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The Blue Jays rotation in 2018 has been anchored, for the most part, by three right-handed finesse pitchers. Which explains a lot, as far as I'm concerned. I don't particularly believe in right-handed finesse pitchers. Oh, I believe they exist. I just don't believe you can count on them to be particularly good.


It's taken me far too long to understand this. What can I say? I'm old, possibly a little set in my ways, and - most importantly - a lot of my mental markers for baseball were formed back when the game was played just a little differently. So I see Stroman and Sanchez zipping the ball up there at 92 mph and harder.  I see them striking out more than 7 guys per 9 innings.  I assume that I'm looking at a power pitcher. Hey, Dave Stieb was a power pitcher and he never struck out that many guys in his life.

But the game done changed. As I certainly know, because I do bitch about it from time to time (old guy, as I said.) Today, your average AL starting pitcher strikes out 8.1 per 9 innings. Thirty years ago, in 1988, the average AL starter struck out 5.3 batters per 9 innings. That's an enormous change,  Relief pitchers, then and now, strike out more hitters than starting pitchers. In 1988, relievers averaged 5.95 K/9, and in 2018 your modern reliever averages 8.98 K/9. Now  the proportional increase for relievers over what the starters do is quite similar. Thirty years ago, relievers struck out 12% more batters than starters; today relievers strike out 10% more than starters. I attribute this small change to the fact that starters now account for a smaller share of the innings pitched these days and are able to go just a little harder in the ones they do pitch. (And relievers account for a larger share, and the game today is awash with mediocre pitchers throwing as hard as they can for one inning.) Anyway - starters consumed 71% of all innings in 1988 as opposed to just 60% in 2018. But it's still my belief that the larger, overall change can be attributed to a different approach by the hitters. They're all gripping the bat down at the end, looking for a pitch they can hit over the wall, and accepting the extra strikeouts as the cost of doing business.

But anyway - the bar has been moved to a completely different place. In 1988, there were 61 pitchers in the AL who started at least 20 games. Roger Clemens led the league with 9.92 K/9, and Dave Stieb, with 6.38 K/9 IP ranked 13th. Roughly half of those starters were above the league average in K/9  - Jim Clancy of the Jays was 27th at 5.41. Toronto's two LH finesse pitchers, Jimmy Key and Mike Flanagan were both a little below average. Key was 40th in the league (4.45 K/9) and Flanagan was 43rd (4.22 K/9.)

In 2018, there have been 60 pitchers who have started 17 games in the AL so far (this includes Ryne Stanek of the Rays, an obvious ringer, but Kevin Cash has always made my life difficult.) Once again roughly half of these guys are above the league average in K/9 - but as noted above, that average in 2018 is 8.13 K/9 for a starting pitcher. Aaron Sanchez is comfortably below the league average. He stands 42nd in this group with 7.25 K/9, and Marcus Stroman is further down the list. Stroman is in 50th place (6.77 K/9). And Marco Estrada is lower still, 54th out of 60 pitchers with 6.51 K/9 - a figure which would have been pretty impressive 30 years ago. But today? Not so much.

Estrada, who was comfortably above the league average in the previous two seasons, isn't really a problem. A 35 year old free agent, whose performance and peripherals are in decline (if not free fall) is not an issue for the club going forward. So long, and thanks for all the fish. But Stroman and Sanchez were supposed to be the future of the rotation. Despite the fact that neither of have ever really come close to the league average of more than 8 K/9. So I don't know that this is going to work.

Hey, how about a couple of Data Tables? It's been a while, no?

