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Lewis Thorpe Improving

Over the past year, Lewis Thorpe has exploded on the scene. An unknown commodity heading into the GCL last season, he was so dominant as a 17 year old that he has appeared on various preseason Twins’ top 10 prospect lists. He has made even more news this year, skipping the Appalachian league and going straight to A ball from extended spring training. However, the Midwest league has not been kind to Thorpe, who has posted a 5.40 ERA with a 31:15 k:bb ratio in 35 innings over 8 GS. Despite these struggles, Thorpe is showing sign of improvement.
Moving in the Right Direction
Thorpe improvement is easily noticed when looking at his monthly splits:
June: 4 GS 18 IP 6.50 ERA 1.67 WHIP 7:10 k:bb
July: 4 GS 17 IP 4.24 ERA 1.18 WHIP 24:5 k:bb

Although Thorpe's ERA has remained high, it is significantly lower than in the month of June. Furthermore, his WHIP has plummeted to a very respectable level. Most importantly, his k:bb has gone from and atrocious .7 to a stellar 4.8. In fact, his K rate 33.3% is higher than that of the league’s leader this season (29%) and his K/BB would be good for second in the league1.

A deeper way to examine Thorpe's improvement is to look at rolling 4 start stretches, which are rarely used when discussing baseball, but are commonly used in finance. The general idea is that this will allow us to get a more detailed look at how Thorpe has improved start to start (how much better was he in start 5 vs. start 1) while at the same time maintaining a larger sample size. In short, this will allow us to see how consistent--or inconsistent—Thorpe’s improvement has been.

1-4 6.50 1.67 8.3% 11.9% 0.7 0.840
2-5 4.00 1.50 17.3% 9.9% 1.8 0.756
3-6 4.50 1.39 22.5% 8.8% 2.6 0.776
4-7 4.50 1.17 27.3% 7.8% 3.5 0.647
5-8 4.24 1.12 33.3% 6.9% 4.8 0.676

Although his ERA has moved around a bit, his WHIP, K%, BB%-- and therefore K:BB ratio-- have decreased each period. Furthermore, his opponent's OPS has decreased each time with one exception. This kind of consistent improvement makes me confident that Thorpe is getting comfortable in A-ball and that his strong performance should continue the rest of the season. Furthermore, it proves that his strong month of July isn’t merely the result of one incredible performance.

Going Forward
I will be looking forward to Thorpe’s start tonight, to see if he can continue his run of success. Even if Thorpe is excellent for the rest of the season, I would argue that he should begin 2015 in Cedar Rapids. The reason? His youth. At 4 full years younger than the average pitcher in the league and 11 months younger than Kohl Stewart—the youngest pitcher to be qualified for the ERA title—Thorpe would probably be the youngest pitcher on an opening day roster in the Midwest league next year. In other words, there is no need to push him.

However, Thorpe's youth is so extreme that its impact stretches far beyond this usual argument. Thorpe appears to have been on a very strict pitch count: according to the Cedar Rapids Gazette, he is being limited to 75 pitches a night. Furthermore, if Berrios’s age 19 season in Cedar Rapids is any indication, Thorpe probably won't pitch more than 120 innings next year. Not only would it be nice for Thorpe to learn how to go deeper in games at an earlier level, but if he were to begin next year at Ft. Myers and move up one level per year, there's a good chance he would reach AAA never having thrown more than 150 innings in a season, nor consistently reached 100 pitches/GS. While that may not be a bad thing, it certainly isn't ideal for a pitcher just one step away from the MLB.

For now though, let’s hope that Thorpe continues to improve in 2014, in which case he could appear quite high on Top 100 lists, and would provide the Twins with another potential front of the rotation starter for years to come.

1. I would have liked to have compared this to the league leaders for July, but I couldn’t find that data.
2. Berrios, who did seem to wear out as the year went along, pitched just 103.2 innings

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Great article. Very encouraging way to look at the numbers. Excellent creativity to apply the concept of rolling periods here. It's funny how well finance and baseball pair sometimes, especially in regard to the valuation of assets

That's a good point... Thorpe has a chance, for sure. He's smart, and very coachable. And, he's got talent.

Analyzing pitchers in 4 game increments is an interesting approach.This seems to be a good way to get a better look at a pitchers improvement.

Jul 29 2014 11:45 AM
I think coaches can see improvement by working with the player in just a few starts. I strongly doubt that data in a small sample can be used as an indicator of change in skill level. There is no evidence that a small split has any meaning in predicting the next small split. I think you might be able to take splits around the size of 200 batters faced and compare the rate stats (K, BB, GB, FB).

I watched RA Dickey pitch for the Blue Jays last night; reminded me how many ways there are to get hitters out. They showed several of his pitches in super slow motion, and one thing I noticed was that he was making the ball rotate in various directions, not just rolling it over. He threw a strange sinker to Big Papi that broke straight down in the last five feet...it rotated left to right like a globe. He then threw another one that seemed to rise and fade right to another guy, slowly tumbling forward.


In another game I watched a Rays pitcher befuddle Twins hitters with a motion so herky jerky, it had three stops in it. Somehow the guy still managed to throw strikes, and it seemed our guys were helpless, no idea how to time it.


On top of that I have seen pitchers that can bend the ball exactly to the corners, or tilt a curve so that it's almost unhittable. I've seen so many ways to get guys out besides the obvious blazing fastball.


My question is, from this huge bag of tricks, how does Lewis Thorpe get guys out? Is he expanding his bag of tricks? Does he have something unusual to look for, like a funky leg kick? The kid sounds like a comer. What's he got that's so special?

I think coaches can see improvement by working with the player in just a few starts. I strongly doubt that data in a small sample can be used as an indicator of change in skill level. There is no evidence that a small split has any meaning in predicting the next small split. I think you might be able to take splits around the size of 200 batters faced and compare the rate stats (K, BB, GB, FB).

While I would have preferred to use a larger sample size, unfortunately this was all that was available.


Furthermore, in my opinion, this smaller sample size is meaningful in this case because I believe the change in Thorpe's numbers is more a result of becoming acclimated to A-ball (a large jump from the GCL) than it is an actual tangible improvement, such as improved control or more movement on breaking pitches.

Jul 29 2014 06:04 PM
He's struck out 5 in 2 innings so far tonight. Gave up a solo shot and his defense is doing him no favors thus far with 2 errors... Got think he's going to have trouble going 5 on that pitch count, but nice night so far.

10 k in 5 2/3 innings!

He was hard to hit tonight, as Shane said...10 K's in 5 2/3. Just keeps improving.


Rough start for JO though.

Posted this in a separate forum entry, but you can click the link below to see video I shot of Thorpe's 3rd inning last night. Bloop single (erased by caught stealing) and 2 of his Ks.


    • Tibs likes this
Aug 10 2014 06:53 AM
his last 4 have been another step in the right direction.
Aug 11 2014 10:37 AM

It's nice to see difficult adjustments being made successfully.  Very promising for this kid,

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