New Additions

First off, I’d like to thank everybody who applied to join the StatSpeak team over the past week or so. It’s been a hectic week for us, but I’m happy with how it’s turning out. This process isn’t completely done, however, so if I haven’t gotten back to you yet about writing, don’t take this as a “no.” We’re still reviewing applicants to see if there’s anybody else we’d like to add, and I’ll be getting back to each person individually, regardless of how long it takes me.

For now though, I’d like to introduce the newest writers for Statistically Speaking. Some of the names might be familiar, others might not, but they are all quality baseball analysts that bring something to the table. The names are as follows: Zach Sanders, Daniel Jerison, Pat Andriola, and Adam Guttridge. Zach has been providing quality work at various places around the web, including MLB Notebook and Baseball Daily Digest. Daniel Jerison is making his blogging debut, but I think will impress you readers out there. Pat Andriola has been writing at Mets Geek, but won’t be joining StatSpeak until early August because of prior commitments. And finally, Adam Guttridge, whose work you may know from THT, will be contributing on a part-time basis.

I’ll let each person introduce themselves in more than ~5 words like I just did, but I wanted to get the news out there so we can get this ball rolling. If you haven’t heard back from me yet, you will be very shortly, so just be patient for a little while longer.

It hurts me to say this…

I was feeling a little like Eric Seidman today and decided I would check out the FanGraphs leaderboards for something interesting. I’ll get this out of the way now–the word “interesting” depends on who is reading.

I looked at the hitters who had the greatest percentage of fastballs thrown to them, minimum 120 plate appearances. Scanning the list, it’s clear that a distinct type of hitter is found on it. While these guys aren’t terrible, let’s just say you wouldn’t be building a team around them any time soon (unless Dusty Baker is building the team, in which case the lineup would likely not be your only problem).

A little ways down the list, you can find one Ken Griffey Junior, the proud distributor of over 600 baseballs into the seats of various stadiums. He has hit home runs off of 399 different pitchers in 43 different parks and now pitchers are pitching to him like he’s Scott Podsednik. Yeesh.

El Comedulce Getting Sweeter With Age

Bobby Abreu used to be known as a guy with one of the best power/speed combinations in the game. From 1999-2002, he slugged .500 or better in every season and routinely stole 25+ bases. He hit 41 home runs in the home run derby, including a then-record 24 in one round. Since that home run derby, he’s transformed into a below-average power hitter, but maintained the .300 batting average ability he had always possessed.

This year, at the age of 35, he’s taken that changed approach to a whole new level. With just four home runs on the season, he’s slugging only .426 as of this writing. His strikeouts have also been declining, which is a strange thing to happen to a player past his prime, and his groundball percentage has been increasing the last four years. It’s possible that he has recognized his decreased power potential and adjusted his swing to be more conservative.

Here’s what stands out the most: Abreu has stolen 16 bases this year and been caught only twice. Sixteen! That’s more than burners like Curtis Granderson, Brian Roberts, Shane Victorino, and Carlos Beltran, not to mention his higher success rate than all of those except for Beltran (who is one of the most successful base stealers ever).

Abreu has seemingly found the foutain of youth with an increased spring in his step. Even his UZR has improved, though it still remains below average and is subject to lots of noise. With all the talk these days about late-career resurgences being fueled by PED’s, Abreu’s transformation is a welcome sight.

A lonely link dump

Note: We’re still taking emails from people about joining the StatSpeak team. It’s been much more work than I imagined, but we appreciate the interest from everybody who has written in. And I literally just thought of this 30 seconds ago: If you don’t want to write full time, but have some research you’d like the world to see, email me about submitting a guest post and we’ll see if we can work something out.

Usually link dumps are a whole bunch of links that are just thrown together with no apparent connection. I don’t have a whole bunch of links to share with you at the moment, but this one warranted its own post. I present to you Flip Flop Fly Ball–a site dedicated to creating awesome graphics about baseball like this one:

info-greenmonster.jpg

Click the image to enlarge. There are all kinds of cool things to look at on the site, including one about The Wu-Tang Clan and the E-Street Band (yes, you read that correctly). Go check it out.

