Friday, April 24, 2009

Pablo Sandoval -- Cold Start, Bust, or Bad Luck?

A few days ago I was checking in on my fantasy roster and spent about 30 minutes trying to figure out what in the world was wrong with Pablo Sandoval. After almost a full month, he was hitting south of .250 with an OPS of .626. I knew he might struggle this year, but I thought he would at least come out hitting about .270 or .280.

So, I decided the best thing to do would be to break down some stats, and see if there was some kind of pattern. Here's what I came up with.

  • Sandoval and the Giants have played against 4 teams this year. Of those teams, the L.A. Dodgers have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball, allowing opposing hitters to post a .223 batting average so far this year. Not surprisingly, Sandoval is hitting just .231 against Dodgers pitching.
  • With a .760 OPS allowed on average by National League pitchers, the Diamondbacks (.747), Padres (.751), and Brewers (.765) have all looked good to average on the mound this year. Sandoval has an OPS of .900 or greater against both the Brewers and Diamondbacks, but an OPS of .300 against the Padres.
  • During a 1 for 17 stretch from April 10th to April 15th, Sandoval faced Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Chad Billingsley, and Clayton Kershaw and dropped his average from .364 to .179.
  • In his last week of play, Sandoval is hitting .444 with just 2 strikeouts and and OPS of 1.150.
  • After his first 28 at-bats, Sandoval had just 5 hits and an OPS of .472. Over his last 40 at-bats, Sandoval is hitting .375, and has raised his OPS to .769.
It looks to me like Sandoval is mostly back on track after a very rough start to the season. When he's playing against teams with average to poor pitching he's making them pay for it, and his strikeouts aren't piling up like they were at the beginning of April. Obviously, he's struggled against guys like Peavy and Billingsley (not exactly unexpected), but as soon as the Giants begin play against non-division teams Sandoval will get some time off from the relentless onslaught of N.L. West pitching.

Final verdict? I think Sandoval will be fine. He might go a few games without much production here and there, but he doesn't seem to be a very sporadic hitter. He makes contact often, and is playing very well right now. His power numbers are still low, but given the fact that he's only 22 years old, there's not much need for concern. A year or two from now, his doubles will start carrying a bit farther, and his home run totals will start matching what he put up at AA ball last year.

Baseball America Hot Sheet -- April 24th

Last week I failed to post or comment on the first Baseball America Hot Sheet of the year (Buster Posey at #1, Josh Reddick at #2) since I was working on acquainting myself with the Southern Atlantic League, but I wanted to be sure to mention it this week.

I won't cover the entire list from week 2, but if you're interested, you can check out the complete article at Baseball America.

1. Michael Stanton -- We all might as well get used to seeing Stanton's name, because next year he'll either be in the majors or be the #1 prospect in all of baseball. I've written about Stanton before, and I felt that though he struck out a lot, he was very capable of keeping his K%/BB% ratio under 2.0, which along with his power would put him somewhere between Adam Dunn, Andruw Jones, and Alex Rodriguez. So far this season, Stanton has maintained a K%/BB% of 26%/15% or 1.7, indicating that his increased plate discipline and offensive production at the end of last season was indeed the real deal (.300/.430/.660, 18 home runs in 209 plate appearances). Expect very big things from this guy.

2. Jason Knapp -- A relative unknown up until about 5 days ago, Knapp struck out 14 hitters in 7 innings during his last start. At 18 years old, his 15 K/9 ratio is extremely impressive even if he does have just over his 18 innings at A ball. Keep in mind that Tim Lincecum only pitched 28 innings at advanced A ball and posted a K/9 of 15.6 with a BB/9 of 3.9 at the age of 22. If Knapp reaches the 30 or 40 innings pitched mark with his K/9 still above 12.5, his comparable players would include Rick Ankiel, Dwight Gooden, and Nolan Ryan.

3. Desmond Jennings -- Jennings has been around a while now, so I won't say much about him. Very good plate discipline, good power, and lots of speed. Interestingly enough, one of his closest offensive comparables is Wally Joyner.

4. Jesus Montero -- My gut tells me that Montero is going to cool off soon, but he might not, so we'll just wait it out and see. He's kept his strikeout rate low this year, so maybe he's refined his plate approach a bit.

5. Casey Kelly -- I wasn't really sure why Baseball America chose Kelly for the #5 spot, but it's their hot sheet, so whatever. A 19 year old at low A, Kelly has good control and an above average groundball rate, but doesn't look too interesting to me as a pitcher. I don't think he's going to be a very good shortstop either.

That's all I'm going to cover for now. If you want to see the whole list, check it out at Baseball America, and have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Home Run Rate vs. Height of Pitch

Spring semester is wrapping up, which is a good thing, but it also means that it's time for finals, so I'm going to be bogged down with a bunch of studying over the next few weeks and posting will be very sporadic. However, I will be keeping an eye on what's going on in baseball, so I'll try and keep everyone up-to-date on at least the more significant details.

