Friday Links/Odds and Ends
1: I was going to do a mailbag sort of a thing, but I never solicited any questions, and the whole mailbag metaphor is anachronistic at the best of times, but it’s just silly on a blog. So I’m not going to do that. Instead, I’m going to talk about some of the M’s issues that you all have been debating in comments and elsewhere.
First up, tonight’s starting pitcher, Blake Beavan. Dave’s obviously not a big fan, but I think the M’s have themselves a reasonably effective back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher. He hasn’t missed a lot of bats, but he’s still evolving. That’s not to suggest that he’ll morph into a strikeout machine, but that he’ll give himself more margin for error as he matures. His velocity’s crept upwards this month, and while it’s a small sample, it makes sense given that pitchers velocity tends to be lowest in April. Second, and more important, he’s re-introduced a slider to give hitters something else to worry about.
Here’s a plot of his pitches movement in an April start:
Of interest is the small cluster of curves in the bottom right. One’s labeled a slider when it probably shouldn’t be,* but it doesn’t really matter. That cluster of pitches has similar movement and similar speed (you can see more charts from the game here).
Ok, here’s the same chart for Beavan’s last start against the Rockies:
There’s still a small cluster of actual curves that come in around 73-74 mph, just as they did before, but now there’s a cluster of actual sliders that don’t drop nearly as much as the curves. This isn’t surprising, as they’re thrown in the neighborhood of 80 mph. They’re two separate pitches. This is somewhat noteworthy, as Beavan hadn’t shown this until his start in Fenway. He’d broken out the slider against Detroit, but in that game he abandoned the curve. Throwing both may help him disrupt hitters’ timing, especially right handers. Notice above I said “RE-introduce” the slider. When he came up midway through 2011, he would occasionally throw the same slider. This isn’t a new pitch for Beavan; this isn’t something he needs to “master.”
I’m not attributing his success in the Colorado game to the new pitch, but he’s been, by some measures, a better pitcher this year than last. Matthew’s series preview mentions that Beavan’s generated more whiffs this year despite throwing more pitches in the zone – all while throwing with a bit more velocity. He’s been burned a bit by the home run, and that’s always going to be his problem, but he stands a decent chance of adding real value to the club.
2: The big controversy of the day surrounds the Orioles’ 6 year $~85 million contract extension for CF Adam Jones. The ex-Mariner’s enjoying a break-out 2012, putting up nearly 3 WAR already. In this case, I’m completely in agreement with our beneficent overlord: this is a good move by Baltimore. The Bedard trade was about 5 years and 1 GM ago, so it’s not really a surprise that I don’t think about it much anymore. Today, it stings again. I suppose it’s just the contrast between Jones’ great season (and lucrative day) and the positive stories after Franklin Gutierrez successfully ran a little bit an empty baseball field. Sigh.
3: One day after experimenting with Mike Carp at 1B and Alex Liddi in LF, the M’s have adjusted and today have Carp back in LF. As I mentioned in the comments, I’m all for versatility, but it absolutely neuters Liddi’s value (and I’m definitely in the camp that says Liddi actually HAS value) to play him there. This is less about his misadventures last night (although, seriously, look at this) than it is about the defensive spectrum.
Last season, Mike Carp came to the plate 313 times and put up a very respectable .341 wOBA. On the 2011 Mariners, that was astoundingly good offensive production. That half-season was worth 0.5 WAR, thanks in large part to the fact that Carp played LF (and wasn’t particularly good at it). Alex Liddi’s come to the plate just shy of 90 times this season, and has a decent/solid .328 wOBA. Because he’s played mostly 3B, he’s been worth… 0.5 WAR (it was at 0.6 before his forgettable game last night, which would’ve made this paragraph better). Despite fewer batting runs and despite weaker rate statistics, Liddi’s been every bit as valuable as Carp was last season. The numbers and even the specific players don’t matter – the point is that taking a 3B and putting him in a corner chops a full win off of his value. At some point, that may be necessary – to maximize defense, say. Liddi was moved to LF for no reason that I can divine; it sure as hell wasn’t about maximizing the team’s defense.
More later this weekend, I hope. If you’ve got burning questions (I think we’re going to touch on the two Tacoma Carloses), put ’em in the comments.
4: Max Marchi’s** got a great series of articles at BP on how pitchers’ velocity changes during a plate appearance and when runners are on base. Today’s post is free, so check it out. Many have suggested looking at how a pitcher’s movement changes when they work from the stretch/wind-up, so hopefully we’ll see that next. I checked Hector Noesi’s movement given his problems with men on, but didn’t see anything. Just as Max’s model suggests, Noesi’s velocity goes *up* with runners on. The stretch seems like it should reduce velocity, but pitchers are able to reach back for a bit more more when runners are on. In addition, they seem to throw a bit harder with two strikes.
*Brooks Baseball, which classifies the pitches by hand, has him with zero sliders in April.
** Not only does baseball have a 3B from Italy, but now we get Italian sabermetricians. Awesome.