Charting Felix article

Dave · May 29, 2006 at 5:58 am · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve got an article up at the Hardball Times summarizing the data from the four games I’ve charted into the Felix Database to date. If you’ve read the other posts, you’ll recognize the conclusions, but there are a few bits of interesting data that are in there that I hadn’t seen before culling all this stuff together.

The thing that jumps out is just how poor the pitch selection has been in the first 15 pitches of each ballgame. Of the 58 pitches I’ve charted to start the game, 48 have been fastballs against just 5 curves and 5 change-ups. 83% of his pitches to start the game are fastballs. Opposing hitters are hitting .542/.633/.708 off Felix on the first 15 pitches of the game this year.

Seriously, the M’s have to realize that the scouting report going around the majors tells hitters to go up looking for nothing but fastballs in the first inning. That’s exactly what they’re doing, and they’re lighting him up. After the first 15 pitches, he actually starts mixing his pitches, and he pitches just fine. It’s those first 15 pitches that are killing him.

Screw establishing the fastball. Establish outs instead.


43 Responses to “Charting Felix article”

  1. kenshin on May 29th, 2006 8:16 am

    man….that .858 correlation is incredible. I refuse to believe that the M’s will continue to insist upon a clearly unsuccessful strategy.

  2. DMZ on May 29th, 2006 8:26 am

    This would seem like a great argument that Johjima is not at fault: the first time through the lineup the pitch selection and especially the first few hitters are essentially set in advance based on the manager/pitching coach’s ideas along with the advance scouting report.

    While I don’t have numbers on when Johjima’s looking to the dugout for pitch calls, it certainly seems that the farther he gets away from the Hargrove Plan for the Establishment of Fastballs, the better Felix does.

  3. davepaisley on May 29th, 2006 8:45 am

    So when do we bust out the pitchforks and torches?

  4. Matthew Carruth on May 29th, 2006 9:22 am

    8 weeks ago?

  5. Jim Thomsen on May 29th, 2006 10:13 am

    So Felix succeeds when he and his catcher defy/ignore their manager? Wow. This is like something out of “Bull Durham:”

    “You want to announce your presence with authority? This guy’s a first-ball fastball hitter!”

    Back at plate:

    “Charley, here comes the deuce. And when you speak of me, speak well.”

  6. Jim Thomsen on May 29th, 2006 10:28 am

    Well, the next start will be instructive. If the same patterns holds, with the same results, then Rafael Chaves ought to be sent packing along with Hargrove. Nobody can defend themselves by just saying they’re “following orders” when the orders are clearly and objectively stupid.

    Dave, this is a great piece of research. Hopefully your conclusions will take root throughout the analyst community and filter through to the mainstream sportswriting community. That would not only end the ridiculous “send Felix back to the minors to get straightened out” talk, but also end the harmful speculation that Johjima’s pitch-calling is causing Felix to fail.

    So far, the Seattle sportswriting media still seems willing to go along with Hargrove’s deflection of blame away from himself, however.

  7. papelbon 4 mvp on May 29th, 2006 10:35 am


  8. papelbon 4 mvp on May 29th, 2006 10:45 am


  9. Matthew Carruth on May 29th, 2006 10:46 am

    Did I miss all the games we played against KC?

    I am constantly amazed at the righteous dismissal of facts that occurs all over baseball.

  10. papelbon 4 mvp on May 29th, 2006 10:47 am


  11. Matthew Carruth on May 29th, 2006 10:47 am

    [response to troll]

  12. msb on May 29th, 2006 10:49 am

    or find a thread that is about Putz, and not Hernandez….

    With Chaves as a first year pitching coach, how much input does he have on setting the pitch calling in the first inning vs Hargrove & Hassey and ‘the way they have always done it’?

  13. JMHawkins on May 29th, 2006 11:30 am

    Y’know, this really fits with the nagging thought that’s been brewing in my head. The M’s have underperformed badly this year (and they didn’t exactly exceed expectations last year either). It’s not just a talent question – it’s a lack of achievement for a given talent level. Guys who should be great (Ichiro, Felix) are merely good and guys who should be good (Beltre, Sexson ) stink. Some players are doing better then expected, but on balance, it’s underachiever city around here.

    Now, why could that be? There are a lot of mental mistakes going on. Terrible (and predictable) pitch selection is a mental mistake. Stupid baserunning is a mental mistake. Lopez bunting? Reed platooning? Hargrove managing?

