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 Post subject: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:27 am 
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While the pitching has been stellar so far and a pleasure to watch, how long does it last? So far they've been great ... but not that great. The peripherals on all 5 starters suggest that they could come crashing back to earth hard, and soon.

Starter ERA/FIP/K9/BB9
Maholm: 2.03/3.61/3.38/2.36
Duke: 2.95/3.37/4.14/1.69
Snell: 4.24/5.70/6.35/4.76
Ohlendorf: 3.00/2.85/4.00/1.50
Karstens: 3.60/5.83/3.60/6.30

We've already seen some regression in Duke's last start, and, to a lesser degree, yesterday with Maholm. I like that Keriggan's having them aggressively pound the inside part of the plate, but they're still relying too much on pitching to contact and relying on the defense to bail them out. They need to start missing more bats.

Nothing's going to drastically change with them playing in Petco over the weekend. And there's some silver lining embedded in the data, too: Ohlendorf's line, for instance. Snell's numbers are skewed by 2 starts while recovering from flu. And Maholm's crazy-low K9 rate should start to climb. But in general, I think we should expect to see some slippage, catastrophic in some cases (*cough*Karstens*cough*).

The question then is two-fold. How long can they keep it up? And how much slippage do you expect to see?

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:48 am 
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Almost everyone thought pre-season that we were not a very good baseball team. So, the fact that our pitching, defense, and hitting are all much better than anticipated is a great starting point. We should enjoy the ride and hope it lasts for a long time.

Pitching is the most important part of the story and I think you are right that it won't last forever. You are also correct to point out that we have very low strike out ratios for an ERA that good. However, we need to continue to pitch inside and rely on our defense because trying to get too careful might well return us to the high BB numbers of last year.

I know people will not hit 'at'em' balls all year but walks are never outs, routine or otherwise. No, the pitch inside and throw stike approach is for us (and probably every team) the best. We don't have strike out guys except Snell and if you recall, he's had plenty of high K games that also had high run production. Let's stay where we.

If it ain't broke.......

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2011 Will Be Our Year -- well make that 2012 (just saying) So it looks like 2013 now - how long must this go on!
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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 10:58 am 
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Funny how a less-than-perfect game becomes a "regression" as opposed to "not having his best stuff today". Or, still giving yourself a chance to win.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:15 am 
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ZelieMike wrote:
Funny how a less-than-perfect game becomes a "regression" as opposed to "not having his best stuff today". Or, still giving yourself a chance to win.

ZM

Perhaps you were expecting him to continue posting a sub-1.00 ERA while striking out fewer than 3 batters per 9 innings?

Whether he "gave his team a chance to win," while "not having his best stuff," hit a wall around the 3rd inning (which is how it appeared to me), or may be starting to experience a little early-season dead arm stretch, it hardly matters. His present numbers aren't sustainable. They're going to revert to a mean, or regress. I'm not claiming he pitched poorly, but we might have seen that adjustment start to happen yesterday. Whether you agree with the terminology or not is no concern of mine. But feel free to inject a few more baseball clichés into the discussion.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:31 am 
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BABIP against the team is .266, against a league average of .298. So either we have a very good defense, or a regression is on the horizon.

I'm not necessarily ruling out the defense...LaRoche has been excellent with the glove so far this year. But other than that, we are fielding essentially the same guys as last year, and I don't know if replacing our third baseman alone can explain a BABIP that is over 30 points below the league average.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:54 am 
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Balls not hit solidly due to good pitching result in easy outs and a low BABIP. The fact that Maholm's K rate is down is likely explained by his philosophy that he doesn't want to throw more than 3 pitches to each batter. That isn't going to result in a lot of Ks. It will result in a lot of balls in play. He'll have tough outings - absolutely. But a pitcher who induces weak grounder after weak grounder along with lazy fly outs is - IMO - just as "dominating" as a pitcher who runs up a large pitch count with a lot of Ks.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:55 am 
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Right now, only Maholm is posting an ERA that is unsustainable. Duke's ERA is much lower than his career performance, but an ERA of 2.95 is not like Maholm's performance so far.

Snell could improve his performance, and Ohlendorf end up near his present level, since his performance thus far includes one bad start out of 3. Karstens is probably likely to experience an increase in his ERA, but his 3.60 is not far from what he posted last year.

As for unsustainable performance, Capps, Grabow and Chavez are not going to finish the year with a combined ERA below 1.00.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 11:57 am 
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jaybee24 wrote:
BABIP against the team is .266, against a league average of .298. So either we have a very good defense, or a regression is on the horizon.

I'm not necessarily ruling out the defense...LaRoche has been excellent with the glove so far this year. But other than that, we are fielding essentially the same guys as last year, and I don't know if replacing our third baseman alone can explain a BABIP that is over 30 points below the league average.


