Skip to content

Twins @ Sox Series Preview


I have nothing good to say about the Baltimore series thus far. Split, dang it. Split!

This Twins-Sox series just might have some playoff implications. And I am a little afraid. The Twins are a really good at baseball and probably should be way ahead in this division.  Getting to the nerdery, according to BaseRuns — a run estimator that gives us the number of runs a team “should” have scored given their component statistics — the Twins should have a .593 winning percentage. The White Sox “should” have .539 winning percentage.  The White Sox have benefited from an easy schedule and have benefited on some luck on both sides of the ball  – pitching and hitting.

Now to enter into trained monkey mode and pass along some stats I collected on the interwebs for your perusal.

Read more…


Graphical looks at Jackson’s fastball effectiveness, or lack thereof


According to FanGraphs, Edwin Jackson throws his fastball 62.2% of the time at an average speed of 94 miles per hour. That’s pretty fast. In fact, only Ubaldo Jimenez, Justin Verlander, Josh Johnson and David Price throw harder on average among MLB starters. The strange thing is that over the past three calendar years, Jackson’s heater has cost him 34 runs according to FanGraphs pitch type values. Only the Pirates soft-tossing slop-baller Zach Duke has had worse results with his fastball.

Why this is, I don’t know for sure, but unlike most pitchers, velocity hasn’t corresponded with effectiveness for E-Jax. This is his run values per 100 pitches against his velocity. Negative values here are good, they mean runs saved per 100 pitches. High values are bad. (Big thanks to Steve Sommer for helping me graph this mess.)

Weird. Unlike most pitchers, slower is better. Steve Sommer or Dave Allen I am not when it comes to pitch f/x, so I’m just guessing that the higher run values for the faster stuff is could be a result of him forfeiting control to gain velocity, and the trade off isn’t paying off, not unless he’s pushing 100 MPH. Being “effectively wild” isn’t E-Jax’s bag.

And now for his location –

I couldn’t put a line in for vertical location to break up the strike zone, but between -1 and 1 is the strike zone.

We learn a couple things from the graph. The second graphs shows us that Jackson is a big Weezer fan. We also learn that as in the case with most pitchers, Jackson is more effective when he’s painting corners.

Jackson gets hurt when he tries to go too high in the strike zone, but he’s good when he’s getting pitches over in the lower half of the zone. No big surprises there.

Answers? You wanted answers?!?! I give you nifty graphs, not answers. I have a guess, and I’m going out on a limb here – Jackson doesn’t have the best control of his fastball. He has a great slider and he throws a change-up occasionally, but he’s been mostly a two-pitch pitcher without a real change of pace. Don Cooper seemed to help on that issue right away, Jackson threw 1/4 change-ups in his ChiSox debut against the Tigers and pitched a great game. Maybe that’s all he’s ever really needed to do: change speeds more often.

Backing Bobby


Thursday afternoon Bobby Jenks blew another save. That means it is time to scream, yell, make fat jokes and demand the big man’s job be given to a more deserving candidate. Who is that deserving candidate? Anyone but Jenks, right?

To figure out this mess, we’ll need some help. Help cometh via Sky Kalkman, who inspired by Tom Tango, has done some interesting research on what relievers deserve higher leveraged innings based on their FIP. Here’s a nifty graph Sky put together to give us some visualization in getting the answer to this question.

You can see this from the graph, but to explain a bit – deLI is Deserved Leverage Index. The typical closer pitches in an average of 1.8 LI. Somewhere between a 2.80-2.85 FIP is what you want to get out of your closer. 3.40 is about what you’d like to see out of your set-up reliever. A 3.75 FIP would be you’re guy who would be next in line behind you’re set-up man, 4.10 would be the guy who would pitch in average leverage situations, 4.50 would be your long relievers. You get the idea.

Now let’s head on over to FanGraphs and get our FIP info –

Bobby Jenks 5.13 2.82 2.32 2.56
J.J. Putz 1.79 2.12 -0.34 2.63
Matt Thornton 2.36 1.97 0.39 2.70
Sergio Santos 1.53 2.75 -1.22 3.94
Scott Linebrink 4.21 4.85 -0.64 4.26
Tony Pena 4.88 4.92 -0.04 4.73
Randy Williams 5.40 5.27 0.13 5.93

I sorted by xFIP instead of FIP because one day Sergio Santos will allow a homerun. Really, the bullpen on HR/FB lucky (0.73, the 4th best mark in baseball) considering their home ballpark.

Getting to the good stuff – First off, the Sox have one darn good bullpen. They have four deserving candidates judging by their FIP, including our problem child. I mentioned that Santos will eventually give up a HR. Going by xFIP, we’d take him out of the running for the closer job, but Putz, Thornton and wait for it — Jenks are all deserving of the job. Santos is good, but he’s been walking a few too many batters and his HR/FB rate will normalize eventually.

If Guillen wants to use recent performance or closer experience as the tie-breaker, I have no problem with that. Give Putz the job in that case. There’s nothing wrong with giving Thornton the job, either. Jenks is fine too, he’s just been the victim of some sort of hate crime from the baseball gods. Opponents have a ridiculous .386 BABIP against Jenks and as a result his strand rate is just 62.7%. His xFIP is the best it’s ever been over the course of his entire major league career. Read that last sentence again.

Take heart, Bobby Jenks. This too shall pass.

So you wanna use rest of season projections to sort this out? –

  • Jenks – 3.54 FIP
  • Thornton – 3.21
  • Putz – 2.93

Edge goes to Putz.

