September 2006

Arms or Bats – Conclusion

Part 1 of this series showed us that adding one big bopper bat to the lineup isn’t really going to help us win as many games as folks tend to believe. In fact, we added Carl Crawford and Brian Giles (based on 2006 production numbers) and only gained one-half run per game total value to our 4.45 average runs per game value (2006 value as of 8/31/06). That’s a nice addition, to be sure, but not enough to offset the 5.15 runs we are currently allowing per game (2006 value as of 8/31/06).

Part 2 of this series showed that we needed to shave 120 runs off our runs allowed to drop the opposition from 5.15 runs allowed to 4.40 to be more competitive. To gain just 30 runs I showed you we needed to improve our pre all-star game walk rate of 3.79 BB/9 (about 613 per year) to 3.18 BB/9 average per year (using a .330 base run state). I also showed you that Duke, Maholm, and Snell have already accomplished that after the all-star game with their 3.07 BB/9 rate (as of 8/31/06) and we expected to see even more improvement from them in 2007, based on Tom Trippett’s research.

Part 2 also suggested that we would gain at least 30 runs by eliminating the garbage from the starting rotation by adding a free agent strike thrower and using Tom Gorzelanny. My suggestion all along has been to add 2 free agent strike throwers, if the right ones could be signed who miss enough bats. But one is imperative.

I have assumed the value of the walk rate reduction and the additions of Gorzelanny and a free agent starter will be worth at least 60 runs. I think that is fair since we have already bettered our BB/9 by 19% this year and we expect even more in 2007, and considering Santos, Perez, Chacon, and Wells won’t be in the rotation with their combined 6+ ERA and 4.66 BB/9 rate.

So 60 runs were shaved off my desired goal of 120 runs allowed we wanted to reduce overall based on Part 2. I suggested the other 60 could come from defense and that is included here in Part 3.

Over the last week or so I posted ball in play (BiP) charts for Duke, Maholm, and Snell that covers each of their last 11 starts since the all-star game. The charts were not only presented to give the readership some advance knowledge of what I will be talking about in this series, but also to demonstrate the relationships between our battery and our fielders.

As you noticed in the chart sets, I broke down the field into 3 Zones, LF, CF, and RF, and I also broke down the field into 3 Areas, A, B, and C. I did this to make it easier for you to see where balls in play and total bases were coming from.

For instance, a ball in play that scooted through Freddy at 3B and Jack at SS would become a G56 (ground ball between position 5 and 6) and ultimately fielded by Bay in LF. For recording purposes, I would have charted that as an Area B ball in play in Zone LF.

I compiled the MLB median net total base (TB) obtained from every ball in play fielded by an outfielder between 2002 – 2005 using Retrosheet’s data sets to use as a baseline for my work here. The median MLB net TB (not including home run values) was .59 net TB per BiP fielded by an outfielder. For the 33 games I charted, the Pirates net TB was .68 (226 BiP and 154 net TB).

If we assume Duke, Maholm, and Snell are to start 30 games each in 2007 and, all things being equal to their last 33 game data, that would equate to 616 BiP to the outfield (Area C only). Here is how I figured that..

– 226 actual BiP / 33 games charted = 6.85 Area A BiP per game average
– 6.85 * 90 starts = 616 BiP

The difference between the MLB median of .59 net TB per BiP and the Pirates .69 net TB per BiP is 55.5 net TB. But just because they reached base doesn’t mean they score, of course, so I had to dig further and find out the expected vs. the Pirates actual runs allowed from the base obtained to the end of the inning.

The MLB median was .572 and the Pirates median was .719. If we use the MLB median times the 55.5 net TB from above, we expect to see 32 runs in a season saved.

However, the point here is that any ball in play hit to the outfield (to Area A) is costing us at least 1/2 run per BiP. When I broke down the values by pitcher I found our right fielders are in negative numbers in every ball in play state except when Snell pitches to a left hand batter, of all things. More specifically, our right fielders are 20% higher than the MLB median allowing net total bases on all balls in play off Duke and Maholm.

Considering the right fielder handles 33% of all BiP from these two pitchers, that is a huge problem Littlefield has to address. I can’t specifically say it is a defender problem or a battery problem, but there is a problem. In any case, Littlefield has a chance to save at least 30 runs addressing this one problem area.

For the record, Bay was a tad better than average as were our center fielders.

Now we need 30 more runs. If you read my blog you know advancing base runners has been a pet peeve of mine with Jason Bay. Far too many runners take extra bases on him. Duffy too. In fact, all three outfield positions have a 12% higher rate of advancing runners than the MLB median, but Bay is highest at 7%.

