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#21 KGB

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 05:13 AM

 

In the case of how individuals fare season-to-season, maybe. Certainly there isn't enough data around to know how a player will perform year-over-year. 

 

The real value comes from the insanely large data set that has been studied and extensively and one of the amazing findings is that hits happen at a higher rate on batted balls that have an exit velocity of 90 MPH or greater and a launch angle between 10-30 degrees. In terms of development, if you know that one of your prospects is hitting more of those types of balls in play, you know that they are doing something right. It may be reflected in their batting average but that is not always the case. Conversely, if they are not hitting a high percentage of balls in that range, then you likely know there is something to work on. 

 

Again, I see the value as a common language of the front office. If you are discussing a player's performance in the minors and just say "he's hitting .280 the last 30 days for Fort Myers", that doesn't mean anything in regards to his actual performance. If you talk about his exit velocity/launch angles and how many optimal batted balls he has put into play (in additional to strikeout rates, walk rates, etc), for example, now you know have a better understanding of that performance. 

I agree it's something worth looking at, but saying we are replacing average with exit velocity is just another oversimplification. Jose Altuve is the league MVP with a below average exit velocity and launch angle.It move important to a player like Park and less to a player like Buxton.

 

This reminds me of the movement to have players take more pitches to increase walks.The results, an increase in strike outs and walks stayed about the same.You might have got starter out of the game earlier, but bullpens became more dominate.OBP was replaced by SLG percentage as the best indicator for runs. 

 

It will be interesting to look back at the Ray's results in a few years.


#22 Parker Hageman

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 09:12 AM

 

I agree it's something worth looking at, but saying we are replacing average with exit velocity is just another oversimplification. Jose Altuve is the league MVP with a below average exit velocity and launch angle.It move important to a player like Park and less to a player like Buxton.

 

This reminds me of the movement to have players take more pitches to increase walks.The results, an increase in strike outs and walks stayed about the same.You might have got starter out of the game earlier, but bullpens became more dominate.OBP was replaced by SLG percentage as the best indicator for runs. 

 

It will be interesting to look back at the Ray's results in a few years.

 

Altuve is at the MLB average in exit velo and slightly above the average in launch angle. It's not necessarily the averages that should be examined, but the amount of batted balls put into play in the optimal ranges. 

 

Second, I don't think you've proven that using batting average as a measurement for player development is somehow better than looking at exit velocity, launch angles, etc. The Rays are not ONLY using Trackman data for their player analysis but when it comes to that data versus batting average, Trackman's data is far superior. 

 

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#23 Parker Hageman

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 10:48 AM

Angles In The Outfield: The Shifting Trend Leaves The Infield

 

Readers may remember the foofra caused by the New York Mets who were irked by the Los Angeles Dodgers’ request to add paint to the outfield surface of Citi Field to help guide the Dodgers’ fielders into the right alignment. The analytics department for the Dodgers had gone a long way in developing a system to properly place their fielders and wanted to make sure they were in the right spot at the right time. The Mets however said, ah, no.

 

No matter, the Dodgers went ahead and gave their fielders defensive alignment cards to reference during the game, as you see Howie Kendrick do in this video clip:

 

 

While infield shifting is at the forefront with the extended camera time, outfield shifting has become the next frontier for the game. This ESPN article by Wallace Matthews details the game’s next big shift.

 

The Yankees, similar to the Dodgers, take an analytical approach when it comes to the placement of their players:

 

 

Those locations are determined by a proprietary computer program developed by the Yankees' analytic squad, headed by David Grabiner. It takes a multitude of factors -- among them the hitter's power, his tendency to pull or not pull the ball, and his career history against the Yankees' pitcher that night -- and spits out a spray chart which places the outfielder in the optimal position to make a play.

 

"We have analytical assessments that show specifically where guys hit the ball," a Yankees staffer told ESPN.com. "I mean, it shows us exactly where guys hit the ball just about every time. And it's hitter/pitcher specific, based on pitch velocity and location. Positioning is based on a lot of factors, including the speed of the defender."

 

 

Like the Dodgers’ guidance system which outfielders take out to the field with them, the Yankees keep their location finders in their hats and outfielders periodically take them off to ensure their feet are in the right spot calculated by the numbers crunchers upstairs.