Here's the 1988 list.
1988  Name	        Age    Tm	K/9	 W	 L	ERA	G	GS	IPT	ERA+ 										0		  
 1    Roger Clemens	 25    BOS	9.92	18	12	2.93	35	35	264	141  
 2    Mark Langston	 27    SEA	8.09	15	11	3.34	35	35	261.1	125  
 3    Bobby Witt  	 24    TEX	7.64	 8	10	3.92	22	22	174.1	104  
 4    Teddy Higuera	 30    MIL	7.60	16	 9	2.45	31	31	227.1	162  
 5    Mike Moore         28    SEA	7.16	 9	15	3.78	37	32	228.2	111  
 6    John Candelaria    34    NYY	6.94	13	 7	3.38	25	24	157	117  
 7    Bruce Hurst        30    BOS	6.90	18	 6	3.66	33	32	216.2	113  
 8    Jose Guzman	 25    TEX	6.84	11	13	3.70	30	30	206.2	110  
 9    Frank Viola	 28    MIN	6.80	24	 7	2.64	35	35	255.1	154 
10    Scott Bankhead	 24    SEA	6.80	 7	 9	3.07	21	21	135	136 
11    Greg Swindell	 23    CLE	6.69	18	14	3.20	33	33	242	128 
12    Jack Morris	 33    DET	6.43	15	13	3.94	34	34	235	 97 
13    Dave Stieb	 30    TOR	6.38	16	 8	3.04	32	31	207.1	128 
14    Melido Perez	 22    CHW	6.30	12	10	3.79	32	32	197	105 
15    Bert Blyleven	 37    MIN	6.29	10	17	5.43	33	33	207.1	 75 
16    Dave Stewart	 31    OAK	6.27	21	12	3.23	37	37	275.2	118 
17    Charlie Hough	 40    TEX	6.21	15	16	3.32	34	34	252	122 
18    Mark Gubicza	 25    KCR	6.11	20	 8	2.70	35	35	269.2	149 
19    Kirk McCaskill	 27    CAL	6.03	 8	 6	4.31	23	23	146.1	 90 
20    Jeff Robinson	 26    DET	5.97	13	 6	2.98	24	23	172	128 
21    Mike Boddicker	 30    TOT	5.95	13	15	3.39	36	35	236	118 
22    Bret Saberhagen	 24    KCR	5.90	14	16	3.80	35	35	260.2	106 
23    Bob Welch	         31    OAK	5.81	17	 9	3.64	36	36	244.2	105 
24    Tom Candiotti	 30    CLE	5.69	14	 8	3.28	31	31	216.2	125 
25    Storm Davis	 26    OAK	5.67	16	 7	3.70	33	33	201.2	103 
26    Frank Tanana	 34    DET	5.63	14	11	4.21	32	32	203	 91 
27    Jim Clancy	 32    TOR	5.41	11	13	4.49	36	31	196.1	 87 
28    Floyd Bannister	 33    KCR	5.37	12	13	4.33	31	31	189.1	 93 
29    Chuck Finley	 25    CAL	5.14	 9	15	4.17	31	31	194.1	 93 
30    Charlie Lea	 31    MIN	4.98	 7	 7	4.85	24	23	130	 84 
31    Doyle Alexander	 37    DET	4.95	14	11	4.32	34	34	229	 88 
32    Mike Campbell	 24    SEA	4.94	 6	10	5.89	20	20	114.2	 71 
33    Oil Can Boyd	 28    BOS	4.93	 9	 7	5.34	23	23	129.2	 78 
34    Mike Witt	         27    CAL	4.79	13	16	4.15	34	34	249.2	 93 
35    Jack McDowell	 22    CHW	4.76	 5	10	3.97	26	26	158.2	100 
36    Rich Yett	         25    CLE	4.76	 9	 6	4.62	23	22	134.1	 89 
37    Jay Tibbs	         26    BAL	4.65	 4	15	5.39	30	24	158.2	 72 
38    Mike Birkbeck	 27    MIL	4.65	10	 8	4.72	23	23	124	 85 
39    Charlie Leibrandt	 31    KCR	4.63	13	12	3.19	35	35	243	126 
40    Jimmy Key	         27    TOR	4.45	12	 5	3.29	21	21	131.1	119 
41    Dave LaPoint	 28    CHW	4.41	10	11	3.40	25	25	161.1	117 
42    Rick Rhoden	 35    NYY	4.29	12	12	4.29	30	30	197	 92 
43    Mike Flanagan	 36    TOR	4.22	13	13	4.18	34	34	211	 93 
44    Jeff Russell	 26    TEX	4.20	10	 9	3.82	34	24	188.2	106 
45    Chris Bosio	 25    MIL	4.15	 7	15	3.36	38	22	182	118 
46    Tommy John	 45    NYY	4.13	 9	 8	4.49	35	32	176.1	 88 
47    Dan Petry	         29    CAL	4.12	 3	 9	4.38	22	22	139.2	 88 
48    Richard Dotson     29    NYY	4.05	12	 9	5.00	32	29	171	 79 
49    Don August	 24    MIL	4.00	13	 7	3.09	24	22	148.1	129 
50    Jose Bautista	 23    BAL	3.98	 6	15	4.30	33	25	171.2	 91 
51    Willie Fraser	 24    CAL	3.98	12	13	5.41	34	32	194.2	 71 
52    Curt Young	 28    OAK	3.97	11	 8	4.14	26	26	156.1	 92 
53    John Farrell	 25    CLE	3.94	14	10	4.24	31	30	210.1	 97 
54    Paul Kilgus	 26    TEX	3.90	12	15	4.16	32	32	203.1	 98 
55    Bill Wegman	 25    MIL	3.80	13	13	4.12	32	31	199	 97 
56    Allan Anderson	 24    MIN	3.69	16	 9	2.45	30	30	202.1	166 
57    Walt Terrell	 30    DET	3.66	 7	16	3.97	29	29	206.1	 96 
58    Jerry Reuss	 39    CHW	3.59	13	 9	3.44	32	29	183	116 
59    Scott Bailes	 26    CLE	3.29	 9	14	4.90	37	21	145	 84 
60    Bill Swift 	 26    SEA	2.42	 8	12	4.59	38	24	174.2	 91 
61    Jeff Ballard	 24    BAL	2.41	 8	12	4.40	25	25	153.1	 89 

And here's the 2018 list.

