Tag Archives: spring training

Brandon Maurer, Kameron Loe, and Recalling Spring Training


Kameron Loe wasn’t a Mariner for a very long time. In fact, he threw all of 6.2 innings for the team before the plug was mercifully pulled on the experiment. After he was DFA’d, he was claimed by the Cubs, pitched poorly in 8.1 innings, and then was released (and signed by the Braves, though he hasn’t pitched yet).

His big problem with both teams was the long ball. Somehow, nearly half of his fly-balls turned into homers and he gave up 9 homers in 13 earned runs. Loe was originally signed as a minor league free agent, but made the team rather easily, which raises the question of whether or not the Mariners should have seen the problems with Loe. Since the team plays so many games in a Pitch F/X park during Spring Training, we can look at the data of his spring training outings and compare it to the regular season outings.

I decided in this post to focus on location, so here is where Loe has given up homers this year in the regular season, along with the approximate velocities:

Kameron Loe's Homers

As you see, they really haven’t been in the middle of the plate, or high in the zone. There doesn’t seem to be much tendencies either arm side or glove side, or a certain pitch.

Here is where Loe has thrown pitches on average this year, with results:

Kameron Loe Average Strike Zone

Loe is an extreme low ball pitcher, using his height to sink the ball. Even his average home run is on pitches below the middle of the strike zone (and humorously, the average groundout were on pitches higher than the average pitch).

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Now let’s go back to spring training, here is the average location in spring training for Loe:

Kameron Loe Spring Training

That is basically right on the dot of his average pitch so far in the 2013 regular season. So his spring training location was predictive of where he would locate in the regular season, but not really a location that you would expect would yield a lot of homers. Loe wasn’t the only Mariner that 20/20 hindsight shows probably shouldn’t have made the team out of Spring Training, the other one seeming to be Brandon Maurer, with a high home run rate and 4.44 kwERA. So let’s give him the Loe treatment, and see if there was anything that should have told us, location wise, that he shouldn’t be in the Majors.

Here was Brandon Maurer’s average location in spring training:

Maurer Spring Training

Maurer basically threw the ball right down the middle. You can have success throwing down the middle, and there really isn’t a preferred location inside the strike zone when it comes to frequency of all pitches and success (especially if you throw hard, which Maurer does), but one would think it isn’t ideal. Here are Maurer’s average locations so far this year:

Maurer Average Strike Zone

Rather than throwing the ball a bit glove side, he is throwing more pitches on the arm side of the plate. Most of his whiffs come at the bottom of the zone glove side, but the rest of the pitches have roughly the same average location (suggesting that selection, something we noted in a previous article on Maurer is a bigger problem for him than location).

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I wanted to dig a little deeper, so I gathered the data from all right-handed pitchers that threw on Friday and looked at their average locations:

Average Right-Hander Strike Zone

Not surprisingly, homers are above the average pitch and whiffs are below. Balls that contact were made on (versus just the average pitch) were a touch more armside than the average pitch, and not surprisingly (if you believe in DIPs philosophy anyway) the non-outs and outs are roughly the same. When you compare the average right-handed pitch versus Maurer and Loe, we see that Maurer is right on average and Loe located the ball much lower than average with the Cubs and Mariners. There wasn’t anything average location wise, either in Spring Training data or in regular season data, that tells us Loe and Maurer should struggle with homers or hard contact. Rather than it being location, the problem for Loe might have just been stuff, and for Maurer, pitch selection (mainly, slider usage).

Tyler Burgoon Pitch F/X Report

burgoon pic

Tyler Burgoon got in a spring training game in the Cactus League for some reason, as the Mariners let him pitch in a game in the home park, giving us some Pitch F/X data. Burgoon is a small (listed at 5-10 160) right-handed reliever that the Mariners drafted in the 10th round out of the University of Michigan. He will turn 24 in April, and spent 2012 in High Desert, where, even with some walks, he was pretty solid, limiting homers and striking out hitters. This is coming off an excellent year in 2011 in Clinton. The outing in Peoria gives us some Pitch F/X data, just 7 pitches (so our small sample size sirens should be on alert), but it gives us a look at Burgoon that we wouldn’t get otherwise.

The fastest pitch he threw as actually labelled a cutter at 93.4 MPH (the more manual tags just call it a fastball as well, as the movement and the spin were relatively similar). His fastball averaged 93.21 MPH according to Brooks Baseball. This is most similar to Eric Gagne post 2007 (-.1 WAA in 98.1 innings), or in the bottom 46.34 % of right-handed relief fastballs, meaning he is below average velocity wise. The vertical movement on Burgoon’s fastball is also slightly below average, but he gets slightly above average horizontal movement.

His slider (the only other pitch he showed in his outing) had very little movement either way (horizontally or vertically) and averaged 83.45 MPH. Compared to other right-handed relievers in the Pitch F/X era, it is closest to David Herndon, in the bottom 35 percent of slider velocity. Herndon’s slider is below average at both getting whiffs and strike outs.

As you can see, Burgoon releases the ball pretty far out and not very high either (which makes sense because of the height):

burgoon release

I tried to find a MLB comparison to Burgoon, but struggled to do so. Chris Sampson, the former Astro, was somewhat similar, but that really isn’t that helpful. Jeremy Bonderman isn’t a horrible comparison, though he seems to release it a little higher. Here is a picture of Bonderman to sort of illustrate this (there are pictures of Burgoon at Michigan that you can view online but they are all watermarked or can’t be saved):

bonderman delivery

Bonderman has had a ton of arm issues in his career, and we saw in Burgoon’s release point that he is very far from any kind of consistency. This makes you wonder about Burgoon’s future health. However, it must be taken into account that Burgoon is a reliever. This puts much less strain on his arm than being a starter would, and consistency in release point matters less (though still matters when it comes to throwing strikes and health to some extent, just clearly less). I certainly do not want to speculate on the future health of minor league pitchers, especially based on this little of data.