    All mental mistakes, and all fixable problems, in my opinion.

  14. John in L.A. on May 29th, 2006 11:34 am

    The predictability is at insane levels. The same predictability that we seem other teams pounce on when they KNOW we are going to bunt or KNOW we are going to double steal or KNOW our runner is going to try to turn a single into a double shows up on Felix’s pitch selection.

    That’s why I have a hard time blaming Johjima. It smells exactly the same as every other strategic decision this club makes… Occam’s Razor would not point to our new, highly respected catcher as the cause.

  15. joealb on May 29th, 2006 11:41 am

    Great piece of work Dave, you guys keep amazing me. I’d really like to see the pitch charts on Felix from last year’s 12 MLB starts. I don’t think he threw nearly that high of a percantage of fastball in the 1st 15 pitches of a game. So why would Hargrove and /or Chaves mess around with what was working last year…

  16. billT on May 29th, 2006 12:29 pm

    I remember Felix throwing a lot of fastballs last year – only they had a ton of movement and he had pinpoint control with them.

  17. joser on May 29th, 2006 12:37 pm

    I caught the late local news last night and on KING5 at least the sportscaster specifically called out Hargrove on having Lopez bunt. But then he also called out Ichiro on not advancing to third on Ibanez’ hit to right center. But they replayed that and it was a snowcone catch — inches from not being caught at all. In which case Ichiro with a bit of a lead could have made it home — I think Ichiro could be blamed, or praised, no matter what he did on that play.

    The consistently bad pitch calling is probably too sublte to come up on TV, but certainly a writer (if any of the local newspapers actually employed one) could make the case to wider fan base. Thanks Dave for doing the hard work they can draw upon, if they ever come back from their four martini lunches long enough to write one.

  18. taro on May 29th, 2006 1:19 pm

    The M’s have to be one the worst organization in baseball at advanced scouting. They always seem like the last team to pick up tells and signs from the other team. They are horrible when facing a new pitcher and are consistently underwhelming with their gameplan. The advanced scouting as a whole has really bited them in the ass in the playoffs.

    But THIS is whole different monster… THIS would be an example of incompetence. The whole league sitting fastball and the Mariners are the only team that havn’t figured it out? The entire fan base has picked up on it now and the professionals getting paid to do it haven’t figured it out yet? Just unbelievable.. It is just more evidence that the advanced scouting is highly suspect.

  19. taro on May 29th, 2006 1:38 pm

    I’ve always thought of the M’s as a reasonable group, a dim group maybe, but a reasonable one. But this.. The entire league has a scouting report on Felix from DAY ONE that the M’s still haven’t picked up on. Theres nothing “reasonable” about that. The FO needs to shake up the advanced scouting.

  20. DMZ on May 29th, 2006 1:44 pm

    Advance scounts go out and watch teams the M’s are going to face. They generally aren’t paying attention to what goes on with the team they’re scouting for, so I’m not sure how the advance scouts are supposed to notice that teams have Felix figured out when they’re watching those teams play non-Mariner teams.

  21. JMHawkins on May 29th, 2006 1:54 pm

    Wasn’t someone speculating earlier in the year that Felix might be tipping his pitches? Who woulda thought that was true, only it was Hargrove doing the tipping?

  22. taro on May 29th, 2006 2:37 pm

    “Advance scounts go out and watch teams the M’s are going to face. They generally aren’t paying attention to what goes on with the team they’re scouting for, so I’m not sure how the advance scouts are supposed to notice that teams have Felix figured out when they’re watching those teams play non-Mariner teams. ”

    They have guys that scout the home team – aren’t they also called advance scouts? Whatever the terminology somebody isn’t doing their job.

  23. Mr. Egaas on May 29th, 2006 2:38 pm

    Pretty easy to tip your pitches when opposing scouts can tell that the fastball is his most hittable pitch and he throws it early and often.

    It might not be mechanical tipping, but it’s all the same.

  24. Jim Thomsen on May 29th, 2006 2:48 pm

    Given Felix’s girth, you might call it “cow tipping.”

  25. Mr. Egaas on May 29th, 2006 2:50 pm

    Mariners needs to hire Dave Cameron as consultant/advisor/common sense decision maker.

  26. Dave on May 29th, 2006 2:51 pm

    Why pay me? They could just read the blog for free.