2018 Name    Age    Tm    SO/9    W    L    ERA    G    GS    IP       ERA+
                                               
1    Chris Sale    29 BOS    13.50   12    4    1.97    23    23    146      221
2    Gerrit Cole    27    HOU    12.40   13    5    2.86     28     28     176.1    139
3    Justin Verlander 35    HOU    11.93   13    9    2.78     29     29    181      143
4    Trevor Bauer    27    CLE     11.60   12     6    2.22     25     25     166      198
5    James Paxton    29    SEA    11.60   11     5    3.74     25     25     144.1    109
6    Charlie Morton   34    HOU    10.95   13    3    3.14     26     26     152      127
7    Ryne Stanek    26    TBR    10.86    2    3    2.72     47     23     56.1    150
8    Blake Snell    25    TBR     10.50   17    5    2.02     26     26     151.2    201
9    Luis Severino    24    NYY     10.47   17    6    3.32     28     28     171      133
10    Carlos Carrasco  31    CLE    10.45   16    8    3.52     27    26     161      125
11    J.A. Happ    35    TOT     9.99   15    6    4.00    26     26     148.2    106
12    Eduardo Rodriguez  25    BOS    9.95   12     3    3.34    20     20     110.1    131
13    Lance McCullers    24    HOU    9.86   10    6    3.93     22     22     126      101
14    Chris Archer    29    TBR    9.56    3    5    4.31    17     17     96       94
15    Dylan Bundy    25    BAL    9.55    7   13    5.36    26     26     146       79
16    Tyler Skaggs    26    LAA     9.49    8    8    3.78     21     21     116.2    112
17    Lance Lynn    31    TOT    9.41    8     10    5.10     27     26     137.2    86
18    Jose Berrios    24    MIN     9.18   11     10    3.92     28     28     167.2    111
19    Rick Porcello    29    BOS     9.12   15     7    4.27     28     28     168.2    102
20    Mike Clevinger    27    CLE     9.09   10     7    3.17     27     27     170.1    139
21    Jake Odorizzi     28    MIN    9.06    5    9    4.41     28     28     143       99
22    Masahiro Tanaka   29    NYY     9.00   10     5    3.83     23     23     134      115
23    David Price    32    BOS     8.98   14     6    3.60     26     26     152.1    121
24    Cole Hamels     34    TEX     8.97    5     9    4.72     20     20     114.1    102
25    Corey Kluber     32    CLE     8.68   17     7    2.80     28     28     186.2    157
26    Andrew Heaney     27    LAA     8.53    8    8    4.09     25     25     152      104
27    Jakob Junis     25    KCR     8.47    8     12    4.32     26     26     154       99
28    Sonny Gray     28    NYY     8.46   10    8    4.96     27     22     123.1    89
29    Kyle Gibson     30    MIN     8.32    7     12    3.74     28     28    171      117
30    CC Sabathia     37    NYY     8.29    7     6    3.54     25     25     134.2    124
31    Trevor Cahill     30    OAK     8.28    6     3    3.60     18     18     100      114
32    Ian Kennedy     33    KCR    8.27    1     8    5.13    18     18     94.2    83
33    Sam Gaviglio     28    TOR    8.25    3     7    5.02     21     19     100.1    84
34    Danny Duffy     29    KCR    8.22    8     11    4.72     27     27     154.1    91
35    Matthew Boyd     27    DET    8.06    9     12    4.24     27     27     153      104
36    Jordan Zimmermann  32    DET     7.93    6    6    4.22     20     20     106.2    105
37    Marco Gonzales     26    SEA     7.91   12     9    4.32     25     25     145.2    94
38    Kevin Gausman     27    BAL    7.55    5     8    4.43     21     21     124       96
39    Michael Fulmer     25    DET    7.50    3     10    4.57     22     22     126       96
40    Nathan Eovaldi     28    TOT     7.44    5     7    4.20     18     18     94.1    100
41    Mike Minor     30    TEX     7.40   10     7    4.33     24     24     135      112
42    Aaron Sanchez     25    TOR     7.26    3     5    5.22     17     17     88       81
43    Felix Hernandez    32    SEA     7.25    8     13    5.55     27     26     147.2    73
44    Mike Fiers     33    TOT     7.18   10    6    3.38     26     26     146.2    129
45    Wade LeBlanc     33    SEA     7.16    8    3    3.71     27     22     135.2    109
46    James Shields     36    CHW     6.96    6     15    4.39     30     29     182.1    95
47    Francisco Liriano  34    DET     6.90    3     9    4.96     22     21     107       89
48    Jaime Barria     21    LAA     6.83    9     8    3.46     21     21     106.2    123
49    Dallas Keuchel     30    HOU     6.81   11     10    3.46     29     29     179.2    115
50    Marcus Stroman     27    TOR     6.77    4     9    5.54     19     19     102.1    76
51    Reynaldo Lopez     24    CHW     6.75    5     9    4.37     28     28     162.2    96
52    Lucas Giolito     23    CHW     6.62   10     9    5.66     27     27     151       74
53    Dylan Covey     26    CHW    6.54    5     12    5.61     21     17     96.1    75
54    Marco Estrada     34    TOR     6.51    7     11    5.43     24     24     124.1    77
55    Jason Hammel    35    KCR     6.40    2    12    6.02     33     18     121       71
56    Alex Cobb    30    BAL     6.11    4    15    5.11     25     25     144.1    83
57    Sean Manaea    26    OAK     6.05   12     9    3.59     27     27     160.2    115
58    Andrew Cashner    31    BAL     6.03    4     13    4.86     26     26     146.1    87
59    Mike Leake    30    SEA     5.73    8     9    4.25  27     27     165       95
60    Bartolo Colon    45    TEX     5.00    7     11    5.45     25     23     140.1    89

Geez, I'd forgotten how tedious it was to line up all those columns. Anyway, I know what you're all thinking.

