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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

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The Curious Case of Starling Marte

Posted on 14 May 2013 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: The Curious Case of Starling Marte, OF, Pittsburgh Pirates

The Reason -

How many times have you taken a look to check Starling Marte’s stats the past few games, waiting for his downfall to start? Shoot, the past two weeks or so I can count at least a dozen for myself. Which is why I decided it’s finally time to return to baseball writing and to dig into Marte’s season thus far.

First of all, before I get to the good stuff, how awesome is his name? I’m automatically including it in my 2013 MLB All-Names team, which I now just decided to create. Be on the look out for that soon, lucky you. Now let’s continue.

Starling Marte

Basic Numbers -

Starling busted into the Majors late last year for the Pittsburgh Pirates and cranked a homer in his first at-bat (Only July 26). In 47 games and 167 ABs, he hit .257 and did his fare share of striking out and not taking many pitches. Because of his less than stellar OBP, he found himself in the later half of the Pirates lineup for the majority of his first go in the bigs.

Heading into the 2013 season, projections seemed to think his first full year would play out much like 2012 did. Frustrating fantasy baseball owners by teasing them of stealing 20+ bases but lacking a high average to make him truly worth an early gamble.

Flash forward to May 13th. Starling is hitting .329 in 36 games with just as many HR (5) RBI (17) and two less steals (10) than he had in 18 more at-bats in all of 2012. The biggest change? His BABIP has skyrocketed from .333 last year to .413 in 2013. Before digging into his stats tonight, I was under the impression that he was/is due for a slump eventually and that this number will recede closer to .350-.375 and his AVG would likely end up around .275. However, looking at it a little more, I believe this isn’t the case. Every year of the his professional baseball career (starting in 2009), Marte has had a BABIP of .389 or higher, except in 2012.

Last year was his first time in both AAA and MLB, was it just part of the expected learning curve? Has he figured it out in 2013? What’s changed?

Sabermetrics -

Looking at Batted Ball data through almost the same amount of at bats in 2012 to 2013, surprisingly, not much has changed. Ground Ball Percent has risen to 57.5 from 57, Line Drive Percent up to 19.8 from 18.4 and Fly Ball Percents down a hair to 22.6 from 24.6. If none of these ratios have changed, his Plate Discipline must be the answer, right?

Bingo. Starling is now swinging is almost half of the pitches he sees (49% from 46.1% in 2012) and is making contact 79.2% of the time, up from 72.3% last year. The biggest jump comes is pitches contacted that are thrown outside of the strike zone as balls. A whooping 63.9% rate from 51.5% last year.

Why are more pitches being connected with you ask? Looking at Pitch Type, Marte is now experiencing an increased dose of Fastballs (56.8% from 52.1%) as well as change-ups (9.4% from 6.8%). The pitch he is seeing less of? Sliders. Now at only 14.2%, down from 18.7%. It seems that batting exclusively in the lead-off spot has led to a more appetizing array of pitches for Starling to hit, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity.

Forward Looking -

It’s only normal to expect his BABIP to take some sort of a dip (especially if pitchers start throwing him more sliders), but not to the depths that experts have predicted. It will stay north of .380 and average will hover just north of .300 to finish the year. Tack on a potential 30 stole base campaign, along with a resurgence of Andrew McCutchen and you have all the makings for one valuable and exciting player.

Fantasy Analysis -

If you are fortunate enough to have Marte on your squad, you most likely picked him up via Free Agency. His ESPN Average Drafted Position saw him being taken around 224. Do you sell high? Well if your team is in trouble, go for it. Starling will easily end up a 20/20 OF and could easily eclipse 100 runs scored. He will go in the top 100 next year.

Did You Know? -

His middle name is Javier and he was born outside of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic.

Milwaukee Brewers v Pittsburgh Pirates

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Johnny Cueto coolness

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Sabermetric Spotlight: Johnny Cueto

Posted on 31 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: Johnny Cueto, SP, Cincinnati Reds

The Reason -

I never would have guessed that a Cincinnati Reds pitcher would be having a CY Young caliber year. This is mainly due to playing at Great American Ballpark, a band box of sorts. I always try and avoid any pitchers who are throwing here and love picking up players who hit there. So to have Johnny perform this well, it’s something I would have never predicted. Now he is getting lots of plugs in CY Young talk, so lets see why!

