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Wednesday's Three Astros Things

Talking about defensive metrics, John Sickels Top 20 prospects and F-Rod in hitters counts...

Bob Levey

Some things to talk about while we contemplate that Wil Myers and Trevor Bauer have now been traded in the same week...

1) Defensive gem

Look, I'm not going to pretend like I'm not a big numbers guy when it comes to baseball. I try to blend some of the more traditional stats in when I can and try to explain the more complex ones if we use them. But, this Talking Sabermetrics series that clack has done such a great job on has been one of my favorite things we've ever done on the site.

This defensive article is a great example of that, and not just for the article itself. Look at this comment clack made, which is a very solid point:

I think that people sometimes incorrectly equate volatility in defensive metrics with inaccuracy. It’s as if people expect players to have a constant level of defensive performance, which is not reality. I think players can have good and bad defensive seasons, not unlike having good and bad offensive seasons. Sometimes it’s bad luck, and sometimes it can be anything from nagging physical ailments to mentality (family problems at home? mental blocks? etc.) to getting into a string of bad habits. If the intent is to use current defensive stats to predict future performance, then I can see merit in regressing DRS/UZR by combining multiple years of defensive results. I’m not sure I agree that combining scouting reports and defensive metrics has a similar regression impact.

There have been plenty of example of this happening in the past. Remember when Carlos Lee had such a great year metrically when he switched from left to first? That'd be like Chris Johnson's BABiP-fueled 2010 campaign.

If we are going to throw numbers around, I think it's our responsibility to discuss them like this regularly.

2) Sickels' Top 20

Lots of discussion on this one yesterday when it was released, but for those of you who haven't seen, John Sickels released his top 20 Astros prospects. Here's his top 5:

1) Carlos Correa, SS, Grade A-:

2) Jonathan Singleton, 1B, Grade B+:

3) George Springer, OF, Grade B+:

4) Jarred Cosart, RHP, Grade B:

5) Lance McCullers, JR, RHP, Grade B:

It's a really interesting list, especially in where it weights some of the trade pickups at pitcher. No Comer, no Devenski, no Musgrove on the main list. But, Aaron West is rated higher than Brady Rodgers, who both made the end.

I'm also really interested in Sickels' take on Singleton and Springer. He's got Springer having a chance to be a better player, because of his position and overall tool set. He also dinged Singleton on his hit tool, which I think may be his best attribute. I could see Singleton being a regular hitter around .300 with a .370 OBP and about 20 homers a year in his prime. But, that's also me projecting him in a very positive light.

The other thing that caught my eye is his comment on Cosart needing 100 innings at Triple-A this year. Do you think he'll get that? Or, will he be slotted into the big league bullpen right away? Did you like the list as it stacked up from what you'd seen before? Anyone you think Sickels didn't get right?

3) F-Rod through Pitch F/X

Another comment in what was a surprisingly fertile mine on clack's Talking Sabermetrics article talked about Fernando Rodriguez and his propensity to fall behind in the count and groove a fastball. The great thing about Pitch F/X is we can test the validity of that and see exactly what he did.

For the entire season, Rodriguez used his fastball 67 percent of the time. His secondary pitch was a curve, which he used 27 percent of the time and he also threw a changeup 5 percent of the time. Right there, you can see that F-Rod is more likely to throw the fastball in a situation where he falls behind in a count, just because he's got a better chance of getting a strike with it and not risk hanging a curve.

But, we can dig deeper than that. Let's look at those actual count situations to see how he used his fastball in comparison:

1-0: Fastball 80%, Curve 10%, Change 10%

2-0: Fastball 93%, Curve 5%, Change 2%

2-1: Fastball 81%, Curve 13%, Change 6%

3-0: Fastball 83%, Curve 17%, Change 0% (only saw that count 6 times)

3-1: Fastball 93%, Curve 7%, Change 0%

As expected, Rodriguez threw his fastball much more often in counts when he fell behind a batter. But, as I said, that makes sense. He wants to try and get a strike, he likes throwing his fastball for a strike, so why not try and use it then?

So, maybe he threw them more, but did he also groove those fastballs? Where in the zone was he hitting the pitch? We can see that too. Here's a strike zone plot of his fastball in all counts:


Here it is on 1-0 counts:


Here it is on 2-0:


And on 2-1:


There's no real sense that he threw a majority of those fastballs in hitters counts over the fat part of the plate. But, location and frequency of fastball usage doesn't speak to how effective the pitch was. Maybe his fastball flattened out some or otherwise didn't miss as many bats as it could have in those counts. So, let's look at his whiff percentage on those counts and overall:

Overall: 11% whiff rate

1-0: 11% whiff rate

2-0: 16% whiff rate

2-1: 10% whiff rate

3-0: 0% whiff rate (on five fastballs)

3-1: 11% whiff rate

That's pretty consistent, with the exception of those few 3-0 counts when he threw a fastball. So, the pitch was just as good as always. With an 11 percent whiff rate, F-Rod's fastball was actually better than average. But, he still struggled last season.

So, why did he struggle so badly? Random luck, being a volatile reliever, who knows? But, if we're talking about how good he can be going forward, I think you have to look at F-Rod as a guy who could take a step forward, simply because he didn't show any signs of faltering under the pressure on hitter's counts.