Pitch F/x: Chris Tillman's Debut

Orioles prospect Chris Tillman made his debut last night, so let’s take a look at how he did. First, his line from his outing:


Baltimore IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Tillman 4.2 7 3 3 1 2 3 5.79

Now, let’s go to the Pitch F/x, in all its glory. Click on image to enlarge.
tillman_flight_7-29-09.png
Fastball - 60 at 93.35 MPH
Changeup - 18 at 81.07
Curveball - 15 at 79.38
Now, he has some good movement on his curveball, and his changeup is ok. His fastball is a little straight for my liking, but he may be able to get away with it if he continues throwing it at 93 MPH.
Expect to see plenty more from Tillman this year, as he seems to be up in the bigs for good. He’s already proved himself in the minors (posted a FIP of 2.95 in AAA this year), so the majors are his next task.

Pitch F/x: Chris Tillman’s Debut

Orioles prospect Chris Tillman made his debut last night, so let’s take a look at how he did. First, his line from his outing:


Baltimore IP H R ER BB SO HR ERA
Tillman 4.2 7 3 3 1 2 3 5.79

Now, let’s go to the Pitch F/x, in all its glory. Click on image to enlarge.
tillman_flight_7-29-09.png
Fastball - 60 at 93.35 MPH
Changeup - 18 at 81.07
Curveball - 15 at 79.38
Now, he has some good movement on his curveball, and his changeup is ok. His fastball is a little straight for my liking, but he may be able to get away with it if he continues throwing it at 93 MPH.
Expect to see plenty more from Tillman this year, as he seems to be up in the bigs for good. He’s already proved himself in the minors (posted a FIP of 2.95 in AAA this year), so the majors are his next task.

Where'd Ya Go?

For months, the baseball community has been trying to figure out what happened to Ian Kinsler. Just like Texas, everything about this guy’s season has been BIG. Big expectations, big home runs, big highs… and even bigger slumps. 

Heading into 2009, Kinsler’s young career had been filled with three brilliant, injury-riddled seasons. The 2008 season was his best yet, as he posted a .319/.375/.517 slash line, with a (great) 12.9 K%, 9.2 HR/FB %, and a .339 BABIP. Not bad for a second baseman, especially considering Dustin Pedroia took home some serious hardware in a season short on MVP candidates with a .326/.376/.493 line. 

Kinsler followed up ’08 in stellar fashion, with a .322/.384/.656 run at the dish in April, including 7 HRs in 90 ABs. Then, things slowed down a bit in an unseasonably cold .243 BA/.812 OPS May, and .245/.773 June, before completely fallling off the cliff in July, when he posted a .159/.207/.341 line.

So what happened?

One of the more popular theories out there is that Kinsler is the victim of some terrible, unforgivable luck. I can personally testify that this has been a part, as I played witness to Kinsler’s June 7th performance against Boston. Here, he went 1 for 5, despite ripping four line drives; one which landed in the glove of Jacoby Ellsbury in deep center field, and probably also landed in the top 3 of ESPN’s Top 10 plays of the week. There is more to this poor luck theory than just one game, however, as Kinsler is ripping his line drives, with a .837 BABIP, while barely making a dent with his ground balls (.144 BABIP) and fly balls (.074 BABIP). This screams of poor luck on balls in play, especially when his career ground ball BABIP is .226 and his fly ball BABIP is .109. While his 2009 line drive BABIP (.837) is up from his career line of .738, this has not been nearly enough to even out the rest of his line, leaving him with a .235 season BABIP. This brings me to my next point.

A few colleagues of mine have brought up the fact that Kinsler may be swinging for the fences too much this season, contributing to such a low BABIP. A few points: Kinsler’s power is way up this season, and I mean WAY up. His previous career high in HRs is 20 in 483 ABs in 2007. He already has 23 HR this season through 389 ABs. By all accounts, his triple slash lines should have been his best of the season in his poor months of May and June, when he struck out just 25 times in 217 ABs. As Dave Allen points out in one of the more interesting articles I’ve read in some time, adding uppercut to a swing can have some detrimental effects to a batter’s BABIP.

As per Allen, high-HR, high-K players tend to hit ground balls more poorly than low-HR, low-K players. Enter Kinsler, who has seemingly morphed into a different kind of hitter this season, having abandoned his balanced, line drive approach of the past to post a 55.1% FB rate this season, compared to a 46.6% in his career. When you combine the fact of how poorly Kinsler has hit ground balls this year (.144 BABIP), the picture gets a little clearer. Maybe Kinsler has gained a little uppercut on his swing this season. More home runs, fewer hits on ground balls. It sounds likely.

But before all the mail starts coming in, let it be known that Kinsler is not the same hitter as those outlined in Allen’s article. Kinsler has only struck out at a 15% clip this season, and has a HR/FB % of 12.8, not exactly an elite bomber. Still, the principle makes sense. Ground balls off of the bat of an uppercut swing will deflect harmlessly into the ground when compared to those of a level swing, which will be hit with more velocity; hence, Kinsler’s low BABIP on GBs. More fly balls are an indicator of an uppercut swing, hence Kinsler’s increased FB%.   

