HOUSTON - MAY 03: Third baseman Pedro Feliz #77 of the Houston Astros knocks down a hard hit ball during a baseball game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Minute Maid Park on May 3, 2010 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
As they say, "The thing about streaks? They end."
This too shall pass. For a tree to grow tall, it must grow tough roots among the rocks. Tough times never last, but tough people do. Losing streaks are funny. If you lose at the beginning you got off to a bad start. If you lose in the middle of the season, you're in a slump. If you lose at the end, you're choking. Fans tend to get too excited by streaks of either kind and I think the press does too. There should be a happy medium.
Some words of wisdom from Nietzsche, Walt Alston, Gene Mauch and Proverbs. Let's get on with the notes, before I chant, "We're Not Last, We're Not Last."
Felipe Paulino - It wasn't a bad outing by Paulino, but it wasn't exactly a great one either. Let's see what he was throwing.
|Pitch Type||Avg Speed||Max Speed||Avg H-Break||Avg V-Break||Count||Strikes / %||Swinging Strikes / %||Nibbleness||Time to Plate|
|FF (FourSeam Fastball)||95.41||97.4||-5.09||5.56||60||32 / 53.33%||4 / 6.67%||6.72||0.396|
|CH (Changeup)||86.55||87||-6.63||7.11||2||2 / 100.00%||1 / 50.00%||3.26||0.438|
|SL (Slider)||86.71||88.7||-0.87||-2.63||35||26 / 74.29%||5 / 14.29%||5.99||0.435|
|CU (Curveball)||77.60||79||0.15||-5.72||12||6 / 50.00%||2 / 16.67%||7.90||0.484|
|FT (TwoSeam Fastball)||95.14||97.2||-7.17||1.32||5||4 / 80.00%||1 / 20.00%||4.41||0.397|
His slider has had more horizontal movement in the past, but it wasn't a big change. Plus, Paulino got five swing-throughs with the pitch, which is good considering he threw 35 of them. Paulino also fell into a similar situation that Bud Norris did; he was working off his fastball/slider combination. Yes, he did throw his curve 12 times, but that's barely 10 percent of his total pitch count. Yes, he did get four whiffs on his fastball, but they would have stood out a little more if he'd been able to use his change or curve more effectively. His safest pitch for a strike was the slider while Paulino struggled to command the four-seamer. That could have been because of the movement on the pitch. His four-seamer had more sink than it usually does. What Pitch F/X dubbed his 'two-seamer' actually looks like a lot of guys' change, except at 95-97 MPH. In contrast, the changeup was the pitch with the least vertical movement out of the three. If Paulino has a hard time getting the change to stay down, that could explain why he doesn't throw it that often.
Here is Paulino's speed chart for the game:
There is a definite dip around the 80-pitch mark, which was at the end of the fourth inning. Whether it was fatigue or just demoralization is anyone's guess.
If I showed you this data on what Paulino was throwing and told you he struck out eight in six inning while walking four, you'd think he had a pretty decent night, right? Would you have guessed he gave up four runs? Probably not.
The big blow came when Chris Snyder hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning. What I wanted to do was break down that at-bat. Here is the strike zone plot for those five pitches:
Snyder took the first pitch, a slider that caught quite a bit of the zone. The next was a fastball at his knees that was called a ball. Again, Paulino put the pitch right down the center of the strike zone, just down a bit. The third and fourth pitches were located much better. Paulino got Snyder to chase a slider off the outside edge on the first and threw another fastball low and away but didn't get the call. What does he throw for his fifth pitch? A meatball. Right over the center of the plate, in the middle of the zone, one of those pitches you see in the baseball video games when your eyes get wide. Paulino showed some trouble spotting the ball early in this at-bat, but that was a bad mistake.
How did I know what pitches he was throwing? The plot which spelled out the pitch types was very hard to read, so I used this speed graph of the at-bat.
Yep, Paulino got beat on a 95 MPH heater down the middle of the zone. The pitch didn't have a lot of horizontal movement last night, but it did have some sink. Unfortunately, it didn't have enough sink to miss the sweet spot on Snyder's bat.
This is the reason I started going more in-depth with the pitch data. When was the last time you could easily see why a pitcher got beat, without watching it on TV? We can all see that Paulino has excellent stuff. The question is why he keeps getting beaten, why his numbers don't match up to what we expect him to do. You can't make mistakes like that to big-league hitters. They can hit good pitches a long way and can definitely hit mistakes out of the ballpark.
Comment of the Day and Leaderboard: Touche, Evan, touche...
And now for the leaderboard:
|Name||# of Posts|
|Joe in Birmingham||67|
RJ wasn't always a firebrand: I bring to you a really fun read, this Richard Justice interview with Hall of Famer Monte Irvin. Justice paints a picture of this 91-year old man, showing his lighter side and talking about his colorful past. It must've been a fun interview and Irvin sounds like he led a pretty special life. I especially liked the stories about him and Roy Campanella trading favors. A story like that breaks now and you have fifteen columnists losing their minds on Around the Horn.
