Friday: 01.31.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Chris Sale

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. Next up is superstar Chris Sale. There is a case that he’s actually underrated among aces after two brilliant seasons (no, all the samples won’t be AL Central guys!). The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

Chris Sale (25 years old) – While a certain sect of the baseball world waits for what they believe is an inevitable breakdown for him, Sale just continues to produce at a superstar level. His sixth and fifth place finishes in the last two Cy Young races are almost criminal. After an amazing 2012, Sale went out and did better across the board and ended up as an unquestioned fantasy ace even with just 11 wins. He added strikeouts and innings while dropping walks, ERA, and WHIP.

Sale’s three-pitch mix is positively devastating. His swing-and-miss (misses out of all swings, not of all pitches) rate sixth in baseball among qualified pitchers at 26 percent, up from last year’s 24.4 percent. Additionally, his called strike rate was at an insane 39.5 percent, fourth in baseball. He was the only one in baseball to finish in top 10 of both categories. A.J. Burnett and Max Scherzer join him as the only three in the top 20.

Sale gets his misses pretty evenly with 36.6 percent from the slider, 32.7 percent from the fastball, and 30.7 percent from the changeup while looking strikes were widely split with 49.4 percent coming from the fastball, 35 percent coming from the slider, and 15.6 percent coming from the changeup. He got 127 looking strikes in pitcher counts, second-most in baseball to Cliff Lee’s 175 and up from just 79 in 2012. He also got 73 looking strikeouts (backwards Ks) which was also second to Lee, who logged 93. Sale got 42 (57.5%) of those called strikeouts on the slider, 26 (35.6%) on the heater, and five (6.8%) on the changeup. Look at the improvement of where the looking strikeouts came from in 2013:

sale-look-K12

sale-look-K13

This is improved command. He was doing a lot more of my site’s name in 2013. Tied to the injury concerns, some are worried about the strong workload he has shouldered the last two seasons including a career-high 214.3 innings in 2013, but too much is made of innings counts as opposed to pitch counts. The number of pitches matters much more and particularly the pitches made under duress. It’s hard to figure out the latter, but the former is well-tracked in the internet age.

Sale threw 3,248 pitches and his 15.2 pitches per innings was the 15th-best rate in the game among pitchers with 150+ innings. For context, Hisashi Iwakuma led baseball at 14.1. Among the pitchers with at least 200 innings, his rate was 8th-best (C.J. Wilson’s 17.2 P/IP rate was last). I’ve taken the long way to outline just how great Sale is at pitching. You probably already knew that, but I think it’s worthwhile to point out some of the drastic improvements he made and why some of the concerns regarding his workload and potential breakdown are overblown.

Doug gave him a strong grade of B- last year (I’m sure another report is forthcoming from him, I’m writing this ahead of receiving his work) with only the balance getting a subpar grade (30). He has some injury indicators with the inverted W, elbow drag, and high slider volume, but he’s not markedly more risky than other guys with similar indicators (Strasburg shares the former pair, for example). Invest confidently.

reportcard-sale

Sale brings the funk, the whole funk, and nothing but the funk. His imbalance is pronounced for the first 90% of his delivery, as the lefty hunches over and leans back until foot strike, at which point he miraculously rights the ship to finish with near-perfect posture. With sharp arm angles and a lanky wingspan, he looks like a vulture stalking its prey before unleashing deadly sliders upon unsuspecting hitters. His delivery carries precursors to potential elbow injury, in which the angled wings and pronounced scapular load lead to recurrent elbow drag, so some of his funk might be destructive in the long run.

Tuesday: 01.28.2014

2014 SP Guide Sample: Drew Smyly

Doug and I will be sharing a handful of samples over the next couple of weeks to give you an idea of what you can expect in the 2014 SP Guide. We have selected a diverse group across both leagues for the samples ranging from established aces to promising on-the-rise arms. We start with one from the latter end in Detroit’s Drew Smyly, a popular sleeper as he prepares for his first full season as a starter. The mechanics report card denotes the split between mine and Doug’s writing. Everything above the card was written by me, the card and text are Doug’s. If you have questions, comments, or funny jokes you can either comment here or reach us on Twitter @sporer and @doug_thorburn. Details on how to order the guide are included at the end of the piece. 

