MLB Notes, May 9th

Making Waves

  • The Rays’ James Loney has a .385/.427/.531 slash line this season. His BABIP? .424
  • From 2011-12, the Rockies’ Dexter Fowler hit 18 home runs. Through 31 games this season, he has 8, and an isolated power average .270
  • This season, the Red Sox Ryan Dempster owns a 11.51 K/9 mark. His career average is 7.86
  • Through 7 starts, opponents are hitting .372 against Twins’ opening day starter, Vance Worley
  • The Indians hold the best bullpen ERA mark this season, notched at just 2.60

(FanGraphs)

MLB Notes, May 8th

  • Through 110 plate appearances, the Twins’ Josh Willingham is drawing walks 20% of the time, tops in the majors.
  • Two players have already produced a WAR rating of 2.0 or higher: Braves’ Justin Upton (2.0) and Brewers’ Carlos Gomez (2.3)
  • Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera and Reds’ Joey Votto have nearly identical OBP’s (.465 and .463) and BABIP’s (.406 and .402) respectively, but Cabrera’s batting average is 60 points higher (.385 -.325)
  • The Athletics are 1st in runs (174), 3rd in stolen bases (25), and 1st in RBIs (163). No other team is in Top 3 for all three categories.
  • Scary: the Astros have the 4th highest BABIP (.322) and have won just 9 games.
  • The Yankees’ Travis Hafner currently holds a .412 OBP (11th in MLB). His highest career OBP of .439 came in 20o6 with the Indians.
  • The Blue Jays’ Colby Rasmus has struck out in 41.9% of his plate appearances this year. Teammate J.P. Arencibia isn’t too far behind at 36.3%.
  • Time for Triple-A call ups? The Marlins and White Sox are the only teams to have produced a negative team WAR rating, both at -1.2
  • The White Sox Adam Dunn has struck out in 33.1% of his plate appearances and has a .145 batting average, but is also victim to a .159 BABIP
  • The Orioles have two players both in the Top 5 in hits: Adam Jones (45) and Manny Machado (44)

Stats and info compiled from MLB.com and Frangraphs

The Curious Case of David Price Thus Far

So far this season, the Tampa Bay RaysDavid Price has found himself atop the leader board in a few different MLB categories. Seeing as he is the reigning AL Cy Young award winner, this shouldn’t come as a surprise to any baseball fans.

Unfortunately for David and Rays fans, these are not the categories you’d like to see yourself or favorite pitcher near the top in. In 7 starts this season, the 6’6 lefty has allowed the 4th most earned runs in the majors (31) and is tied for 7th in home runs allowed (8).

Just one-fifth of the way into the 2013 season, that is half the number of home runs he allowed in his entire 2012 campaign, when he finished with a career best ERA mark of 2.56 in 31 starts.

Interestingly enough, the issue doesn’t seem to be with Price’s control. With 40 strikeouts and 12 walks, he’s pretty much right on pace with his 2012 totals for strikeouts (205) and walks (59). Although there has been a fractional drop, his K/9 is still above 8.0 this season. His WHIP, however, which has been fairly static throughout his career at around 1.1, has ballooned to 1.48.

Seeing as Price uses all 5 of his pitches pretty regularly, I was curious to see if any frequencies – or velocity – had dropped this season as compared to last.

What I found was that Price is throwing his Four-Seam fastball with about the same frequency, but his velocity on that pitch had dropped almost full two MPH, from 96.5 to 94.6. And his Sinker, the pitch he relies on most (over 40%) had an even more significant drop, going from 96.2 to 93.9.

Since you can somewhat rule out control issues (on pace with 2012 totals) and strikeout % (no significant drop), the culprits seem to be both a drop in velocity and a raise in hits allowed per 9 innings. From 2010-12, Price never average more than 7.4 hits per 9 innings. The 2013 number – 10.9 – is cause for some concern.

Fortunately for David, it seems that he has been a victim of an unfortunate BABIP this year, since he currently sits at .351 and league average is roughly .290. Through some fault of his own, he has also done a poorer job stranding runners on base, as his LOB% is 64.5 this season.

Over the course of the season, that BABIP average should come back down closer to Earth, but will the decreased velocity allow opposing hitters to locate his pitches earlier?

It seems they aren’t having much a problem seeing the ball out of Price’s hand thus far, and the fact that 20% of the fly balls Price have allowed have left the park for home runs is something to keep an eye on.

 

(Stats from this article thanks to Baseball-Ref, Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs)

MLB Notes, May 7th

  • Bullpen Savers: 3 pitchers have reached the 50+ innings mark through 7 starts: Clay Buchholz, Felix Hernandez and James Shields 
  • 4 starting pitchers have allowed more than 30 earned runs this season: Roy Halladay, David Price, Mark Buehrle, and Philip Humber
  • Three closers (with 10+ opportunities) have converted 100% of their chances: Mariano Rivera, Jason Grilli and Jim Johnson
  • In the last seven days, Cubs’ first baseman, Anthony Rizzo, has 13 hits, 2 stolen bases, and a BABIP of .545
  • The Indians’ Carlos Santana maintains the highest BABIP in the majors, at .435
  • The hitter with the top Isolated Power (ISO), Justin Upton (.366) shouldn’t surprise you. Mark Reynolds, Chris Davis, and John Buck filling the 2, 3, and 4 slots, respectively, might.
  • The Rockies and Tigers are tied for the league lead in team batting average at .285
  • The Indians lead the MLB in both ISO (.203) and total home runs (44)
  • Moneyball: The Athletics have scored the most runs this season (174). The Marlins are dead last with just 98 runs on the season
  • The Astros are worst in the majors when it comes to striking out, K’ing in 26.8% of their plate appearances.

What’s eating Edwin “Gilbert Grape” Jackson?

In the recent off-season, the Cubs signed Edwin Jackson, hoping he could help stabilize their needs at the middle-end of the rotation. While Jackson has bounced around to many a team over the course of his career, he can certainly be serviceable, as he posted (pitching) WARP over 2.0 twice – 2009 with Detroit and 2011 with the White Sox.

Though it is a fairly small sample size, Jackson has now roughly pitched 1/4 (7) of the projected starts (30) this season. In those 7 starts, Jackson has averaged just over 5 1/3 innings per outing. Though he has never recorded a season long ERA worth writing home about – exluding small sample sizes, his best mark came in 2009 when he posted a 3.62 in 33 games with Detroit – his 6.39 average this season is quite alarming.

What could be the reason for such a jump this season?

My first instinct was to look at fly-ball rate and the park factor. According to ESPN, Wrigley Field has been home to the most hitter friendly contests this season. But with a closer look, we can eliminate that as the  factor, as in his four home starts, he has yielded just one home run. On the flip side, batters hold a .352 average against him at Wrigley, opposed to just .188 on the road.

Still, Jackson has improved his ground ball rate from 42% last season to 48% this season. This could definitely be a reason why his HR/9 last season was 1.1, compared to just 0.5 this season. It’s comforting to see that gb% increase when you play in such a hitters’ park, especially one so influenced by winds blowing out from home plate.

So, if the long ball isn’t the problem, then it must be…?

Well, I think the main reasons for the jump in ERA comes down to BABIP and his (lack-of) control.

Jackson has already handed out 18 free passes this season, which isn’t helped by the fact that his opponents are hitting .353 against him on batted balls in play. According to Jonah Keri, the league average is somewhere around .290 for BABIP, so we should see that number decrease over the course of the season.

The decrease can’t come soon enough, as a team that is 16th in the majors in ERA (3.95) will have a hard time winning games if they continue to remain towards the bottom of the league (24th -113) in runs scored.