Heading into tonight’s game against Atlanta, Philadelphia Phillies second basemen Chase Utley is leading the majors in homeruns with 21. He is three ahead of the second place HR hitter, fellow 2B Dan Uggla. Utley has been on a torrid pace out of the starting gate, as he is one homer behind his total for last season (Utley did miss a month to a fractured right hand). One look at his at bats per home run tell exactly how special this season is for Utley:
2005: 19.39 AB/HR (28 HR)
2006: 20.56 AB/HR (32 HR)
2007: 24.09 AB/HR (22 HR)
2008: 11.43 AB/HR (21 HR and counting)
That would be good for 70th on the all-time single season list, and is nearly a full at bat better than the second place hitter (Adam Dunn at 12.1).
So how has Utley found the long ball so well this year? Let’t take a look at a few things. First, here is a Utley’s home runs this year by pitch speed (these are through his 19th homer of the season):
Now here are the pitch locations on all home runs he has hit:
Utley’s Home Runs are coming on pitches that are middle to away. He has not hit an inside pitch for a home run this year. His ability to turn on a pitch is remarkable. If pitchers want to avoid a four-bagger, they should look to work him more inside.
Finally, this is where the home runs have landed, according to hittrackeronline.com:
Only one of his home runs this year is to the opposite field. He is taking outside pitches and pulling them for home runs. He is using tremendous strength and bat speed to pull the ball into the stands.
Filed under: Pitching, Preview | Tags: Baltimore Orioles, Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs, Derek Lowe, Ervin Santana, Joba Chamberlin, Kansas City Royals, LA Angels, LA Dodgers, New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, Radhames Liz, Rich Harden, Roy Halladay, Toronto Blue Jays, Zach Grienke
Here is a look at some of the match-ups on tap for this weekend:
Carlos Zambrano vs. Derek Lowe
– Zambrano is hitting well (his .537 slugging pct would be good for 20th best in MLB), and has put together some great starts this season. The last time Zambrano went against the Dodgers, he threw 8 innings of one run ball and 130 pitches in a 2-1 Chicago win. D-Lowe has been hot as of late, compiling a 1.23 ERA over his last three starts.
Zach Grienke vs. Joba Chamberlin
-Grienke was a man possessed to start the season, giving up just five earned runs in his first five starts. Since then his ERA has risen from 1.25 to 3.56, as he has given up 17 earned runs in his last 19 innings (an 8.05 ERA in three starts for those of you calculating at home). Joba is still transitioning into a starter from his role of the next Mariano. He only lasted 2.2 innings in his first start in the majors.
Radhames Liz vs. Roy Halladay
-Orioles prospect Liz goes up against one of the leagues best in Halladay. Doc has gone 8+ innings in seven of his twelve starts this season, but hasn’t received much run support. Here are Toronto’s average runs during Halladay’s wins and loses:
Wins: 4.0 (28 runs in 7 vicotries)
Loses: 1.4 (7 runs in 5 loses)
Not really rocket science, and it shows how stupid and overvalued wins and loses are. Halladay has just been dominant (a K/BB of over 6/1) and would probably receive more recognition if he had a record more deserving of his stats.
Ervin Santana vs. Rich Harden
-Santana has put up much better numbers this year than he had last year. One difference is his home/road splits. He has never pitched well away from Angel Stadium, but this year he has improved his road numbers. In his career, he has pitched in 48 games both at home and on the road. Here are his numbers:
Home: 316.2 IP, 3.04 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 25 HR
Away: 254.1 IP, 6.48 ERA, 1.54 WHIP, 46 HR
This year his road numbers have been much better: 3.59 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 4 HR in 47.2 IP. At McAfee Coliseum, he has a 1.57 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, and a 5/2 K/BB rate in five games.
Filed under: MLB Draft | Tags: Brian Matusz, Buster Posey, Casey Kelly, Eric Hosmer, MLB Draft, Pedro Alvarez, Tim Beckham
And after 50 rounds, 1,504 players were selected. Tampa Bay opened the draft by taking Timothy Beckham, the talented high school shortstop from Georgia. Pedro Alvarez went next to Pittsburgh, followed by Eric Hosmer (Kansas City), Brian Matusz (Baltimore), and Buster Posey (San Francisco). Posey was mentioned as a possibility to go number one to the Rays, but the Giants were more than happy he fell to them (no telling how much his alleged asking price of $12 million had in him falling to the Giants). Posey should be on the fast track to the majors, which Giants GM Brian Sabean confirmed:
- Sabean referenced Bengie Molina’s contract, which expires after next season, and hinted that the Giants would not look to give the veteran catcher an extension.“He is on the fast track and Bengie’s clock is winding down,” Sabean said. “It’s really up to (Posey) how soon he wants to get going and how soon he can get here.”
It will be interesting to see how many teams are able to get their major selections signed, although, as Baseball America points out, teams seemed to be drafting for ability instead of signability. One team that will probably have to put up some serious cash (which shouldn’t be too much of an issue) is the Red Sox. Boston’s first round pick, Casey Kelly, is a quarterback commitment to the University of Tennessee. Yet GM Theo Epstein feels Kelly will choose the diamond over the gridiron:
- “You can hear the passion in his voice when he talks about baseball,” Epstein said. “We wouldn’t have taken him if we didn’t feel in our hearts like he wanted to go out and play professional ball.”
