Tag Archives: Tacoma Rainiers

Does Jeremy Bonderman Deserve Another Start in the Majors

jeremy bonderman

Through 3 starts in the Majors, against the Twins (20th in Rbat, Baseball Reference’s version of offensive Runs Above Average), Yankees (23rd), and Astros (26th), Jeremy Bonderman has a 4.75 kwERA, 45.8 GB %, but struck out just over 10 % of batters. Considering the competition, this is nothing special, and is probably at best, a borderline 5th starter. Using Pitch F/X data, I wanted to see if Bonderman deserved to stay in the Mariners’ rotation or whether or not the Mariners should explore other options.

First, it is probably important to note that I wasn’t a fan of Bonderman’s stuff in spring training and watching his outings for Tacoma, I didn’t think he deserved a promotion and a roster spot. He has preformed at least a little better than I expected him to do so far. Here is what his stuff looks like through three starts:

Jeremy Bonderman Spin and Speed


His fastball looks better than it did in spring training, getting over 93 MPH several times, with a big congregation of fastballs at 91-92 MPH. He is also throwing a slider that is a touch below average, rarely getting up to 84-85, most of them around 82-83 MPH with a few changeups with slightly better velocity.

Here are his average locations:

Jeremy Bonderman Average Locations

As you can see, he is showing a complete inability to work to the glove side of the plate. He is barely getting his change over the plate, and he can’t get his slider to the glove side. 9 of his 15 swinging strikes have come off the slider, with 23 of his 62 pitches put in play coming off the slider. So it actually isn’t performing too poorly. So far, it is changeup that has big problems, with no whiffs, with 4 balls put into play.He just isn’t using it very much. Instead, he has thrown his slider 51 times to left-handed hitters. Just 3 of them have been for swinging strikes with 12 of them put in play. This is Brandon Maurer disease. Maurer couldn’t get left-handed big league hitters out because he didn’t really have a changeup, so he he had to use his slider against lefties, a pitch known to have huge platoon splits. So he failed miserably, and Bonderman had to take his spot. The difference is, Maurer threw hard. Bonderman’s fastballs (including his sinker here) has averaged 91.23 MPH (from the 55 feet mark used by Brooks Baseball). Maurer threw over 93 MPH on average. If Maurer couldn’t have success in the Majors, it is hard to imagine that Bonderman can doing the same thing. Bonderman is doing a pretty good job of keeping the fastball low, but two of his homers allowed have come on the fastball, one on a high one and the other in the middle of the plate.

It is really hard to imagine that Bonderman can have success as a starter using basically two pitches. His change and sinker are just mixed in and not effective. He comes from a low release point that is somewhat out. His fastball/slider combo seems more suited for the bullpen. With a tick up on the fastball and slider, and strategically used to face a lot of righties, Bonderman could have success. Unfortunately for the Mariners, the need for a starter is much greater than the need for a reliever. I don’t think Bonderman is the answer in the rotation. It is hard, and would be very unconventional to yank a pitcher out of the rotation after throwing 8 innings of shutout baseball, but we have to take into account that he has faced three bad offenses and there a lot of red flags that suggest that this “success” will not continue. If a pitcher looks like he is going to regress, why keep him in and suffer the regression as a team? That is, while predicting baseball is very tricky, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bonderman self destructs in his upcoming starts, causing the Mariners to lose, and the Mariners to boot him out of the rotation anyway, after they have suffered the bad results that were predicted. There are ways to anticipate regression, this is why sabermetrics and Pitch F/X data are used. If the Mariners ignore the data, I think it is going to burn them. The problem is, the Mariners don’t have many other options. The AAA rotation includes James Paxton, who has shown that he isn’t ready yet with his inconsistencies, Andrew Carraway is a soft-tosser that doesn’t miss bats (as is Brian Sweeney), and Blake Beavan, currently on the big league roster isn’t much of an upgrade, you know what you are getting with him. Hector Noesi is an option, but the best option is clearly Erasmo Ramirez. In two starts in Tacoma, Erasmo has been really good, and if his velocity is back to where it was in 2012 (rather than the clearly hurt Erasmo we saw in Spring Training), then he belongs in the Mariners rotation. Erasmo not only has much more future upside than Bonderman, important on a bad team, he also has a really good changeup, something that Maurer and Bonderman do not have.

