Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A different kind of BAbip: TFbnm

BAbip is a stat that helps track luck.

A pitcher might make a great pitch, but it results in a weak roller that goes for a hit. If you are star-crossed, that happens often. Another pitcher might hang a curve over the plate, but it results in smash line drive out. If you are fortunate, that happens often. Batting average for balls in play (BAbip) is one measure for discriminating the lucky, good from bad.

We might need a new stat, the "traded for but not mentioned" stat (TFbnm).

Consider the Sabathia/LaPorta trade. A Cy Young winner traded for a prospect. The prospect has been struggling. The pressure is clearly weighing on him.

The fans are screaming that the trade was terrible, because the prospect is not becoming a star.

But here is the thing. The trade was not one for one. The Cy Young winner was traded for multiple players. And more than one of the players received makes it to the big leagues. But because of how the trade is portrayed, they never feel the pressure of providing equal value for the star player.

Case in point, Michael Brantley will be leading off for Cleveland on Opening Day. Brantley and LaPorta were two of four players traded for Sabathia. While this fact is largely ignored in Brantley's case, it is the focus of LaPorta's development.

There should be a stat for that.

Game 2 Pitchers vs. Hitters

There are strange unwritten rules in baseball. For example, you can't change the lineup to maximize a lineup on Opening Day. So, Mark Teahan had good numbers against Carmona. But that does not matter on Opening Day. He is not the official starting third baseman . You can change things up on game 2. So, I will allow for alternative lineups.

Carlos Carrasco vs. White Sox lineup (career)

1.__ LF__ Juan Pierre _______.200/.429/.400 (7PAs)
2.__ 2B__ Gordon Beckham ___never faced each other.
3.__ CF__ Alex Rios _________.333/.333/1.333 (3 PAs) 1 HR
4.__ DH__ Adam Dunn ______never faced each other.
5.__ 1B__ Paul Konerko ______.000/.000/.ooo (6 PAs) 3 KOs
6.__ RF__ Carlos Quentin _____never faced each other.
7.__ SS__Alexei Ramirez ______.333/.333/1.333 (3 PAs) 1 HR
8.__ C___ A.J. Pierzynski _____never faced each other.
9.__ 3B__ Brent Morel _______.333/.333/.667 (3 PAs)

Very little here but that is to be expected. Don't look for Vizquel or Teahen. Vizquel is 0 for 8, and Teahen is 0 for 6. The HR numbers are noteworthy. 2 HR in 22 PAs. The 40 degree Cleveland weather should diminish the significance of this a bit. But it is worth monitoring.

Ttfc vs. Edwin Jackson

1.__ CF__ Michael Brantley _____.333/.333/.417 (12 PAs)
2.__ SS__ Asdrubal Cabrera _____.174/.200/.391 (25 PAs) 1 HR 7 KOs
3.__ RF__ Shin-Soo Choo ______.400/.478/.550 (19 PAs) 5 KOs
4.__ C___ Carlos Santana ______Never faced the White Sox
5.__ DH__ Travis Hafner ______.190/.261/.381 (23 PAs) 1 HR
6.__ 2B__ Orlando Cabrera _____.333/.500/1.333 (6 PAs) 1 HR
7.__ LF__Austin Kearns _______.167/.375/.167 (8 PAs)
8.__ 1B___ Matt LaPorta _______.000/.000/.000 (5 PAs) 2 KOs
9.__ 3B__ Jack Hannahan ______.000/.000/.000 (2 PAs)

alts._C__Lou Marson__________.400/.571/.400 (7PAs)
alts. _UT_Shelley Duncan_______.500/.600/1.500 (5 PAs) 1 HR

Not much history here. Jackson has been effective in missing our bats.

I like this matchup. You have two young right handers. Jackson is going bring mid-90s fastball with decent movement. He doesn't have great movement on his secondary pitches. He will try to keep hitters off balance by changing speeds. Carrasco doesn't throw as hard or change the velocity of his pitches as Jackson. He does have better movement on his pitches.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Game 3 Pitchers vs. Hitters

Justin Masterson vs. White Sox lineup (career)

1.__ LF__ Juan Pierre _______.545/.615/.545 (13PAs)
2.__ 2B__ Gordon Beckham ___..556/.556/.556 (9 PAs)
3.__ CF__ Alex Rios _________.167/.286/.389 (21 PAs) 1 HR
4.__ DH__ Adam Dunn ______.500/.667/2.000 (3 PAs) 1 HR
5.__ 1B__ Paul Konerko ______.214/.353/.286 (17 PAs)
6.__ RF__ Carlos Quentin _____.000/.154/.000 (13 PAs)
7.__ SS__Alexei Ramirez ______.214/.313/.429 (17 PAs) 1 HR
8.__ C___ A.J. Pierzynski _____.357/.357/.429 (22 PAs)
9.__ 3B__ Brent Morel _______never faced each other.

alts. _3B_Mark Teahen_______.286/.474/.357 (19 PAs)

Yeah, those are some ugly numbers. I am going to take a detailed look at how Masterson pitches to the lefties.