Anyways, I was skimming articles at The Hardball Times this afternoon when I came across an article titled What Makes a Home Run Pitch by Jonathan Hale. As many of you know, I'm a big supporter of groundball pitchers, so I was interested to see exactly what this particular article had to say about the location of pitches that most often resulted in home runs.

To summarize, the article was very well written, and made some interesting observations. A pitch just over a foot off the ground has essentially a zero percent chance of clearing the fence, and the rate of home runs increases almost in a linear fashion as the pitch rises up to a vertical height of 3.5 feet off the ground. Obviously, this means that "keeping the ball down" is the ideal approach for minimizing home runs, and pitchers that have a tendency to leave the ball up in the zone will surrender considerably more home runs.

The article also breaks home run rates down by horizontal location, as well as pitch type. The pitch most likely to not result in a home run? The sinker. Not exactly earth shattering news, but it's just one more example of why 2 pitchers with the exact same strikeout and walk rates but differing groundball rates may end up with considerably different WHIPs, ERAs, and win to loss ratios.

It's a good piece of writing, and well worth a look for anyone interested.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

SAL Top 5 Pitchers -- Week 1

So, yesterday I covered the top 5 SAL hitters, and halfway promised a top 5 pitchers list for week 1 as well. This list is a bit less refined than the hitters list, but I'll be working out the kinks over the next few weeks, so hopefully my lists will be more accurate and easier to create.

For this list, the cut-off was at least 5 innings pitched, and the stats are through April 17th.

  1. Yeliar Castro, 21 years old, ROM -- This is a repeat year for Castro in the SAL, after posting a 4.98 ERA in 2008. So far, so good, as his first start included 10 strikeouts in 5.2 innings with 1 walk. Unfortunately, Castro got the loss after giving up just 2 earned runs.
  2. Eric Surkamp, 21 years old, AUG -- Surkamp came very close to taking the top spot this week, going 5 innings and giving up just 3 hits in his first start of the year. He also recorded 9 strikeouts and issued 1 walk.
  3. Daniel Runzler, 24 years old, AUG -- As a 24 year old relief pitcher at A ball, Runzler probably won't get much attention, so we're giving him some today. In 3 appearances, he has 10 strikeouts along with 2 walks, and has allowed just 1 earned run. To top it all off, he also has a groundball to fly ball ratio of 5.00.
  4. Christian Friedrich, 21 years old, ASH -- As long as Friedrich is pitching against A ball hitters, I expect to see his name on this list just about every week. His first start went 6 innings, included a 3.00 groundout to fly out ratio, 9 strikeouts, 2 walks, and 1 hit.
  5. Jason Knapp, 18 years old, LWD -- You've got to hand it to any 18 year old who can come in and strikeout 16 batters in his first 11.1 innings. Knapp has allowed 8 hits and issued 4 walks in his first 2 starts, and has a GO/AO ratio of 1.50 this year. With a mid-90's fastball and a change-up and curve in the mid to high 70's, expect lots of strikeouts with the occasional control problem.

Friday, April 17, 2009

TPC Top 5 SAL Hitters Through April 17th

Hey guys, I've got a new gig writing a weekly Southern Atlantic League update for, so I've been spending the last few days putting together stats, spreadsheets, and familiarizing myself with the league. Anyways, I figure I might as well post everything on here that I submit to First Inning, so here's my first SAL weekly update.

With most teams in the South Atlantic League finishing up their first full week of games last night, it's time to start stat crunching. First, we'll start with the top 5 SAL hitters for the week, and then if I get a chance, I'll post the top 5 pitchers either today or tomorrow.

To construct this list, I considered only hitters with more than 20 plate appearances, and I weighted walks, strikeouts, home runs, extra base hits, batting average, BABIP to calculate production levels. I did not take into consideration age, position, or park factors, althought hopefully once I get my stuff together, I will probably at least include age and position into the equation.

So, here it is.

  1. Ben Lasater, 24 years old, 3B, GBO -- No one in the SAL is mashing the ball like Lasater. In 30 plate appearances, he has 11 hits including 5 doubles and 2 home runs, 22 total bases, with only 4 strikeouts. He's probably a bit old for the league, but who cares, it's week 1.
  2. Tim Federowicz, 21 years old, C, GVL -- Federowicz struggled last year at A ball, but he's got speed for a catcher and good plate discipline. So far in '09, he's hitting .308 with 2 home runs and 2 doubles in 28 plate appearances, and a .994 OPS. If the power surge sticks, Federowicz might prove to be a viable option for the Red Sox in a few years.
  3. Calvin Anderson, 21 years old, 1B, WV-- With 2 doubles, 2 home runs, and 17 total bases in just 25 plate appearances, Calvin Anderson looks to be a man on a mission. At 6'7" and 240 punds, size and power projection have never been a problem, but plate discipline and contact rates have been an issue at times.
  4. Jim Murphy, 23 years old, 1B, LWD -- In 109 at-bats last year, Murphy collected all of 24 hits and posted a batting average of just .220. After only 23 at-bats in the 2009 season, Murphy already has 12 hits and is batting a red hot .522, including 4 multi-hit games, and 4 walks to go along with his 5 strikeouts.
  5. Travis Mattair, 20 years old, 3B, LWD -- Mattair doesn't hit for a lot of power (posted an IsoP of just .074 in 507 plate appearances last year), but so far this season he hasn't had to, as he leads the league with 13 walks in 36 plate appearances. The on-base approach won't likely work much longer for a guy who posted a 3:1 strikeout to walk ratio last season, but it's an impressive feat nonetheless.
Just Missed:
Doug Hogan -- 3 home runs, .217 average, 9 strikeouts in 24 plate appearances
Samuel Sime -- .571 batting average, 3 doubles
Ebert Rosario -- .450 average, 3 doubles, 1 triple