I feel like the Drew Smyly v. Rick Porcello battle in Spring Training was more of a media creation that the Tigers didn’t go out of their way to downplay than a true competition. I think the job was Porcello’s almost regardless of what happened in their Spring Training outings, but they went toe-to-toe with six strong starts apiece. If it was a competition, it’s fair to say Porcello won with a 3.00 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 21 strikeouts, and zero walks in 24 innings. Smyly had a perfectly respectable 3.38 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, 17 strikeouts, and three walks in his 21.3 innings, but Porcello was sharper.

The end result had the Smyly fans pining for him to get a shot, though it was mostly in vain since they knew it would require an injury to Detroit’s excellent rotation. Smyly was great as a reliever for the Tigers even though they foolishly turned him into a LOOGY for the final two months and the playoffs.

smyly-2013

I’m not suggesting that the change in role is responsible for the plummet in results; I’m just showing how he performed in the two splits. Not only was it silly to cut his workload from a value standpoint, but it also kept him from logging 90-plus innings as he did in 2012 which would’ve left him better equipped for a full season in the rotation. His pace after four months was 91.7 innings which wouldn’t have been too far from his 121 from 2012 (with minors and playoffs included) considering the fact that it all came in the bullpen.

Speaking of his 2012 work, the large majority was spent as a starter, the results of which have no doubt fueled the excitement for a full year of him in the rotation. In 18 starts he had a 3.79 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 22.3 percent strikeout rate, and 3.4 K/BB ratio over 95 innings. The biggest concern with him in the rotation full-time is his underdeveloped changeup. It hasn’t prevented him from stopping righties, but he’s straddling the line of average against them.

In 2012, his 749 OPS against righties bested the 758 league average just barely, while his 699 in 2013 comfortably beat the 724 league average. OK, “comfortably” is overstating it, but his 27 percent strikeout rate and 6.3 percent walk rate against them suggests he clearly didn’t struggle. As a starter, those rates were at 19.2 percent and 7.8 percent, respectively. The changeup usage went from 8.1 percent in 2012 to just 2.4 percent last year while the slider more than picked up the slack.

His slider usage against righties jumped from 12 percent to 24.6 percent with the results improving significantly, too. His OPS-against on the pitch went from 659 to 546 with the strikeout rate jumping from 32.4 to 41.5 percent in 34 and 53 PA, respectively. His primary strategy in 2013 was to work the fastball away and then bury his curveball and slider inside on righties.

 smyly-vRHB

He has the stuff to be one of the best fifth starters in the league and if either the changeup develops or his pair of breaking pitches continues to neutralize righties, he can easily be a strong fourth starter-type, but I think there is an expectation that he will be a fringe three starter out of the gate and I’m far less certain of that outcome. Let’s just say that Smyly is going ahead of Porcello in a lot of leagues and I find that be insane – a comment meant to pump Porcello more than to tear down Smyly, but pump the brakes on expectations for the young lefty.

reportcard-smyly

Smyly’s delivery does not inspire confidence that he can hold up in the starting rotation, both in terms of withstanding the workload and fooling batters multiple times through the order. His balance wavers throughout the motion, starting with a forward lean during the stride phase before he veers in the opposite direction as he approaches. The end result is a very unstable position at release point, tilting to the glove side while the back foot comes off the ground prematurely, often leaving Smyly as a one-legged pitcher with a shallow release who is on the verge of keeling overboard.

smyly-dt

The guide’s release date is the earliest ever, coming out over a month earlier than the 2013 iteration.

The guide will be released on February 5th 12th!