Jaybee -
If I'm reading this right . . . according to league average . . . if a batter puts his bat on the ball . . . he will (on average) safely get a hit almost 30% of the time. Right?
No. 9

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Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:05 pm 
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If they continue to get pitcher counts, and their stuff continues especially the sinker that several depend on, they can expect many ground balls and further success. But to think that's going to happen like it has is unrealistic. Throw strikes, pitch inside, and have a good out pitch. sounds simple. We all know it's not. Again, enjoy it while it lasts.

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2011 Will Be Our Year -- well make that 2012 (just saying) So it looks like 2013 now - how long must this go on!
THIS IS IT-- NO MORE STREAK!!! *** Finally*** Time to win it in 2014


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 12:10 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
Balls not hit solidly due to good pitching result in easy outs and a low BABIP. The fact that Maholm's K rate is down is likely explained by his philosophy that he doesn't want to throw more than 3 pitches to each batter. That isn't going to result in a lot of Ks. It will result in a lot of balls in play. He'll have tough outings - absolutely. But a pitcher who induces weak grounder after weak grounder along with lazy fly outs is - IMO - just as "dominating" as a pitcher who runs up a large pitch count with a lot of Ks.

That assumes that being able to induce weak grounders and lazy fly outs repeatedly is some sort of sustainable skill. History says otherwise. The more contact the opponents make, the more likely they are going to get hits, especially when the quality of the opposing hitters improves. The Pirates need to start striking out more hitters in order to sustain this level of run allowance.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:20 pm 
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And yet, an out is an out, whether by groundball or K... unless of course, it isn't.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:34 pm 
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Willton wrote:
That assumes that being able to induce weak grounders and lazy fly outs repeatedly is some sort of sustainable skill. History says otherwise. The more contact the opponents make, the more likely they are going to get hits, especially when the quality of the opposing hitters improves. The Pirates need to start striking out more hitters in order to sustain this level of run allowance.


How does one induce weak grounders and lazy fly balls? By keeping hitters off balance. How does a pitcher keep a hitter off balance? Changing speeds, working ahead in the count, consistently throwing strikes and keeping the ball low in the strike zone. I don't understand how this is not a "sustainable skill."

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Reflexively, obsessively and tastelessly submitted,
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Obsessive proponent of situational bunting and 2 strike hitting approaches, reflexively pro-catchers calling good games and tasteless proponent of the value of a RBI.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:44 pm 
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No. 9 wrote:
jaybee24 wrote:
BABIP against the team is .266, against a league average of .298. So either we have a very good defense, or a regression is on the horizon.

I'm not necessarily ruling out the defense...LaRoche has been excellent with the glove so far this year. But other than that, we are fielding essentially the same guys as last year, and I don't know if replacing our third baseman alone can explain a BABIP that is over 30 points below the league average.


Jaybee -
If I'm reading this right . . . according to league average . . . if a batter puts his bat on the ball . . . he will (on average) safely get a hit almost 30% of the time. Right?
No. 9


That's the basic idea, excluding home runs, which are not considered "in play" as far as BABIP is concerned. The idea there is that if a ball is hit so hard that it goes over the wall, it doesn't matter if it was hit toward someone or not.

Anyway, I'm a little skeptical of the concept of BABIP to measure how lucky a pitcher has been or how good his defense is. It doesn't take into account how hard the ball was hit...a slow grounder or a popup are obviously a lot different than a hard grounder or a line drive. Stats like ground ball and line drive percentages should be taken into account when discussing BABIP. However, a significant deviation from the league average BABIP is at least a red flag, and thirty points qualifies.

No. 9 wrote:
How does one induce weak grounders and lazy fly balls? By keeping hitters off balance. How does a pitcher keep a hitter off balance? Changing speeds, working ahead in the count, consistently throwing strikes and keeping the ball low in the strike zone. I don't understand how this is not a "sustainable skill."


It's not intuitive, but a significant amount of statistical work has shown that pitchers simply do not have the sustained ability to control where the ball is going. They have run correlation studies on pitchers plotting BABIP versus other established indicators of pitching success and have found no correlation whatsoever.

Voros McCracken was the first to come up with this concept, I believe. It was discussed at length in Moneyball, and the hard statistical work behind it is discussed in Baseball Prospectus's "Baseball Between the Numbers" (which is the best book I've ever read about baseball, I highly recommend).

Here's a short summary by BP:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/gloss ... arch=babip


Last edited by jaybee24 on Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:48 pm 
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LtCol Kojak Slaphead wrote:
...But feel free to inject a few more baseball clichés into the discussion.


