2 June 2011, A Disaster or a Blip?

Thursday, June 02 2011 @ 10:58 AM EDT

Contributed by: Gerry

Was there a game last night?  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your perspective, I had to go to a funeral last night and I don't mean at the RC.  By the time I came home the Jays had conceded twelve runs.  I got to see the Jays mount their comeback of a sort.

Kyle Drabek had been dodging bullets all season with his loose command but last night it came back to bite him in a big way.  I have to say the Indians impressed me with their willingness to go the other way with a lot of pitches in this series.  The question du jour, as per the poll on the left, is what to do with Drabek?  Was this just a bad game, or was it a reflection of his season and a sign that something has to get fixed?  It can be hard to fix things in-season but I am sure the big brains in the front office are trying to figure out what to do with Drabek today.

Other than Drabek, the Jays spring training home run leader finally got a regular season one.  And Eric Thames had three hits, something to remember on saturday when Adam Lind bumps him down to Las Vegas.

Forgetting about last nights game I have noticed recently that the Jays running game has slowed down.  I recall that early in the season the Jays were running a lot but recently the speed seems to have taken a break.  I went back and looked at steals by month:

April 32 steals in 27 games

May 19 steals in 28 games.

The runaway express has definitely hit a speed bump.  Was this deliberate?  Have there been fewer opportunities to run?  Has Farell realized who can run and who cannot?  I am not sure why the running game has gone quiet(er).

There was one thing I noted:

In six games against the Red Sox the Jays stole 14 bases.

In eight games against the Yankees the Jays stole 12 bases.

Therefore, in their other 41 games, the Jays have 25 steals.  Call it a selective speed game.


Casey Janssen

Yesterday, before last night's game, I decided to take a closer look at Casey Janssen.  I think we all can agree that Casey Janssen is pitching a lot better in 2011 than he did in 2010.  Janssen has even become an 8th inning option for manager John Farrell.  Compared to 2010, Janssen's ERA is down from 3.67 to 1.61, his FIP is down from 3.85 to 2.49.  So what lies behind the improvement?

again compared to 2010, Janssen's K rate has actually gone down from 8.26 to 6.85, his walk rate has gone down marginally too.  So it looks like Janssen has been somewhat lucky, more batted balls are making outs.  Hitters BABIP against Janssen is .254 this year vs .327 last year.  Is this just a fluke or is there something behind this?

When I went digging the first thing I noticed was that Janssen is throwing more fastballs, he is throwing 37% 4-seam fastballs this season vs 28% last year.  Janssen is also throwing more cutters (3%) and more 2-seam fastballs (8%).   These extra fastballs have come because Janssen has essentially ditched his slider, he is down to 4% sliders in 2011 vs 22% in 2010.  The odd thing is that if you go to Fangraphs pitch values, the slider was Janssen best pitch last season, although not by a large amount.  Janssen's line drive allowed % is down from 22% to 18% but the big change is that Janssen HR/FB rate this season is zero vs 12% last year.

Next I looked at the results of at-bats when facing Janssen:

2011 At-bat Results

Groundout 25.00%
Strikeout 18.18%
Single 14.77%
Flyout 13.64%
Walk 6.82%
Lineout 3.41%
Pop Out 3.41%
Double 3.41%
Forceout 2.27%
Bunt Groundout 2.27%
Grounded Into DP 2.27%
Hit By Pitch 2.27%
Field Error 1.14%
Strikeout - DP 1.14%

2010 At-bat Results

Groundout 22.82%
Strikeout 21.14%
Single 18.12%
Flyout 9.73%
Walk 6.71%
Lineout 4.36%
Pop Out 4.36%
Home Run 2.68%
Double 2.68%
Forceout 2.35%
Hit By Pitch 1.34%
Grounded Into DP 1.01%
Triple 1.01%
Fan interference 0.34%
Double Play 0.34%
Sac Fly 0.34%
Bunt Groundout 0.34%
Intent Walk 0.34%

The big changes from 2010 to 2011 are that singles are down by 3%, ground balls are up by 2%, strikeouts are down by 3% and fly balls are up by 4%.  So more balls are being put in play but Janssen is allowing fewer hits and fewer home runs.  Last season Janssen conceded 8 homers in 56 innings.  This season in 22 innings he has given up none. 

So what does this all mean?  To me it looks like Janssen has had luck on his side this season.  The normal BABIP is around .300.  Last season Janssen was unlucky, or he made some bad pitches that went over the wall.  This season Janssen is lucky, his .254 BABIP is well below normal.  Janssen has also kep the ball in the park this season.  I looked at the pitch fx charts to see if Janssen is keeping the ball down more this season but the charts don't support that view.  So it does look like Janssen is doubly lucky in allowing no home runs on his fly balls this year.  Maybe last night was a sign of things to come.


Fangraphs Janssen page

Pitch Fx for 2011 for Janssen

Pitch Fx for 2010 for Janssen


So what are you thinking of on this off-day?