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Prospect Notes – Dylan Bundy

August 20, 2012

I got the express pleasure of seeing Dylan Bundy pitch in Richmond tonight. I am sure there are millions of words written about Bundy as a prospect already, but what’s a couple hundred more?

Bundy threw three pitches tonight; fastball, curveball, and a changeup.

His fastball sat 93-95 early, touching 95 in the first inning, and topped out at 97. He worked it well to both side of the plate well and had nice arm-side run to it. He was also very aggressive with it, willingly going up and in to a couple batters to brush them off the plate.

Bundy’s curveball sat 75-77. He showed the ability to not only shape the pitch, but to throw two types; the one for strikes and the one to bury in the dirt. There were a couple of times where he buried the pitch when he was trying to throw it for a strike, but he showed the ability to control it. Late in the game he would throw it a lot, using it to set up the fastball. The curveball he threw in negative counts was more of a power curve, where as the one the threw for strikes was not necessarily loopy, per se, but it had a noticeable hump to it.

The changeup sat 83-85, but he only threw this pitch eight to ten times in the game. Had nice run and he threw it with the proper arm speed.

He works quickly, which I love, and gets into a rhythm well. The arm action is smooth and repeatable, without a lot of stress or sense of using all of his energy to produce the speed.

My knock on him was that he threw really only the fastball and curveball tonight. Late it the game it became clear what he was going to throw the batter and any batter with any ability could sit on a pitch. The two hardest hit balls, Monell’s double and Perez’ home run, came on inside fastballs that the batters sat on. I will not sit here and try to say that I understand why the Orioles did this, I’ve heard of a similar instance when he threw a large number of cutters, but it was very odd to see.

All of the following videos are available in HD, I highly suggest making sure that is the quality selected when you start to watch them.

I especially like this video because you are able to see the different curves he featured tonight.

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My Favorite Kurt Suzuki Moment

August 3, 2012

There you have it. Kurt Suzuki has finally played his last game as an Oakland A. Love him, hate him, however you felt about him, he was probably the face of the franchise for a long time. I was always a fan, understanding that his value was in his defense and any offensive production was just icing on the cake.

So in remembrance of Kurt’s time with Oakland I present to you my favorite Kurt Suzuki moment. Sadly, MLB.com no longer has the entire highlight. If you don’t remember the third pitch that D.J. Carasco threw to Kurt in this at-bat almost drilled Kurt in the earhole. Then, four pitches later, this happened;

 

Best of luck, Kurt. May you get a World Series ring just like Bobby Kielty.

Could The A’s Do What The Rockies Wanted To Do?

August 3, 2012

Chances are that you have heard that Dan Straily was called up to the big club and is starting tonight. This is great and exciting, seeing as the numbers he has put up so far are video game like. However, this causes a bit of a roster crunch among the pitchers. Yesterday tweeter extraordinaire and all-around scholar Jason Copy-Paste sent out these series of tweets, or twits if you are Vin Scully;

I think Jason has a good idea here, but I feel that the A’s could do what the Rockies wanted to do and do it better. One of the reasons the Rockies went to the limit of 75 pitches for their starters was so they could get to their bullpen faster, something that was a strength for them. As you saw yesterday, if not here is the link (go ahead and read it, we will wait), the A’s bullpen is not something that is a strong point, in my opinion. It is something on the verge of imploding. So could the A’s go to paired starters and hide one of their biggest problems?

Pairing starters can positively affect how the teams perform and more specifically, how a pitcher performs. The high school that I used to coach at we flirted with a hybrid idea of this. Late in the year we were trying to limit the innings of our #1, so we toyed with the idea of starting our closer against a team that we knew had trouble against him. At the heart of that, is kind of what the A’s could do with paired starters.

By doing this you are automatically limiting the innings that one pitcher will throw. For this A’s this has many advantages;
1) By limiting innings you are protecting arms (if you believe in that). The first pitcher that comes to mind that could see the most gain by this is Jarrod Parker. To be honest I can not remember if the A’s put an innings limit on him to start this year, but if they did not this would help. One year removed from major surgery getting some help carrying the innings is not a bad thing. His current 110 innings is not a horrible number but I would not mind seeing him get some relief from piling on too many innings.

There is also talk that Straily himself is on an innings limit and not too far from reaching that plateau. For reason I will explain in a bit, I paired him with Bartolo Colon.

2) If you are lucky enough to have the correct number of left- and right-handed pitchers you could destroy platoons in lineups.

