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Monday, July 15, 2013

2013 MLB Mid-season Predictions & Review: Trades and Winning

We've reached the All-Star break and some story lines have unfolded. Biogenesis. Yasiel Puig. Patrick Corbin. The Dodgers, the new Yankees. The Yankees, the new budget conscience Yankees. Young players doing big things...

The Boys of Summer are at it again.

So what's will happen here on out?

 Division Races

The usual trade deadline stuff has started to unfold. As the top teams have the joys of inspiring to be the best going to the playoffs, while the under .500 teams are looking for those coveted prospects for their best, high priced or 2014 free agents that can fill the holes on their competitors. Fans argue at MLB trade rumors over what is the fair market price for Matt Garza, or Bud Norris, or now, the Chase Headleys of the market.

The Yankees should be sellers. They have the oldest team in the MLB at 31.6 years, a year older than those Dodgers, a veteran ball club, that too felt the injury bug in the first half. Their once formidable stars are so long in the tooth - Jeter, A-Rod, Rivera - that rocking chairs are being built to honor them.The biggest difference: the Dodgers have gotten healthy, infused young talent (Puig), and almost have to be buyers in their division. LA has around $250 million until my 65th birthday to invest in a winner. None of their opponents can access those type of resources going forward.

Dodgers could buy another starter (dumping Capuano) and setup man (Brandon League) before the deadline in using their best prospects Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Zach Lee or Ross Stripling to make their first trip to the World Series since Tommy LaSorda and Orel Hershiser were a Big 80's item. Who needs a minor league when you can buy or make high prices for talent (as they just did with A-Gone, Hanley, Crawford, Kemp, and Andre Ethier) or will Clayton Kershaw?

Arizona will fall behind enough but still will make the playoffs. First, I like Arizona's team on the field. They have talent and hustle and are a team that competes. They are the antithesis of LA's spend it like a Lone Ranger film no one will watch designs. Which is part of their problem: they are nearly locked into $80 million all ready for next season, from there $86 million payroll in 2013. I can't see them adding significant payroll (even this season) unless they receive a good deal with it.

Meanwhile, they have a deep farm system with good top pitching prospects - LHP Tyler Skaggs and RHP Archie Bradley - to go with 3B Matt Davidson,  RHP Braden Shipley, SS Nick Ahmed and  SS Chris Owings. Figure they will hit big 1-3 more times like they did on Didi Gregorious and Patrick Corbin, and by 2015, they have the makings of a young group that will give LA fits but at 45-50% of the cost ($105-100 million).

But this year, they can add a bullpen arm and hope 1B Paul Goldschmidt can do a Chris Davis impersonation for the 2nd half. (Which is to say, Goldie's been good, but can he be video game good?)

Both Chicago teams are sell, sell, sell. Not unusual. Except that the White Sox have higher payroll, but less market appeal.  Both are doing a rebuild, once again. White Sox, it seemingly always piece meal. The Cubs, have two models they are working on:

 These two models are in play for all 30 teams. As fans we focus on how to win championships through trades, development, microsabermetrics/macrosabermetrics, and field management theory with players that can and do things that can either upset, or regress the path a team is on, or provide that boost to the model.

The financial model is a different story; but linked. Getting $500 million in renovations approved will produce a different Wrigley Field, and hopefully, a different atmosphere while keeping the face of the ballpark, but improving the structural problems, the team facilities, and the media and advertising dollars that teams are always in the market for more of. (Ask the Dodgers.)

Detroit, Boston, Oakland, Tampa Bay, and Texas seem like the cream of the American League. Detroit only has to play to their payroll - to beat Cleveland. They have a solid offense and top pitching right now down to their 5th starter- their problems are bullpen, after 7 innings. Cleveland has the same issue; so which one decides first and actually solves that, could be able to do it. (I don't see them getting the 2nd wild card spot.)

Oakland and Texas. Texas has the cash and the prospects. Oakland has $60 million payroll, Billy Beane and a philosophy. Both could be hurt by the Biogenesis performance enhancer fallout, if appeals are quick and timed wrong. Texas has an easier time solving their problems, but Oakland will search for a cheap OF solution - dumping CF Chris Young's contract to clear a roster spot, and shooting for another outfielder that fits their price, and talent expectations.

The Cubs might be enticed if they were offered catcher Bruce Maxwell, a pitcher with usual flaws/but upside with Young for Nate Schierholtz and David DeJesus. Scheirholtz is a corner and DeJesus played in Oakland. Both are cheap and under control while Young is on a club option, Oakland probably will not execute. Oakland likely has other ideas on how to get some offense cheap. Their pitching is in good shape until Bartolo Colon is blown up by Biogenesis. This will play out later this month.

Texas is a better Cub partner with more cards. Their need for outfield help could be more dire. But Texas might even entertain the White Sox's Alex Rios for a bat.

Boston, Baltimore, and the Rays. Each have pretty solid lineups, Rays the better upper end pitching, Boston the cash to solve a few problems (and they started), and the Rays are much like the A's, moneyball and prospects.

