Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pitching forecast: Kluber, Scherzer solid; Colon, Tanaka should improve; beware King Felix, Arrieta

It's fitting that I'm resuming this blog where I left off three years ago. This is a rundown on pitchers likely to have better results during the latter two-thirds or so of this season than they did in the first two months.
The first thing that struck me from the previous post was that at that point in the 2015 season, 109 pitchers had thrown enough innings (one per team game) to be on pace to qualify for the ERA title. Just three years later, the number of would-be qualifiers is down to 91 -- a 17 per cent decrease and fewer than three starters per team.
I attribute that decrease to the moronic way pitching staffs are handled these days. Starters are groomed to pitch five or six innings and "keep the team in the game." And far be it from a reliever to work more than one inning. I'll be writing more about that philosophy.
That trend had its roots 20 years or so ago, but its impact seems to be accelerating.
My method uses two simple statistics, opponents' batting average (which I call Hittability) and strikeout/walk ratio (Strikeability).
The eligible starters are broken down into four more-or-less-equal quartiles in each category. Those in the top quartile get 1 point, those in the bottom get 4. The best pitchers are in Quartile 1 in each category, so their total score would be 1+1=2. Those in both bottom quartiles would score 4+4=8. The average score would be 5. Those scoring 3 and 4 would be above average, and those at 6 or 7 would be below average, possibly clinging to their jobs.
My reasoning is that the batting average and K/W ratio measure pitchers' efficiency, and over the course of a season the results in terms of won-lost records and ERA, for example, the cream would rise to the top.
Moving up
Pitchers I expect to win more often over the remainder of this season: Bartolo Colon (really!), Alex Wood, Jameson Taillon, Cole Hamels, Tanner Roark, Kyle Gibson and Matthew Boyd. Masahiro Tanaka's ERA should be a run or so lower going forward.
Going down
On the other end, there are pitchers who somehow have won games without pitching very well. Expect more losses than wins for Marco Gonzales, Felix Hernandez, Jose Quintana and Chris Stratton. And a decline in strikeouts seems to be foreshadowing an upward spike in Jake Arrieta's ERA.
The cream of the crop
10 pitchers in the top quartile in Hittability (.152-.214 OBA) and Strikeability (4.11-8.80 K/W ratio):
Corey Kluber, Indians
Max Scherzer, Nationals
Justin Verlander, Astros
Gerrit Cole, Astros
Jose Berrios, Twins
Chris Sale, Red Sox
Patrick Corbin, Diamondbacks
Luis Severino, Yankees
Jacob deGrom, Mets
Aaron Nola, Phillies
You want those guys on your fantasy teams.
Avoid at any cost
The eight pitchers in the bottom quartile in Hittability (.257-.313 OBA) and Strikeability (1.35-2.14 K/W):
Tyler Anderson, Rockies
Zach Godley, Diamondbacks
Andrew Cashner, Orioles
Danny Duffy, Royals
Homer Bailey, Reds
Sal "Mad Men" Romano, Reds
Lance Lynn, Twins
Ty Blach, Giants
In Hittability, the second quartile pitchers allowed opponents an average between .220 and .238, and the third quartile was from .241 to .255.
The second quartile in Strikeability included pitchers with K/W ratios between 2.74 and 4.00, and the third quartile ranged from 2.18 to 2.73.
The remainder of the pitchers included:
(1 in Hittability and 2 in Strikeability)
Zach Greinke, Diamondbacks
Miles Mikolas, Cardinals -- a surprising player to watch
Daniel Mengden, Athletics
Bartolo Colon, Rangers
Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
J.A. Happ, Blue Jays
Nick Pivetta, Phillies
(2 and 1)
Sean Manaea, Athletics
Charlie Morton, Astros
James Paxton, Mariners
Blake Snell, Rays
Trevor Bauer, Indians
(1 and 3)
Noah Syndergaard, Mets
Alex Wood, Dodgers
Rick Porcello, Red Sox
(2 and 2)
Jakob Junis, Royals
Kyle Hendricks, Cubs
Masahiro Tanaka, Yankees
Eduardo Rodriguez, Red Sox
Jameson Taillon, Pirates
Cole Hamels, Rangers
(3 and 1)
Mike Foltynewicz, Braves
Caleb Smith, Marlins
Tanner Roark, Nationals
Kyle Gibson, Twins
Garrett Richards, Angels
Mike Wacha, Cardinals
Matthew Boyd, Tigers
(1 and 4)
Ivan Nova, Pirates
Dylan Bundy, Orioles
(2 and 3)
Carlos Carrasco, Indians
Vincent Velasquez, Phillies
Jose Urena, Marlins
Tyler Skaggs, Angels
Dallas Keuchel, Astros
Luke Weaver, Cardinals
(3 and 2)
Lance McCullers, Astros
Kyle Freeland, Rockies
David Price, Red Sox
Jon Lester, Cubs
(4 and 1)
Sean Newcomb, Braves
(2 and 4)
Jhoulys Chacin, Brewers
Julio Teheran, Braves
Chase Anderson, Brewers
James Shields, White Sox
Reynaldo Lopez, White Sox
(3 and 3)
Tyson Ross, Padres
Gio Gonzalez, Nationals
Chad Kuhl, Pirates
Mike Clevinger, Indians
Clayton Richard, Padres
Jake Odorizzi, Twins
Jake Arrieta, Phillies
(4 and 2)
Kevin Gausman, Orioles
Jon Gray, Rockies
Brent Suter, Brewers
Marco Gonzales, Mariners
Mike Leake, Mariners
Chris Archer, Rays
Brandon McCarthy, Braves
(3 and 4)
Felix Hernandez, Mariners
Chad Bettis, Rockies
Trevor Williams, Pirates
Derek Holland, Giants
Michael Fulmer, Tigers
Jose Quintana, Cubs
Chris Stratton, Giants
Aaron Sanchez, Blue Jays
(4 and 3)
Ian Kennedy, Royals
Tyler Mahle, Reds
Luis Castillo, Reds
Jason Hammel, Royals
German Marquez, Rockies

