carter capps

Carter Capps Fails

The Mariners demoted Carter Capps to AAA Tacoma after a horrific start to his 2013 season. While Capps’ strikeout rate was basically the same as it was in his excellent MLB debut in 2012 season, and his walk rate actually decreased, the hard throwing right-hander suddenly became home run prone. With an elite fastball, it wasn’t surprising to see him as a successful reliever in the minors, and then transition to the Majors like he did in 2012. It is surprising, however, that he has become so hittable. Comparing the dominant Capps of 2012 with the struggling one of 2013 may give us an insight at what went wrong with him this season, and hopefully identify how he can return to his old self.

Here are where the average locations of his major results were located in 2012 (entire graph is strike zone):

Carter Capps 2012

He threw extremely hard, over 95 MPH on his average pitch, regardless of classification. When he gave up contact, it was usually because he threw low in the zone and more glove side then average. When he got whiffs, it was on high fastballs. He was a dominant fastball pitcher with some of the best stuff in baseball. Fast forward to 2013, where the graph speaks for itself:

Carter Capps 2013

The problem seems pretty simple, he isn’t throwing as hard this year. He is throwing more breaking and off-speed pitches than last year (which you would expect he would have to do as the league sees him more, just to give hitters different looks so they couldn’t sit on his fastball), which brings down his average velocity some, but he also isn’t throwing his fastball as hard either. His top 25% of pitches this year is 96.9 MPH. In 2012 it was 99.4 MPH, meaning that he isn’t topping out at near the same velocity he was last season. In 2012, he threw 16 pitches 100 MPH or better. This year, he hasn’t thrown a single pitch 99 MPH or over according to Pitch F/X. The velocity drop is not only a somewhat helpful explanation for his struggles (if the pitches aren’t as fast, they are easier to hit), but velocity drop is often an indicator that something else is wrong as well.

His numbers against righties weren’t dominant, but he was doing pretty well when he had the platoon advantage this season. However, Capps has been really poor against lefties this season, and his release point has become further out so far this year. Let’s see how he is pitching lefties this year, first by pitch types (MLBAM tags)

Carter Capps Pitch Lefties

Everything is kept pretty arm side, except for the slider, which is still glove side on average. Here are what his average result locations look like against lefties, a graph that can be compared to the first two graphs:

Carter Capps Lefties

Most of his pitches are thrown a little more arm side against lefties than overall, that is, more away, usually a good approach. He is also throwing harder, meaning he is throwing more fastballs and less curves/sliders. The contact and whiff tendencies are basically the same. Aside from the release point, the other thing that is probably holding Capps back from being successful against lefties is a lack of a changeup that he has confidence to throw frequently.

Here are where Capps has thrown his changeup against lefties in 2013:

Carter Capps Changeups

There aren’t many, and of course, that is part of the problem. The other problem is that he threw some glove side, when it is supposed to be an arm side pitch. The only two he has gotten swings on are the ones that are located pretty well, on the far arm side part of the plate and relatively low. The higher one turned into a hit, while the lower one turned into a swinging strike. The rest were balls. It isn’t a pitch he is even getting called strikes with.

Even with the quick success of Nick Franklin and Brad Miller and the apparent emergence of Justin Smoak, the Seattle Mariners seemed to have had their share of hyped prospects failing quite spectacular. If Carter Capps doesn’t get his velocity back and doesn’t develop his changeup, the actual long term consequences for the franchise wouldn’t likely be that large. Capps is a reliever, and the Mariners have other relief prospects. However, it would be extremely frustrating. Capps has a great arm and it would be a shame if he didn’t live up to his potential, especially since it seems that Stephen Pryor has a knack for being on the DL.

The release point and velocity data suggests that he may not be healthy, though the Mariners apparently think he is, as he is pitching in AAA. We don’t know how he feels, so it is difficult and unwise to speculate about an injury. So perhaps the goal in AAA should be for him to raise his arm angle some, and work on his changeup, throwing it frequently (not caring about results, just working on the pitch).

