On The Road With Madfriars: Eugene

John Conniff is a senior writer for MadFriars.com, a webzine that covers the San Diego Padres minor league system, and a free-lance contributor to Baseball America and 619 Sports.net. As in the past, we caught up with him to get his impressions on his second trip of the year to the short-season Eugene Emeralds.

1. Just got threw listening to the Emeralds opening day game and WOW, Sampson was a man among boys. 5 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K (6 GO, 2 FO). Why was Sampson not in Fort Wayne to begin the year?

John Conniff: He had a bit of a sore shoulder at the beginning of spring and they were pretty cautious with him, but I think the bigger reason is that you don’t really want to put a high school pitcher in a full season league where you expect them to throw over 130 innings.

When I spoke with Sampson in Eugene he emphasized how slow the organization was in building up his innings and also really working on his mechanics in extended. Remember everyone always talks about the difference in transitioning from aluminum to wooden for batters but for pitchers its a pretty big change too; mainly learning how to pitch inside.

2. The Padres selected a college second baseman with two of their first four picks, and yet it was 22nd round pick Tyler Stubblefield getting the nod at second with Gyorko at third and Bisson not playing. Do the Padres plan to use either Gyorko or Bisson as a second baseman, or do they plan to move them around the diamond?

John Conniff: Right now I don’t think the organization sees Gyorko as a second baseman, despite the fact that he played shortstop in college and they initially announced that he was drafted at that position and I think that is a good move. He has a thick lower body and unless he changes his body significantly I can’t see him having the range to play second. Bisson, a Canadian citizen, will get the majority of the playing time once his visa issues are settled.

3. Last year Luis Domoromo was playing in the Dominican Summer League, now he is the starting right fielder for the Ems at the tender age of 18. Castro, Portillo, Rincon, and Galvez all spent their first summer in the AZL. What did the Padres see out of Domoromo to push him to Eugene?

John Conniff: Denis is usually the guru on all things Dominican, the man would rank twelve-year olds in Santo Domingo if he could, but I’ll take a shot. It really matters on two things, the personnel that they have to work with and how far someone has progressed in the extended leagues. For example, RHP Matt Lollis, who is the #2 pitcher on the Ems right now, really impressed the organization in spring and in extended and essentially pitched his way out of the Arizona League.

Also, as the Padres sign more of their college picks and possibly bring up Donovan Tate, Domormo could be back in the AZL this season.

4. Did you have a chance to see Portillo? What is the biggest difference between the 2010 version and the one from when he first game to the US?

John Conniff: I did and although his stuff was impressive he also struggled with secondary pitches and was a little wild. Still, he’s the equivalent of a high school senior and you have to be impressed. I didn’t see him pitch last year but from what his coaches tell me is that he is throwing much better strikes, essentially hitting the corners as opposed to catching more of the plate.

5. How is the new facility? Does the front office have any objections to the use of a turf field rather than natural grass?

John Conniff: Its a really nice facility, but the old one also had quite a bit of charm too. Its funny when all of us think of artificial turf we think of those horrible multi-purpose stadiums like Riverfront in Cincinnati and Three Rivers in Pittsburgh but the turf is about as close as you can get to grass. Also, to not have turf and attempt to play baseball in Oregon would be nothing more than games in the mud.

Three years of Friar Forecast

Earlier last month, Friar Forecast turned three years old. Since the blog (in its current state) made its debut in June 2007, there has been only one month in which it did not see an update (September 2008). Overall, we have had 712 posts, good for an average of about 24 per month.

I just know you want to see that in graphical form:

FF

Seriously, though, when I started this blog as a freshman in college, I had no clue that it would be around three years later*. And if you read some of my early posts, you probably had the same doubts. We have certainly come a long way since then, and I like to think the coverage we are providing now is on par with the best of the Padres blogs and websites in all of cyberspace. If not, we’ll get there.

Thanks to *everyone* who has been a reader or helped us out in any way. Here’s to another three years!