Jose Bautista used to pitch for the Orioles?
Finesse Pitchers | 52 comments | Create New Account
The following comments are owned by whomever posted them. This site is not responsible for what they say.
Chuck - Tuesday, September 04 2018 @ 09:09 PM EDT (#365085) #
I am of a similar vintage to Magpie, so have also had to recalibrate my understanding of "normal" over the decades. HR and K rates are at the root of this, of course.

Mike G's generally optimistic nature is probably required here to temper my generally pessimistic nature, but the 360-400 annual innings of elite pitching from Sanchez and Stroman, that we were hoping to be seeing by now, seems more and more a pipe dream.

I suppose there is some solace that Stroman's FIP is unchanged from last year, even if his ERA is almost double. I'm failing to see any silver lining for Sanchez, though.

Nigel - Tuesday, September 04 2018 @ 10:16 PM EDT (#365086) #
This is really great. Thank you.

One of the issues (not the only one by any means) that this highlights is what a poor strategic decision it has been to field historically awful (by Jays standards) defensive clubs the last two years. Gibbons also hasnít used the available personnel very well either in that regard. Itís extremely difficult (for me anyway) to measure the impact the poor defence has had on run prevention but I think itís been larger than most people realize. If you watch TB and Boston this year their defence is in a completely different league from that of the Jays.
dan gordon - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:24 AM EDT (#365089) #
While I agree that hitters are swinging for the fences more than before, leading to more strikeouts, I don't think that's the only reason for the higher K numbers. With pitchers throwing so much harder than they used to, it makes things tougher for hitters to react to a pitch. With the pitching rubber at the same distance, the ball is getting to the plate that little bit sooner, and the microscopic window a batter has to react to a pitch is even smaller. Given this difficulty, I think a lot of guys are basically taking the approach that they're going to strike out a bunch anyway, so they might as well swing hard, and do some damage when they do make contact, which magnifies the increase in strikeouts due to pitchers throwing harder. The game accepts the strikeout a lot better than it did 30, 40 years ago, so there is less disincentive for batters to go down swinging.
Michael - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:41 AM EDT (#365091) #
Some of it might be that the season isn't over yet, but in 1988 the ERA+ average (by player, not by IP) is 105.5, in 2018 it is 109.4. Moreover, in 1988 there are only 6/61 players that are 130 or above, and no one above 166. In 2018 there are 10/60 130 or above, and there are 2 people above 200!

But in both cases the vast majority of people are pretty close to 100, but the K/9 varies wildly. One can succeed with a lower K/9, but there is a question of how repeatable that is and also how much value there is there. There is also a question about if K/9 is really the right metric to use, you could look at other thing like percent of pitches that are strikes, spin rates, swing and miss rates, vertical and horizontal break, etc. In the modern pitchfx world there are a lot more components to use.

Lastly, I'm not sure how much the lefty versus righty matters. I know there is a qualitative feeling of "crafty finesse lefty" but I don't really know how much of that is fact and how much is opportunity. Similar to height, etc.
Magpie - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 01:26 AM EDT (#365092) #
While I agree that hitters are swinging for the fences more than before, leading to more strikeouts, I don't think that's the only reason for the higher K numbers.

It's probably not the only reason, just the most obvious one. You will notice, though, that the increase in HRs per plate appearance has increased by a rate that's eerily similar to the increase in Ks per plate appearance. In the AL in 1988, there were 13 HRs and 86 Ks per 600 plate appearances. In the AL this season, there have been 19 HRs and 131 Ks per 600 plate appearances. Despite pitchers throwing harder, walks have remained at around 50 BBs per 600 plate appearances (Hit by Pitch has nearly doubled, though.) And there are far fewer Balls in Play. Thirty years ago, 74.5% of all plate appearances saw the ball put in play (447 per 600 PAs) - so far this year, that figure has fallen to just 65.7% of plate appearances (394 per 600 PAs.) Which seems huge to me.
Magpie - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 01:34 AM EDT (#365093) #
in 1988 the ERA+ average (by player, not by IP) is 105.5, in 2018 it is 109.4.

Yeah, I assume that's because of the quicker hook. In 2018, managers go to the pen at the first hint of trouble, if they haven't gone there already. About half the guys on the 1988 list threw more than 200 innings. Nine pitchers threw at least 240 IP. But in 2018, the nine hardest working pitchers will likely be the only guys to clear 200 innings, and no one is going to throw 240.
ISLAND BOY - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 06:15 AM EDT (#365095) #
It's amazing to see that Bartolo Colon has thrown 140 innings at age 45. The next oldest pitchers are Fernando Rodney and Joaquin Benoit, both relievers aged 40, so I don't know who is the next oldest starter in MLB.
Glevin - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 06:39 AM EDT (#365096) #
"so I don't know who is the next oldest starter in MLB."

