New pitches and pitchers we've gotten glimpses of already this season.
Spring: a season of renewal and rebirth. Also a time of new pitches and pitchers. A lack of bona fide new arms in the early going has slowed the usual flurry of new PITCHf/x data to ogle, but some established pitchers have made some notable changes.
Did the starters and relievers who worked in the Futures Game and the All-Star Game enjoy velocity bumps? Harry digs into the PITCHf/x data for the answer.
Pitching ruled the All-Star break. The Futures Game featured a gaggle of power arms and a grand total of six runs. And that was twice the output of the main event, where the National League's best failed to score a run. Mariano Rivera made an emotional appearance. And, in the Home Run Derby, Ron Harper showed off a cutter of his own.
I have a confession to make: I think the Futures Game is the best part of the All-Star break.
Examining the performance of the players who aren't supposed to pitch.
At some point, you’ve probably thought to yourself that you could do a better job than the man on the mound for your team, especially if your team has ever employed Jonathan Sanchez. And every so often, amateurs do get the chance to outshine actual pitchers. These brave volunteers are known as “position players,” and they’re occasionally called in to provide a desperate manager with outs so that a blowout game may mercifully end. Surprisingly, these rescue arms are not off-the-charts terrible, with position players who’ve debuted since the 2000 season posting a combined 6.84 ERA (6.76 FIP) in 51 1/3 innings—and that drops to a 5.11 ERA (6.34 FIP) if you exclude Paul Janish’s two rough innings.
The Yankees were in dire straits on Wednesday night after the unpredictable Phil Hughes lasted only 2/3 of an inning, surrendering seven runs on six hits and two walks. This forced manager Joe Girardi to get 5 2/3 innings of long relief from Brett Marshallin his major-league debut. After Marshall’s pitch count reached 108 pitches with two outs in the ninth, Girardi asked Alberto Gonzalez, a journeyman infielder with no prior professional pitching experience, to get Robert Andino out. Somehow, he did. (Granted, Andino, who owns a .236 OBP, is among the easiest outs in baseball. But still.)
Can Jordan Zimmermann keep getting batters to hit into outs?
Jordan Zimmermann, in a starting rotation with Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, doesn’t get much attention. But did you know he led the Nationals pitching staff in quality starts last year? And that he leads the major leagues in WHIP this year? Zimmermann’s path to success, especially so far this year, defies basic sabermetric assumptions and is worth examining more closely.
Zimmermann is built like a power pitcher. He’s a sturdy 6’2”, 220 lbs., and he has a fastball that averages better than 94 mph. He has a hard slider and much-improved curveball as his secondary pitches, as well as an occasional changeup. He has the pure “stuff” to strike out 200 batters a season.
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Harry examines the stuff used by four first-year starters, including Jose Fernandez.
Four pitchers that made their first MLB starts—or debuted—in 2013 have stayed in their teams’ rotations to make at least one more. These pitchers have combined for 10 starts, covering 55 1/3 innings while yielding 52 strikeouts and just 11 walks—and providing 866 tracked pitches along the way. Impressive.
Harry breaks down the PITCHf/x debuts of two promising Astros arms.
Here at Baseball Prospectus, we don't hold grudges. So, when the Astros hired Mike Fast, no one took it out on their prospect rankings. Even when they hired Kevin Goldstein, and a real opportunity to get back at the poachers was presented, things remained cordial.
Now our old friends work for a club that doesn't get much love. But they did trot out a pair of pitchers in the last couple weeks that Jason Parks covered in his 2013 rankings. With a little bit of PITCHf/x data in hand, let's talk about Paul Clemens and Mike Foltynewicz. We'll give them a little love, tough love if required, but nothing like the love Gio Gonzalez shows his hand.
The latest batch of PITCHf/x newcomers features a Dodgers minor leaguer and two members of the Dutch national team.
Another week of spring training and World Baseball Classic play means another batch of new arms. There isn't much left in terms of hot prospects, so we'll cast a wide net and do what we can. What have we got? One mid-grade prospect, one non-prospect, and one blast from the prospect past.
Rob Rasmussen, LHP, Los Angeles Dodgers
Our first arm is the most prospect-y of the group, but he's not a premium talent. A Marlins draft pick out of UCLA, Rasmussen moved out of the animal kingdom when he was traded to the Astros (minor-league assignments excluded). A second trade sent him to the Dodgers, the club that drafted him out of high school in 2007.
Harry uses PITCHf/x data from recent WBC games to evaluate five pitchers' arsenals.
The World Baseball Classic produces a lot of things: a good dose of drama, a mix of middling and world-class play, and PITCHf/x data on guys we haven't seen before and may never see again. We'll play the scouting notes match-up game once again, leaning on Jason Parks and his team as much as possible, as well as on player comments from the 2013 annual and an interview from the BP archives.
Team Italy brought us Matt Torraand Pat Venditte, the ambidextrous Yankees prospect who, because of shoulder surgery, is currently only pitching with one arm. Brewers Prospect Hiram Burgos was entrusted with big innings for Puerto Rico. And the Puerto Rican national team also featured highly touted Twins prospect Jose Berrios. We'll round out this week’s group with another Brewer, Michael Olmsted, who appeared in a non-WBC game against the Rangers.
The 2012 World Champions stopped by the Royals' facility in Surprise last week, providing our first PITCHf/x view of four prospects' stuff.
The defending World Series champions visited Surprise, Arizona and matched up against the Royals on March 2, in an early-spring contest that marked our first PITCHf/x look at a small group of Giants prospects.
The influx of new arms has slowed, with a mere handful of recent debuts after the early set of nearly two-dozen. Breaking with the theme, this article’s focus will not be limited to the most noteworthy prospects; the Giants brought out four new arms, and we’ll extend a warm embrace to each of them.
A look at three top 10-pitching prospects who recently made their PITCHf/x debuts in Arizona.
Spring has sprung. The new baseball year brings fresh hope and excitement to fans everywhere. And, as spring training play begins, it also brings some pitchers to Surprise and Peoria, Arizona, two Cactus League towns with PITCHf/x installations.
The Royals and the Rangers share the facility in Surprise, while the Padres and the Mariners create cross-league harmony in Peoria. This arrangement provides a near-daily flow of data from at least one of the parks. All four host teams and their visiting foes are using plenty of pitchers in these early games. We'll take that as an opportunity to review some new arms.
Can the league's hardest thrower transition successfully to a rotation role?
Two weeks ago, we examined the progress of Johnny Cueto, whose development from raw talent to well-rounded pitcher has rightfully brought high expectations. Today, we turn our attention to another widely acclaimed Reds pitcher: Aroldis Chapman.
Chapman is one of the most enticing figures in baseball today. Most fans got their first impression of the flamethrowing lefty in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, when, in a rare dud for the Cuban national team, he failed to escape the third inning of an outing against the eventual champion, Japan.