I’ve been a busy little woodland creature who displays an affinity for aquatic environs as of late.
Along with my usual Beyond the Box Score writing duties, which recently included a piece on the 2014 prospects of Cody Ross after his relatively gruesome hip injury, I have joined a couple of other teams as a contributor in the last couple of weeks.
As of last week, I am a part of the District Sports Page team and will be providing weekly content revolving around the more statistical aspects of Natsdom. My first article can be found here and asks the question: should Danny Espinosa scrap switch hitting?
The bloggering doesn’t stop there!
Today marked my maiden journey as a contributor to Gammons Daily. Check out my first piece on Brian Wilson, if that’s your thing. My contributions there will be a little less frequent than at DSP, but I am nonetheless very happy to be on board.
…and because I made gifs of Wilson pre and post Tommy John surgery, highlighting some mechanical tweaks that didn’t make it to the piece, I provide them here, for S’s and G’s.
…and 2012 Wilson, during his last outing with the San Francisco Giants, before surgery:
Notice the difference in arm slot and the slightly less closed lead leg in 2014 compared to 2012?
Anyhow, it goes without saying I am very excited to be a part of both of the new sites and I hope you enjoy the content I provide at both. As you can imagine, with my responsibilities at the aforementioned places as well as at Baseball Prospectus and Camden Depot, my posting here at HDIB? will be less frequent. I plan on using HDIB? as a landing-place for posts, ideas, and other such things that don’t quite fit the M.O. of these places.
Happy reading and basedballing, everyone.
I get a lot of questions on this blog.
Why are you still writing this crap?
Do bears eat beets?
Who is Doug Slaten?
…and of course – how do I baseball?
I do my best to answer these questions, mostly through nefarious statistical means, thanks to the likes of Baseball Reference, Fangraphs, and Baseball Prospectus. Yet, every so often, I get a question that goes beyond the abilities of those fantastic websites, and I am required to fall back on my education in science and medicine to get to the root of the matter, and provide my dear readers the answer they desire when they
google their question and inadvertently happen upon this blog ask me the tough questions.
The biggest question I’ve been getting thus far? One that haunts many a player from the Caribbean – how old REALLY is <name here>?
While you can find many instances of players from the Dominican and parts elsewhere to the south of the United States fibbing and whittling off a couple of years off of their actual age in an effort to be more attractive a prospect, in the hopes of getting a bigger signing bonus, one country does occasionally provide us their top-notch talent, along with some additional mystery shrouding the actualities of their biological age due to their political perspectives and the concomitant shrouding of their borders – Cuba.
The latest Cuban to wow the MLB? Yasiel Puig. The latest player to show up in my search history, due to people asking what his actual age was?
I’m a man of connections and curiosity; I shall use those powers of evil for good, and, with a little help from some medical expert friends of mine, answer this question.
HOW OLD IS YASIEL PUIG? NO REALLY, HOW OLD?
Ready? Let’s get some basics out of the way first…
Puig is a beast, but could stand to know how to ease those aches and pains, post outfield wall collisions. Let’s get him informed, yes?
PUIG IS PED FREE I DON’T EVEN…
OK, looks good. My fellow medical expert buddies, what do we have as a result for Mr. Puig?
Is he REALLY 22?
Well, there you have it. Expert opinion, expert analysis. Yasiel Puig is actually 19 years old. It’s a scientific and medical fact.
He’s been lying to us all along.
By now we have all seen the valiant attempt at snagging Philadelphia Phillies second baseman Chase Utley‘s home run in last night’s game made by Los Angeles Dodgers
curer of cancer messiah outfielder Yasiel Puig. If not, here it is again:
This looks all too familiar to Washington Nationals fans, who are just now winding down therapy sessions in response to the eerily similar play made by Bryce Harper back on May 13, again at Dodgers Stadium:
While Puig thus far has been fortunate to suffer less painful repercussions post-wall collision than Harper, there are a number of parallels to both collisions that make you scratch your head at the possibility that there might be something amiss out in right field.
First, let’s pan out, and take a look at where Puig and Harper had their incidents – Puig’s collision is the blue circle, Harper’s the red:
Between the .gifs and this panoramic view of the location of the injuries, we can see that both occurred in roughly the same area – where the wall isn’t so much wall, but video scoreboard/billboard. While the panoramic pic I have used was taken from 2007 and doesn’t reflect some of the new changes that were undertaken prior to the 2013 season, it allows us to confirm that the crime scenes are close to one another and share the same background – the video boards. For those so inclined, check out this post by SB Nation’s True Blue LA for more details and a CGI-style rendering of the outfield wall to get more detail.
