The modern-day swing is all about bat speed (and launch angles!), borne out of strong hitters and maximum weight transfer. Today’s hitters generally start with some type of load mechanism, with their weight shifting back. Then, in a sudden shift of power, everything goes forward in violent yet controlled fury.
A hitter’s back leg is there to support that initial load and to provide something to pivot against, but by the time a hitter makes contact, it’s really just there for the ride. Here’s Mike Trout‘s first career home run (from hitting analyst Ryan Parker):
While searching deep in the bowels of the internet on Sunday night for a Trevor Cahill article, I found some interesting nuggets on Luis Perdomo.
(Note: Most of these numbers don’t include last night’s start.)
Interesting nugget No. 1: Perdomo has gotten a 71 percent groundball/BIP on his sinker, ninth in the league among pitchers with at least 50 sinkers thrown.
This probably isn’t a huge surprise given Perdomo’s well-documented groundball ways, but it’s a six percentage point improvement over last season, and it’s led to a league-leading 68 percent groundball rate overall this year. Part of Perdomo’s success involves him keeping the ball on the ground, and his home run rate is significantly improved over last season.
At the Pub, you might sit down and be unable to decide on a pint to drink, or want to try a variety of beers without committing to any of them. You’ll order a sampler, 4 beers served in smaller portions. This is that, in blog form.
Leave The Dong, Take The Cannoli
The San Diego Padres are bad, as expected, and currently hold the worst record in all of Major League Baseball. The Padres have a bad offense, as could have also been expected due to a lineup filled with mostly young players and castoffs, and currently rank 28th in wRC+, 28th in wOBA, and 30th in offensive fWAR, at -0.2, meaning the Padres offense, as a whole, is below replacement level. The Padres, however, are decidedly un-bad at one thing: mashing taters.
The Padres rank tied for 5th in MLB at crushing dongs, having hit 51 home runs through 39 games. That’s 1.3 per game. They are currently on pace for over 200 big flies this season, which would smash the previous team record of 172, set all the way back in 1970, the team’s 2nd year in the league. Wil Myers has 10 blasts. Ryan Schimpf has 9 dingers. Austin Hedges, surprisingly, has 8 very handsome round-trippers. Erick Aybar, the new Alexi Amarista, has 4, and rule 5 hanger-on Allen Cordoba (more on him later) has 3, which must have been particularly soul-crushing for the opposing pitchers. Among those listed, only Myers, the star, and Cordoba, in very limited exposure, have been above-average offensive players.
I didn’t catch Trevor Cahill‘s start on Saturday night because I was in Boston watching another ace named Chris Sale. I came away from that experience convinced that the key to solving baseball’s pace-of-play problem is to clone about 50 or so Sales, although that would immediately prompt a new run-scoring problem (and, perhaps, cross some ethical boundaries). Back to the subject at hand . . .
Cahill didn’t have his best start against the White Sox, but he still managed seven strikeouts and a lone walk on the road in a hitter-friendly ballpark in the league with the DH. When even your bad starts look pretty darned good, you know you’re getting somewhere. We’re a month and a half into the season—or 41 1/3 innings in Cahill Time—so I figured it’d be a good time to check in on where Cahill stands in the majors in a variety of pitching categories (among starting pitchers). Let’s get right to it.
13. Lance McCullers, 2.02
14. Trevor Cahill, 2.07
15. Madison Bumgarner, 2.11
Brief stat description: Deserved Run Average, from Baseball Prospectus, is probably the best catch-all pitching stat going these days, a tremendously ambitious attempt to isolate pitcher performance as best as humanely possible.
Distance to leader: 1.01. Whoops, here’s that Sale guy again. He currently has a 1.06 DRA, which is 50 points better than Craig Kimbrel‘s best full season. I know it’s not fair to put anyone on Clayton Kershaw‘s level, but Sale is pushing the envelope. He is, quite simply, shredding it in a Red Sox uniform.
As for Cahill, this number, by itself, goes a long way toward validating just how good he’s been so far this year. You don’t put up the 14th-best DRA in the majors with smoke and mirrors.
I don’t know about you, but I’m always amazed how often hitters miss good, hittable pitches, either fouling them off or swinging right through them. Of course, there are good reasons why this happens. Hitting is hard, for one. The hitter is always having to guess and/or react to a spinning baseball arriving in an unreasonable amount of time, and the pitcher is always in the driver’s seat, calling the shots.
Say, for example, it’s a 2–2 count and, in the back of his mind, the hitter is thinking slider. Instead he gets a fastball, at 93, right down the middle, but he fouls it back to the screen, just late. It looks like something to crush, but given the context of the situation, the pitcher’s tendencies and the hitter’s expectations, it turns out to be a tough pitch to handle. Consider, further, the first pitch hanging curve ball. It looks squarely like a meatball the whole way, but the hitter’s likely sitting fastball, and the speed and trajectory of the pitch throw him off enough to result in an awkward cut and whiff, or no swing at all.