Ttfc vs. John Danks

1.__ CF__ Michael Brantley _____Never faced each other.
2.__ SS__ Asdrubal Cabrera _____.250/.250/.250 (13 PAs)
3.__ RF__ Shin-Soo Choo ______.368/.368/.632 (19 PAs) 1 HR
4.__ C___ Carlos Santana ______Never faced the White Sox
5.__ DH__ Travis Hafner ______.190/.261/.381 (23 PAs) 1 HR
6.__ 2B__ Orlando Cabrera _____.333/.500/1.333 (6 PAs) 1 HR
7.__ LF__Austin Kearns _______.167/.375/.167 (8 PAs)
8.__ 1B___ Matt LaPorta _______.000/.000/.000 (5 PAs) 2 KOs
9.__ 3B__ Jack Hannahan ______.000/.000/.000 (2 PAs)

alts._UT_Adam Everett_________.308/.308/.538 1 HR
alts._C__Lou Marson__________.400/.571/.400 (7PAs)
alts. _UT_Shelley Duncan_______.500/.600/1.500 (5 PAs) 1 HR
alts._LF_Travis Buck__________.250/.250/.250 (4 PAs)

Choo should have a good series. He has great numbers against all three Chicago starters. This is probably the first game for Marson and Buck.


I will occasionally create posts that will serve as useful links in future articles. I have done that today.


Isolated Power is a batters slugging percentage minus his batting average.

O-Swing %

It is the percentage of pitches outside the strike zone to which a batter swings.

Contact %

It is the percentage of swings that make contact with the pitch (fair or foul).

Cleveland sweeps the White Sox!

Exciting right? Well okay, it was in minor league exhibition games. But it was in 4 games (AAA, AA, high-A, and mid-A). And it is good to see that Alex White had a good outing.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Looks like Danks vs. Carrasco in game 2

The local and national sports media have Edwin Jackson starting game 2. But it was Danks and Carrasco pitching on Monday. So, they are on schedule for the Saturday game 2 start.

Always on the cutting edge of ttfc news. hehe.

2010 Rotation Order

After looking at pitchers' offerings and pitch movement, I suggested breaking up Carmona and Masterson, and breaking up Carrasco and Tomlin. It looks like Manny is thinking along those lines.

2010 Rotation Order:
Fausto Carmona
Carlos Carrasco
Justin Masterson
Josh Tomlin
Mitch Talbot

Cleveland will not use off days to skip the fifth spot.

What to watch for:
Carmona - BB/9. Carmona needs that to be below 3, if he is to take the next step in his development. Infield defense. With Carmona, you should see tons of ground balls, few strikeouts and few fly balls. Strong infield defense can make Carmona very effective.

Carrasco - Carrasco admitted that he would panic when men got on base in his first call up. The thing to look for is him learning to limit the damage and work out of trouble. We have 2 small samples to look at with Carrasco's MLB career. In one, he struggles. In the other. he does well. There is a 5% difference in contact percentages and a 10% difference in o-swing percentages. So, these rates bear watching.

Masterson - Approach and pitch selection to lefties. It is well documented that Masterson struggles against lefties. It is the primary reason people think he should be a reliever. The burning question going into the season for Masterson is how he plans to get them out this year. He basically abandoned his changeup late in the season last year. It is the change that Carmona uses against lefties. Masterson has been featuring his 4-seamer against lefties.

Tomlin - First pitch strikes. Tomlin does not feature outstanding stuff. He needs to challenge hitters. He threw 60.5 % of his first pitches for strikes. That is slightly above average. He needs to stay aggressive and not fall behind in the count.

Talbot - Watch to see, if he is hitting the catcher's target. Talbot doesn't miss many bats but isn't an extreme groundball pitcher like Carmona. He likes to work down and way with his fastball and change to lefties. He will come back inside to them with his cutter. To righties, Talbot likes to work both sides of the plate. He doesn't pitch down much to righties. Talbot is a pitcher that needs a good game plan, and he needs to hit his spots.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Opening Day Lineups vs. Pitchers

Fausto Carmona vs. White Sox lineup (career)

1.__ LF__ Juan Pierre _______.125/.222/.125 (9PAs)
2.__ 2B__ Gordon Beckham ___.167/.444/.167 (9 PAs)
3.__ CF__ Alex Rios _________.167/.250/.167 (20 PAs)
4.__ DH__ Adam Dunn ______.000/.000/.000 (8 PAs) 4 KOs
5.__ 1B__ Paul Konerko ______.364/.556/.909 (18 PAs) 2 HRs
6.__ RF__ Carlos Quentin _____.000/.333/.000 (3 PAs)
7.__ SS__Alexei Ramirez ______.222/.300/.222 (10 PAs)
8.__ C___ A.J. Pierzynski _____.286/.318/.381 (22 PAs)
9.__ 3B__ Brent Morel _______.500/.500/2.000 (2 PAs) 1 HR

Wow. That is domination. (Morel dominates Carmona. hehe) Word of advice, don't let Konerko beat you.