Johnny  Cueto throwing

 

Basic Numbers -

Lets look at the past five years at once, cool?

Johnny  Cueto Basic Stats

 

Hello consistent improvement. His ERA, and WHIP all improved steadily from 2008 to 2011. This year has been, at least statistically, a step back from 2011. However this year Cueto has 17 wins and will cross 200 IP for the first time in his career, two factors that will definitely play a part of the CY Young raace.

Sabermetrics -

The past two years have been stellar for Johnny. The only difference between the two are the increased K/9 of 7.13 (from 6) and the deceased BB% at 5.6% (from 7.5%). Yes, he is striking out more and walking less. This is a deadly combo. Unfortunately this year welcomes Cueto with a higher BABIP of 2.91 and this results in a higher BAA of .239, still below his career average though.

Johnny  Cueto Sabermetrics

Inducing more line-drives seems trouble some, especially at 22.2%, a career high. The only bright spot about that is the decrease in fly-balls (29% from 30.1%), which translates into less homeruns overall. Sure, his HR rate is slightly up, but it is still well over half of what it was when he broke into the league in 2008 and 2009. His SIERA and ERA indicates that he is having results that are better than predicted, given his stats. The trend from the past three years sees this as normal and it seems as if Johnny is fully comfortable using his arsenal and knowing what type of pitcher he is. Some would say this is the “Art of Pitching”. #Barf (Shot at Tigers radio broadcast? Yup!)

Pitch Types and Speed -

Wow. Johnny is throwing his two-seamer fastball 11% less than 2011 (40.3% to 29.3%). The majority of this is found with his change-up, now being thrown 20.1% (up from 9.7%). He has also introduce a cutter this year, which he has thrown 1.2% of the time.

Would you be shocked that I told you batters are almost having identical results as to swings and locations? Me neither. Perhaps the biggest change is the 62.5% of first strikes being thrown, up from 55.6% last year. This has lead to a slight decrease in contact of swings when the pitch is a strike (87.7% from 90.1%). These are all good things, and just more evidence as to his improvements.

Forward Looking -

September 1st is this weekend, meaning, there isn’t much left to this 2012 MLB year. Johnny is estimated to have five more starts, four of these being at home. He will throw vs Philadelphia, vs Houston, @ Miami, vs Los Angeles and vs Milwaukee. The Reds are 8.5 games up in the Central and almost a near lock (99.4%) to make the playoffs. He will be throwing in the post-season where we will get to see if the rest of the nation gets clued in on just how consistent Cueto is.

Fantasy Analysis -

He isn’t doing you any favors in the K department, but leading the majors in Wins with 17 is nice, right? His ERA and WHIP are great, you are throwing him with confidence knowing that the risk is low and the reward is known ahead of time. While he may not be someone that wows you, he has be an anchor on your team and silencing your woes when your other pitchers tank it. Show him more love already!

Did You Know? -

Johnny’s hero and role model? None other than fellow Dominican, Pedro Martinez.

Johnny  Cueto coolness

 

Conclusion and Projection -

After interpreting all of Johnny’s stats for the past few years, it is clearly evident that he has established himself as a top caliber pitcher. Why he will never have a upper echelon strikeout rate, he will continue to be consistent and produce Wins and eat up innings for the Reds. His contract is up in 2014 and it will be interesting to see if Cincinnati tries to sign him to a contract extension and lock him up long term. Look for the spotlight to really turn to Johnny as the month of September dwindles and the talk of awards and the post-season take full effect.

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Mike Trout Unreal Catch

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Sabermetric Spotlight: Mike Trout

Posted on 23 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Reason -

There should be zero question as to why I’m writing about Mike Trout for my latest installment of Sabermetric Spotlight. The kid is a phenom, already. Most likely your 2012 AL MVP. He just turned 21. My biggest question heading into this article is finding out what exactly he excels with and gain some more respect for just how special this year has been. Man crush engage!

Mike  Trout Main Pic

 

Basic Numbers -

Some of you might not remember that he appeared in 40 games last year and recorded 132 plate appearances, lets compare to this year.