3) Something that I do not think gets enough talk, or rather has seen enough (if any) research to prove if it is effective, is the effect drastic changes in velocities have on hitters. I am not talking about fastball to changeup velocities, I am talking fastball to fastball velocities. One reason I love guys like Tommy Milone and Dallas Braden is that I think they are undervalued where they are placed in pitching rotations. Back in the day can you imagine facing Rich Harden one night and then Dallas the next? I know these are some of the best hitters in the world we are talking about, but that has to have some effect, no? Now you have not only the handedness change but also velocity change all in the same game. Again, this is all in theory, but it would be fascinating to see how that works.

4) By pairing starters and limiting innings you, again in theory, can cut the number of times a batter see a pitcher. Assuming that one pitcher goes innings 1-4 and the other one goes innings 5-8, they should at best see the 1-3 hitters twice. This does swing the advantage towards the pitcher as he does not have to worry about pacing himself. Imagine it as throwing four innings in the All-Star game. This allows you to hide any deficiencies a pitcher may have.

So how would I do this? If I paired the starters, it would look something like this;
McCarthy – Blackley
Parker – Milone
Colon – Straily
Anderson – Griffin

As I mentioned early I changed around Jason’s list a bit because of the supposed innings ceiling for Straily. As he so aptly noted, who cares about Colon blowing out his arm? Probably is not going to happen. And even with the six or so starts that Straily would be able to make that will help stretch Colon a little farther along anyway.

So how do the numbers look for something like this? For the purposes of this article I am only going to cite the splits for innings 1-4 seeing as whether they start of come in as the long relief, those are the only numbers that will really matter.

Pair #1 McCarthy – Blackley

McCarthy:*

I Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 93 92.1 31 3.02 388 343 35 82 16 1 5 34 66 .239 .307 .335 .642 .275
2nd inning 92 90.1 46 4.58 385 348 49 86 16 4 11 31 61 .247 .312 .411 .723 .269
3rd inning 91 90.1 35 3.49 371 337 40 85 21 1 10 22 65 .252 .299 .409 .708 .282
4th inning 89 86.0 27 2.83 349 322 24 80 16 0 7 27 52 .248 .307 .363 .670 .278

Blackley:

Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 10 10.0 3 2.70 38 36 4 8 0 0 0 2 5 .222 .263 .222 .485 .258
2nd inning 10 10.0 1 0.90 38 36 1 6 2 1 0 2 7 .167 .211 .278 .488 .207
3rd inning 10 10.0 11 9.90 48 41 11 16 5 0 2 4 6 .390 .447 .659 1.105 .412
4th inning 11 11.0 2 1.64 40 36 2 8 3 0 0 3 8 .222 .275 .306 .581 .276
*- For McCarthy I used his career numbers seeing as he has only thrown  78 innings this season. I used the 2012 splits for Blackley because even going with his career numbers they did not change drastically.

How doe this work out? McCarthy’s career fifth and sixth inning lines looks like this: .289/.324./473 and .270/.321./.438.
Blackley’s  fifth and sixth: .225/.225/.375

For Blackley it looks like it is a push pulling him after four, but that’s only in a 10+ inning sample. Given the stuff that he brings to the table I like him much more as a long reliever. As I told Jason, pairing him like this should allow him to hide deficiencies and only have to face certain batters more than once. As for McCarthy, this could be a worthwhile experiment. I am not saying do this the rest of his career, but the noticeable jump between the fourth and fifth innings lend me to believe this could work with him. Also with him battling injury the last couple of years, I could be helpful to “protect” him a bit by lessening the load on him.
Pair #2 : Parker – Milone

Parker-

Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 18 18.0 5 2.50 73 64 5 14 2 1 0 7 13 .219 .306 .281 .587 .275
2nd inning 18 18.0 7 3.50 73 65 7 18 4 0 2 6 20 .277 .329 .431 .760 .356
3rd inning 18 17.0 9 4.76 71 60 7 13 3 0 1 10 10 .217 .329 .317 .645 .245
4th inning 17 17.0 4 2.12 67 63 4 13 4 0 1 4 12 .206 .254 .317 .571 .240

Milone-

Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 21 21.0 11 4.71 95 84 11 24 2 0 1 9 17 .286 .358 .345 .703 .343
2nd inning 21 21.0 12 5.14 87 82 13 20 5 0 7 5 13 .244 .287 .561 .848 .210
3rd inning 21 21.0 5 2.14 81 79 6 17 5 0 2 2 17 .215 .235 .354 .589 .250
4th inning 21 21.0 11 4.71 86 81 11 25 4 0 3 4 16 .309 .341 .469 .810 .355