Ttfc vs. Mark Buerhle

1.__ CF__ Michael Brantley _____.222/.222/.222 (9PAs)
2.__ SS__ Asdrubal Cabrera _____.207/.281/.241 (32 PAs)
3.__ RF__ Shin-Soo Choo ______.385/.448/.615 (29 PAs) 1 HR
4.__ C___ Carlos Santana ______(0 PAs) Never faced the White Sox
5.__ DH__ Travis Hafner ______.233/.361/.400 (72 PAs) 2 HRs
6.__ 2B__ Orlando Cabrera _____.347/.396/.469 (54 PAs) 1 HR
7.__ LF__Austin Kearns _______.500/.500/.667 (6 PAs)
8.__ 1B___ Matt LaPorta _______.188/.235/.250 (17 PAs)
9.__ 3B__ Jack Hannahan ______.333/.429/.667 (8 PAs)

Prediction: White Sox 12, Cleveland 0. Just kidding. I think predicting a single baseball game is silly. But it will interesting to see how Santana does against the crafty lefty. I would be surprised to see the White Sox score a bunch of runs. Fausto has good numbers against them, and it is April in Cleveland.

It will also be interesting to see how Matt LaPorta does. He is squeezed between two Buehrle killers. So, he should see a ton of fastballs. (Again, kidding.) But Buehrle is a good test for our troubled right handed slugger. LaPorta is struggling against the off speed stuff, and that is all Buerhle is going to throw him. But it is lefty-righty. So, LaPorta should able to see the pitches. I am not going to focus on results. I will look for contact on swings and laying off pitches outside the strike zone. It is a long season. So, nothing here is definitive. But this will be the first measure tracking LaPorta.

Coming soon. Masterson dominates lefties. Or does he?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fresh eyes approach to the lineup.

What makes someone a good hitter? Seems to me that good hitting is a function of three things. 1) You hit the ball, when you swing. 2) You don't swing at bad pitches. 3) You hit the ball far, when you make make contact. Let's look at Cleveland's lineup focusing on those three aspects. (Note: I am using ISO to track power. However, this seems flawed. Does anyone have a better power tracking stat?)
_______________Contact %________O-Swing %________ISO
League Averages_____80.7___________26.2*___________.152*

Michael Brantley____ 92.3 ___________23.8 ___________.081
Asdrubal Cabrera# ___85.3 ___________25.0 ___________.110
Shin-Soo Choo ______79.0___________ 26.8 ___________.184
Carlos Santana ______77.3___________ 22.4 ___________.207
Travis Hafner _______76.2___________ 27.4 ___________.172
Austin Kearns _______76.4 ___________23.1 ___________.132
Orlando Cabrera _____85.9 ___________32.5 ___________.091
Matt LaPorta _______75.8 ___________33.7 ___________.141
Jack Hannahan^_____ 77.3 ___________20.1 ___________.123

Grady Sizemore^ _____81.8__________ 19.1 ___________.204
Jason Donald _______ 77.9 __________36.3 ___________.125
Travis Buck^ ________78.6 __________23.7 ___________.174
Lou Marson _________85.0 __________18.8 ___________.092
Jayson Nix _________77.8 ___________33.3____________.172
Luis Valbeuna _______83.9 ___________28.9 ___________.121+

I have adjusted these numbers, when there is a statistical deviance.
* I averaged O-Swing rates and ISO from '07 - '10. The 2010 O-Swing average was 29.3 and ISO was .145.
#This is Cabrera's career line. His 2010 contact % was 88.6, O-swing % 27.4, and ISO .071.
^Hannahan, Sizemore, and Buck didn't play much (or at all) in 2010. So, I used career numbers for them.
+Valbeuna's 2010 ISO (.065) was about half his career number so I used his career number.

Breakout candidates:

Michael Brantley
- I did an extended analysis of Michael earlier. At that time, I had just keyed into contact %. Contact % keeps track of how often a player makes contact, when he swings. So, please forgive me for not going ape shit over a 92.1% contact rate over 446 PAs. (Okay, it is not a huge sample.) But this is an insanely high contact %. The stat starts being tracked in '02. Since '02, Ichiro has never had a season better than 91.7, and he averages 89.2. I have been searching hitters known for their contact skills, and I can't find a better %. That comparison doesn't make Brantley a potential .340 hitter. But mix in Brantley's +.300 BA in the minors, the second half of last year, and his rookie year in '09, everything points at this kid as a +.300 hitter. Add the fact that Brantley doesn't swing at a ton of pitches outside the strike zone. He has a 21.7 O-swing %. This is a player that could easily have a .375 OBP.