(Guide delayed a week)

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

Friday: 01.24.2014

2014 Starting Pitching Guide Announcement

It’s that time of year again! The 2014 Starting Pitcher Guide is approaching the finish line and will soon be available for your eyes and brain to consume. The guide is going into its seventh season, evolving from a massive message board post into the book-length PDF you’ve come to love.

If you bought the 2013 guide, you learned:

  • …that you should take a flier on Julio Teheran late in your leagues. (Remember, he was coming off of a 5.08 ERA in Triple-A in 2012)
  • …that Jose Fernandez was worth a flier in even non-keeper NL leagues. (Of course I said that because I thought he could spend the last two months in the big leagues, not have a Cy Young-worthy season, so I’ll go easy on the backpatting)
  • …that there was another level to Homer Bailey. (A career-best ERA in a career-high innings with a career-best WHIP and career-high strikeout rate)
  • …that Mike Leake could have plenty of value, especially if you used him on the road. (Aroldis Chapman was still being considered for the fifth starter’s role, if only loosely. Meanwhile, Leake took the job and started 31 games with a 2.81 ERA in 16 road starts)
  • …that you shouldn’t buy Mike Fiers’ excellent 2012 work. (He flamed out with a 7.25 ERA in 22.3 IP)
  • …that Wily Peralta is capable of some nice stretches and has keeper league value based on 2014 intrigue. (He closed the season with a 3.05 ERA in his final 17 starts with 20% K rate)
  • …that you should stay the course on A.J. Burnett while others jumped off. (He improved his ERA by 0.21 and led the NL with 9.8 K/9)
  • …that buying Trevor Rosenthal even without a starter’s or closer’s role was the right thing to do. (He only netted three saves, but his 108 Ks in 75.3 IP with excellent ratios had big value in all applicable formats)
  • …that you could put some trust in Wade Miley. (His ERA rose 0.22 to 3.55 while his skills eroded a bit, but he was a nice value in all but the shallowest of leagues and even in those he had a 2.93 ERA in the second half making him a worthwhile stream option)
  • …that Andrew Cashner was worth investing in regardless of role. (He was starting by April 20th, so it didn’t require much patience to start paying off)
  • …that Chris Tillman displayed the secondary stuff good enough to have confidence in him even as his fastball lagged a bit behind. (He had an All-Star season including an excellent second half)
  • …that doubling down on Jon Lester was a good idea. (He had a 3.75 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, and 177 Ks [plus 15 wins] in 213.3 IP)
  • …that it was time to invest in John Lackey again! (He had his best season since 2007 with the best control of his career)
  • …that “the emaciated offense might push his [Hiroki Kuroda] win total back down to the 11-13 range of his LA days, but he is still a worthy target.” (His season was nearly a carbon copy of 2010 in LA, complete with an 11-13 record)
  • …that “there is definitely something here” with regards to Ivan Nova. (He stifled his homers en route to a 3.10 ERA, stifled only by injury that limited him to 139.3 IP)
  • …that it was time to buy in on Alex Cobb. (He was excellent in 143.3 IP with only a batted ball to the head slowing him down)
  • …that Chris Archer was someone to get on board with immediately! (He was third in the AL ROY with 128.7 excellent IP from June through September)
  • …that remaining all in on Max Scherzer was the only way to go. (He won the AL Cy Young)
  • …that “this [Anibal Sanchez] is a strong profile for the middle of your rotation and it also offers some potential upside.” (He finished 4th in the AL Cy Young)
  • …that Ervin Santana’s huge home run rates always regressed the following year, cutting his ERA sharply in the process. (His 1.97 HR/9 dropped to 1.11 bringing his ERA from 5.16 to 3.24 at the same time)
  • …that A.J. Griffin had 2013 value, preferably at home. (Despite far too many HRs allowed, he had a 3.83 ERA in 200 IP including a 3.54 at home)
  • …that Hisashi Iwakuma was someone to definitely buy. (He finished third in the AL Cy Young)
  • …that Yu Darvish had Cy Young-potential. (OK, so the SPG is hardly the only publication that felt that way)

That was hardly all of it and I won’t pretend that they were all hits, but if you read the 2013 SPG and applied the guiding principles, you no doubt found some gems in your drafts and auctions. The 2014 SP Guide is ready to improve upon that with the best offering yet.