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quick Hits: Hot Hitters

My last quick hits post was pretty much dedicated to pitching performances, so here are a few hitters that have posted note worthy performances over the past week.

  • Matt LaPorta is hitting a cool .500 over 18 plate appearances, posting an OPS of 1.556 with 3 doubles, a triple, and a home run. More importantly, LaPorta has just 2 strikeouts, and has a line drive rate of 43%. For his career, anytime LaPorta is seeing the ball well enough to post a line drive rate of 19% or better, he's posted a slugging percentage of .576 or higher, with 31 doubles, 2 triples, and 30 home runs in 468 plate appearances. If his early results are any indicator, LaPorta might be headed towards some monstrous numbers over the coming months.
  • Josh Reddick has a home run in 4 straight starts for Portland, and is hitting .381 with a slugging percentage of 1.048. With a fly ball rate of 43%, it seems Reddick might be undercutting the ball a bit more than necessary, but so far it's worked.
  • Mat Gamel has picked up where he left off, collecting 4 doubles and 2 home runs in 26 plate appearances. His 1.526 OPS is second in the Pacific Coast League.
  • Buster Posey is off to a great start, posting a walk to strikeout rate of 2:1 and hitting s double and 2 home runs in 27 plate appearances.
  • Cody Johnson and Freddie Freeman are off to fast starts in the Carolina League, hitting 4 and 2 home runs respectively. Johnson also has 3 walks to go along with his 6 strikeouts.
  • In the Midwest League, Brett Lawrie is off to a good start, hitting a homer, double, and triple, with 3 walks and 4 strikeouts in 17 plate appearances.
  • 18 year old Zach Collier has put up solid numbers so far, showing good power with 4 doubles and a triple, and excellent plate discipline with 4 walks in 22 plate appearances in the South Atlantic League.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Jordan Schafer

The Braves are off to a hot start this year, and rookie centerfielder Jordan Schafer has done an excellent job both defensively and offensively. There's also been some talk of moving Schafer to the top of the order to utilize his speed. It's not a bad idea, but what kind of production could the Braves expect from the 22 year old at the lead off spot, and would his speed make up for his inexperience? Let's check his comps and find out.

I found a nice group of comparables for Schafer, and the news is part good and part bad for Braves fans depending on their perspective.

The good news is that the majority of the above players have shown a great deal of talent, and at least 3 of them (Sosa, Hunter, and Gomez) have proven to be adequate to above average major league ball players. Also, of the 7 players, Schafer posted some of the highest power totals (although, he was suspended last year for PED substance abuse), and his plate discipline was pretty good as well.

And now, the bad news. Of the above players that have seen significant time at the major league level, none of them would have made a very good lead off hitter as a rookie. Here are their major league production totals.

If we stretch out the home runs and extra base hit totals to 600 plate appearances, Schafer could be good for 12 to 18 home runs this year, and 30 or more doubles and triples, with 20 plus stolen bases. Overall, those aren't bad numbers, but with an average on-base percentage of just .303, the Braves would be much better off leaving Yunel Escobar and Kelly Johnson at the top of their order for the remainder of the season (.373 and .355 career OBPs respectively). The batting average also projects as less than ideal.

So, maybe Schafer isn't quite ready for taking over the lead off spot for the Braves, but it looks like he has a promising career ahead of him. If Schafer keeps up with his comps, in his prime he could hit between .280 and .300 with 20 to 30 home runs and 20 to 30 stolen bases per year.
...Read more

Monday, April 13, 2009

Brett Anderson Scouting Report at Project Prospect

For anyone interested, Adam Foster has an excellent scouting report of Brett Anderson's first major league start up right now at Project Prospect. I think he'll be adding to it later this evening, and it includes a one minute clip of Anderson pitching to Ken Griffey Jr. I think it's a very fair report, with some very good information. Nice work, Adam.

The Braves Report

I was cruising around on today and saw that they have released their MLB power rankings for the week with none other than the Atlanta Braves sitting at the #1 spot. Anyone can look good for a week (especially when they play a series against the Nationals), so I thought I'd take a closer look at how the Braves have done so far, and maybe break down some stats.

