PITCHf/x expert and BP director of data analysis Harry Pavlidis stops by to take questions, presumably of the baseball variety.
Harry Pavlidis: There are some good questions in the hopper, so be patient between answers as I do some fast research and look-ups for you. Keep them coming, I'll either empty the queue or call it quits after an hour (or more)
Xoomwaffle (Tallahassee, FL): What is different about Carlos Marmol now than when his K/9 was near 18?
Harry Pavlidis: Short answer is they shortened him up. My last post from 2011 at Cubs f/x covered the problem, and it's the same deal now. http://www.cubsfx.com/ Basically, his velocity and movement converged. His velocity gap may be back a little now but he's lost the nasty sweep on his slider and tail on his fastball. What's most frustrating is now he's still as wild as before but guys can get a good bat on his stuff now. It wasn't the case before, where he was effectively wild.
Larry Barkin (Kentucky): I was watching a Blue Jays game on Rogers SportsNet last week via MLB.TV while simultaneously reviewing some PECOTA projections in the BP annual. I noticed that the GB% for pitchers in 2012 as reported by SportsNet varied substantially from that recorded in the annual. Now, I know we are not supposed to put a ton of stock into that particular number (human stringers!), but it varied by as much as 10-12 points for certain relief pitchers (i.e., 41% in BP and 52% on SN). What's the point of even keeping track of a stat with that much human error? Or is it just that with relief pitchers like Steve Delabar (I didn't get the numbers for the starters) the sample size is just way too small and there is a greater convergence with more innings pitched?
Harry Pavlidis: Stringers are reliable "enough" on ground balls (there is a fuzzy area on hot bouncers that barely clip the infield, based on the old hitf/x data we saw). The variance between the Rogers #s and ours could be from a few sources. One could be a % of batted balls while the other is a % of all at bats; or one way or the other one is only counting outs while the other is counting hits, too.
Phil Mayo (Eugene, OR): Is Edwin Jackson mixing in more sinkers? At Brooks, you guys have him going with the sinker only 7% of the time, but today he seems to have a really heavy FB (at least it looks like his FB coming out of the hand) working and is generating a ton of groundballs. Is he getting these groundballs with an uptick in his sinker usage or is he throwing a hard breaking pitch to get them?
Harry Pavlidis: his cutter gets some of them, his fastball is coming with a little more downward tilt than average and has a higher GB rate than the average fastball. His curveball doesn't get as many grounders as most do, but his slider is above average in that regard. So, short answer, it's a mix of tilt and his harder off-speed pitches. Maybe.
Steve S. (Warshington): Was my last outing simply a bad outing? Should I retire now?
Harry Pavlidis: keep plugging away, and don't forget to send me 15% of your paycheck.
Breakables (Dallas): Thanks Harry. I wish there was a way to compare certain PITCHf/x characteristics to league average. For instance, in 2012, ~37% of Buchholz curveballs were taken for a ball. Is that about average for curveballs? Above average? Well-above average? My question is: are there any plans to have z-scores for these outcomes, or some other way to compare?
Harry Pavlidis: we have z-scores on the Brooks Player cards. Change "percentages" in the last dropdown under sabermetric outcomes http://www.brooksbaseball.net/player_cards/player_card.php?player=453329#tab3 and you'll see the option to display z-scores
Bert (Chicago): Canyon of Heroes or Space IPA?
Harry Pavlidis: Heroes is more of a West Coast (I guess) so it depends on your taste. Space is my favorite beer, but you can't go wrong with either. Space is on tap year round (with some gaps when production lags a bit) but you can still get bombers of Heroes from this year's batch. No, I do not work for Half Acre.
Baseballs Hit By Javier Baez (Far Far Away): Where are we? Everything hurts and we don't know where home is.
Harry Pavlidis: home is Daytona for the foreseeable future.
J (VA): Give me a few guys that are in the minors who you think will provide good fantasy value this year. Thanks.
Harry Pavlidis: likely call-ups who will be good? I can't go beyond the obvious, like Tavares and Puig. I still think Bauer will figure out how to pitch in the majors before long.
Cal Guy (Cal): Who has the best combination of velocity and movement in the game? Darvish?
Harry Pavlidis: Carter Capps
Alex (Anaheim): Is Nova just too hittable to be a reliable starter, or is there still hope for him?
Harry Pavlidis: Plenty of hope. He added a two-seam sinker that could really help him out in some cases. The lack of change-up bothers me but at least he has something he can run away from lefties now. So, still some hope, even in the short-term, but I need to see something off-speed with arm side movement before I get comfortable with just about any starting pitcher.
Selma Gundi (Mumbai): If I am new to Pitch f/x and would like to learn, where should I start?
Harry Pavlidis: I think you'll get a lot of information and useful links at Alan Nathan's site. Good luck! http://baseball.physics.illinois.edu/pitchtracker.html
redguy12588 (Pittsburgh): Can Jeff Locke be a solid back of the rotation starter?
Harry Pavlidis: solid back of the rotation ... that's close to be an oxymoron. He's got the crafty lefty make-up with a good change-up. He may need to add another pitch. But yes, I think he's got a good shot at sticking in the back of a decent big league rotation. Maybe not this year, though.
