Link-O-Rama: More Wieters, Banny, Rule Changes

I know Chris Tillman is starting tonight (you can follow updates from me at http://twitter.com/camdencrazies) – and I’ll put up something more complete about it tomorrow probably – but I’m going to just post links to a few interesting things on the intertubes right now.  I know I don’t usually link to other people in posts, but that has a lot more to do with personal style than the huge amount of great things to look at.  I highly recommend people at least check out the links in the right there and find which ones they like. Today, though, will be an exception. First up, here’s friend of the blog Heath from Dempsey’s Army:

“I was reading a post by blog-buddy frostking over at Camden Crazies about Matt Wieters and how he has underwhelmed thus far, especially with the bat. It’s worth reading and he makes some good observations about the cause of some of these trouble. However, he misses on a couple things that I will point out here. First, on Wieter’s patience at the plate: I don’t know if he’s just over-anxious or has some issues with pitch recognition…but until he takes a more patient approach at the plate I don’t think we’ll see quite the hitter we expected. Well, the walks aren’t there and (as frostking’s data seems to indicate) Wieters is chasing ball outside of the zone. But he’s not impatient. Pitches per Plate Appearance for Baltimore Orioles:

           P/PA
Wieters 4.1
Reimold 4.0
ZAUN 4.0
Roberts 4.0
Salazar 3.9

Wieters is being as patient as Oriole at the plate, he’s just having issues with pitch recognition. And why is that? I have a theory. Matt Wieters Left/Right Splits:

                 PA   AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS
Wieters vs RHP 80 .316 .350 .461 .821
Wieters vs LHP 69 .222 .290 .302 .611

Wieters is struggling against lefties in the majors and has been done no favors as Baltimore has been facing an unprecedented number of LHP’s since Wieters arrival. A whopping 46% of Wieters’ plate appearances have been against lefthanded pitching. By comparison, Brian Roberts has only faced lefties 34% of the time. Facing this much lefthanded pitching just doesn’t happen over the course of a season. So Wieters has had to make the toughest transition in sports against the best lefthanded pitchers in the world and only faced lefties 28% of the time during his entire (albeit brief) minor league career. Is it any wonder he has struggled? He’s barely seen any professional lefthanded hurlers before May.”

So I responded with a comment saying that (1) the thing about lefties was a great point and that given his lack of success against cutters and change-ups (as mentioned in my original post) – pitches that he may be more likely to see from lefties – that might explain a lot of what’s going on, and (2) the pitches per plate appearance, in my opinion, isn’t the greatest measure of patience since a batter could see 4 P/PA in multiple ways – swinging at 4 pitches with a foul & three misses (denoting worse patience) or, at the other extreme, taking four balls (denoting better patience). Since Wieters is swinging more than I’d like, I think he’s a little closer to the former than the latter, but he picked things up in yesterday’s game – he grounded out on a first pitch, and singled on a 1-1 pitch (called strike), a 2-1 pitch (called strike), a 2-0 pitch, and a 2-2 pitch (a called strike and a couple foul balls). That’s the kind of patience I was talking about, and the results were good. So yeah, me and Heath disagreed a little there, but those are the kinds of discussions that make blogs better. If you’re an O’s fan, you should be reading Dempsey’s Army daily. —————————————————————————————- Next up we move to another participant in last night’s O’s-Royals game: Brian Bannister.  Banny become a favorite of many baseball people last year after doing an interview with MLBTradeRumors in which he discussed sabermetric concepts like Batting Average on Balls In Play. That knowledge didn’t seem to help him much, as Banny put up a 5.76 ERA (5.03 FIP) after his “break-out” 2007 season (3.87 ERA, 4.40 FIP).  Instead of abandoning statistics, Banny reworked his approach again.  He talks about it in an interview (with Sports Radio 810 WHB) that Harry Pavlidis of The Hardball Times summarizes thusly:

  • Stopped relying on a rising four-seam fastball since the side effect of trying for more strike outs was a high flyball rate
  • Went to a cutter that that moves like a Derek Lowe fastball in terms of rise and gets more grounders
  • Throws a power change than sinks like Brandon Webb‘s fastball; grip is from James Shields
  • Was discouraged from featuring a cutter due to the lack of righties who rely on cutters in big league rotations
  • Figured his cutter was fast enough, just a “couple” mph less than his fastball
  • No longer watches video or reads scouting reports; believes in the law of averages (a good sinker will be hit on the ground by anyone)
  • Knows an ERA+ around 100 and 180 innings a year equals a pitcher with value to big league teams

Bannisters groundball rate has risen from the 38-41% range to about 50%, and that’s helped him keep the ball in the yard more while maintaining his strike-out rate and having only a slight increase in walks.  The result? A 3.80 ERA backed up by a 4.14 FIP, and the knowledge that if further adjustments are needing for him to stay successful he’s both willing and able to use every tool at his disposal to make them. ————————————————————————————– Finally, in a completely different direction is this interesting post from Sky Andrecheck at The Baseball Analysts about changing the rules so that a walk requires only three balls and a strike-out only requires two strikes (like in many informal softball leagues, though that isn’t used in the argument). He compared batters’ overall numbers to their stats after a 1-1 count (as a proxy, since at that point it takes 2 strikes for a K or 3 balls for a walk) and they came out to be very similar. So why do it?

“The advantages of the reduction in the number of balls and strikes required for a walk or a strikeout respectively is obvious. Less downtime and more action. The rule change would force pitchers and batters to get down to business sooner. The pitch data indicates that the batter and pitcher are nibbling and being selective early in the count (with good reason), and the fact that the hitter outcomes are basically the same with a 1-1 count indicates that there is no fundamental reason for such a long count. With three balls to a walk and two strikes to an out, a fair amount of the fat would be cut out of the game. Currently, there are 3.77 pitches per plate appearance. With the reduced count, this number would decrease to just 2.81 pitches per plate appearance. This would cause a 25% reduction in pitches, meaning that the games would be much shorter and pitchers would be able to go much deeper into games. Instead of the average game taking 146 pitches to complete, the average game would take just 109 pitches, meaning that pitchers could once again consistently throw a complete game – another aesthetic plus (from my point of view). Of course, since the best pitchers could now pitch longer, this would likely reduce scoring even a bit more than the table above, but it’s not clear by just how much. Game lengths, if they were reduced by the same percentage, would be cut from 2 hours 47 minutes down to 2 hours 6 minutes – all while keeping basically the same amount of action and excitement in the game. If the rule were truly adopted, it might be wise to couple it with an advantage for the hitter, such as a lowering of the mound, to limit the increase in the strikeouts and keep run scoring more similar to the current levels. Still, even if no such rules were adopted, the run scoring environment would likely be similar to that of many other eras in baseball history.”

It’ll probably never happen, but it is a very neat idea. ————————————————————————————— And of course I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Mark Buehrle tying the major league record by retiring 45 consecutive batters (27 of them in his perfect game).  No link, but you can read about that at all kinds of place.  Congratulations to Buehrle on that.