*Big thanks go out to Daniel, who has run this blog for the past 15 months and really kept it alive.

On The Road With Madfriars: Portland

John Conniff is a senior writer for MadFriars.com, a webzine that covers the San Diego Padres minor league system, and a free-lance contributor to Baseball America and 619 Sports.net. As in the past, we caught up with him to get his impressions on his third trip of the year to the AAA Portland Beavers.

1. What happened to Mark Worrell? He was doing tremendous than sort of ran into bad game after bad game?


John Conniff:
You know its tough to tell. As you said he got off to a good start in April and then kind of ran into some bad outings. Right now he’s pretty far down on the bullpen chart in Portland with Ernesto Frieri, Scott Munter, Adam Russell and Aaron Poreda all ahead of him on the depth chart let alone in San Antonio.


2. What are the fans impressions of losing the team next year?


John Conniff:
The majority of my time was in Eugene, so I was only in Portland for a game but just by talking with people around the Beavers it hasn’t been a good season. The night I was at the park, ironically the same night Geoff Young of Ducksnorts was there, but we missed each other, it was as dead as any minor league stadium that I have been too. I think its equal parts that the team isn’t going to be there next year and the other is that the team just isn’t very good this year.


3. Going into the year the Padres were raving about a guy they claimed off waivers named Dusty Ryan. Ryan is currently hitting .129 in AAA and struggling. Is he really the player the Padres hyped him up to be or is he the .129 hitting catcher that we are watching in Portland?

John Conniff: The people that I spoke with, who want to remain anonymous, believe he is the catcher that we are seeing now. One of them said he was the worst hitter that they saw in the PCL this year.

4. Every year the Padres appear to have stacked teams in San Antonio, Lake Elsinore, and Fort Wayne, and yet in the past few years the Beavers have been a wasteland for talent. The prospects that do come to Portland in years past either struggle (Antonelli, Zawadzki, Cunningham) or are gone so fast before they can really give the Beaver fans something to be excited about (Venable, Blanks, Headley). Who in Portland currently should Padre fans, and Beaver fans, be excited about? Are there any future Padre starters on that team?

John Conniff: I think there are a few. For pitchers I really like Ernesto Frieri, who has put up some pretty good numbers for a closer on a bad team. Adam Russell, who is struggling now, I think also will eventually end up in the Padres’ bullpen as well. For position players, if you give Lance Zawadzki a mulligan for April, he’s played pretty well and I’ve always been a big fan of his game. I like Luis Durrango too, but I’m not sure as an everyday player. Finally I’ve always been a big fan of Mike Baxter, who can play both corners of the infield, all three outfield positions and even serve as an emergency catcher if needed.

In many ways AAA is my least favorite of all the levels to go too because its really a place where for most players their dreams of being a major league player end. You have so many players that have major league experience that it didn’t work out for and are just hanging on. On the other side you have players that have performed well in the lower leagues, but not quite good enough to really earn a spot on a big league roster.

Most of the guys have also been doing this for three or four years and their bonuses were some time ago. Its one thing to be playing pro baseball for little or no money at 19 or 21, quite another when you are over 25 and starting to wonder if you made the right career decision.

Mat Latos and the innings limit

Before the season, it was reported that Mat Latos would probably be limited to around 150 innings. The idea is to limit a young pitcher’s workload and to gradually work the pitcher up to a 200+ innings/year level. Pushing a young pitcher who may not be prepared for the rigors of ~200 major league innings is a recipe for disaster.

Or so they say. This theory is largely based on the “Verducci Effect,” which says that pitchers under the age of 25 who experience an increase in workload of 30 or more innings see injury and/or a decrease in performance in the subsequent season. The Verducci Effect has been challenged and debunked, at least to some degree. There’s still a ton of work to be done in predicting injuries — we certainly don’t have any definitive answers, especially on any individual pitcher — thus we cannot just say that a dramatic increase in innings pitched for a young hurler will lead to injury and decreased performance. It might, it might not.