First, the offense...
  • As of today, the Braves are 6th in the majors in plate appearances per home run (21.3). Of the 5 teams ahead of them, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Texas, and Chicago will probably be in the top 10 all season long, and I expect the Braves to fall back about 10 spots by June (they came in at #23 last year).
  • The Braves rank 3rd in the majors in extra base hits with 29. I'd love to see them continue to hit the ball and rack up all these home runs and doubles, but last year they came in at number 19 in the country, and that was with Teixeira batting clean-up.
  • As a team, the Braves have struck out 42 times and walked 21 times in 2009, which puts them at about 15th place in the majors.
  • Atlanta currently has the highest team OPS in the majors, and is the only team above .900. In 2008 the Braves posted a team OPS of .753, suggesting that the offense is currently overproducing and will probably experience a huge collapse in the near future.
  • For those interested in pitch counts, the Braves have just 2 hitters in the top 100 pitches per plate appearance category: Casey Kotchman (#48) and Jordan Schafer (#68).
  • Of the 2 teams Atlanta has played against, Philadelphia's pitchers rank 12th in the nation with a WHIP of 1.36, and Washington's pitchers come in dead last with a collective WHIP of 1.86. The national average is 1.40.
Translation: Atlanta's offense was really hot last week against some very poor pitching. They displayed mediocre plate discipline, and so far have been very inept at working the count. Expect a lot fewer doubles and home runs in the coming weeks, and a lot of opposing pitchers taking advantage of the Braves hack-and-run philosophy by getting early strikes in the dirt or outside the strike zone.

And now the pitching...

  • Atlanta's pitching staff ranks 14th in the nation with a collaborative ERA of 4.17. Last year they finished the year about 50 points higher with a mix of very ineffective pitchers, so as long as the starters stay healthy this year, a 4.20 ERA seems reasonable. That would put them inside the top 15.
  • The bullpen has blown 3 saves this year, which ties them with Milwaukee for the worst bullpen in the country.
  • Atlanta's pitching corp ranks 23rd in the nation in WHIP.
  • Braves starters have provided 3 quality starts this year, which is on pace with the major league average.
  • Philadelphia and Washington rank towards the middle to lower end of major league teams in most offensive categories.
Translation: The Braves pitching has done a decent job so far, all except for a couple of blown saves by the bullpen. The starters have pitched well and aren't giving up a lot of early runs, but they haven't blown away the competition either. Expect more of the same, unless injuries derail the system.

The #1 ranking by ESPN seems a bit aggressive and ill-conceived, but as long as the Braves keep winning, I'll be happy.
Overall, the Braves are looking good, and the rotation looks to be much more dependable than last year. However, the offensive production is likely to taper off, and once it does I think Atlanta will probably carry a winning percentage closer to .500 throughout the season. ...Read more

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Quick Hits

Hey guys, I took a quick vacation to the beach for a few days, and I'm not exactly motivated to go back to school or do anything not related to sleeping and being a bum. But if I can't be at the beach, at least the baseball season is finally in full swing to keep me distracted.

  • The Nick Adenhart tragedy is probably one of the most devastating events baseball has faced in a long time. Forget steroids, forget inflated salaries, and all the other stuff that seemed so important just a few days ago. My heart goes out to the Adenhart family, as well as all of the other families effected by the wreck. I also hope Joba Chamberlain is paying very close attention.
  • Trevor Cahill went 5 innings, giving up 2 earned runs, and walking 5 in his first start for the A's earlier this week. Brett Anderson went 6 innings last night, giving up 5 earned runs during the second inning, but otherwise pitched well.
  • Clayton Kershaw pitched 5 strong innings, giving up just one earned run and striking out 6.
  • Jack McGeary debuted at A ball last night, going 7 innings and giving up 1 earned run with 8 strikeouts.
  • Madison Bumgarner also made his debut last night at advanced A ball, giving up just 2 hits with 5 strikeouts in 6 innings.
  • Tommy Hanson went 4 innings at AAA, striking out 10.
  • It's a bit early to make much of minor league hitting performances, but Pedro Alvarez, Josh Reddick, Yonder Alonso, Justin Smoak, and all of the other well known position players have had at least one impressive game thus far.
More to follow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

TPC Quick Comps: Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick

Lars Anderson and Josh Reddick both put up some very solid numbers last season, and could soon add some pop to an already talented and youthful Red Sox team. I dug around to find some comps for each hitter, and I think there is good reason for Red Sox fans to be very optimistic .

First, the comps for Anderson (based off of minor league totals).

As it stands, I like the Wright comparison most. Posada didn't have quite the same contact capacity as Anderson does, and Walker had better power numbers, so they don't match up quite as well.

Anderson showed some extra power in 2008 at advanced A ball, so I also broke down the comparison based strictly off of A+ stats.

Once again, I think the Wright comparison is probably our best here. I think that ultimately Anderson will hit for more power than Wright, but not nearly as much as Walker, and should be a solid .290 plus hitter early in his career. I'll be interested to see if his home run numbers start to climb this year, but even if they don't he still projects as a 25 to 30 plus home run hitter with an upside of 35 to 40.

