filter

Note #2: The first "Note" can also be read as "disclaimer."

Of course, what I could do here is systematically take apart and tear down his tering down of "Statheads." It wouldn't be too difficult with hidden gems like this.

I did the unthinkable -- criticized a player adored by statheads, those who prefer to look at the game with a more analytical view instead of just enjoying the game of baseball.

Or this:

Statheads only respect people who watch the game the way they do, with a slide rule and more stats with acronyms than you can ever imagine. They even make up their own stats, mainly so they can fully make their argument about what they believe about a particular player.

Or the classic go to line for every anti-stats columnist:

Stats are fine, to a point. I like seeing what a player’s batting average is, how many home runs and RBI he has and can even stomach seeing what the on-base percentage is.

But I'm not going to do that.

Taking the high road

I prefer to take the high road in these types of situations. I am not going to resort to the kind of name calling that the close-minded Bill Shanks has already engaged in. In fact, I'm going to agree with him.

To a point.

One particular point. 

That point would be the one that he made about Heyward being nearly useless against left-handed pitching.

Because, he is.

Heyward currently has a career slash line against lefties of .223/.302/.363. Which is bad. His walk rate is four points lower against lefties than it is against righties (7.4% to 11.5%) this season. A similar difference resides in his career marks of 9.5% against lefties to 12% against righties. And his walk rate is what is championed within the sabermetric community.

But I ask of you this: What good is an above-average walk rate, when your OBP is 12 points below the league average?

Some say that Jason Heyward is unlucky. Pointing to his .256 BABIP as their proof. These same people may want to look at each of Heyward's four seasons seperately then, and come to the conclusion that he is simply inconsistent. Posting BABIP's of .335, .260, .319 and now .256. An inconsistent corner outfielder is not the kind of player that you build a winning franchise around. It is cherry-picking at it's best when you claim a player is unlucky but fail to mention that his swing rates are well above his rookie year numbers (2013 - 43.6%, 2010 - 38.6%).

Jason Heyward is still only 23 years old, and just because Jeff Francoeur was busting by then, doesn't mean that you give up on a young kid because recent history within the franchise says you should.

Manny Machado is only 20 years old. Who knows what he will be like in three years.

But Braves fans - and stats lovers - should look hard and long at the stats that they are using to build up Heyward. Because, if I were Heyward's manager, I would have started platooning him yesterday. 

Friday
Jun082012

Yu Still Getting Squeezed at the Knees

In late April, we took a closer look at Yu Darvish's high walk rate and showed that the Rangers' putative ace was getting squeezed by umpires. Despite placing more pitches in the strike zone than the average starter, Darvish issued lots of free passes in part because he had the lowest called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken by hitters.

It's now early June, and Darvish's walk rate remains a whopping 5.4 per nine innings pitched. Yu's ability to miss bats has helped him remain an above-average pitcher (119 ERA+), but the only qualified starters with more BB/9 are Ubaldo Jimenez, Daniel Bard and Kyle Drabek. Unfortunately for Darvish and the Rangers, umps are still squeezing him, particularly on pitches thrown at the knees.

Darvish has received a called strike from Big Blue on in-zone pitches taken by the batter 71.3 percent of the time. The MLB average for starters, by contrast, is 79.8 percent. No other starter has been squeezed more frequently than Darvish:

Ten lowest called strike rates for starting pitchers on in-zone pitches taken by hitters

PitcherCalled strike rate on in-zone pitches taken
Yu Darvish 71.3%
Henderson Alvarez 71.8%
Jake Arrieta 72.0%
Wei-Yin Chen 72.8%
Derek Holland 73.2%
Clayton Kershaw 73.2%
Justin Masterson 73.6%
Ricky Romero 73.8%
Brian Matusz 74.0%
Chris Capuano 74.6%

 

Here is Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken by the hitter, and then the league average for starting pitchers in 2012. You'll note that Darvish has a big blue spot low in the strike zone:

Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken by the hitter, 2012

 Average called strike rate for starting pitchers on in-zone pitches taken by the hitter, 2012 Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches taken is below-average on high pitches, but it's the low stuff that isn't getting any love from umpires:

Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches, by location

Pitch locationCalled strike rate on in-zone pitches takenMLB Avg. for SP
High 67.3 74.3
Middle 96.4 95.3
Low 56.1 68.6

 

Compounding matters, Darvish has thrown more of his in-zone pitches low each month: 34.4 percent in April, 36.4 percent in May and 37.3 percent last night in a six-walk loss to the Oakland A's. In terms of pitch type, Darvish is getting squeezed mostly with his fastball, slider and cutter:

Darvish's called strike rate on in-zone pitches, by pitch type

PitchCalled Strike Rate on in-zone pitches takenMLB Avg. for SP
Fastball 71.4 80.3
Slider 66 79.3
Cutter 65.4 79.4
Curveball 84.2 81.6
Splitter 88.9 83.2

 

It's hard to say what, if anything, Darvish and the Rangers can do about umpires' stinginess so far. Darvish isn't getting the low strike, and he's a pitcher who likes to keep the ball down (45 percent of his pitches have been thrown low overall, compared to the 41 percent average for starters). Maybe Mike Maddux and Ron Washington can make a point to lobby Big Blue before Yu's starts.