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Hittability and Strikeability rankings, and what those could mean

This post is primarily a list. It includes the rankings of the 109 pitchers who, as of the Memorial Day weekend, were on a pace to qualify for the ERA title.
The pitchers are divided into four relatively equal groups, or quartiles, in each of two statistics. Those measures are opponents' batting average (Hittability, or Hit) and strikeout:walk ratio (Strikeability, or Strike). The pitchers are assigned a number from 1 (top quartile) to 4 (bottom quartile). Those numbers are added for the total rating.
Thus, the best overall rating is 2 (1 in Hit plus 1 in Strike equals 2), and the worst is 8 (4+4=8).
The lists follow.
Above average
(1 Hit, 1 Strike)
Jason Hammel
Max Scherzer
Matt Harvey
Johnny Cueto
Jake Odorizzi
Felix Hernandez
Zack Greinke
(1 Hit, 2 Strike)
Madison Bumgarner
James Shields
Clayton Kershaw
Gerrit Cole
Jake Arrieta
Jacob deGrom
Rubby De La Rosa
(2 Hit, 1 Strike)
Chris Archer
Aaron Harang
Ubaldo Jimenez
Aaron Sanchez
Sonny Gray
Cole Hamels
(1 Hit, 3 Strike)
Bartolo Colon
Michael Pineda
Corey Kluber
Danny Salazar
Carlos Carrasco
Matt Shoemaker
Collin McHugh
David Price
Kyle Hendricks
Jeff Samardzija
(2 Hit, 2 Strike)
Chris Sale
Dan Haren
J.A. Happ
Colby Lewis
A.J. Burnett
(3 Hit, 1 Strike)
Wei-Yin Chen
Shelby Miller
Chase Anderson
Michael Wacha
Francisco Liriano
Jimmy Nelson
Trevor Bauer
Dallas Keuchel
Miguel Gonzalez