Here are Reddicks comps (once again, based off of minor league totals).

Overall, I feel most comfortable with the Jermain Dye comp, but Reddick has enough power and plate discipline to match up with Morneau and maybe even Braun over the next year or two.

Just for the sake of it, here are each player's A ball numbers (I wanted to use their advanced A stats, but I felt the A ball stats were more accurate for this comparison).

The Sox made it very clear last year that they wanted Reddick to become a more selective hitter and draw more walks, but it seemed to only mess with his head towards the end of the year, and he didn't respond very well. I've read several articles this spring indicating that the Red Sox will probably lay off a bit this year and let Reddick do his thing while quietly iterating pitch selection, and I think that's probably the best approach to take. Looking at the stats and comps, guys like Reddick succeed the most when they're swinging the bat and making contact, so why not let them? If he had a really bad strikeout to walk ratio it might be a legitimate point of focus, but the numbers suggest he'll probably be just fine.

Anyways, Reddick also projects as a .280 or .290 plus hitter early in his career, with 25 or 30 home runs and 40 on the up side. On the surface it seems that Anderson and Reddick will have essentially the same production level, but they'll get there in completely different ways. Reddick will always be a contact based hitter, while Anderson will be a much more patient on-base type player. Either way, I think they both should have very productive careers.
...Read more

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

TPC Video Break: Pablo Sandoval

Here's a short interview Pablo Sandoval gave last summer. He mentions that prior to 2008 he was more of a line drive hitter, mostly for singles and doubles, and then started hitting home runs in 2008.

Sandoval went on to compete in the Venezuelan League Home Run Derby last year, and actually beat Miguel Cabrera in the final round, as seen in the following clip.

Fun With Numbers: Matt Wieters vs Bengie Molina

After comparing Bengie Molina to Pablo Sandoval, I wanted to see how some of Molina's AA stats matched up against Matt Wieters, the #1 prospect in baseball. I was really shocked by the comparison, and it really left me scratching my head. Is Matt Wieters really the next Bengie Molina?

Here are each catchers numbers from AA.

Weird, huh? Of course, the sample sizes are sub-optimal, especially for Molina. But then again, anything over 200 plate appearances is large enough that you can't just completely dismiss it.

As I noted in the Sandoval vs Molina post, Molina bounced around between levels quite a bit in the minors, so it's hard to get a good read on how much of his production was talent and how much was luck. At the age of 21 he posted an OPS of .735 at AA, then went on to post an OPS of .956 and 1.003 at AA ball as a 22 and 23 year old respectively. I used his stats as a 21 year old in the Sandoval comparison since Sandoval played at AA as a 21 year old, and because that was the age at AA that Molina had the largest sample size.

In both the Molina vs Sandoval match-up and the Molina vs Wieters match-up we aren't really considering the whole picture, but it's just enough information that it creates a few problems with various solutions.

I think the most obvious thing to note here is that Molina had a career year during his time at AA at the age of 22 and 23, and for whatever reason he wasn't able to recreate the same level of production later is his career. It's possible that Sandoval also just went through a career year in 2008, and might plummet back down to his previous production level (.788 OPS at A+ in 2007), and it's possible that Wieters experienced a career year in 2008 as well.

There's something unsettling about the whole situation. My gut tells me that Wieters and Sandoval are both very much the real deal, and that Molina is the outlier in this situation, so I'll take that route for now, but I'll definitely keep this match-up in mind.

...Read more

Monday, April 6, 2009

Some Stuff About Brett Cecil

For all you Blue Jays fans or anyone who doesn't think I'm crazy for rating Brett Cecil so high in my 2009 top pitching prospects list, there's a short and entertaining write-up from a blog called 3:10 to Joba I think you might like.

My favorite line:

Little experience in high minors, easily annoyed by J.P. Riccardi's insistence that Cecil must succeed for J.P. to feed his family"

2009 N.L. Rookie of the Year Update

During my original post covering the candidates for the National League Rookie of the Year Award, I left off Jason Motte, the assumed closer for the Cardinals this year. Motte essentially has just one pitch - a high 90's fastball - but last year he was able to strikeout 14.8 batters per 9 innings pitched at AAA, and has been working on a slider and change-up recently.

Motte will be 27 years old this season, and projects to have a K/9 rate around 8.5 and a BB/9 of 3.5 with a 40% ground ball rate. Depending on how many save situations he sees, he might pick up anywhere from 25 to 40 saves, which would certainly put him in the running for Rookie of the Year.

With a weak rookie field in the N.L., I've got Kenshin Kawakami as my #1 pick right now, and Jason Motte as a very close #2.

Pablo Sandoval vs Bengie Molina

After posting a few times about Pablo Sandoval, I was a bit curious to see how he matched up against current Giants catcher Bengie Molina.

Molina spent time at advanced A ball during 2 separate seasons, and played at AA ball during 3 separate seasons, so the first thing I had to do was to determine which years to include in the comparison. Ultimately, I went with the largest sample size closest to the age the Sandoval played at each level. It might not be a perfect approach, but I think it provides a moderate baseline of stats for each player.