What Went Wrong: Jesus Montero’s 2013


Jesus Montero’s 2013 season has gone about as badly as it could have. Montero was sent down in part because of his defense, as the Mariners seem to be finally moving towards giving up on his ability to catch, as it is apparent (as it was to Baseball America years ago, who kept projecting him as a first baseman or a DH in Yankee prospect lists) that he doesn’t belong behind the plate. However, it is unlikely that he would have been sent down if he was hitting. He clearly wasn’t, and you don’t need advanced metrics or stats to tell you that things weren’t going well at the plate in 2013.

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When you look at just some of his peripherals, he looks okay, or at least, not that bad. A 2.7 HR %, reasonable K/BB % (you would rather have some more walks and more strikeouts honestly), the HR/FB % is a little low (which could just be luck at this sample size), not an overly high GB %, actually about half a percent lower than it was last year, and not many infield fly-balls. However, his overall power, outside of homers, was atrocious, as was his batting average on balls in play. Baseball Heat Maps batted ball distance suggests he wasn’t hitting the ball very far, suggesting he wasn’t hitting it very hard and was deserving the low BABIP. Here is his spray chart, courtesy of Texas Leaguers:

Jesus Montero's 2013

If I told you that Montero was a left-handed hitter and you ignored the infield, this spray chart would make a lot of sense. Most of his power comes on balls hit the other way. The scouting report was always that he had a lot of opposite field power, but he has a real absence of pull power, or at least this year, is not pulling many balls for extra bases. One would think, even if a player has really good opposite field power, that they would still have better pull power, unless they are just lacking in bat speed. Keeping this issue in mind, let’s take a look at his pitch data.

First, let’s look at his average locations, where pitchers are throwing it to him, along with his hits, outs etc.

Montero Average Strike Zone

While his hits are more inside than anything else, his runs scored plays (which include homers) are around the rest of the pitches, but a little higher than the average pitch. Nothing out of the ordinary really.

One of the things I found interesting about Montero as a minor leaguer was that he was a highly rated prospect, but he was an all-bat prospect, and he didn’t walk a lot or have great OBPs. I think patience in general has been somewhat of an issue for Montero, as generally he has contact skills, but it sometimes works against him, causing him to make some weak contact and make easy outs. Here are the pitches he swung at in the Majors this season:

Montero Swing Map

Honestly, this doesn’t look bad, rarely swinging at pitches above the strike zone. He has chased some really inside pitches, and a few low and away, but he is getting strikes and swinging at them. I don’t think those pitches that he chased in this chart are the reason he has struggled so far. His outside the zone swinging percentage is higher than league average, but it was actually better in 2013 and 2012.

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This spin and speed looks at only the pitches in play or whiffs, in an attempt to see what pitches he is struggling with:

Montero Spin and Speed

While strikeouts aren’t a real problem for Montero, his swinging strike percentage has gone up. As you can see, Montero was swinging and missing at quite a bit of breaking pitches, especially curveballs. He handled fastballs pretty well, but was not really seeing a whole lot of elite fastballs (weirdly his average fastball velocity seen has gone down each year in the Majors so far, a strange, and random, trend).

If strikeouts aren’t the problem, and we are trying to figure out where his power went, whether he is having problems with inside pitches, or whether he is just unlucky on balls in play, it makes sense to take a look at the pitches Montero has made outs on. Here are the release points and the strike zone locations for the outs for Montero so far in 2013:

Montero Release Points

Again, the vast majority of them are in the strike zone. A good number of them are inside, which explains all the groundouts to shortstop and 3rd base in the spray chart above. He doesn’t seem to be doing very well on pitches up and in the zone. As far as release points go, it is a little strange how many outs he has made on lefties that are low and out. Then again, we saw that many of his pitches he swung and missed at were high spin curves, which are curves usually thrown by lefties. Lefties that are far and out can just drop curveballs on him, and even if they are in the zone, he is either missing or turning them into outs.

There doesn’t seem to be a real easy answer such as “he should quit swinging at these kind of pitches” or “he doesn’t have big league power or bat speed”. Maybe it is just lack of athleticism, as there may be a lot of balls that would lead to getting on base that turn into outs just because he is so slow.  I don’t really believe that is a real answer, but the evidence points a lot to bat speed and guessing, which seem unlikely for a guy that was so heralded in the minor leagues, but then again, prospect gurus miss on guys all the time. Perhaps Montero’s offensive tools were overstated to begin with.