Anyhow, before the season, the San Diego Padres probably did not expect to be sitting atop the NL West in late June, with a 42-29 record. If the Padres play just .450 baseball from here on out, they will finish with 83 wins – in other words, at this point, a playoff run is very probable. Prior to the season, the Padres also probably did not expect Mat Latos to be the staff ace, carrying a 2.93 ERA in 86 innings (8.3 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, .94 HR/9).

With these new factors – the Padres playoff chances and Latos’ performance – added to the mix, it complicates the decision-making process regarding Latos’ workload. Sure, it’s a nice problem to have, but it’s also one that is extremely hard to make. Flags fly forever, as they say, and Latos is an important part of the Padres success. If he keeps pitching at this rate, I predict he’ll make about 31 starts, good for 190 innings. If the Padres cut him off at 150 innings, he’ll probably miss six or seven starts – or late August and all of September. Critical starts when the Padres will need him most.*

There’s the other side of the coin, too. Is it worth risking Latos’ future in an attempt to reach the playoffs right now? Latos is under control and cheap, and he has a chance to provide a lot of surplus value over the next few years, perhaps developing into a Jake Peavy-like ace, if things break right. Throwing him 190 innings in his first full season, many of them likely critical, high leverage innings down the stretch run, not to mention potential playoff innings, could do a lot to damage Latos’ future impact with the organization.

The good news is that the Padres don’t have to make a decision anytime soon, and they indicate as much in an article by Bill Center at the Union-Tribune. By the time we get to late August, maybe things will take care of themselves, and the decision will be made easier. Or, perhaps the Padres will be in the thick of a playoff race and Latos will still be performing well, making the decision that much tougher. We’ll have to wait and see.

*If there really is a set number, like 150, it might make sense for the Padres to rest Latos now and bring him back for the stretch-run. This would certainly be an out-on-a-limb strategy, with potential negative side-effects, but it might make sense, saving Latos – and having him well rested – for the late-season playoff chase.

Adrian Gonzalez Is Having Another Fantastic Season

As of this writing, Adrian Gonzalez currently leads the National League in Fangraphs WAR.

He has been the National League’s best hitter, at 22.3 runs above average, and leads all NL first baseman in UZR (4.4).  After adjusting for playing time and position, Gonzalez has racked up 3.2 WAR, equivalent to nearly $13MM of value.

I know it is obvious, but Gonzalez has been a key reason for the San Diego Padres success this season. Sometimes its fun to just remember how good he is.

Guess Your Attendance

Note: The Following is a post by Jason Fischbein.  Jason will be providing analysis that focuses on the “at the game” experience…

Most nights at PETCO Park, a fan is chosen to play a game that the Pad Squad likes to call “Guess the Attendance.” The logistics of this game seemingly change year to year, but as you would imagine, the underlying objective is quite straightforward. Guess the attendance correctly, and one lucky fan will win such scintillating prizes as a Nick Hundley autographed batting helmet, or a Tony Gwynn Jr. autographed baseball.

During yesterday’s contest against the Blue Jays, however, Guess the Attendance was nixed entirely (as is often the case during midweek day games). With the top of the ninth inning about to start, the game’s lowly attendance figure was flashed upon the lower auxiliary scoreboard — as if the Padres’ brass was hoping no one would notice. 16,050 is what the attendance figure read, a figure that, sadly, is far from the lowest total of the season.

Here are the top five lowest attended games of the season to date:

Date

Start Time

Opponent

Home SP

Visiting SP

Attendance

Wed. June 16

3:35

Blue Jays

Correia

Romero

16,050

Wed. June 2

3:35

Mets

Richard

Santana

15,880

Tue. June 15

7:05

Blue Jays

Latos

Cecil

15,266

Mon. May 3

7:05

Rockies

Correia

Jimenez

15,052

Wed. April 21

3:35

Giants

Garland

Wellemeyer

14,906

Now, the Padres’ attendance woes this season have been well documented, and I do not intend to merely rehash what others have said on the subject. Rather, I wanted to explore what motivates me personally to attend a particular game.