  27. taro on May 29th, 2006 2:54 pm

    Theres a handful of guys on the net the Mariners need to hire as consultants.

    Is there any other fanbase thats as knowledgable about the game as some hardcore M’s fans? I’d really like to know.

  28. Jim Thomsen on May 29th, 2006 2:55 pm

    Yeah, but they don’t. Or won’t. Or, perhaps … can’t.

  29. Mat on May 29th, 2006 2:57 pm

    Why pay me? They could just read the blog for free.

    Presumably if they hired you, you would have all kinds of really fun data at your disposal to come up with even better analysis. Reading the blog and taking some of the advice would sure be a good first step, though.

  30. Sphexi on May 29th, 2006 3:22 pm

    Fortunate for Dave if they hired him…but likely unfortunate for us. I expect the M’s wouldn’t appreciate Dave sharing his “fun data” and “better analysis” with good readers at USSM 🙁

  31. Mat on May 29th, 2006 3:27 pm

    Fortunate for Dave if they hired him…but likely unfortunate for us.

    Aha, but would you make the trade if it meant that the M’s would be a better team because they were listening to Dave?

  32. jpwood on May 29th, 2006 3:50 pm


    Yeah, whoever and his friend can read this for free. I’m not the only one though who is sure that if paid you could show more than the tip of the iceberg on this and other questions. Tip of the iceberg only because the analysis still involves very few charted games (which you very honestly signalled up front).

    Derek said about 10 days ago, after another damning salvo of figures, something similar to “the FO works with much better metrics than we do”. Well they should, they’re paid full time. So are the journalists.

    Still, nothing has happened to Felix’s pitch selection, none of the local writers has even touched on this and the onus is on Jojima.

    Stop being so modest. Your HBT column was and is (a work in progress) a piece, in the best sense. It’s worth full time. Be honest.

    I know this is a technicolor age, but the OPS figures you derived are 3-D even in black and white. So is your perspicacity.

  33. Sphexi on May 29th, 2006 5:02 pm

    aha , but would you make the trade if it meant that the M’s would be a better team because they were listening to Dave?”

    You are right, I would if it made the M’s better. Even better, fire Hargrove, make Rohn the new manager, and hire Dave as the new “executive” coach.

  34. Dave on May 29th, 2006 5:13 pm

    Theres a handful of guys on the net the Mariners need to hire as consultants.

    I disagree, honestly. The M’s already have Mat Olkin on payroll, and he’s a smart guy. Having more guys like Mat sitting around offering opinions isn’t going to change anything.

    The M’s have access to this information – nothing I wrote in the pitch charting series should be news to Rafael Chaves or any of the members of the coaching staff. They have guys charting every pitch at every game, and they don’t have to do it off mlb.TV broadcasts – their data is going to be more reliable and easier to process.

    The key is not hiring people like me who can process the data. The key is hiring people like Chris Antonetti (current Indians asst. GM) who have enough credibility in the established circles of major league baseball who understand these principles and have the credibility to affect change.

    The Cardinals hired a panel of sabermetric experts a couple of years ago, including Ron Shandler, Mitchel Licthman, Deric McKamey, and a few others. Jeff Luhnow got the organization to bring them in as advisors to give advice on all kinds of things – not much got done, though, because the club is managed by Tony LaRussa and Dave Duncan and Walt Jocketty – all smart guys in their own right who have no real desire to listen to average joes offer up opinions. Shandler eventually got frustrated and left the organization.

    Mike Hargrove’s not going to listen to me, Derek, Jeff Sullivan, Jason Churchill, any of us. No major league manager is. We’re actually in the minority, considering our GM not only acknowledges our presence but actually agrees to talk to us.

    The organization doesn’t need more cooks in the kitchen. What they could really use is a head chef who has spent years working the line, is respected by the wait staff and his underlings, and also has the ability to implement some changes to organizational philosophy.

    Hiring me, or anyone like me, would be a waste of money for the club. They’d be better off using it to sign another Dominican infielder. Bringing a guy like Antonetti into the organization, though, that could be huge.

  35. tangotiger on May 29th, 2006 6:19 pm

    Dave, I love this work that you are doing, and I hope you keep it up. Even doing it for a second pitcher as a way to compare might be interesting.

  36. taro on May 29th, 2006 10:12 pm


    Please delete posts 18, 19, and 22. I had to vent at the time, but its not adding anything to the discussion.