Carlos Santana - Brantley is the darkhorse for break out player. Your front runner is Santana. Because no one keeps track of minor league contact % or O-swing %, I am focusing on a stat that gives me small samples for young players. My gut screams breakout. But nothing in the stats that I am looking at screams breakout. I do like the minor league walk rates and the major league O-swing %. But using contact, O-swing, and ISO as indicators, you have to put Brantley and not Santana as the lead breakout candidate.

Comeback candidate:

Grady Sizemore
- This is almost a default pick. Will Carroll reports that there has never been a successful case of a player coming back from microfracture surgery. Never. That is not encouraging. So far, there is cautious optimism about Sizemore. He seems to be making steady progress. With the bad knee and in limited PAs, Sizemore had a 33.0 O-swing rate and 73.8 contact rate. If Sizemore can get healthy, you should get a good OBP. The career 19.1 O-swing rate is the best on the team. It will be a wait and see about how much power Sizemore will have. If he gets healthy, then he is a lead candidate for MLB comeback player of the year.

Bust candidate:

Matt LaPorta - No surprise here. I wish the numbers were different. It would make for more interesting analysis. LaPorta is below league average in all three categories. Watching him at bat this spring, you can feel the pressure he is putting on himself. Hopefully, he can relax, and we will see a new hitter. But these numbers are not encouraging.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ordering the rotation

Now that we the rotation will be Fausto Carmona, Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, Mitch Talbot and Josh Tomlin, let us consider the order of the rotation.

Fausto Carmona

Fausto is a over the top right handed pitcher. He throws 4 pitches: a 4-seam fastball, a 2-seam fastball (sinker), a slider and a change up. The 4-seamer averages 92.9 mph. The sinker averages 91.1. The slider averages 85.7. The change averages 86. The following graph shows the movement on his pitches.

Justin Masterson

Justin is a three quarters right handed pitcher. He throws four pitches: a 4-seam fastball, a sinker, a slider and a change up. The 4-seamer averages 92 mph. The sinker averages 92.6. The slider averages 82.9. The change averages 85.1. The following graph shows the movement on his pitches.

Carlos Carrasco

Carlos is a three quarters right handed pitcher. He throws 5 pitches: a 4-seam fastball, a sinker, a split fingered fastball (splitter), a curveball and a change up. The 4-seamer averages 92.9 mph. The sinker averages 92.6. The splitter averages 83.5. The curve averages 79.6. The change averages 86.2. The following graph shows the movement on his pitches.

Mitch Talbot

Mitch is a three quarters right handed pitcher. He throws 5 pitches: a 4-seam fastball, a sinker, a cut fastball (cutter), a slider and a change up. The 4-seamer averages 91.3 mph. The sinker averages 90.8. The cutter averages 89.2. The slider averages 84.8. The change averages 80.3. The following graph shows the movement on his pitches.

Josh Tomlin

Josh is an over the top right handed pitcher. He throws 5 pitches: a 4-seam fastball, a sinker, a cutter, a curve and a change up. The 4-seamer averages 89.8 mph. The sinker averages 87.7. The cutter averages 85.7. The curve averages 76.5. The change averages 80.5. The following graph shows the movement on his pitches.


What strikes me is how similar Carmona and Masterson are. Carmona has a nice change that he features against lefties. But the velocity, movement, and pitch type of Carmona and Masterson are near identical. For this reason, I think you have to separate those two. Hitters do better the more times they see a pitchers pitches. Putting near identical pitchers back to back is a big advantage for the hitters.

Further, you have similar pitchers in Carrasco and Tomlin. Carrasco throws harder but that have similar movement on their pitches.

So, I suggest the following rotation order.


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Farewell my friends

This 3/22/93 marked the anniversary of the Tim Crews and Steve Olin tragedy.

I am not a fan of traditional holidays. But there is a season for all things. On this day, ttfc will honor the memory of our much missed friends.

I am trying to feature Ohio bands. But for this day, let me post this song.

With turmoil like this

In a his best Chicken Little voice, Paul Hoynes describes the bullpen as in turmoil.

So, is there a problem with our closer? Nope. Chris Perez is there and looking lights out. 7 1/3 innings this spring. 1.23 ERA and 8 KOs. So, the sky is clear at closer.

Is there a problem with the setup pitchers?

Rafael Perez is looking good. He had some visa issues. So, he only has 3 2/3 innings. 2.45 ERA (1 run). Is Perez Left a LOOGY? Nope. Has better numbers against righties. Career righties hit .250, and lefties hit .259. Perez also has better strikeout numbers against righties.

Tony Sipp has a great spring. 7 2/3 innings 1.17 ERA (1 run) and 6 KOs. And like Perez Left, he has better career numbers against righties.

Chad Durbin hasn't done much this spring. But he is a veteran reliever coming off a good year.