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Kelly

Ty Kelly Scouting Report

The Mariners have acquired minor leaguer Ty Kelly from the Baltimore Orioles, trading away Eric Thames. Thames was designated for assignment when the team brought up Brad Miller earlier this week. Thames was hitting well in the PCL for Tacoma (about 25% better than league average), but injured his hand and was on the minor league DL. The Mariners originally traded for Thames last year in the ill-advised Steve Delabar trade at the deadline, and he was mediocre down the stretch for the team. His defensive and baserunning abilities were so deficient that the team brought up Carlos Peguero over him when they needed an extra outfielder in 2013, citing Peguero’s baserunning and defense (which are clearly poor). With the injury, and no real hope of being called up if he was healthy (as, there is no reason to believe that the Mariners wouldn’t just bring Peguero up again), there was no point in keeping him on the 40 man. Kelly will not be on the 40 man roster.

Kelly is a 24 year old switch hitter that was playing in Baltimore’s AA affiliate. His defense is considered “average” with a good arm (he has a negative FRAA this year, but he had positive FRAAs the last two seasons), and the Orioles had him playing mostly at 3rd base, with some 2nd base and a little corner outfield. He has rated as a below average runner each year according to speed score, with double digit steals in 2011, but just 4 in 2012 and 4 so far in 2013. Statistically, he is somewhat interesting offensively, as my odds system in the offseason had him at a 38 percent chance to be a good hitter in the Majors, the same as the Marlins Derek Dietrich. Kelly ranked 169 overall (once defense and fielding was added), just above former Mariner Daniel Carroll, and above Mike Olt (who was penalized by a probably wrong bad FRAA) and Zolio Almonte of the Yankees. He ranked below Denny Almonte to give a further comparison.

So far this year in 2013, he has walked more than he has struck out yet again. With an OBP over .380, Kelly clearly has on base skills, plate discipline, and at least so far, the ability to hit for average as well. However, he hits for really no power, which limits his value quite a bit, especially if he is a true corner player. There isn’t a lot of demand for corner players that aren’t plus fielders and don’t hit for power. If he has the high OBP like in the minors, there is room for him in the Majors, but basically his value banks on whether or not the plate discipline translates. So far it has in AA, but will it translate to AAA and the MLB? It is difficult to tell, but it is good that he is hitting for an a high average as well, meaning that he isn’t just taking pitches and taking advantage of wild minor league pitchers. He isn’t striking out, which also helps suggests this.

I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at his swing, and at least get an anecdotal look at how he is approaching pitches to see if that helps get a better grasp of Kelly’s chances of making the Majors. Watching a little bit of him on MiLB.TV, you can see one of the reasons he doesn’t hit for much power. He isn’t small, at least his listed height and weight isn’t, but he doesn’t look like a guy that has a lot of upper body strength (the weight he does have doesn’t appear to be good weight, basically, he doesn’t exactly look the part of professional athlete) He has a little bit of a hitch in his swing, and he also completely sacrifices his stance and body to go get pitches on the outside corner. This is another reason that he doesn’t hit for power, and makes his strikeout rate a little less impressive, since he seems so focused on making contact when not walking. Just in the small sample I saw, he did chase balls out of the zone and weakly hit balls

Maybe he can be Alex Liddi (who the Mariners also just DFA’d) without the contact problems, but without the power. The best plausible scenario would be for him to be a nice switch hitter off the bench that can play a few positions and get on base at a decent rate. I would say there is a pretty good chance of him playing for the Mariners at some time at the big league level, but there is a chance that the numbers don’t translate to AAA, he gets exposed a little bit for focusing on contact, and the club gets frustrated with his lack of power at power positions. Overall, I think it is a good player to get for someone that was injured and the Mariners clearly didn’t want anymore anyway. However, his “ceiling” (that is, what he can be if everything breaks right) is pretty low, and you are banking on basically one tool for him to be a contributor in the big leagues.

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zunino2

Mike Zunino So Far

Mike Zunino’s promotion to the Majors rightfully was welcomed with a lot of scorn, as it was pretty clear that Zunino had not proven that he was advanced enough to play in the big leagues in his stint in AAA. 8 games is clearly not a big enough sample size to say anything about his performance, even when looking at his peripherals, but he is probably doing what most expected when he was promoted, not walking very much, striking out a lot, and hitting for a little bit of power. He has seen just over 100 pitches, but I wanted to see if we could find any tendencies to what Zunino looks at the plate now. First, let’s look at his average locations map:

Zunino Average Locations

Pitchers are keeping the ball low against him at an extreme rate. So far, his swinging strikes are predictably coming on the furthest pitches away and low. His contact is coming on the pitches closest to him and up in the zone, though his home run was a little lower and away than his average contact play.