Mike  Trout Basic Stats

Weird, huh? Last year look like numbers you would see from a 19 year-old making their major league debut. This year he has an unreal .344/.407/.606 slash line, with not to mention 24 HRs and 39 SBs. These are video game numbers. I guess the only negative is that he strikes out more than he walks?

Sabermetrics -

Immediately we see that he has already improved his eye and patience at the plate. Walking almost 3% more this year and striking out 2% less. That is a good and scary trend (for opposing pitchers, duh). Yes, Mike’s BABIP is sky high at .390 but it isn’t even one of the highest two on the year (Andrew McCutchen and Austin Jackson take the claim), it might dip a bit to finish the year, but it’s not far off from past years leaders. His power (ISO) has skyrocketed this year as he has only begun (more on this later) to fill out, his speed has not waned as a result either.

Mike  Trout Saber Stats

His line-drive percent is right near 1 out of 4 which translates into seeing the ball very well out of pitchers hand. Trout isn’t hitting that many fly-balls, but when he does, over 1 out of 5 leave the yard, this will fall. There really isn’t much to hate, he hits ground-balls the most, but with his speed, there is no worry.

Pitch and Swing Data -

Looking at what pitches he is seeing, teams have shied away from the curveball (down 3.4% to 8.2%) and have thrown more fastballs (up to 65.9% from 58.2% last year). All the rest are steady…why aren’t teams throwing more curves to him?

Further continuing the theme of his sharpened eye, Mike is swinging at less pitches outside of the strikzone (down 3.5% to 26.3%).  When he does swing at a would-be-called ball, he is making more contact (73.9% of the time up from 68%). Overall, he is swinging at just about the same amount of pitches (39.7%) and is seeing 50.7% of total pitches inside the strikezone. He swings at the first pitch a little over half the time at 55.6% and only swings and misses on 6.5% of pitches (down form 7.1% last year). He has robotic eyes.

Forward Looking -

His current WAR is 7.2 and he has played 20 games less than the next highest at 6.3. Think about that.

Looking more into the future than this year, his body appears as if it will fill out and continue to add muscle. Will his homeruns increase? Yes. Will his stolenbases dip? Yes. Will he still be a stud? Yes.

There is nothing not to like here.

Fantasy Analysis -

Do you like creating superhuman baseball players in video games? Well, that’s essentially what Mike Trout is. He hits for power, steals bases, leading the league in average and scores almost a run per game. If you have him and aren’t in the top 3 or 4 of your league, shame on you!

Did You Know? -

The Yankees were poised to take Mike if  he fell to them 4 picks later in the 2009 draft.

Mike  Trout Unreal Catch

 

Conclusion and Projection -

Attempting to answer my question is easy and hard at the same time. His eye for the ball is outstanding and he does everything well. The only negative thing about Mike Trout is that he plays out on the west coast. The majority of (baseball) America (Eastern Seaboard) is not getting the routine opportunities to see his games live, which is a tragedy. This 2012 year of his happens so rare that I would be shocked to see it replicated in my lifetime (I’m 27). Doing what he is doing as a rookie is unbelievable. In my opinion there is not even a debate on who should win the AL MVP this year, it’s the rookie, Mike Trout. If the Angels fail to make the playoffs some writers will hold that against him in balloting, but it wont matter, he has been the biggest difference on any team all year, give him the hardware!

 Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Jeff Weaver Sabermetrics

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Sabermetric Spotlight: Jered Weaver

Posted on 17 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: Jered Weaver, SP, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Reason -

Being located in the Eastern Time Zone of the US, updates on pitchers not named Felix Hernandez are slow to arrive. Whispers of Jered Weaver’s stellar year have been beginning to creep into media and radio broadcasts of games I listen to, of course after the mention of the phenom, Mike Trout. If you happen to of forgotten, Weaver through a no-no against the Minnesota Twins on May 2nd (I know I did) and also has spent some time on the DL in early June. With all that said, having fallen in love with SoCal each time I visit, I thought it would be the perfect time to look into Jered’s year and see what all this fuss is about.

Jared Weaver Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Basic Numbers -

Since Jered finished 5th in the AL Cy Young in 2010 and 2nd in 2011, lets toss those numbers in with this year for comparison purposes.