 

The bigger question is, does it work?

 

 

The team's "out rate" -- the number of fly balls converted into outs by their outfielders -- has actually decreased since 2010, when they converted 69.2 percent -- a number that would put them second in the majors in 2016 -- according to ESPN Stats & Information.

 

But over the past five years, including the two seasons in which they have used their computer algorithm, the Yankees out rate has hovered at a decidedly middle-of-the-road 65 percent.

 

 

The Yankees, it was pointed out, have had an aging outfield that included Carlos Beltran. The other issue, as cited by the article, is pitchers missing their spots.

 
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#24 markos

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 12:37 PM

 

Altuve is at the MLB average in exit velo and slightly above the average in launch angle. It's not necessarily the averages that should be examined, but the amount of batted balls put into play in the optimal ranges. 

 

Second, I don't think you've proven that using batting average as a measurement for player development is somehow better than looking at exit velocity, launch angles, etc. The Rays are not ONLY using Trackman data for their player analysis but when it comes to that data versus batting average, Trackman's data is far superior. 

There has been some work by Glenn Healey (and I'm sure others) to develop a better model for assigning value for a hit based on the batted-ball characteristics. Here is an article from March that he presented at Saberseminar: http://www.hardballt...-a-batted-ball/. He calculated an expected wOBA based on exit-velocity, launch angle and horizontal angle. Using this model (or something similar) to grade contact will work better than simply using average velocity since the results don't follow a linear pattern - 50mph hit + 100mph hit != 2 75mph hits.

 

Using a model like this (built off of major league data) to grade minor league players has the added benefit that it allows you to grade a prospect by major league standards. For example, it could identify players that are taking advantage of minor league-specific conditions (poor, inconsistent defenders, smaller ballparks, worst grounds-keeping) that may inflate a player's stat-line.

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#25 Parker Hageman

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Posted 23 August 2016 - 01:13 PM

 

There has been some work by Glenn Healey (and I'm sure others) to develop a better model for assigning value for a hit based on the batted-ball characteristics. Here is an article from March that he presented at Saberseminar: http://www.hardballt...-a-batted-ball/. He calculated an expected wOBA based on exit-velocity, launch angle and horizontal angle. Using this model (or something similar) to grade contact will work better than simply using average velocity since the results don't follow a linear pattern - 50mph hit + 100mph hit != 2 75mph hits.

 

Using a model like this (built off of major league data) to grade minor league players has the added benefit that it allows you to grade a prospect by major league standards. For example, it could identify players that are taking advantage of minor league-specific conditions (poor, inconsistent defenders, smaller ballparks, worst grounds-keeping) that may inflate a player's stat-line.

 

Excellent stuff. I wish I paid more attention in math class.

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#26 KGB

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 05:52 AM

 

Second, I don't think you've proven that using batting average as a measurement for player development is somehow better than looking at exit velocity, launch angles, etc. The Rays are not ONLY using Trackman data for their player analysis but when it comes to that data versus batting average, Trackman's data is far superior. 

I don't think BA or exit velocity should be looked at in a vacuum, which it sounds like when the Ray's say: players "are not measured by batting average but by batted-ball exit velocity."

 

Trackman data maybe superior, but the reason you look at the data is to try to get players who can have a higher BA and produce more runs.I think traditional stats are very basis, but in the long run, they do reflect what a player has done.Ricky Nolasco has 10 years of better FIP stats, but at some point you have to realize he is the player his ERA says he is.


#27 Parker Hageman

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 08:36 AM

 

I don't think BA or exit velocity should be looked at in a vacuum, which it sounds like when the Ray's say: players "are not measured by batting average but by batted-ball exit velocity."

 

Trackman data maybe superior, but the reason you look at the data is to try to get players who can have a higher BA and produce more runs.I think traditional stats are very basis, but in the long run, they do reflect what a player has done.Ricky Nolasco has 10 years of better FIP stats, but at some point you have to realize he is the player his ERA says he is.