After reviewing all the evidence, Kinsler seems to be going through what many thought Jimmy Rollins was going through this season: abandoning a disciplined approach for a fly-ball oriented one. While Kinsler is showing that he can hit for some serious power, it has come at the expense of his batting average. But really, when everyone knows that chicks dig home runs, who can blame him?

From here on out, I would expect the triple slash stats to greatly improve and everyone will benefit from it, especially Kinsler’s agent. Before this happens, however, Kins will have to regain his eye at the plate. His July has been absolutely abominable, with 16 Ks against 2 BBs in 87 plate appearances. That is not Kinsler, and neither is the power hitter we saw in April. While I wouldn’t expect a B.J. Upton-esque spiral into oblivion, I wouldn’t expect him to pace 30 HRs the rest of the way either. Kinsler will be just fine, but it is going to take some serious time in the A/V room to regain his touch at the plate. Hopefully he can put it back together before Texas falls competely out of the race. The lineup cannot afford another Chris Davis imitator, especially at the top of the lineup. Then again, he just went 0-4 tonight against Detroit.

  

Thanks to Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com for their contributions to this article.

Mike Silver recently completed his requirements for the Sport Management Major at THE University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he is a brother of Theta Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity, the best house in the country. He is a huge Red Sox and Bruins fan, and longs for the days of the REAL Boston Garden, Cam Neely, and the ultimate Dirt Dog Trot Nixon. If you have any questions, you can reach him at mjasilver@gmail.com. Have a good night readers, and know that Mike hopes to hear from you soon. If you quote Mike in an article, please let him know. He’d love to hear it.

Where’d Ya Go?

For months, the baseball community has been trying to figure out what happened to Ian Kinsler. Just like Texas, everything about this guy’s season has been BIG. Big expectations, big home runs, big highs… and even bigger slumps. 

Heading into 2009, Kinsler’s young career had been filled with three brilliant, injury-riddled seasons. The 2008 season was his best yet, as he posted a .319/.375/.517 slash line, with a (great) 12.9 K%, 9.2 HR/FB %, and a .339 BABIP. Not bad for a second baseman, especially considering Dustin Pedroia took home some serious hardware in a season short on MVP candidates with a .326/.376/.493 line. 

Kinsler followed up ’08 in stellar fashion, with a .322/.384/.656 run at the dish in April, including 7 HRs in 90 ABs. Then, things slowed down a bit in an unseasonably cold .243 BA/.812 OPS May, and .245/.773 June, before completely fallling off the cliff in July, when he posted a .159/.207/.341 line.

So what happened?

One of the more popular theories out there is that Kinsler is the victim of some terrible, unforgivable luck. I can personally testify that this has been a part, as I played witness to Kinsler’s June 7th performance against Boston. Here, he went 1 for 5, despite ripping four line drives; one which landed in the glove of Jacoby Ellsbury in deep center field, and probably also landed in the top 3 of ESPN’s Top 10 plays of the week. There is more to this poor luck theory than just one game, however, as Kinsler is ripping his line drives, with a .837 BABIP, while barely making a dent with his ground balls (.144 BABIP) and fly balls (.074 BABIP). This screams of poor luck on balls in play, especially when his career ground ball BABIP is .226 and his fly ball BABIP is .109. While his 2009 line drive BABIP (.837) is up from his career line of .738, this has not been nearly enough to even out the rest of his line, leaving him with a .235 season BABIP. This brings me to my next point.

A few colleagues of mine have brought up the fact that Kinsler may be swinging for the fences too much this season, contributing to such a low BABIP. A few points: Kinsler’s power is way up this season, and I mean WAY up. His previous career high in HRs is 20 in 483 ABs in 2007. He already has 23 HR this season through 389 ABs. By all accounts, his triple slash lines should have been his best of the season in his poor months of May and June, when he struck out just 25 times in 217 ABs. As Dave Allen points out in one of the more interesting articles I’ve read in some time, adding uppercut to a swing can have some detrimental effects to a batter’s BABIP.

As per Allen, high-HR, high-K players tend to hit ground balls more poorly than low-HR, low-K players. Enter Kinsler, who has seemingly morphed into a different kind of hitter this season, having abandoned his balanced, line drive approach of the past to post a 55.1% FB rate this season, compared to a 46.6% in his career. When you combine the fact of how poorly Kinsler has hit ground balls this year (.144 BABIP), the picture gets a little clearer. Maybe Kinsler has gained a little uppercut on his swing this season. More home runs, fewer hits on ground balls. It sounds likely.

But before all the mail starts coming in, let it be known that Kinsler is not the same hitter as those outlined in Allen’s article. Kinsler has only struck out at a 15% clip this season, and has a HR/FB % of 12.8, not exactly an elite bomber. Still, the principle makes sense. Ground balls off of the bat of an uppercut swing will deflect harmlessly into the ground when compared to those of a level swing, which will be hit with more velocity; hence, Kinsler’s low BABIP on GBs. More fly balls are an indicator of an uppercut swing, hence Kinsler’s increased FB%.   

