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  • For Better or Worse: Scott Diamond

    Scott Diamond delivers for the Minnesota TwinsWill the Twins’ de facto ace retain his label as the club’s top starter or descend into mediocrity this year? Let us take a deeper look.

    2012 Recap
    Diamond gained little consideration for a big-league job in spring training after going 5-19 with a 5.44 ERA between Triple-A and the majors in his first year with the organization. So, he reported to Rochester and started his season on a tear, going 4-1 with a 2.60 ERA while flashing much improved control in his first six starts.

    That was plenty to earn him an invitation up north, where a bloodied staff was looking anywhere it could for bandages. The lefty was that and more, rattling off a 5-1 record and 1.61 ERA in his first seven starts. He continued to pitch well deep into August before a bit of a rocky finish.

    Diamond was bound to cool off, but the let-up didn't come in the form of a ghastly regression to the mean, as he still finished with very strong numbers. At the end of the year, Twins brass made it clear that Diamond was the only starter who had guaranteed himself a spot on the 2013 staff.

    In a season where just about everything that could possibly go wrong in the rotation did so, Diamond was a breath of fresh air. Contrasting sharply with most of his injured or fledgling counterparts, he rebounded from a brutal year to become a shockingly steady force.

    To say he was the rotation's rock would be an understatement; he threw 64 more innings than any other Twin despite spending his first month in Triple-A. It's a success story that the club will cling to as they hope to get lucky with several wild cards this year.

    Why He’ll Be Worse
    This is a pretty straightforward case for anyone with an understanding of statistical probabilities in baseball. Diamond held one of the lowest strikeout rates among all MLB starters, but was able to limit the damage on balls in play by inducing lots of grounders and handing out very few walks. His GB rate (53.4 percent) was among the top ten in the majors and his walk rate (1.6 BB/9) was the lowest in the American League.

    Diamond has posted strong grounder rates throughout his career but it's tough to be elite in that category from year to year, especially as hitters make their adjustments. His phenomenal walk rate was out of character with previous norms; in fact, his mediocre control in the Braves organization is probably a big reason they were willing to part with him.

    To turn around and become one of the most prolific strike-throwers in the majors is either a remarkable triumph of dedication and coaching, a fluke, or both. Any regression in walk rate or BABIP will decrease his margin for error, at which point an inopportune extra-base hit here and there can dramatically change his results.

    It's the nature of a pitch-to-contact hurler relying on control and grounders. As a relevant example, think of how volatile Carlos Silva was from year to year.

    Why He’ll Be Better
    Let’s be honest: there’s almost no chance Diamond will be better than he was last year. While everything was going wrong for everyone else in the rotation, everything was going right for him and the odds that he’ll be able to match his core statistical marks from 2012 are extremely low.

    What fans and coaches are hoping is that Diamond can maintain, or regress modestly, and remain a quality mid-rotation starter while logging 200 innings. As long as his BABIP doesn’t skyrocket and he can keep the BB/9 mark down, that’s a perfectly realistic goal. The ground balls are more than likely going to be there, as he has demonstrated throughout his career a keen ability to keep the ball down, which also prevents many from leaving the park.

    Conclusion
    There's a conception that stat-driven analysis is overly focused on strikeouts, and fails to give much consideration to any other aspect of pitching performance. But Diamond's 2012 season was the perfect example of the things a stat-head would look for in a guy that doesn't rack up a lot of whiffs.

    He pelted the lower regions of the strike zone, resulting in weaker contact and few free passes. This approach also yielded extremely low pitch counts (he never totaled more than 104 in a start despite completing seven-plus innings 13 times), and you know how much the Twins appreciate that.

    Diamond's successful 2012 season was characterized by his ability to throw strikes, get ahead in counts and challenge hitters. Will the new season establish his strides in those departments as trend or mirage? That's the question that could very well dictate whether he's an asset or a liability.
    This article was originally published in blog: For Better or Worse: Scott Diamond started by Nick Nelson
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      My take is that because he doesn't have dominant stuff, as indicated in his SO rate, his ERA will inflate a bit this year. Most players with the same rate as Diamond have ERAs in the 4-4.5 range so that's where I think he'll be. Hopefully closer to 4 than 4.5,
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      the Twins’ de facto ace
      Despite the fact that he is the only person of the 2012 rotation who is pretty much guaranteed a position in the 2013 rotation, this does not make him a "de facto ace".