 

That's the exact point. They are looking at players in an inferior, inconsistent system (the minor leagues) where they *don't* have 10 years of data. They are trying to project a player's potential and batting average, ERA, etc, etc, isn't going to tell them that. 

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#28 Parker Hageman

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Posted 24 August 2016 - 01:43 PM

Twins reliever Pat Dean changes things up.

 

This story sort of piggybacks off of the previous post about changeups and movement. According to an article from the Citizen's News, the Twins encouraged Pat Dean to work on a few things including refining his changeup:

 

“When I was sent down I was told to work on the change-up,” said Dean. “When things are not going well it can really wear on you mentally. I stopped throwing the straight change and developed a more split finger change and started getting the results I was looking for.”

 

 

Since his recall, Dean's been used out of the pen so there doesn't seem to be a reason to throw the changeup (he's been leaning on his fastball/slider) and I'm not sure how much more successful his new grip actually is. In his first stint with Rochester this year, he held opponents to a 522 OPS. When he was sent back and working on the new grip, opponents posted a 944 OPS.

 

I'm guessing it still needs work.  

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#29 Parker Hageman

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Posted 27 August 2016 - 02:18 PM

Baseball’s Trackman System Isn’t Tracking Everything

 

Going back to our discussion regarding the Rays and their use of things like exit velocity over conventional stats like batting average, FiveThirtyEight.com’s Rob Arthur (a good follow on Twitter, by the way) reports that MLB’s Trackman system -- which was installed at stadiums league-wide in 2015 -- isn’t tracking everything:

 

 

Front office analysts I spoke with said that Statcast’s radars frequently lose track of batted balls on atypical trajectories — for example, with extremely high (popup) or low (chopper) angles. In 2015, Statcast failed to provide data on 13.4 percent of all batted balls; it’s gotten a bit better as time has progressed, dropping to 12.5 percent in the first half of 2016 to only 11.2 percent since July.

 

 

Arthur also mentioned that the system, similar to PitchF/X or radar guns, has shown different data in different stadiums. For instance, if you play your home games at Chase Field with the Diamondbacks, you might have an average exit velocity one mile per hour higher because that stadium’s Trackman system has dropped nearly 22 percent of batted ball data, most of which is of the low velocity variety. If you are making judgements for signing a free agent out of Arizona and you are using exit velocity, it might not provide you with the purest information. (Although Arthur suggests you can impute the data and find a closer to reality number.)

 

The Twins have the system installed in their affiliates from AAA down to Low-A. It would be interesting to know if they are running into similar problems. This last spring training Jack Goin mentioned that the Fort Myers’ Trackman system frequently picks up birds swooping down on the field and those instances need to be cleaned from the data. I wonder just how reliable the data is coming from the lower levels. 

KGB brought up some valid points in the thread and this one is another reason to be cautious with the data. That being said, I still believe the information provided by StatCast and Trackman will forever alter the way we view the game and the way the front offices build their teams. 

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#30 d-mac

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 09:48 AM

 

Since we only have data back to 2015, isn't a more accurate to say this is a theory not an "much more valuable data set"?

 

eyeroll.gif

 

http://fivethirtyeig...nce-of-hitting/

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4-27-2016: El dia de La Maquina


#31 Mike Sixel

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 10:08 AM

There is a nice Fangraphs article on "using your best pitch more often" today....and which pitchers should consider that change. Apparently, baseball is just figuring out that if you have a "secondary" pitch that is much better than a FB, you should maybe throw that more often....

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I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#32 Parker Hageman

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 10:25 AM

 

Mike Sixel, on 31 Aug 2016 - 11:08 AM, said:

There is a nice Fangraphs article on "using your best pitch more often" today....and which pitchers should consider that change. Apparently, baseball is just figuring out that if you have a "secondary" pitch that is much better than a FB, you should maybe throw that more often....

 

 

This topic was something I meant to add last week to the thread but had forgotten about.


Earlier in the month, Bill Punkett of the OC Register wrote about the Dodgers' Rich Hill and his battle back into the major leagues and his rise to being one of the game's toughest pitchers. In the article, when Hill was in Boston, he discussed things with Brian Bannister -- the former pitcher/analytics guy who had found one secret to a successful changeup.