It was very hard to determine the run value of the advancing runner so instead of sifting through tons of stats, I went the old fashioned way – watching film – and simply counted how many runs scored from a runner who advanced I felt should have had at least a play made on him – and none was made – and errors we made allowing runners to advance an extra base. I came up with a conservative run value of 9 runs over the 33 games. If we just take half that value – 4 – I think we will be more than accurate. Four runs over 33 games equates to .12 runs per game and over 162 games that is 20 runs saved.

That leaves 10 more runs and you know where I am going to get them if you read my blog.. Ronny Paulino. Simply put, Ronny has cost us a ton more than 10 runs per year so I’ll just stop right there.

Part 3 Conclusion

I have identified three areas of major concern on defense:

  1. Right Field. The way to solve this, imo, is to get a free agent outfielder with some speed and a cannon arm and hope he bats .265/.320/.475 and we’d be set. The key is defense.. not offense, in RF. No.. Burnitz is not enough of a defensive player. Nor would a Bautista or Nady platoon with Burnitz work. In fact, forget Nady and Bautista in RF all together because of their poor glove work. Maybe Gerut?

    Another problem here could be our battery not pitching to their defense in RF. Possibly poor advance scouting? We also have had a lot of rookies playing RF and that could be compounding the RF problem too.

  2. Advancing base runners. We are getting killed when Jack Wilson is not on the field. To trade Jack would be a huge disaster because his arm cuts down more batters running and advancing runners on relay throws than perhaps any SS in MLB. I’m here to tell you that if Jack is traded, our runs allowed will skyrocket with Freddy at SS. He simply doesn’t have the arm for ****.. especially with Bay in LF.

    One of the things I’ve noticed is that Tracy is starting to play his OF in a bit more than he had earlier in the year. It’s a good choice in my opinion because the number of hits that go for an extra base will be nothing compared to the extra outs he might get and the ability of our outfielders to gun some advancing runners out.

  3. Ronny Paulino. Ronny just has to learn the importance of blocking a baseball with men on base. He has to use that big body of his to at least get the chest protector on the ball to deaden it. Paulino’s inability to side-block has rung up a number of easy runs scored from 3B wild pitches and passed balls – many of which should have been contained.

This entire series was designed to show how we could realistically make up 120 runs to become more competitive on the field in runs scored vs. runs allowed. As an ex-catcher I am a big fan of starting with pitching first.. if we can’t put up league average numbers across the board with the arms we have we are in trouble because we will never be able to beat anyone by mashing.

120 runs shaved from 2006 runs allowed is realistic.. it’s obtainable in 2007.. in fact, we are already doing it.  Plus, our battery will be more experienced as a whole, our defense could be better depending on releases, acquisitions, and trades, and our offense can’t get much more putrid than it has been in 2006 scoring runs.

Additional keys will be:

– Colborn getting the southpaw’s sinkers working earlier in the year;
– A better platoon advantage in the dugout;
– Tracy stop ordering intentional walks;
– More ISO power in the lineup or more speed players that get on base;
– Fewer Pirate batters striking out — more balls put in play;
– Fewer walks issued no matter what – throw it underhand if necessary;

And the #1 key:

– Player mindset – they have to believe they can do it.

Games 146 & 147 – Snell and Sheets

I was only able to watch part of the first game before I was drawn away for an emergency but from what I heard overall, Snell continued his dominance of Milwaukee and Sheets continued his dominance of Pittsburgh.

Ian has owned the Brewers since coming up. I believe I read somewhere that the Brewers were hitting as a team below the Mendoza line against him. I see yesterday he gave up 2 runs which is double the amount he had ever given up against them in his career. Plus, the 7 hits matched their total career combined hits in the 2 previous games he pitched against them.

I’ll tell you that if Ian Snell can continue rolling off 8 and 10 strikeout games he is going to go along way in the league. He faced 27 batters and K’d 10.. 7 got hits, one walked, and the rest were outs. And did I read right the Brewers hit everything on the ground? Ian Snell had a 2.25 GB/FB rate in the game which is off the charts for him. For a Brewers team that puts everything in the air, that almost spells ‘let’s get this game over in a hurry’. Not too shabby, Ian.

Capuano has become mince meat to the Pirates as the Brewers have now lost 4 of the last 6 games he has started against us. Plus, they have lost 4 straight now when he took the mound.

Did I see Tracy batted Paulino 5th in the first game? I was wondering when he would move him up the order. Slick…

Tough game for Chacon to lose only giving up 2 runs and 5 hits and taking a loss. He has been pitching pretty good lately albeit he is taken yard way too much. I see he averaged less than 5 pitches per batter again so this is the third or fourth outing now he has allowed the bat to hit the ball and got the desired results.