It really seems hard, from the data we have now, to say that Burgoon looks like a big league pitcher. He does have good minor league numbers, but those are below AA, and he is a guy out of a major college, so it isn’t surprising he is advanced. We certainly don’t see the stuff we saw with Stephen Kohlscheen, and he doesn’t have the height or release point Kohlscheen does either. Burgoon’s slider does not really look good, and it was thrown very inconsistently, as the spin chart shows:

burgoon spin

We also see his fastball has a little less spin than average, which I guess is a little surprising considering his movement data, which was respectable, though not great. He is not a pitcher that is really advanced it would seem, certainly not big league ready. It would seem that he would be a platoon guy anyway with his release point, and this is only if he is able to throw strikes. Burgoon is obviously not a big name anyway, not appearing on any kind of organizational ranking. Unfortunately, the minor leagues are full of players, especially relief pitchers, that do a thing or two well, but have too many flaws to be big leaguers. It would seem that Burgoon falls into this category. He has shown that he can get lower minor leaguers out, but the Pitch F/X data suggests that he falls into this “organizational player” group. More data needs to be collected of course, but that is where the evidence points so far.

Playing Around with Mariner Starting Lineups



It is that time of the year, as Opening Day is but days away, and we have already discussed the 40 man roster, the 25 man roster, and the starting rotation. So now, let’s look at some ideal lineups for the Mariners in 2013. Nothing seems more controversial and creates more arguments than lineups and lineup order. I don’t think lineup order means a whole lot, but generally, you want to give your best hitters the most at-bats, and have guys at the top of the order that get on base with power behind them. Most importantly, you want to play your best players, and take in account platoon splits.

The difficulty is finding a lead-off hitter for the Mariners. I ended up creating some kind of platoon, but it made me realize just how useful John Jaso would be. Against right-handed pitchers, this lineup has a lot of problems it seems. Even left-handers, such as Dustin Ackley, had reverse splits last year. This is a weird lineup, weird roster construction, and a weird team. It is also difficult to fit in all the corner outfield DH types, especially if you still want to play Justin Smoak, which the Mariners seem to want to do. So here are the lineups I think the Mariners should run out there in 2013 to start the year:

Versus Left-handed Pitchers

Franklin Gutierrez: CF

Kyle Seager: 3B

Jesus Montero: C

Michael Morse: DH

Michael Saunders: Left-Field

Justin Smoak: 1st Base

Casper Wells: Right-Field

Dustin Ackley: 2nd Base

Brendan Ryan: Shortstop

Versus Right-handed Pitchers:

Michael Saunders: Left-Field

Kendrys Morales: DH

Michael Morse: Right-Field

Justin Smoak: 1st Base

Jesus Montero: C

Kyle Seager: 3B

Franklin Gutierrez: CF

Dustin Ackley: 2nd Base

Brendan Ryan: Shortstop


Raul Ibanez: Should only bat against right-handed pitching. I wouldn’t want him to be much of a starter because of his lack of other skills (can’t play in the outfield without embarrassing himself for one). His role should be of a pitch hitter.

Robert Andino: Utility guy, can play anywhere, hopefully doesn’t have to play much. Perhaps the best usage of Andino would be when right-handed closers (or a reliever that the team isn’t going to be yanked off the mound when Ibanez comes up) are on the mound, Ibanez can pinch hit for Ryan, and Andino can take over at shortstop afterwards if the game continues.

Casper Wells (against RHP): Should be successful as a platoon guy and could play everyday if Gutierrez gets hurt. Combination of bat, defense, and running abilities makes for a decent, not a great, but a useful player.

Kelly Shoppach: The backup catcher. Unfortunately, both Montero and him have hit left-handers well historically, but Shoppach has struggled against RHP, and Montero did last year as well. So they can’t platoon.

Kendrys Morales (against LHP): Despite being a switch hitter, the Angels basically used him as a platoon player last year. I am not actually sure how the Mariners should use him, but platooning him is probably the best way to go to start.

Honestly, I think a lot of this discussion will become irrelevant soon, as Gutierrez has not given us any reason to believe he will stay healthy. I also think the Mariners will absolutely disagree with me on several points, and there will obviously be roster changes throughout the year.

Ranking the Mariners 40 man roster in Spring Training

felix hernandez perfect game

With Spring Training coming to an end in a little more than a week, the Mariners face some roster choices, especially when it comes to veteran minor league free agents and the 25 man roster. Of course, to add anyone to the 25 man roster from a minor league free agent, they have to be added to the 40 man roster. Since last time (December), the Mariners have removed or traded John Jaso (#5), Jason Vargas (#19), Mike Carp (#20), Shawn Kelley (#27) and D.J. Mitchell (#36). They have added Michael Morse, Kelly Shoppach, Kendrys Morales, Raul Ibanez, and Joe Saunders. So this is the latest ranking of the 40 man roster, which is my ranking of the value of the players on the 40 man based on my interpretation of their statistics and advanced data, the eye test in watching them (both last season and in spring training), and takes into account their contract, especially team control.

1. Felix Hernandez: The King finally got his extension, and remains in first as the ace of the staff and clearly the best player on the team.

king felix

2. Erasmo Ramirez: There have been some that have expressed thought that Erasmo may not make the rotation this year, which seems a little silly to me. A lot of team control, throws hard, and has solid control and a good changeup. A lot to like from Erasmo, and he is ranked higher than Hultzen and Maurer because he has shown he can pitch at the big league level, and considering the vast gulf between AAA and MLB, this accounts for something.

3. Kyle Seager: The club’s best hitter last year, he isn’t a free agent until 2018. The team’s starting 3rd baseman could use a more well rounded game as his speed and defense come up about average, and his OBP and patience isn’t great, but he is clearly the best young hitter on the 40 man, and I think the front office would be thrilled if Brad Miller and Nick Franklin were doing Kyle Seager things within the next couple of years.