I most certainly will, this is a baseball board after all, and I work with enough statistical data each day to get away from it for awhile.

That said, I do it for a reason. Because my "cliche" is meant to imply that Maholm can certainly sustain, as No. 9 points out, his ability to change speeds, pitch inside and keep the ball low. That can be attributed to "getting better" as you mature. Whereas, the regression comments are the first attempts to tell everyone that Malholm is heading back into the statistical box you've created for him, and from which he can never escape.

ZM

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:53 pm 
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ZelieMike wrote:
LtCol Kojak Slaphead wrote:
...But feel free to inject a few more baseball clichés into the discussion.


I most certainly will, this is a baseball board after all, and I work with enough statistical data each day to get away from it for awhile.

That said, I do it for a reason. Because my "cliche" is meant to imply that Maholm can certainly sustain, as No. 9 points out, his ability to change speeds, pitch inside and keep the ball low. That can be attributed to "getting better" as you mature. Whereas, the regression comments are the first attempts to tell everyone that Malholm is heading back into the statistical box you've created for him, and from which he can never escape.

ZM


No one is saying he can't escape it. They're simply saying that, given a player with his statistical background, it's unlikely his absolutely unconscious performance will sustain. That's an accurate statement based on loads of historical data regarding other pitchers. If he happens to continue his performance, he will have simply bucked the odds, much to the pleasure of everyone who contributes to this board.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 1:56 pm 
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1982 CY Young Award Winner Pete Vuckovich pitched 223 2/3 innings and struck out 105 batters (he also walked 102) on the way to an 18 - 6 record. Flip side of the coin, he also gave up 234 hits. His ERA was 3.34.

This was a different era, and may be an exception to the rule, but it shows that you can win games without striking out a lot of hitters.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:02 pm 
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Kevin the Bucco wrote:
1982 CY Young Award Winner Pete Vuckovich pitched 223 2/3 innings and struck out 105 batters (he also walked 102) on the way to an 18 - 6 record. Flip side of the coin, he also gave up 234 hits. His ERA was 3.34.

This was a different era, and may be an exception to the rule, but it shows that you can win games without striking out a lot of hitters.


Vuckovich benefitted from Ted Simmons (23 HR's), Cecil Cooper (32 HR's), Robin Yount (29 HR's), Paul Molitor (19 HR's), Gorman Thomas (39 HR's), Ben Oglivie (34 HR's)...

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:04 pm 
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Kevin the Bucco wrote:
1982 CY Young Award Winner Pete Vuckovich pitched 223 2/3 innings and struck out 105 batters (he also walked 102) on the way to an 18 - 6 record. Flip side of the coin, he also gave up 234 hits. His ERA was 3.34.

This was a different era, and may be an exception to the rule, but it shows that you can win games without striking out a lot of hitters.


You don't necessarily need to have a high K/9 to be a successful pitcher, but if you don't, you'd better have an abnormally high ground ball rate. Which Vuckovich did.


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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:14 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
Kevin the Bucco wrote:
1982 CY Young Award Winner Pete Vuckovich pitched 223 2/3 innings and struck out 105 batters (he also walked 102) on the way to an 18 - 6 record. Flip side of the coin, he also gave up 234 hits. His ERA was 3.34.

This was a different era, and may be an exception to the rule, but it shows that you can win games without striking out a lot of hitters.


You don't necessarily need to have a high K/9 to be a successful pitcher, but if you don't, you'd better have an abnormally high ground ball rate. Which Vuckovich did.

And it bears mentioning that ground ball pitchers are preferred not because they give up fewer hits than fly ball pitchers, but because the hits that they give up tend to be less damaging, as most ground balls tend to result in singles and not doubles, triples or homeruns.

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 Post subject: Re: The elephant in the room
PostPosted: Thu Apr 23, 2009 2:15 pm 
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jaybee24 wrote:
No. 9 wrote:
How does one induce weak grounders and lazy fly balls? By keeping hitters off balance. How does a pitcher keep a hitter off balance? Changing speeds, working ahead in the count, consistently throwing strikes and keeping the ball low in the strike zone. I don't understand how this is not a "sustainable skill."


It's not intuitive, but a significant amount of statistical work has shown that pitchers simply do not have the sustained ability to control where the ball is going. They have run correlation studies on pitchers plotting BABIP versus other established indicators of pitching success and have found no correlation whatsoever.

Voros McCracken was the first to come up with this concept, I believe. It was discussed at length in Moneyball, and the hard statistical work behind it is discussed in Baseball Prospectus's "Baseball Between the Numbers" (which is the best book I've ever read about baseball, I highly recommend).

Here's a short summary by BP:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/gloss ... arch=babip

What he said.

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"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."
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