Has anyone noticed the every other game action Chacon has going? hehehe  He seems to be doing a Benson.. pitch good one outing, bomb the next. It’s been going on since we got him and I thought at first it was a coincidence – but not now.

But Ben Sheets.. my-oh-my.. when he is on, he is on. We didn’t have much of a lineup in the game for him with Bautista, Maldenado, and Bay out. Nice to see Tracy resting Bay.

Mets come to town and Pedro will be pitching just coming off the DL. I see Hernandez will start the second game and that there is nobody listed for the 3rd game. Under the table I heard it will be Maine but I’m starting to wonder. We’ll see. I also noticed we don’t have a starter listed for that game either but I suspect it will be Duke.

BiP Charts – Snell

Ok.. here is the final chart sets.. this time of Ian Snell.

First his Zone Chart vs. right hand batters:

Now his Zone chart against left hand batters:

Now his Area chart vs. right hand batters:

And the Area chart vs. left hand batters:

Ok.. I’ll start tying these up in the next few days with part 3 of the series on Arms or Bats. In the mean time, get used to the charts as there is a lot of information to be gleaned from them.

Rainout Tidbits

I got a chance to speak with Ollie for 5 minutes in between the second rain delay and he said he was a bit worried taking the mound against the Marlins. He didn’t want to say anything negative about Littlefield or the Pirates and he praised the Mets for working with him and giving him a chance at post-season play.

The Ollie I saw pitch was the same Ollie I’ve seen pitch for several years in Pittsburgh with two differences.. one, he obviously went to the mound with a lot more knowledge of the batters he was going to face than he ever did in Pittsburgh; and two, he had that cocky edge about him he sometimes got in Pittsburgh.. call it an over-abundance of confidence, if you will.

I’m not going to harp on the fact I believe Littlefield should have had more patience with Perez but, considering Dave is going to be around in Pittsburgh under Nutting control, there was no sense keeping him around. Nady was a poor return for Perez in my opinion to anyone except Dave Littlefield.

But Marlins batters were impatient last night, many of them watched called strikes float past them, and they started hacking at everything Ollie was throwing after the second delay.. but they were missing.

The Marlins seemed flat.. like a veteran presence was needed really bad. With Girardi and Loria going at it even more lately, and with reports out today that Girardi might be out of a job, the players seemed almost upset.. listless.

Because of the rain delays, the Marlins said we could buy a ticket to any other home game for $1 for the same type seat. That was pretty nice of them to do that, I thought, and I questioned why McClatchy didn’t do that for the fans in those flood filled games in Pittsburgh.

Remember the name Daisuke Matsuzaka.. he won’t ever be a Pittsburgh Pirate but he could be heading to play in the states from Japan. Evidently half the teams in MLB are heading over to scout this guy because his stuff is so good. To get him it would take a $25m or more bounty paid to his current team plus a $12m per year contract to the player, which is way out of our boundaries, of course.

Game 145 – All Duke, Duffy, and Sanchez

911memorial

The Pirates held a pre-game memorial remembering 9/11 and Mayor O’Connor last night. It was a fitting tribute, of course.

2.3 average runs per game.. that is all Duke has allowed in his last 9 starts while throwing an average of 7 innings per start, and 5 of the 9 teams he faced were in the hunt.

Tonight he was no less dominant throwing a 5-hitter over 7 innings and allowing just 2 earned runs. The only hits off Duke was a Hall solo-shot home run, three seeing eye singles, and a Fielder liner to CF for a single.

Duke can thank Freddy Sanchez for his sparkling defensive work at 3B as Sanchez took at least 3 extra base hits away from the Brewers by handling sharply hit ground balls his way. Overall, Freddy handled 7 of the 11 balls hit into the infield, while 2 scooted past him into left. He almost made me want to say is that Brooks out there? Almost.. hehe

Our offense was putrid once again as we managed just 2 for 12 with men in scoring position.. mostly walks given up by Davis. In the 5th we had men at 1st and 2cd and nobody out and Davis struck out the side of Nady, Paulino, and Bautista. Pretty sad.

But Duffy continues to see the ball well and he hit a clutch two-out rbi in the 4th to score 2. Sanchez gave himself up (ground ball to score Duffy) in the 1st inning to get a run across which I thought was pretty unselfish of him. And Jack Wilson laid down a pretty push bunt passed the pitcher to score Duke from 3B for the third run.

The top of our lineup — Duffy, Wilson, and Sanchez – went 6 for 12 and had 4 rbis. The 4 – 8 hitters went 0 – 14 and had 5 of our 7 strikeouts. Even Duke went 1 – 2 with a run scored.