  37. DMZ on May 29th, 2006 10:25 pm

    We don’t do requests. See comment guidelines.

  38. Adam S on May 29th, 2006 10:33 pm

    The organiztion would almost certainly benefit from having some great baseball minds adding their knowledge to the organization.

    You’re last two paragraphs contradict this and make/explain Dave’s point. The Mariners COULD benefit by having Dave et al on the payroll. But if they don’t listen to him and value his input and change their philosophies, what’s the point?

    To a specific point, having Olkin on the payroll is smart, but when they don’t ask him what Carl Everett is worth or he says Everett is worth about $1M and they spend $4M anyway, Olkin isn’t adding value.

  39. BelaXadux on May 30th, 2006 12:43 am

    I’ve never blamed Johjima for Felix’s problems; exactly the same pitching plan has been in effect when Rivera has been behind the plate for Hernandez. And I wouldn’t call it ‘Hargrove’s Plan,’ either, or necessarily Chaves. Both of them may believe in it, but to me this is an _organization_ plan, and has as much to do with how they want to develop Felix over his first 1-3 years in the Bigs as about what they want him to do in a given game.

    . . . And that’s the problems. The ‘brain trust’ is so fixed on their grand strategy that they’re unmoved by the tactical disasters they’re inflicting on their best pitching prospect in years. This isn’t about teaching Felix ‘to pitch;’ it smells of FO egos to me, about being the ones to ‘groom a Cy Young type,’ rather than thinking about how to get outs each day Felix is out there. If the Big Guy was throwing the nasty 97 mph two-seamer down in the zone we saw last year, it would be thick-headed but passable plan, and Felix may well throw like that again later in the year. Two months into the season, his location and sink on the fastball isn’t at that level, and he can’t succeed just heaving it at the zone, especially when every team he faces clearly knows its coming, since we know and those teams have better data than Dave’s been able to cumulate.

    This is just soooo ‘Seattle Mariners’ to me. Oh, and don’t expect them to be changing that pitching plan until sometime after the Break. This organization has become big on ‘having the kids do it OUR way,’ as one can see with their treatment of Lopez over the last year, for example. He’s best when he’s doing it his way, but the team is convinced they know better, so . . . .

  40. tangotiger on May 30th, 2006 7:44 am

    MGL was asked this in a recent online chat:

    “How would you characterize the Cardinals’ organization’s ability/willingness to adopt to sabermetric thinking.”

    And he replied with:

    “Touchy subject! To be purposely terse, at the managerial and coaching big league level (LaRussa and staff), very little. At the GM level (Walt and Mo), a little. At other levels in the front office, a lot. At the level of the principal owner, although he does not meddle too much in the day to day affairs of the team, AFAIK, a lot. At other levels in the organization and with other front office personnal, a little to a lot. “

  41. Dave on May 30th, 2006 8:29 am

    If you were to categorize the M’s in a similar manner, I’d say it would be something like this:

    Managerial level – none
    GM level – some
    Other levels of front office – not much
    Ownership – none

    If you put Bavasi in Boston or Cleveland, where he was surrounded by a culture of analysis and people who were continually pushing new ideas, I think the perception of him would be quite a bit different. But you put him in an organization with owners who are praying that they hire the next Pat Gillick, front office guys who are baseball lifers, and a coaching staff that is dyed-in-the-wool old school, and there’s not going to be much room for trying new things.

  42. plivengood on May 30th, 2006 9:27 am

    41, Dave: This begs the question, what was Bavasi’s role/input in hiring the manager and coaching staff, how much freedom will he be allowed to re-make it into something he can work better with, and to what extent will other levels of the FO change or adapt to more sabermetric-based thinking?

    Say what you will about the M’s FO and their general unfriendliness to sabermetric thinking, but they’ve all come from successful backgrounds. At some point, no matter what business you are in, when you fail as thoroughly and consistently as the Mariners have over the last 2+ seasons, you have to be willing to try something new.

  43. gwangung on May 30th, 2006 10:00 am

    The problem is that the FO won’t look at the past 2 1/2 years, but will look at the 1990s as well, when they DID have success. They’ll think it’s just a matter of implementation with the right people.

    Of course, their philosophy (no one person is bigger that the organization) pretty much selects AGAINST getting the right person, but it seems to me that they don’t realize that–what works in the business world doesn’t work the same in the baseball world, where individuals AREN’T interchangeable and it’s very hard to find and hire comparable individuals.

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