Those are your 4 back inning relievers. Competing for the last 3 spots are:
Vinnie Pestano 6 2/3 innings 1.35 ERA (1 run) 10 KOs.
Justin Germano 7 innings 0.00 ERA and 4 KOs.
Jess Todd 6 2/3 innings 1.35 ERA (1 run) 3 KOs.
Frank Herrmann 8 2/3 2.08 ERA and 3 KOs.
Doug Mathis 7 1/3 innings 3.68 ERA and 3 KOs.

Yep. Jensen Lewis pitched himself out of a spot, and Joe Smith is injured. But turmoil in the pen? That is bullshit, or in this case, chickenshit.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Roster moves

Update: Nope. Lewis is headed to AAA. It looks like Lewis went unclaimed and was outrighted to AAA.

Update: It looks like Jensen Lewis was exposed on waivers, but he was pulled back when claimed. You have to read between the lines here. But it appears this was the case.

Jensen Lewis is out? Smith is doubtful. At least, Asdrubal is okay.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Analysis: Asdurbal Cabrera

If Asdrubal was a . . .

. . . cartoon character, he would be . . . . Lisa Simpson. They wore the same necklace.
. . . bird, he would be . . . a robin. A completely average bird but in a good way.
. . . an indie rock band, he would be . . . Broken Bells. What is not to like about the Broken Bells? But could they really be anyone's favorite band for more than a couple of weeks?

I am a fan of the Baseball Prospectus podcasts. They have been talking at length (ad nauseam?) about the scouts' 20 to 80 scale. The two keys to getting the scale are, first, it is a bell curve. Saying that a player has an 80 tool is saying that tool is in the top 1%. A player with 2 tools that rate at 60 is a potential star. Second, it is a very high standard. Being average is good. Having 3 50 tools means you have average tools, but that makes you a very valuable major leaguer. There aren't teams with average tools players at all their positions.

Asdrubal is a good player in that he is completely average. Between the star and the stiff, we find Asdrubal.

With the glove, he plays both second and short. His range is a little below average. His arm is average. It is above average at second and below at short. He plays both positions well. Does a good job turning two. Makes the routine plays. He even makes some flashy plays that hide his below average range. In between Vizquel and Perralta, we find Cabrera.

With the bat, his best tools are his ability to make contact and his gap power. He makes contact around 85% of the time and the league average is around 80%.

Asdrubal should shout from the mountain tops, "I have gap power!" He hits an extra base at a rate of roughly 1 in 4. 72% of his hits are singles, but only 4% of his hits were homers. Compare Cabrera's numbers to Mark Grace's, a quintessential gap power hitter. Mark Grace hit singles at a rate of 70%. Moreover, only 7% of Grace's hits were homers. Asdrubal has gap power. Which is good. Between Jim Thome and Alex Cole, we find Asdrubal Cabrera.

Asdrubal is never going to be a great OB guy. He walks at a rate of 8.2%

He lacks homer power.

He has a career 27 stolen bases. So, he is no speed demon. But again, he doesn't have horrible speed. He is the yin to Robbie Alomar to the yang of Tony Fernandez. In this case, the yin meets the yang with almost no stolen base attempts. Asdrubal has been on base 569 times and attempted a steal 39 times.

Asdrubal is between this and that. And that is a good thing. Somewhere between the super moon and Clevleand city.

Let's hope this is nothing serious

Update: Hoynsie talked with Asdurbal. He says it is just a cramp behind the knee. So, that is good news. I know the baseball gods can be cruel. But it would be particularly harsh to lose Cabrera to a knee injury on the same day Sizemore debuts coming back from his knee injury.

Asdurbal Cabrera leaves the game with an apparent leg injury.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Things looking up for Jack Hannahan

Meet your new starting third baseman, Jack Hannahan and his charming wife Rosemary. Until recently, Jack has been a struggling third baseman. But things are really looking up for Jack and Rosemary. They recently moved into a wonderful Gothic style apartment, the Bramford. Jack was invited to spring training as a long shot to make the club. However, unfortunate injuries to Jason Donald and Jared Goedert have put Jack in line for starting opening day. Jack and Rosemary couldn't be happier. Their new friends Roman and Minnie let it slip that the happy family may be adding a new member soon. I know that I would like to hail this great new.

Today's game: 3/19/11

Cleveland 1, Angels 0

Is Manny Acta playing to win spring games or prepare his team for opening day? Carlos Santana is leading off today.

Analysis: Michael Brantley

Cleveland should move their fences back and raise the center section. You know, create a mini-Green Monster in dead center.

Wait...This is 2011 and not 1991....And I want to write about Michael Brantley and not Alex Cole. Sorry for the confusion......right.....Michael Brantley.

Alex Cole was a 6' 2" left handed hitter. He played centerfield and Michael Brantley is a 6'2' left handed hitter. He plays centerfield and left.

Alex was acquired via trade. He debuts for Cleveland the following year at the age of 24. He hits .300 in 227 ABs....stop.....Brantley. Brantley. Brantley...Michael was acquired via trade. He debuts for Cleveland the following year at the age of 22. He hits .313 in 112 ABs.