Examining Mike Zunino’s Current Plate Discipline

mike zunino mariners

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.

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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.

Does The Mariners’ Minor League System Have a Contact Problem?


As I was watching Brewers’ minor leaguer Tyler Wagner and his 90 MPH fastball (he was a 4th round pick in 2012 to be fair) strike out 10 and shut out Clinton’s lineup in a 7 inning game, I started thinking about the Mariners’ minor league contact problems. It seems that the Mariners have had a lot of major strikeout players over the past couple years in the minors, whether it is Kalian Sams, Joe Dunigan, Guillermo Pimentel, Denny Almonte, and even at times, Mike Zunino. Of course, the importance of minor league strikeout rates for hitters can be overstated, and in my research minor league strikeouts only really matter in the context of strikeouts versus walks.

So I wondered if the Mariners’ minor league system has a contact problem, in the context of walk percentage and strikeout percentage. So here are the 2013 affiliates so far (as of Tuesday May the 7th, the games on the 8th aren’t included):

[table id=34 /]

Here is what they looked like in 2012 (just the stateside affiliates):

[table id=35 /]

Here are the league averages for those leagues (2013 for the full season leagues, 2012 for the short season leagues)

[table id=36 /]

Clearly AAA Tacoma is having a lot of problems making contact so far, but they are also walking a decent amount as well. AA Jackson is striking out a lot and they aren’t walking either. High Desert was a heavy contact team last year (and several of those players are now on Jackson, which explains their low walk rate this year), but this year, they have maintained their strikeout rate, and are walking more. I complained about Clinton in the opening, but they are doing a good job so far this season of limiting strikeouts and walking quite a bit.

It seems that you can complain that a few of the Mariners’ affiliates have been strikeout heavy, but a lot of them were walking as well. I don’t think the data suggests that it is a systematic problem, though there are certainly a few players in the Mariners system that have have epic strikeout problems.

Blake Beavan As a Reliever


In the off-season, there was an interesting article that suggested that Blake Beavan should be used as a closer in Tacoma. In one sense, it was interesting precisely because it was unrealistic and novel. It wasn’t going to happen, and Beavan ended up making the Mariners’ rotation pretty easily (too easily for most Mariner fans liking). Of course, Beavan struggled to start the year yet again, and after acquiring Aaron Harang, the Mariners stuck him in the bullpen. In this post, I will be looking at the differences between bullpen Beavan and starting Beavan, but to give a spoiler alert, he didn’t turn into Tommy Hunter with a plus fastball. Beavan has since been sent to Tacoma, and is going to go be a starter again. Interestingly, when he was sent down, Eric Wedge said he went away from his fastball and insinuated that this was one of the reasons he was sent down.

In this post, I will look at all the pitches he has thrown this year, separated into his relief outings and his starting outings.  I will focus on swinging strikes because that is Beavan’s biggest flaw as a pitcher, he doesn’t miss bats and is very hittable. Swinging strikes (really, contact percentage) also stabilize quicker than just about everything else. As a starter, I included his spring training start on 3/23, which is obviously spring training, because he threw over 100 pitches.

This adds up to 286 pitches as a starter, with 20 swinging strikes, a 6.99 Swinging Strike percentage. 8.6 % is league average for starters.

To help break down his pitches, here is his spin and speed chart:

Beavan Spin as SP

Below is my pitch classifications, along with the swinging strike results, along with strike zones. Beavan is a little bit difficult to classify, as I think you can see from the speed/spin chart, the breaking pitches sort of bleed into each other:

155 fastballs: 91.09 MPH, 9 swinging strikes (5.8 %)

SP Beavan Fastball

30 changeups: 82.53 MPH, 3 swinging strikes (10 %)

SP Beavan Changeup

33 curveballs: 71.8 MPH, 2 swinging strikes (6.06 %)

SP Beavan Curveball

68 sliders: 80.42 MPH, 6 swinging strikes (8.8 %


SP Beavan Slider

Beavan as a reliever:

22 swinging strikes in 184 pitches, 11.96 %. League Average for relievers is 10.3 %. So Beavan, was above average at getting swings and misses out of the bullpen.