4. Danny Hultzen; The reports from his latest minor league outing is very encouraging, as his velocity was fine (which hasn’t been bad, even last year) and he was commanding two pitches. With the back of the Mariners’ rotation having a lot of question marks, the Mariners would really like for him to not have the command issues he had in AAA Tacoma last year, and he should appear in the big leagues sometime in 2013.

5. Brandon Maurer: A guy that still has a shot of making the club as the 5th starter, Maurer’s velocity and Pitch F/X data shoots him up higher for me. You could argue that he should be above Hultzen, especially because of the velocity.

6. Dustin Ackley: Still the starting 2nd baseman, and still not a free agent until 2018, the Mariners would obviously like to see Ackley hit a little more than he did last year, but the speed and defense at least makes him a starter.

7. Michael Saunders: Even with his break out year last year, he will still probably have some playing time lost thanks to the Mariners’ additions to the outfield. If he hits like he did last year, he should play every day.

8. Charlie Furbush: Some very capable left-handed relievers are rated low on this 40 man ranking thanks to Charlie Furbush. While he certainly failed as a starter, he provides long term value as a left-handed reliever.

9. Tom Wilhelmsen: An interesting possible trade asset as the season wears on and competitors look for back of the bullpen pieces, Wilhelmsen brings a great looking curve along with a plus plus fastball and lots of team control

10. Jesus Montero: This is a big season for Montero, not because of the bat value, but because of the defensive value. This is probably his last stand to be a serious catcher, and the Mariners are going to give him every opportunity, pencilling him in as the starting catcher. If Smoak struggles and Mike Zunino comes up to the big leagues as expected in 2013, he could see a pretty permanent move to DH if he struggles early on behind the plate.

11. Carter Capps: You could argue that he should be higher than the 3rd best reliever thanks just to his fastball and hard curveball. The only reason he isn’t higher than Furbush and Wilhelmsen is because the two have had a longer track record of succeeding in the majors.

12. Kendrys Morales: The Mariners’ return for Jason Vargas is a one year player, but he is rather cheap offensive production. One wonders what his health will be like or how well he will move around (and whether he will be able to play defense, making my ranking a little aggressive), but he can hit, there isn’t much question about that. It will often look ugly, and he isn’t always patience, but he can hit for some real power.

13. Hisashi Iwakuma: A lock for the rotation, it is interesting to note how little we have heard about Iwakuma. He isn’t a star, but he is definitely a starter, so he is sort of boring as far as spring training storylines go. Considering the questions in the rest of the Mariners rotation beyond the first 3 pitchers, this is a good thing.

14. Brendan Ryan: The defensive wizard’s future with the Mariners depends on Nick Franklin and Brad Miller, especially how the two perform in 2013. If they both look like big league players, especially if they look like they can start, and as long as Ackley doesn’t look hopelessly lost, there is no real room for Ryan. There is still a possibility, say if Miller or Franklin struggle, that Ryan could be the 2014 Mariners shortstop with a new deal, but he may be trade bait around the deadline

15. Stephen Pryor: This hard thrower needs to work on his command a little more, but he is going to get a lot of big league hitters out in the future and is a nice back of the bullpen piece (which is why it may make some sense to trade a guy like Wilhelmsen).

16. Joe Saunders: My favorite move of the offseason for the Mariners was probably the Jason Vargas/Kendrys Morales trade followed by the signing of Saunders. Much has been made of the similarities between Saunders and Vargas, but Saunders has had success in hitter parks, and throws a little harder. So for only a couple million more, the Mariners got a better pitcher and a slugging 1st base/DH.

17. Michael Morse: Unfortunately, it looks like the Mariners are going to be playing him in the outfield. This hurts his value because he just isn’t very good out there. However, the Mariners constructed their roster in a very weird way this off-season, and there isn’t another place for him to go. He is a one year rental, but if he can hit a little better than 2012, but not even necessarily as good as he did in 2011, he will provide some value.

18. Julio Morban: We saw with the Pitch F/X data in spring training that he still has a little way to go as far as being an advanced hitter, but he certainly held his own. Health is the big question for him and why he isn’t a better prospect.

19. Anthony Fernandez: A sort of interesting left-handed starting prospect, he is still at least a year away, and we didn’t see a plus pitch in the Pitch F/X data. There is still some back end of the rotation projection there, along with options and control, but he isn’t a huge prospect.

20. Carlos Triunfel: A possible utility, 25th man player, it doesn’t look the Mariners are interested in starting him in the big leagues. Doesn’t have the in game tools that originally was sold as the Triunfel package, but he has progressed defensively over the years, and if one is imaginative, you could project him to hit enough to be a reserve MLBer.

21. Franklin Gutierrez: Health, OBP, and team control all bring down Gutierrez’ rating, but he plays a really good centerfield, which the team really needs with the plethora of corner outfielders the team has currently.

22. Casper Wells: He can play a little center, but has been mostly a corner player. The Mariners don’t seem to be extremely thrilled with Wells, and he is out of options, and rumors that he may not make the team, and be placed on waivers, which I would find surprising. He can still be a really nice 4th outfielder and is more rounded player than guys like Morse or Ibanez.

23. Justin Smoak: It is hard to know what to make of Smoak. He definitely looks better, especially with the bat speed on the left side. However, we have a track record of big time failure at the big league level. They have insurance, with Morales being able to move to first if Smoak struggles, but the Mariners are still giving him chances.

24. Francisco Martinez: The move to centerfield is interesting (though he is still listed as an infielder on the official roster), but I don’t know how much it changes his value, especially because the eye test and the data seemed to show that he was at least a decent defender at 3rd. At the end of the day, he is either going to hit and make the Majors, or not hit and not make the Majors.

