Saturday, May 31, 2008

An Apology to Aaron Laffey

Dear Mr. Aaron Laffey,

When I made my Top 20 Pitching Prospects earlier this year, I was almost certain that I had done adequate research and had a pretty good list of the most promising hurlers in the game. Unfortunately, I left you in the cold.

I'll be the first to admit my short-sightedness. But it's not because I didn't believe in you, it's just that I hadn't heard of you and how can you include a a pitcher on a Top 20 list if you've never heard of them? I really don't have a good excuse for overlooking you, after all you were listed as the 5th best prospect in the Cleveland Indians farm system by Baseball America, but somehow your name slipped through the cracks, and your stellar performance in the minors up to this point was never given the praise it deserved.

With that in mind, I would like to retroactively bestow upon you the rank of 7.5 on my Top 20 list, right between Chris Volstad and Sean Gallagher. You, my friend, are a Caucasian Fausto Carmona, and deserve the respect of all baseball fans. With a GB% of 65%, you and Carmona will dominate the league and finally bring to light the pure essence of ground ball inducing dominance.

Once again, my deepest apologies, and best of luck to you in 2008.

Adam G

The Jay Bruce Show

There isn't much left to say about Bruce, except "wow." I knew he would come out hitting the ball hard (he had a LD% of 34%, the highest in all of AAA), but I wasn't sure if he would keep the same pace he had in the minors. His BABIP is currently well over .600, and his 5 to 1 BB:K ratio is very surprising considering the strike out totals Bruce put up in the minors.

Of course, Bruce doesn't even have 50 plate appearances in the majors yet, so there's no way to know how long his current pace will continue. However, even if he drops below his AAA pace, he could still hit .300 and end the year with 20 or more home runs. Not bad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brett Anderson Meltdown: Blip or Bust?

Up until a few weeks ago, Brett Anderson had perhaps some of the most impressive pitching stats to come out of the California League in several years. His May 1st performance against Visalia included 10 strikeouts and 0 walks in 7 innings of work, and it looked like Anderson was well on his way to a quick promotion to AA. But then something happened and Anderson went on to allow 19 runs in his next 11 innings, including a start on May 18th against San Jose that ended after he gave up 8 runs on 7 hits in just 0.1 innings.

So, the question on everyone's mind (especially Billy Beane's) is, "What happened?"

Looking at the numbers, it's kind of difficult to determine exactly went wrong. I've searched for comments from the A's or from Anderson himself, but haven't come up with much. After his last rough outing, Anderson simply said, "It's tough, because sometimes it's timely hitting and sometimes it's luck." A few websites have reported that Anderson is suffering from a sore thumb on his pitching hand and will not make another start until the soreness goes away, and currenlty has him on the 7-Day DL list. Not having first hand knowledge of the situation, I can't speculate how serious the injury is, or even if it's real (maybe the A's wanted to reduce the effect the past few starts would have on Anderson's psyche, so they told him he was injured?...). However, I think the numbers give us a decent amount of information with which to work with, and I agree with Anderson: sometimes it's timely hitting and sometimes it's luck.

Anderson has started 9 games in 2008, six of which lasted 6 innings or more. One start lasted 4.2 innings, and two starts -- both against San Jose -- lasted 2.1 innings total. During his 7 starts that lasted 4 innings or more, Anderson gave up a combined 33 hits and and 14 earned runs. During those two starts against San Jose, Anderson gave up 16 hits, and 14 earned runs. Seven of the 16 hits were ground balls, and 3 errors were committed by his teammates. Looking at just those numbers alone, I would have to speculate that 7 of the 14 earned runs against San Jose were out Anderson's control, and had little to do with his actual level of pitching talent.

But there's more. In May, Anderson's K%, and BB% have all been in line with his April numbers, and his GB% is only slightly lower than his career average. It seems that his location, movement, and approach have not significantly changed, but the results have. In April, his BABIP was .312, while in May it skyrocketed up to .382. By contrast, Anderson's teammate Trevor Cahill has a BABIP of .269. Cahill has also only faced San Jose once this year, giving up 8 earned runs in 5 innings, after giving up 10 earned runs in his previous 50 innings pitched.