Spin and speed chart:


It really looks like he turned into basically a two pitch pitcher here, but the MLBAM tags insist that he is throwing both a curve and slider. However, they don’t seem to have any rational formula for classifying the two pitches here, at least not by movement or spin (it seemed to just separate them based on speed putting the slower half as curves, ignoring the characteristics that tell us whether or not a pitch is a curve or slider) . I initially tried to separate the pitches, but I couldn’t figure out how to do it satisfactory, so I just invented a new pitch, a Cider (I didn’t use “slurve” because that is a real pitch) and classified them as all the same. Interestingly, it seems that he has ditched his changeup in the bullpen, even though it was his best pitch (swinging strike percentage wise) as a starter to start the year (though, according to MLBAM tags, it has been his worst pitch in his career, both by swinging strike and wRC + against. It was just 3 whiffs in 30 pitches, so it was probably small sample anyway)

My classifications, results, along with strike zones:

83 Fastballs: 90.93 MPH, 8 swinging strikes (9.63 %)

RP Beavan Fastball

101 Ciders: 78.64 MPH, 14 swinging strikes (13.86 %)

RP Beavan Ciders

Eric Wedge obviously had a point about Beavan going away from the fastball, throwing more “Ciders” than fastballs. However, as you can see, he actually turned into an above average reliever when it comes to getting whiffs. Neither his slider or curveball were plus pitches as a starter, but whatever breaking ball(s) he was throwing out of the bullpen was a plus pitch.

Of course, there are negatives to throwing slider-like pitches so often, as they are often very hard on the arm. It is also concerning, using both the MLBAM tags and my tags, that he actually lost fastball velocity in the bullpen. Perhaps this is why he quit throwing it as much, as he wasn’t getting anything extra on it. Most pitchers that move from the rotation to the bullpen gain 2-3 MPH on their fastballs, and in the article linked to above we were asked to imagine him adding several MPH on his fastball. This makes me wonder if there was already something wrong with his arm.

It could also be a classification problem. Perhaps he is throwing a firm changeup out of the bullpen that was just slower than the fastball. It is hard to classify the difference between the changeup and fastball using anything other than velocity, as movement and spin tends to be somewhat similar. He could have just been throwing a hard changeup that got lumped in with the fastball, and he lost the speed differential in the bullpen (though the idea of the changeup being the pitch he completely ditches in the bullpen makes sense for him, since it hasn’t been a good pitch).

Blake Beavan probably shouldn’t be interesting for anyone. However, because of these questions, I am interested in him, when he starts pitching again in the rotation for Tacoma. I want to see if he is throwing the changeup, what his fastball looks like (especially velocity wise, that is harder to look at in the minors, relying on announcers for readings), and whether or not he is healthy.

A Deep Look at Aaron Harang and Meta-Narratives


The Mariners traded right-handed reliever Steven Hensley and some cash to acquire Aaron Harang from the Colorado Rockies. Harang is a 34 year old who has started 293 games in the Majors. He never actually pitched for the Rockies, as they traded for him from the Dodgers, but immediately designated for assignment.

From 2010-2012 (he hasn’t pitched yet this year) he had a -2.1 WAA, mainly because of an awful last season with the Reds. The Reds have a very hitter friendly ballpark and Harang really struggled with homers that year. I don’t have batted ball factors for the Reds park but Harang’s average batted ball given up was 264.88 feet in 2010. In 2011, in his bounce back year at Petco, his average batted ball given up was 259.814 and 262.135 in 2012 with the Dodgers. Maybe the ball carries more in Cincinnati, or maybe he just pitched better from 2011 to 2012. For what it is worth, and maybe not a whole lot, K/BB says he has not pitched better, getting worse actually (which one would expect from a 34 year old).

Of course, Pitch F/X can tell us a lot more about Harang than numbers can, especially the basic numbers. Since 2011, Harang has thrown 6305 pitches in Pitch F/X ballparks (when you count a few Spring Training outings). This is the data we will look at this post.

Let’s start by looking at Harang’s release point:

Aaron Harang

As you can see, that is a high release point. Here is Harang’s release point compared to other Mariners:


He becomes the highest release point right-handed Mariner. This size gets him on top of the ball pretty well, giving him good plane, and should allow him to be a little more consistent and a body that limits injury. However, you will notice that the release point above is terribly inconsistent horizontally. I thought this just meant he had changed his spot on the rubber at sometime or changed his delivery, but this doesn’t seem to be the case as he has this difference from game to game. I then thought that maybe it had to do with platoon splits, as maybe he was one of those pitchers that moves on the rubber depending on what kind of hitter is up at the plate, but the data doesn’t seem to support that either. It also doesn’t seem to have to do with pitch type either, and he doesn’t have a high walk rate or a long recent injury history, so I think it means nothing honestly. I just wonder why he does it.