Take yesterday’s game, for example. I, unlike many baseball fans, prefer night games to day games. Parking downtown is always more difficult during the day, and if I’m not lucky enough to be sitting in the shade, the sun can be a real nuisance. Why then did I go to yesterday’s contest?

It certainly wasn’t a question of pitching matchups. Although Ricky Romero intrigues me, and it was interesting to see the Blue Jays for the very first time in person, Kevin Correia is not exactly a pitcher I go out of my way to see. Rather, my principal motivation for attending yesterday’s game was a simple one: The game was not being televised locally. My only method of watching Padres Baseball yesterday was to go to the game in person, and for that reason, I didn’t think twice. Lucky enough to have a day off from work, I gladly bought myself a $5 park pass, and proceeded to watch our boys flail at Romero’s pitches inning after inning.

I would break down my motivating factors for attending a game as follows (in order of importance):

  1. Will the game be televised?
  2. Home SP
  3. Promotional Giveaway
  4. Opponent
  5. Visiting SP
  6. Night Game v. Day Game

Obviously, there are flaws in ranking these factors according to a particular order. If the promotional giveaway on a particular night is a jersey, such as those that have been given away by the club each of the last three years, it is safe to say that the givaway factor will jump to the top of the list. Moreover, if an NL West opponent is in town, particularly the Dodgers, then I can see the opponent as being my strongest motivating factor.

I guess the point of this, my first ever blog post, is simply to pose a question: Casting aside elements such as work schedules, school schedules, prior engagements, etc., what motivates you personally to go to a particular game? Obviously this question applies primarily to locals, because those visiting from out of town have their options limited. But I think it’s a neat question to ponder, and one that can tell us a lot about what we value as fans.

More on Mujica

My latest post on Edward Mujica examined what may be causing his extremely high home run rate. To be honest, I’m not sure we can really conclude much on the issue – at least not from my analysis. Anyway, Larry and Mike made some good points in the comments, and I wanted to further investigate Mujica’s pitch location.

Conveniently enough, just yesterday Jeremy Greenhouse looked at pitchers who are able to locate their pitches on the corners of the plate, but avoid the middle. A home run – or hard hit ball – is most likely to be located somewhere in the middle portion of the plate, and probably slightly up.

Here is Mujica’s pitch location graph for 2010 (view from catcher’s perspective, measured in feet):

mujica location 

Mujica’s pitch location does not look that much like Rivera’s. It seems his pitches are in the middle of zone as often as they are on the corners.

mujica vs righties

Mujica vs lefties

Against righties, Mujica is very reluctant to go inside. Though he keeps it away from righties in general, he appears to miss off the plate quite often. And he’s still putting it in the middle of the plate at a pretty high rate. Against lefties, again, a lot of pitches are located too close to the middle of the zone.

The graphs above are just from 2010. Let’s look at his entire career. This time I’ll use the graphs created from TexasLeaguers.com:

Muj

Click for a larger image 

On the left is Mujica in his career vs. all batters, the middle graph is vs. righties, and the furthest right is vs. lefties. And I am pretty sure that changeups are actually splitters, as I discussed in the previous post. Check out the comparison between Mujica and Rivera:

Muj vs Mo

You can see a pretty clear area where Rivera (on the right) doesn’t go – down the middle and up in the strike zone. He’s able to locate primarily on both sides of the plate, but avoid, largely, the dangerous section in the center. Mujica, on the other hand, does not appear to shy away from the middle and upper portions of the strike zone, and that’s a dangerous place to live.

Mujica has the stuff to be a quality reliever. Even with his home run problems, he has still been pretty solid. And this ‘analysis’ is not in any way conclusive. Home runs allowed involve a multitude of factors other than location – the hitter, the environment, pitch sequence, velocity, etc. That said, if Mujica is able to avoid the middle of the plate more often, I certainly think he may see a drop in home runs allowed.

