Preaching Padre religion one post at time

Monday, August 3, 2009

FanGraphs: Latos' early struggles against lefties

FanGraphs.com has recently published an early article about Mat Latos. You can read the full article at FanGraphs.com (and you should spend some additional time there, if you don't know the site). To sum the post:
What’s interesting about Latos to date is his platoon split. Small sample size caveat applies heavily, but righties are hitting .091/.118/.273 against him while lefties hit .273/.360/.545.
Of course, he's only faced 25 left handed hitters this year. However, the comments on the fangraphs article indicate that he also had these issues in the minors. Usual small sample size (SSS) caveats apply to the main article.

That said, FF isn't too concerned with the numbers above. Latos has been successful so far, but his fundamental numbers (using the Fangraphs Fielding Independent Pitching numbers) indicate he's been a bit lucky with his results. All in all, there is more to be excited about here than concerned. Latos throws mid 90s with good control and gets the Ks. That's a good recipe for success when you are getting 18 starts per season in Petco.

We'll keep watching him and reporting; for now, he's the Padres highest upside thrower and looks to be a strong contributor for a little while.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Latos shows promise in debut

Yesterday Mat Latos made his Padre debut again the Colorado Rockies, going 4 innings while giving up 2 earned runs, on 3 hits and a walk, and striking out 4. He threw 75 pitches in pounding the zone with 51 strikes and was lifted due to pitch count restrictions.

While he didn't electrify the crowd with the game results, Latos exhibited some of the skills that have so many in the Padre organization excited. Touted as the best Padre pitching prospect since Jake Peavy came through the system, Latos' stuff didn't disappoint.

However, that's where the Peavy comparison have to end, at least for the time being. Listed at 6' 6", Latos stands taller than that on the mound, throwing from a somewhat rigid tall-and-fall base. His fastball relies on velocity (of which it has plenty -- on Sunday his fastball ranged from 91 m.p.h. to 98 m.p.h., and was regularly around 95-96) and location, as it doesn't have much movement. Padres' VP of Scouting and Player Development, Grady Fuson, has said that Latos has one of the most electric arms he's ever seen, and upon watching the Gameday replay, Friar Forum has to agree.

His minor league numbers, all <200 innings worth, describe a guy with excellent control and the ability to miss bats (combined minor league numbers: 142 K to 37 BB in 112 IP, allowing just 5 HR during that time. Of course, all of his games were at or below AA ball), but it's worth noting that he posted those numbers while significantly younger than the competition.

What Friar Forum likes about Latos: in one word, his stuff. When you take a guy that pounds the strike zone (hitting his location within the zone), can miss bats while not giving up the longball, and put him in Petco Park (PF = 79.7, with an average MLB ballpark = 100) and you're going to find a guy to build a rotation around. His fastball tops out at 98 m.p.h., with a mid-80's slider and a changeup that is still in need of serious development. FF also appreciates the Padres' organization handling him carefully, as he's only thrown 50-60 IP each of the last two minor league seasons.

What FF doesn't like about Latos: the rumors of his fiery temperament. This is a two-edged sword: we appreciate a guy who has the will to win, but also have concerns regarding his demeanor. On the mound, it's all too easy to build an anger cycle that negatively affects performance, and a guy like Latos (and, yes, Jake Peavy as well) may be more prone to that than other pitchers. If he can harness it like Peavy (usually) does, it could be a benefit. If he is unable to control himself he will have difficulty controlling his pitches. And, again, there are the usual caveats of TINSTAAP (There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect). A guy with mechanics like his (smooth opening motion sliding into a violent finish with a somewhat weak front side) may be more prone to injury; his height may be a disadvantage (some posit that a larger pitcher has difficult repeating deliveries, something that plagued Randy Johnson a bit early in his career). Also, his offspeed stuff doesn't complement his fastball; at 21 years of age, however, FF is willing to acknowledge that he has time to work on it.