As far as pitches go, here is Harang’s Spin Graph, which I think helps us with pitch classification:

Harang Spin Graph

Of course, the first question that arises from the graph is why do some sliders and curves spin? And which are better? The majority of pitchers, though there are exceptions, do not have much spin on their curveballs or sliders.

I count 453 curves than spun less than 100 degrees and 73 curves that spun over 300 degrees. Here are where the non spin curves were located:

Non Spin Curve Locations

Here are where the spin curves were located:

spin curves locations

It is hard to see much of a difference there except non spin curves seemed to get low and away from righties more than then spin curves, while the well located spin curves were more likely to be just down and not down and away. Both pitches stay more arm side than glove side for Harang. As far as actual results go, just one of the spin curves have been turned into a run scoring play, while 6 of the pitches were swinging strikes. It is a smaller sample size, but compare this to the non-spin curves have a 24 to 7 ratio. So it seems that the spinning curves are actually better. The pitches get a little bit different movement as well:

Spin curves:

-2.26 overall

-3.58 vertical

-.93 horizontal

Non spin curves:

-.75 overall

-3.78 vertical

2.28 horizontal

So the non-spin curve gets a touch better vertical movement and much better horizontal movement, which would suggest that this is the better pitch and the results are mainly just noise. I wanted to see if he throws the different curves on purpose, if there was a specific count he threw them in. He throws the non spin curves with an average of .8 strikes in the count and the spin curves with .75 strikes in the count for the non-spin curves, which is completely unhelpful. It didn’t appear that this was a Pitch F/X error, as he threw both pitches in multiple parks. The spin curves are thrown at an average 74.96 MPH, while the average non-spin curve was thrown at 74.99 MPH, so it has nothing to do with speed. On average, his non-spin curve was released very slightly lower and a little bit closer to his body than his spinning curve. While it might be a reach, this may be where the different movement and spin comes from.

We have already talked too much about the curveball, especially since he throws his just 8.88% of the time. Harang throws a lot of (36.1 percent of the time) what is classified as moving fastballs at an average of 90.09 MPH. His 4-seamer averages just barely higher, at 90.27 MPH. He throws some kind of fastball 63.4 percent of the time. For comparison, here is a graph of how Harang’s fastballs compare to the Mariners’ rotation’s fastballs. I used Harang’s data versus each of the Mariners’ starters last start (For Felix I used Brooks Baseball’s classifications because MLBAM has confused his fastball and changeup).


As you can see, the Mariners’ (22nd in starting pitcher fastball velocity) don’t have a hard throwing staff and Harang fits right in there. His fastball doesn’t get much horizontal movement comparatively, but gets good vertical movement. He also uses his fastballs more than everyone in the rotation other than Saunders’ in his last start. While his fastball is not as bad as Saunders’, one wonders why Harang uses his fastball so much when it seems to be a tick below average once you consider handness, velocity, and movement. Like most pitchers, Harang also throws a slider and a changeup.

Harang’s slider averages 82.48 MPH, in the bottom 30 percent of right-handed starter sliders. It is a pitch he can throw for a strike though, almost 68 % of the time (which would actually seem too high). It also isn’t as effective as the curve, even though he throws it more, as 40 of them (in our sample that we have been looking at) have been hit for runs versus 207 whiffs.

Harang’s change is even less effective. He throws it for strikes just 53 percent of the time, with 6 hit for runs and 18 for swings and misses. It is not a big part of his pitch selection, throwing it just 5.6 percent of the time. He also doesn’t throw it very hard, at 82.6 MPH on average, indistinguishable from the slider velocity wise.