Okay, I am going to stop here. But it is worth noting the 20th anniversary of the Great Alex Cole fever dream. Yes, it is true. Ttfc, in its infinite wisdom, moved its outfield wall back and created a mini-green monster in center. Its visual aesthetic matched the genius of the strategy. Remember, this is an organization with a young Albert Belle coming up through the system. At this point, Albert is smashing everything in sight, be it baseballs or bathroom faucets. True, Albert wasn't managing to get on the field for full seasons, and you couldn’t blame them for not rushing to stake their entire future on a player with, let’s just say, issues. But he hit 20 HRs in 312 ABs in '89 while at AA. That is an eye-popping stat worth remembering.

But Cleveland caught Alex Cole fever in '90. He hit .300 and stole 40 bases in only 256 plate appearances. 40 stole bases in 256 plate appearances! What could he do in over 500 PAs? The delirium was taking hold. However, Cleveland's brass did notice one unsettling stat, of his 68 hits 59 were singles. And Cole didn't hit any home runs. What to do? What to do? Got it. Level the playing field, or in this case, expand the playing field. If Alex Cole wasn't going to hit any home runs, then no one was.

How did it turn out? Well remember Cole's 40 stole bases? And Belle's 20 home runs? Cleveland learned a very valuable lesson. 2 SBs are less than 1 HR. I think Bill James wrote a tract on that once.

On the 20th anniversary of Cole inspired madness, we can use Cole as both a role model and cautionary tale for Michael Brantley. How could Michael Brantley improve his game by learning from Alex? How might Michael avoid the pitfalls of Alex's game?

Alex Cole role model

Let's start with how Michael can learn from Alex. The ttfc’s front office wasn't completely insane. Alex Cole had value as a leadoff hitter. His OBP in '90 was .379 and .386 in '91. That is pretty good. As a point of reference, Kenny Lofton had a career OBP of .372. In contrast, Brantley has a career ML .313 OBP. Brantley's value, like Cole’s, is going to come by establishing himself as a leadoff hitter. Sure, Brantley's OBP is, in part, a product of a lower batting average, but let's focus on the walks for a moment.

Cole managed those OBPs, in part, by walking 86 times in 708 PAs (12%). Brantley now has 446 ML PAs and 30 walks (6.7%). What is interesting is that Cole had close to a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio. In Brantley's minor league career, he has always walked more than he has struck out. Moreover, his ML strike out percentage is 12.8%. By getting his BB/KO ratio back to 1:1, he should have a walk rate around 12%

This can be accomplished by taking more pitches. Brantley is swinging at 21.7% of the pitches he sees outside the strike zone. Let’s compare Brett Gardner with Michael Brantley. Gardner last year walked in 13.9% of his PA (Brantley 6.7%). Gardner (90.6% contact per swing) isn't as good a contact hitter as Brantley (92.1% contact) but only swung at 18.2% of the pitches he saw outside the strike zone. By simply taking more pitches early in the count regardless of their location, Brantley can reduce the amount of pitches he swings at outside the strike zone. Because Brantley has such a high contact rate, even when he looks at more strikes early in the count, it won’t drastically increase his strikeout rate. Getting into more 3-ball situations will lead to more walks. This will, in turn, move the BB/KO ratio toward the coveted 1:1.

Combine the 1:1 BB/KO ratio with a batting average approaching .300, and you model Alex Cole’s value. Brantley hit .292 after July 31 last year (195 ABs). He has a career minor league BA of .303. And there is the aforementioned, .313 BA in his first 112 major league ABs. Even his struggles during the first half of 2010 were coupled with a .125 BAbip. All indicators are that Brantley could hit around .300.

A batting average close to .300 and a 12% walk rate will get you Alex Cole value. That is Alex Cole the role model.

Alex Cole cautionary tale

As previously indicated Cole was a slap hitter. Cole had a total of 89 extra base hits over 2012 career PAs. 82% of Cole's career hits were singles. Cole was a wiry 6'2" 170 lbs, and he lacked the strength to drive pitches into the gap. (If only there had been some magic juice that would have given Cole more strength, his career would have been more successful.)

Alex had one value and one value only. He could get on base and into scoring position. The problem with being a slap hitter is that you are extremely vulnerable to the cruel whims of BAbip. If you hit the ball where they ain't, then you can get on base. But if you hit them where they are, the BA plummets. The low BA brings down the OBP, and your one and only value goes the way of Alex Cole's career.

While both Cole and Brantley are 6' 2", they do not share the same frame. Brantley is 6'2" 200 lbs. It is a slim but muscular build. So far, Brantley has a total of 19 extra base hits in his career 446 ML PAs. 82% of Brantley's hits so far have been singles. Further, 82% of Brantley’s career hits have been singles, and that should send a cold chill down Chris Antonetti’s spine. Thus far in his baseball career, Brantley has been a slap hitter.