So what can be gleaned from Latos' 75 pitch outing? Aside from the fact that the Padres will handle his development very carefully (he was on a strict pitch count limit), we got to see Latos' excellent location -- the only big mistake was a fastball that Ian Stewart pound 430 feet for a solo HR. He wasn't afraid to challenge hitters with his fastball -- out of the 75 pitches, about 60 were fastballs -- and he was able to generate strikeouts from that pitch. He struggled a bit putting hitters away, and his offspeed stuff wasn't sharp. But this is a guy who has thrown all of 50 innings above high-A ball, has a powerful fastball, and is still just 21 years old.

Finally, Padres seem to be handling the kid with kid gloves, in the minors as well as the majors. After all, if a guy is throwing lots of innings in the minors, it stresses his arm as much as at higher levels (see the article referenced in the above TINSTAAP link). With the Padres effectively playin for 2010 and beyond, they might as well give Latos an opportunity to introduce himself to major league hitters. If only because they'll be seeing more of him than they'd like very soon.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Peavy Nixed Deal To ChiSox

Jake Peavy will remain in San Diego, for now. The reason that the former Cy Young winner is not packing his bags for a foursome of prospects is that Kevin Towers and the Padres continue to give up their leverage in order to sign players to a more discounted deal by giving players the power of a full no trade clause. Jake Peavy has stated time and again that he has a strong preference to stay in the National League. He, as FF would have, used his power to dictate his destination. FF urges fans not to be upset with Peavy; when he signed a discounted deal to stay in San Diego he gave up the right of free agency thus his right to decide where to sign. This clause was earned by Peavy, just should not be given away by the Padres front office.

All Padres fans remember the multiple deals that Phil Nevin turned down to stay in SD (one to the Reds that would have brought Ken Griffey, Jr, and another to Baltimore) as well as Brian Giles last season to Boston. This continuously come back to bite the Padres and is frustrating for the organization and the fans.


Foxsports Ken Rosenthal agrees with FF.

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Tony Gywnn Jr A Padre

Amid all the Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox rumors on Thursday the Friars did pull the trigger to bring Tony Gywnn Jr to San Diego in exchange for Jody Gerut. While FF has enjoyed watching Jody Gerut resurrect his career in a Padres uniform we are excited to have the son of Mr Padre roaming the spacious outfield in Petco Park (19 Tony Gywnn Ave)! FF wrote about the possibility of bringing Gywnn Jr in at the beginning of the season, but we were about 45 days early.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Text Chat: May 19, 2009

1st Inning:
Scott: Scotty top tank
Ryan: Nice
Scott: Hundley HR in second straight ab... walk off and then this to straight away CF
Scott: Go team

7th Inning:
Ryan: That last pitch - WOW
Scott: Not watching... what happened?
Scott: Was it the Burke guy? He looks solid, goes right after people
Ryan: It looked like a screwball (probably a changeup). Seriously, rewind it. It is that worth it.
Scott: Wow, nice catch by Lewis... not amazing - but nice
Scott: I will after this half inning...
Ryan: Indeed.
Scott: Pitch around Hairston to get to AGone? Idiot

9th Inning:
Ryan: I hate to sound like Dad, but Heath is overdue for a less than steller outing
Scott: I can't wait for you to sound like him when you say 'O-V-E-R'
Ryan: O-V-E-R.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Draft Day Decision

The Padres own the 3rd overall pick in this June's draft and mlbtraderumors.com shuffles through a few possibilities to help rebuild the Friars farm system. A silver lining after another road loss (now at 11 straight) is that the Padres are posturing for a very high pick in the 2010 draft as well...

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

SIGH

With the exception of the phenomenal talent of Adrian Gonzalez this team is unbearable to watch.


The End

Monday, May 4, 2009

Running Wild on Chris Young

This topic has been covered extensively elsewhere (most notably on FanGraphs.com: "Chris Young's fatal flaw"). Dave Cameron neatly sums up his article: "[q]uite simply, Young is worse at holding runners than anyone else in baseball is at any other skill."