25. Kelly Shoppach: Shoppach plays an interesting role on this team, as he is the only real defensive catcher on the 40 man roster. The season could break several ways for Shoppach, such as Montero playing adequately at catcher and Zunino coming up, meaning the Mariners get rid of Shoppach, or Shoppach could eventually take over the starting catcher job with just an injury or Zunino and Montero struggling.

26. Blake Beavan: Still in the running for a rotation job, Beavan still has team control, but he isn’t a very good pitcher, really struggling to miss bats or get grounders.

27. Oliver Perez: Reports are that scouts really liked what they saw from Perez in the WBC, and that is the Perez we saw last year, as he brought a big time fastball from the left side.

28. Raul Ibanez: The veteran doesn’t run well or play defense, but he is a platoon player that fit the Mariners need a little bit. My concern is that he will play in the field too much, which would wipe away the value his bat has. Obviously a fill in player, not part of the team’s future plans, and not really a “full time player” either, so that is why his ranking is so low.

29. Lucas Luetge: A reasonably successful LOOGY in 2012, Luetge may not make the team in 2013. He has minor league options, and with Furbush and Perez, he may not be needed to start the year, but he has showed that he can pitch in the Majors in a specialist role.

30. Robert Andino: He looks like the utility guy this year, and is certainly an upgrade from what they had last year. He has made some really nice defensive plays at a couple different positions just from what I have seen this spring training, and he will need to keep doing that to provide value this year.

31. Hector Noesi: Noesi has been an absolute tire fire as a Mariner, but the fastball is still there. Hopefully a bullpen piece in Tacoma, he can still be a guy that can help the Mariners in the future.

32. Vinnie Catricala: A corner player, Catricala really has to improve at Tacoma this year with the bat. The bat will determine whether or not he will be a big league player or not. That is always scary to me, especially for a guy who has mixed results.

33. Bobby Lafromboise: An older (for a prospect) left-handed specialist, he has a skill set that fits on a MLB roster, with some value (see the Randy Choate contract for a guy way past his prime), but not a lot of room on the Mariners roster with the above lefties. I can see why they added him to the 40 man roster, since he would make sense as a rule 5 draft pick for somebody (much like Luetge last year), but he doesn’t have a role on this team without a lot of injuries.

34. Eric Thames: He wasn’t given a real shot to make the team, which makes sense, since his skill set is very similar to Raul Ibanez’. Unless he really struggles or is really awesome in Tacoma this year, it is probably 2014 or bust for Thames with Morse and Ibanez likely gone in that time.

35. Josh Kinney: An injury definitely hurts his value and opens the door for another pitcher in the crowded Mariners’ bullpen. We will see how serious it is, but as an older pitcher that throws a lot sliders, it is concerning.

36. Chance Ruffin: As I wrote about recently, Ruffin has lost his velocity, and since his command isn’t sharp, really all value. After another disappointing spring, he will try to find his velocity in AAA again, but even with another option, he may not stay on the 40 man roster all year.

37. Yoervis Medina: A hard thrower without a ton of command, he is an interesting depth piece, but the bullpen is the Mariners strong point. Has more value elsewhere than he does in Seattle. I wonder if someone would be interested in a trade for Medina, and give the Mariners a couple low level high risk flyer players in return.

38. Alex Liddi: A corner player that hasn’t seen the bat develop the way he needed it to, Liddi doesn’t really have a spot on the team (especially with guys like Catricala ahead of him on the list), and probably isn’t much more than a replacement player, which is what he has been so far.

39. Jason Bay: I still don’t believe that he has fully turned the corner, and the Mariners have better outfielders than him, even if his bat has improved some.

40. Carlos Peguero: The king of spring training, Peguero received some early buzz in February, but has been optioned since.

Depending on how serious the team views the Kinney injury, the team could put him on the 60 day DL, which would open up one roster spot. They are going to lose either Casper Wells or Bay it seems, as that is just how the contacts and roster works. My guess would be that they let go of Bay (at least that is what I would do), but either way, that is another roster spot open. I have argued that Peguero should have been designated early in the off-season, so there is three. Also, since, as mentioned above, Liddi and Medina are sort of redundant, to younger pieces higher on the depth chart, the Mariners could let them go without losing any sleep. So I could 5 roster spots that could be open for guys like Garland, Loe, or others. They probably won’t need 5, but the room is there if needed. Next, I will look at my preferred 25 man roster, before looking at the ideal rotation and lineups for the 2013 Mariners.

Reevaluating the Ichiro Trade Using Pitch F/X Data



In this post, I will take a bit of a deeper look into Danny Farquhar and D.J. Mitchell, the two pitchers acquired by the Mariners from the Yankees when the team traded Ichiro Suzuki. Because of the nature of the trade, it is really hard to say the Mariners won the trade, as we have seen that the Mariners clearly did not get equal talent back from even a regressed Ichiro. That doesn’t necessarily mean they lost the trade, because their was obviously symbolism, and it allowed them to “move on” from Ichiro, as he didn’t really fit into their plans anymore (though he had a better WAA in 2012, despite some curious defensive data in New York, than either Michael Morse or Raul Ibanez).

It struck me that I have not really written about Mitchell or Farquhar from a Pitch F/X perspective. They both have cup of coffees in the Majors, and they have also thrown some outings in spring training that gives us more data. So in this post I’ll look at the two’s data, and their spring training so far.

Danny Farquhar

Pitch F/X says he has much better fastball velocity than I thought and saw in the minors. His 4-seamer has averaged 93.1 MPH on a whole, and 93.41 MPH this spring. This is still slightly below average for a right-handed reliever, closest to Jim Miller, but certainly an acceptable fastball for an emergency reliever stashed in AAA. It has well above average horizontal movement, and is just above average in vertical movement. Overall, it seems like a pretty good fastball, or at least that is what the data suggests.