There are other pitches, though, pitches that are too fat; pitches that define the very nature of the meatball. In a 3–1 count to Mike Napoli, tied 2–2 in the ninth, Brandon Maurer delivered one of those pitches last night:
Before we get to Ron Fowler’s comments, let’s briefly discuss Jered Weaver‘s start to 2017. It’s been bad.
Weaver seems like a really good guy, with a sort of self-effacing sense of humor and candor that doesn’t often show in athletes, specifically when they’re down on their luck. But he’s been really bad. I’m not sure why anyone is particularly surprised by it, though, and maybe they aren’t. Last year Weaver posted a 7.50 DRA, worst in the whole darn league, and a full run worse than James freakin’ Shields. By Baseball Prospectus’ WARP calculation, he was worth negative (read: negative) 4.4 wins, a level of ineptitude rarely broached by WAR-based metrics.
Along with declining numbers across the board, Weaver’s fastball velocity has been in a much-publicized nosedive, dropping from the high 80s/low 90s a few years ago all the way down to the low-to-mid 80s now. There’s a good shot Joe Righthander, down at the local D3 Juco, throws harder than the 34-year-old Weaver does right now.
There was a very small chance that Weaver was going to be good this year, and slightly larger chance that he’d be okay, and a good chance he’d stink. I’m still convinced that the Padres signed him in part because he’s a good dude and in part because he wouldn’t impede the tank. And maybe, just maybe, he’d eat some innings and turn out to have a hint of trade value by July. But I’d be surprised if anyone in the baseball operations department had high expectations, given what we know about Weaver’s declining ability to get major-league hitters out.
The Padres lost 11–0 to the Rangers on Tuesday, and Joey Gallo‘s third-inning home run off Jered Weaver skimmed the underside of one of Big Brother’s satellites. On a another note . . .
The other day I wrote about how the Padres might handle international amateur free agency over the next few years, unable to sign any players for more than $300,000. Then MadFriars, over on Reddit, made an interesting point that I’d overlooked. In their words:
Players from Mexico are generally signed directly from Mexican League teams, and so those teams require a rights fee for letting one of their players go to a major-league club. According to an older article by Ben Badler, only the portion paid to the player is considered as the actual signing bonus. So, as MadFriars notes, it’d be possible for the Padres to sign an international amateur from Mexico for somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.2 million, with $900,000 going to the Mexican League team and the other $300,000 to the player. Badler confirmed as much yesterday.
This is, to say the least, an interesting development, since we thought that the Padres would be limited to $300,000-and-under talent for two years.
Last Wednesday, in an excellent post as is his tradition, Dustin noted Trevor Cahill is finding success this year using a higher mix of breaking pitches. Meanwhile, Brad Hand seemed to throw lots of wrinkles during last night’s Padres win over the Texas Rangers. Plus, with former Padre Drew Pomeranz‘s increased breaking ball usage in mind, I couldn’t help but wonder whether all the breaking pitches out of Brad’s Hand* indicate another piece in the pattern of Padres pitchers’ performance improving significantly after joining the team. Hand has been excellent again this year, rocking a 3.11 FIP and a 2.60 Deserved Run Average in 17 IP.
Lucky for us, lots of this information is recorded on the Internet, so let’s take a look! Via Fangraphs and pitch/fx (not including last night):
Once June 15 hits, the current international amateur signing period will be over. The Padres will have spent somewhere in the neighborhood of $80 million, penalties included, and possibly much more if they make one final splash and ink Cuban star Luis Robert.
Robert or not, it’s been a historic run for an organization not necessarily known for shelling out the dollars. In their perfectly timed international spending frenzy, the Padres bolstered every part of their farm system, adding high upside arms like Adrian Morejon and a slew of young position players, highlighted by shortstops Luis Almanzar and Gabriel Arias, and outfielder Jorge Ona.
But what comes next?
Since the Padres blew past their $3.3 million signing bonus pool for the 2016-2017 J-2 signing period, they can’t spend more than $300,000 on a single international amateur player until 2019. In other words, all of the high-profile Dominican and Venezuelan players available to sign this July 2 are off limits, not to mention any major Cuban amateurs (i.e., players under age 25) that leave the island over the next two years.
Pitch framing has lost a bit of its luster of the last few years, simply because everyone knows about it. Whereas a few years ago it was the latest and greatest development in sabermetric thinking, now seemingly every team has a good framing catcher or three. Just as notably, the really bad framers—the Ryan Doumits of the world—have mostly disappeared, either forced out of the game or forced to improve at their craft.
But don’t tell Hector Sanchez.
Here’s the strike zone plot versus left-handed hitters that I pulled from last night’s game around the time Sanchez left after taking a foul ball off the foot:
Look at those green squares. There are three of them clearly in the rule book strike zone and another couple safely in the area generally called a strike. Part of that’s on the umpire, sure, and part of it’s maybe just small sample whatever. But we already know that Sanchez is not a particularly good framer. Last year, by Baseball Prospectus’ framing metric, Sanchez had the second-worst CSAA (-0.032) in all of baseball among catchers with at least 500 chances, ahead of only then-Reds catcher Ramon Cabrera. That was Sanchez’s worst year by the numbers, but he’s always rated as a well below average framer since debuting with the Giants back in 2011.