If one were talking about Harang as a pitching prospect, we would note that he has no plus pitches. His fastball is below average and he doesn’t have a big swing and miss pitch. Because of this, he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts and usually struggles with home runs (as evidenced by the poor end to his Reds career). One quickly asks if Harang is an upgrade from Jon Garland, who the Mariners let walk in spring training to allow Blake Beavan and Brandon Maurer to round out the rotation. It is perhaps convenient that the Mariners got Harang from the Rockies, who signed Garland after he left the Mariners. The Rockies traded for Harang, but had no interest in placing him in the rotation over Garland. The Mariners let Garland walk for free, because they didn’t want to commit him to the rotation, but here we are less than two weeks into the season, one home series into the season, and the Mariners trade for a pitcher that the Rockies clearly think is worse than Garland. Note, we must make some qualifiers. When looking at the Rockies, every move they make has to be interpreted in the context of Coors Field and the crazy Park Factors that come with playing in Colorado. The Rockies may not be saying that Garland is better than Harang in a vacuum, but perhaps that Garland is a better fit than Harang in the ballpark. While Garland doesn’t “miss bats”, the groundball rate certainly points to this being the case. Also, we have to take in account the Rockies front office. The front office is in a weird state of flux right now, with Dan O’Dowd not the GM and basically still the GM at the same time. Also, and this is a meta-narrative, the Rockies off-season before the 2012 was pretty historically poor. The team made a laundry list of mistakes, trading for a bunch of mediocre fly-ball pitchers and watching those pitchers go down in a ball of flames, their lineup suffer from losing those traded hitters, and eventually going to a terrible pitching plan. After losing over 90 games, the team then traded for a veteran reliever, giving up a young starter and a minor leaguer. Even if the Rockies’ front office came out and said that even in a vacuum, Garland is better than Harang, we would have no reason to believe that they are right. They have been wrong quite a bit. The acquisition of Harang in the first place happened because they thought that signing Ramon Hernandez and starting Wilin Rosario would be a good plan at catcher and make Chris Iannetta expendable. They traded Iannetta for Tyler Chatwood, who has been awful as a Rockie, while Rosario proved to be some kind of poor man’s Jesus Montero, some raw power, but no on base skills, and unable to really play catcher defensively. Ramon Hernandez proved to be old and ineffective as a backup and Yorvit Torrealba, a catcher that played for 3 different teams last year, was a better option as a MiLB deal. Also, the Hernandez-Harang trade, and flipping Harang to to the Mariners, saved the Rockies 2.5 million dollars. If they started Harang over Garland, they don’t save that money. So I don’t think that we should read too much into the Rockies choosing Garland over Harang. That doesn’t mean the Mariners didn’t make a mistake.

Luckily for the Mariners front office, it wasn’t a big mistake, especially if Harang could just outperform Beavan. Steven Hensley is not much a loss. He is 26 and had no path to the big leagues with the Mariners. In fact, the Rockies sent him to AA. He has a below average right-handed fastball out of the bullpen without a real plus breaking ball (relying mainly on the slider).

A Breakdown of Danny Hultzen’s Outing

hultzen pitching

Danny Hultzen made his 2nd start of the season on Tuesday, and was reasonably effective, with a 4.00 FIP over 5 innings. I decided to track all 84 pitches by result, location, and pitch type. But first, it may be helpful to look at his competition, the Sacramento Rivercats (the Athletics’ AAA affiliate), in context.

Here are the 2013 Steamer Projections (that is, what they would be expected to hit if they were in the Majors instead of AAA) for the lineup Hultzen faced:

Jemile Weeks: .686 OPS

Grant Green: .709

Michael Taylor: .719

Michael Choice: .692

Shane Peterson: .711

Luke Montz: .660

Daric Barton: .724

Andy Parrino: .673

Josh Horton: .601

Team Average Projection: .686 OPS, 5.2 percent worse than 2012 MLB average, Ruben Tejada and Josh Donaldson providing good comparisons. If just for fun, we added 5.2 % to Hultzen’s FIP, we get a 4.21 FIP, which is a solid outing in the big leagues (obviously life and baseball isn’t that easy, but this just gives us a better gauge of his competition and a little more context). The home run Hultzen gave up was to Luke Montz. Montz had the 2nd lowest Steamer projection in the big leagues, but has hit some homers in the PCL before and did have the platoon advantage. Now, on to Hultzen’s pitches.

According to Tacoma announcer Mike Curto, Hultzen was 88-90 MPH early. He is certainly less interesting at that velocity, but Hultzen eventually was throwing 92-94 in the 3rd. I didn’t think the slider looked very good, and Curto noted that scouts are now calling more of a curveball just because of it’s shape and velocity (it looks much too soft for a slider, though Pitch F/X still called it a slider in the Arizona Fall League and Spring Training).