Predictably, he is swinging and missing a lot, so I thought it would be helpful to look at his whiffs. So far, his average whiff is coming on pitches 87.21 MPH, while his average contact is coming 87.06 MPH on average. So it doesn’t appear that there is a difference in velocity between his struggles and success. There is actually less average spin on pitches he has made contact with, suggesting he has been better against breaking balls than fastballs or changeups (though all 3 whiffs against lefties are on curveballs, as the below graph that shows the location in the strike zone of all his whiffs along with all the release points of the whiffs shows).

Zunino's whiffs

As the average graph shows, most of them are away and low. His plate coverage has really been tested, as he is missing on a lot of fastballs on the outside of the plate. The release points don’t provide any surprises as he has been missing a lot from the right-side of the plate, but hasn’t missed on a left-handed fastball. According to Brooks Baseball, here is what his spray chart looks like so far.

Zunino Spray

Not surprisingly, since he is being pitched so far outside on average, Zunino is going the other way with most of his contact. He is hitting a lot of line drives and fly-balls, and I think this approach is a good sign. He isn’t getting pull happy on pitches he has no chance of pulling, and is showing some power the other way. To really untap his power, Zunino will have to swing and miss at least pitches, and perhaps take a page from Nick Franklin and swing less in general. Ideally, he wouldn’t swing at outside pitches unless he is behind in the count. This would make pitchers come inside more, giving him more hope for contact and power. Whether or not he makes this adjustment will determine whether or not he is ready to have success in the big leagues or not. If he isn’t able to recognize pitches on the outside of the plate, this could be a really ugly stint in the big leagues for him. If he is, then Zunino can be a big league contributor already. Over the next few weeks, I think we will see just how advanced Zunino is.

 

 

 

 

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nick franklin

A Look at Nick Franklin So Far

In 99 plate appearances (as of Sunday morning) since being promoted by the Mariners, Nick Franklin has been a very effective hitter. Franklin has been walking, not striking out very much, and hitting for power. He is swinging through pitches a lot less than average, making more contact than average, and not chasing pitches, in fact, he is not swinging at much of anything at all, showing a very discriminate approach.

Franklin is, of course, a switch hitter, so we have to evaluate him from both sides of the plate. Below are his average locations as a left-handed hitter:

Nick Franklin as a Lefty

This is obviously his most used side, since there are more right-handed pitchers than left-handed pitchers. Pitchers are trying to keep the ball low and away from him, almost at an extreme, which isn’t that unusual for a rookie. For the most part, he isn’t going to swing at the pitches that are that far away, evidenced by both his whiffs and contact (which are in pretty standard spots, the contact being higher and the whiffs being lower) being closer to him.

More: Mariners Prospect Report

Here are his average locations as a right-handed hitter, a smaller sample size:

Nick Franklin as a Righty

Clearly his weaker side (with some really bad splits) in the minors, his contact is coming almost exactly where his average pitch seen has been located, which is good news. The whiffs are on balls that are down and in on him, which is a little weird (because you would expect, since he has the platoon advantage, he should see arm side changeups more often than glove side breaking pitches). He only has 5 swinging strikes against left-handed pitching, a very good ratio, with one being a change, a sinker, a curve, and two sliders. Only one of the contact plays as a right-hander has been on a slider, which seems more like an oddity than something predictive (as we will see, he isn’t having problems with breaking balls).

Via Brooks Baseball, here is Franklin’s spray chart as a right-handed hitter

Franklin Spray as LH

He seems to have a little power to center and right-center, with pull power, but an overall balanced spray chart, meaning he will use all fields.

Here is his spray chart as a left-handed hitter:

Franklin Spray as RH

While there is some balance to left-field, he is mostly a pull to right-center hitter. A lot of ground-outs to 1st and 2nd, with not many of them going through. He is hitting fly-balls and line drives all over the field.

More: Russell Wilson a Top 5 NFL QB?