Another quirk particular to Dodger Stadium that raises questions about the particulars of the collisions at the warning track; for each .gif, we see that both players – both 6’3″ in height – had roughly three steps worth of warning track before they met the wall, which seems a bit stingy, especially in this day and age and the sheer size and mass of the players of today’s game.
With the help of my crack staff of interns and fact checkers here at HDIB?, I found some interesting facts revolving around the various warning tracks around MLB stadiums and what outfielders have to say about them.
First – there is no real regulation as to how wide the warning track needs to be, or what material it should be composed of, only some very loose suggestions. To quote the Baseball Tomorrow Fund Baseball Maintenance Guide:
The warning track is normally 15 feet deep in front of all obstructions; however, consult the leagues and associations that will utilize the field regarding rules and regulations.
…and with respect to what materials it is made of:
The warning track can be made from a variety of materials. It can be made of a rubberised material and poured onto asphalt or constructed using red crushed brick material and or shell rock. The goal is to ensure the warning track material is different in color and texture than the playing field surface.
For further discussion of the notion that there is no set standard for warning track material and width, we have this article, which references the book Sports Fields: A Manual for Design, Construction and Maintenance and confirms that MLB warning tracks are in the 10-15 foot width range. This harkens back to the days of the first warning track, seen at Yankee Stadium in 1949 and had a width of 10 feet. It also briefly mentions that not all warning tracks are made of the same material, which adds additional layers of confounding for an outfielder – different materials will have differing tactile and audio cues, if they have any at all.
So we have a safety measure of different widths – outfielders will get no less than 10 feet, but sometimes can get 12, maybe even 15, which equates to three to five steps before hitting the outfield wall – and now different types of materials that may crunch when they step on it, or may not, and may or may not give them a different ‘feel’ as they transfer from grass/turf to the warning track. Essentially, all three of the senses available for the outfielder to discern where they are (taste and smell don’t play a role here, or at least I would hope not) are affected with these loose applications of the rules.
How do outfielders feel about that?
Thanks to this article over at ESPN, we have a nice sampling of what’s being said by those affected by the ever shifting warning track. For those link click averse, to paraphrase the outfielders, it’s a scary proposition and in many ways, they are running blind. With no standardization of warning track dimensions and materials, the situation changes with every series, with new or different obstacles to overcome every three to five games.
With this basic premise in mind, let’s go back to our Dodger Stadium collisions. Not only do Puig and Harper have to counter these aforementioned variables, but they also have another aspect to deal with – the effects of the video board on how their brains process the information and how their bodies function as a result of this information processed in a correct and timely manner. While this is simply conjecture on my part, I do wonder if the lights of the board out in right-center might have played games on the vision and depth perception of Puig and Harper, causing their brains to not be able to process the proprioceptive and exteroceptive cues that would have allowed them to make the proper adjustments in order to not run into the wall, full speed. Along with the lights, I wonder if the chain link fencing protecting the board might have played a small role in distorting the visual and audio cues that go into determining how close the wall was to the players.
Overall, we have a dicey situation. Poorly defined criteria, a multitude of materials that add oodles of variables into how well and how quickly a player can determine where he is on the field as he is tracking a flyball, and antiquated warning track dimensions that are probably in need of re-evaluation to keep up with the pace of the game and the size of the players, are all at play here.
While we always want to see our favourite players give 100% effort and ‘leave it all on the field’, the inconsistencies of warning tracks around MLB makes me wonder – how much of leaving it all on the field is illusion and how much of it could be prevented, for the better?
Last night’s turd of a game between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Colorado Rockies was chock full of head turning (and scratching) lines in the boxscore.
– Rookie Rockie Nolan Arenado‘s first major league home run? Bully!
– Rockie starter Tyler Chatwood‘s 3-4, 2 RBI night with the bat to go along with his 6 IP, 0 ER, 5 K pitching effort? Huzzah!
– Ted Lilly‘s 3 IP, 2 homeru-let me stop right there with that.
– Josh Wall‘s 2 IP, 7 earned r-NO NO NO STOP.
… Dodger shortstop Skip Schumaker‘s relief outing?