If Brantley is to avoid ghosts of Cleveland’s past, he must develop gap power. In 1992, Alex starts the year in Cleveland with a .260 BAbip. He has a .206 BA and .284 OBP. The Cole fever breaks. Cleveland awakes. Cole is shipped to Pittsburgh. He plays two more years as a starter. The man that inspired an organization to change their ballpark to suit his skills is out of the majors before age 31.

Alex Cole's career stands as a cautionary tale for Brantley.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Today's game: 3/18/11

Cleveland 12, Texas 6

That's a sloppy baseball.

Carrasco pitched better than his line. The homer to Elvis wasn't terrible. That was more about Andrus than Carrasco. Murphy followed with a screamer right at Choo. And the Murphy homer might as well have been put on a tee. But I think Carrasco was simply out of gas at that point. Those three hits were the only hard hit balls against Carrasco. The rest were bloops and grounders that found holes.

LaPorta had 2 strike double late and had a triple to deep center. But he still looks like he is trying to hard. He was made to look foolish in his first at bat. He got ahead in the count, and he was clearly looking to kill a fastball. The result is him flailing at a breaking ball way outside the strike zone. LaPorta needs some good results to grow his confidence.

Acta must be thinking along to lines as well. He played LaPorta for the whole game last night. LaPorta and Hannahan were the only starters to do so. Acta is playing LaPorta again today. LaPorta and Kearns are the only starters from last night in today's lineup. More on LaPorta and Hannahan.

The biggest news from the game is that Choo is okay. He got plunked in the head but was unharmed. Ttfc can't afford to lose him.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

More Pere Ubu

Analysis: Jason Donald

In 3,443 minor league plate appearances, Jack Hannahan has 64 HRs. That is a HR in almost 2% of his PAs.

In 1,694 minor league plate appearances, Jason Donald has 31HRs. That is a HR in almost 2% of his PAs.

There is no evidence that Hannahan has more power than Donald. Neither has much. My earlier comment was just to say that Jack Hannahan is not the next Casey Blake. Donald's future is not at 3rd base. It is at second. If Donald develops as a hitter, he will challenge Kipnis for the second base position next year. If he doesn't develop as a hitter, then Jason meet your future, Jack Hannahan.

Today's game: 3/17/11

Reds 5, Cleveland 1

Didn't see the game.

By all reports, Fausto looks ready to go Opening Day.

No injuries. Santana played first with incident. Bring on April 1.

For more Guided by voices.


Cleveland PD beat writer recently opined that Jack Hannahan might be the next Casey Blake.

I like Hoynes, but he has had some head scratchers lately. Comparing Casey Blake and Jack Hannahan? Huh?

Casey Blake had a total of 63 MLB plate appearances, when Cleveland made him a starter. He had bounced around the minors and from team to team. But no one had given him a chance. In his first year as a starter, he hit .257 with 17 HRs.

Jack Hannahan has a total of 981 MLB plate appearances. Yes, he too has bounced around from team to team. But Oakland gave him a full year as a starter in '08. In his full year as a starter, Hannahan hit .218 with 9 HRs.

There is a stat BABIP (Batting Average with Balls In Play). It is a good indicator, if a player is lucky or unlucky. Some guys can get a bunch of bloop singles, while others seem to smoke liners right at people time and again. This stat often explains when players have fluke good or bad years.

In Casey Blake's first full year, he had a .287 BABIP. That is a little unlucky. The next year Casey had a .310 BABIP (which is pretty average). Casey's batting average went from .257 to .271.

In Jack Hannahan's first full year, he had a .286 BABIP, and again he hit .218 that year. Using Casey's stats, we can see that with a little more lucky Hannahan could have hit. around .232.

At 31, there is no lightning in a bottle for Hannahan. He is a glove first bench player. He could fill in for a couple of weeks. But there is no way, you want to give him 500 at bats.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Analysis: Orlando Cabrera signing

Orlando Cabrera was a smart sign by the front office. He is a veteran that will make all the routine plays and do all the little things you expect veterans to do.

He is good for this team this year, because we have a young pitching staff. And look at our pitchers groundball to flyball ratios last year (first number) and ground out to air out ratios (second number). (GO/AO factors in double plays.) We have 3 groundball pitchers. (As reference, here is flyball pitcher Cliff Lee's numbers .71 and .89)

Carmona 1.28 and 1.71
Masterson 1.47 and 2.11
Talbot .93 and 1.11
Carraso 1.32 and 2.11
Tomlin .44 and .49

A good defensive infield is a must for this young staff.

Orlando is a good signing for next year. Because it gives time for 2 of the following 5 youngsters to develop into MLB ready players.

2B Cord Phelps, Jason Kipnis or *Jason Donald.
3B Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Goerdart, or *Jason Donald.

Yes, Orlando won't be back next year. But by signing him this year, we avoid putting pressure on any single prospect to be ready now. (Donald should make the team now but will face competition moving forward.)