Rich Hill at 38 seems to be. On the other end, Atlanta has had 3 20 YOs (3 youngest pitchers in baseball) and 1 21 YO start games for them this year.
Magpie - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 06:46 AM EDT (#365097) #
The next oldest starter in the AL this season, who really has the job, would be C.C. Sabathia, who turned 38 a couple of months ago.

Speaking of old pitchers - Bert Blyleven, from the 1988 list was in season 3 of his Very Weird second stint with the Twins. In 1986 and 1987, he'd given the Twins a couple of very fine seasons while giving up an astronomical number of home runs, most of them in his own ball park. In 1986, he became the first (and the still the only) pitcher to allow 50 HRs in a season. A ridiculous number of those came in the HubieDome - 31 of them in 155 IPT. He went 12-5, 4.12 in his home games anyway. In 1987, he allowed 46 HRs in 260 IPT, and that figure has only been surpassed by Jose Lima in 2000 and Blyleven himself in 1986. That includes 25 HRs at home in just 164.2 IPT - and this time he went 9-6 3.83 at home (and then helped pitch the Twins to a WS title.)

Obviosuly 1988 wasn't so good for him - he reduced the HRs a little but suddenly gave up many more Hits - but he would bounce in 1989 to give the Angels one last outstanding season.
whiterasta80 - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:13 AM EDT (#365099) #
That drop in balls in play should be a very big concern for MLB in my opinion.
Glevin - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:20 AM EDT (#365100) #
"That drop in balls in play should be a very big concern for MLB in my opinion."

Agreed. The most exciting plays in baseball are balls in play. Anything can happen. Close plays, great fielding, funny errors, etc... Just watching this BB/K/HR kind of baseball is not as interesting and takes up much more time. Not sure what baseball can do because it has naturally evolved to this. They need to cut down strikeouts without having offense explode. Probably lowering the mound would be a simple step. I'd prefer more comprehensive changes because I think there are other fixable issues (i.e batters stepping out after every pitch. Looking at you Billy McKinny).
AWeb - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:21 AM EDT (#365101) #
A lot of the increased pitching speed over the past decade+ is an artifact of how the speeds are collected. Radar guns pick the ball up much sooner than they used to, so a 95mph fastball today is closer to a 92-93 mph fastball in the 80s and early 90s. There was a documentary about it on Netflix at one point last year (Fastball) that did some of the math and basically showed that top pitching speeds are basically unchanged. Sure, more guys are throwing a bit faster than they used to with the shorter appearances, but not as much as you'd think based on radar gun memory alone. I'm with Magpie - the hitters share the "blame" for the rise in Ks, because of one of those seeming paradoxes in baseball - striking out hitters is the single best skill for a pitcher to have, but striking out a lot is not a major problem for hitters. This happens because a hitter can "choose" to sell out for home runs and pay for it with strikeouts, but few pitchers are able (willing?) to "trade" fewer strikeouts for fewer homers. Halladay at his best managed this, although sometimes he would drive me crazy by seeming to refuse to try and strike out hitters. I think he had it figured out pretty well though, strategy-wise.

I have noted in the past that Stroman/Sanchez either have to figure out how to strike out more batters, or deal with the fact that they won't be able to be consistently very good. Comparison from the past - Todd Stottlemyre. Fine rotation filler in retrospect, had one very good year (1991) but never missed bats consistently in Toronto and was basically exactly average starting pitching. Left town and had three of his best years when his K's jumped from 5/9 to 8/9. Some guys do figure it out later in their careers, but the clock is ticking.

I think Estrada has suffered for two reasons. First, he's old and injured and his stuff has suffered. Second, he was one of the first guys to go against the cutter/sinker trend that took over for a while and go with high spin high fastballs. Now that's becoming a common pitching strategy again and I think Estrada looks more "familiar" to hitters who have re-learned how to blast off on high stuff again.
grjas - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 08:34 AM EDT (#365103) #
Interesting stuff. A couple of random observations-

. A good reminder of how Clemens SO numbers were otherworldly at the time.

. Ageing players are having a heck of a time against increasing FB speeds. Small wonder the vast majority of superstars are sub 30, and a reminder of the challenge the Jays had as the oldest team in the league.
scottt - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:02 AM EDT (#365107) #
3 right handed finesse pitchers?

Stroman isn't a finesse pitcher.. He's a sinker/slider pitcher. He works mostly on the bottom of the zone and is effective when his slider is good. He's had shoulder issues and blister issues and has been using a cutter a lot--because it's a seamless grip. He's hasn't commanded his pitches much.

Sanchez isn't a finesse pitcher. He is/was a power pitcher sitting 96/97mph. His fastball had a lot of movement even at that speed. Presumably because of blister issues, he's lowered the velocity and he's experimenting with changing speed, but he doesn't command his fastball.