For the boys in blue, that’s about as good as it got last night – a position player coming in to adequately pitch and stop the bleeding. For Schumaker, last night’s one inning of 2 hit, 1 walk, no run ball marked the second time he came in to hold down the fort pitching-wise, having previously pitched a 1 inning, 2 run outing in 2011 for the St. Louis Cardinals.
First off, let me just say what an impressive array of pitches Skip has; while I have my doubts as to whether he has a ‘true’ cutter, the fact that he mixed in a knuckleball to go along with a fastball in the high 80s/low 90s (which is about MLB average might I add) is pretty gutsy. Looking at the pitch Linear Weights, Schumaker’s pitches are all pretty decent, save for the cutter (more than likely just a two-seam fastball).
Let’s see how well he located his pitches:
By the looks of it, Skip should ditch the cutter and focus more on throwing four-seam fastballs, changeups and curve balls; he seemed to have a hard time throwing the cutter for strikes or even remotely close to the plate. Whittling down the repertoire to a solid 2 -to- 2.5 pitches with command should suit him nicely.
While Schumaker has a way to go to wrest the crown of ‘best pitcher to come out of UC-Santa Barbara‘ off of Barry Zito‘s head, his inning last night showed not only Schumaker’s positional flexibility and willingness to contribute to his team’s success in any way, he showed off a pitching prowess that is sorely lacking in the Dodgers pitching staff, hit hard with injuries to Zack Greinke, Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and Chad Billingsley.
Matt Guerrier, you’re on notice.
There aren’t many angles that haven’t been thoroughly assessed and dissected regarding the Padres – Dodgers game last night, which saw the teams brawl after Zack Greinke plunked Carlos Quentin with a high and tight 3-2 fastball. Apparently, the fracas spilled over into the hallways of Petco Park post-game, and there were pics taken. One was of particular interest to me.
Don’t try this at home or on the field, kids.
I feel that it is time to make myself vulnerable, and bare my baseball soul to all
four of you kind, gentle, possibly lactose intolerant readers.
I come with a tale not only of adoration, but of respect, and emulation of a man who I have made one of my interwebs aliases, and whose visage you see anytime you wander through the ‘How Do I Baseball?’ parcel of URL land. That man will be unmasked in the following text, and I feel that this exposé is a long time coming for the current Cleveland Indians pitching coach, to not only celebrate his baseball career, and his accomplishments, but also to show him as the Renaissance Man that he truly is. Plus, everyone knows him as this guy’s brother in law so let’s try and get him into the limelight for once, yes?
Scott Radinsky, this is your life, my homage to you, and the final unveiling of my unrequited man crush.
As previously mentioned, he is the pitching coach for the Indians, having started his coaching career with them soon after his playing career careened to a halt with Cleveland after 2 innings of work in 2001, after a MLB tour of duty spanning 11 years, primarily with the Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. During this time, he put up some very respectable numbers, especially with my occasionally beloved Dodgers. Being the all-purpose lefty out of the bullpen when I pitched, I went out of my way to mimic his style, down to his delivery, and how he wore his cap. He was what I wanted to be – the funky lefty coming out of the Dodgers bullpen, socks high, coming only out of the stretch (because windups are fo’ suckas), and whipping a fastball/slider combo to those who dare dig in the batter’s box on my watch. You can peruse the juicy bits of his career here, but briefly, a career 118 ERA+, with career years (as determined by WAR) in 1991, and 1998, and a 63% winning percentage to go with 52 saves made for quite a career showing for the lefty from the San Fernando Valley. Also a recipient of the Tony Conigliaro Award in 1995, Rad left the game as one of the more decorated Jewish pitchers the game has had, placing 2nd in career appearances, fourth in ERA, and 11th in career wins. LOOGY, setup man, closer – regardless of the title, Radinsky did the job asked of him, but did make his name as an 8th inning man, pitching about 40% of his innings in that game frame. Yet, he definitely rose to the occasion when in the closers role, saving 90% of games he came into the game with a save opportunity, holding hitters to a .102 BAA in the games he saved.
The Ballad of Rad goes beyond that for me. A cancer survivor, he spent the entire 1994 season undergoing treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During this time away from the playing, he never left the game, spending his time away chemotherapy sessions as an assistant coach for his alma mater, Simi Valley High School. The holder of numerous pitching records for the Pioneers, Rad put the SVHS program on the map, being the first MLB’er to come out of the school, while also being a key component of the early development of Jeff Weaver into a
sometimes MLB capable pitcher. On a personal level, he mentored two former college teammates of mine on that 1994 Simi Valley team, who both came away with nothing but positive things to say about Scott as both a player and a person, adding that it was his tutelage that allowed them make the final jump from good player to great, Division I ready players.