Of course, many great pitchers have been notoriously poor at holding runners. Greg Maddux, for his career, was stolen against at a 76.3% rate (league average usually varies between about 68-72%). Chris Young, for his career, is 91% (and 100% last year and so far this season). Statistical analyses show that the "break-even" point for steals sits around 75%, implying that teams generally deploy a sub-optimal stolen base strategy.

Back to Young. On April 27, the Rockies went 8-8 in stolen bases in Young's 3 innings. Dexter Fowler went 5-5. Watching the start, it was clear that Young wouldn't have lasted long, with or without the stolen bases. However, we can estimate exactly how many runs he cost the Padres during that start.

To start, familiarize yourself with the run expectancy matrix (data is from 1999-2002, but other studies have shown that these rates are acceptable for the modern era). Basically, this is MLB-wide data showing how many runs a team can expect to score in a general runners-out situation. There are more specific systems available that customize these on a team-by-team basis, but these are more difficult to use, and do not provide a significantly greater amount of accuracy.

Using the matrix linked above, we look at each stolen base against Young on his 27 April start. Additionally, I have pulled film from MLB.tv to look at each base and give a rough estimation of the Nick Hundley's chance at preventing the theft. I'll run through the first 2 stolen bases then will present the summary.

SB #1: Fowler on 1B, steals 2B, 0 out. With 0 out, runner on 1st, a team can expect to score .953 runs. With 0 out, runner on 2nd, that becomes 1.189 runs; essentially, the stolen base is "worth" the difference, or .236 runs.
SB #2 and #3: This was a double-steal. Fowler stole 3rd while Spilboroghs stole 2nd. 1st and 2nd with 0 outs expects 1.573 runs; 2nd and 3rd with 0 out expects 2.052 runs, a difference of .479 runs.

Summary data for all 8 SB against Chris Young: the expected cost was 1.61 runs. Of course, several times the Rockies would've scored those runs with or without the stolen bases, but it's fair to say that Young likely cost himself between 1-2 runs because of the 8 SB against him. In reviewing video, Hundley had no chance at 4 of the stolen bases. Twice he dropped the pitch, and twice could have gotten the runner with a perfect throw. I think it's fair to lay most of the blame at Young's feet: several times, the runners had a head start before C.Y. started his motion!

I have two thoughts to this: first, stolen bases generally aren't worth that much. The most valuable situation in this example (excluding double steals) was Fowler's 1 out steal of third; it "earned" the Rockies about .293 runs. Even in an extreme example, 8SB in 3IP only cost (at most) 2 runs. Secondly, I think that Young is so outrageously bad at holding runners, that an event with such a small effect on runs (the stolen base) will force him to focus on something other than pitching to the hitter.

For last season, runners were a perfect 44-44 in stolen bases against Chris Young. Assuming that the overall weighted run expectancy for the stolen base is about .20 (as has been shown elsewhere), Young cost himself almost 10 runs last year in stolen bases. 10 runs is about equal to 1 win; Young's value in 2007 (remember, 2008 was marred by horrific injuries) was about 4.5 wins. This suggests that Young gives away about a quarter of his positive value simply because he's unable to hold a runner.

For several years now, the Padres defense against the running game has been an absolute joke. Opposing teams were 150-176 (85.2%) in 2006, 189-209 (90.4%) in 2007, 268-208 (81.5%) in 2008, and are 25-29 this year (86.2%). Fortunately, opponents haven't yet begun to steal as much as they should against the Pads, but the question remains: how long will it take other teams to follow Clint Hurdle's lead and give the entire team the green light? The Padres are costing themselves 2-5 wins per year by not defending against the stolen base at a league average rate. FF wonders how long the Padres can afford to get dismal offensive as well as defensive production coming out of the catcher's spot...

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