 

That earned him a contract for a second go-round with the Red Sox. This time, he met up with Brian Bannister. The former big-leaguer had become the Red Sox director of pitching analysis and development. Hill credits Bannister for opening his eyes to the secrets to be found in analytics and a new approach to pitching.


Hitters had never been able to handle Hill’s curveball. Hill knew this and the analytics reinforced it. So why not throw it more often, Bannister asked?


“He opened my eyes to pitching to what you do best,” Hill said. “He just kind of reinforced it that the data shows it – the more breaking balls you throw the more effective everything is going to be.

 


I find it interesting in regards to Tyler Duffey and his pitch breakdown. The Twins told him to add a changeup to his arsenal, which he worked out in spring training, possibly to his own detriment. During the season, he’s thrown more changeups at the expense of his curveball and fastball. Hill has essentially leaned on his curveball that has led to success (before getting injured).

 

 

When it comes to things like -- how a pitcher should improve his arsenal -- I think it would behoove the Twins to have a guy on staff like Bannister who can relate to a pitcher both from being in the line of fire as well as being able to communicate what the data actually says.

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#33 Parker Hageman

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 10:32 PM

On Old School Hitting Philosophy

 

I was digging around the internets recently, conducting research for my latest post about the Twins’ hitting philosophy. I was looking for some information on some players who made some in-season swing changes and I came across this gem about the Brooklyn Cyclones’ shortstop Michael Paez.

 

For college baseball enthusiasts, you may remember Paez as the College World Series-winning Coastal Carolina shortstop. Based on his defense as well as his offensive potential -- he swatted 15 dingers in the 2016 season -- the Mets drafted him in the 4th round and assigned him to their low-A affiliate.

 

While playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones, he worked under the guidance of manager Tom Gamboa (yes, the same Tom Gamboa who was the first base coach for Kansas City and was jumped by some unruly fans in Chicago). Paez, however, has not launched his professional career in the right direction. Through 41 games in the short-season league, he was hitting .163 with a 503 OPS to boot.

 

Instead of discussing how different the game can be between college and the professional league or how fast it moves, Gamboa decided to sound off to the Brooklyn Daily on Paez’s approach:

 

 

“Paez is struggling strictly because his college program teaches a hitting approach that I’ve never heard of before,” Gamboa said. “Collapse your backside and uppercut the baseball. I was told that their college program accepts strikeouts, but they led the nation in home runs.”

 

It’s an at-plate approach that surprised Gamboa the first time he saw it. He’s never seen someone take a swing like Paez.

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen, in all my years, a player come into pro ball that hits more balls in the air than on the ground or a line,” Gamboa said.

 

{snip}

 

As far as the Clones skipper is concerned, however, this swing doesn’t belong in pro ball.

 

“The hitting style that Paez brought into pro ball is something that, to me, would only work in slow-pitch softball, where the ball is coming down at you so you have to swing up in order to square it up,” Gamboa said.

 

 

Now, I haven’t seen Michael Paez’s swing. I’m not going to weigh in on whether or not Paez is dipping his back shoulder a ton in his swing with Brooklyn. I’m not going to say whether or not Mr. Gamboa is right or wrong on his assessment that Paez could use some retooling. I will say that I’m somewhat stunned at Gamboa’s logic because -- and this is important -- THE BALL IS COMING DOWN AND YOU DO HAVE TO SWING UP TO SQUARE IT UP.

 

Ted-Williams-Graphic.png

 

Gamboa went on to say that he never seen so many fly balls before. MLBFarm.com says that of his batted balls 43 have been fly balls, 42 have been grounders and 17 have been liners. His spray chart highlights that the majority of his fly balls have been to the deepest part of the ballpark, perhaps one of the reasons his swing is not having success.

 

Michael Paez.png

 

I did watch Coastal Carolina’s run in the College World Series and came away impressed with some of their swings at the plate, including Zach Remillard.

 

 

Remillard’s swing is unconventional for what people are used to seeing in at the Major League League today. He also was drafted this year by the White Sox in the 10th round. After a good introduction at rookie ball, Remillard moved up to low-A and has since struggled. Is it because of his mechanics or is it because of the improved competition?

