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Entries in Texas Rangers (77)

Monday
Aug132012

Yu Not Getting Calls on the Glove Side

Yu Darvish's first stateside season has been equal parts exhilarating and exasperating. Darvish has struck out 25.8% of batters faced, which ranks behind just Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, Gio Gonzalez and R.A. Dickey among qualified starters. Yet he has also walked hitters 12.6% of the time -- only Edinson Volquez, Carlos Zambrano and Ubaldo Jimenez has issued a higher percentage of free passes.

As we've documented before, Yu hasn't been as control-challenged as you might think. Rather, he has had difficulty getting calls on borderline pitches. Now that we're five months into the season, it has become clear that umps aren't calling many strikes on Darvish's glove-side pitches. He gets an above-average number of called strikes and has an above-average strike rate on arm side pitches. But to the glove side, he's getting precious few calls and has thrown strikes just over 46% of the time:

Pitch LocationCalled Strike Rate on in-zone pitches takenCalled Strike Rate on out-of-zone pitches takenOverall Called Strike RateStrike Pct.
To Arm Side 84.9 15.2 34.8 62.2
MLB Avg. for right-handed SP 84.7 16.1 32.5 61.8
To Glove Side 62.2 1.3 17.3 46.3
MLB Avg. for right-handed SP 71.8 5.9 24.7 53.8

 

Here's Darvish called strike rate on glove-side pitches, compared to the average for righty starters. Low-and-away seems to be the biggest problem spot:

Darvish's called strike rate on glove-side pitches

 

Average called strike rate on glove-side pitches for RH SP

Breaking it down by pitch type, Darvish has a 19.4% called strike rate on glove-side fastballs (30.5% average for righty starters), 13.5% on sliders (17.4% average) and 10.9% on cutters (21% average). Overall, Ervin Santana and Edwin Jackson (two other slider specialists) are the only righties with a lower called strike rate on glove-side pitches:

Lowest called strike rate on glove-side pitches among right-handed SP

PitcherCalled Strike Rate on Glove-Side Pitches
Ervin Santana 15.4%
Edwin Jackson 16.9%
Yu Darvish 17.3%
Josh Johnson 18.7%
Derek Lowe 19.4%
Max Scherzer 19.7%
Jake Westbrook 19.7%
Rick Porcello 19.7%
Homer Bailey 20.0%
Gavin Floyd 20.1%

 

This is quite the quandary for Darvish. He has to work both sides of the plate, lest he become too predictable, but the fastballs and especially sliders and cutters that he throws to the glove side lead to hitter-friendly calls and lots of walks. Getting more love on the glove side would go a long way toward Yu living up to the hype.

Monday
Jul022012

My All Star Starters: AL SS

Voting has concluded and the starters are in, but I will continue to put forth my opinion on who should have been chosen for this year's Summer Classic. Up next is American League Shortstop. Voting from the last published tally can be found here.

Excellent shortstops are the best defenders in the infield, combining speed, quick hands, and a strong arm to patrol the depths of the left side of the field. the candidates being voted on were good, but not many American League Shortstops are having monster seasons. Lets take a look at how everything panned out.

 

#1. Derek Jeter, New York Yankees 4,407,982

Who says you can't get better with age. Jeter started this season off on a tear, and though he slowed down a bit, it was enough to propel him to another starting spot on an All Star squad. Let's go back to guess that player.

Player A: 36 G, 153 AB, 56 H, 9 2b, 5 HR, 13 BB, 19 K, 15 RBI, 2 SB, .366 AVG, .413 OBP, .523 SLG

Player B: 40 G, 175 AB, 42 H, 4 2b, 2 HR, 11 BB, 25 K, 10 RBI, 4 SB, .240 AVG, .293 OBP, .297 SLG

Player A is the Captain from before a mid-May off day on the 16th. At the time, Jeter led all of Major League Baseball in hits and was fourth in batting average. After that, the power numbers slipped dramatically, and he quite frankly stopped hitting. Much of this could be attributed to his batting average on balls in play. Below shows his BABIP from the first segment and then the second segment, respectively.

Player APlayer BIn the second quarter of the season, Jeter wasn't catching some of the breaks he was early on, which resulted in a significant drop in average. The Captain is still an integral part of a high powered New York Yankees offense, and his past pedigree may be what won him the starting nod over other qualified candidates. here are his numbers to this point. 

76 G, 328 AB, 41 R, 98 H, 13 2b, 7 HR, 25 RBI, 6 SB, 24 BB, 44 SO, .299 AVG, .349 OBP, .402 SLG

Overall, these numbers are good, but I believe the simple fact that his is a major household name helped him gather the vote numbers he did.

 

#2 Elvis Andrus, Texas Rangers 2,764,888

Elvis Andrus has made the American League All Star team as a reserve, but I think that with a more rounded stat sheet than Jeter, he should have won the starting nod. While he is a baseball generation younger than Jeter at only 23 years old, he has shown poise and maturity as he has improved his offensive game, posting a .307 average to this point in the season to couple with his mastery of glovework at the position. Andrus has the potential to be a cornerstone in a potent Texas Rangers lineup for a long time. Andrus' success this season thus far has been capitalizing on mistake pitches, really hitting the ball well on fastballs up in the zone. his average against those particular pitches is .398, which is unreal.