The 4-seamer isn’t his most frequent fastball even, as he has a sinker and a cutter he throws more. In the Pitch F/X outings we have seen him in, his sinker is the most frequent pitch. It has nearly 2 MPH difference in velocity, which gives him well below average velocity in sinkers for right-handed relievers. However, it gets very good horizontal movement, and good vertical movement as well.

His cutter has dipped below 90 MPH. It has very little horizontal movement, but good vertical tilt. Since he isn’t listed as having a slider anymore (or at least hasn’t shown one yet this spring) by Brooks, it very well could just be a hard slider. However, in 2010-2011, a slider was a healthy part of his repertoire, and it averaged just under 83 MPH. He has not thrown this pitch in either of his spring training outings this year (we have no 2012 data on him).

Obviously the big thing about Farquhar is his high sidearm release point

farquhar release

This is a pretty unique release point, and I somewhat struggled to find comps. When looking at career comparisons, Carter Capps is similar in height, but his is way more out. Al Reyes released the ball a little higher, but as far as horizontal release point it is about the same. Sergio Romo is actually a decent comparison. Obviously he has a weird pitch selection that doesn’t go compare with Farquhar’s, but he doesn’t throw near as hard. Enerio Del Rosario is sort of close, releasing the ball lower and more out. Back when he had his moment in the Majors in 2011, he was releasing the ball a little lower, and a lot more closer to his body, which seems counter-intuitive. Now, he is releasing the ball further out, but is also nearly half a foot higher. This makes finding comparisons even harder. This may be, despite showing a good fastball, why he has been moved around a lot and hasn’t got much of a chance in the Majors. It is really hard to find comps for him, but he is probably going to have large platoon splits.

I think, even though he doesn’t stand a chance of making the team, and cracking the team at anytime this year may be a little difficult thanks to a deep bullpen, the fastball should be emphasized. He has hit nearly 95 MPH in camp:

farquhar speed

Overall, he shows 5 to 6 different pitches out of the pen with okay velocity and a funky release point.

D.J. Mitchell

Mitchell was part of the 40 man roster when he was traded to the Mariners, but the Mariners removed him from the 40 man during the off-season and no one claimed him. We have four Pitch F/X outings from Mitchell from his time with the Yankees, and 3 outings from this spring training with the Mariners. The first thing you notice is the difference in fastball velocity. His fastball with the Yankees was 90.14 MPH, while his fastball in spring training has been 86.92 MPH. He threw a sinker with the Yankees, and it was 89.93 MPH. His curveball has seen a similar drop in velocity, and his changeup has actually seen a worse drop in velocity, a 6 MPH drop. This is alarming. Mitchell is just 25, and we are talking about that kind of drop velocity over less than a calendar year. There could be errors in the Pitch F/X system, but we are talking about three different outing. He could just be having a slow start in spring training, but you almost never see that big of a velocity drop without an arm injury. What about his delivery? Do we see a change in his release point? Here is a 2012 outing with a 2013 outing next to it:

mitchell 2012 mitchell release point 2013

The change is not extremely drastic, but it is evident. Frankly, the 2013 release point looks better. It is above 6 feet and a little more consistent. It seems less sidearm, however, it is different. Even if it looks a little better, difference is not always a good thing, especially if it comes, which it seems that it does, with a velocity loss.

Usually I wouldn’t put much stock in location for small sample spring training outings, but considering the other concerns, and the fact that he is usually a strike thrower, the fact that I could just 11 of his 35 pitches in the strike zone so far is really concerning. In one of his outings, his fastball averaged 85.9 MPH. Much was made of Joe Saunders’ low velocity, and the Mariners are definitely relying on him more and paying him more, but Mitchell’s loss is way more drastic.

Of course, teams have Pitch F/X data for minor league games, it just isn’t publicly available (and since it is not, I am not sure what it looks like). While I remember hearing 87-88 MPH while Mitchell was in Tacoma, I wonder what the Mariners’ data showed, and if they were able to see what looks like a new release point. This could be a reason they took him off the 40 man roster, though he didn’t have great stuff or potential to begin with, so it is possible that they took him off without even knowing that he had regressed.

And again, it should be emphasized, this is not just a normal regression. This is a pitcher that has suddenly lost all his velocity (he didn’t have great velocity to begin with), at age 25. This looks like a pretty serious injury. Obviously we aren’t in Mariner team meetings, but I would have to assume that the Front Office sees this data. I wonder how they are interpreting it, and I wonder what Mitchell is saying to the team. To me, I would be shutting him down and getting him an MRI or something. I don’t think this is Mitchell just being a slow starter (mainly because of the release point inconsistencies), though because Mitchell was with the Yankees last spring training, we don’t have the Pitch F/X data from then to really test this.

I liked Farquhar more than Mitchell at the time of the trade, and I think the difference in value between them is even more pronounced after looking at the data. Farquhar is clearly trending in the right direction, while Mitchell is trending in the wrong direction, and seems to be injured. The actual value the Mariners will get from either of these players is nearly certain to be 0 or insignificant, but Farquhar is sort of interesting in a low leverage situational role.

Jon Garland: Pitch F/X Style

jon garland mariners

In the previous post, I wrote about how Jon Garland looked in his first televised outing, what I called the eye test. Of course, we also have Pitch F/X data for his 32 pitch outing, his first Pitch F/X outing in over a year and a half. In this post, I will look at that data and see if I can interpret what it tells us about Garland.

First, let’s look at pitch selection. Anyone who watched the outing knows that Garland threw predominately sinkers, and the data says nothing different. 22 of the 32 pitches were identified as sinkers according to MLB AM’s identification tags. He also threw 2 traditional 4-seam fastballs. Both of these pitches maxed out at the same MPH, just 90.2. In what is strange, but just a product of a small sample size, his sinker averaged a higher MPH (88.22) than his 4-seam fastball (87.6). This velocity is right on par, and maybe even very slightly higher, than what he was throwing in 2011. It is a drop off from the 90 MPH + he was throwing in 2010, but he didn’t lose a lot of velocity in the layoff. This sinker velocity is closest to Bronson Arroyo from 2007-2012. His vertical movement is also very similar to Arroyo’s. Arroyo has a really nice groundball sinker, in the top 50 out of over 300, ironically just a few spots under what Garland’s has been. Arroyo actually gets more whiffs on his sinker than Garland did. I don’t expect Garland to suddenly get more whiffs on his sinker, but Arroyo at least shows that it can still be a good pitch.