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com:

How does this one work? Parker’s fifth and sixth innings: .266/.374/.406 and .275/.362/.373.
Milone’s fifth and sixth: .260/.288/.422 and .350/.375/.383

Personally these two would benefit the most from paired starters, especially Milone. Later in his career Parker could find more success past the fifth inning. And if you are like some *cough Nathaniel Stoltz cough* you see Parker more as a bullpen arm, in which case this would fit him perfectly. As for Milone, this hides deficiencies. He is at a disadvantage the more times a batter sees him in a game and he also seems to tire around the fifth inning.
Pair #3 : Colon – Straily 

Colon
Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 21 21.0 8 3.43 89 83 8 22 3 2 2 6 15 .265 .315 .422 .736 .303
2nd inning 21 21.0 3 1.29 77 73 3 14 3 0 2 3 13 .192 .221 .315 .536 .203
3rd inning 21 19.1 16 7.45 94 84 15 28 7 0 1 7 11 .333 .380 .452 .833 .370
4th inning 19 19.0 14 6.63 89 88 15 31 3 1 6 1 12 .352 .360 .614 .973 .357

Straily

Unknown

This split is this way because of the supposed innings limit for Straily and agin, who cares about Colon’s arm? I am sure he could handle it. Once Straily hits his innings limit he is shutdown and Colon would be the sole owner of this spot.

Pair #4 – Anderson – Griffin

Anderson*

I Split G IP ER ERA PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
1st inning 62 62.0 23 3.34 266 238 29 61 9 0 4 19 50 .256 .316 .345 .660 .305
2nd inning 62 62.0 29 4.21 264 245 32 67 9 0 10 15 65 .273 .323 .433 .756 .335
3rd inning 60 60.0 24 3.60 243 228 26 58 8 0 3 12 42 .254 .296 .329 .625 .299
4th inning 60 59.1 20 3.03 235 224 22 53 9 0 7 6 48 .237 .265 .371 .635 .271

Griffin
Unknown

*- Career numbers seeing as he has not pitched this year

Again, this pairing is to help Brett Anderson. Coming off of TJS this would help ease him back in late in the year. As for A.J. Griffin? It is still unknown how his numbers respond. Unfortunately with both he and Straily, I was unable to find the innings breakdown for their minor league careers. For both, however, it can only help. Just for the information, Brett Anderson’s career numbers in the fifth and sixth innings: .275/.326./410 and .292/.313/.385.

The Bullpen:

As Jason pointed out, this does, if it works as it should, allow you to not have to use the bullpen as much. This does not mean that you should get rid of the whole bullpen, but you could option/trade/whatever a couple and stick some of the starters down in the bullpen.

There is one big warning to take with this whole experiment, once one link falters it can breakdown easily. You are not asking the pitchers to be perfect every time they go out but if one does completely blowup, it can be disastrous. And this is not something that has to be done all the time. This could be implemented from one series to the next.

Athletics Bullpen – Lucky Or Good?

August 1, 2012

Whenever anyone has talked about the Athletics the last three or four years there are two things you are going hear; 1) the ballpark situation and 2) how good the pitching staff and bullpen have been. This year, again, you are hearing the much of the same. The rather putrid A’s offense gets a little notice, but it is all about how the pitching continues to lead this team. Largely, that is a true statement. Having a starting rotation that can keep opposing lineups in check enough so that you can win games by scoring a little over three runs per game is nice. Every team would want that. However, there is always going to be something under  the surface, something that when you look at it just scares the living bejesus out of you. For me, that is the A’s bullpen. Long heralded as what Beane does best. Find cheap, interchangeable parts to fit in a spacious park. And this year, again, is no different. Or is it?

When I look at the Athletics bullpen, I see a ticking time bomb. And this goes beyond what the front office decided to do or not do at the deadline. Just adding one solid arm, does not a fix a larger problem. My Tarp Talk companion, David Wiers, touched on this a bit on Twitter and that got me to looking. So, let us pull back the curtain on the A’s bullpen. I will warn you, numbers and acronyms lie ahead.