Overall, Franklin has seen 44 pitches over 94 MPH,  made contact with 7 of them, with 3 swinging strikes. So he seems to be handling velocity okay. As for breaking balls, he has seen 41 pitches below 80 MPH, 3 in play pitches, with just 1 swinging strike. Basically, pitchers have not exposed any glaring weaknesses in Franklin’s approach or abilities at the plate. That obviously doesn’t mean there aren’t any, but he is showing he can hit at the big league level and hit well. He will have to keep making adjustments as pitchers make more adjustments and start pitching him differently, but he doesn’t look like the guy I watched struggle making contact in Tacoma last season. Franklin’s defense is another question, and I don’t think Dustin Ackley provides much value as an outfielder, especially when he was plus defensively in the infield, but if Franklin is going to hit like this, then I think the Mariners don’t have to worry about offense from the 2nd base position.

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mike zunino mariners

Examining Mike Zunino’s Current Plate Discipline

mike zunino mariners

So far this year, Mike Zunino has been about a league average PCL hitter (without adjusting for park, and Tacoma’s deep center causes it to be one of the more pitcher friendly parks in the PCL) according to OPS. Considering he is in his age 22 season, and the average PCL hitter is 26.8 years old, that is pretty good. Of course, this is less than two months into a season, and his numbers have been boosted by high slugging percentages on the road. Zunino currently has a .282 OBP, which is lower than Scott Savastano’s. He is striking out nearly 30 % of the time and walking just 6.7 % of the time, well off league averages.

I have seen Zunino play a lot, both for Florida, and for Tacoma, but rather than me giving some kind of scouting report when it comes to his approach at the plate, I decide to chart some of Zunino’s at-bats. Since Tacoma just concluded a home stand, I thought it would make sense to look at all his at-bats in the home stand (via MiLB.TV of course) and chart the location, pitch type, platoon, and result.  He did not play on the 18th or the 22nd (he is a catcher after all), so we have 82 pitches. I just classified the pitches by fastball, off-speed, or breaking, and because there is no radar gun on screen, there is a good chance there is some errors, but it should give us a general idea. I also put whether or not I thought it was in the strike zone or not, which again, there may be errors on close pitches, but it will give us a general idea, as Tacoma’s centerfield camera is generally effective. So here are the pitches and results for Zunino in the home stand:

[table id=37 /]

Obviously the 12 whiffs in 83 pitches is just too high. 8 of them were on pitches outside of the strike zone. If you trust the GameDay stringers, Zunino has swung at pitches outside of the strike zone about 2 percent more than league average, which matches with his overall swing rate, which is about 2 percent more than league average. From my count, Zunino saw 40 pitches in the strike zone and 42 pitches outside of the strike zone (if you trust the GameDay stringers, he has seen pitches in the strike zone about 60 percent of the time, which is a couple percent higher than league average). He swung at 18 of those pitches outside of the strike zone, which is a very high number of pitches to chase. Most of them were high pitches.

More: MLB.com Breaks Down Hisashi Iwakuma

Zunino saw 22 pitches that were labelled high in some fashion, and it lead to 5 flyballs, including a homer. It seemed that he would chase pitches high, and while it would occasionally cause a whiff (4 of them by my count), it was where he generated his power. What is concerning is that 9 of the whiffs were on fastballs. His whiff/contact ratio was actually worse on fastballs than anything else (he was best on breaking pitches). This causes some bat speed questions. Surely he is not an extreme like Carlos Peguero, mashing breaking pitches but not being able to catch up to fastballs, but when you have a stretch when you are missing more fastballs than hitting them like Zunino is now, you start to wonder if he isn’t able to swing the bat quickly enough. The Rainiers did face a couple of real right-handed flamethrowers on the homestand in Michael Wacha and Johnny Hellweg, but Zunino whiffed on 5 of the 15 pitches he saw against left-handers. In the last game of the series, he faced left-hander Zach Kroenke and struck out twice and hit an infield fly-ball the other time.

The problem doesn’t seem to be low and away breaking balls, where a lot of impatient young players get tied up, but it also isn’t elite (or just elite) fastballs. It seems to have to do with fastballs, but even fastballs he should see and hit really well. This could just be the randomness of one series, but Zunino has been missing a lot of pitches so far this year. His pitches per plate plate appearance is right at league average, but he is making contact nearly 10 percent less of the time according to Minor League Central, striking out swinging nearly 4 times as much as striking out looking. So is there something fundamentally wrong with his swing or abilities? Or is he just playing in competition that is over his head right now? After all, just 9 of Zunino’s 149 plate appearances have come against pitchers younger than him.

