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Entries in Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (6)

Monday
Mar252013

Vernon Wells to join in the New York decline

Over the last five seasons, Vernon Wells has hit .258 with 102 homers, 327 RBI, with a .306 OBP, .448 slugging pct., and .754 OPS. He has struck out 337 times in 2587 PA.

That, of course, only tells part of the of the story.

When you look at the five seasons from 2002-06, Wells hit .288 with 139 homers, 487 RBI, with a .336 OBP, .499 slugging pct., and .835 OPS. He struck out 424 times in 3328 PA.

The differences are astounding. 

Still just 34, Wells is approaching the final two years of the seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Jays in 2008. They traded him to the Angels before the start of the 2011 season and these two years have been awful, with Wells hitting just .222 wth 36 homers.

Wells with the Angels

Over the last two seasons, he's hit .218 against the fastball, .218 against the change-up, .155 against the curve, and .235 against the slider.

On to New York

Now, he is heading to the Yankees with the New Yorkers responsible or around $13M of the remaining two years of the contract and there are discussions being held as to whether New York can pay most of that in the 2013 season with the hope of getting under 189M prior to the start of the 2014 season.

Over the last five seasons, Wells hasn't shown much in New York, but it is better than in some other locales

Wells has hit .277 (32-118) with seven homers (six hit 2008-10) and 21 strikeouts.

Stranger things have happened, but all indications are the Yanks have not done much to improve themselves with this move, but only time will tell.





Saturday
Mar232013

Weaver's Lack of Zip, Whiffs a Growing Concern

With a lanky, 6-foot-7 frame and a cross-fire delivery that baffles hitters trying to pick up the ball, Jered Weaver exudes deception. But can Weaver, coming off a 20-win season, keep tricking batters as he enters his thirties and becomes one of the game's softest tossers? Fangraphs' Paul Swydan isn't so sure (ESPN Insider subscription required):

"Over the past couple of years his velocity -- as well as his strikeout and swinging-strike rates -- has declined...With his 20s behind him, Weaver is unlikely to see these trends suddenly reverse themselves, and he will become even more reliant on his control and defense."

Weaver struck out a career-best 25.7% of batters faced in 2010. Since then, his punchout rate his nosedived to 21.4% in 2011 and 19.2% this past season. On a related note, Weaver's fastball velocity has declined three years running: 89.9 MPH in '10, 89.1 MPH in '11, and just 87.7 MPH in 2012.

Weaver's fastball beat out just R.A. Dickey's and Bronson Arroyo's in velocity among right-handed starting pitchers last year. Yet, the pitch has defied logic by remaining highly effective despite a gargantuan dip in swings and misses. Let's take a closer look at Weaver's not-so-fast fastball, and what that velocity loss could mean for him in 2013.

Here is Weaver's fastball contact rate by pitch location over the past three seasons:

Weaver's fastball miss rate by pitch location, 2010

 

Weaver's fastball miss rate by pitch location, 2011

 

Weaver's fastball miss rate by pitch location, 2012

Back in 2010, batters swung and missed at Weaver's fastball 19.6% of the time. That was seventh-highest among all qualified starters, beating out the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Weaver's fastball miss rate fell to 15.9% in 2011, and came in at a paltry 12% in 2012 -- below the 14% MLB average and in the same finesse lefties like Paul Maholm and Tommy Milone.

But while hitters are making  much more contact against Weaver's fastball, they're not doing any more damage. Check out Weaver's fastball slugging percentage by location from 2010-12:

Weaver's opponent fastball slugging percentage by location, 2010

 

Weaver's opponent fastball slugging percentage by location, 2011

 

Weaver's opponent fastball slugging percentage by location, 2012

Opponents slugged .393 against Weaver's fastball during his high-strikeout 2010 campaign, about 60 points below the major league average. Weaver's opponent fastball slugging percentage actually fell to .322 in 2011, and barely budged in 2012 (.333) as he started putting up radar gun readings that wouldn't get him pulled over by highway patrol.