Brutal.

Torres almost lost it in the 9th by giving up a run on three hits and got the 3rd out with 2 men on base. His split-finger didn’t seem to want to cooperate at times for him as he was leaving it up in the zone and trying to push his straight 96 mph heater past batters, which didn’t work for the most part. In the end though, he walked away with his 6th save in a row and allowed Duke to pickup his 9th win of the year.

Duke, Duffy, and Sanchez.. how ironic is it that I am writing about Sanchez’ defense and Duffy’s offense, huh?

– Tidbits –

Anyone see Nady’s bat laying around? Since the novelty of coming to Pittsburgh has worn off, he has gone just 9 for his last 37 for a .243 clip since September 1.

Here is a nice article on Freddy Sanchez that was in the NY Times. And no, I don’t talk about THAT stuff while he is in the hunt. It’s bad luck.

Bradenton is picking up a bit as players will start reporting later this week. One of those will be Brad Lincoln who will be rehabbing.

Another nice article on the current status of the CBA talks can be found at this NY Times article. Murray Chass is considered to be the closest source to the talks so if you want to keep up on the talks, read Murray’s column.

Someone told me a joke today I thought I’d share with everyone. It seems there is a team in the wild card chase that wants to win so bad they are even sending advance scouting reports to the Pirates who play teams they have to move past next week. Today Littlefield was seen scouring over the scouting reports wearing his old Marlins hat when Bob Walk walked past him, stopped, and just stood and glared at him. Littlefield responded to him by saying he was ‘reliving the good old times’.

*ouch*

BiP Charts – Maholm

Here is Maholm’s Ball in Play (BiP) chart sets.. first by Zone:

Pretty interesting stuff here.. 61% of all balls in play were hit to the left side of the diamond and 64% of those were handled in the infield by the 3B and SS. That is a ton (39% of all balls in play off Maholm) of infield balls in play, of course.

Here is Maholm’s chart by Area:

Again showing a high distribution of balls handled in the infield – 51% overall. Of the 41% put into play into the outfield as flyballs or linedrives, 66 total bases were obtained vs. 40% and 71 total bases off Duke. The two pitchers are nearly identical by Area distribution.

However, the two pitchers are like night and day when comparing balls in play by Zones as a significantly higher number of BiP off Maholm end up in left field.

Also notice that Maholm has allowed 34 less BiP over the 11 games than Duke has.. that is huge, of course.

For the record, Maholm faced 15 total left hand batters and they managed just 6 total bases off balls in play. Again, not enough to chart. However, 9 BiP went to the LF Zone, 5 BiP went to the CF Zone, and 9 went to the RF Zone. Maholm also struckout 10 of the 40 plate appearances he faced.

Next up, Ian Snell hopefully by Thursday as I am going to watch Oliver Perez pitch Tuesday night in Miami.

Jump to Snell’s chart set.

Game 144 – Battery Seedlings Taking Root

Shane Youman made his MLB debut today and pitched well on the line card allowing just 5 hits and 3 earned runs over 5 and one-third innings of work. Carlos Maldonado made his catching debut today as well and caught a nice game. Maldonado seems to have decent mechanics to grow on but he doesn’t seem to have an MLB catching arm and I think that will be his eventual downfall, even trying to make it as a backup catcher.

Youman showed me a work in progress slider, an average change up, and a fastball running in the 88 – 90 mph range, possibly topping higher. He does not have any plus pitches from what I saw today and looks more suited for a short relief role in someones pen than a starter. I have to believe his lazy delivery is what has helped him achieve success more than his pitches. I doubt seriously we will see much of him in 2007 as he is too hittable, but perhaps he can hone his pitches with Colborn and Cuellar. We’ll revisit this after a few more outings.

Sharpless and Bayliss both took the mound in relief and I think Bayliss has the stuff to eventually be a quality arm in the pen down the road. I’m not too excited about the mound presence of Shapeless or his pitches, but he could still have some jitters.

Maldonado batting was a putrid display but I have to believe that was because he is locked in on his receiving and not his batting, so we’ll see how that goes over a few more games.

Kudos to Tracy for evaluating his available talent pool. Lloyd McClendon would never have taken the time to do what Tracy is doing.. you have to give him credit for that. I haven’t checked the Rule 5 guys, but the reason Tracy could be looking hard at everyone is because Littlefield might be in a position to lose a lot of players under Rule 5. I’ll have to start digging and see.

