Can mechanics help explain why Shelby Miller and Hisashi Iwakuma haven't maintained their early-season performance?
A couple of pitchers enjoyed breakout performances during the first two months of the season, only to wake up from the dream once the calendar flipped to June. Our inner statistician can easily wave these trends aside as the inevitable magnetism of regression to the mean, but I’ve found that reality often follows a more intricate path, with much to be learned through the analysis of outlier performances and small sample size.
Let's examine a couple of players who have fallen off from their early-season dominance in search of explanations that go beyond luck. In these cases, the “before” and “after” stats are split based on the arbitrary calendar date of June 1st.
Cole Hamels snapped a six-start losing streak, and he stays in the auto-start ranks as Paul looks ahead to next week.
Welcome to the Weekly Pitching Planner. Each week I will cover the pitchers are who slated to make two starts and help you decide who you should start and who you should sit. Sometimes guys will be in the “consider” where they might have one good start, but a second tough one and then your league settings might determine whether or not you should go forward with him. The pitchers will be split by league then by categories:
Auto-Starts – These are your surefire fantasy aces. You paid a handsome sum for them either with an early draft pick or high dollar auction bid so you’re starting them anywhere, anytime. Guys can emerge onto or fall off of this list as the season evolves. There won’t be many – if any – notes associated with these groupings each week. We are starting them automatically so why do I need to expound on how awesome they are and will be in the coming week?
What can Hisashi Iwakuma's early season work teach us about using the most effective stats available?
Hisashi Iwakuma had the odd occurrence in his 2012 season where he was actually better as a starter. Most pitchers are not only better in short bursts out of the bullpen, but markedly so. Iwakuma spent 30 1/3 in the bullpen pitching to a 4.75 ERA and 1.42 WHIP with an 18 percent strikeout rate and 12 percent walk rate. He took off once he become a starter, posting a 2.65 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 95 innings with a 20 percent strikeout rate and seven percent walk rate.
His 2013 season is off to an even better start as he has managed a 1.69 ERA and 0.53 WHIP in 26 2/3 innings through his first four starts. The only impediment to his success so far has been a blister issue, though something tells me his 100 percent left on base rate and .119 BABIP are set to rise. I have noticed that his batted ball mix is different from 2012 as his flyball rate climbed dramatically from 27 percent to 42 percent, including a 13 percent infield flyball rate.
Hisashi Iwakuma did something weird Wednesday night, but that's not the weirdest part of this.
On Wednesday, Hisashi Iwakuma got his first save in the majors. It doesn't really call for an analysis of his post-save celebration, because it was one of those bastard saves where the pitcher protects a (in this case) 12-run lead by pitching at least the final three innings. Iwakuma's win probability added: 0.02, as he allowed three runs.
Michael ends his look at Japanese imports with some conclusions and a look at the future of the transpacific player market.
In the Asian Equation series, I’ve traced the history of the current posting system that imports players from NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball, the Japanese major leagues) and how the success of Ichiro Suzuki has affected it, from the position players who arrived in his wake to the pricey disappointments among starting pitchers and the marginally successful relievers. In this final column, I’ll take a look back to draw conclusions from this history and see what we can expect from the NPB market in the future. As with my previous columns, Patrick Newman’s advice and ideas were very helpful, as is his website, NPB Tracker.
The simplest, broadest conclusion concerns the players themselves, where we must draw an important distinction between talent and skills. As Craig Brown wrote in the comments section of his article on Tsuyoshi Nishioka, “. . . comparing two middle infielders just because they come from Japan is like comparing two middle infielders just because they come from Delaware.” Just because they’re from Japan doesn’t mean we can draw specific conclusions about individual ballplayers, their talents, or their ability to succeed in Major League Baseball. This goes double for Ichiro, whose skills are idiosyncratic on either side of the Pacific. Throwing money at Japanese players expecting them to be slap hitters with weird batting stances and an uncanny ability to find defensive holes is as foolish as thinking every Venezuelan shortstop will field (and endure) like Omar Vizquel. We can’t expect specific players to have certain inherent talents just because they were born in Japan.