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Entries in St. Louis Cardinals (38)

Sunday
Jun092013

What Makes Lance Lynn's Fastball So Good?

Lance Lynn is just about the most predictable pitcher in baseball. When he takes on the Cincinnati Reds tonight (8 PM, ESPN), he's going to throw fastballs. Lots of fastballs. In fact, no starting pitcher this side of Bartolo Colon relies on his heat as much as Lynn, who throws the pitch about 78% of the time. You might think that throwing one pitch so frequently in the cat-and-mouse, tit-for-tat game that is baseball would backfire -- hitters would learn to sit on Lynn's fastball, driving the pitch into the gaps and over the fence.

At least, that's what you'd think. Instead, Opponents are slugging a paltry .310 against Lynn's fastball, which is nearly 140 points below the major league average (.452). The only starters who have done a better job than Lynn of limiting hard fastball contact are Cliff Lee (.282), Clay Buchholz (.291) and Chris Sale (.303). And it's only getting harder of batters to connect: They slugged .384 off Lynn's gas in April, .300 in May, and .100 so far in June.

How has Lynn managed to dominate hitters with his fastball, even though they know it's coming? Here are a few guesses as Joey Votto, Shin-Soo Choo and the rest of the Reds' lineup ponder the same question.

  • With two strikes on the hitter, Lynn takes full advantage of having Yadier Molina behind the plate by stretching the corners of the strike zone. Lynn has struck out 20 batters looking with his fastball this season, trailing just Buchholz and teammate Shelby Miller among starters, and nearly all of those heaters have been on borderline pitches. With Yadi receiving, those calls are going Lynn's way.

Location of Lynn's looking strikeouts with his fastball

  • Lynn might not possess elite fastball velocity (he averages 92 MPH and maxes out at 95 MPH), but he elevates his heater as well as nearly any starter in the game. Hitters swing and miss 31% of the time that Lynn climbs the ladder, a mark bested only by Max Scherzer (38%), Jose Quintana (35%), Miller (35%) and Yu Darvish (34%).

Lynn's fastball contact rate by pitch location

  • He's ultra-aggressive against same-handed hitters, throwing the highest percentage of fastballs within the strike zone (65) to righties among MLB starters. Rarely getting behind in the count, Lynn has yet to allow a single homer to a righty batter.
Friday
Jun072013

Team hitting with bases empty and runners on

Most pitchers don't have the same power when pitching from the stretch position as they do from the wind-up.

Often times, pitchers are more careful when runners on base, particularly when the runners are in scoring position. Careful is not necessarily an effective way to pitch. Careful pitchers work the strike zone more frequently than trying to get batters to chase pitches.

The point here is that it is not a surprise that teams hit better with runners on base than when the bases are empty.

Take a look at the AL teams

As you scan over the icons you will see three teams where the norm is reversed: the Texas Rangers, the top hitting team with the bases empty in the AL, the Angels, and the Yankees.

The Tigers are the top hitting team with runners on base followed by the Red Sox.

The Tigers are hitting 33 points higher with runners on base.

The Red Sox are hitting 30 points higher with runners on base.

The Indians are hitting 25 points higher with runners on base.

But the honor for the greatest differential belongs to the Tampa Bay Rays who are 12th in the league hitting just .238 with the sacks empty and are fourth in the league in batting with runners on at .285, a 47 point differential.

Let's look at the NL

Six teams, the Braves, Cubs, Reds, Dodgers, Brewers, and Phillies are all hitting better with the sacks empty. Damn you, hitting pitchers!

In addition, the differential though is also minimal with the Pirates (one point), Diamondbacks (two points), and Giants (four points).

Big Differences

The Rockies are hitting 47 points better with runners on base but the big story is the astounding differential for the team with the best record in baseball: the St. Louis Cardinals who are hitting 93 points better with runners on base.

The Cards are ninth in the league in hitting with the bases empty, .233, but lead the world in hitting with runners on base hitting .326.

Just in case you were wondering why the Cards are 39-21, you might follow how well these guys hit with runners on base:

Tuesday
Jan082013

The Fantasy Baseball Diary: Allen Craig

21:45 PST

 After a day of writing and talking with my editor, Bill Chuck, I was going to reward myself by watching an episode of White Collar. Instead I’ve decided to show a lot of #want (a baseball scouting term to describe the manifestation of human desire and physical yield) and stay at my computer and begin the process of writing my inaugural article for BaseballAnalytics.org.

22:00 PST

As I began typing, a song from the first Zutons record started playing on my winamp player. For some reason I thought of my ex-girlfriend from college who gave me said record. I haven’t thought about her in years. Out of curiosity I looked her up on Facebook. Big mistake. She didn’t look so hot. She looked nice, but not to the degree as I remembered. As for me, I’ve ascended up the food chain of attractiveness. I’m in the best shape of my life, giving me a fit body and thus, affording me the luxury to avoid brands like Gap and wear non-generic clothing cuts. I’m a tertiary consumer. Things are looking up.

22:02 PST

Stopped procrastinating.

Take a look at these heat maps from the 2012. Which one do you think belongs to Albert Pujols?

If you guessed Player B, you guessed incorrectly. If the title of this piece didn’t already give it away, Player B is Allen Craig. The heat maps may look similar, but Craig actually has more plate coverage and a better ability to hit the ball to all fields than Pujols.

During the first two months of the 2012 season, Craig was put on the DL twice for various injuries. The first DL stint, which lasted all of April, was for November 2011 surgery on his knee. The second DL stint was for a left hamstring strain. In 2011, groin and knee injuries cost him almost half of the 2011 season. The past four years, he’s averaged 116.5 games played so there’s a lot of risk for fantasy owners counting on a breakthrough year.

But what if Craig does have a breakthrough year? What can fantasy owners expect?

In the last two seasons he’s only totaled 773 plate appearances. With those appearances he’s been extremely productive. His .532 SLG the past two years ranks him 14th among hitters with at least 700 plate appearances.

The table provides a projection of the production he could provide if he receives 660 plate appearances. His numbers may not look overtly impressive, but in the last ten years only four players have been able to hit at least 30 homers, 98 runs, 119 RBI with a .309 AVG. The four players are: Albert Pujols in 2003, Gary Sheffield in 2003, Matt Kemp in 2011 and Miguel Cabrera in 2012.

Craig enters the 2013 season as the full-time first baseman, which should give him a better opportunity to stay healthy. He qualifies at first base and outfield so if he does go down with an injury, fantasy owners will have a bigger pool of players to find his replacement. Every year there’s always one top ten player who comes off a “down” year, gets drafted around the fifth round and gives their owners a championship. In 2011, it was Matt Kemp. In 2012, it was Josh Hamilton.

According to the latest expert draft at Mock Draft Central, Craig went #52, right after Jimmy Rollins and just before Cole Hamels. If you can get him in the fifth, sixth round, you could have the best bargain on draft day.

23:48 PST

I emailed my ex- on Facebook.

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