We hear terms like "projectability" and "60-grade velocity" bandied about, but what do they actually mean? Here's a glimpse at what goes into scouting a pitcher.
If you have ever listened to the BP podcast, you have no doubt heard the always-fedora’d Kevin Goldstein and me identify what we look for in a prospect. Every player is unique, but there are certain attributes that tickle the scouting fancy more than others, whether physical or psychological. While we are recidivistic in our velocity whoring, other factors are at play when evaluating a pitcher, just like evaluating hitters is more complex than watching batting practice power displays. In this long-winded series, I’ll identity what I look for when scouting players on the mound, in the field, and in the box.
Not to get overly existential here, but scouting is a profound philosophical pursuit: Are we looking for enlightenment through the physical exceptionalism of athletes? Is it possible to separate our own deficiencies and insecurities from the process? Does the fact that I used to be quite fast influence my ability to appreciate speed in a lower-level prospect? Does the fact that I once had dreams of being a ballplayer heighten my ability to recognize those who are athletically superior to me, or does my failure create a form of subjective justice that I wield upon those that get to play out my fantasy for a paycheck?
Do his early-season struggles suggest that Royals closer Joakim Soria's best days lie behind him, or can he succeed with a different style?
Joakim Soria has been one of the best relief pitchers in baseball over the past four years. From 2007 to 2010, he put up a 2.01 ERA with 281 strikeouts against only 70 walks and 182 hits in 255 innings. Over that period, he held the opposition scoreless in 82 percent of the games he entered, and he allowed multiple runs only five percent of the time. For comparison, Mariano Rivera had a 2.05 ERA over those four years, held the opposition scoreless 83 percent of the time, and allowed multiple runs five percent of the time. Even while fighting (and usually failing) to avoid the basement in the AL Central, the Royals could claim a truly elite closer in Soria, the rare All-Star on a perennial cellar dweller.
Our latest guest contributor makes the case for changing the frame of reference in PITCHf/x analysis to reflect the way pitches actually appear to the batter.
Believe it or not, most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Matt Lentzner has carved out a (very) small niche in the baseball analysis world by examining the intersection of physics and biomechanics. He has presented at the PITCHf/x conference in each of the last two years and has written articles for The Hardball Times. When he’s not writing, Matt works on his physics-based baseball simulator, which is so awesome and all-encompassing that it will likely never actually be finished, though it does provide the inspiration for most of his articles and presentations. In real life, he’s an IT Director at a small financial consulting company in the Silicon Valley and also runs a physical training gym in his backyard on the weekends.
Can the Yankees' young pitching prospect deal on the inside corner, and if so, what does it portend?
After Yankees fans swarmed Twitter and informed the world of Manuel Banuelos’ impending arrival on Friday night, I flipped over to the MLB Network. With a YES Network simulcast in full effect, there would be plenty of Yankee-related talk and hyperbole tossed about as Michael Kay and Ken Singleton provided audio to the images. As an added bonus, manager Joe Girardi partook in the spring delight: an interview during the run of play.
For Banuelos’ part, he looked about as good as you can. The buzzwords thrown around about his arm action and delivery—usually but not entirely limited to “smooth” and “effortless”—were on display. His fastball ran into the mid-90s, and he showed off his secondary offerings to good effect, even on back-to-back pitches—an attribute Girardi noted.The announcing crew spent time talking about how poised Banuelos appeared and wondered aloud whom he resembles on the mound (their answers: David Cone and Johan Santana). For casual observers, learning that Banuelos is 19 years old had to come as a shock, as he certainly did not look it, even with his smallish frame. Instead, he looked every bit worthy of the five-star designation that BP prospect guru Kevin Goldsteinawarded to him.
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The issues plaguing the Cub third baseman indicate this is no ordinary slump.
What is up with Aramis Ramirez? The Cub third baseman missed half of 2009 with calf and shoulder injuries, but still put together a solid .317/.389/.516 slash line with 15 HR and 65 RBI. Healthy entering this year and among the top fantasy choices at third, Ramirez opened 2010 with a pair of hits - including a home run - against the Braves. One month into the season, that remains his only multi-hit game of the year. By his second game, Ramirez was kicking off a stretch where he would go hitless in 23 plate appearances.
As we enter May, he’s still trying to find his footing.
The Yankees' second sacker seems to keep coming and going from great to less so, but is he finally about to settle in as an offensive star?
This is not the first time there has been a Robinson Cano Player Profile at Baseball Prospectus. Given the team we are talking about, consider this the Empire Strikes Back edition of Player Profile; we'll continue the story started a few years back, and take a look at Cano during his peak when the tale was at its most interesting point. I won't be discussing the time he had to cut open his Tauntaun on the ice planet Hoth in order to warm up his bat, though, because some things are better left to the imagination.
Javier Vazquez has driven lesser men to madness, but staring too long need not blind us to his virtues.
Remember the movie Weird Science, where Anthony Michael Hall and a friend engineered the perfect woman with the help of an outdated computer? Imagine for a moment if that movie were to be remade, and the two main characters were general managers of baseball teams, seeking the ideal pitcher rather than the dream girl. This pitcher would have to possess some incredible characteristics, like being consistently capable of logging a high number of quality innings each and every year. He would exhibit solid control and command, fanning lots of batters while walking very few. He wouldn't get hit around much either, as the combination of velocity and movement on his pitches would elude the opposition, leading to quality WHIP rates. Above all, he would have supreme confidence in his repertoire and an ability to throw a variety of pitches in any given count. Place this pitcher in the major leagues, and he would appear in numerous All-Star games, place perennially on Cy Young Award ballots, and find himself on the fast track to Cooperstown.
Diagnosing how a phenomenon gets hot, goes bad, and comes back might involve changing things up.
Three years ago, Joel Zumaya took the AL by storm, flashing an overpowering fastball on his way to a full season of stellar relief. Since 2006, though, he's fallen on hard times. Now that the big righty has recently reclaimed his role in Detroit's bullpen, let's take a look at his prospects for future success by using all of the tools at our disposal.
Zumaya broke camp as a member of the Tigers' bullpen in 2006, after fellow rookie Justin Verlander had claimed a rotation spot in spring training. Except for a single appearance in relief as a 17-year-old in the GCL, Zumaya had worked exclusively as a starter in the minors, but his migration to the pen didn't come as a complete surprise. Although Baseball America ranked him among Detroit's top four prospects in each year from 2004-2006, talent evaluators frequently cited his intensity, max-effort delivery, inconsistent mechanics, limited repertoire (before 2005), and three DL stints (for back and shoulder spasms) as factors arguing for a shift to short relief work.