Leave Heavy B alone, lunatic fans.  He’ll be fine. Some call it the yips, I think I’ll call it bad luck. I don’t think it matters much who is in what role so long as these four very talented relievers keep getting the important innings late in the game.  Putz is his logical heir, but this isn’t worth all the fretting that’s happening.

Balloon busting


Why the Sox aren’t really as good as their record indicates, via Justin at Beyond the Boxscore:

The ChiSox didn’t move a lot this week in the rankings, but they currently do sit atop the actual AL Central despite trailing the Twins significantly in the power rankings. Why the disparity?

White Sox fans would be quick to point out that their actual winning percentage (.566) is very close to their Pythagorean record (.557). However, our estimated component winning percentage is substantially lower, at .522. What gives? …

So what we have here is a modest bit of overproduction on both offense and pitching/fielding, which adds up to a fairly big gap between actual vs. expected team performance. On top of all of that, the White Sox also have had a fairly weak schedule: we estimate their average opponent cW% at .487, which is the third easiest in the AL. Adjusting for this weaker competition pulls their cW% down from .522 to just .502. As a result, despite leading the AL Central in reality, we rank them as being significantly behind the second place Minnesota Twins.

I snipped out the best pieces; it’s worth reading the whole thing, but you get the gist. The offense has scratched out a few more runs than they probably should have, and the pitching has had some good luck with HR/FB, especially considering their home park. They’ve beat up on an easy schedule, and things don’t appear to be getting much harder. They play three at home against the Yankees, seven games with the Red Sox, nine with the Twins (gulp), and three against the Angels. That’s the hard part. They play 13 more with Detroit and their crummy pitching staff, and then there is 7 games with Baltimore, 6 with KC and 6 with Cleveland, and 3 with Oakland.

I feel sort of like Jon Lovitz on the Wedding Singer.

"He’s losing his mind, and I’m reaping all the benefits."

The trouble is once the Twins regress to the mean they could surge ahead in this thing. Their schedule is tougher than the Sox’s, so this could spell another crazy finish in the central again.

Sox-Related Linkage


Thanks to Jeremy Greenhouse, I learned today that Edwin Jackson only gets stronger as the game goes on. His fastball speed actually goes up throughout the course of a game.

Over at the FanGraphs community blog, Gavin Floyd is used as case study that xFIP works. “Good Gavin” or “Evil Gavin” doesn’t exist according to xFIP.

Chris Sale has been called up. Excitement! Promise! Hype! Here’s some video via BA and a detailed scouting report from Baseball Daily Digest.

Graph – Dayan’s Plate Discipline


Mea culpa: Something got screwed up in my original graph that showed Viciedo only taking four balls this season. I should have noticed the gaffe from the get-go. Thank you readers for the comments pointing out the mistake. I will now hide my face in shame. 😦

After a disappointing 2009 season, Dayan Viciedo is living up to the hype. He hit for a respectable .369 wOBA for Triple-A Charlotte before the injury to Mark Teahen forced him up to the Southside. He now is the owner of a .357 wOBA. His performance to date is helping to overcome the Dayan doubters. But not all of them. It’s reasonable to be skeptical of any player with a 0.0% walk rate. That’s right, Viciedo hasn’t drawn a free pass yet, but at least so far he’s found success with a hacktastic approach. Whether or not he can keep it up is yet to be seen.

Small sample caveats apply, but here is a plot of what Viciedo is doing with balls thrown outside of the strikezone.

That’s some free-swinging! Viciedo has seen 101 pitches out of the zone, he’s swung at 43 of them. Of those 43 pitches, he’s come up empty 12 times.

The good news is Viciedo isn’t striking out a lot, either, (just 12.1% of his plate appearances) but you would like to see the big man have a bit of a more discerning eye. The Tank is probably not going to be the Cuban version of the Kung-Fu Panda. It’s fun watching Viciedo turn pitches out of the zone into line drives, but you wonder how he’ll adjust when the opposition adjusts.

How E-Jax Likes to Mix


In lieu of one long pitch f/x analysis of Edwin Jackson, I’m just going to break it into bits and pieces. First, let’s let’s look at how he mixes his pitches in different ball/strike counts. These are split out by batter handedness. This is based off of data from the beginning of last season up until now.

To give you a frame of reference, total E-Jax throws his 94 MPH fastball 63.7% of the time. He throws his slider 24.1% of the time.  He throws a change-up 8.4% and a curve 3.9%.

Like most pitchers, Jackson likes to start things off with a fastball, but he’s not afraid to start batters off with his best pitch, the slider. Jackson will employ the slider often when he’s ahead to put the batter away, but once he’s behind, batters can bet on seeing a fastball, with the exception of a 3-2 count. Despite having 94 MPH heater, Jackson has always had crazy negative run numbers in his pitch type values. I hope that I can figure out why that is, but predictability might have something to do with it.

Sliders have high platoon splits, so Jackson moves away from his slider a bit more and throws a few more change-ups to offset lefties, but not by much. It should be noted that four-seam fastballs have high splits, too. Jackson will still throw a lot of sliders in favorable counts. It’s interesting that in strikeout counts he relies so little on the change-up. He’ll throw a change-up in 0-0, 1-1 or 2-1 counts but in 1-2 and 2-2 counts he’ll throw a fastball or his slider. He gets plenty of whiffs with the slider regardless of what side of the plate the batter is hitting from. When Jackson gets to 3 balls, pretty much regardless of the count, he’s going to go to the fastball when facing a lefty.

Jackson doesn’t have crazy platoon splits in spite of his fastball/slider happy ways, but I think he could definitely benefit from adding a cutter. He’s come to a good team for learning the cut-fastball, if he’s willing to listen and experiment.