Sunday, April 20, 2014

What Went Right for Rick Porcello Today?

After Rick Porcello's previous start at San Diego, I used Brooks Baseball's Pitch f/x data to touch upon what he did wrong.  In particular, he threw too many balls up in the zone, especially to left-handed batters who went 6 for 14 against him.  The result was five runs allowed on 10 total hits in a 6-0 loss to the Padres.

Today, Porcello was much better allowing just one run on five hits in seven innings against a powerful Angels line-up which has beaten him up badly in the past.  As is the case in most of his good starts, the 25-year-old right hander kept the ball on the ground getting 12 outs of ground balls to go with four strikeouts.

Porcello generally struggles versus left-handed batters, but today he held them to just 2 hits in 13 at bats. Figure 1 below shows that he did a good job keeping the ball either down or just off the outside edge. Contrast that to his previous start (Figure 2) where he located to many bitches in the middle of the zone.  

Figure 1 

Data source: BrooksBaseball.net

Figure 2
http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/location.php-pitchSel=519144&game=gid_2014_04_11_detmlb_sdnmlb_1&batterX=&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=2&s_type=3&league=mlb&cache=1.gif
Data source: BrooksBaseball.net

In his San Diego start, Porcello relied more on his slider than his generally more effective curveball.  Today, he went back to his curve using it 17 times as opposed to 9 sliders.  He used 11 curves and no sliders versus left handers, an approach with which he he had some success last year (at least more than in his previous years versus lefties).

Finally, Porcello had a little better stamina this afternoon lasting 103 pitches and throwing three 91 MPH fastballs in his last inning of work (See Figure 3 below).  He typically runs out of gas between pitches 60-70, but was still throwing consistently at 92 MPH in that range and beyond today.

Figure 3
http://www.brooksbaseball.net/pfxVB/cache/speed.php-pitchSel=519144&game=gid_2014_04_20_anamlb_detmlb_1&batterX=&innings=yyyyyyyyy&sp_type=1&s_type=2&league=mlb&cache=1.gif
Data source: BrooksBaseball.net

So, Porcello had a positive outing versus a strong-hitting team team day and hopes to carry the momentum into his next start at Minnesota next Friday.

9 comments:

  1. I wish I would have paid attention to how many balls were in the dirt. I still don't think they are plotting the dots correctly, or it's a labeling problem still. We supposedly had "balls in dirt" on the previous graph, but this one shows points much lower, so how could any of those pitches be "balls in dirt" on the previous charts shown?

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  2. I think balls in the dirt are difficult to track because they bounce up and the camera might capture that in different ways. If the ball bounces in front of the plate, the camera might catch it on the rebound and show it as an inch above the ground. I don't think it makes much of a difference when analyzing pitchers whether a ball hit the dirt or was an inch above the dirt. It would matter more if you were measuring catcher receiving skills.

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    Replies
    1. Well it might not make much of a difference to round everybody's batting average so instead of a player being .263 maybe we should call them .260, 3 points of BA is too small for you to see with the naked eye so you would never know the difference. But some of us like our numbers to be exact and make sense and I'm not interested in debating if it makes much of a difference or not, I'm interested in knowing the CORRECT information and they seem to have either a plotting error or labeling error and they provide NO EFFORT to explain their data or how they even got it. It doesn't make sense to me since I can't qualify the information to know what we are looking at. And there are other things besides "ball in dirt" that are concerns too of which some of them I brought up earlier. This whole data set is poisoned and untrustworthy until it is done properly.

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    2. Well actually the BA would be .26 or 26% since we no longer need that annoying 3rd column. Welcome to Brooks Baseball where we keep things overly simple!

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    3. TSE, If you want more information on how pitch f/x works, try a google search. There are quite a few primers out there. The pitch f/x system has been around for a while. It's not perfect (the ball in dirt thing is a known issue for example), but it has been tested and criticized and improved over time. It has a good reputation in both the saber community and MLB. If you think their information is incorrect, the data are available for download so that you can develop your own system. Or if you want more info on Brooks Baseball, you could ask Brooks or Pavladis a question on twitter.

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    4. Well for me the thing that would be most helpful would be to self chart a whole game and then compare it with their chart to see how it matches up and what inconsistencies might exist. I have no issue with pitch f/x data in theory and in general, but the way it's being presented by BB just doesn't add up and compute to make sense given all the concerns I see with their presentation.

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  3. Lee, is Porcello's fastball a tick up from previous years (especially in the first couple of innings)? It may only be my 'eye test' failing (happens to old guys, you know), but it seems like Rick is throwing a bit harder, perhaps closer to his projections when he was first drafted. I wonder whether (if it is so) its a conscious decision, or just him starting to get closer to a physical peak. Also, do you know what the delta is between his four-seam and two-seam?

    Thanks, Lee, I'm very interested in your series on Rick's starts, as I think that, finally, he might be on the cusp of that 'breakout' season that everyone has been looking for.

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    Replies
    1. Tom, Porcello's average fastball so far is 92-93 MPH which is in line with previous seasons. He did throw more four-seam fastballs (26%) yesterday than usual though. So, what you might have been seeing was more fast pitches rather than faster ones.

      It's still possible at his age, but I don't know if Porcello will ever have a breakout season because he doesn't have a "strikeout pitch". I just like playing around with pitch f/x and he's an interesting pitcher to analyze.

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  4. Yeah, I get what you mean. Rick really isn't a swing-and-miss guy, and his success probably will forever be dependent on BABIP, one way or the other (please come back soon, Iggy!). I guess he's your basic number 4 starter. Milt Wilcox (or maybe Dave Rozema) reincarnated.

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