Analysis: Mitch Talbot

At age 26, Talbot had a 4.41 ERA in 159 innings. His fastball touches 91 with movement. Talbot has a good slider and a good changeup with downward movement.

At age 25, Jake Westbrook had a 4.31 ERA in 133 innings. His fastball was in the low 90s. Westrook features a good sinker and relies on that heavily. He also throws a slider, cutter, and change.

We should look for Talbot to develop into a Jake Westbrook type pitcher, a solid middle of the rotation guy. A guy that will give you around 200 innings and a low 4 something ERA (Westbrook has a career 4.29 ERA).

The key for Talbot is to drop the walk rate. That will allow him to pitch deeper into games and move that 159 innings up into the 200 inning range.

A realistic goal for Talbot this year is to pitch an extra 50 innings (209). Keep his walk total the around same, 68-ish. In other words, he needs to walk one less batter per 9 innings. And go from 12 quality starts to 17 quality starts. Doing that makes him a legit MLB 3rd starter.

Today's game: 3/15/11

Cleveland 9, Brewers 7

Got to see today's game.

Lots of good things to report.

-Mitch Talbot struggled out of the gate. His pitches were up in zone. But he kept battling, and ended his 5 innings by retiring 7 in a row.

-A big reason that Talbot was able to get through his struggles only giving up one run was our defense. Santana made a perfect through to catch Council trying to steal. Brantley hustled to a ball in the gap and threw to ACab. The throw was to thirdbase side of the bag and ACab made a nice catch and tag to get Fielder trying to stretch his hit to a double.

-Cleveland scores on 3 2-run homers by Santana, LaPorta, and Chad Huffman. Santana is having a great day at the plate with a single, double and the homer.

-Chris Perez gave up a double to Council but struck out the side, including strikeouts of Weeks and Fielder.

-After falling behind, Cleveland comes back against Milwaukee's closer. Axeford, the Brewer's closer, didn't record an out and struggle to find the strike zone.

The Bad:

Anthony Reyes coming back from Tommy John surgery was really struggling to find the strike zone. At one point, he missed on 7 straight pitches and 9 of 10. Jensen Lewis comes in and can't find the plate. He ends up giving up 2 3-run homers.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Today's game 3/14/11

Cleveland 9, A's 8

Got to watch today's game. It was a fun game to watch minus Bailey's injury. Two teams with lots of young talent trading punches and mistakes.

Pitching: Masterson looked like a young, talented pitcher today. Dominated most of the time. But left several pitches up and paid the price. The same could be said for Gomez. Chris Carter goes deep twice verse Gomez. Ouch. Sipp did a no-no. Two outs, one run lead, and you walk a batter to face a guy that has 2 hrs on the day?

Batting: I was very impressed with Hafner. Cleveland let leak Hafner's status. No more firstbase of Travis, his shoulder is too damaged for him to throw the ball. In other words, his shoulder is completely shredded. What is interesting is he still has hitter's eyes and hustle. He is managing to find gap power even with a bum shoulder. Veteran play on the bases by OCab and Everett manufacture two runs.

Point of interest: Belcher says Tomlin is in the lead for the 5 spot.

Another reason to send Chisenhall to AAA

Let us assume that Chisenhall is ready to hit major league pitching right now.

Are we a better team with him at 3rd instead of Donald?

Not necessarily, we have a very young pitching staff. Most of our staff are sinkerballers. That means that they get their outs on groundballs. These are pitchers that need their infield to get them out of jams, not get them into jams. Plus, young pitchers are particularly vulnerable to the big inning. Big innings are often started by bad defense.

It is not hard to imagine Chisenhall's defensive struggles causing pitchers to struggle. Imagine Carrasco gets a couple of baserunners on in the second. There is a smash to third. Chisenhall rushes a throw trying for a double play and airmails a ball to Choo in rightfield. A run scores and there are runners on the corners with no outs. Carrasco gets rattled and falls apart. This shakes the confidence of both Chisenhall and Carrasco. Next thing you know Cleveland has to send both Chisenhall and Carrasco down to rebuild their confidence.

Sending Chisenhall to Columbus is all about putting players in a position to succeed. Chisenhall has a better chance at a long MLB career, if he is not rushed to majors. If he comes up and struggles defensively, that not only hurts his development, but it also hurts the development of Masterson, Carrasco, Talbot, Tomlin, and Huff.

Let's have our infielders pick up our young pitchers with good defense. Let our young pitchers gain confidence and experience. So, that they can, in turn, pick up our future young infielders (Chisenhall and Kipnis).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Today's game: 3/13/11

Padres 7, Cleveland 2

This is a game shows why Cleveland won't be in the playoff hunt this year. Young pitchers struggle to hold down big innings. Carrasco did a better job than Huff.

But when you hear people talk about learning how to pitch that means two things. It means learning how to get outs when you don't have your best stuff. And it means learning how to stop the big innings.

Cleveland has a young talented staff, but we are going to have to be patient as they learn to pitch in the big leagues.