There is a non-zero chance that Zunino didn’t belong in AAA to start the season. He certainly was an advanced player coming out of college, and they strangely left him in the Northwest league for quite sometime last year even though he was destroying the competition, but maybe he wasn’t quite ready for AAA pitching. We could probably second guess minor league placement all day long, and not only would it be most likely unproductive, it would be boring as well. The point is to figure out what it means for the future. I think this means that Kelly Shoppach and Jesus Sucre will be the Mariners’ catchers going forward in 2013. Perhaps Zunino figures something out and gets a late season call, but there are enough flaws that he would be even further exposed at the MLB level and it wouldn’t make any sense to further his struggles by doing so. He needs to figure out why he can’t make contact with AAA pitching first.

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Reevaluating Yoervis Medina

Yoervis Medina has been on the peripheral of the Mariners’ 40 man roster since the end of the 2010 season (added at the same time as Maikel Cleto, Josh Lueke, Michael Pineda, Mauricio Robles, Johermyn Chavez, and others), and until late April of this year, was just a hard throwing, no control right-handed reliever who hadn’t pitched in the big leagues yet. When the Mariners’ bullpen suddenly had holes in it, the Mariners gave Medina a chance, and while it is a subjective saying (he hasn’t pitched enough for us to really say anything objective), he has opened some eyes. It seemed like it would be a good idea to look at Medina’s Pitch F/X data and see what it may tell us about his future. This is just his regular season data since being called up, as Medina has spring training data from both 2012 and 2013. Lets look at the 110 pitches he has thrown so far (if he was a starter, this would be about one start).

Jeff Gray and Brendan Donnelly are the closest comparisons when it comes to his release point. Donnelly pitched in the Majors for a while and was successful, but wasn’t dominant and didn’t throw hard. Mariner fans are probably familiar with Gray already. Medina is 6-3 but releases the ball a lot lower.

Here is Medina’s release point with whether or not he threw the pitch in the strike zone with the pitch (clicking on the images to enlarge may help viewing experience):

Yoervis Medina Release Point

Other than some of the high pitches, the pitches that aren’t in the cluster (if there is a real cluster) were mostly in the strike zone. The release point is rather inconsistent, but he is throwing more pitches in the strike zone than not in the strike zone.

Here is Medina’s spin and speed chart to give us a better idea of what he is throwing:

Medina Spin and Speed

There are 3 distinct pitches according to the spin and speed chart, but there are really two different fastballs according to the movement data, what we will call a sinker and a four seamer.

Averaging 85.43 MPH, Medina’s curveball is insanely hard (but the movement and spin data screams curveball). Craig Kimbrel is really the only pitcher with a harder curveball than that in the Pitch F/X era. Kimbrel’s curve is also the best at getting swings and misses in the Pitch F/X era (minimum 200 thrown), getting whiffs over half the time hitters swing. It is a small sample size, but Medina is also getting whiffs over half the time someone swings at his curveball. Medina’s curveball is also getting more movement, both horizontally and vertically, and that is without adjusting for Safeco’s Pitch F/X system conservative movement. Medina’s curve is a plus pitch. The problem is, as is Medina’s problems usually, is he isn’t controlling it yet.

Medina Curveball Strike Zone

This is his average locations per each pitch:

Medina Average Locations

Perhaps because of the height he is releasing the ball, his sinker isn’t really getting down and maybe the the curve is a little bit higher than you would like.

With a fastball that is averaging 95.57 MPH so far, with the plus curveball, Medina has the pitches to be a really good reliever in the Major Leagues. I think we knew that before, but I don’t know if we knew just how good his stuff was. The data from this season makes him look much better than the spring training data from 2012. It is clearly plus plus stuff, but the question for him has always been control. We do see that there is a little bit of a command issue with a couple of pitches, but it seems that Medina is missing over the plate too much instead of missing the plate completely, like I saw with him last year in Tacoma. With his stuff, he can afford to miss over the plate more than an average pitcher. The problem shouldn’t be hittability, so if he can continue to throw strikes, he should have success at the big league level.