Gaviglio is a junk baller. He throws a lot of off-speed stuff. He's at best a 5th pitcher because he also doesn't command his pitches.

To be a finesse pitcher, you need to be able to hit the corners at will. Finesse is not lack of velocity.
For the most part Borucki has showed a lot  of finesse.

Chuck - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:13 AM EDT (#365110) #
Ageing players are having a heck of a time against increasing FB speeds

Based on this assertion, there is a plausible (though certainly falsifiable) line of thinking that suggests that the league will see fewer older players and thus fewer long term contracts given to older players. If the game is moving towards being less forgiving to those with deteriorating reflexes, the players should get younger. And perhaps on the pitching side of the equation as well, there will be less room for veterans forced to adjust to reduced arm strength.

If there is any credence to this line of thinking, then the union is going to presumably want to ensure players get paid earlier in their careers than they are now. The big free agent contract at 29 or 30 may become a thing of the past.

With the fear of possible overstatement acknowledged, another consequence of this newer world of fewer balls in play may be the decision by organizations to value defense a little bit less (though not not at all). And if this is so, this contradicts a recent trend that saw defensive value as the most recent Moneyball asset that was undervalued in the marketplace and exploited by teams unwilling to pay for big bats.

Finally, related to the broader topic of our ever changing past time, Craig Calcaterra discusses Tampa's use of openers (rather than starters) and what this might portend for the game as a whole. Now that I see a guy like Stanak opening games (and I really wish he were the starter again tonight), I wonder why this hasn't been done before. It allows your "starter" to enter the 2nd inning having bypassed the top of the lineup, getting to see them only a 2nd time in their 3rd at-bats. I think the league-wide movement in this direction will be slow, and won't be uniform, but I think we will see more of it. Verlander types will remain traditional starters, but less established pitchers will be subject to patchwork usage. Maddon seems like an obvious manager to start tinkering with this. He's already happy playing his players at any damn position he wants.

hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:32 AM EDT (#365115) #
Being an opener gives the pitcher zero opportunity for wins-saves-holds. Those things are still valued in arbitration, no? So really need buy-in and a good relationship with the reliever.

I'd be interested to know how Tampa and Stanek approached this, as opposed to a guy like Romo, for whom it would have no negative financial ramifications.
Chuck - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:36 AM EDT (#365116) #
Those things are still valued in arbitration, no?

Perhaps the arguments presented in arbitration will have to become more sophisticated, to move with the changes in the game. What is deGrom's representative going to argue this off-season? Yes, my client failed to win 10 games, but he did win the Cy Young award.

hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:43 AM EDT (#365117) #
That's kind of what I was saying, Chuck. If the Mets and deGrom have a good relationship, the Mets wouldn't argue deGrom's award should be suppressed by his failure to win 10 games. In fact, they shouldn't even go as far as arbitration.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:46 AM EDT (#365118) #
Mike G's generally optimistic nature is probably required here to temper my generally pessimistic nature, but the 360-400 annual innings of elite pitching from Sanchez and Stroman, that we were hoping to be seeing by now, seems more and more a pipe dream.

I can't help there, Chuck.  I never believed that Sanchez would be an ace starting pitcher, and I am convinced that the blister issues are serious. 

I would love to see Sanchez and Stroman both used as openers- for 2 innings every 3 games.  I think that they'd be better able to keep the blisters under control, and  both have been more effective the first time through the order anyways (in Sanchez' case, by a large margin). I'd happily take 210 elite innings from the two of them. With the talent on this club, I'd have a 3rd opener- perhaps Gaviglio, and then run a typical 5 man rotation following.  Borucki, SRF and Pannone would have to adjust. 

This, of course, isn't happening unless there is a change in managers. 



uglyone - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:05 AM EDT (#365121) #
"3 right handed finesse pitchers?"

Let's see if we can do some other checking, Scott.

At this point there are 168 pitchers who have thrown at least 50ip as a starter this year. Here's how our guys rank in average fastball velo:

(Reid-Foley 93.7)
39.Sanchez 93.7
79.Stroman 92.4
--84.Median Average--
89.Happ 91.9
97.Borucki 91.7
156.Garcia 89.2
159.Estrada 88.7
(Pannone 88.3)
162.Gaviglio 87.9

So by this measure, Sanchez is well above average in the power department, Stroman and Happ around average, Borucki a bit below average, while Garcia/Estrada/Gaviglio are at the bottom of the pack.


But Pitch F/X dials down into fastballs a bit tighter, and splits it up more between 4 seamers and 2 seamers.