When Sandy Koufax was asked what his best pitch he would always respond, “strike one.” As a bullpen pitch, this should be your motto. Off the top of my head I can not remember the exact numbers, but roughly the batting average difference between being down 0-1 and being up 1-0 is close to 200 points. That is a massive difference. It is imperative, coming out of the bullpen, to be able to get ahead of hitters. The more you have to rely on your fastball, the less chance you have a being effective.

So, how do the Athletics bullpen arms stack up in this situation? Start with the baseline. League average F-strike%, the percentage of first pitch strikes thrown, for relievers is 58.2%. The following is the A’s bullpen;
Balfour – 56.3
Cook – 48.9
Norberto – 54.4
Blevins – 54.2
Miller – 55.4
Scribner – 55.6
Doolittle – 60.7

Cook’s inability to get ahead has already reared its ugly head this season and will most likely do so again in the very near future. Of all of those pitchers, to only have one above league average is kind of scary. Having a bullpen that has to so often get back into a count any way possible is not the best for long-term success. Rhymer, I am.

Another good sign of a strong bullpen is their ability to miss bats. I know, and preach, that strikeouts are not everything (this is different from pitching to contact). However, in a bullpen when, in theory, you will be in high leverage situations, the ability to get the strikeout is almost paramount. For the A’s bullpen, this is a bright spot. League average SwStrk% (the percentage of swinging strike on pitches thrown) for relievers is 9.9. The A’s bullpen;
Balfour – 8.0
Cook – 11.6
Norberto – 11.9
Blevins – 11.3
Miller – 9.9
Scribner – 5.2
Doolittle – 13.6

Again, Doolittle outpaces the field. Cook’s 11.6% is what mostly saves him from his problems getting ahead. Scribner is starting to look like a pumpkin. Just mind-boggling how he is still around.

The underlying problem, for me, though is the huge discrepancy between the ERA and FIP. Yes a lot of the bullpen arms have nice, shiny, beautiful ERA’s, but I am not convinced that is a real measure of how good they are. Partly based on a couple of the reasons I have mentioned above, but also because having watched them enough they consistently play with fire and are about to get burned. Again, our baseline, league average ERA and FIP for relievers, 3.67 and 3.84 respectively. Again, the A’s bullpen;
Doolittle : ERA – 4.09 FIP – 1.08
Scribner : ERA – 1.93 FIP – 2.80
Cook : ERA – 1.81 FIP – 3.35
Balfour : ERA – 2.81 FIP – 3.69
Blevins : ERA – 2.20 FIP – 3.79
Norberto : ERA – 2.85 FIP – 3.86
Miller : ERA – 2.16 FIP – 4.64

If you believe in BABIP for this stuff, be careful of the rather large SSS(nake), the bullpen is just as absurd. League average of .290. The bullpen? .346, .275, .167, .209, .230, .235, and  .250.

Of relievers with 30 or more innings pitches, this will remove Doolittle and Scribner from the equation, the A’s bullpens have some of the highest flyball percentages in the league. Even being so lucky as to pitch in O.co, some of those will find themselves in the seats, more so when they go on the road.

Again, among relievers with more than 30 innings pitched; Norberto, Balfour, Cook, and Miller rank near league worst in BB/9.

This is not a problem that you fix by a trade. Would it help? Yes. But it only holds off the inevitable dam bursting for a bit longer. Either you promote from within or hope that you can skirt the problem for as long as you can. If, and when,because it will happen and it will be ugly, the collapse of the bullpen happens it is not going to be pretty.

Baltimore Series – Game 2 Recap – Game 3 Preview

July 29, 2012

Quick Hit:

 

After the game Friday night, Saturday nights game was a walk in the park to watch.

Bartolo Colon was Good Bartolo last night even though he scattered seven hits over five and two-thirds innings. He led the pitchers with a .278 WPA. I will say this about Bartolo, I look at the following strikezone plot and I have no idea how he shutout a team for nearly six innings:
Offensively Yoenis Cespedes contributed the most by WPA, accumulating a .123 with a pLI of .84. Weeks and Sogard round out the top three with a .079 and a .060 respectively.

Sunday Probables 

As confident as I felt about yesterdays game, I feel even more so about today’s game.

Wei-Yin Chen has been a nice little addition to the Orioles starting rotation this year. Coming into today’s game he is 8-6 with a 3.82 ERA and already accrued 1.6 WAR. However, his FIP and xFIP, and his inability to get ahead of batters, betray him. While his ERA is a respectable 3.82 his FIP/xFIP sit at 4.28/4.47, and I feel that could be closer to his true talent.