Here's their advanced A ball stats.

To keep things short and simple, using these numbers it looks like Sandoval is about 2 years ahead of Molina in terms of power and contact capacity, and about a year behind him in plate discipline.

On to AA stats (Notice that the best numbers I could come up with for Molina at AA ball were before the numbers used for the advanced A comparison. Like I said, Molina went back and forth between levels, so I went with what I felt matched up best).

Once again, Sandoval looks to be much more advanced in the power and contact departments, while falling a bit behind in plate discipline.

So, what does this all mean for Sandoval? Well, Molina has hit in the .275 to .295 range most of his career, with between 15 and 20 home runs a year (he usually averages about 450 to 500 plate appearances a year, so if you stretch his home run total out to 600 to 650 plate appearances you get 20 to 25 home runs a year). Not bad numbers for a catcher, but pretty lousy numbers for a guy who hits in the middle of the order.

If Sandoval gets 600 plate appearances, I think he could hit 20 to 40 points higher than Molina, and hit anywhere from 5 to 15 more home runs per year. That puts him in the .295 to .315 range with 25 to 40 home runs on the high side. That's pretty much in line with my other projections for Sandoval. I'm thinking maybe David Wright without the stolen bases and about half the walks?
...Read more

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Jeff Francoeur Spring Training Clip

Here's a clip of a Jeff Francoeur at-bat this spring courtesy of 'GG' at MySpace. I heard a lot about Francoeur's new stance, so I was expecting some kind of dramatic new look, but it seems like he just widened his stance and simplified his upper and lower body movements. He maintained a 1:1 walk to strikeout rate this spring, and he says he was getting into more 2-0 counts than last year, which I think is probably due to keeping his head still and seeing the ball longer. I'm rooting for Jeff this year more than any other Braves player and would love to see him have a big season. Thanks for the clip GG, and good luck in '09 Jeff!

Jeff Francoeur

Project Prospect Madison Bumgarner Scouting Report

For those of you interested, Project Prospect recently posted a scouting report covering Madison Bumgarner's most recent Spring Training start against the Dodgers. The report includes uninterrupted video of each of the 3 innings Bumgarner pitched, including a 3 pitch strikeout against Manny Ramirez. It's an excellent report, and well worth checking out. Great job once again guys!

Sleeper Pitching Prospect Red Sox Style

The Boston Red Sox have done a great job over the past several years drafting and developing excellent young pitchers. Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson, Jon Lester, and Michael Bowden have all come through the Red Sox farm system, and are all poised to help create perhaps one of the most talented and deepest young pitching staffs in the majors. While most teams would be ecstatic to have such talent in the wings, the Red Sox are quickly restocking their minor league pitching pool.

One of the up-and-coming young pitchers for the Sox is a young man by the name of Stolmy Pimentel, a 19 year old right hander from the Dominican Republic. Though young and inexperienced, Pimentel has 4 pitches, including a 94 mph fastball, a very good changeup, a curve, and a sinker in the making. At short season A ball in 2008, Pimentel averaged 8.7 strikeouts per 9 innings, while allowing just 2.4 walks and a WHIP of 1.08. With a career ground ball rate of 49%, the development of his sinker and curve should help him keep the ball on the ground more often, as well as create more headaches for hitters over the years.
...Read more

Friday, April 3, 2009

TPC Video Break: The Freak

A nice compilation of Tim Lincecum related clips for your viewing pleasure.

I really like the comparison between Lincecum and cricket bowler Shoaib Akhtar, who at one point held the world record for fastest cricket ball in the world (100.2 mph). Both Lincecum and Akhtar use "momentum pitching", which helps them attain maximum velocity by creating a significant amount of forward momentum with their bodies, which is then transferred to the ball via their arms.

In contrast to the momentum approach, here's a clip of Felix Hernandez, who actually comes to a complete stop in his motion before throwing to home plate.

I'm not an expert when it comes to pitching mechanics, but I would much rather see a pitcher use their whole body like Lincecum than to use the stop-and-start motion that Hernandez uses. It seems to me that by utilizing your body more, it reduces the overall stress on your arm, and increases velocity without increasing fatigue. There's a really good article at Drive Line Mechanics about Hernandez and the whole momentum versus stop-and-start pitching approach.

Daisuke Matsuzaka seems to have a mixed approach, creating some momentum, but not quite as much as Lincecum.

This final clip is of Greg Maddux during a bullpen session. He uses a very smooth momentum based approach that allows him to create velocity without putting much strain on his arm, and allows for a very efficient approach.

Everybody's different, so it's impossible to say that one approach is always better than another, but I think I prefer the momentum based mechanical approach.
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Pablo Sandoval Projections: The Remix

Yesterday I went over some numbers to try to illustrate why Pablo Sandoval is not the next Albert Pujols. I still don't think he's going to be as good as Pujols, but after digging through some stats and giving Sandoval's recent offensive breakout some consideration, I've decided that Sandoval might be a lot better than most people realize.