Only one play stood out to me today enough to want to discuss it. Youman walked Aurilla to open the 6th and Encarnancion blooped a single into short CF to advance Aurilla to 2B. Dunn stroked a single to Nady who made a rough throw to the plate to try and get Aurilla, but Maldonado moved off the plate instead of blocking the plate and waiting for the ball to arrive, and Aurilla was safe. That was a typical mistake by a rookie catcher though.

What happened next really blew my mind. Ross came to the plate with Adam Dunn at 1B (BTW, Dunn’s nickname in the bigs is "Big Donkey" because he is so slow and uncoordinated running) and Ross hit a high FB to Bay at the warning track – around the 350′ mark. Bay grabbed it and Dunn tagged up and took 2B on Bay’s throw that bounced to Castillo. Here is the throw:

I’m not too worried about Castillo being out of position on the play because that really wouldn’t have made much of a difference. Perhaps Dunn would have been out, perhaps not.

Instead, my point is that this is exactly the type of play that every team in MLB is now doing on Bay – taking extra bases. Now even the slow poke Reds are getting into the act where before it was only the better scouting teams like the Cards and Astros.

This is really important to understand about Bay because the base run state with a man on 1B and "X" out(s) compared to the base run state with a man at 2B is nearly double. Here’s what I mean..

Chance of scoring, from each base/out state (thanks to Tangotiger):

0 outs 1 out 2 outs
1B 0.38 0.25 0.12
2B 0.61 0.41 0.21
3B 0.86 0.68 0.29

In Dunn’s case today, the flyball to Bay by Ross created the first out and Dunn went 1st to 2B on the play. Thus, had Bay held him at 1B Dunn’s chance of scoring would have been just 25%. By taking 2B, the chance of him scoring jumped to 41%. And, in fact, he later scored. However, all things being equal, Dunn would have been stranded at 3B instead of scoring if Bay was able to hold him at 1B on the play.

The number of advancing runners on Bay has absolutely decimated us this year. As I continue to show you ball in play data from our pitchers, the more you will understand how a better defensive player in LF could possibly shave as many as 30 or more runs off our runs allowed column for the year – just holding advancing runners.

And don’t be confused when you hear how well Bay defends his position by folks who throw stats out there because the vast majority of them are using range based statistics, which are meaningless – no matter how they are compiled. Instead, understand that evaluating defensive skills by ball in play data is significantly more accurate than using range based comparisons for any position.

In the above example Bay did not position himself to get a running throw off despite having all the time in the world and his relay was weak and off the bag. Range stats won’t show you that material.

– Tidbits –

Don’t look now but we are hitting just .245 over the last 7 days and have an unbelievable team 28.7% K-rate. More than 1 in 4 batters are striking out. Wow.. talk about brutal. The really bad part about this is that Tracy has played pretty much the 2007 opening day lineup guys, albeit a little Cota here, a little Doumit there, etc. Here are some of the worst at bats last 7.. last 30 days:

LAST 7:

Burnitz: .000/.000/.000 (5 AB)
Randa: .100/.100/.182 (10 AB)
Castillo: .130/.130/.217 (23 AB)
Bautista: .150/.227/.250 (20 AB)
Sanchez: .269/.296/.308 (26 AB)

LAST 30:

Randa: .159 BA
Cota: .167 BA
Doumit .200 BA
Bautista .222 BA
Wilson: .232 BA
Burnitz: .235 BA
Castillo: .258 BA

The Devil Rays outwardly released 1B Travis Lee today setting up an interesting opportunity for Littlefield. I have to assume the Rays shopped him before releasing him and Littlefield showed no interest.. nor should he have. But now that he is released you have to wonder if Littlefield won’t take a chance on him for the last 16 – 18 games to see what he can do, especially since 12 of the games left are at home.

Lee has not been happy in Tampa since last year when the Rays official scorer broke his 170 game errorless streak when his catcher failed to get a tag down at the plate. When Lee asked the Rays to challenge the scorer’s decision, they refused him and he has been livid ever since. This year he openly challenged Rays manager Joe Maddon about not getting enough playing time.

Don’t forget, Lee had shoulder surgery in 2004 and he was pretty much out of it all of 2004 and part of 2005, but lost his playing time in 2005 and has yet to regain it.

Considering how badly we need a decent fielding 1B, as well as just a little more power, it will be hard to understand if Littlefield doesn’t make a quick move on Lee since he only has to pay him minimum wage the rest of the way out. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain if he can pass a physical.

The Curve lost their rubber match game today eliminating them from post-season competition.