His most common breaking pitch according to the identification tags was the slider, which he threw 5 times. While I thought I saw at least 2 or 3 sliders, this is a little strange when looking at Garland historically. According to Brooks Baseball’s tags, he has thrown just 1 slider in his career. It would be very bizarre for Garland to pick up a slider coming off an arm injury. Brooks’ tags call it a cutter, and saying he threw it 6 times not 5. These tags are usually better than the MLB AM tags, and in this case they are quite a bit different. Brooks has him throwing more 4-seamers, almost as many as he threw sinkers, and transfers one of the 24 fastball/sinkers into a cutter. While I can’t speak to this later identification, the idea that he threw 10 4-seam fastballs just doesn’t mesh with what I saw. 22 sinkers versus 2 4-seamers make much more sense to me, at least just from a raw eye test standpoint.

We also note that, when looking at movement data, the cutter/slider he threw on Monday was different than the cutter he threw throughout his career. At least vertically, it moves less than it did back in 2007-2010, but more than it did in 2011. The MLB AM tags, the tags more commonly used on sites like FanGraphs, have always called this a slider. It might be helpful to compare the pitch to other cutters, and then to other sliders and see which one it compares best to. First, we will look at Garland’s old cutter/slider by looking at 2007, then we will use the new data we have on Garland’s pitch to current cutters and sliders.

In 2007, Garland’s cutter was one of the slowest compared to other MLB starters. It also had some of the least amount of horizontal movement, and was toward the bottom in vertical movement as well. It was slightly better than average at getting grounders, but slightly below average at getting whiffs. If we change it to a slider, we note that it is still towards the bottom in velocity. The same is true for horizontal movement, but it gets good vertical movement compared to other starter sliders in 2007. It get way less whiffs than an average slider, towards the bottom, but an above average groundball pitch. Either way, whether you call it a slider or cutter, it was below average in velocity, getting whiffs, and horizontal movement. It doesn’t seem to matter either way. It was decent at getting grounders, had a little vertical movement, but overall probably wasn’t a real good pitch overall in 2007.

Let’s compare his new slider/cutter to starting pitcher’s through out the Pitch F/X era. First, we notice that he has actually gained about a MPH in velocity on the pitch since 2007, which seems significant. As a slider, it has above average velocity now, the same as Jesse Litsch’s slider. Litsch’s slider is below average in whiffs and grounders, but again, just on a velocity scale, Garland’s is better than average. Garland’s also moves much different, emphasizing vertical movement more than horizontal movement (the opposite of Litsch’s). Garland’s horizontal movement is well below average for a slider, closest to Jaime Garcia. Garcia has a great slider, and Garland gets more vertical movement on his, or at least did on Monday. Hector Noesi and Chris Tillman actually provide the best comparisons for his vertical movement on his slider. Garland gets less horizontal movement than Tillman’s, but more than Noesi’s. They are both terrible sliders at getting whiffs, but really good at getting grounders. This is good news for Garland, who has always relied on a lot of grounders, and if the Garcia comp is any indication, it gives him hope that he can miss some bats with it at well. As a cutter, Garland’s would fit in as one of the worst. It actually has above average horizontal movement, similar to Jason Vargas’, as a cutter. However, it has an extremely low amount of vertical movement. Such extremes seem to point it to not being cutter, and instead being a slider, and perhaps a decent slider.

One thing the tags do agree on is that Garland threw 3 curveballs. This at least helps take him out of the dreaded sinker/slider camp. It is a hard curve, above average in velocity, another good thing. Compared to just his career numbers, he is threw it about half a MPH harder than he used to, and it was getting better vertical movement, but worse horizontal movement. This matches what we saw when watching him pitch, it moved almost exclusively down, and not really horizontal. His horizontal movement, at least on the curves he threw in the game against the Rockies, is dramatically low, among the lowest in baseball. Vertically, it also gets pretty low, though not as dramatically low, actual movement. So Garland throws it pretty hard (especially on a ratio perspective, compared to his fastball/sinker/slider velocities), but he isn’t getting a lot of movement on it. Back when it was a more horizontal curve, it wasn’t a huge part of his pitching plans, as he threw it just 7 % of the time, and strangely more to lefties than righties. It wasn’t a particularly good pitch either, getting much less grounders and whiffs than league average curves. So while it may be the politician’s fallacy to say so, but it is probably good if Garland’s curve has indeed changed, as it wasn’t very good anyway. However, the data suggests that it is a really limited pitch, and probably won’t be a big part of his toolbox.

When looking at release point data, we notice that he is releasing the ball farther away from him. Just looking at his 4-seam fastball, in 2011 (which was right at his career averages before) he released the ball 1.73 feet from the middle of the rubber. On Monday, he released his fastball 2.03 feet from the middle of the rubber, which would be about a 3.6 inch difference. Pictures help, so compare his last outing in 2011 (left) to his outing on Monday (right):

garland old release garland release

You also may note that he is releasing the ball slightly (though not as near as dramatic of as the horizontal change) lower as well, at least on average. These things will usually point to higher platoon splits. Garland, at least career wise, has not had abnormal or even very large, platoon splits (4.40 FIP with platoon advantage, 4.80 FIP without the platoon advantage). However, notice what we didn’t see (at least Pitch F/X wise). A changeup. Garland didn’t throw a changeup in his outing against the Rockies according to the data. This and the fact that he is releasing the ball further out and lower, is concerning platoon splits wise.