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Brandon-Maurer

Breaking Down Brandon Maurer’s Bad Outing

Brandon Maurer’s Safeco debut did not go well, as he gave up 6 earned runs for the 2nd straight start, this time in less than an inning, getting just 2 of the 10 batters out (both of them via the strikeout). Obviously all 7 batters that made contact getting hits contains at least some bad luck, but some of them, especially Pena’s bases loaded hit and Dominguez’ line drive off of Maurer, were really hard hits. In fact, the line drive off his thigh was bad enough that there is some doubt whether he will be able to make his next start (if the Mariners even want him to make another start in the Majors). In this post, I want to look at the pitch data from his start and see if we can determine what went wrong and what this tells us.

Maurer was throwing plenty hard, velocity was clearly not the problem. The average pitch he threw was over 90 MPH. Here is a pitch speed graph based on the MLB AM pitch types:

Maurer Pitch Speed

Maurer’s fastball averaged 93.4 MPH, a couple MPH above average (MLBAM tags have him throwing two moving fastballs, but I am combining them just for ease). The problem was definitely not fastball velocity. His slider averaged 88.13 MPH, an almost unbelievably hard slider for a starter. That was clearly not the problem either. He only threw 3 changups, but they averaged over 85 MPH, so that is good as well.

The only pitch he threw below 80 MPH was his one curveball that was hit for a run (it definitely was a curveball, as it got the least amount of spin out of all his pitches and had typical curveball vertical movement rather than the slider movement and spin). Without showing a real curveball, I think Maurer’s ceiling is severely limited. While you always want to throw hard, it is important to have a pitch that is below 80 MPH, or at least it has been for pitchers in the Pitch F/X era.

If velocity wasn’t the problem? What was? Usually, the next thing you look at in a pitcher that has MLB stuff is command and pitchability. We will look at his actually locations below, but it is generally understood that while some parts of command is choice and where the pitcher wants to throw the ball, a big part of it is delivery repetition and consistency. When we look at numbers, we see that he had a horizontal release standard deviation of .18 and vertical of .14. In order to try to illustrate what this, here is a graph:

Maurer Delivery Consistency

The vertical isn’t bad comparatively, it is the horizontal that was really poor (especially since the vertical number is bigger for most pitchers than the horizontal). Here is a more normal look at his release point:

Maurer Release Point

So this graph shows us the same thing, he is varying how much he comes “out” quite a bit (or possibly, where he is standing on the rubber). We would generally expect that, if he was having a lot of problems repeating his delivery vertically, that he would be spiking the ball a lot or leaving way up high a lot. If he was having problems horizontally repeating it, we would expect a lot of balls that stay way arm-side or fly very far glove side. I think we see this horizontal problem when looking at fastball location:

Maurer Fastball Location

With Maurer’s slider, we see that he didn’t have the problem where he left too many arm-side, in fact we see some that he threw well low and away from right-handed hitters, but he left too many up that were high in the zone and easy for hitters to hit.

Maurer Slider Location

I think this spin chart shows the overall inconsistency of the slider:

chart_1(5)

Perhaps because Maurer was releasing the slider so inconsistently, the spin of the pitch had serious problems, along with some really bad locations.

What about movement? His slider had an average horizontal movement of 1.4 inches. This is below average comparing to other right-handed starting pitcher sliders, but the ones that are close to his are heavy whiff sliders. However, his closest comparisons (Hiroki Kuroda, Justin Verlander, and James McDonald), do not get many groundballs. This makes sense when talking about Maurer’s slider because it gets even less vertical movement, though because of the Pitch F/X park factors of Safeco, you have to bump up the movement a little bit because for some reason the tracker there (some have speculated that it is right, but the weather makes the ball move less) artificially lowers the movement data. Even with this, Maurer still got good horizontal movement on his 4-seam fastball and about average vertical movement.