Here is the final breakdown on the Pirates minor league affiliates winning percentages this year:


Indianapolis 76 66 0.535
Altoona 75 64 0.540
Lynchburg 63 75 0.457
Hickory 67 70 0.489
Williamsport 28 47 0.373
GCL Pirates 27 26 0.509
Overall 0.491

Only Altoona made it to the playoffs and they were eliminated in the division playoff game in the 5th game.

That is the first losing season (336-348) posted by Brian Graham since he took over as farm director. Of course, all of Mickey White’s draft picks are now playing in the upper levels of the organization or are with the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Creech’s picks are pretty much AA and below, with a few filtering into AAA and down.

Did I hear Ryan Vogelsong might head to Japan to play baseball next year? Poor Ry.. I bet if he just hangs on he’ll get a ride in the bigs.

Richie Hebner and Jerry Nyman both lost their jobs today with the Rays. I understand letting John Tamargo and Joe Coleman go but Hebner and Nyman are both considered pretty good guys. Maybe Littlefield can get Richie back in the org somewhere?

I was just told by Jay Horwitz, VP of Media Relations with the Mets, that Oliver Perez is not scheduled to start against the Pirates in the upcoming Mets series.

Aw shucks.

Are the Pirates using the BATS scouting system Dejan?

Game 143 – Pirates Smack Reds into 3rd Place

Redschoke Do you hear that?

That is the Reds choking against the ‘weakest team in baseball‘ as they were just smacked into 3rd place in the NLCD behind the Astros, and dropped from 4th to 6th in the wild card hunt, virtually cementing their wild card door shut.

Brutal man.

I’m now taking orders for ‘irate’ Reds fans choking t-shirts.. call 1-800-WE-CHOKE.

The Pirates dealt yet another knockout punch to a team in the hunt. Let’s see now.. we have knocked out the Reds, the Brewers, and the Braves, put a dent in the Rockies and Giants, we helped the Marlins and Astros, we put the Cubs in 6th place and the Reds in 3rd, and still have San Diego and the Dodgers in our sites.

Not bad for a 90+ loss team, huh?

Now the game we have all been waiting for.. punk Arroyo takes the mound to eat some leather.. er, umm.. words. She better be wearing her corset tomorrow with some padding on her hiney because word has it she might take a few off her worst side. Did someone say she needs a chin reduction too? hehehe

Amazingly, relief pitching killed the Reds season last night as Coffey’s walk to Bay in the 8th inning allowed Sanchez to go to 2B with no outs and eventually come around to score on Paulino’s clutch two-out rbi single. Bay added two more in the 9th when the Reds defense crumbled allowing the Pirates a 4-out inning. Ahh.. if the Reds had just kept Dave Williams.. too bad.

Maholm pitched yet another gem marking the 8th start out of his last 11 where he has allowed 3 or fewer earned runs and his 8th quality start in the 11 games. Wow.. not bad for a kid everybody said should be in the pen and not in a MLB rotation, huh?

But today was Bay day.. a home run and his 9th inning double to score 2 more gave him 3 rbis and a 2-4 day, and put him at 101 rbis for the season. Torres got an electric 3rd out in the 8th inning with 2 on to also get some credit for winning this game.

Excuse me, but have we really won 16 of the last 28 games at a .571 clip – the hottest team in MLB? Have we really won 23 of our last 42 at a .548 clip? Won 31 of our last 62 at a .500 clip? That is sickening when you think back to all those one-run games we lost.

– Tidbits –

Memo to Jim Tracy:

DO NOT BUNT NADY WITH MEN ON 1ST AND 2CD WITH NO OUTS AND THE GAME ON THE LINE LATE. THE BASE RUN STATE FOR A MAN SCORING FROM 2B WITH NO OUTS IS .61 AND IMPROVES TO JUST .68 WITH ONE OUT WITH A MAN AT 3B. HE IS YOUR SECOND BIGGEST POWER HITTER FOR GOD SAKES AND YOU WERE PLAYING ON THE ROAD TO WIN. BTW, NADY ONLY HAS A .48 NETDP RATE IN 13.7% OPPORTUNITIES. WHAT THE **** WERE YOU THINKING?

That was perhaps the stupidest decision I have seen Tracy make all year. He’s made some boners but that one took the cake and really got to me.

Ok.. got that out of my system. hehehe..

Wardell Starling kept the Curve alive by pitching a three hitter over 6 innings and the Curve took advantage of Akron’s errors to win. The final game will be Sunday night at 7:05 pm and you can listen live here ==> Curve Game.

Cutch and Walker are both due to break out a good game so go Curve!

The Nashville Sounds also won and will play their rubber match game tomorrow afternoon at Round Rock.