To put things in perspective, San Jose is only 1 of 3 teams in the California League that has a record over .500, and is the only team with a record over .600. On the San Jose roster, there is only 1 position player born after 1986, while there are 8 players born in or before 1984. Anderson was born in 1988, so that puts him and any other young California League pitcher at a considerable disadvantage to the tune of about 3-4 years. San Jose also has the highest batting average of any California League team, the second highest OPS, ranks first in OBP, second in total bases, first in hits, first in runs, first in RBIs, and second in stolen bases. They are essentially an offensive power house and have destroyed just about every Cal League pitcher out there.

Given that his current peripheral stats are in line with his career numbers, if Anderson gets a start in the near future against any team that is not San Jose, and the thumb "injury" is cleared up, there's no reason to believe that he will not return to being a dominant starter like he was in April. As long as his BABIP drops back down to the .300 level, and he maintains his superb control, he should be well on his way to AA by mid-summer.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Little More Marrero

After writing my most recent post about Chris Marrero, I looked over his numbers a little longer and found a few more indicators that Marrero isn't in as much trouble as some might suggest.

Marrero's batted ball chart shows that he is essentially replicating his stats from 2007, except for his home run totals, which show that he has hit 3 home runs to right field, and 3 home runs to left field. Last season at A+ he hit 7 home runs to center or right field, and only 1 home run to left field. As a 20 year old right handed hitter, it's impressive that Marrero not only hits to the opposite field so often, but does so with power and maintains a .300 or better batting average to left, center, and right field in the air. By comparison, Travis Snider has a .100 batting average and has just 1 homer to the opposite field this season.

Chris Marrero is obviously still maturing as a hitter, and his overall stats suggest that when everything comes together, he's a very dangerous slugger, but when things aren't clicking, he's a groundball machine that seems to be lost at the plate.

Update: Today Marrero was 2 for 3, with a home run, a double, and 2 walks. It's just 1 game, but it could be a sign of things to come. Or, he could go 0 for his next 30.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Where Did You Go Chris Marrero?

So it's been a while since I sat down to write anything, but tonight I was looking at Chris Marrero's 2008 stats and there were several things that really stood out to me. Marrero came into this season as one of the most talked about young prospects, but his numbers so far have a lot of people scratching their heads and wondering if there was something we all missed. So, let's see what we can find...

In 191 plate appearances at A+ in 2008, Marrero's K% is down from 21.5% in 2007 to 19.4% this season, his BB% of 11% is steady with 11.9% from last year, and his 52% GB% is pretty much the same as last year as well. Other stats that have remained relatively steady include OBP (.338 in 2007, .326 in 2008), ISOP (.172 in 2007, .164 in 2008), and SLG (.431 in 2007, .400 in 2008).

The numbers that some prospectors find troubling are Marrero's current .236 batting average and his LD% that is sitting around 8%. While batting averages can be misleading and I generally don't give much thought to them, the 8% LD% suggests that Marrero is having a hard time making consistent, solid contact. However, I don't think there is much reason to be concerned with Marrero's performance this far, and I think there is sufficient evidence to suggest that he's simply picking up where he left off last year, and still learning to handle himself at the plate.

Though there are only about 100 everyday position players in the Carolina League, the overall numbers that Marrero has posted thus far rank him close to the top in almost every important category. In terms of ISOP, Marrero ranks 19th in the Carolina League, and is the only 20 year old in the top 30,and his BB% ranks 19th . Oddly enough, his BABIP of .270 ranks as the 6th worst in the league, suggesting that once Marrero returns to the contact rates he posted last year, he'll quickly re-establish himself as an elite talent. If he simply bumps his .270 BABIP back up to .300, his average and power numbers would compare very well with his 2007 numbers.

If you compare Marrero's April and May numbers, there's evidence that he has put his slow start behind him and may soon have a significant breakout in the next month or so. His OBP is up 80 points, his average is up 75 points, and his slugging is up 100 points. Perhaps more importantly, his LD% is up from 3% in April to 14% in May. While April was certainly a rough month for Marrero, May seems to have brought warmer weather (keep in mind that Marrero grew up in Miami and probably rarely played at temperatures under 60 degrees Fahrenheit) and better results. Like I said, look for a Marrero breakout soon.