(h/t: RAB–link includes interview as well)

A Call to Arms

If you’ve been reading StatSpeak for a while now like the rest of the world, you’ve probably noticed some turnover in the past year or so. A blog that was at one point written only by Pizza Cutter expanded to include some of the bigger names in sabermetrics, such as Eric Seidman, Colin Wyers, Brian Cartwright, and Matt Swartz (vote for Matt and Brian!). Sometimes relative unknowns at the time they started here, these guys have since moved on to sites like The Hardball Times, Baseball Prospectus, FanGraphs, and even done consulting for Major League teams and players. While StatSpeak is proud to have such a strong alumni list, which you can read in full in Pizza’s Valedictory, we must constantly be searching for new people to fill the void left by talented writers moving on to other things. As you can see, I’m still here ;)

With that, I am putting out a call to the readers of Statistically Speaking, asking for your help. We would all like to keep this blog going full time, and it will be a difficult task to do once Matt undoubtedly wins BP Idol. So if you are interested in writing for StatSpeak, send me an email at dcn29@cornell.edu. Don’t post your interest in the comments section, because I have no way of contacting you if you do so. This isn’t a formal application or anything like that, and there aren’t any qualifications you must have, except for a passion for baseball. Also, as you can probably tell, the schedule here is pretty flexible, so don’t let that be a concern.

All you have to do is tell me your name and that you’re interested, but feel free to point me to any of the work you’ve done in the past, or even write a sample post (neither of these things are required in your email). I’ll get back to each person as soon as I can with further instructions.

I’ve been working on a list of writers that I have found to be interesting, but I’m 100% sure that there are talented people out there that haven’t been exposed yet. If you want to write for a respected blog with a wide readership of intelligent baseball fans, this could be your chance.

Another straight, effective fastball

If you don’t know him already, you should try and learn a thing or two about Mark DiFelice. In a nutshell, he’s a reliever for the Brewers who, after a long career in various levels of the minor leagues, has been mowing down hitters with nothing but an 82-mph fastball. No knuckleball or gyroball or anything like that, just batting practice fastballs that make guys like Hanley Ramirez look foolish.

In a post at FanGraphs, Dave Cameron presents this pitch f/x graph from one of DiFelice’s games:

difelice.jpg
Gameday classifies those pitches as sliders and changeups because, well, major league pitchers just don’t throw nothing but fastballs at 82 miles per hour and get away with it. DiFelice isn’t just getting away with it, he’s been more than 2 linear weights (LW) runs above average per 100 pitches with it despite throwing it almost every single time. The average horizontal movement of that “thing” is between +1.4 and -2.9 inches, so it’s pretty straight. But part of what makes it effective is that, compared to the average major league fastball, it’s not straight at all. Major leaguers have fastballs that, on average, tail about 5 inches to the arm side. Don’t believe me that it’s a fastball, DiFelice says so himself in that Yahoo link above.

I’m not going to go further in analyzing DiFelice, because my pitch f/x abilities are severely limited in that regard, and Dave Cameron already did a good job of it. What I noticed today was that there is another mostly unknown pitcher who has a similarly puzzling fastball.

That pitcher is David Robertson, a reliever for the Yankees. Robertson was known in the Yankees system as a guy with a devastating curveball and an average fastball. Radar guns confirmed this in the major leagues, when people saw the 90-91 mph fastball and his big looping curve racking up the strikeouts. I checked out his player card today and was surprised to see that 80% of his pitches this season have been fastballs. Not only that, his fastballs are registering 1.47 LW runs above average per 100 pitches. That puts him in the same company as Jonathan Broxton. Take another look at that graph above for DiFelice, and then look at this graph for Robertson’s game on June 12th against the Mets:

8241_P_0_200906120_game.jpg
Ignoring the colors, look at the cluster of dots in the middle of the graph. Yes, I realize that DiFelice’s ball drops a lot more than Robertson’s, but the horizontal movement is almost exactly the same. Robertson’s fastball is more like a cutter than anything else, and that’s probably why it has been so effective at around 90 mph, despite throwing it 4 out of every 5 pitches.

Ask any Yankee fan how Robertson has been able to have a strikeout rate of over 13 per 9 innings this year and over 11 per 9 innings in his career, and he’ll probably tell you it’s because of that curveball. And it might be because of it–after all, that huge curve might be in the back of a hitter’s mind, causing him to miss the fastball. If you want to surprise him, tell him just how effective Robertson’s “just average” fastball has been, and you’ll end up looking real smart.

Warning: Low content post

I just read a post on FanGraphs entitled, “The Greatness Of Joe Mauer,” and the box on the right side of the page caught my attention. Here it is:

mauer dos.jpg

Heh.
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