 

With the massive bat tip and the giant leg lift, I’m guessing the sight of Remillard’s swing would give Gamboa a gee dee heart attack. ONLY: it’s not all that unconventional and the swing patterns that Remillard employs are used in the Major League’s right now. It is exactly what Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant (“For me, the biggest thing is to hit the ball in the air.”) preached this year.

 

 

The Mets are going to work tirelessly trying to “fix” Paez’s swing which they will believe will take 500-1,000 at bats. It’s too bad Paez didn’t fall into a system that will work with his natural movements and tweak his swing rather than overhaul it. 

 

UPDATE: Here's Michael Paez's swing during the College World Series versus Arizona. It's fine. Everything is fine. Leave him alone.

 

 

UPDATE #2: It looks like Cyclones manager Tom Gamboa is planning on retiring at the end of the year anyway. 

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#34 d-mac

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 11:00 AM

 

On Old School Hitting Philosophy

 

I was digging around the internets recently, conducting research for my latest post about the Twins’ hitting philosophy. I was looking for some information on some players who made some in-season swing changes and I came across this gem about the Brooklyn Cyclones’ shortstop Michael Paez.

 

For college baseball enthusiasts, you may remember Paez as the College World Series-winning Coastal Carolina shortstop. Based on his defense as well as his offensive potential -- he swatted 15 dingers in the 2016 season -- the Mets drafted him in the 4th round and assigned him to their low-A affiliate.

 

While playing for the Brooklyn Cyclones, he worked under the guidance of manager Tom Gamboa (yes, the same Tom Gamboa who was the first base coach for Kansas City and was jumped by some unruly fans in Chicago). Paez, however, has not launched his professional career in the right direction. Through 41 games in the short-season league, he was hitting .163 with a 503 OPS to boot.

 

Instead of discussing how different the game can be between college and the professional league or how fast it moves, Gamboa decided to sound off to the Brooklyn Daily on Paez’s approach:

 

 

Now, I haven’t seen Michael Paez’s swing. I’m not going to weigh in on whether or not Paez is dipping his back shoulder a ton in his swing with Brooklyn. I’m not going to say whether or not Mr. Gamboa is right or wrong on his assessment that Paez could use some retooling. I will say that I’m somewhat stunned at Gamboa’s logic because -- and this is important -- THE BALL IS COMING DOWN AND YOU DO HAVE TO SWING UP TO SQUARE IT UP.

 

attachicon.gifTed-Williams-Graphic.png

 

Gamboa went on to say that he never seen so many fly balls before. MLBFarm.com says that of his batted balls 43 have been fly balls, 42 have been grounders and 17 have been liners. His spray chart highlights that the majority of his fly balls have been to the deepest part of the ballpark, perhaps one of the reasons his swing is not having success.

 

attachicon.gifMichael Paez.png

 

I did watch Coastal Carolina’s run in the College World Series and came away impressed with some of their swings at the plate, including Zach Remillard.

 

 

Remillard’s swing is unconventional for what people are used to seeing in at the Major League League today. He also was drafted this year by the White Sox in the 10th round. After a good introduction at rookie ball, Remillard moved up to low-A and has since struggled. Is it because of his mechanics or is it because of the improved competition?

 

With the massive bat tip and the giant leg lift, I’m guessing the sight of Remillard’s swing would give Gamboa a gee dee heart attack. ONLY: it’s not all that unconventional and the swing patterns that Remillard employs are used in the Major League’s right now. It is exactly what Josh Donaldson and Kris Bryant (“For me, the biggest thing is to hit the ball in the air.”) preached this year.

 

 

The Mets are going to work tirelessly trying to “fix” Paez’s swing which they will believe will take 500-1,000 at bats. It’s too bad Paez didn’t fall into a system that will work with his natural movements and tweak his swing rather than overhaul it. 

 

UPDATE: Here's Michael Paez's swing during the College World Series versus Arizona. It's fine. Everything is fine. Leave him alone.