(1 Hit, 4 Strike)
Phil Hughes
Trevor May
C.C. Sabathia
(2 Hit, 3 Strike)
Clay Buchholz
Andrew Cashner
Lance Lynn
Kyle Lohse
Jon Lester
Jordan Zimmermann
Jered Weaver
Chris Heston
Jose Quintana
Rick Porcello
(3 Hit, 2 Strike)
C.J. Wilson
Scott Kazmir
John Lackey
Alfredo Simon
Shane Greene
Joe Kelly
Carlos Martinez
Tyson Ross
(4 Hit, 1 Strike)
Hector Santiago
Nathan Karns
Edinson Volquez
Garrett Richards
Anthony DeSclafani
Tim Lincecum

Below average
(2 Hit, 4 Strike)
Josh Collmenter
Stephen Strasburg
Brett Anderson
Mike Fiers
Scott Feldman
Nathan Eovaldi
(3 Hit, 3 Strike)
Yordano Ventura
Yovani Gallardo
(4 Hit, 2 Strike)
Tom Koehler
James Paxton
Nick Martinez
Mike Leake
Ryan Vogelsong
R.A. Dickey
Anibal Sanchez
(3 Hit, 4 Strike)
Drew Hutchison
Wily Peralta
Julio Teheran
Gio Gonzalez
Jerome Williams
Eric Stults
Jeff Locke
Jon Niese
(4 Hit, 3 Strike)
John Danks
Roberto Hernandez
Matt Garza
Adam Warren
Mike Pelfrey
Kyle Gibson
(4 Hit, 4 Strike)
Jeremy Hellickson
Alex Wood
Mark Buehrle
Tim Hudson
Kyle Kendrick
Jordan Lyles
Jeremy Guthrie
Chris Tillman
Kyle Lobstein
If you look closely at individual pitchers on the list, you can get some idea why some of them are doing well this season or why they aren't.
For example, look at C.C. Sabathia on the list of average pitchers rated 5. Why is he just an average pitcher, when he once was one of the majors' best. It's right there in his rankings. He's still difficult to hit, still in the first quartile. But he's in the 4 (bottom) group in Strikeability. That can mean he's having control problems, but it also could indicate that he's no longer able to put batters away by striking them out.
A note on Jeremy Guthrie: He ranked this badly even before giving up 11 runs in a start against the Yankees.
Also, I was listening on Sirius XM radio to a Twins game started by Kyle Gibson. During the pregame show, Minnesota's announcers were going on about his ERA and the wins he'd provided. I was thinking, without being able to look at my rankings, that he was pretty low in the Hittability/Strikeability combo. You'll see him on the 7 list. That portends struggles for him during the remainder of the season. Struggles the team's broadcasters never saw coming.
I'll have another post about what the collective individual rankings might mean in the pennant races. And this weekend, I intend to come up with similar rankings for batters, and what those might mean for them and their team.

Pitchers you should pick up, others you should avoid

Every year on the Memorial Day weekend, I study which pitchers are likely to improve their results based on two metrics that show how well they have been pitching. At the same time, I come up with a list of pitchers whose performance is likely to fall off during the final two-thirds of the season.
Some of the pithcers on the way up are pretty obvious. Clayton Kershaw and Corey Kluber weren't winning early. But they are Cy Young Award winners. And the metrics I use -- opponents' batting average, or Hittability, and strikeout:walk ratio, or Strikeability -- showed that both were pitching well during April and May.
In the study, I included the 109 pitchers who at that point were on a pace to qualify for the ERA title (1 inning per team game). I compared their Hittability and Strikeability ratings with their standing in strikeouts and wins. Pitchers ranking high in combined Hittability and Strikeability but low in the counting stats are likely to be rewarded with better results going forward.
Others on the good list are Jimmy Nelson, Wei-Yin Chen, Francisco Liriano, Aaron Sanchez, Chase Anderson and Michael Wacha.
If any of those pitchers are a product of a small sample size or luck, rather than talent, I'd suggest Nelson, Anderson and possibly Sanchez. The others all have a track record.
There are just two pitchers I would expect to fall this season. Usually, there are seven or eight pitchers, sometimes even more on the bad list. This year's players due for a fall are Mark Buehrle and Mike Fiers.  Buehrle was easy to see coming. In recent years, he has started fast and finished poorly. I remember telling someone it was OK to draft him, but he should be traded by midseason or the first sign that he was faltering.
In my rankings, I divide players into four groups as equal as possible, based on where they stand in each category. Buehrle began the year as one of the majors' biggest winners, even though he ranked in the bottom quarter in both Hittability and Strikeability. That made him not only an obvious candidate to fade, but also one of nine pitchers who should be replaced in the rotation as soon as someone better could be found.
There are seven pitchers in the top one-fourth in both Hittability and Strikeability. They are also good bets for success between now and October: Jason Hammel, Max Scherzer (another Cy Young Award winner), Matt Harvey, Johnny Cueto, Jake Odorizzi, Felix Hernandez (Cy!) and Zack Greinke. The biggest surprises on that list are Hammel and Odorizzi, who is one of the reasons why the Rays still are contending in the American League East.
They are players you should seek to acquire in your fantasy leagues, if you don't already have them.
Pitchers to avoid or to dump, in addition to Buehrle, are Jeremy Hellickson, Alex Wood, Tim Hudson, Kyle Kendrick, Jordan Lyles, Jeremy Guthrie, Chris Tillman and Kyle Lobstein.
Hellickson has been at the top of the Hittability and Strikeability lists in years past. I'd suggest that he and Tillman might have previously undisclosed injuries. Hudson, Guthrie and Buehrle may simply be at the end of the line.
I'll have more posts on my Hittability/Strikeability ratings, and how they can be used to predict future performance.