This year’s guide features over 365 in-depth pitcher profiles. The groups are broken down into “the rotation” – the five guys likely starting the season in the rotation, “up next” – those who could be called upon to fill in when necessary, and “the prospects” – the best arms the system has to offer and also who you should be stocking your dynasty and keeper league teams with this year.

Those expected to be in the rotation and the top prospects get the most consideration as they are the game changers that will help you win your fantasy league. Or if you don’t play, then you will simply become more knowledgeable about the pitchers you’re watching on a nightly basis.

Doug Thorburn is back with his mechanical report cards. This year he’s going deeper, delivering several cards per team instead of a select handful as in 2013. We will both be including bullpen coverage. This will be purely fantasy-oriented, outlining the hierarchy of each bullpen with some potential guys who could emerge for sneaky saves.

Plus there will be more graphics, GIFs, charts, and pictures than ever to help you digest the knowledge even better. I’m a visual person myself. I want to see the pitcher freeze a batter with his 12-to-6 curve or horribly miss his spot and allow a 450-foot homer.

The guide’s release date is the earliest ever, coming out over a month earlier than the 2013 iteration.

The guide will be released on February 5th 12th!

(Guide delayed a week)

There are a couple different options available to you this year:

Check out Paint The Black!!

If you signed up for PTB at launch with the promise of a discount code for the SPG, you will be emailed details on how to get that pricing. If you won a free copy from the TINSTAAPP podcast contest, you will have the guide sent upon release.

Monday: 08.19.2013

TINSTAAPP: Episode 12 – Jenrry Mejia at Ricky Nolasco

Rundown:

0:00 – 6:09 — [Intro]

6:10 – 41:15 — [Emails: Trevor Rosenthal, Position Players Pitching, Downshifting MPH]

44:26 – 1:40:50 — [Game of the Week: Jenrry Mejia at Ricky Nolasco]

1:40:51 – 1:45:21 — [GOTW Selection: Felix Hernandez at Martin Perez]

1:45:22 – 2:22:53 — [Homework Turn-in: Cingrani for Paul; Richards for Doug]

2:23:15 – 2:31:56 — [Upcoming and Close]

x:xx:xx – x:xx:xx — [Homework Assignments: Will be posted to FB Group]

Recommendations:

Check the New Facebook Page!

Paco of Liberty

Garrett Richards Strikezone Plot

Music by Thrice

Opener: Stare at the Sun

Closer: The Sky is Falling

 Download Here (61 MB; 2:31:56)
 RSS Feed
 iTunes Feed (Please rate and review us!)
 Email Us pitchingpod@gmail.com

Friday: 08.9.2013

TINSTAAPP: Episode 11 – U.Jimenez v. J.Fernandez & P.Hughes v. I.Kennedy

Rundown:

0:00 – 4:16 — [Intro, New FB Group]

4:17 – 48:33 — [Emails: Cosart, Jansen, IP Limits]

48:34 – 1:51:20 — [Game of the Week: Jimenez at Fernandez]

1:51:21 – 2:47:22 — [Game of the Week 2: Hughes at Kennedy]

2:47:23 – 2:58:16 — [GOTW Selection: Jenrry Mejia at Wade Miley]

2:58:17 – 3:04:24 — [Upcoming and Close]

x:xx:xx – x:xx:xx — [Homework Assignments: Will be posted to FB Group]

 

Recommendations:

Check the New Facebook Page!

 

Music by Thrice:

Opener: Stare at the Sun

Closer: The Sky is Falling

 Download Here (74 MB; 3:04:24)
 RSS Feed
 iTunes Feed (Please rate and review us!)
 Email Us pitchingpod@gmail.com

 

Tuesday: 08.6.2013

ERA Versus Lefties?????