Breakables (Dallas): Sorry for the confusion, I know and love the z-scores on "Sabermetric Outcomes" just wondering about any plans to incorporate the same for the "Pitch Outcomes"
Harry Pavlidis: oh, sorry. That would be up to Dan Brooks to do ... I say go bug him on twitter @brooksbaseball :)
Lucas Apostoleris (Amherst, MA): What pitchers have you had most fun analyzing? Is there anybody that's debuted this year that you've identified as having an interesting or "novel" repertoire?
Harry Pavlidis: For better or worse, I like Jeff Samardzija's data and he developed; Darvish is maddening but really amazing stuff. Newbies this year... I like what we saw of Hiram Burgos in the WBC. Brandon Maurer looks good, and of course Jose Fernandez...
Trey (SC): Thoughts on Jose Fernandez?
Harry Pavlidis: Nasty. His breaking ball has two-plane movement, his change-up was better than advertised, he threw some sinkers and his four seam actually has a little late movement arm side up in the zone. That last one is the scariest, he doesn't just run it up and "rise" it, he moves it. I was surprised that one day he was ticketed for the minors and the next he was declared good enough to pitch 170 in the majors. He looked like the real deal.
Jim (Seattle): Your answer of Carter Capps as the best combination of velocity and movement is very interesting. Do you see him taking over as closer in Seattle sometime soon?
Harry Pavlidis: soon? No, they've got a nasty closer already. Capps has the potential but is funky delivery may make it hard to trust his control day in and day out in high leverage situations. But, wow, his fastball is wicked.
LoyalRoyal (Kansas): Follow-up on Capps. Who do you see closing in Seattle if Wilhelmsen fails/get injured, Carter Capps or Stephen Pryor?
Harry Pavlidis: I'd guess Capps.
BobcatBaseball (Athens, OH): Hey Mr. Pavlidis,
I saw you speak at the MIT Sloan Sports Conference but didn't have the chance to ask you any questions afterwards. So my question to you is with all of the data that is out there now for fans, how can we all easily learn and understand it?
Harry Pavlidis: for the fans it really is a burden on folks like me to come up with ways to present information in a usable and understandable way. So, there's no "easy" but the best way is to ask questions and give feedback when you see something that doesn't make sense. The more fan feedback the better work the analysts can provide them. Understanding the data itself, that's just a matter of effort and ability to learn.
LoyalRoyal (Kansas): Does Dan Haren rebound this year? Why is he now so susceptible to the long ball? Thanks...
Harry Pavlidis: I would think so. The NL is easier, as you get to face pitchers a couple or three times a game. Re. the HR issues ... His HR problems early this year aren't something I'd read much in to. But, in general, guys who lose velocity can't make as many mistakes over the plate as they once did. Haren is crafty and adjusts, but mistakes happen.
NatsReview (Bethesda): Is there a glossary for Brooks Baseball? Player Cards show movement by pfx H/VMov & H/V Rel, and game logs show Avg H/V-break. Is there a difference?
Harry Pavlidis: those #s should be the same, it's just a labeling difference (Dan Brooks would know for sure). we are standardizing things across the two sides, like release points etc (both at 55 ft now). But, no, I don't think there is a glossary. @brooksbaseball needs to be hassled for that. Go forth and hassle him. Don't tell him I sent you.
NatsReview (Bethesda, MD): I noticed after looking at his start on Brooks, that Strasburg threw 17 curves in Sunday's game (where he gave up 6 ER) compared to 28 changeups. This is way off his 50-50 ratio from last season. Is there anything to read into this (like he wasn't comfortable with the curve), or are these variations common game to game?
Harry Pavlidis: He threw an unusually high number of changes in that game. There is a lot of variance game to game but he is usually more curves than changes. Here's a list of every game he's pitched, in order, with the total number of changes minus the total number of curves (so negative #s are the odd games where he threw more changes than curves)
Dan Rozenson (Washington, DC): I have sort of a group of questions that you can tackle however you like:
Do you think there's rising strikeout rates across baseball could become a problem? Could games become less interesting? What minor adjustments could be made by the league, if necessary?
Harry Pavlidis: there seems to be plenty of offense and interest. Unless we go back to 1968 type #s I don't think we should worry. If anything Ks and HRs are exciting to the average fan, right? Minor adjustments could be plentiful, tighten up the strike zone, tweak the ball, etc etc (it's usually the ball, folks)
Lucas Apostoleris (Amherst, MA): Hi Harry! What young (or I guess they don't have to be young) pitchers do you find especially intriguing from a PITCHf/x perspective? Any particularly nasty-looking pitches to keep an eye on this season?
Harry Pavlidis: last question in the queue, speak now or forever hold your peace ..... not nasty but new: Romo added a cutter, Maholm added a slow curve. I think Grilli threw some sinkers. Nova added a sinker. Strasburg is throwing front door changes to lefties (ask Votto) .... I'm curious about Vogelsong's velocity drop (have to look at this last start to see if the trend held).
Harry Pavlidis: ok, that's it. Thanks for the great questions. We'll do this again in a few weeks.