Tuesday, November 18, 2014

My New Project

I am currently working on writing my first novel. I have created a new blog to give updates on the progress as well as to give my general musings.


Until I figure out the domain to buy for it.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Locking Up Xander Bogaerts

It's fairly obvious that once a team in this era finds someone they believe in they strive hard to lock them up to a long term deal.  The team gets cost certainty, usually some free agency years bought and a solid bargaining chip, while the player gets guaranteed money and avoiding distracting arbitration hearings during their last three seasons.  Coming to an agreement can be beneficial to both parties.  It's never to early to look at this as the Rays were very proactive with Evan Longoria and have made out very well.

The question is when can you decide as a team that the player has solidified their role and will not suddenly need a return to Triple-A in June to work on hitting sliders or perhaps to try moving to a new defensive spot.  Just being a top prospect does not always assure you of a roster spot.  Looking at Mike Trout you see someone who everyone knew nearly two years ago was here to stay, but the Angels and Trout choose this spring to reach an agreement.

If the Red Sox want to make an offer they would need to look at players signed in their first year or two and what value they would be worth.  Just this week Jedd Gyorko signed an extension giving him five more years after this season at $35M and an option for 2020 at $13M.  The comparison to Gyorko would surely be one the Red Sox would bring to the table if and when they talk to Xander Bogaerts as well as updating the Evan Longoria deal.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Game 9: Day After Thoughts

  • Jake Peavy only gave up one run and the eight strikeouts was impressive, but the walks continue to be concerning.  I'll give him a small amount of slack as the strike zone was terrible last night.  Here is the zone against right handed hitters.
  • The Red Sox have a big problem when David Ortiz is done by retirement or age.  They have no one in the system who can match his skills or even 3/4 of it.  This maybe the one place the team has to make plans to sign a big name fee agent some time in the near future to replace a 30 home run hitter with a .300/.400/.500 type line.
  • Uehara is the best pitcher with 250+ IP from 2009 to today as I showed on Twitter last night.

  • Jackie Bradley Jr has a solid minor league walk skill, but until yesterday he had not shown that as much at the major league level.  That all changed as he worked three walks for the old 0 for 0 at the plate.
  • Not sure what could defend letting A.J. Pierzynski bat and then Grady Sizemore run instead of just sending Sizemore up to bat.  Wasting two players and your bench catcher like that seems way out of place for this Sox team often afraid to use the bench catcher as it is.  I could only find Pierzynski having 3 AB versus Alexi Ogando before yesterday and was 1 for 3.  Sizemore as more AB vs Ogando going 1 for 4 with a walk.  Matchups seems a wash and Sizemore should have been at bat in that spot.
  • Today we get to see if I was right about Clay Buchholz.  The Yankees lineup is not what it has been and while still a test for Buchholz I like the match up.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The 2014 Clay Buchholz

The first start for Clay Buchholz this season was not pretty and a lot of the early numbers don't suggest he's gotten better with rest.  His velocity is down across the board and in his first game he threw a very significant amount of change ups in the game.  Many are righting him off already and I've definitely been discouraged by what we have seen, but there are some positives as well.

Although his velocity has dropped from a high of 94 mph and a recent average of 92 mph from 2011 to 2013 to 90 mph this April he's hasn't been a strikeout per inning pitcher since 2008.  Since then he's relied on pitches like his cutter and change-up to get batters off balance.  While a drop in velocity might spell even less strikeouts per game he was able to still sit down 3 in his 4.1 IP the other night.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Henry Owens Hype Train

Photo By Kelly O'Connor
In a rain shortened six inning game last night the Portland Sea Dogs defeated the Reading Phillies by a final of 5-0 to open their 2014 season.  The big news just happens to be prospect Henry Owens looked dominant and completed the game without allowing a single hit.  Now that's not officially a "no-hitter", but certainly a great start to his 2014 season and more reason to get excited about the towering prospect.

In the six innings last night Owens had nine strikeouts to go with only two walks.  The strikeout total is what he does best, but walks are what Owens has struggled with.  A two walk total over six innings is actually an improvement for him as he normally throws one walk every two innings in his pro career so far.  This is the number we should be watching every night when Owens starts.  His walks were also contained to the first inning and he went right at the hitters after that.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Mike Napoli Age Curves

Not only did I support the signing of Mike Napoli in 2013, but I was supportive of the new two year deal to keep him through the end of 2015.  He's a very powerful hitter and his defense at first base has shocked everyone.  He's now 32 years old and as we all no doubt know there is an aging curve that is not nice to high K guys in their thirties.