 

 

I think the game is on the cusp of another revolution as important as the statistical revolution- this time it's the bio-mechanical revolution. With pitch f/x, statcast, and all the video available, there is so much data, both quantitative and qualitative to digest. Much like how batting average and RBIs for hitters and wins and ERA for pitchers have gone by the wayside, I think many long held baseball axioms about hitting, pitching, and fielding are going to be proven wrong. 

4-27-2016: El dia de La Maquina


#35 Parker Hageman

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 11:54 AM

 

I think the game is on the cusp of another revolution as important as the statistical revolution- this time it's the bio-mechanical revolution. With pitch f/x, statcast, and all the video available, there is so much data, both quantitative and qualitative to digest. Much like how batting average and RBIs for hitters and wins and ERA for pitchers have gone by the wayside, I think many long held baseball axioms about hitting, pitching, and fielding are going to be proven wrong. 

 

No doubt. I think the game is at a major confluence of both the stats and the biomechanics as it pertains to the game. There have been numerous people on the fringes discussing these ideas for a few years but now it's becoming more mainstream and accepted in the game. I think when you run into guys ingrained in the game, like a Tom Gamboa for instance, you see a lot of resistance to the newer concepts because, hey, that's not what he was taught.

 

To be clear, there are still plenty of elements of the game -- base-running, fielding, etc -- that still need old school disciplines, but when you look at things like how other teams approach their defensive positioning (particularly in the outfield), you can easily see that the game of baseball has changed wildly.  

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#36 Hosken Bombo Disco

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Posted 02 September 2016 - 08:16 AM

I'm also wondering about more obscure information like bunt strikes--Twins must lead the league!-- or glove to throwing hand transfer (Centeno surely is quicker than Suzuki) and especially check swing data. It seems like Sano goes through some rough check swing phases, and he struck out on one last night. Is Sano doing this more than he did in the minors? If so, why? Does Donaldson check swing much? Is that sort of data available anywhere?
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#37 Parker Hageman

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Posted 02 September 2016 - 08:57 AM

 

I'm also wondering about more obscure information like bunt strikes--Twins must lead the league!-- or glove to throwing hand transfer (Centeno surely is quicker than Suzuki) and especially check swing data. It seems like Sano goes through some rough check swing phases, and he struck out on one last night. Is Sano doing this more than he did in the minors? If so, why? Does Donaldson check swing much? Is that sort of data available anywhere?

 

Bunt strikes is something I believe we can access from the ESPN/TruMedia database but I'm not 100% on that.

 

I believe some of the private stat companies like BIS and Inside Edge do track things like check swings (that requires video scouts) but that is not made available to the public (Fangraphs just buys a small portion of the mounds of data those companies have). Maybe I'm just a huge baseball nerd but that type of data is something I'd like to parse. For instance, when Sano was crushing last season, was he checking his swing as much? My gut says aggressive hitters will have a higher percentage of check swing strikes but I'd love to know the data behind it. 

 

Good thoughts.

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#38 Parker Hageman

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Posted 05 September 2016 - 10:15 AM

On Pitch Counts.

 

This past Friday, in the thick of the Minnesota State Amateur Baseball Tournament, the Moorhead Brewers’ pitcher Tanner Dahl threw not one but two complete games. When all was said and done Dahl, a recent University of Jamestown (North Dakota) graduate, walked away with two Moorhead victories while allowed just one run while running up his pitch count to a whopping 222 pitches.

 

While the monumental performance was celebrated by Minnesota baseball enthusiast as gritty and gutty, outside of the bubble, people were head scratching the decision to let a pitcher toss that many pitches.

 

“It was simultaneously impressive as it was embarrassing,” Driveline Baseball’s Kyle Boddy told me about his reaction to reading Dahl’s stat line. Boddy, who works with pitchers from all levels of the game and uses a data-driven, science-based approach at studying the arm, understands the mindset of pitchers which often throws all the rational thought out the window when the adrenaline is pumping.

 

Baseball observers work themselves in a lather over two triple-digit figures when it comes to pitching -- velocity and pitch counts. Whenever a pitcher encroaches either, it becomes a topic of conversation. Dahl’s totals are unfathomable at any level this day and age.

 

 

The news of Dahl’s feat spread among Baseball Twitter and soon the influencers were levying their thoughts on the crazy total of pitches.