So here's how Pitch F/X measures their 4 seamers:

40.Sanchez 94.5 (26.4%)
(Reid-Foley 94.3 (57.8%))
68.Stroman 93.2 (5.4%)
81.Happ 92.7 (56.9%)
--84.Median Average--
101.Borucki 92.1 (59.6%)
156.Garcia 89.7 (33.4%)
158.Estrada 89.1 (50.0%)
(Pannone 88.8 (73.7%))
161.Gaviglio 88.5 (8.8%)

and maybe we can look at 2seamer/sinker velocity too (140 SP with 50+ip throw sinkers):

26.Sanchez 94.3 (39.3%)
58.Stroman 92.8 (43.9%)
--70.Median Average--
100.Happ 90.9 (16.5%)
120.Garcia 89.8 (31.2%)
131.Gaviglio 88.5 (49.0%)


And I guess it makes sense to look at one more power pitch, the slider (131 SP with 50+ip throw sliders):

42.Stroman 86.1 (22.4%)
45.Happ 85.9 (12.4%)
(Reid-Foley 83.7 (21.1%)
--66.Median Average--
88.Gaviglio 83.4 (26.6%)
101.Garcia 81.5 (15.9%)
128.Borucki 78.7 (14.7%)


I'd have to agree with you, Scott. Sanchez is clearly a power pitcher, but with just good velo, not elite velo.

Stroman does pitch LIKE a finesse pitcher, but with above average velocity on all his pitches.

Happ pitches LIKE a power pitcher, but with below average velo.

SRF is a power pitcher.

The rest are all finesse pitchers, but the term junkballers is maybe a better term for some of them, at least.
uglyone - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:07 AM EDT (#365122) #
"This, of course, isn't happening unless there is a change in managers"

I find this interesting - aside from the Rays project, i'm not sure there's another manager in baseball that has been more aggressive with his relievers, or more experimental with using his SP in different roles (e.g. price), or even who has used more reliever starters this year.
Shoeless Joe - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:31 AM EDT (#365123) #
Chuck I think you make some good points about how the decreased amount of balls in play is changing how teams should value defense, I hadn't really put much thought into it.
hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:38 AM EDT (#365124) #
Yeah, I think it's as much the pitchers themselves as the manager. I don't think we appreciate sometimes how headstrong they can be and how much deference they get. Look at the Stroman blister thing. Everyone seems to wants to shut him down - everyone except Stroman himself
hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:49 AM EDT (#365126) #
how the decreased amount of balls in play is changing how teams should value defense,

Shifting has also played a part and I have read a few things on infield defence, especially range, being traded off for boosts in hitting. I wonder if that applies to outfield defence as well though.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:50 AM EDT (#365127) #
Pitchers getting headstrong?  There's a pretty simple answer for that.  If you haven't been effective in a starting role for 2 years, you can't complain about being "demoted" to the opener role.  Managers gotta manage. That goes for who starts and who sits in the lineup and what roles pitchers play. 

The Rays have done it exactly right.  If you've got a pitcher who has earned a conventional starting role, like Snell, you let them do it.  If you don't have such a pitcher, you don't.    Sanchez clearly hasn't.  It's closer with Stroman- he was a good pitcher in 2016 and 2017 and blisters have set him back this year. 



bpoz - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:00 AM EDT (#365128) #
Thanks Magpie for all this work.

Also thanks to all the opinions on this subject. Power pitchers seem to be the preference.

95+ into the 7th inning? Control and command are very important factors. So the 2019 AA & AAA SPs that can be regarded as power pitchers are who?

TJ Zeuch, Hector Perez, Patrick Murphy and Y Diaz? Maybe J Romano? They all have had good years.
hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:01 AM EDT (#365129) #
Mike, even the Rays got by-in from their openers - they didn't just tell them that's what you're doing because we say so.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:07 AM EDT (#365130) #
If Sanchez doesn't want to be an opener, then you can move him into the conventional set-up man role he had when he arrived.  He shouldn't be a starter expected to throw 5-7 innings almost every outing until he is absolutely blister-free and performing well. 
bpoz - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:47 AM EDT (#365131) #
The stars are big ego, headstrong people. It is hard for them to back off. Stroman for sure IMO. The teams have to cater to their stars.
CeeBee - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:53 AM EDT (#365132) #
"Pitchers getting headstrong? There's a pretty simple answer for that. If you haven't been effective in a starting role for 2 years, you can't complain about being "demoted" to the opener role. Managers gotta manage. That goes for who starts and who sits in the lineup and what roles pitchers play. "

Agents will have a say in this to as long as counting stats are used in contract negotiations.
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 11:57 AM EDT (#365133) #
Sanchez is not a star.  He's 26 years old and has had one great season in 2016.  That is also the only season where he has thrown more than 100 innings in the major leagues. 
Mike Green - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:04 PM EDT (#365134) #

Agents will have a say in this to as long as counting stats are used in contract negotiations.

I remember Pablo Sandoval's agent complaining that leaving him out of the everyday lineup was like keeping a Porsche in the garage.  The Red Sox correctly paid that no mind. 
bpoz - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:09 PM EDT (#365135) #
What you say is correct about headstrong. I understood your points. Regarding Stroman it seems to me that he returns from injury too fast. The other example was Janssen feeling slighted and complaining when Sanchez took the closer role from him in 2014. Food poisoning during the AS break.
whiterasta80 - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:21 PM EDT (#365136) #
I remember thinking that Al Leiter would never get over his blister issues.

He threw 2000 innings of ~115 ERA+ ball after I came to that conclusion. I'm still holding out hope for Sanchize.
Cracka - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:22 PM EDT (#365137) #
Being an opener gives the pitcher zero opportunity for wins-saves-holds.