He has only managed a .237 clip on balls down in the zone, which could be due to his high ground ball rate on balls low in the zone. Almost 56% of balls he connects with down there are being pounded into the ground and less than half of those have snuck through as seeing eye grounders.

Elvis has shown off his speed as well, connecting on five triples and swiping sixteen bases. Let's look at his overall numbers.

77 G, 306 AB, 51 R, 94 H, 19 2b, 5 3b, 1 HR, 32 RBI, 16 SB, 36 BB, 40 SO, .307 AVG, .383 OBP, .412 SLG

What stands out to me here is that Andrus leads Jeter in some pretty major categories, most importantly, strikeout to walk ratio. The fact that Andrus has received almost as many free passes as K's has allowed him more opportunities to steal and really shows how he has matured at the plate. While he may not he hitting HRs, the extra base hits are there and he leads Jeter in slugging as well. If we went purely by numbers (not including fan vote numbers), Andrus should be the guy starting the All Star game with Jeter coming off the bench. 

 

#3. J.J. Hardy, Baltimore Orioles 1,331,927

I wish I knew how this guy garnered over a million votes this year. Per usual, the power numbers are there for Hardy, but the average is a putrid .232. In order to be considered an All Star, you need to be good in every facet of the game, not just one. Hardy has displayed some high caliber defense at times this season, which is a very welcome addition to his other talents. Lets look at what Hardy has done successfully.

Hardy is a pure pull hitter now, absolutely annihilating hard stuff on the inside of the plate that he manages to get his hands through the zone quickly on. 

That big red heat zone has resulted in a .400 AVG, .855 SLG, 1.255 OPS against the hard stuff. If you are a pitcher who thinks you can sneak one past Hardy on the inside, I would behoove you to reconsider. If you want to get him out, go with the soft stuff low and away, which seems to be Hardy's dead zone.

Offspeed pitches out here have resulted in a .140 AVG, .160 SLG, .333 OPS. Here are Hardy's stats to this point.

76 G, 326 AB, 39 R, 77 H, 15 2b, 2 3b, 12 HR, 32 RBI, 15 BB, 49 SO, .236 AVG, .270 OBP, .405 SLG

When you have an OBP under .300 for the first half, I don't think your name should even be in the conversation for an All Star appearance, but an admirable power output from Hardy, nonetheless. 

 

#4. Asdrubal Cabrera, Cleveland Indians 1,063,137

Cabrera has been quietly building on a breakout 2011 campaign, and is well deserving of the All Star reserve spot he was given. He has been an offensive force for Cleveland and his fantasy baseball owners, ranking second among American League fantasy options at the year's thinnest position. 

Our switch hitter on this list, Asdrubal has had some pretty even splits. While he has hit for a slightly better average versus lefties, he has managed to hit for slightly more power versus righties, resulting in almost equivalent OPS's from either side of the plate (.874 from the right and .873 from the left). His most success has come in no strike counts, where he has hit .354. Once the count gets to two strikes, he drops down to .268. The images below show the heat maps, respectively.

No StrikesTwo Strikes

Cabrera's stats speak for themselves.

69 G, 277 AB, 41 R, 83 H, 19 2b, 1 3b, 11 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB, 32 BB, 39 SO, .300 AVG, .379 OBP, .495 SLG

This is the highest slugging percentage of the group by far. Cabrera could have even been considered for the starting job, but I think he is just fine where he is right now. 

 

Wild Card: Mike Aviles, Boston Red Sox

I'm surprised Aviles wasn't even in the conversation for an All Star bid, considering he leads all AL shortstops in RBI while pounding out more extra base hits than Jeter and Andrus. The average isn't quite there, and neither is the plate discipline, but he should have at least been mentioned. I did a piece on the Sox shortstop before the season started; click here to read.

 

Results:

1. Elvis Andrus

2. Asdrubal Cabrera

3. Derek Jeter

4. Mike Aviles

In the end, I believe the right three were chosen to represent the AL SS's in the All Star game, but the starter could easily have been different as the three seasons each had their own strengths.

Wednesday
Jun272012

My All Star Starters: AL 3B

While voting for the All-Star game ends tomorrow, I will still be producing these articles to discuss who I believe should have the starting nod and who should be on the team. Up tonight is the American League hot corner. This is a position that requires great reflexes coupled with a great arm, and, being a corner infield position, it is expected that this will be a position of hitting strength. All of the men being considered here are exceptional at their position and are all deserving of being in the conversation. Voting numbers can be found here.

#1. Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers 3,073,541

Beltre leapt into first place since the last update, leading by almost 400,000 votes, and it has been well deserved. Since Beltre signed a one year deal with the Red Sox in 2010, he has been one of the most consistent third basemen in the game, showcasing unbelievable glovework coupled with an ability to hit for average and power. His power numbers really spiked after a down year in '09 where he only managed to put 8 out of the park. Since then he has gone deep 73 times. Below is a picture of how Beltre has adjusted an begun hitting more pitches for power.