 

“I’m curious,” ESPN.com’s Keith Law tweeted. “Will the Brewers pay for his rehab or surgery if he hurt himself today?”

 

The answer, obviously, is no, the Brewers will not. Not in a direct, insurance-policy-gots-you-covered-Chief sort of way. However, knowing the camaraderie and community that goes into a Minnesota town ball team, they would assuredly organize a Kickstarter or (more likely) a beer bust to help offset medical expenses incurred because of his dedication to his team.    

 

Clearly, that was Law’s point. When someone signs their mandated player contract to participate in the Minnesota Baseball Association, the language says nothing about bankrolling any major surgeries and rehab that may come from participating in the game. The 23-year-old pitcher -- who was recently a part of the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks independent league team -- was risking his future baseball livelihood and would be left paying for the repairs if his arm blew out.

 

“Pitcher abuse” is a hot button topic. If it wasn’t, Jeff Passan’s amazing book, The Arm, would not be a New York Times bestseller.

 

Each year during the NCAA tournament we see reports of a school having a pitcher throw 150 or more pitches only to throw again in another day or two. This season alone, a Minnesota State-Mankato pitcher caught everyone’s attention by tossing 171 pitches in an 11-inning game.

 

On May 19, the Mavericks’ Dalton Roach threw 171 pitches in a victory over St Cloud State in NCAA D-II Regional play (meanwhile SCSU’s starter, Reese Gregory, threw an efficient 121 pitches by comparison). Roach told the media after the game that he felt fine and it was Ok because he threw mostly fastballs (“The single most dangerous pitch out there right now is a hard fastball. That’s typically the pitch a player gets hurt on,” Dr Pearce McCarty III, one of the Minnesota Twins’ orthopedic surgeons, told the Star Tribune recently). People called for his coach’s head.

 

To prove how fine his arm was after the outing that inciting all the pearl-clutching, a little over a week later Roach was pitching in the Northwoods League where, in his first start on May 31, he threw 101 pitches and struck out an Eau Claire Express-record 18 (he started the game by striking out the first 12 batters he faced). Roach, who is heading into his third year of college ball, would make one more start for the Express before being shut down because of an imposed innings limit.

 

Maybe Roach is one of the genetically lucky ones -- the proverbial rubber arm. The guy whose mechanics and muscle structure refuse to break. (Or maybe the wear-and-tear just hasn’t caught up to him yet.) Still, the idea of risking his arm for a Division II championship feels short-sighted. As Boddy put it, almost all pitchers have the mentality of *wanting* to keep throwing but someone (I don’t know, a paid coach perhaps) has to be the adult in that situation.

 

That burden of deciding when to lift their pitcher will likely be removed from the coach’s responsibility this coming season, at least at the high school level.

 

In the Minnesota high school ranks, the state organization is currently weighing the idea of setting a pitch restriction for the young, developing arms. As it stands now, the rules are written in a way that says a pitcher cannot throw more than 14 innings in three days. That is a large enough loophole for a bullpen car to drive through. As written, it means a high school pitcher could essentially pull a Tanner Dahl, throwing back-to-back complete 7-inning games while amassing 200+ pitches. There’s nothing to stop a coach from doing that beside some attentive and vocal parents or their own conscious.

 

It should be noted that the state’s coaches association already has suggested guidelines designed by the Mayo Clinic for pitch counts for their high school players posted on their website, such as a max of 90 pitches for a 17-to-18-year-old on four days of rest, but that’s like a beer company suggesting a fraternity “drink responsibly” during a toga party. That is why the Minnesota State High School League is taking measures to correct that. In October, the state coaches association will discuss the proposed pitch limits which caps the amount at 105 for the upperclassmen (Alabama has a 120 pitch limit) and 85 for the younger grades with required rest days in between outings.

 

How would that process work? The high school association in Illinois recently outlined a similar proposal, limiting their pitchers to a 115-pitch count. It would require teams to keep track of both theirs and the opposing team’s pitch count, and compare pitch count totals during even number innings. The oversight is needed but there

 

These are all good steps for the developing pitcher with a future ahead of him.