One of the greatest things about baseball is that new stats are invented all the time. You could easily track the number of "Opens" for a pitcher if you defined it simply such as "A start of 3 IP or less with 0 ER allowed" (you can debate the IP limit - maybe just includes all starts with 0 ER allowed, regardless of IP). I just checked and Ryne Stanek has 19 "Opens" in 24 starts this year (79%). If stats like these were readily available, it would remove one of the potential barriers to further league-wide adoption of "Openers".
Chuck - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:28 PM EDT (#365138) #
I remember thinking that Al Leiter would never get over his blister issues.

I remember thinking smoking was bad for your health. Then George Burns lived to 100.

hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:48 PM EDT (#365140) #
Cracka - stats like that are readily available to player agents. The question is will salary arbitrators even consider them in their decision? Past practice still holds a lot of sway there.
bpoz - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 12:59 PM EDT (#365141) #
Chuck Hahaha.
hypobole - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 01:17 PM EDT (#365142) #
Had a debate here a while back as to exactly what was meant by Patrick Murphy having a "firm change-up". Asked Kiley today in his FG chat

hypo
12:31 What exactly is meant by a pitch being "firm" , as in a pitcher having a "firm change"

Kiley McDaniel
12:32 Thrown harder than the ideal velo. For a changeup, that means the velo separation is less than 8-10, usually from the fastball
bpoz - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 03:07 PM EDT (#365144) #
Thanks hypobole.
Magpie - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:15 PM EDT (#365160) #
I remember thinking that Al Leiter would never get over his blister issues.

Leiter's legendary blister problem. That must be the longest three months in human history.
greenfrog - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:15 PM EDT (#365161) #
Sanchez was also very good in the second half of 2015 (when he had a 2.39 ERA and opponents hit .176/.245/.222 against him).

If he is unable to hold up physically as a starter, I would be content to see him slotted into a setup role in the 'pen.
uglyone - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 07:48 PM EDT (#365166) #
I tend to think blister problems fix themselves eventually.

I'm more concerned with whether or not Sanchez is actually a good pitcher or not. Even in his one good season, his fips weren't great.
scottt - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 08:17 PM EDT (#365171) #
Sanchez never had a good K rate.
He had a great fastball that moved well, was really heavy and generated tons of ground balls.
He seems to have cut down on the curve this year.

scottt - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 08:42 PM EDT (#365179) #
I tab Happ as a finesse guy. He hits his spots.
Stroman misses too much for me to consider him a finesse pitcher.
To be fair, he mostly targets the bottom of the zone.
At times he tried to pitch to contact. Recently he's been trying to hit the corners with a cutter, that's a finesse approach, but that's not his game.
Ideally, he needs to reduce the number of balls, get the ball in play early in the count and figure how to get more strike out once the hitters get to 2 strike and start to choke. His slider should be good enough for that.

Shoeless Joe - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 09:24 PM EDT (#365195) #
I agree with Ugly as far as sanchez goes. Iím not worried about the blisters, but Iím worried about how well he can pitch consistently.
SK in NJ - Wednesday, September 05 2018 @ 10:26 PM EDT (#365205) #
2016 looks like the outlier in Sanchez's career, minors and Majors. Iím not confident with him in the rotation at this point but the team really has no choice but to keep running him out there and hope he turns it around.
ayjackson - Thursday, September 06 2018 @ 12:08 AM EDT (#365220) #
Lots of context being glossed over on Sanchez. I think he'll be fine. I expect a solid year next year and a long career as a starter.
Magpie - Thursday, September 06 2018 @ 01:36 AM EDT (#365222) #
I tab Happ as a finesse guy.

I understand why, so I suppose I should clarify that when I say Power and Finesse I'm talking about results, not style. Power pitchers get strikeouts, Finesse pitchers get Balls in Play. By that reckoning, Happ is very much a Power pitcher. So was Shaun Marcum, whose heater seldom broke 85 mph.
Spifficus - Thursday, September 06 2018 @ 03:47 AM EDT (#365223) #
Hey! Marcum was lived at 87-88! And a swing-and-miss changeup at 81. Man, I loved that thing.
ayjackson - Thursday, September 06 2018 @ 08:05 AM EDT (#365226) #
Marcum a power pitcher?? FAKE NEWS FAKE NEWS!

scottt - Thursday, September 06 2018 @ 08:18 AM EDT (#365228) #
I see. High strike outs pitchers vs low strike out pitchers.

I think I dropped the association between velocity and strike out after watching Henderson Alvarez get 80 Ks in 30+ starts while touching 98mph.

Pitchers who throw a sinking 2-seamer fastball don't get a lot of misses on it.
That's Sanchez and Stroman.
The fastball is down in the league and starters get a lot of their strike outs on their breaking balls.
Except both Stroman and Sanchez have had blisters issue that caused them to move away from their best pitches.
Gavigilo throws a lot of breaking balls and gets a fair number of strikeout.
Estrada is in his own class, but I don't expect him back.

SRF is your right handed power pitcher. He just needs to have enough control.

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