Beltre is well known for his ability to go down on one knee and muscle balls out of the park. If you haven't seen it before, here is a link to see one from his Red Sox days. 

Beltre is not without fault though, as he sports a much higher groundball rate versus left handed pitching than righties, which has hurt his average versus southpaws.

Left (versus Righties) - Right (versus Lefties)This has not been too much of a problem, but if he can increase his flyball rate versus lefties, especially on the outside part of the zone, he may find that his average could increase even further. Now on to the stats.

71 G, 274 AB, 42 R, 90 H, 17 2b, 13 HR, 48 RBI, 1 SB, 16 BB, 34 SO, .328 AVG, .361 OBP, .533 SLG

Beltre could also afford to be a little more patient and draw some walks to boost the on-base percentage, but if he continues to get hits when he puts the ball in play, I can't really blame him for being a free swinger. Beltre continues to be an all-star on the offensive and defensive side of the ball, and I wholeheartedly believe that he should have a place on that team when all is said and done.

 

#2. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers 2,692,047 

Something has to be said for Cabrera's durability after the move back to third. He has played in 74 games, even after taking a hard hopper to the eye in spring training, which happened to leave a nice battle scar. The move back to third also hasn't hurt his ability to rake. Cabrera is one of those unique hitters that has power to all fields, and he is showcasing that this season. He has hit seven home runs to left, four to center, and four to right field, totaling up to fifteen big flies. Below is a chart of the spread of his hits throughout the season.

Cabrera has taken advantage of pitches left up in the zone and driven the ball all over ballparks, including a mammoth 514 ft Home Run to left field off of Jake Peavy of the Chicago White Sox. Cabrera has also managed to get hits off the hard stuff, averaging .350 against pitches with a velocity of at least 91 mph. If the velocity drops down below that, he tapers off, hitting only .273.

 

As long as pitchers continue to throw him the hard stuff, Cabrera will remain an all-star caliber hitter. Lets look at his stats.

74 G, 299 AB, 43 R, 91 H, 22 2b, 15 HR, 59 RBI, 3 SB, 26 BB, 46 SO, .304 AVG, .363 OBP, .528 SLG

Cabrera has Beltre beat in overall power numbers, but that could be a 25 at bat factor that has allowed the Tigers' third basemen more opportunity to hit the long ball. Cabrera is mashing the ball this season, but I do not believe that he should be considered the started over Beltre.

 

#3. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees 1,748,534

Compared to the first two guys on this list, the rest have been underwhelming. ARod hasn't been awful, but he also hasn't been able to live up to the performance of Cabrera and Beltre. Strangely enough, ARod has seen a concentration of pitches located dead in the strike zone, but he hasn't been able to capitalize to boost his average. 

ARod has been excellent in one strike counts this season, with an ISO rate of .323.

 

71 G, 264 AB, 40 R, 70 H, 6 2b, 13 HR, 34 RBI, 6 SB, 32 BB, 63 SO, .265 AVG, .355 OBP, .436 SLG

Comparing his stats to the vote leaders, he is matching them well in the HR numbers, but he lacks in the total extra base hit department. He is drawing walks at a higher rate, which has put his OBP in the same range, but the SLG is down 100 points. ARod has had an amazing career, but this is not an all star year for the third baseman.

 

#4. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays 1,688,509

Before a major injury sidelined his season before the thirty game mark, Longo was on pace to be better than any third baseman in the league. He had drawn one less walk in that time than Beltre has all season and he had more doubles than ARod has compiled. His AVG, OBP, and SLG would be at the top of the list for AL third basemen, but he hasn't played in over a month and probably will not be ready for the all-star game either way. His BABIP was way up, so it is conceivable he may have tailed off a bit. Here is a look at that heat map.

23 G, 82 AB, 15 R,  27 H, 7 2b, 4 HR, 19 RBI, 2 SB, 15 BB, 17 SO, .329 AVG, .433 OBP, .561 SLG

I'm a huge Longoria fan, and I hope he tears it up in the second half.

 

Wild Card: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays

Readers must understand that he is not the everyday third baseman and has played more of a DH role, but I believe he is worthy of consideration here. He has 21 HRs! That ranks him near the top of the league, nevermind among 3rd basemen. Also, his .572 SLG ranks him fifth in the American League. His power numbers versus southpaws has been unreal, with a .371 ISO.

It's almost as if anything in the zone is getting hit for extra bases with this guy. If you don't believe it, look at the numbers:

71 G, 269 PA, 44 R, 77 H, 14 2b, 21 HR, 52 RBI, 6 SB, 28 BB, 53 SO, .286 BA, .361 OBP, .572 SLG

This guy has been revitalized. If he can continue this pace throughout the year, the Blue Jays will have quite a formidable lineup with Encarnacion hitting behind Bautista.

 

Results

1. Adrian Beltre

2. Miguel Cabrera

3. Edwin Encarnacion (due to less starts at 3b)

4. ARod

5. Brett Lawrie (Encarnacion's teammate and starting Blue Jays Third Baseman is having a good year)

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