Prospect Watch: Drew Cumberland

In a year when a majority of the San Diego Padres top offensive prospects have been on the DL or struggled, one prospect has managed to put his name on the map. SS Drew Cumberland

Cumberland came into the year as the 19th best prospect according to madfriars and #16 in my rankings. The writeups were always “great young player, amazing potential, can make things happen with the bat and with his legs, shaky defensively, and starting to get the label of injury prone.” While the injuries were never related (broken bone in his hand from catching a flyball, injured ribs after being HBP, quad injury, concussion, and most recently a wrist injury that took him out of the 2009 playoffs), it got to the point that he was ranked lower simply because in 2.5 years in the Padres system he had yet to stay healthy for longer than a month or two. Well 3 months into the season and a Drew Cumberland led Lake Elsinore officially clinched the 1st half division crown tonight. Drew’s role in the game? Only 3-5, with a RS and a SB (19).

On the year Cumberland is 3rd in the league in BA (.374), 9th in OBP (.411), an even more surprising 4th in SLG (.551), 4th in SB (19), 1st in RS (61), and 1st in hits (85). As such he was named as the starting SS in the California League all star game.

The biggest boost to his status besides the health is that in 55 games he has also hit a whopping 7 HR. While that does not rank in the top 10, for a top of the order speedster SS 7 HR is more than 2x as much as he hit in the 158 career games previously.

G BA OBP SLG 2B 3B HR RS BB SO SB CS F% RF

2008

56

0.296

0.354

0.38

9

3

1

32

17

25

16

4

0.922

4.61

2009

77

0.293

0.386

0.41

18

5

2

57

40

36

19

3

0.949

3.77

2010

54

0.374

0.411

0.551

11

4

7

61

13

29

19

8

0.929

3.84

Even considering that the Cal League is a much more hitter friendly ballpark those stats are eye popping. Cumberland has been an absolute beast offensively and has shown threw the 1st half that he can get on, steal bases, score runs, and also hit a HR if you are not careful. He has done it all.

The two game related factors that are keeping him from reaching elite prospect status are his fielding skills at shortstop and his BB%. The low BB/PA if 9.48% is extremely bad for a leadoff hitter, but it is made up for with a .318 career BA. The fielding though is still a cause for concern. In 2009 they reworked the way he was throwing the ball as the ball was tailing away from the 1B. They saw noticeable improvement, and as such the fielding percentage went up. This year however he seems like a misnomer. He has made a few great plays showing his range and arm strength diving deep into the hole to rob players, but still has problems making the everyday plays, and with turning the DP. The potential is now fully there, as he went from a prospect who could maybe stay at short to a player they think WILL be a starting shortstop in the majors. The major question is consistency. Can he make the routine plays?

Moving Forward: Drew’s prospect ranking has soared in the past few months. It would be hard to expect him to duplicate his first half success, but I wouldnt be surprised. There have been rumors, possibly only created by Mark Grant on a recent Padres telecast, that Cumberland would move to AA, but nothing has remotely confirmed the rumor. While it might be expected to see the BA go down, the OBP should hopefully go up as working the count is something they continually preach in Lake Elsinore. The defense is still a WIP, but his offense has more than made up for it. Provided he can stay healthy it will be difficult to keep him out of the top 5 next year. In fact scout.com now has him listed as a 5 star prospect, the #2 best prospect in the Padres system (Castro #1) and the #2 SS in the minors (Dee Gordon #1). Here is to hoping the kid can stay healthy and lead the team up the 15 to a well deserved Cal League championship.

Edward Mujica: A case of gopheritis

Edward Mujica, right-handed pitcher for the San Diego Padres, is a pretty good middle reliever. Check out his numbers since coming to the Padres:

Year Innings ERA K/9 BB/9 FIP xFIP tRA
2009 93.7 3.94 7.3 1.8 4.03 3.93 3.61
2010 31 3.19 9.3 1.2 4.79 3.10 3.94

The strikeouts and walks look good. There is one thing I purposely left out, however, and that is home runs allowed. Mujica has given up 22 home runs in 124.7 innings as a San Diego reliever. That is a 1.6 HR/9 rate. He will have trouble staying in the majors if he continues to allow home runs at this pace. Of course, perhaps he has just been unlucky or in a slump.