When I put up Pablo's numbers against Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, and Brian McCann yesterday, it looked like Sandoval might be on his way to a decent career as a Miggy Lite, or maybe a Venezuelan Brian McCann. Using his minor league totals, it certainly didn't look like Pablo was anywhere near as talented as Albert Pujols.

Using these numbers (which is what most projection systems go by), the relationship between Cabrera, McCann, and Pujols just didn't look right. After going over the stats, I noticed that prior to 20 years old, Cabrera and Pujols were both very mediocre hitters (Cabrera had very little power, and Pujols was a 13th round draft pick). Somehow, they both broke out at the age of 20 and went on to be incredible hitters. Since Sandoval seems to have taken the same offensive path, I think it would be much more accurate to use his stats as a 20 year old instead of his minor league totals (the same goes for Cabrera).

I'm not really sure why or how it happens, but some players don't put all their talent together until a couple to several years after high school. David Wright and Ryan Howard followed very similar routes, putting up mediocre totals until suddenly breaking out. It seems like Sandoval is following a similar route, so using his total minor league stats is probably the wrong way to go about analyzing him. Instead, I think a more accurate approach would be to use his numbers from his highest minor league level.

Going by these numbers, Sandoval will likely post a .300 average in the majors, with 25 to 30 home runs this year. Over the next 10 years, he's capable of hitting well over .300 with 30 to 40 home runs a year. It's a very basic approach, but I think it's more accurate than what most projection systems are predicting right now.

He still doesn't look like the second coming of Albert Pujols, but he'll do a very nice impression of Miguel Cabrera at times, and put up some very nice totals.
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Thursday, April 2, 2009

TPC Video Break: What's a 4 Shake Ball?

One of the best things about the internet is how it helps spread ideas across cultural borders. How long do you think it will take before we see the 4 shake ball in the majors?

TPC Quick Comps and Projection: Pablo Sandoval

Pablo Sandoval is the type of hitter fans love to watch. He'll swing at just about anything, and actually makes contact often enough that it isn't too painful to watch. I think Sandoval could surprise a lot of people in San Francisco this year, but I also think expectations might exceed his true capacity. In an article for ESPN, Hall of Famer Willie McCovey was quoted as saying, "I think (Pablo Sandoval is) a natural born hitter. I went out on a limb last year and said I think he's going to be another Albert Pujols. I know it's high praise, but that's kind of who he reminded of when he first came up."

No offense to Mr. McCovey, but Sandoval definitely ain't no Albert Pujols.

Here's a quick list of comps for Sandoval, including Albert Pujols. All stats are minor league averages.

Those are decent comps, but in terms of plate discipline and power, Sandoval comes in dead last. That doesn't mean he won't be any good, it just means that he's probably going to only be half as good as Albert Pujols. If he's lucky, maybe he'll turn into a Miguel Cabrera or Brian McCann and hit close to .300 his first few years with 20 to 30 home runs, and then have a career year or two with 35 or 40 home runs before his power begins to taper off.

Most projection systems have Sandoval hitting between .290 and .310 this year, with 17 home runs. I don't completely disagree with those numbers, but I think they could be off, maybe even severely off. Just looking at Sandoval's stats from 2007 and 2008 and excluding his stats from A ball, he actually projects as a .310 to .320 hitter with 25 to 35 home runs this year. I'm not saying it's going to happen, but it's definitely a possibility. I think it's important to at least give a bit more weight to his most recent stats, so I think the following stat line is reasonable for Pablo in 2009.

.315 Batting Average, 25 Home Runs, .830 OP,
85 RBI, 14% K%, 4% BB%

Definitely not a bad projection, but certainly not as good as Albert Pujols (.359 batting average, 43 home runs, 1.106 OPS at the age of 23).

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Wednesday, April 1, 2009

TPC Video Break: Worst Pitch Ever

I saw this clip on and thought you all might enjoy it. Awesome.

Mayor Mallory later appeared on the Jimmy Kimmel show to explain exactly what happened and give it one more shot.

This first pitch was pretty good, too.

TPC Prospect Smackdown: Michael Stanton vs Cody Johnson (vs Michael Stanton)

Young hitters with elite level power don't come around often, which explains the intrigue in guys like Michael Stanton and Cody Johnson. Both hitters can absolutely crush the ball, and both hitters have been known to accumulate a substantial amount of strikeouts. In 468 at-bats at A ball last year, Johnson hit 26 home runs and struck out a whopping 177 times. Stanton also had 468 at-bats at A ball in 2008, clearing the fences 39 times while striking out 153 times. So, the question begging to be asked is which slugger is better, and which one has the brightest future ahead of them?

To make things simple, let's just throw up each hitters stats from A ball last year.

Without too much analysis, I think it's obvious that Stanton is already quite a bit better than Johnson. Sure, they both hit the ball really hard, but Johnson's strikeout to walk ratio is really bad (1 being really good, 2 being average, 3 bad, and anything over 4 is really bad), and just by looking at the numbers it seems that he just swings the bat as hard as he can and hopes to make contact. Stanton, on the other hand at least displayed reasonable plate discipline, and put up much more substantial power numbers (his IsoP was the highest for any 18 year old at A ball that I can find on record). Toss in the age difference, and I think the comparison isn't even close.

