Has it been a month already since I last posted? Oof. Que terrible.
Well, if you’re so inclined, check out some of the things I have written for Parts Elsewhere on the Series of Tubes, yes?
I have written a little more about injuries for Beyond the Box Score as of late. In particular, ulnar collateral ligament tears.
First, I revisited the Medlen/Strasburg debate, looking at whether leverage might have played a role in Kris Medlen’s re-injury, while Stephen Strasburg continues to truck on, almost four years post-Tommy John surgery.
I then take a page out of my old lab notebooks and consider whether tobacco use might play a role in UCL re-tears and poorer outcomes, surgically.
Hot off the presses, I also take a look at the role of the triceps muscle in the throwing motion, through the lens of Scott Kazmir’s recent triceps tightness.
For Gammons Daily, it’s been all about pitching.
For the Athletics fan in your life, I wrote about the move of Jesse Chavez from the bullpen to the starting rotation and what he might do differently pitch-wise in the new role.
Maintaining the California Love, I then had a look at Tyler Skaggs’ Uncle Charlie. Lookin’ good…
Nationals baseball more your thing?
My condolences I have just the thing for you!
For District Sports Page, I’ve covered a numbers of things:
– defensive shifts and their effect on Nats hitters? Got it.
– discussion of some troubling velocity declines for some pitchers? Order’s up!
– Ross Detwiler and some discussion of why he fell short for the fifth starter role (for now)? Enjoy.
– Rafael Soriano? Yes, I have that as well, much to your chagrin.
– Drew Storen and his troubling walk rate during spring training…WITH PRETTY PICTURES? Ayup.
– STRASBURG OUTRAGE AFTER ONE GAME? Embrace it.
– Man crushin’ on Anthony Rendon’s swing? Alright, alright.
Adding to the DSP work, I have been invited to guest blog for MASN, which I am very excited to be a part of.
I started with a comparison of Stephen Strasburg and Tyler Clippard, went from there with a discussion of some quirky stats related to the aggressiveness of Nats hitters early in the season, and went with more velocity decline concerns, this time, with Taylor Jordan.
Lots of words. Lots to discuss. I hope you enjoy them. If you don’t, I welcome your comments (constructive ones, at least) on how to make the words better-er.
In a feckless and lazy attempt at self promotion, I will be taking my cues from the writers of the great USA Network show Psych for this post, and will do a cross promotion with my most recent post for Camden Depot. However, instead of a guest appearance from some WWE
wrassler wrestler, like John Cena or Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat, it will be the secret to the success of Orioles closer Jim Johnson making an appearance, channeled by Washington National starter Ross Detwiler.
Probably not. Let me back it up momentarily, with the help of this tweet:
Needless to say Ross Detwiler’s 2013 has started off blazing hot; one run, and at that a debatable one, given up thus far, on the wings of a deadly 1-2 combo of his 2- and 4- seam fastballs. While it isn’t totally unprecedented, Detwiler’s success with essentially one pitch has been turning some heads.
Much like Jim Johnson, Detwiler seems to have finally found his groove after simplifying some things – his mechanics as well as his pitch selection. Much like I did in my Camden Depot article on Johnson, let’s have a look at Detwiler’s most recent outing Wednesday against the Marlins, with the help of Brooks Baseball:
In the 6-1 victory over Miami (good for his first win of the season), Detwiler threw 93% 2-seam and 4-seam fastballs, 74% as strikes, both impressive stats. To compare, Johnson’s career resurgence has occurred simultaneously with an increased confidence and reliance upon his very nasty mid-90s two-seam fastball, which has been tinkered with to get more tailing action into right-handed batters.
To have a deeper look at Detwiler’s transformation, let’s again recruit the help of Brooks Baseball and PITCHf/x. First, let’s look how often he uses each of the pitches in his arsenal over his career:
As we can see, his increased reliance upon his 2- (SI in the chart) and 4- (FA) seamers has been a work in progress, but didn’t really begin to take off until last year. 2012 was also a bit of a watershed year in Detwiler’s young career, amassing a 10-8 record while pitching some gems in the second half of the season. Coincidence? If Johnson’s All Star, 51 save season of 2012, which saw him almost exclusively utilize his 2-seamer, is a useful comparison, probably not.
More tables ahoy!
Now let’s look at Detwiler’s pitching mechanics with respect to his release point:
By the looks of it, Detwiler’s tweaking again has been a work in progress, but it appears that he is now comfortable with a mid 3/4 delivery. With this release point comes changes in how much the ball moves once released – let’s look at those factors now:
Again focusing on Detwiler’s fastballs, we see that the slight mechanical tweaks have given him *slightly* less sink in 2013 on his fastballs, but much more tail of the pitches away from right-handed batters. Again referencing my Johnson article, Big Jim has used an increase in horizontal movement in light of a reduced fastball velocity (about 1 MPH down from 2012). It appears Detwiler is following suit, but in grander fashion, with his 2-seamer averaging about a foot of tail and his 4-seamer around 8 inches of tail in 2013. Like ‘The Janitor’, Det has compromised a little bit of velocity for improved movement, as the 92.5 MPH average for both fastballs this year, compared to his career average of 92.7 MPH for both fastballs, can attest.
Another revelation about Detwiler’s 2013 and career overall in comparison to Johnson’s is neither of them is considered a strikeout pitcher (Detwiler has a career 5.5 K/9, Johnson’s at 5.7) ; both are at their best when they are inducing poor swings and groundballs. How has Detwiler done thus far doing that?
