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Entries in john lackey (4)

Wednesday
Aug072013

How do pitchers do on the first batter of the game?

We often hear about getting to a pitcher early, but I want to look at the earliest of the early and see how pitchers have fared on the very first batter they faced in the 1st inning.

Up first

  • Qualified starters are hit at a .253 pace by the leadoff batter in the 1st inning, batters have a .311 OBP, slug .393, for a .704 OPS.
  • Overall, qualified starters are hit at a .249 pace by all the batters they face, batters have a .307 OBP, slug .390, for a .697 OPS.

No surprises there. We expect the leadoff batter to do better than at least three and maybe four members of a representative lineup, so we expect them to be better in all statistical categories, but understandably, not by an enormous amount.

Who does well?

You won't find anyone better this season than Bronson Arroyo, who has faced 22 leadoff batters and retired them all, striking out five, getting eight grounders and nine outs in the air. Just to let you know, Arroyo has a 2.84 ERA in 1st inning and a .220 BAA.

Next up, is Jordan Zimmermann. Leadoff batters are 1-for-22 against Jordan with four whiffs for an .045 BAA. The one hit occurred in his last outing on August 2 when he allowed a leadoff double to Rickie Weeks and Zimm stranded him. Overall in his 1st innings, Zimmermann has a 1.64 ERA and a .163 BAA.

The third of four starters who have allowed one hit or less to the leadoff batter is Jeremy Guthrie. Guthrie has faced 23 leadoff batters, walked four and allowed just one hit, a Matt Carpenter double on May 30. The Cards got to  Guthrie for two runs that night in the 1st, but Guthrie held them scoreless over the next five innings.

The final first batter star pitcher is the Mets phee-nom Matt Harvey. Harvey has allowed one hit and one walk to the 22 batters he's faced (.048), while striking out seven. The one hit was a Juan Pierre bunt single on June 2. 

First batter of the game strikeout leaders
 PAK
John Lackey (BOS) 20 9
Wade Miley (ARI) 23 7
Ryan Dempster (BOS) 22 7
Matt Harvey (NYM) 22 7
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 7
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 7
Edwin Jackson (CHC) 22 7
Clayton Kershaw (LAD) 24 7
A. J. Griffin (OAK) 23 7
Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE) 22 6

And the not so good...

I find this list fascinating because there is such a mix of successful and not so successful pitchers.

1st inning Leadoff Batter Struggles
 PAHAVGBB
James Shields (KC) 24 10 .455 2
Eric Stults (SD) 23 10 .455 1
Andy Pettitte (NYY) 20 10 .526 1
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 .529 4
Mat Latos (CIN) 23 9 .409 1
Lance Lynn (STL) 23 9 .391 0
Kyle Lohse (MIL) 23 9 .409 1
Felix Hernandez (SEA) 24 9 .375 0
Bud Norris (BAL) 24 9 .391 0
Anibal Sanchez (DET) 19 9 .563 3

My particular annoyance

I hate it when pitchers walk the first batter of the game. It irks me. Consequently, these guys annoy me.

Leaders in Leadoff Walks (Ugh!)
 PAHBBAVGOBP
Tim Lincecum (SF) 22 6 5 .353 .500
Dillon Gee (NYM) 22 3 5 .176 .364
Stephen Strasburg (WSH) 23 2 4 .111 .304
Shelby Miller (STL) 21 9 4 .529 .619
Ricky Nolasco (LAD) 23 5 4 .263 .391
Jeremy Guthrie (KC) 23 1 4 .053 .217
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 4 .368 .478

Finally, here are the seven starters who have allowed two homers to first batters they faced

1st inning leadoff gopher pitchers
 PAHHRAVGSLUG
Yu Darvish (TEX) 22 3 2 .158 .474
Kyle Kendrick (PHI) 23 4 2 .200 .600
Kevin Correia (MIN) 22 7 2 .368 .684
John Lackey (BOS) 20 5 2 .250 .550
Jeff Samardzija (CHC) 23 7 2 .368 .737
Gio Gonzalez (WSH) 23 7 2 .318 .682
CC Sabathia (NYY) 23 5 2 .238 .571

The best first inning leadoff batters

Here's a bonus for you:

Leadoff batters in the 1st inning
 PAAVGOBPSLUGOPSHHRBBK
Shin-Soo Choo (CIN) 98 .353 .439 .671 1.109 30 5 7 15
Nate McLouth (BAL) 85 .342 .388 .468 .857 27 1 5 7
Eric Young Jr. (NYM) 71 .328 .423 .410 .832 20 0 9 6
Starling Marte (PIT) 102 .319 .373 .500 .873 30 1 5 27
Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS) 106 .313 .358 .495 .853 31 2 5 14
Desmond Jennings (TB) 76 .290 .355 .435 .790 20 2 7 16
Matt Carpenter (STL) 87 .288 .345 .413 .757 23 1 7 10
Michael Bourn (CLE) 81 .286 .321 .416 .737 22 2 4 16
Brett Gardner (NYY) 101 .272 .337 .380 .717 25 0 8 19
Austin Jackson (DET) 79 .271 .354 .343 .697 19 0 9 12
Norichika Aoki (MIL) 91 .263 .352 .313 .664 21 0 10 6
Coco Crisp (OAK) 89 .250 .326 .413 .738 20 3 9 10
Alejandro De Aza (CWS) 105 .213 .295 .372 .668 20 4 11 19
Denard Span (WSH) 92 .200 .261 .271 .531 17 0 7 19
Alex Gordon (KC) 83 .200 .277 .267 .544 15 1 6 17

 

After all is said and done, the best part of the leadoff experience is that the game has started.

Monday
Jul012013

Lackey Solves Lefties During Resurgent 2013 Season

Entering the 2013 season, John Lackey was a symbol of how far the Red Sox had strayed from the "$100 million player development machine" that former GM Theo Epstein once envisioned. The erstwhile Angels workhorse, signed to a five-year, $82.5 million contract prior to the 2010 season, posted an 82 ERA+ during his first two years in Boston -- worst in the majors among starters who tossed at least 350 innings over that time frame. Tommy John surgery then wiped out Lackey's 2012 campaign, seemingly burdening the Sox with a $15 million fifth starter and a painful reminder of a time when financial largesse trumped clear-eyed player evaluation.

A curious thing has happened on Lackey's journey to join the likes of Mike Hampton, Darren Dreifort and Chan Ho Park in free agent infamy, though: Lackey, at age 34, is suddenly dealing again. The righty has lost weight and lifted his ERA+ to 145, which ranks 8th among American League starters and is the second-best figure of his career, behind only his Cy Young-caliber 2007 with Anaheim.

Lackey is no longer a laughingstock in Boston thanks in large part to his marked improvement against left-handed hitters. During his gruesome 2011 season, lefties pummeled Lackey for a .514 slugging percentage -- nearly 100 points higher than the MLB average for righty starters and the third-worst among all hurlers, besting just Bronson Arroyo and Chris Volstad. This year, lefties are slugging just .328. Lackey got scorched when he threw low and inside to left-handers in '11, but he's thriving in that spot this season.

Lackey's opponent slugging percentage by pitch location vs. lefties, 2011

Lackey's opponent slugging percentage by pitch location vs. lefties, 2013

Lackey is doing a far better job of keeping the ball down against lefties this season, increasing his rate of pitches thrown to the lower-third of the strike zone from 27% in 2011 to 39% in 2013. That, in turn, has allowed him to boost his ground ball rate versus lefties from 40% to 54%. The only righty starters with a more intense scorched earth policy against lefties are Doug Fister, Justin Masterson, Trevor Cahill and Jose Fernandez.

Tuesday
Jun182013

B.Chuck: Boston should be worried about their pitching

As I pointed out yesterday, the Red Sox revival this season has more to do with John Farrell's magic with getting the most out of timely hitting and good clubhouse chemistry than with his presumed talents with a pitching staff. 

  • The Red Sox are seventh in the league with a team ERA of 3.84.
  • Their starters are fourth in the league with a 3.79 ERA and their bullpen is 11th in the AL with a 3.94 ERA. 

But perhaps what should be most disconcerting for Red Sox Nation is there is no indication that the pitching staff is getting better.