 

While it makes sense to monitor a college pitcher whose financial aid or potential professional career may be tied to being able to pitch (and not recovering from arm surgery) or keeping the teenaged hurler injury-free so that he may have better looks from colleges and the professional ranks, amateur players like Dahl and others operate in a Lord of the Flies-like town ball baseball society.

 

From a personal experience, I played on a team with a pitcher who had a decent college career and played for several years in independent ball prior to joining the team. Despite the fact that he was retired from his professional ranks, he was no less tenacious in his approach. He was six-foot-plus, the size of a fullback and had legs like sequoias. On his day to pitch,he had such intense, laser focus that I was positive that somewhere in the universe another planet exploded from its force. It was going to take a tranq gun to pry the ball out of his hand. He could, and routinely did, throw over 120 pitches a game.

 

There’s no question in my mind that someone was constantly asking Dahl if he felt alright each time he came back in the dugout beyond the seventh inning of the first game and each inning into the second game. One of the team’s administrators tweeted back at Law and said that their number two starter was ready to go the moment Dahl said he was done. Hell, even former Major League catcher Chris Coste plays on Dahl’s team (he smack a dinger in the tournament). There were plenty of grown adults well aware of the situation.

At 23 years old, you probably still want to play some baseball in the summer for a few more years, or eventually play catch with your kid, or not pay for major surgery. For outsiders, risking all that for a Class “B” town ball title feels like a silly gamble. That being said, if he does blow out his arm because of the 222-pitch day, Dahl will always be able to retell the story about the day he threw back-to-back complete games and helped lift his team into the 2016 championship game. 


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"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"


#39 Mike Sixel

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Posted 06 September 2016 - 07:49 AM

It isn't just about a career.....it is about being able to lift your arm over your head when you are 50. I guess risking a lifetime of pain and partial use of your arm is 'worth it'......

  • Parker Hageman likes this

I don't know, it is a site to discuss sports, not airline safety.....maybe we should take it less seriously?


#40 Parker Hageman

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Posted 08 September 2016 - 10:24 PM

Jake Mauer And The Evolving Game Of Baseball.

 

I overlooked this article from The Gazette's (Cedar Rapids) Jeff Johnson on Kernels' manager Jake Mauer and what he has learned in his four years heading the Twins' low-A affiliate. There's some good quotes in there but, for me, this was by far the most interesting portion:

 

He helps develop players, moves them on and wins games. That’s checking all the boxes.

 

“You learn something every night,” he said. “I’ve learned things from Brian and J.P., whether they know it or not. That’s the thing about baseball. Some of the old way of thinking, guys don’t want to change. The game has changed so much even from when I started in 2001. It is completely different now than it was. It’s like the dinosaur. The reason dinosaurs are extinct is because they couldn’t adapt. It’s the same thing with baseball. There are going to be different ideas. Are you going to buy in all the way? Well, maybe not.”

 

Mauer pointed to the advent of video in the game. Every pitch, every at-bat, every play is recorded, uploaded and ready for viewing and analysis virtually immediately.

 

The Twins installed a TrackMan system at Veterans Memorial Stadium last year that measures everything from the exact spin on a pitch to the way a ball comes off a bat. The information is almost overwhelming.

 

“We didn’t have video when I first started,” Mauer said. “We had VHS tapes, even in Double-A. There is just so much information we’ve got now. It can short circuit your brain box, you could over-expose guys to it all. But you takes bits and pieces, take bits and pieces of it here and there. You figure out which guys can maybe handle more and which guys maybe not so much.”

 

 

Mauer's right. The game has progress light-years beyond where it was -- particularly in the minor leagues. Teams now have access to some amazing data through the Trackman system. I'm told that Brad Steil and his team in the minor league ops side of things study that information closely. 

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, teams like the Rays are using that more and more in their evaluation of their system's players. I don't know to what degree the Twins are using the information but at the coaching and instructional level, it would be really interesting to know how that can be applied. Mauer seemed a little uncertain about the data and its ability to be used as a tool for player development.

 

Interesting stuff.

  • ashburyjohn likes this

"You spend a good piece of your life gripping a baseball and in the end it turns out that it was the other way around all the time." -- Jim Bouton, "Ball Four"




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