Detwiler is enjoying a lot of groundballs so far in 2013, with rates of 58% on his 2-seamer and 66% with his 4-seamer; for a guy who relies a lot on his fielders to get his outs, this is an encouraging statistic, and again lends credence to the improvement in Detwiler’s fastballs, both in terms of it being a great pitch, but also in terms of his confidence in it.
While I don’t foresee Detwiler relying as heavily upon his fastball the deeper we go in the season as he has in April, I do see him maintaining his fastball frequency in the high 60’s to low 70’s, much like Johnson has from 2011 and onward with his two-seamer. Both Johnson and Detwiler have begun to embrace an unorthodox approach to getting hitters out and are just now beginning to enjoy the fruits of their dedication to becoming one trick ponies, something that is all too often detrimental to the long-term success of a pitcher.
Sometimes familiarity can induce contempt; for Detwiler and Johnson, it induces groundballs.
As the 2012 offseason begins to wind down, so does the list of available free agents, and the number of possible roster spots that the likes of Michael Bourn and Kyle Lohse could possibly fill for a team in 2013. It’s a time of desperation, a time of fitting square pegs into round holes, not only for players and agents, but also baseball writers.
With Rafael Soriano joining the likes of Tyler Clippard and Drew Storen at the back end of the Washington Nationals bullpen, it appears that, aside from possibly adding a short inning lefty arm to complement Zach Duke, the Nats are set in terms of their relief corps.
Ken Rosenthal doesn’t seem to think so, and mentions a scenario having the Nats signing Kyle Lohse, then sending lefty starter Ross Detwiler to the ‘pen being bandied about. Great idea, right? Add a solid #4/5 starter, then have a great shutdown lefty, in the form of Detwiler – win/win!
As Dan Kolko mentioned in his article, Detwiler was drafted as a starter, and is just now coming into his own as a starting pitcher, after several years of being bounced from the starting rotation to the bullpen. A trip back to the bullpen would send the wrong message to Detwiler, who is just now beginning to live up to the promise he showed when the Nationals made him their first pick in the 2007 MLB Draft, out of Missouri State University. Anecdotally, tall pitchers tend to take more time to develop, as it takes time for them to consistently replicate their pitching mechanics, pitch to pitch. Lefthanded pitchers are also notorious late bloomers, for an assortment of reasons. Knowing that Detwiler is both tall and lefthanded, we simply see the ramifications of the natural progression of a tall lefty; good things come to those who wait.
…and wait the Nationals should – all while exhibiting patience and staying true to their blueprint for 2013, which should have Detwiler as their #5 starter. A return to the bullpen could prove catastrophic for Detwiler and the Nationals, not only from the psychological aspect of a ‘demotion’, but also from a long term perspective. If the Nats need any historical inspiration to keep Detwiler in the starting rotation, they don’t have too look far back into the annals of baseball for a cautionary tale. They only need to go as far back as 2011.
June 16, 2011, Joba Chamberlain had Tommy John surgery, ending his season, and by the looks of it, his career as a starter. Like Detwiler, Chamberlain was drafted as a starter out of college, going back and forth between starting and relieving since coming up to the New York Yankees in 2007. Spending most of 2007 as a reliever, Chamberlain spent 2008 primarily in a bullpen role, mixing in 12 starts throughout the year. In 2009, the Yankees used Chamberlain almost exclusively as a starter, making 31 starts, chalking up 156.1 innings, and enjoying a 9-6 record, with a 1.8 fWAR. After losing out on a rotation spot to Phil Hughes the following season, the Yankees powers that be again changed their minds, and scrapped plans to have Chamberlain as a fixture in the starting rotation, and used him in the bullpen, primarily as a set up man for Mariano Rivera.
Post surgery, Chamberlain has been further relegated, now to a middle inning reliever, pitching 20 innings in 2012 to the tune of a 0.1 fWAR, 11 hits per 9 innings, and 1.55 WHIP. While there is still time for Chamberlain to continue to recover from Tommy John surgery, and to fully accept and acclimate himself to the bullpen role he sees himself in for the foreseeable future, Chamberlain’s career is one indelibly marred by the indecisiveness of the Yankee front office.
Success in baseball remains an exercise in vision and perseverance. For Chamberlain and the Yankees, only one half of this equation was satisfied, and led to the promise of Chamberlain as the keystone of future Yankees starting rotations to be left unfulfilled. For the Nationals, it is imperative for them to stay true to the vision they had in 2007, with Ross Detwiler as a starting pitcher; they cannot be sidetracked by a myopic pursuit that would peg him as a short inning reliever for 2013.
Detwiler’s time is now, and it’s time for him to be a starter.
The laws of physics wreak havoc upon a ballplayer, and their musculoskeletal systems. The forces generated to swing a bat, or throw a 90+ MPH fastball with the explosiveness needed to become an elite artisan of the craft are some of the many facets to this diamond of a game that are hard to not be in awe of.
A picture is worth a thousand words; well, sometimes.
Sometimes, a picture is worth a single, all-encompassing word, that defies and redefines cultural and linguistic boundaries alike. A powerful word, and one that is rarely spoken of, or with.
In Ross Detwiler, we have DERP, personified.
For more derpy goodness, check out the fine gentleman purveyors of DERP that is the website Productive Outs. If that’s your thing.