We now have a variety of tools at our disposal to investigate Mujica’s home run troubles. First, let’s look at his ball-in-play rates (note that 2006-2008 with Cleveland is a pretty small sample, about 70 innings total):

Year Line Drive Ground Ball Fly Ball IFFB HR/FB
2006 18.5% 26.2% 55.4% 19.4% 2.8%
2007 16% 26% 58% 17.2% 10.3%
2008 23.4% 30.5% 46.1% 10.2% 8.5%
2009 17.2% 39% 43.8% 7.9% 11%
2010 12.3% 40.7% 46.9% 0% 21.1%
Career 17.9% 35% 47.1% 9.7% 10.7%

IFFB: Infield Fly Balls
HR/FB: Home runs per fly ball

According to FanGraphs, the approximate 2010 averages are:

LD: 18.5%
GB: 44.6%
FB: 37.2%
IFFB: 9.5%
HR/FB: 9.3%

What we have in Mujica, then, is a pretty extreme fly ball pitcher. He has a career fly ball rate of about 47%, while the league average is 37%. He is pretty average on line drive%, IFFB%, and a bit over the league average on HR/FB%.  One interesting thing to note is that his infield fly ball percentage is at zero so far this season. So, apparently, every fly ball he has allowed has gone into the outfield. That is probably not helping his HR/FB rate.

Anyway, the sabermetric literature suggests that home runs are essentially a function of fly ball percentage. In other words, HR/FB should regress heavily toward the league average. Let’s take a look at Mujica’s actual home run rate and his home run rate after adjusting his HR/FB to the league average 9.3%.

Year HR/9 ADJ. HR/9
2006 .49 1.6
2007 2.48 1.9
2008 1.16 1.3
2009 1.35 1.1
2010 2.32 1
Career 1.43 1.24

Since 2009, if Mujica had allowed a league average HR/FB rate of 9.3%, his overall home run rate would be about average. While Mujica is a fly ball pitcher, his strikeout and walk rates are good enough that his propensity to allow fly balls should not be an issue, *if* he puts up league average HR/FB rates. Over these past two seasons, however, he has actually given up 22 homers on 135 fly balls, good for a 16.3 HR/FB%.16.3% is a different story.

Hit Tracker gives us another interesting tool to analyze Mujica’s home run struggles. Before looking at the data, the theory would go that, since Mujica has probably been “unlucky” so far in his Padres career (especially 2010), a lot of his home runs allowed should be unlucky home runs, homers that just barely got out.

Here are some definitions from Hit Tracker:

Std Distance (Standard Distance) – The estimated distance in feet the home run would have traveled if it flew uninterrupted all the way down to field level, and if the home run had been hit with no wind, in 70 degree air at sea level. Standard distance factors out the influence of wind, temperature and altitude, and is thus the best way of comparing home runs hit under a variety of different conditions.
“Just Enough” home run – Means the ball cleared the fence by less than 10 vertical feet, OR that it landed less than one fence height past the fence. These are the ones that barely made it over the fence.
“No Doubt” home run – Means the ball cleared the fence by at least 20 vertical feet AND landed at least 50 feet past the fence. These are the really deep blasts.
“Plenty” home run – Everything else, except for the 2 above Homerun types
Lucky Homer – A home run that would not have cleared the fence if it has been struck on a 70-degree, calm day.

