FanPost

Fielding and Ballpark Independent Outcomes: 2013 Quad Cities Starting Pitchers

Scott Halleran

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What follows is how the Astros' 2013 starting-biased pitchers of the lower full-season A-ball Quad Cities club performed versus their Midwest League peers, as judged by the Fielding and Ballpark Independent Outcomes system which I have been posting data from here at The Crawfish Boxes. A more detailed explanation as to how the scores are computed can be found in this prior FanPost. Quad Cities becomes the fifth organizational affiliate to be put under this microscope, joining Corpus Christi, Lancaster, Tri-City, and Greeneville.

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What the Scores Mean

"Performance Score" amounts to the pitcher's overall grade for the Midwest League portion of their season relative to other league starters and is evaluated over every plate appearance that did not result in a foulout or bunt; its computation assumes that the 2013 Midwest-League-average effect on run expectancy occurred in every instance of each of 12 possible plate appearance outcomes:

  1. walk or hit-by-pitch = +0.32 runs
  2. strikeout = -0.28 runs
  3. infield flyball = -0.28 runs
  4. groundball (GB) to batter's pull-field third of the diamond = -0.08 runs
  5. GB to center-field third = -0.01 runs
  6. GB to opposite-field third = -0.06 runs
  7. line drive (LD) to pull-field third = +0.39 runs
  8. LD to center-field third = +0.36 runs
  9. LD to opposite-field third = +0.31 runs
  10. outfield flyball (OFFB) to pull-field = +0.35 runs
  11. OFFB to center-field = -0.01 runs
  12. OFFB to opposite-field = -0.03 runs

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The three performance subscores (Control Subscore, Strikeout Subscore, Batted Ball Subscore) quantify how the pitcher would rate versus league peers looking only at control, only at strikeouts, or only at batted balls (reverse engineering the Performance Score metric reveals that it is influenced 43% by strikeouts, 34% by batted balls, and 23% by control). Age Score is tabulated independent of the performance measures and simply quantifies how young the pitcher was relative to the league starting pitcher sample. A 50 score on any measure amounts to matching the league's average value (the pitcher topped or equaled 50% of peers), a 60 amounts to 1 standard deviation (SD) better than league-average (topped/equaled 83% of peers), a 70 amounts to 2 SD better than league-average (topped/equaled 97% of peers), a 40 amounts to 1 SD worse than league-average (topped/equaled 17% of peers), and so on with any 10 point swing in a score amounting to 1 SD.

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The Scores

In the tables that follow, values that bettered the league average by at least 1 SD are highlighted in green text ("very good") whereas those that trailed it by at least 1 SD are in red ("very bad"). Asterisks indicate lefthanded throwers. The 11 pitchers in bold were among the 136 official qualifiers for the study pool in so much as they faced at least 200 batters in the league while averaging at least 10 batters faced per game (non-qualifiers do not enter into calculation of the means and standard deviations that are used to assign scores to pitchers).

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Holmes spent two months away from the club in the middle of the year while dealing with an injury, but around that spell he posted some rather impressive stats, including the 9th highest Performance Score in the sample of 136 league starters; not many pitchers in professional baseball grade out a full SD better than their league's average at both strikeouts and batted balls, as those two outcome measures tend to have an inverse relationship (as one skill goes up, the other typically goes down). Jankowski and Hauschild, who were selected very late and consecutively in the 2012 draft, each morphed from an obscure 2012 Greeneville reliever into a top 10% 2013 Midwest League starter before being bumped up to Lancaster for the final month-plus. The much more their junior Velasquez matched them in Performance Score and would also later earn a one-way ticket to California; one can appreciate below that Velasquez' current forte is the strikeout.

2013qcssp-scores2_zps0a102109_large

The still younger McCullers also profiles as a strikeout artist at this stage, though there are signs in his batted ball profile that suggest he may also turn out to be an above-average performer on contact. The table summarizes just a fourth of Hader's 2013 data as the other A-ball stats he accrued as an Orioles farmhand have yet to be analyzed; for now, we can conclude that he was exceptionally young to be spending an entire year at this particular level of competition. Minaya scores surprisingly well over a small sample of work that was split between tandeming and conventional relief. Cain was good on batted balls and just a hair under the league-average age despite being demoted a level to Quad Cities for most of 2013. That Appel's small sample of batted ball outcomes rated below average was a surprise, as that is projected to be one of his strong suits as a pro.

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The next table shows how each pitcher's event frequencies sorted out. Holmes earned his high Batted Ball Subscore by avoiding line drives and generating infield pops. Hauschild earned his by inducing a ton of grounders and not being pulled on outfield flyballs. McCullers also generated an above-average rate of grounders and was seldom pulled on outfield flies, and that kept his Batted Ball Subscore better than average despite a somewhat high line drive rate.

2013qcssp-events2_zps3cec50b9_large

Appel surrendered line drives at a few percentage points worse rate than average and generated very few infield pops, and combined that would essentially offset his above-average overall groundball rate; that his groundballs were skewed towards the middle of the diamond also worked against him slightly and would explain how his Batted Ball Subscore ended up below the league-average 50 mark.

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And below are the LHB splits data and the RHB splits data of the 11 qualifiers, again graded relative to the corresponding numbers of their league peers. The southpaw Holmes was equally impressive versus RHB and LHB, and the subscores show that he was nearly the same sort of pitcher outcomes-wise versus both types. The righty Jankowski stifled RHB, ranking as the 4th best starter in the league (out of 136) versus them in Performance Score. Hauschild, too, was relatively better versus same-handed RHB; like Jankowski, the difference between his LHB and RHB Performance Scores was almost entirely owed to a large disparity in strikeouts.

2013qcssp-splits_zps40085976_large

Scouting reports touting Velasquez' use of a quality changeup in 2013 would stand to explain his better performance against opposite-handed bats (LHB), though the RHB results were good in their own right. Recent internet reports ding McCullers on his changeup, but his ranking here as the 5th best league starter versus LHB would make one wonder why he'd need to throw the pitch if he is getting those results without an effective one. The better question would relate to why a righthander who has been touted as having a plus fastball, and, more relevantly, a plus breaking ball would post a league-average overall performance number versus RHB. There could be a smaller-scale Cosart phenomenon going on with McCullers' repertoire wherein the primary fastball and/or the primary breaking ball have a movement profile that is biased towards missing the sweet spot of opposite-handed bats at the expense of finding it more often versus same-handed ones. The righty Minor's good outcomes versus RHB and bad ones versus LHB suggest that he may be better suited to relief work prospectively.

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On Tap

The AAA Oklahoma City club is the next and final affiliate to be evaluated. After that there would stand to be a wrap-up post summarizing how each system starter did over their complete seasonal body of work, and perhaps another evaluating the system's relievers in a similar light.

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