      Based on who the Twins signed so far, I'd put Harden, Pelfrey and Worley ahead of Diamond at this point...
      So, the de charta ace is Harden who has about as many question marks as Diamond on returning to form following surgery...

      We shall find who the de facto ace is after Spring Training. Heck, Gibson might be it, seems healthier than the bunch these days...
    1. glunn's Avatar
      glunn -
      I am hopeful that Diamond might still improve. His control last year was excellent, and if he can continue to deliver the ball to the low corners of the strike zone, then he might be able to channel Greg Maddux.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Based on who the Twins signed so far, I'd put Harden, Pelfrey and Worley ahead of Diamond at this point...
      So, the de charta ace is Harden who has about as many question marks as Diamond on returning to form following surgery
      This is completely and utterly ridiculous.
    1. jimbo92107's Avatar
      jimbo92107 -
      What I saw from Scott Diamond last season was a lefty whose pitching motion was highly deceptive. Every delivery looked the same, yet he managed to change speeds, locate up, down, left, right, and also to control the depth of the pitch. He didn't blow people away with power, but he routinely kept hitters off balance, inducing just the kind of bad contact Twins coaches want.

      Whether or not Diamond can build on last year's promise may well depend as much on the skill of his defense as on his own skills as a pitcher. He kept it off the sweet spot, but somebody still has to catch the ball.
    1. FrodaddyG's Avatar
      FrodaddyG -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      This is completely and utterly ridiculous.
      You're overly surprised, given the source?
    1. Miraclemat's Avatar
      Miraclemat -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      This is completely and utterly ridiculous.
      that guy needs to stick to his dog walking job
    1. 70charger's Avatar
      70charger -
      Diamond is probably due for a statistical regression, but count me among those who don't see any reason to think he'll blow up. I think eating 200 innings at a 4.00 clip is a nice expectation, and if he falls a bit short (say, 175 innings and 4.50), that's still a useful thing to have in most rotations in the majors, and especially the Twins'.

      Diamond has nice mechanics that seem to make him less of a candidate for injury, and if he can keep hitters off balance by disguising his pitches well, there's no reason to think he can't be an effective control pitcher.

      No, I don't think he repeats his out-of-his-mind first half performance of last year, but I think he'll be quite effective, actually.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      The outfield defense leads me to believe he will be worse, as less fly balls are turned into outs.
    1. Willihammer's Avatar
      Willihammer -
      As long as he doesn't get the yips I think he'll be fine. Another sub 5% walk rate is key.
    1. fairweather's Avatar
      fairweather -
      From what I've seen Diamond is the exception that proves the rule. Meaning that I understand all too well the statistical probability that Diamond will regress, but what I see is a guy who really understands the subtleties of pitching and I look for Diamond to be MN version of Mark Buehrle. Of course he could have a higher ERA but I think he will be a perennial 13+ game winner. Time will tell.
    1. Badsmerf's Avatar
      Badsmerf -
      Twins got lucky with Diamond. I think he'll be a solid guy in the rotation for a long time. He will never be spectacular because he doesn't miss enough bats and will perform better with a better defense behind him. I think everyone knows his success depends on not walking guys and limiting HR's.
    1. roger's Avatar
      roger -
      I read last year that the reason for his improvement in 2012 was the work he did during the offseason, 2011/2012. In addition to doing the normal physical work a pitcher will do, he watch a ton of film and studied his game. That enabled him to learn what he needed to do differently to become an effective major league starter. And he did. If he dedicates himself to a similar program this offseason, I see no reason why he cannot be as good in 2013 as he was in 2012 and maybe, even a bit better.
    1. mcrow's Avatar
      mcrow -
      Diamond definitely can be a solid middle of the rotation pitcher but given what we've seen so far it would be hard to imagine he can be a true ace or even a good #2. I think he can be a very good #3 though. Of course, in a typical Twins rotation that's a #1 or #2 starter.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I'm farily bearish on Diamond repeating his season. Those type of pitchers walk a fine line. He might be able to do it for a season or two, but the league will catch up, just ask Blackburn. I do think that he has one big thing going for him in that he's a lefty... Mark Buerhle is the guy I hope he can pitch like, but I really wonder if Buerhle would have been nearly as successfull had he been right handed.
    1. Nick Nelson's Avatar
      Nick Nelson -
      Quote Originally Posted by roger View Post
      I read last year that the reason for his improvement in 2012 was the work he did during the offseason, 2011/2012. In addition to doing the normal physical work a pitcher will do, he watch a ton of film and studied his game. That enabled him to learn what he needed to do differently to become an effective major league starter. And he did. If he dedicates himself to a similar program this offseason, I see no reason why he cannot be as good in 2013 as he was in 2012 and maybe, even a bit better.
      I’d be curious to know what changes he made in order to improve his command and cut down the walks. It is one thing to study game film and decide you need to throw more strikes (I’m sure many pitchers reach this conclusion) but it’s another thing entirely to execute it as well as he did. Has any reporter gone in-depth with him on this subject?
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Quote Originally Posted by mike wants wins View Post
      The outfield defense leads me to believe he will be worse, as less fly balls are turned into outs.
      Struggling outfield defenses don't turn fly balls into hits. They allow more line drives to be hits than they should. Fly balls turn into home runs in certain parks, but that's it. Only 21% of Diamond's batted balls were 'line drives' last year. One interesting tidbit was 14% of the batted balls against Diamond last year were bunted. That will probably go down, so it could see an increase in line drives from there, but more likely, the other percentages will stay the same, with a slight tendency for ground balls to go up. Edit- but not really, since bunts are considered ground balls.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I think the point was clear, but maybe not. A question..... Are you suggesting replacing Revere with Parmalee will not result in more outfield hits?
    1. LoganJones's Avatar
      LoganJones -
      Of the 38 'fly ball' hits Diamond surrendered, 31 of them were XBH, 16 Homers and 4 Triples. Fair to guess they were mostly well hit balls that caught fence or one hopped into the stands. I assume some of the 'bloopers' (fair to call flyball singles likely bloopers and some of the doubles as well) could have been cut down by better outfield play, but how many? How many of the Scott Diamond line drives did Ben Revere turn into outs last year that a lesser (Parm) right fielder wouldn't have? It would be interesting to check. You'd have to go through all the plays when Diamond was pitching.