Split W L W-L% ERA SV IP H R ER HR BB SO WHIP SO/9 SO/BB
April/March 18 8 .692 3.58 8 231.0 191 97 92 26 97 255 1.247 9.9 2.63
May 15 15 .500 4.00 3 265.2 260 131 118 32 108 249 1.385 8.4 2.31
June 9 6 .600 3.95 2 136.2 136 62 60 21 55 115 1.398 7.6 2.09
April/Mar,GS 15 4 .789 3.24 0 158.1 131 62 57 15 66 170 1.244 9.7 2.58
May,GS 9 13 .409 4.15 0 177.2 168 93 82 23 73 155 1.356 7.9 2.12
June,GS 7 4 .636 4.03 0 89.1 93 41 40 16 32 68 1.399 6.9 2.13
April/Mar,GR 3 4 .429 4.33 8 72.2 60 35 35 11 31 85 1.252 10.5 2.74
May,GR 6 2 .750 3.68 3 88.0 92 38 36 9 35 94 1.443 9.6 2.69
June,GR 2 2 .500 3.80 2 47.1 43 21 20 5 23 47 1.394 8.9 2.04
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table Generated 6/18/2013.

A look at the numbers

When you look at the numbers for the pitchers, you can sense that it's pretty amazing that this is a first-place ballclub.

  • With 171 bases on ball, Sox starters have a significant lead in issuing walks over any other group of starters in the majors.
  • With 7142 pitches, Sox starters have thrown more pitches than any other group of starters in the majors, yet they are 10th in the majors in innings thrown.
  • Sox relievers are 10th in innings pitched in the AL with 208.0, but are 11th in ERA in the AL and 13th in WHIP with 1.365.
  • Slugging average against starters is .403, tied for third in the AL and while the slugging against the relievers is .403, that's only good for 13th in the AL.
  • The strikeout to walk ratio is 2.30 for starters (10th in the AL) and 2.54 for the bullpen (6th in the AL).
  • FYI: The Sox pitchers have issued eight bases-loaded walks this season, the most in the majors.

Let's look at some individual numbers 

  • Clay Buchholz is having a Cy Young season: he's 9-0 with a 1.71 ERA. He has pitched brilliantly when he's been out there. Buchholz has made 12 starts, missing three so far and we await news as to whether he is going on the DL. Since the start of 2010, Buchholz has made 83 starts, while teammate Jon Lester has made 111.
  • Lester is a whole other set of issues. In his first nine starts, Lester was 6-0 with a 2.72 ERA. In his last six starts, he is 0-4 and a 7.20 ERA. Lester with 1627 pitches thrown, has tossed more than any other pitcher in baseball, but his 94.7 IP is good for only 15th in baseball. Lester is around the strike zone, he has 69 full counts, the most in baseball, but his 135 foul balls when the batter has two strikes on him is indicative of his inability to finish off an at bat.
  • Despite his 4-5 record, John Lackey has been a pleasant surprise rebounding well from two bad seasons and Tommy John surgery. He has a 3.08 ERA but has a not very impressive 1.212 WHIP.
  • Of course, Lackey's WHIP looks better when you compare it to Ryan Dempster's 1.332 and Felix Doubront's 1.895, who have ERAs of 4.21 and 4.445 respectively, if not respectfully. 

Let's go to the bullpen

  • With the relief corps being used frequently, the Sox bullpenners Andrew Miller, Junichi Tazawa, and Koji Uehara have each appeared in over 30 games already this season.
  • Andrew Bailey is the full-time closer now that Joel Hanrahan's Red Sox career is probably finished due to injuries. Each season Bailey seems to battle injuries as well. He has been successful in eight-of-10 save attempts. He's had seven-of-22 appearances in which he has not allowed a baserunner. 
  • As a frame of reference, Joe Nathan has had 15-of-30 appearances without allowing a baserunner and Jason Grilli is 17-of-33.

Reason to be concerned

The deeper you look at the pitching (and this was just a glance) for the Red Sox, the more you need to be concerned.

Thus far, the Red Sox timely hitting has carried the team. Having said that, the average team BABIP is .296 and the Red Sox have the highest team BABIP in baseball at .332.

How lucky is that hitting?

Well, in 2008 the Texas Rangers had a .325 BABIP and in 1997, the Red Sox had a .325 batting average for balls in play, the Twins had a .325 BABIP in 1996, the highest numbers in the last 20 seasons.

All of which makes you think that if the Sox don't start getting luckier or better on the mound, the Orioles and Rays and maybe even the Yankees and the Jays will be making the AL East and Wild Card races very close and Red Sox Nation very nervous.