Here are Mujica’s eight home runs allowed this season:

Hitter Location Type Std. Distance
Davis NYM No Doubt 446
Davis SD Just Enough 408
Blake LA Just Enough 384
Lee HOU Plenty 406
Pence HOU Just Enough 426
Sandoval SD Plenty 436
Reynolds SD Plenty 381
Upton ARZ No Doubt 454

Mujica’s average Standard Distance is 418 feet (NL average: 395). The home run to Blake in Dodger Stadium is the only “lucky” home run Mujica has given up:

mujica HR

Here are the landing spots on all of Mujica’s home runs allowed this season:

2010_Mujica_Edward_pscatter

He has given up some absolute bombs, some normal home runs, and a couple of borderline ones. It is tough to make any real conclusions based on this data because of the sample size. For a little additional context, last year Mujica’s Standard Distance on his 14 home runs allowed was 387 feet. He gave up four in Petco Park and 10 on the road. Six were classified as “plenty” and eight as “just enough.”

If anything, I think we can say that this season Mujica’s homers allowed have not been of a particular unlucky nature. For the most part, they have been hit hard. Of course, that is not to say that he hasn’t been unlucky. After all, it is still a small sample and there are a lot of variables that go into a home run: bad pitch selection, bad execution, the hitter’s swing, etc. Perhaps Mujica has thrown good pitches that hitters have handled, or maybe he’s just thrown a few bad pitches that have been hammered.

We have yet another tool at our disposal: PITCHf/x. I am just going to look at 2010 data, identify Mujica’s pitch types, usage, and then specifically look into his home run pitches.

According to PITCHf/x, here is what Mujica throws:

Pitch Type 4Seamer 2Seamer Change Curve Slider Cutter
Velocity 92 89.9 86.9 81.4 82.8 89.7
Usage 54.8% 4.5% 27.6% 5.1% 6.9% 1.1%

Here’s the pitch movement graph (x-axis: horizontal movement, y-axis: vertical movement, view from catcher’s perspective):

mujica pitch movement

Mujica throws a split-finger fastball quite often (20% of the time for his career, according to BIS) that PITCHf/x apparently does not pick up on. It appears to me that the changeups classified by PITCHf/x are actually splitters. Here’s a good look at Mujica’s pitches from a bird’s eye view:

mujica flight path

If you look closely enough, you can see the four and two seam fastball, along with the splitter (classified as a change), move in on a right-handed hitter. The cutter, slider, and curve all break in the opposite direction.

Anyway, the last thing I wanted to look at is the location and pitch type on Mujica’s home runs allowed this season:

Mujica, homers allowed

Four homers on four-seamers, three on splitters (I reclassified the changes as splitters), and one on a slider. All located in prime home run territory, up and out over the middle of the plate.

If we’ve learned anything from this, it’s that we can analyze a player’s performance in a lot of different ways and, in the end, still be left with more questions than answers. Mujica is a flyball pitcher who is going to give up his share of home runs. However, if small sample size and regression mean anything to us, he won’t continue to give them up at this rate. At the same time, nobody wants to be testing any mathematical theories in the middle of a pennant race.

Strasburg is human

Stephen Strasburg made his second start of the year in Cleveland yesterday, giving up just one run (a Travis Hafner homer) in 5.3 innings. While he was still dominant, striking out eight and allowing just two hits, he did have some serious control issues as he walked five batters. As the game went on, it appeared Strasburg was having issues with his landing spot on the mound.

Anyway, here’s his pitch movement graph, with horizontal movement on the x-axis, vertical movement on the y-axis, and from the catcher’s perspective:

stras2 

If you remember, in Strasburg’s first start the gameday classifications were not picking up his two-seamer, classifying all fastballs as the four-seam variety. I am guessing that after Strasburg’s start, someone went in and “trained” the algorithm to pick up his two-seamer, since it is clear that he throws one. As you can see, his two-seamer generally moves more down and in on righties than his four-seamer.

It is also a couple MPH slower:

Pitch Amount Avg. Speed Horiz-break Vertical-break
Four-seamer 38 98.5 -6.9 6.4
Two-seamer 22 96.3 -8.5 5
Change 13 91.3 -7.3 -.4
Curve 22 85.1 7.1 -6.9

While Strasburg is interesting enough to watch on the field, check out his early off-field contributions, in the form of increased attendance and ratings. Strasburg’s marquee value may be as high as anyone is baseball right now.

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