Weaver's success with such a slow heater is exceptionally rare. Last year, hitters slugged .513 against fastballs thrown between 87 and 88 MPH. Basically, batters morphed into Albert Pujols when a pitcher lobbed a fastball in that velocity range. Can Weaver keep getting outs with a fastball that only the Zitos and Buehrles of the world consider fast? He does have some advantages over other soft-tossers:

  • His fastball command has improved as the pitch has slowed. Weaver threw about 24% of his fastballs over the horizontal middle of the plate in 2010, which is the MLB average for starters. He left 23% of his fastballs over the middle in 2011, and just 21% this past year. Perhaps Weaver's fine touch can counter the extra time that hitters have to react.
  • Weaver has one of the game's most diverse repertoires, as he tossed his changeup (14% of pitches thrown), slider (13%), and curveball (10%) more than 10% of the time, and nearly did the same with his cutter (9%). Not many hurlers have four other options with which to occupy hitters' minds.
  • Weaver's home park is death to power hitters. Angels Stadium decreased run-scoring by 14 percent for both left-handed and right-handed hitters last season, according to StatCorner. Long fly balls that become souvenirs at other stadiums die at the warning track in Anaheim.
  • He also benefits from playing behind arguably the best defensive team in the majors. The Angels led all clubs in Defensive Efficiency in 2012, converting about 72% of balls put in play into outs (the MLB average was about 70%). As a fly ball pitcher, Weaver can't ask for better support than Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton keeping balls out of the gaps.
  • Weaver will also get to take on the Houston Astros, who join the AL West in 2013. Outside of pint-sized All-Star Jose Altuve and perhaps high-strikeout sluggers Chris Carter and Justin Maxwell, the Astros's lineup looks like a mess. Baseball Prospectus' PECOTA system projects Houston's offense for the second-fewest runs scored in the AL, topping only the division rival Seattle Mariners.

Weaver's lack of zip is concerning. Most pitchers who sit in his new, low-octane velocity range get pummeled. But if ever there were a case where a guy could Houdini his way to another 20 wins, it's Jered Weaver in 2013.

Thursday
Dec202012

Belt-High Pitches Hurting Jason Vargas

As a finesse, fly-ball lefty, Jason Vargas was a perfect fit for Seattle's Safeco Field. Vargas will still pitch in a plum environment after being traded to the Los Angeles Angels for Kendrys Morales, considering that Angel Stadium kills right-handed power hitters and he'll have Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos covering the gaps behind him. However, Trout and Bourjos can only help Vargas if he keeps the ball out of the cheap seats. That has become a serious problem recently, as the former Long Beach State star has left more pitches over the middle of the plate.

Vargas' home run rate has climbed three years running, from 0.8 per nine innings pitched in 2010 to one per nine in 2011 and 1.4 HR/9 this past season. He coughed up 35 home runs in 2012, tying Phil Hughes for second-most among starting pitchers. Vargas got burned when he tossed belt-high pitches:

Location of Vargas' home runs allowed in 2012:

Vargas allowed 20 homers on pitches thrown to the vertical middle of the strike zone, a total topped only by New York's Ivan Nova (21). The lefty gave hitters more chances to tee off on belt-high pitches, too: He threw about 38% of his pitches to the middle of the plate, up from 36% in 2011 and 32% in 2010. For context, the three-year average for starting pitchers is slightly over 31%.

Safeco provided a safe haven for Vargas, who was highly successful at home during his M's career (3.34 ERA, 0.9 HR/9) but an also-ran on the road (4.85 ERA, 1.5 HR/9). L.A. is a great landing spot, with Angel Stadium suppressing home runs for righty batters by 20% compared to a neutral park (Safeco cuts righty homers by 30%) and Trout and Bourjos running down everything in play. That said, Vargas can't rely on Trout bringing back balls destined for the rocks every night. Great park and outfield defense aside, Vargas must sharpen his command to limit those long drives.

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