Monday, February 9, 2015

No home-court advantage in regionals

The NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament isn’t likely to have a top seed with a big home-court advantage in this year’s regionals.
We’ve seen teams such as Duke and Syracuse playing close to home cooking over the years.
That scenario could have resulted again this season with the East Regional in Syracuse. SU, which wasn’t headed for a top seed anyway, took itself out of the equation by putting the team on a self-imposed probation that made them ineligible for the tournament.
A cynic might say that was an easy decision in a year when the Orange might not even have qualified for the Big Dance. They won’t even have the option of being embarrassed in the NIT the ACC Tournament, for which they’re also ineligible.
The other regionals are distant from the homes of other perennial contenders. The Midwest Regional is in Cleveland, the South in Houston and the West in Los Angeles.
There is one team that could win the tournament without having to board an airplane.
That’s top-ranked Kentucky, which should be able to win anywhere short of the NBA’s Western Conference.
Assuming the Wildcats would go in the Midwest, they’d open NCAA play in Louisville, move on to Cleveland and play in the Final Four even closer to home in Indianapolis.
In the most recent polls, Gonzaga, Virginia and Duke followed Kentucky. Gonzaga would be the natural choice as the No. 1 seed in a West Regional woefully short of top teams. Virginia would be likely to be the East’s top seed. Though Duke would be playing in its natural South Regional, the Blue Devils would be about 1,000 miles from home.
Based on the current polls, the regions could stack up like this:
East – 1. Virginia, 2. Villanova (playing on a familiar Carrier Dome court), 3. North Carolina, 4. West Virginia or Maryland.
South – 1. Duke, 2. Kansas, 3. Iowa State, 4. Northern Iowa or West Virginia.
Midwest – 1. Kentucky, 2. Wisconsin, 3. Louisville or Kansas, 4. Notre Dame.
West – 1. Gonzaga, 2. Arizona, 3. Utah, 4. Wichita State or Northern Iowa.

There’s still a long way to go. So those regional lineups could change a lot, but it’s still not likely that a clear hometown favorite will be hosting.