      You obviously can't compare their sample sizes, since Ben logged 708 Innings (roughly half of the total innings last year) in RF to Parm's 132. That being said, Parm converted 21 of 22 balls in zone and 5 out of it. Ben had 128 BIZ and converted 122. He also snagged 50(!) out of zone balls. That would be where the difference lies, I suppose. It's fair to say that RF will not be as well protected as it was, but how much worse will it really be? Parm has proven in limited duty to be able to cover the balls hit his way and even get to some out of his reach.

      Also worth considering that out of 714 plate appearances, 103 resulted in balls headed to RF. 48 pulled by LHB, 53 RHB oppos. A much greated number headed toward LF and up the middle, where things are going to be the same (LF) or potentially better (CF - Let's go Hicks) as last year.

      Blah blah: Diamond's success rests mostly on his own ability to stay ahead of the hitters, not the OF.
    1. ashburyjohn's Avatar
      ashburyjohn -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      Despite the fact that he is the only person of the 2012 rotation who is pretty much guaranteed a position in the 2013 rotation, this does not make him a "de facto ace".

      Based on who the Twins signed so far, I'd put Harden, Pelfrey and Worley ahead of Diamond at this point...
      I halfway agree: Diamond is not a de facto ace, because there is no such thing. Someone will by definition start the first game of the season; if the team is so lucky as to reach the playoffs then someone will start Game One - doesn't make him an ace. Some teams just lack one, pure and simple. Abe Lincoln's old chestnut about not calling a dog's tail a leg applies here.

      As for the actual topic, I had been penciling Diamond in for a much higher ERA, but I re-reviewed his career numbers, and I think I'm going to go out on a limb and say "better", not "worse". He's pretty close to his ceiling, so it will be splitting hairs to call him better if he achieves 32 starts instead of 27 with the same general results per game, but I'm going with that.

      I have forgotten the answer to why the Braves didn't protect him from the rule-5 draft, or the legalities of why he was exposed to that draft after only 3 years of pro ball. I know the Braves had a deep system, but why even sign an undrafted college player if you're not going to see things through in the event he actually succeeds, to the point of pretty good success in a short stint at the AAA level in his age-23 season? If you don't have roster room to protect promising youngsters, seems like the time to package up some prospects in a blockbuster trade for a star.
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