After reviewing all the evidence, Kinsler seems to be going through what many thought Jimmy Rollins was going through this season: abandoning a disciplined approach for a fly-ball oriented one. While Kinsler is showing that he can hit for some serious power, it has come at the expense of his batting average. But really, when everyone knows that chicks dig home runs, who can blame him?

From here on out, I would expect the triple slash stats to greatly improve and everyone will benefit from it, especially Kinsler’s agent. Before this happens, however, Kins will have to regain his eye at the plate. His July has been absolutely abominable, with 16 Ks against 2 BBs in 87 plate appearances. That is not Kinsler, and neither is the power hitter we saw in April. While I wouldn’t expect a B.J. Upton-esque spiral into oblivion, I wouldn’t expect him to pace 30 HRs the rest of the way either. Kinsler will be just fine, but it is going to take some serious time in the A/V room to regain his touch at the plate. Hopefully he can put it back together before Texas falls competely out of the race. The lineup cannot afford another Chris Davis imitator, especially at the top of the lineup. Then again, he just went 0-4 tonight against Detroit.

  

Thanks to Fangraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com for their contributions to this article.

Mike Silver recently completed his requirements for the Sport Management Major at THE University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he is a brother of Theta Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity, the best house in the country. He is a huge Red Sox and Bruins fan, and longs for the days of the REAL Boston Garden, Cam Neely, and the ultimate Dirt Dog Trot Nixon. If you have any questions, you can reach him at mjasilver@gmail.com. Have a good night readers, and know that Mike hopes to hear from you soon. If you quote Mike in an article, please let him know. He’d love to hear it.

Betancourt Set for a Rockie Second Half

The Colorado Rockies and Cleveland Indians swapped age for youth yesterday, as Cleveland shipped stalwart relief pitcher Rafael Betancourt to Colorado for minor league pitcher Connor Graham. The move looks good for both sides. The Rox added a reliever they desperately needed, while the Indians cashed in on the career of a great relief pitcher who has shown signs of slipping in his age-34 season. 

Betancourt has been one of the better relievers in baseball over the course of the last seven seasons, posting a career 3.28 FIP, 8.98 K/9, and an excellent 2.37 BB/9. This impeccable command was the cornerstone of his success while tenured in Cleveland, especially during 2007, when he posted a 2.22 FIP on the shoulders of an incredible 1.02 BB/9.

While this career line may be that of an excellent eighth inning set up man or closer, the Rockies are not receiving such a pitcher. This season, Betancourt’s walk rate has skyrocketed to 4.4 BB/9 (although this is aided by an uncharacteristically high 4 UIBB in 30.2 IP). While his ERA sits at 3.52, he is benefitting from an unsustainably low LD rate of 12.3 %. More importantly, however, is that Betancourt is among the most extreme fly ball pitchers in baseball, making him as unsuited for Coors Field as anyone in the league. With a 0.59 GB:FB ratio, expect Betancourt’s FIP to balloon from a respectable 3.70 to somewhere north of 4.00. While this is still a quality bullpen arm, it is certainly not the makings of an eighth inning reliever a team can lean on in close games. 

With all the relief pitching that gets traded right around the deadline, the Rockies should have acquired a better fit for their team than a fly ball machine. But, with the the kind of pitchers the Rockies were already rolling with, Betancourt will still be a substantial upgrade. 

 

Thanks to Fangraphs.com for their contributions to this article.

Mike Silver recently completed his requirements for the Sport Management Major at THE University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he is a brother of Theta Chapter of Theta Chi Fraternity, the best house in the country. He is a huge Red Sox and Bruins fan, and longs for the days of the REAL Boston Garden, Cam Neely, and the ultimate Dirt Dog Trot Nixon. If you have any questions, you can reach him at mjasilver@gmail.com. Have a good night readers, and know that Mike hopes to hear from you soon.

Pitch F/x: Clayton Mortensen

Earlier today, Matt Holliday was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for three prospects, one of which was pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Mortensen has actually pitched 3 innings in the bigs, so he has pitch f/x data to his name. Let’s take a look, and as always, click on the image to enlarge.

mortensen_move_6-29-09.png
Mort (I’m calling him Mort, deal with it) has a solid sinker with good sideways movement, and an inconsistent moving changeup. His slider is also highly inconsistent, and doesn’t move much anyway.
mortensen_loc_6-29-09.png
His location is his biggest issue, as the sinker stays up in the zone too often. He needs to pull it all together and become more consistent with his sinker and changeup location.
Resources
Thanks to Brooks Baseball for making the data really easy to find, and Harry Pav for tips on pitch types.

Throwing Strikes: How Important Is It?

The title is a little misleading, as throwing strikes is important. If you don’t throw strikes you can’t win, simple. But, how important are those few extra percentage of strikes you throw. 

I looked at multiple categories of numbers, and looks to see if there was a correlation with strike percentage. I only graphed the two extremes, and the one with the least correlation to keep this from getting out of hand. To the graph-mobile!
Click on graphs for larger view
strk_bb.png
That one should have been obvious, right? The more strikes you throw, the less you walk people. Next up:

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