One of the reasons I link to this story is that I enjoy history and especially baseball history. But, I also thought this was a good reminder of what a good journalist Justice can be. We see him so often as the contrarian, the guy who baits the trolls on his blog. As a columnist, he rarely gets a chance to show what a solid baseball guy he is because he's talking about big picture ideas.
I was talking to a friend of mine from Baltimore about Justice recently. He said the thing that made RJ a great beat reporter is how he could take a little unflattering anecdote and report it in such a way that the player or manager couldn't get mad. Whether that was him being more vague with the parties or how he wrote it up, my friend didn't specify, but it does show that Justice made his career on that kind of nuance. It's nice to see it again every now and then.
Drayton speaks: In the midst of this pretty generic story over at Fox Sports Houston, we get a great quote from owner Drayton McLane.
"It’s of grave concern, but it’s just one month into the season."
Buried at the end of this article is a quote that perfectly embodies McLane's relationship with the Houston fans. He knows the product he's putting on the field is bad. He knows fans are frustrated. He also knows it's way too early to take any drastic steps. By saying it's not just a concern, but a 'grave concern,' he lets everyone know he's as worried as you are. We may think things would be better with a different owner, but I'm not sure the next guy could have such a good read on Astros fandom.
The rest of the article is worth a read, just to get some quotes about why it's too early to panic, why McLane isn't like George Steinbrenner, etc.
A look at swing mechanics: This article over at Project Prospect has nothing to do with Houston, the Astros or any of the normal reasons you might expect. I link to it because it has a great breakdown of swings. The guy they have writing these and doing their hitting analysis, Steve Carter, has a background in hitting and knows his stuff. It's little things like this, showing how Mauer and Ethier drive their back hips into the swing while Gordon does not, that really excite me.
Flash-forward two months to the June draft. Now, you've got one more tool for evaluating draft picks. Those 30-second videos of draftees may not show much, but when you can notice little pieces about their mechanics, it can add up to a more informed opinion. The truth shall set you free.
Talking through the stats (WPA, WE): I link, you decide. Tom Tango has a nifty little FAQ-style post about Win Percentage Added and Win Expectancy. It hits the highs and the lows of this stat, which is a nice recap if you're unfamiliar with what it really means.
I like this stat for exactly the reasons Tango describes. It's a way to show what you can see in the game. How huge was Snyder's home run last night? Pretty big, basically swinging the WPA all the way down to the Diamondbacks. What did Pedro Feliz' grounding into a double play do to the Astros? Hurt them a little bit. Should that mean that Snyder is a much better player than Feliz? Nope. They just performed better in a particular situation.
How is this relevant to you? I want to know what you think about WPA. Do you like the stat? Do you like seeing those charts? Is it helpful to how you follow the Astros?
Mariners hunting for offense: Oh, boy. Remember how the Mariners were relying on defense to carry the day this season? Turns out pitching and defense don't always carry the day. This report at MLB Trade Rumors suggests that Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik is shopping for offense.
Oh, how the times have changed. It's true that by relying on great defensive players, you sometimes sacrifice offense. But, it's worth noting that the Mariners also signed Chone Figgins this offseason to help the offense out and he's been just okay. They also re-signed Ken Griffey, Jr., who has a .527 OPS in 63 plate appearances. They have designated for assignment at least three players who may be better offensively than Mike Sweeney, though he's still on the roster.
Just goes to show you how instant analysis of offseason moves can backfire. Where are all the people who were calling Z a genius now? Where are all the people criticizing Ed Wade? (whisper off-mic) Really? People are STILL criticizing Wade? Because the Astros are playing like one of the worst teams in baseball? Huh...
More on the minors: Lots of goodness in Zach Levine's latest Minor League Notebook, including a section on Jay Austin. What I find interesting about this is that he was labeled as a five-tool guy when he was drafted. Doesn't that imply that the Astros intended him to have a little pop? Same goes for T.J. Steele, who keeps batting second for Corpus and even led off a game this weekend. Should we even pay attention when guys are called 'five-tool' any more? Is that why the Astros might take another outfielder high in this draft? If all they have are top of the order threats like Austin, Steele and Shuck, they need someone with power. If Steele and Austin can't provide it, that means Collin DeLome and Jon Gaston are it.
Also to note is the injuries Levine mentions. No word on how long Fernando Abad will be out, but he hasn't been dominant to this point. Wonder if they'll call up anyone from Lancaster. My money would be on Dallas Keuchel, despite the ERA. Also, it's nice to get confirmation that Wladimir Sutil has been battling an injury. When I'm going through minor league box scores, I notice the absence of guys like Sutil, but never know if it's an injury or the manager's decision why they are sitting. Hope they both come back healthy and productive.
Tweet Up With Farmstros: Speaking of the farm, today is Farmstros Tuesday Afternoon with Stu. Follow him on Twitter or search for the #TAWStu hashtag. Last time Farmstros did this, Levine dropped by for a while and there are rumors of more magnet giveaways in the future today. If you have time, go listen to Josh Banks take on the Nashville Sounds.