Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Quick Hits from the Minors and the Web

Hey guys, I only have 2 more finals and then I'm done for 2 weeks! So far, my exams have kind of been a mixed bag of good times and bad, but I guess it all works itself out in the end.

Anyways, I just wanted to point out a few recent performances in the minors (and maybe a couple from the majors), as well as some stuff on ground ball rates I found.

David Price - 7 IP, 10 K, 0 BB, 1 R, 62% GB% - Perhaps the best start of his minor league career. If he repeats these numbers over the next month, he'll be deadly, but I have a feeling he won't.

Matt LaPorta - As part of the U.S. Olympic team, LaPorta hit something like 3 home runs in 4 games against Team Canada. I still haven't been able to locate any score boxes for the games, but I have to admit that I haven't tried very hard to do so. However, I will be following the games very closely once the Olympics start.

Billy Butler - Since August 1st, Butler is 8 for 17 with a home run, a double, and only 2 strike outs. He's still not exactly crushing the ball, but he's doing much better than anything he did prior to the beginning of July.

Josh Vitters - In his last 10 games, Vitters is 18 for 48, with 7 doubles and 2 home runs.

Francisco Liriano - I've already posted his numbers from Sunday night, but I think it's still worth pointing out that the Twins basically gained a #1 starter at the trade deadline to add to a team that is already very good.

Ground Ball Article

Yesterday, a classmate and I were talking about why some pitchers seem to have a natural ability to induce ground balls, while others just can't. We agreed that ground ball pitchers must be able to throw pitches that have a later downward break than non-ground ball pitchers, thus leaving the hitter with less time to change his swing plane to follow the drop of the ball through the strike zone. Then, last night I read an article at The Hardball Times about Brad Ziegler, the 28 year old rookie relief pitcher for the Oakland A's. Long story short, the article confirmed our thoughts about ground ball pitchers, and I thought it would be worth while to post some of the graphics and videos from the article.This first graph shows the difference between a Joe Blanton (a non-ground ball inducing pitcher) fastball and a Ziegler (an extreme ground ball pitcher) fastball from the 3rd base side. The black lines indicate the true path of the ball, while the blue lines indicate what the hitter's mind anticipates the path of the ball to be. Essentially, Ziegler's pitch looks like it's going to come in about a foot higher than it actually does, while a traditional fastball like Blanton's only drops about 6 inches past the hitters anticipated path. As a hitter, it is much easier to anticipate and then compensate for 6 inches than for a whole foot, and the result is usually a swing that under compensates and either misses the pitch altogether or hits the top of a ball, causing a ground ball to occur. Ziegler creates this problem for the hitter by coming from a side arm angle, while other pitcher's can create this scenario simply by creating extra downward movement on their pitchers. But the path of the pitch isn't the only problem hitter's face against a ground ball pitcher.

The first clip is a view of a Joe Blanton fastball from the hitter's perspective. The frame that the ball turns yellow indicates the moment that a hitter must begin his swing in order to make contact, and at which point said hitter must initiate his swing plane that his brain has pre-calculated to intercept the pitch. Any change in direction of the pitch after the yellow ball frame must be anticipated by the hitter in order to create a swing plane in the same path as the pitch.

This next clip is a view of a Brad Ziegler fastball from the hitter's perspective. Yellow ball frame is the same as before.

From the clips above, you can see that a Blanton fastball essentially drops 3 feet straight down (compared to an anticipated 2.5 foot drop) after the yellow ball frame. It's a simple vertical drop with no lateral aspect to it. But if you look at Ziegler's pitch, after the yellow ball frame it drops about 1 to 1.5 feet (compared to a 0.5 foot anticipated drop) and moves laterally about 0.5-0.75 feet. So, if you're a major league hitter, you have been trained for years to anticipate a 0.5 drop vertically, and very little lateral movement. Instead, you get a pitch that comes in at an odd angle, drops a lot more than you anticipated, and has a lateral slide. If by some chance you manage to swing at the correct vertical height, you still have to anticipate the correct lateral movement or else you get jammed inside or hit the ball off the end of your bat.

In basic terms, you have to go from a 2-D hitter to a 3-D hitter with almost no practice and just milliseconds to adjust. Possible? Sure. Likely? Apparently not, judging by Ziegler's 0.00 ERA in his first 30 innings pitched.

Anyways, if you're interested in reading more, just click the link provided The Hardball Times. Also, I've got some more information on ground ball out rates vs. fly ball out rates I'll be posting in the next few days.

Ok folks, it's back time to get back to school stuff. Let me know if there are any other minor league performances you'd like to point out.
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Sam Baker said...

Can you do the mid-season prospect list for the Nats?

Anonymous said...

Is this something that he has changed recently? Looking at his minor league stats, he was good before this year, but not great. Only 1 ER in 49 innings is ridiculous and he hasn't given up a home run in 2 years! Before that though it looked like his HR/9 was just a shade under 1 which is good but not unbelievable. So my main question is did he recently become a side arm thrower? Or has he finally harnessed it?

cndawg48 said...

Great Website..... The info on this article alone is ridiculous - Good Work.

To note on Vitters: He missed some time (late July) w/ hand problems again.

Thanks for your work! Great reading.

Sal said...

@2: Ziegler didn't convert to a submariner until last year, which is where the dramatic change occurs.

Thanks for linking to and discussing this article. Glad you enjoyed it.

- Sal B.

Anonymous said...

Why don't you think Price will keep it up? He's got the pedigree and stuff to certainly keep dominating.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Sal. Now if that is the case, why don't more relievers become submarine throwers since it seems to work really well?

Adam G said...

Hey Sal, thanks for checking in. I thought the article was great.

As for Price, his most recent performance was a bit above and beyond his usual. So, until he maintains those elevated stats for a month or longer, I'm inclined to believe that the real David Price is somewhere in his previous starts.

From everything we've seen, Price is an above average strikeout/control/ground ball pitcher. I don't think he improved to the excellent level in any of those categories over night. But that's just my opinion. Apparently ESPN thinks otherwise.

Adam G said...

Oh, I forgot to tell Sam that I'll try and do the Nats Top 10 soon.

Sal said...

"Thanks Sal. Now if that is the case, why don't more relievers become submarine throwers since it seems to work really well?"

I think it's really, really hard to throw that way!