According to some work on Fangraphs players are now striking out much more with age than seen just a few years ago.  The graph below is from that work done by Jeff Zimmerman and shows how from 1998 to 2005 players would slowly add 2 percentage points to there K rate from the age of 29 to 37.  Now you can see on the red line that players are gaining that same 2 percentage points from 24 to 29 and then another 4 percentage points from 29 to 37 years old.

Obviously one player is a small sample but let's see how that compares to Napoli over his career. At the age of 24 and 25 Napoli made his debut and in those two season combined for a K% of 26 percent.  That should be his peak according to the modeling, but Napoli enjoyed a slightly delayed peak.  Over the next four seasons Napoli had a K% averaging 23 percent.  Here is the career for Napoli compared to the current MLB average.

He got better until his final year in Anaheim where he suddenly had real trouble and jumped 7 percentage points to a 30 percent strikeout rate.  The funny thing is he wasn't that much different at the plate.  He swung only slightly more at pitches in and out of the zone, plus he had a slight drop in contact.  So it's tough to tell what happened in 2012 to make him strike out 30 percent of the time.

The difference in 2013 was it was clear why he was striking out so much.  His contact rate on pitches in the strike zone dropped from a career 77 percent to only 57 percent.  He saw a lot of junk as well with only 43 percent of pitches in the zone and only 50 percent first pitch strikes.  All of this was bad news for Napoli as  he posted solid numbers overall his BABIP was a career high .367.  That would regress in 2014 and without better contact numbers the contract could be regrettable.

Now there is two ways you could view his 2012 and 2013 seasons.  He had better luck in his 2008 to 2011 seasons in partial seasons splitting time at catcher and he should have been declining from the 26 percent we saw in his first two years and by 31 he would be around 29 percent, which is fairly close to what he posted.  The other option is he hit a wall in 2012 and something changed.

I'm a believer in the models and think he was just "lucky" in his contact numbers during his late twenties.  Then in 2012 he came back to the model and displayed what is probably his true skill.  What does that mean for 2014 and 2015 is the big question.  If he follows the model and is a 29-31 strikeout guy the past two seasons we should expect a K% of 30-32 percent each season.

Based on that model he should still hold his value with huge power and the positive defense.  Of course a decline in BABIP might make him slightly less valuable, but I don't think a sudden increase in strike outs from what we have already seen will be a major problem for Napoli during his current deal.

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc

Monday, March 31, 2014

Opening Day Pitch F/x: Jon Lester

We all know what opening day really means right? It's the first available day of Pitch F/x data for pitchers in MLB parks.  It truly is the greatest day of the year. Ok maybe I shouldn't go that far, but the only thing that might be better is Pitch F/x when a position player is forced to pitch.

Monday say Jon Lester make his first start of 2014 after ending contract talks with the Red Sox.  He threw a solid game giving up only two runs, but taking the loss as the team was unable to take any of the chances they had with runners in scoring position.  Based on his numbers it was a great day for Lester with 7 IP and eight strikeouts to only one walk.  He also had an amazing 70 percent of pitches thrown for strikes.  To put it lightly Lester was on today.

His velocity was also up to par for him with his pitches all at or even slightly above in some cases his 2013 average velocities.  His fastball averaged 92.5 mph topping out at 94.8 mph.  His velocity as you can see below dipped slightly over the course of the game, but that amount is fairly normal and not surprising.

According to Linear Weights* all of his pitches were plusses today.  His fastball did result in all of his hits against except one off a cutter.  At the same time the fastball was a strike 76 percent of the time and got 6 swing and misses.  There really dosn't seem to be anything here other than Lester being as dominating as he was at any point last season when he was pitching really well.

*Linear weights account for the value of an outcome of any pitch and assign how many runs it saves or costs the pitcher.  In this case a negative means he saved his team that many "runs".

 If you take a look at the charts above the top one is all of Lester's pitch movements from 2013.  The bottom one is Monday's start.  It's very similar although the scale is different making it look a bit off.  Once you look at the numbers you see Lester was right on the mark.

I don't think anyone had much concern about Lester coming out of spring, but it's good to see his velocity is on for such an early season game.  It's still going to be cold or cool at the next few games and his ability to locate pitches, get good movement and throw at velocity was an encouraging sign.

Although I wrote the other day my opinion on the contract negotiations with Lester I feel my opinion has changed over the last few days as well as today.  I'm more resolved that the team should be willing to extend themselves some to avoid allowing Lester to dominate in 2014 with no long term deal in place.  At this point it's likely Lester does more to cost the team in dollars and years by allowing him to pitch out 2014.  That said I would still consider the Max Scherzer rumored deal as to high to go to at six years and $140M.  Let's hope they can still get something done before Lester gets to free agency.

Graphs from Brooks Baseball and Fangraphs

photo credit: Keith Allison via photopin cc