All told, an interesting two days. Now the race until the signing deadline of August 15th commences. The clock is ticking.
- Commissioner Bud Selig has expressed concern about the possibility that the shattered bats could cause injuries. Baseball’s safety and health advisory committee will discuss whether there is a need for changes. The group, which includes the Mets’ Aaron Heilman, is expected to talk about the need for strict specifications for the width of bat handles.
“I really don’t know what’s going to come out of this,” Heilman said. “What we’re going to do is take a serious look at the safety issues and see if something needs to be done, what can be done and what the viable options are.”
It is a positive step that the players and MLB are discussing the situation. This is obviously an issue that needs to be dealt with, but in what way? The players union likely will not accept a ban of the bats, as an estimated 60% of players use the lumber. Teams don’t want to put up more protective netting in their stadiums. The one thing you hope is that it doesn’t take a Mike Coolbaugh type incident to get a resolution.
But a solution needs to be found soon.
Katie Thomas of the New York Times wrote a great article about Vanderbilt all-american third baseman Pedro Alvarez and his decision to choose college ball over the pros. Alvarez has been a stud at Vanderbilt and likely won’t have to wait long to hear his name called on June 5th (ESPN’s Keith Law has the Pirates taking Alvarez at the number two selection, as does Baseball America’s Jim Callis).
We’ll have more coverage of the draft later in the week.
Filed under: Pitch FX, Pitching | Tags: Pitch FX, Scott Kazmir, Tampa Bay Rays
Tampa Bay won again yesterday, as did their ace Scott Kazmir. The young lefty improved to 5-1 on the season, lowering his ERA to 1.22. Yesterday’s start was only the sixth start of the year for Kazmir, as he spent the first month of the season on the DL with a left elbow strain. The Rays were 16-15 before his return on May 4th. Since Kazmir’s return they are 18-7 and own the second best record in baseball. Here is a look at Kazmir’s numbers this season through his first six games compared to last season through six games (note: all of Kazmir’s first six starts in 2007 came in April):
2007: 2-1, 37.2 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 30 K, 14 BB, 7 HR, 19 R, 17 ER
2008: 5-1, 37.0 IP, 1.22 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 38 K, 13 BB, 0 HR, 6 R, 5 ER
The most notable differences are the WHIP, ERA, strikeouts, and homeruns. Last April Kazmir was second in baseball in homeruns allowed. He has cut down on the long ball this year, and the results have been phenomenal.
Despite to his early long ball tendencies in 2007, Kazmir has always been below the major league averages for HR/9 (data from Baseball Info Solutions courtesy Fangraphs). In fact his numbers have followed the same path as the major league average for the past 4 seasons:
But how long will this last? The following shows the locations of Kazmir’s fastball so far this season. As you can see, he is leaving a lot of his fastballs up in the zone. Batters haven’t connected so far because of his velocity; but if this trend continues, it could lead to a spike in home runs. (Pitch F/X data courtesy Jay Paradise of Red Sox F/X)
Also worth noting is how different his start to this season is in comparison to the rest of his career. Here are his pre and post all star game splits for the past three seasons (2005-2007):
Pre-All Star: 330 IP, 4.06 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 322 K, 158 BB, 32 HR, 166 R, 149 ER in 56 starts
Post-All Star: 207.1 IP, 2.65 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 254 K, 83 BB, 13 HR, 74 R, 61 ER in 34 starts
Even more interesting are his month-by-month splits over the same three seasons. Kazmir puts up much better numbers in July and August than he does in June:
June: 94.2 IP, 5.23 ERA, 1.59 WHIP, 103 K, 51 BB, 12 HR, 56 R, 55 ER in 17 starts
July/August: 181 IP, 3.18 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 210 K, 75 BB, 11 HR, 78 R, 64 ER in 30 starts.
It seems that June is by far the month in which he struggles the most. Judging by the numbers, it appears the all star break does wonders for him. It will be interesting to see how he does as we enter into June. This season, June will be the second month he has pitched in, when typically it is his third month. We’ll have to wait and see if he reverts to his normal June performance, or if his current streak continues. If his current form holds and he adds to it with his normal post all star break numbers, he could have a Cy Young season.
Filed under: Milestones | Tags: Boston Red Sox, Camden Yards, Cincinnati Reds, Ken Griffey Jr., Manny Ramirez
Manny Ramirez hit his 500th home run tonight, becoming the 24th player to reach the milestone. He also joined an even more exclusive club:
- “The drive enabled Ramirez to become only the seventh player in baseball history with 500 homers, 1,500 RBIs, 1,000 walks, 475 doubles and a .300 batting average. The others are Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Mel Ott, Babe Ruth, Frank Thomas and Ted Williams.”
Now, usually I hate when these sort of groups are created. Writers do this all the time when players are up for election to the hall of fame. They try to make an argument that someone belongs in the hall by finding a group of players in the hall with the same numbers as the candidate (Bill James calls it the “We Can Make A Group Argument”). On the surface these lists always seem impressive; but that is the point of the lists. The fact is, you can do it for any player and try to make an argument they are hall of fame worthy based on any combination of statistics. That being said, THIS list is impressive, and Manny is a definite hall of famer (and I’m sure Frank Thomas will have his fair share of support as well).
It is also interesting that Manny hit his 500th at Camden Yards, which was home to the other Manny highlight of the season so far.
Ken Griffey Jr. is approaching his own milestone as well.