You will notice when you look at the charts that Garland’s release point was somewhat inconsistent. This explains strike zone problems, but I wouldn’t be concerned about it, at least not yet. If in late March he still isn’t repeating his delivery and still not throwing strikes, then obviously there is a problem. We do notice that, other than a couple of stray pitches, he kept the ball pretty low:

garland location

That is probably a few too many pitches down the middle, but even with a slightly lower release point, he is getting on top of the ball well, and important to his below average velocity sinkerballing ways, he is keeping the ball out of the upper portion of the strike zone.

Overall, we see two pitches that can be pretty good, the sinker and slider. However, a sinker and a slider doesn’t make a starting pitcher. The curveball doesn’t look great from a Pitch F/X perspective, and we haven’t seen the changeup yet. The 4-seamer is obviously a minus pitch, so we need to see one of those two pitches to emerge for me to fully buy in to Garland being a capable pitcher for the Mariners. He doesn’t have to be quite league average, but if he is worse than Beavan, which I think you could be able to argue he is based on the data we have (with 2 okay pitches, platoon split questions, health questions, etc.), then the Mariners need another starter.

Mariners Sign Jason Bay

jason bay

According to just about everyone, and it has been rumored since he was released by the Mets, Jason Bay has signed with the Mariners. He still has to pass a physical, which isn’t necessarily a slam dunk (to mix sports metaphors). In many ways, Jason Bay was the Mets’ Chone Figgins. Perhaps even more appropriate, Bay was the hitter version of Oliver Perez for the Mets. Bay signed a 4 year 66 million dollar deal with the Mets, only to be released and paid out 18.2 million dollars to go away (so obviously a bigger contract than Figgins, but the Mets also have had a bigger payroll).

In 288 games with the Mets, he had a 90 OPS +, negative fielding values, and just 26 steals and 26 homers in that time. In the 3 years before that, Bay played in 451 games (with the Pirates and Red Sox) and had 88 homers and 27 steals, and a 121 OPS +. Since he has played basically only left-field in his career (and is below average at that), how he hits is extremely important. If he hits like he did with the Mets, then he really provides little to no value. Perhaps he could be a bench bat, but he doesn’t have drastic platoon splits in his career, and was terrible against both lefties and righties in 2012. 2011 was a small sample size (especially when you break it down into platoon splits), but Bay was really good against lefties that year, showing power and a high walk rate. The problem is that right-handed hitting outfielders are not exactly what the Mariners need, at least not platoon wise. I have written about this all off-season but Casper Wells fits that profile just fine, and he has better baserunning ability and is better in the outfield. Unlike Chone Figgins, where we are still baffled at what exactly happened and why he regressed so much, it is quite clear that injuries were a big reason that Bay’s early 30s played out like many players late 30s or early 40s. According to Baseball Prospectus, here is his complete list of injuries since the off-season of 2006:

Even with accounting for the new fences, Safeco isn’t exactly the place where hitters go to resurrect their careers. The hope is always that he could always  put a healthy season together like Oliver Perez did. However, there are a couple of notable differences between Oliver Perez and Jason Bay. Perez switched roles. He went from a starter to a reliever. Failed starters turn into relievers with success all of the time. This doesn’t mention the overall differences between hitters and pitchers, or the fact that Oliver Perez was showing the premium velocity in a winter league. It is not as if Jason Bay is in a winter league bombing home runs and stealing bases. However, the hope could be that a change in role (that is, making Bay more of a platoon player/DH/bench player/pinch hitter/taking him out early for defense) could help Bay stay healthy and regain his bat.

If you break down the difference between ’07-’09 (the beginning of publicly available Pitch F/X data) to ’10-’12 (his years with the Mets), he has been more aggressive with them, swinging more, putting more in play, but swinging and missing more as well. When you look at his spray charts, they aren’t incredibly different:


To me, they don’t look that different other than the fact that there was just more power in 2007-2009 (something we pretty much already knew). He still showed power to all fields with the Mets, it was just a lot less overall. The other big difference to me was the balls hit to the left-field wall (that is, pulled for the right-handed hitter). They were basically absent when he was with the Mets. The drop in power was there, as his average batted ball went 275.569 feet from 2007-2009, and with the Mets it went 266.573 feet. However, that isn’t a bad number. That power plays just fine as long as it comes with good peripherals. Bay saw 3.98 pitches per plate appearance, but with the Mets it dropped pretty drastically to 3.84 pitches per plate appearance. His contact percentage dropped (but was still higher than it was in 2004 when he had an OPS just over .900), and his K/BB was actually better with the Mets than it has been for most of his career (outside of 2004, his first real full year and 2007, which was his worst year with the Pirates). He is certainly swinging more often, especially on high pitches:

While Bay has always had a high strikeout rate, it is quite obvious that the contact problems have risen even more:

Obviously the Mariners have been rumored and linked to every hitter in the business (and I decided to not chase every rumor, only writing up some), so they aren’t done. Jason Bay wasn’t signed to be the savior of the offense, just like Hong-Chih Kuo (also coming off one of the worst year in memory) wasn’t brought in to the the savior of the bullpen. We still do not have the official word as to far as roster spot or salary, but I would have liked this signing if it was a no risk signing like Carlos Guillen last year, with no guaranteed roster spot or money. There is a good chance, like Kuo, Bay is downright dreadful in Spring Training and released. The declining power, peripherals, and his struggle to stay healthy (not to mention that he is already 34) certainly make Bay’s chances of having a good season with the Mariners unlikely. This would make the Mariners’ 40 man full, meaning they won’t take a player in the Rule 5 draft (something they usually like to do) on Thursday. That is fine for the most part (although Chris McGuinness would have been sort of interesting as a first baseman), but it would really be unfortunate if the Mariners have to move someone off the roster (or it prevents them from adding another non-major piece to the roster) for Bay, whose likelihood of producing an upside is low (I will rank the 40 man roster again after the Winter Meetings).