With his high school baseball career came another type of career, that of frontman for a number of punk groups over the span of a couple of decades. Getting his feet wet in the 1980’s Nardcore scene with Scared Straight, he then went on to front punk mainstays Ten Foot Pole, and Pulley.
It doesn’t stop there. Proprietor of one of the larger, and most well known skate parks in the country, Scott plunked down a significant amount of money to open Skatelab, and to see the creation of the Skateboard Hall of Fame, and Skateboard Museum within its walls.
It’s been quite a life thus far for Rad – baseball, skate parks, surviving cancer, and lead singer of three punk bands – it is one that I have personally striven to equal, or come close to it, in my own way. To be selfless, and at the same time indefatigable in your pursuits, and to conquer his personal battles, be it cancer, or Ubaldo Jimenez, shows the heart of a man who gets what life is about – fulfillment, and happiness through any storm weathered.
So the next time you see him saunter up to the mound during an Indians game to check on Chris Perez, and his propensity for projectile vomiting, give a round of applause to a man who is living the dream that we all never want to wake up from, closer vomit notwithstanding.
DavidWikipedia: David according to the Hebrew Bible, was the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and, according to the New Testament Gospels of Matthew and Luke an ancestor of Jesus. →
As the 2012 Los Angeles Dodgers
streak sputter to a 47-38 record towards the All Star break, and a razor thin half game lead on the San Francisco Giants, I want to take time to reflect upon the successes the high octane offense the Men In Blue have regaled us with:
Home Runs, NL: 16th place
RBI, NL: 13th place
OPS, NL: 15th place
Runs, MLB: 26th place
Slugging, MLB: 28th place
With injuries to Kemp, Ethier, and now Dee Gordon, the hopes of an offense rest firmly upon the shoulders of AJ Ellis, and a cast of outcasts…
…let’s talk pitching, yeah? YES! Let’s talk pitching, I love throw pitchers and the way they throwpitch, indeed. Here’s how the Men In Blue have fared thus far, pitching-wise:
ERA, NL/MLB: 2nd place
BA Against, NL/MLB: 2nd place
Strikeouts:, NL: 4th place
Well, if there was any doubt before, this is proof the Dodgers are getting it done this year with pitching. With a staff anchored by last year’s Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, and the maddeningly inconsistent albeit talented Chad Billingsley, it’s been the back end of the rotation that has really propelled the team to the record and their standing in the NL West that they enjoy. While Kershaw and AJ Ellis are busy making small talk between two palm trees , the likes of Aaron Harang, Ted Lilly, rookie Nathan Eovaldi, and Chris Capuano have held down the fort, and in surprising fashion. With a 21-14 record between the four of them, and an overall team W-L of 29-22 in games they pitch, the 3-4-5 guys in the rotation have been the unsung heroes of this year’s team.
However, one of the four stands out as having a career renaissance, and that is Tommy John surgery and Milwaukee Brewers survivor, Chris Capuano.
A handsome man – I hear he checks into hotels under the name ‘Sir Hotbod Handsomeface’ – a Masshole, as well as a Duke alumnus, there is much to dislike about Cap. However, I just can’t bring myself to do it, and neither can Dodger fans, as his 9-3 record, with 12-5 team record during his starts has been one of the few bright points in a frustrating season thus far for the Chavez Ravine denizens. Adding to this frustration is his absence from the All Star team given his fantastic start to 2012, but as we will see, this isn’t new to Capuano.
Having a breakout 18-win, non-All Star bid season in 2005, followed with a 2006 All Star berth, Capuano spent the prime of his career with Milwaukee. However, since 2008, Capuano has been a vagabond of sorts. Requiring a second career Tommy John surgery after the 2007 season, he spent quite a while recovering, and rehabbing from the surgery, only to be non-tendered, then resigned to a minor league contract by the Brewers. Suffering from mediocre results, and a slight downtick in fastball velocity, Capuano spent most of 2008-2011 trying to recapture the magic of his 2005-2006 seasons with the Brewers. A single season with the New York Mets in 2011 provided some hope and flashes of his former pitching self, which was rewarded by the Dodgers with a 2 year, $10 million deal in the 2011 offseason.