As the game went along, especially in the 4th, it was really hard to tell the difference between the slider and the changeup. Early in the game, it was pretty easy to tell the difference, but the movement was sort of muddled later in the game (they both a lot of horizontally and not much vertically), so there are sure to be some classification errors there. Also, another reason I think there are some serious misclassifications, he stopped the binary 2 pitch approach (fastball and slider to lefties and fastball/change to righties).

[table id=32 /]

10 whiffs in 84 pitches is pretty solid, 5 of them on the change, 4 on fastballs, and one on the slider. The only true fly-ball (you can choose to call the line drives fly-balls if you want to) went out of the park for a homer, and Hultzen did a good job of keeping the ball on the ground, inducing 12 groundballs! Hultzen also threw strikes 66.6% of the time, which is very good, especially considering he walked the first batter of the game on 4 pitches. Though the home run and both line drives (we noted in the release point article that he comes out quite a bit, possibly leaving him susceptible to platoon splits when his changeup isn’t on) were against righties, the vast majority of his whiffs came against righties as well.

As far as pitch selection goes, I have him at 11 changeups, 17 sliders, and 56 fastballs. Considering he usually throws his slider only to lefties, it is surprising that I had him throwing more sliders than changeups, but really he seemed fastball heavy against righties. The slider worked well as a groundball pitch, getting 5 of them.

What about location? As is his custom (especially when he isn’t finishing his delivery and having control problems), Hultzen worked mainly arm side, with 40 pitches on the left side of the plate (whether strikes or not), 23 in the middle part of the plate, and 22 on the right side of the plate (all from the pitchers point of view). He also kept the ball low, with just 11 pitches considered high. While Hultzen has been showing about MLB league average stuff (maybe a tick above average for lefties), he pitches sort of like a below average stuff pitcher, focusing on keeping the ball low (even though he has racked up quite a bit of strikeouts).

Comparing Mariner Release Points

In the previous post, we looked at how consistent the Mariner starters were at repeating their deliveries from game to game. In this post, I will look at the Mariner pitchers different release points in themselves, this time from a much more visual perspective. This time, we are looking at the horizontal and vertical release points (I used Brooks Baseball’s player cards). I used the 2013 release points (except on the few that don’t have data from this year, in which I used their most recent data) and the average of all pitches.

So here are the results from the 39 Mariner organization (a lot of them have never pitched in the Majors but have spring training data) pitchers that have Pitch F/X data (if I am missing any let me know, but I checked pretty thoroughly. If you would like to view the more interactive chart or the spreadsheet itself, you can view it here):

chart_1 (3)

Obviously we see that most of the righties are really similar, with Farquhar starting the departure leading to Erasmo and the extremely far out Capps. Stephen Kohlscheen uses his height to have the highest release point out of the righties. James Paxton has the highest release point overall, and we can see how the lefties break down perfectly into three sections.  Paxton, Saunders, and Fernandez are the starters, and stay the highest up and closest to the middle. The lefty relievers like Perez, Moran, and Furbush are all a little lower and further out. The extreme LOOGY’s, Lafromboise and Hill, are even lower and further out (though perhaps hilariously, not as far out as Capps). Note that Danny Hultzen is mixed in with the lefty relievers.

I wanted to get yet another visual look, so let’s look at all the pitchers that pitched in the first two games (Thursday and Friday) for AAA Tacoma and AA Jackson. I put the blue circle around their approximate release point (taking screenshots at the exact right time was somewhat difficult, so they may not be exactly right).

Tacoma (we already have Pitch F/X data for all these pitchers, but this give us a more visual look):

Bawcom and Lafromboise:

Bawcom Bobby Lafromboise

Carraway and Hensley:



Medina and Hultzen:

Medina Hultzen







AA Jackson:

Arias and Burgoon:

Arias b


Carson Smith and Hill:


carson smith nick hill


Walker and Elias


walker Elias


Kohlscheen release


Roenis Elias is the only guy out of these that we do not have Pitch F/X data for. We only have Lafromboise and Hultzen are the only lefties we can really compare him to. Just based on the look, he is obviously more up and in than Lafromboise, but it appears he is closer to his body and higher than Hultzen as well, more like the traditional starters in the chart above.


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