I suppose you will see all the Pirates brass driving new Lexus vehicles starting next year as the Pirates entered into a 6-year agreement with the local Lexus dealers in renaming the Home Plate Club to the "Lexus Club at PNC Park". The partnership allows one of the 403 seat holders a chance to win a one-year lease on a Lexus.

Shoot.. I was hoping ******* would would get the contract. They could have given away a year of *******, huh?

BiP Charts – Duke

This will be the first of three Ball in Play (BiP) chart sets for Duke, Maholm, and Snell from the All-Star game thru their last start as of September 9, 2006. I will tie all the charts together over the next few days when I complete the 3-part series on Bats or Arms.

First, here is Duke’s BiP by Zone chart (by Zone I mean, LF, CF, or RF zone):

Let’s go over a few things on the above chart so you understand my poor graphing.

I broke the filed into 3 Zones and 3 Areas. Areas are labeled "A", "B", and "C". Example, Area B is between the red and blue lines and it represents all ground balls that passed thru the infield into the outfield within the corresponding zone.

Zone are labeled "LF", "CF", and "RF". I included "gap hits" into the corner outfield zones to make this simpler to read. The reason I did that is because there have been very few "gappers" hit off Duke. For example, if you broke the entire outfield into 5 simple plots and labeled them LF, LCF, CF, RCF, and RF, there was only 1 LCF gap shot and 6 RCF shots, but the RCF shots tended to be mostly on the RF side for the most part.

Now let’s understand the data points. The entire LF Zone saw 47% of all balls in play off Duke. Of those 47% BiP in the LF Zone, 33% were hit to Area "A" as either liners or flyballs, and the offense gained 31 total bases from those BiP; 15% were grounders that went thru the infield; and 52% were handled as grounders, popups, or liners by the infield.

The only odd note on the chart is that the 43% above the pitcher’s mound means Duke fielded 43% of the BiP in the CF zone in Area "C". For the record, there were 4 total BiP handled by the catcher and they will not be included on any of the charts.

One quick read is that 47% of all BiP off Duke vs. a right hand batter headed to the left side of the field. Now knowing, as you do, Duke’s MO is to pitch away and down in the zone to righties, that’s a lot of bat speed being exhibited by batters against Duke. BTW, that 47% is considerably higher than his 2005 stats. One reason that could be is because of the loss of velocity (-2 – 4 mph) Duke has had this year. Another reason this could be is because Duke is now pitching into right hand batters more than he did in 2005, trying to keep them off balanced.

Now here is Duke’s BiP chart by Area:

Again, the Zones and Areas are the same. However, this chart tells us that, of all BiP hit off Duke, 40% were handled in Area A as flyballs or linedrives. Of those 40%, 39% were hit to each coroner and 22% to CF.

One quick read off this chart would tell you that 56% of all BiP that were hit on the ground that went thru the infield went thru the left side of the diamond. Conversely, only 20% went thru the right side. Small sample size alert, however. It also shows us that 52% of all BiP off Duke made it to the outfield, one way or another.

Another quick read is that 96 total bases were obtained from BiP past the infield from either grounders thru the infield or liners and flyballs to the outfield. That is just short of one total base for every ball in play off Duke during the time period. Is that good or bad? We’ll show you after we get all three pitcher’s charts up over the next few days.

One last note.. I did not provide left hand batter data against Duke because Duke only faced 10 left hand batters over the 11 games and their production yielded them only 11 total bases (3 from walks and 1 from a hit batter), they had 7 K’s, and only 7 balls even left the infield. Simply put, there was very little to chart. Teams are loading up right hand batter lineups on Duke and I expect that to be the theme every time he takes the mound, for the most part.

Jump to Maholm’s chart set.

Game 142 – Dang that 81st Pitch!

Last night Bucco Blog threw a big hint at Jim Tracy when I said:

"I am starting to believe Snell is an 80 pitch pitcher and Tracy needs to yank him after the 80th pitch. We’ll see.."

Thru Snell’s first 80 pitches last night he had this line:

5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 4 K, 2 BB, 80 Pitches

The Pirates were down 2-1 going into the bottom of the 6th. Here’s the line from the 81st pitch on:

6 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 5 K, 3 BB, 1 HBP, 105 Pitches

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to evaluate ball in play data on Snell to figure out he either has a mental block about that 80th pitch or he simply looses it around the 80 pitch mark. It has been happening almost all year to him.

I understand Tracy sending him to the mound in the 6th yesterday because Ian has to work through this issue, but the more he fails, the less confidence he is going to have and the more he will get rattled and give up the ship.

But don’t take any of this wrong.. 4 ER over 6 IP is not that many runs. But it is too many if you are the Pittsburgh Pirates and you have a chance to limit it to 50% of that value. That is how games are won – knowing your players.