Overall, it is still an impressive pitch mix based on velocity alone. The movement is a little tough to read thanks to the Safeco factor, but I think the data clearly shows that he was having more problems with consistency and command than his stuff. If your opinion on Maurer’s overall future was high, I don’t think the outing should change your mind, at least the data doesn’t point that way. If you thought that Maurer was advanced enough to already have success in the Majors, this data (and the outing itself obviously) would seem to push against that. He seems to have a lot of problems with consistency and repeating his delivery. Walks haven’t been a huge problem in his minor league career (though he has not been a control artist or anything) and he is 22 with 371 MiLB innings. There is still some room for him to evolve more when it comes to his refinement. He has had arm problems in his career, and the inconsistency can be concerning, but if he stays healthy, I don’t think his delivery is broken or unable to be repeated, and he has stuff that will allow him to be an above average big league starter.

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Sam Dyson

How Well Do the Jackson Generals Handle Big League Fastballs?

As Mariner fans have seen with Carlos Peguero’s inability to hit big league fastballs, sometimes very accomplished minor league hitters simply do not have the bat speed to hit in the Major Leagues (I think the Mariners saw that with Luis Jimenez last year as well). The trained eye looks for strong or “quick” wrists that allow a hitter to get around on the ball quickly, thus allowing them to decide at the last possible second whether or not to swing. Hitters that do not have this either just can’t get to plus fastballs quick enough, or have to guess, and end up having a lot of problems with breaking balls out of the zone. This often separates AAAA sluggers from big league players, as people who enjoy PCL baseball could tell you.

The Mariners’ AA affiliate, the Jackson Generals,  have had a pretty horrible start offensively (including already being 1 hit) until Sunday’s 10-0 win over a pitcher with well below average stuff. On Monday, the Jacksonville Suns, the Marlins AA affiliate, started Sam Dyson. The Marlins acquired Dyson from the Blue Jays in a waiver claim. Dyson has pitched in the big leagues, and I think most importantly, has a big league fastball. In his two big league outings, his fastball averaged 92.56 MPH and reached 95.38 (getting down to a 87.75). With the idea of bat speed and plus fastballs in mind, I thought it might be helpful, as long as we remembered the perils of looking at one game, to look at how the Mariner prospects fared against a MLB fastball.

As we see, Dyson comes out less than average, so it shouldn’t be extremely easy for lefties to see, but he shouldn’t be overly tough on righties

chart_1(4)

He releases the ball lower than average, but I don’t think that affects how the hitter is seeing it all that much (but probably makes it less likely he is a starter long term). I think this gives us a more “fair” look when we are looking at how the Generals performed against him.

According to the Suns’ announcer, Dyson’s fastball was 92 (twice) and 94 MPH, so again, a big league fastball. I really liked some of the sliders and curveballs Dyson threw as well. He went 5 innings, walking no one, and giving up 3 hits versus 4 strikeouts (1.60 FIP and 2.87 kwERA). So here, I put all 9 starters in a table, and counted whether or not they were late on the fastball, either by foul balls, or by swinging and missing (I counted Marder’s check swing). This is a really tiny sample size, and a player may just be having a good or bad day, but it may give us a look at whether or not they are handled fastballs well.

[table id=30 /]

Hicks clearly had the most problems, while Jones was the only lefty to have problems with the fastball. Miller, Catricala, and Morban all not having problems should not surprise us, as we have seen that Morban is a very good fastball hitter, and Miller and Catricala have put up some good numbers in levels A to AA.

Some other notes from the game:

Morban had a really awful swing on a changeup, Proscia (twice) and Hicks also struck out on breaking balls. Catricala got fed a lot of breaking balls and chased two in a row for a horrible strikeout in one at-bat, showing he hasn’t fixed the problems that plagued him in Tacoma last season. Martinez hit a fastball the other way (it was outside) to the wall. Jones got a hit by being late on a fastball that was mid outside part of the strike zone by hitting it down the left-field line

Jackson also faced Arquimedes Caminero in the 6th and 7th innings. I didn’t count those pitches, but Caminero threw 2 scoreless with no hits or walks and two strikeouts. He has a big league fastball as well, and hit 96-97 MPH on his fastball a few times in his outing (the average was closer to 94, with 91 with some cut being the slowest).

The Jackson pitching staff didn’t give up any runs for the second straight game. James Gilheeney started and showed two distinct off-speed/breaking balls that broke into righties. The only reported velocity was 87 MPH on his fastball. His curveball is slow, with less horizontal movement, and was not very impressive overall.

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