Notes on Virginia-UNC

Virginia beat the North Carolina Tar Heels at their own game Monday night.
The ACC leading Cavaliers (20-1 overall, 8-1 in conference) rallied from a six-point deficit to win the road game 75-64.
Third-ranked Virginia was coming off its first loss, to No. 4 Duke before taking on the No. 12 Tar Heels. A rugged stretch of schedule will continue for UVa Saturday against No. 9 Louisville.
UNC (17-6, 7-3) had broken away from a defensive struggle where neither team scored in the first 2 minutes by beating the Cavaliers’ zone and getting the ball inside.
When Joel Jones scored for a 16-10 lead, North Carolina already had scored 10 points in the paint.
By halftime, which Kennedy Meeks ended with a tip-in to put the Tar Heels back in the lead at 33-32, they had scored 18 points inside.
North Carolina scored 16 more points in the paint in the second half, but Virginia put in 24 from short range. Those earned the Cavaliers a 40-34 advantage for the game.
“The defense tightened up,” Virginia coach Tony Bennett told ESPN’s Allison Williams. “Our guys played the way we need to play, and that’s blue-collar play.”
UVa’s three starting guards were the leading scorers, but Anthony Gill came off the bench to help up front with 13 points and a team-high 7 rebounds.
Malcolm Brogdon scored 17 points. Justin Anderson’s 16 included three 3-pointers, and London Parrantes added 15 points.
Marcus Paige led UNC with 15, but 10 of those came after Virginia had built an 18-point lead at 66-48. Playing inside, Brice Johnson had 14 points and 8 rebounds, and Meeks added 11 and 7.
Meeks was playing after waking up with a 101-degree fever. J.P. Tokoto struggled, missing all three field goal attempts and scoring one point in 30 minutes.

The Tar Heels will visit unranked Boston College Saturday.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Belichick, Patriots one move ahead in chess game

You've seen the last-minute interception that clinched the Patriots' big game 49 victory -- if not live, then in incessant replays.
And you've seen or heard the second guessing of Seahawks coach Pete Carroll.
Why would Seattle pass with 20 seconds left, the ball on New England's 1 yard line and Marshawn Lynch in the backfield?
As the teams lined up, I was thinking that the Seahawks would be swarming around Lynch so much that a pass could be open.
Carroll might have been thinking the same thing when he called for the pass. But he wasn't expecting that New England's Bill Belichick might be one step ahead of him.
Belichick was like the customer in the AT&T commercial who one-ups Lily in appreciation for appreciation of appreciation by saying merely, "I appreciate that." By the the time Lily recovers with "ahhhhh," it's too late. The point has been made.
The Patriots were not too late.
In a post-game interview, Malcolm Butler, the rookie who made the interception, said when he saw receivers stacked on the right end of the formation, he was looking for the pick play designed to get Ricardo Lockette open.
Why would Butler be looking for that? Had the Patriots spied on Seattle practices?
No, it was probably just good old-fashioned scouting.
Were there examples of pick plays the Seahawks used this season to score on short passes in similar situations?
On Sept. 21, Seattle had the ball on Denver's 5 with 23 seconds left in the first half. There was a stack and a third receiver on the left end, with Lynch split out wide on the right. Tight end Zach Miller ran downfield, Lynch slanted across his backside, the deep defender was late getting to him and Russell Wilson hit Lynch for a touchdown.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pitching moves don't guarantee anything to Sox

Looking at the big splash -- or at least the overblown coverage -- about Boston's new pitching acquisitions

The article breathlessly adds that they're also looking at RHPs James Shields and Max Scherzer and just about every other available pitcher. The implication is that they might have about a 9-man All-Star rotation. Probably won't lose a game, except occasionally to the Yankees. 

I'm thinking that to acquire a star pitcher in a trade, the Sox would have to trade at least one from the group of RHPs Justin Masterson and Rick Porcello and LHP Wade Miley, or that if they sign a free agent pitcher or two, to fill other holes they'd have to trade one of the pitchers they've acquired.

Here's some reality: After the All-Star break, those three pitchers were a combined 9-17. I haven't done the math, but I'm pretty sure their combined ERA was well above the league average. Porcello was 3-8, 3.48. Miley 3-6, 4.60. Masterson was 3-3, but with an awesome 7.04 ERA. 

If the plan is to improve the pitching incrementally, and they're able to pull it off, that should work if they have Shields and Scherzer in the rotation instead of Masterson and Miley, plus another above-average infielder or center fielder who could hit. But if 2/5 of the rotation is Masterson and Miley, and they still have holes in their lineup, the Sox wouldn't be a major threat.

I think Porcello should be OK, but his ERA could take a hit pitching in Boston. I saw him last season before he slumped. He was masterful in shutting out the Rangers. I asked him if he was a better pitcher than he'd been in the past. He looked at me, hesitated and said, "That's for you guys to say." I was pretty sure he was at that time, not so sure now and not too sure what happened to him down the stretch.