His F-strike% (first pitch strike percentage) ranks 16th-worst in the league. This forces him to try to get back into counts with his fastball, which he throws 55% of the time. That, coupled with a paltry 37.9 GB% and you have a recipe for disaster. Add in the fact that he will give up his fair share of walks and you have a good shot at a sweep.

By frequency he throws fourseam fastball, changeup, slider, sinker, curve. Expect to see him work off of the fastball exclusively with a lot of fastballs and changeups back-to-back.

Travis Blackley has been such a wonderful little surprise for the Athletics. With his ability to keep the ball down in the zone will help keep the ball in the park today. Keep an eye out for his curveball, it’s a thing of beauty.

 

 

Baltimore Series – Quick Game 2 Preview and George Kottaras?

July 28, 2012

The Athletics and Orioles are at it again tonight after a wild finish last night. Tonight’s starting pitchers are about as enigmatic as it gets. Enough talking, let’s break it down.

Probables

Honestly, when I look at Tommy Hunter’s career numbers I could not believe that he had accumulated nearly 3.5 WAR over his career. So far this year, he’s pitching like a guy who should be in AAA right now. His K/9 and BB/9 are 4.72 and 1.51, respectively. His ERA/FIP/xFIP are 5.57/5.65/4.41.

Hunter throws a fourseam fastball, sinker, cutter, curve, and change (in order of frequency). None of his pitches are overpowering as his BIP% ranges from 19-25%. Of all the games in this series, this one I feel the most comfortable about.

As far as Colon, it depends on which Bartolo shows up. I’ve been worried that he has just been laying the ball in there and hoping for the best. If he throws quality strikes and his fastball dances like it has been, he’ll be fine. If not, well, Eutaw St. could see a lot of action.

The Lineup

Now that the A’s are finally facing a RHH, Seth Smith is back in the lineup! Which, in my honest opinion is completely dumb. Smith should be out there against RHP’s and LHP’s. Not a fan of Crisp and Weeks hitting 1-2, but Melvin has been doing this all year. He’s not going to start now. Glad to see Sogard get the start. Still think he’s an upgrade over Hicks at the plate. If the A’s are really going to make a push for the Wild Card, Melvin really needs to put his best offensive lineup out there every night. And until Pennington comes back or the A’s trade for someone, Sogard, I feel, gives them the best shot.

George … Kottaras?

There’s a rumor swirling that George Kottaras could be on his way to the Athletics. If this is true, it’s not that bad of an acquisition. Yes his .209 BA this year looks horrid, but some (not all) of that could be explained by his .254 BABIP. His walk rate is something to dream on this year (25%), but even at this career rate of 13.8% is upgrade.

At this point any offensive production out of the catchers spot in the lineup can only be good for the Athletics. Norris possibly could go to AAA, which I know people will complain about, but it could only help him to play everyday. That’s unless Suzuki is traded, which I don’t really see happening until after the season is over.

As for price? He will come cheap. Very cheap. The Brewers, I think and I like to think that I am right, are just looking to try and restock their farm system. After completely gutting it in their “win now” attempt to get Greinke, it is time for them to replenish it. Now that they are in the post-Greinke era, they just need players. Not superstars. A C-grade prospect or two, or just prospect and cash could easily get the job done.

And no, Billy is not done.

Flying Bats, The Matrix, Doubles, And JI – 7/27 gifcAp

July 28, 2012

A day late but not a dollar short, your gif-cAp from last nights game.

Baby Bernie
After Coco’s double last night, he unleashed a ‘Baby Bernie’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heads Up
Zach Britton lost control of a pitch and it buzzed Josh Reddick. Make sure to look for the couple two rows up behind home plate.

 

 

 

 

 
That led to Reddick practicing his Matrix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

JI
Jim Thome is rumblin’, bumblin’, stumblin’, and out.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wilson and Good Wood
Doolittle ties up Wilson Betemit badly. He lost his bat and that gives us the Douche of the Night. Be sure to check out the name and number on the custom jersey.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Home Run That Wasn’t
Much was made about Reddick’s double that looked like a home run. Where did it hit? Did it hit the pole? What about the fireworks?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From what I could see there is a bit of a ridge above the padding creating the back part of the wall and that’s what the ball hit. That’s what caused it to bounce as high as it did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can start to make it out from this screen cap. But the big thing to take away from this is that you can still see the ball. This is at the moment of impact. I give the umpires kudos for getting this one right.