Jared Weavers Basic Pitching Stats

Why hello continued progression. A steady ERA drop of almost .8 in two years is quite incredible, especially when starting at 3.01 and tossing in the American League. It’s fairly obvious that his DL stint will hurt the overall height of some of his numbers, but even so, this man has been consistent as can be the past 2+ years. Walks and strikeouts are both down, but I can deal with that when he rattles off 9 consecutive decisions that result in a win (yeah yeah, I hate W-L, I know). While on the subject, I’m curious of the run support he had in 2010, those are Felix Hernandez type numbers!

Sabermetrics -

Since it’s shark week, I wish there was a Saber Shark, so I googled it. Bad idea, someones OK Cupid account, ha. Charty:

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Besides HR/9, every single one of the stats in the upper portion of the graph have fallen from the past year. He has pin point control, that much is evident. While the K/9 of 6.91 isn’t what you were expecting this year on your fantasy team, the lower BAA (.196) and WHIP (.92) more than make up for it.

Staying in theme so far, Jered just keeps the ball down in the zone, plain and simple. GB% is up almost 5% to 37.3%, while FB% is down just under 7% to 41.5%. With the increase in ground-balls, its shocking to see that the batting average has gone down too, he has been a bit on the lucky side with a .225 BABIP, credit the above-par Angels defense for this (One can only imagine what Verlander’s numbers would be with a ranging defense behind him, anyway). Taking a look at his SIERRA numbers for the past few years, he has been out performing expectations of the statistical story, but this year takes it to new heights.

Pitch Types and Speed -

What has he done to reel in his control? Throwing his two-seamer (27.1% up 8% from 2011) almost as much as his four-seamer (28.5%) is one. To counter this, the slider (down to 12.5% from 18.2%) and change-up (13.1% from 15.9%) are each being thrown less. Velocities on all pitchers have remained just about the same, Jered’s arsenal is sick!

As you may have guessed, Weaver is throwing into contact more often. When a pitch is thrown for a strike, contact is made 88.6% of the time this year, up from 79.7% in 2010 and 84.8% in 2011. None of his other numbers really have changed dramatically, and quite honestly, I get a sense that he has been a boring pitcher to watch this year, which isn’t a bad thing. Pitches being swung and missed on have decreased, as well as his first pitch strikes, he is dictating what transpires in the game, bottom line.

Forward Looking -

His next three starts are against AL East teams in the Rays, at Fenway for those BoSox, then home vs Boston. A proverbial showdown for the Cy Young could go down on Sunday, September 9th when the Detroit Tigers are in town. Justin Verlander and Jered are both throwing tomorrow night, so lets hope that everything works out in our favor. Needless to say, the road isn’t an easy one, and if Jered wants that Cy Young, he will have to be clutch down the stretch.

Fantasy Analysis -

Jered is not the strikeout machine that he was in 2010, but he has been A++ in batting average against and WHIP. Oh and those wins don’t hurt either. He good, keep him.

Did You Know? -

Weaver is on the cover of MVP 07: NCAA Baseball, in his college uniform.

Jared Weaver No Hitter Face

Conclusion and Projection -

After having time to let the story waft its way to me, I’m not shocked that Jered’s year isn’t one of national relevance. He isn’t doing anything overwhelmingly sexy, he is just dominating with control and defense. Could a bit of a regression be coming? Perhaps, but not too likely, even with the difficult upcoming schedule IMO. The inquiry when I started revolved around the AL CY Young talk, and you can’t dismiss it. I do think the DL stint might play a minor, minor factor, but if he didn’t win it the past two years, I feel like that this year may finally be his time. Just not of the unanimous variety.

Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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Josh Hamilton solid looking pose

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Sabermetric Spotlight: Josh Hamilton

Posted on 09 August 2012 by Patrick Hayes

Sabermetric Spotlight: Josh Hamilton, OF, Texas Rangers

The Reason -

So you may have heard of this gentleman named Josh Hamilton once or twice before in your life. His life-story is one that mimics that of Millenium Force at Cedar Point to date. In a nutshell, that also is a microcosm of his 2012 year thus far. Through the first two months he hit 21 HRs (four in one game!) and saw his average stay well north of .360, needless to say, he was unstoppable. Counting his moon-shot tonight, he now has only 9 HRs in the past 3 calendar months combined, which is a drastic drop from the pace he set in the spring.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to see him set his career high for dingers before September rings in, he needs just three more. What the heck has happened to him this year, besides becoming infamous for letting go of his bat when he swings and misses?