Or ERAVERL to those stat nerds.

eraversuslefties

(For the uninitiated)

Monday: 08.5.2013

Brett Lawrie Catches His Own Ground-Rule Double???

Somehow.

lawriegr2b

Monday: 08.5.2013

Jim Johnson’s “Regression” Is 5 Bad Innings

When Jim Johnson had his dream season in 2012 – complete with an MLB-best 51 saves – many in the fantasy community screamed “REGRESSION!!” at the top of their lungs. The biggest hurdle for most (I believe) was getting their heads around a low-strikeout reliever being a dominant closer. Johnson’s next 20 percent strikeout rate will be his first and that’s not even special for a reliever let alone a primetime closer. Relievers have averaged a 22 percent rate in each of the last two seasons with the best sitting in the 30s (well the absolute best like Craig Kimbrel and Aroldis Chapman post absurd 45-50% rates).

What didn’t make sense about the cries for regression was the seemingly forgotten or overlooked fact that Johnson threw 91 innings at his 2012 levels the year before with all of his key indicators being nearly equal:

jjohnson1112

Now his ERA indicators were calling for a jump with FIPs of 3.22 and 3.25, but that is hardly egregious. In short, this GB-heavy approach wasn’t a fluke.

Essentially two-thirds through the 2013 season has yielded some interesting results for Johnson as those thinking it couldn’t last might feel justified by his 3.26 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. But are the Johnson naysayers really “right” if the entire “regression” came in about a two-week, five-inning stretch from mid-to-late May? While Johnson’s ERA is more than three-quarters of a run higher than in 2012, you can make a case that he’s actually been better save a 10 percent portion of his season. To wit:

 jjohnsongoodbad

I realize this is some gaming with selective endpoints, but when four of the nine outings during which he allowed earned runs are clustered in about a two-week sample, I don’t think it’s egregious to show the before and after on each side. At its core, this is less about Johnson and more about just how skewed reliever numbers can be given their relatively small innings totals.

If you just lifted those five innings from Johnson’s totals, his numbers are through-the-roof brilliant. We can’t do that, but look at those numbers since he emerged out of his funk; they are quite excellent, too. In that particular sample, his groundball rate is at 66 percent – even better than the astronomical 62 percent rates from the last two years. By the way, he is once again leading baseball in saves with 38 and he’s actually outpacing his 2012 total. His pace of 55 would tie him for the third-most in baseball ever and the most since Eric Gagne hit the mark in 2003.

Always dig into a reliever’s numbers as the front page of their Baseball-Reference profile will often mislead you.

Friday: 08.2.2013

TINSTAAPP: Episode 10 – Liriano v. Leake

Rundown:

  • 0:00 – 10:35 — [Intro]
  • 10:36 – 52:48 — [Trade Deadline SP Breakdown: Garza, Peavy, Kennedy, Norris]
  • 52:49 – 1:31:13– [Emails: Price, Danks, Anibal, Injuries mid-delivery, Scherzer]
  • 1:31:56 – 2:36:22 — [Game of the Week: Liriano at Leake]
  • 2:36:23 – 2:47:55 — [Picking Next Week’s GotW: Jimenez at Fernandez AND Hughes at Kennedy]
  • 2:47:56 – 3:05:16 — [Homework]
  • 3:05:17 – 3:08:09 – [Homework Assignments]
  • 3:08:10 – 3:29:49 — [Recommendations and Close]

 

Recommendations:

 

Music by Thrice

Opener: Stare at the Sun

Closer: The Sky is Falling

 

 Download Here (84 MB; 3:29:50)
 RSS Feed
 iTunes Feed (Please rate and review us!)
 Email Us pitchingpod@gmail.com

Wednesday: 07.31.2013

Some Ball-Sniffin’ Fun in San Diego

Cory Luebke smells something he likes.

balllickinpadres

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