Possible Cheap Bullpen Solutions for the Mariners

Dan Wheeler

The fun part of every off-season is speculating what players that the club may or should bring in. Everyone has a couple of free agents, whether big time or small time, that they would love to see in their favorite team’s uniform. Since this is a Seattle site, it is time to look at some free agents that the Mariners could use. Perhaps one could say that this post is somewhat working backwards. The bullpen was a real strength of the Mariners in 2012. However, it is unknown whether the Mariners will tender a contract to Josh Kinney (not to mention that Shawn Kelley’s arbitration case looming, which will be my next article here) and Oliver Perez will be a free agent. These 3 pitchers could possibly be Josh Kinney or Oliver Perez alternatives on the minor league free agent market.

Dan Wheeler is a veteran with 640.2 MLB innings under his belt and has been semi-effective with a career 92 ERA – and 96 FIP -. He started 2012 with the Indians but was sent to AAA after 13 disastrous outings (12.1 innings) in which he put up some really laughable statistics. To his credit, he threw 42.2 solid innings in AAA, in which he outperformed his peripherals (4.00 FIP and 4.44 SIERA to a 2.32 ERA).

Before this season, he had been a really consistent bullpen piece for a few different organizations, with above replacement seasons every year since 1999 (he was replacement level in 17.2 innings in 2001). His peak was in 2005 and 2006 with the Astros, and while those days are gone, he was very solid for the Boston Red Sox in 2011 with a 89 FIP – in a tough division, striking out an acceptable 19.4 % while only walking 4 % of the batters he faced. Fangraphs’ pitch classifications on Dan Wheeler are just a mess, but he did seem to have a velocity drop in 2012. He has never been a hard thrower, averaging 91.13 MPH on his fastball in 2007. In 2011, it averaged 89.90 MPH and then dropped to 89.03 MPH in 2012. When I went back and watched him in the minors from earlier this year (against Durham on August 8th since they have a radar gun on their broadcasts), he hit (got down to 87 MPH) 89-90 MPH (up to 91 MPH) on his fastball and it isn’t straight, with a little bit of tail.  This year, according to Brooks baseball, he started going to his splitter more and his curveball less as well. He was also more predictable in his pitch selection in 2012 than he was in 2011:

Roman Colon is a 33 year old right-hander that pitched in the Royals organization this year but spent most of it in AAA (67 innings) as he threw just 8 MLB innings in 2012. Overall, he has thrown 187.1 MLB innings (almost exclusively out of the bullpen, with 7 starts in 2005 and 1 in 2006) and has put up some bad numbers (119 ERA -, 116 FIP -). He has really struggled to miss bats in that time. However, he was throwing 94-95 MPH on a fastball and a sinker when he was brought up, with a slider, curve, and change. He is mostly a sinker/slider guy (Brooks Baseball conflates everything to basically 4-seam and slider, insisting that 90 % of his pitchers are one or the other).

In 2010, he spent some time in Korea as a starter and wasn’t overwhelming.

In AAA this year, he was solid in the hitter friendly PCL with a 3.92 FIP and 4.00 SIERA. He didn’t strikeout a ton of hitters (20.7% with too many walks at 10%), but he survived by keeping the ball on the ground (49.5% and 13.4 LD%).

Tim Wood has 58 pretty forgettable MLB innings under his belt with the Marlins and Pirates. The 29 year old right-hander (notice that all 3 are right-handed, left-handers are tough to find, so the Mariners really need to make sure that a guy like Bobby Lafromboise is ready for the Majors if they are unable to sign Perez) was originally drafted in the 44th round by the Marlins back in 2002, but has a better fastball than you would expect from such a late draft pick, averaging 94.5 MPH on it in 2011, his last stint in the Majors. He has spent the last two seasons as the Pirates’ AAA (which is confusingly named the Indians) affiliate’s closer (I don’t think that means much, other than he has been effective enough that they didn’t stop using him in that role) and in 114.1 innings has a FIP in the 2.60s (but a SIERA closer to 4.00) with a decent strikeout rate and a workable ground-ball rate (all while avoiding homers and a reasonable walk rate). He has done a good job of limiting power, as the 488 hitters he has faced in the minors over the last two years have a .095 ISO. Out of the 65 strikeouts he got this year, 55 of them were swinging and he threw strikes at a 64.5% clip.

While he throws a fastball or sinker (it was hard for me to see a difference, as he was usually throwing the fastball high) 67% of the time, his slider is also important, as he throws it 22% of the time. It is a hard slider averaging about 87 MPH and he really likes to throw it when ahead to right-handed hitters. The changeup (88.23 MPH, one of the harder changes you will see, King Felix obviously having the hardest one) is throw almost exclusively against lefties. When I went back and watched him, the change looked good with some good vertical drop. The slider looks mediocre, breaking only downward and is not very sharp even though it reached up to 89 MPH. The change is the better pitch, and you would think he will be able to keep his platoon splits down with it. He keeps the ball low with his off-speed pitches and was throwing 94 MPH with his fastball (but mainly was using off-speed pitches).

These guys are all flawed (notice that none have great strikeout totals), but that is exactly what a minor league free agent is. It is a guy with low upside, but no risk. Remember that Oliver Perez (while better than these 3 pitchers) was rightly viewed as a  train-wreck before the 2012 season and Josh Kinney was an afterthought. Two of the three have good fastballs (in at least velocity terms) and the other one has had a good track record of MLB success. All 3 performed at least reasonably well in AAA this season, one of them in a pretty hostile environment. I am not saying that they will have success in the Majors next year (they may all get a chance and suck, or they may all be stuck in AAA or possibly go to another country like Colon did in 2010.), I was just outlining a few guys that are already available that the Mariners could take a look at.

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