Josh Hamilton solid looking pose

Basic Numbers -

As Hamilton has cooled down during the early summer months, his slash line has sunk to a pedestrian (I use italics in place of that sarcasm font that needs to be invented) .288/.351/.575. Most major-leaguers would take that in a heart beat. Taking a look at the rest of his basic stats below, a few things jump out.

Josh Hamilton basic stats

To me, the first is his projected games played number. Being present for 150 games would be his second best (2008 had 156 played), topping the 133 in 2010 which saw him bat .359 and win the AL MVP. Having him consistently in the lineup has been a struggle in the past, this alone is an impact on the lineup each night. The next eye-popper is his amount of time he has whiffed and recorded an out, just above once per game. I’ll dig into this more later. Oh, and those 95 RBI are tied for the league lead too.

Sabermetrics -

I just mentioned his K’s, but how at what percent is he at? Looking at the chart below, a whooping 23.7%. That number is way up from his career average of 19%. Surprisingly, Josh is walking at a rate (9.1%) that exceeds the past two years, and his career average (8.2%). Unfortunately his career low BABIP of .308 is the correlation of his lowest batting average since 2009

Josh Hamilton sabermetric stats

Not much has changed from a line-drive perspective. He is hitting less ground-balls, which leads to an increase in fly-balls. It is these fly-balls that are leaving the yard at a rate of over 25% of each fly, an almost unsustainable number. His ISO factor of .278 supports the increase of his homerun tally, this will be a career year as far as that stat is concerned.

Pitch and Swing Data -

Less fastballs (46.1% in 2012 vs 50.7% in 2011) and more off-speed/breaking pitches (change-ups 2.7% more, curves up .8%) has been the calling of opposing pitchers this year. Again, these stats almost identically reflect what he faced in 2010, his career year to this point.

Holy crap! Hamilton is swinging at 46.5%! of pitches outside the strike zone! This is up from 41% in 2011 and 37.3% in 2010. I see a trend developing. The same can be said for pitches in the strike zone (84.5%, 81.7%, 80.7% 2012-2010). A direct inverse of this is the dropping of contact,  Josh is only connecting with 77.7% outside the strike zone from 83.8% last year. Contact as a whole is down 9.1%. There is one reason for swinging at balls more often, he is only seeing strikes 38.2%, down from 42.8% in 2011. I’m baffled as to how he is walking more this year.

Forward Looking -

I already eluded to the fact that he is on pace to play 150 games this year, but that also translates to 579 at-bats. The Rangers currently hold the best record in the American League and will be looking to firmly secure the number one seed as the season winds down. Playing at the Ball Park in Arlington is only a benefit to his offensive numbers, I can sense some heroics down the stretch. Big picture wise, he isn’t in any MVP talk this year, but he is in a race with Miguel Cabrera of the Detroit Tigers for the RBI and HR title. It just so happens that the two leaders of runs batted oppose each other this weekend in Texas.

Fantasy Analysis -

Having Josh Hamilton on your team this year has been one of fist pumping and pounding. Ups and downs on repeat. You loved him to start the year and have been swearing at him to get his act together since June. If you were one of the smart ones to capatlize on his value and trade him on that legendary four homerun night, then props to you. He is a welcomed benefit to any team in a playoff race right now and is without-a-doubt a keeper next year, in all formats. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him being the most traded player this year or next (Pujols would be my next guess).

Did You Know? -

On June 22, 2012, Hamilton agreed with Casey Affleck to create a movie based on Hamilton’s life story.

Josh Hamilton bat toss

Conclusion and Projection -

It’s hard not to root for this guy. America is full of revitalizing comeback stories, and Josh’s is no different. This current year may be the most unique of any years past however. Hamilton’s increased K% and BB%, teamed with a lower BABIP and less pitches as strikes has led to a sub-optimal batting average. On the flipside, his flyball rate of homeruns is outstanding, hitting 40 shouldn’t be out of the question. Even with projections of a-plus health, it’s hard not to have that creeping doubt of an injury of some substance as the year dwindles. Bottom line, he is a must watch at-bat each time to the plate.

 Reactions and opinions are always welcomed. Find me on twitter: @pf_hayes

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