If we end the smackdown right now, Stanton walks away with a sound victory. But if we dig a bit deeper, it gets even better. Here are each players monthly stats for 2008.

Johnson had a pretty good August, but other than that, his strikeout to walk ratio was generally very bad, and his power and average weren't all that impressive either. Stanton started the year looking a bit lost, but by June he had found his stride and really started to crush the ball. By July, his plate discipline had dramatically improved, and over his last 200 plate appearances he posted a strikeout to walk ratio of 1.56, and an IsoP of .365.

Normally, I don't like to consider a player's month-by-month performance line, as hot streaks and luck can significantly effect stats, but in Stanton's case, the improvement from April to August was so dramatic and followed such a smooth linear pattern, that I couldn't disregard the month to month changes. After a bit of research, I was very interested to find this excerpt from an article on

"Before the All-Star break, (Stanton) hit .281 with 15 home runs and 47 RBIs. An aggressive hitter, he struck out 86 times in 249 at-bats.

After the break, his numbers improved to .306 with 24 home runs and 50 RBIs in 219 at-bats. With a better command of the strike zone, his strikeouts reduced. He fanned just 67 times and drew 42 walks in the second half.

'He wants to be good on defense -- he just wants everything,' (Marlins' vice president of player development and scouting Jim) Fleming said. 'When we identify something for him, he works at it. One of the things we identified in the second half was, let's see if he can cut down on his strikeouts.'

He did."

I've heard of a lot of teams asking a lot of sluggers to work on their plate discipline, but I can't think of an instance where such dramatic improvement was achieved as quickly as what Micheal Stanton did in 2008. To give you an idea of just how drastic the change was (especially for an 18 year old), here are some A ball stats posted by various power hitters from the last decade or so matched up against the pre-All-Star Stanton and the post-All-Star Stanton, as well as Cody Johnson.

Depending on which Mike Stanton is the real Mike Stanton, we could be looking at either the next Russell Branyan/Wily Mo Pena, or the next Alex Rodriguez/Andruw Jones with substantially greater power.  But which one is it?  We'll probably learn a lot about Michael Stanton over the next 6 months, particularly how real his development at the plate was from July to August last year.  

If I had to make a guess, I would probably take the optimistic route with Stanton, and say that he's probably going to post a K/BB ratio of 2.5 or better in the coming year, maybe even under 2.0.  Unlike Alex Rodriguez and Ken Griffey Jr., Stanton was drafted as a very raw hitter.  In high school he played football, basketball, and baseball, and in his own words, he never had the chance to focus on just one sport.  

"It was always, I'd have basketball practice and baseball hitting at night.  Or during baseball season, I'd have to go to the gym and shoot, to keep up with all three sports.  I was pretty interested in seeing how it would be like to stick to one sport all the way through, and not have to deal with but one."

With three sports taking up his time in high school, it's easy to see why Stanton didn't get much attention heading into the 2007 draft.  Scouts saw very little of him, and pretty soon Pete Carroll at USC began recruiting Stanton as a wide receiver.  As Jim Fleming said in an article by Peter Gammons, "A lot of people didn't see a lot of him... He didn't do a lot of showcases."  If you know anything about high school football and the recruiting process, you know how time consuming it can be, and you know that anyone good enough for division I football probably doesn't have a lot of time to spend at baseball camps working on his swing mechanics.  

Whereas Cody Johnson spent three summers slowly posting slightly improved stats between rookie ball and A ball, Michael Stanton went from ground zero to the top in a matter of months.  Essentially, Stanton started minor league baseball as a novice.  He wasn't the son of a major league star, and he hadn't spent years refining his skills on the diamond, and to see a player like Stanton go from where he was in April to where he ended up in August speaks volumes about how good he could be.  In one summer he acheived more than a lot of hitters do over the course of  5 or 6 years.  Call it a learning curve, a developmental curve, or a whatever curve, but Michael Stanton's curve seems to climb higher and faster than just about any hitter I've come across.  Had he focused solely on baseball at the high school level, it's possible that he could have entered the '07 draft as polished and as talented as a young Alex Rodriguez.

Of course, I'm extrapolating some of these assumptions from vague comments and rudimentary data, but they all seem to point in the same direction.  Michael Stanton isn't your typical high strikeout minor league power hitter.  And while there's absolutely no reason in the world for anyone to believe my non-professional opinion, consider this final comment from Jim Presley, the Marlins hitting coach.

"I saw Ken Griffey Jr. play when he was 19, and (Stanton) is right there with him... Griffey was better defensively and had a better idea of how to hit .300.  (Stanton) has to learn the finer things, but he has skills.  He is a tremendously skilled player at 19.  He is going to be some kind of player.  This kid is an unbelieveable talent to be 19."

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