For Ian, the 80 pitch count typically comes the 3rd – 4th time through the order. So let me show you by another example. In Snell’s career, 75% of the batters he has faced he saw in the first two times they came to the plate and those batters scored 62% of all his runs. Essentially, 3/4’s of the batters scored just under 2/3rd’s the runs.

The remaining 25% of the batters he saw from the third time through the order on have scored 38% of all the runs against him. That is extremely high and should be typically around the 30%+ batters and 28%- runs, to give you an idea. Considering our bullpen has been outstanding this year preventing inherited runners from scoring, Snell’s numbers are even more troublesome.

He is an 80 inning pitcher, for the most part. Some days he’ll go 90 or 100.. some days 65 – 75.. but 80 is his median problem area. As good as Snell pitches for 80 pitches, Colborn and Tracy need to consider yanking him earlier in games — NO MATTER HOW HE LOOKS LIKE HE IS DOING. But that is my opinion based on the data.

The Pirates started a rough stretch of games last night. The Reds *have* to have this series to remain competitive in the wild card hunt and I think the Pirates are tickled to death to let them have two of the three games. But from what I heard, Mr. Arroyo better watch his backside Sunday because the Pirates are sure to make him realize who his daddy is.. more ways than one. The clubhouse has a picture up with his comments from the last time he ran his mouth so expect some.. some.. well, I’m not going to tell you.. watch the game.. it’ll be fun. You’ll love it. hehe

Doumit has satisfied me that he will never be a MLB 1B. End of story. He is a player without a position and those kind of players don’t go far in MLB. And no, I couldn’t care less what his offensive ceiling might be.. he is a huge defensive liability no matter where he plays and Dave Littlefield needs to just go ahead and shop the kid. ‘Nuff said.

Gosh it was nice to see Castillo on the pine. I hope he stays there for a few games. Maybe it will wake him up. Part of me wants to believe he is just overtired from the earlier year injury he had and maybe it took a lot out of him. But I know better.. we all know better.. this is the same Castillo this year we saw last year.. and the year before. I’d shop him with Doumit and go get Jose Hernandez back for utility.

Bautista is intriguing at best at 3B. He most likely has the glove for the position but he doesn’t look like he’ll ever have the bat so I am in the camp that believes Littlefield needs to have Walker take more balls at 3B. Oh wait.. Neil has been catching and DH’ing most of the time, huh? Nice forward thinking Dave.. ughghhh…

It sure would be nice to see Ryan Vogelsong up instead of guys like Rogers and Perez who don’t have a prayer to make the squad next year. Before Dave Littlefield sends Ryan his release papers, I truly believe he needs to have a shot back up with the team. He certainly has earned it with his winter work for Dave, his taking the ball when it was given to him no matter how poor the circumstance, and doing his best in the farm as Dave wanted. Give the kid a break Littlefield.. he isn’t Kris’ cousin and his car isn’t yellow.

– Tidbits –

Altoona won their playoff game last night and guess who was the hero? No, not Neil Walker. No, not Andrew McCutchen. Ray Sadler. Yep – he hit a two-run bomb in the 2cd inning and Landon Jacobsen threw a 6-hitter while allowing just one run to shut down the Aeros. The Curve used speed on the base paths to set up two of their four runs with stolen bases. The two teams go back at it tomorrow night. The Curve are down in the best of five series 1-2.

Just breaking: the Post-Gazette is reporting that Snell is pissed off at Jim Colborn for coming to the mound during last night’s game and talking to him.

Say WHat???????

Snell also said he doesn’t want Colborn asking him questions in the dugout after an inning is over, like what pitches he threw. Man-oh-man.. Snell seems to be heading down the same ‘irate Ian Snell of 2005.. 2004.. 2003.. 2002′ road again. The kid has to learn he will get lit up sometimes.. chill out dude.. forget it. Move forward.. not backwards.

You have to question the Post-Gazette even running with that story. I mean, the kid was obviously frustrated last night, he has already complained of shoulder tightness to the organization, and he continues to go out without his best stuff (-2 – 4 mph velocity).

Sometimes reporters just need to forget what they hear. I think I’ll give the ‘Just shut the helll up award’ to Paul Meyer for this week.

How hilarious.. the Pirates start Youman and Maldonado in a game the fans can’t see due to broadcasting restrictions. Edit – Youman is starting Sunday, not Saturday.. my mistake. That’s ok.. we’ll watch it Sunday morning and then show you some of the stuff you missed. I’m sure it will be chock full of memorable highlights. BTW, congrats to Maldonado for his first MLB hit last night!

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