Since his tenure with the Dodgers, Capuano has been nothing short of amazing, as his statistics attest. Yet, questions remain. How can a pitcher in his mid-30’s, after 2 Tommy John procedures, suddenly garner the success that Cap has had in 2012, after so many years of mediocrity, and in essence, only one above average career season?
Well, let’s take that one great career season, compare it to this year’s resurgence, as well as an amalgamate season of the mediocre years, and see if history does in fact repeat itself, or if there’s some sort of black magic at the root of Cap’s fantastic 2012.
Here’s what we have – this table shows some essential stats from 2005, this year, and an average ‘meh’ season for Capuano during his off years between 2006-2011.
Some off the cuff remarks:
Not shockingly, Capuano surrenders less runs during his peak years of 2005, and 2012, compared to his average mediocre year. His strikeout, and walk rates aren’t too dissimilar, although his 2012 has him striking out more batters, and giving up less home runs, but only by a hair. One interesting tidbit is his BABIP splits. During the ‘meh’ years, his splits weren’t too drastic – batters hit just as well off of him, regardless of handedness, with an overall BABIP of 0.303, which is usually league average. However, his 2 strongest years show a drastic split between batter handedness. In 2005, Cap did a great job of neutralizing lefty batters compared to righties, but in 2012, it’s the exact opposite – quite a conundrum, and an interesting quirk of his career resurgence. Also of interest is Capuano’s FIP/xFIP numbers; up until this year, he typically pitches under expectations, as seen by the FIP > xFIP results before 2012, whereas this year, he is pitching beyond expectations.
So nothing is really screaming out at us as to how to describe how Cap is having such a successful year thus far. He isn’t striking out a ton of guys, or more than usual, he’s not missing more bats than usual, and in general, the things that a pitcher can control in the game – walks, home runs, and strikeouts – aren’t too far off career averages, regardless of the era we’re studying.
Let’s have a peek at this pitches, both in terms of velocity, and selection.
|2005||61.9% (86.4)||17.2% (78.0)||0.2% (74.0)||20.8% (76.5)|
|2012||56.6% (88.1)||3.6% (81.2)||5.4% (83.7)||8.9% (75.4)||25.5% (77.8)|
|Meh Yrs||59.9% (87.5)||12.7% (78.1)||1.2% (83.5)||5.6% (76.7)||24.0% (77.3)|
Velocity-wise, Capuano is your standard, government issue lefty. Lots of movement, lots of deception, mixes pitches well, and nothing overpowering in terms of fastball- he’s averaged 86-88 MPH on his heater throughout his career. Selection-wise, he is also pretty unremarkable, although we do see that he has fiddled with a couple of different offspeed pitches over the years, finally settling with a sinker/slider/changeup repertoire we see in 2012.
But here’s is where we find the difference between this year, as compared to other years – his pitch selection. Looking at pitch values, we see that over the years, Capuano has gotten by with some below average stuff, with only his curveball (CB), and changeup (CU) coming in with a positive linear weight, indicative of it being an above average pitch. Overall, we see that most of his stuff is slightly below average.
However, in 2012, Capuano has seemed to have learned a new pitch, in the form of a sinker. Pairing this with his already above average changeup, and we find the secret to the resurgence of Capuano’s baseball success. The table below uses PitchFX data to determine pitch type and their respective linear weight, which does a better job of discerning sliders from cutters, and fastballs from sinkers, and the like, as compared to the previous table. PitchFX data was only available from 2007 on, so for this table, I am providing all years, versus an average of his ‘meh’ years, which included 2003-4, and 2006.
So as we see with this table, it’s the sinker (SI) and his changeup that he seems to have mastered, and is doing the trick for Capuano in getting hitters out, and runs off the board in 2012. It also gives us some explanation as to why lefties are hitting better off of him these days than righties, as sinkers and changeups from left handed pitchers will have a tendency to sail down and in to a lefty, which is their power zone. However, sinkers rarely get elevated for home runs, and we see that reflected in his career best HR/FB ratio 9.9% of this year. Also, his groundball rate for 2012 are on par with previous years’ rates.
So there’s our black magic. Keeping the ball down in the strikezone, changing speeds, having batters pound the ball into the ground, and keeping flyballs in the park are the panacea of Chris Capuano’s career. And to think, it was as simple as a change in the grip of his fastball to turn it into sinker that made it happen.