This race goes down to the last two weeks, and will depend on injuries, I think. Health determines what you can do until minor league call ups in September. Boston and Tampa have top talent they are willing to part with if the addition is a right fit. Baltimore has pitching prospects they won't part with - Dylan Bundy - but can't use either now. Baltimore has to hope Chris Davis is going for 60 and they made a solid addition of Feldman for 7-8 victories and long outings.

Atlanta gets to the playoffs. Phillies sell off - Cliff Lee keeps on being bantered for an option. (And the Phillies want Arizona or Texas to come knocking...)

Pittsburgh and St. Louis go to the postseason. Pittsburgh needs this. A feel-good story as GM Neal Huntington remembers vividly working for the 1995 Montreal Expos after their last gasp at success.

Pirates have allowed the least runs in baseball with the Cardinals right behind them. Pittsburgh has a below average offense, needing a bat at premier shortstop (Barmes) or right field (Snider) with both having a sub-.300 OBP and -.4 WAR between them. 1B Garrett Jones is doing little just enough to keep a job. So they, got a platoon going with Gaby Sanchez.

What works? Outfielders are plentiful for the right ask. Shortstops are too tight a market - and Jody Mercer has taken over for Barmes.They called up Jose Tabata to solve some outfield offensive woes.

I give them a 50% or better shot, but they need to take a shot at adding a real offensive potential. But finances are always a concern.

Cincinnati is a dark horse. And so, it will too come down to health for them and the NL Central.


NL: Atlanta, St. Louis, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh (WC), Arizona (WC)
AL: Boston, Detroit, Texas, Oakland (WC), Tampa (WC)

AL Championship series: Boston vs. Texas
NL Championship series: Los Angeles vs. Arizona

World Series: Los Angeles vs. Boston
Los Angeles in 7 games.

But, will see.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Matt Garza vs. Ricky Nolasco: The tail of the tape from their July 3rd games

Tonight was likely a showcase of the two most sought after pitchers of the 2013 Trade deadline. Both pitched against top of their division teams.

The best way to determine the quality of pitching or stuff is by using Brooks Baseball and their Pitch F/X graphs.

Ricky Nolasco performance by pitch velocity against Atlanta:

Fastball between 90-92 starting out, throwing a mix of 2-seam and 4-seam, 75% (40 total) 4 seamers.
But the velocity after pitch 43 never returns. From then on, he goes to the slider for his swing and misses, throwing 29 sliders, getting 12 swings and misses. This is smart of Nolasco - the Braves love his fastball because it is BP speed (they missed only 4 of those), and Nolasco, can't nibble with it tonight. He mixed in enough Curves and Splitters to give the Braves fits as the game progresses.

Nolasco used a slide step to get 1.2-1.25 to home, but he ditched that around the 4th, the same time his velocity dropped. Get on base, he will have to concede the stolen base while using breaking stuff. I just don't think he can hump it up there. (NOTE: it was raining pretty consistently. However, pitchers deal with stuff like that always, adversity.)

By comparison, Atlanta's Mike Minor velocity was fairly consistent until his blowup in the 5th, where he threw 32 pitches, and obviously tired. Which is the GREATER point: Nolasco was not able to sustain his fast ball velocity past 50-60 pitches, making him vulnerable, tonight.

In his prior start, June 28th, Nolasco was better at sustaining his velocity because he was on 6 days rest. The start before that, June 21st, the real Ricky Nolasco tired at pitch 76, never returning upwards to his beginning velocity.

In short, Nolasco has a 5-inning, 75-pitch window to get you out, using his slider as his best weapon, if he can always throw that well. He might as well figure out how to throw more sliders. No matter what reporters print (Miami Herald), Nolasco is not ready (yet) for a big time playoff battle.

Nolasco's Pitches against Atlanta, July 3, 2013

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Whiffs / % SNIPs / % Linear Weights
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)90.2791.75-8.094.80116 / 54.55%1 / 9.09% 3 / 37.50%0.0342
FF (FourSeam Fastball)90.2292.1-4.686.843120 / 64.52%3 / 9.68% 12 / 52.17%-1.0115
CH (Changeup)84.1187.55-7.482.4442 / 50.00%1 / 25.00% 1 / 33.33%-0.2668
SL (Slider)81.6483.981.63-0.422922 / 75.86%12 / 41.38% 17 / 70.83%-1.9255
CU (Curveball)73.9676.59.18-7.23137 / 53.85%3 / 23.08% 6 / 50.00%-0.6200
FS (Splitter)80.2288.28-4.602.6185 / 62.50%2 / 25.00% 3 / 50.00%2.0335

Matt Garza Pitch Speed at Oakland, July 3rd

The conditions were better for pitching, no rain to fight.

Garza's graph shows the ability to reach back and get a bit more for a leverage situation. As late as pitch 101, Garza hits above 94 MPH. This was at the end of 7 innings against a patient, never unwilling-to-take-a -walk, Moneyball lineup.

Garza's only mistake: throwing back to back curves at pitch 54-55 to Moss, who hit a home run. Luckily, the Cubs scored off Bartolo Colon.

Garza throws usually nothing but Fastballs, he sinks one, or two, then a 4 seam, off the plate, up or strategically placed for pop-ups. Garza gets more vertical break (sink, but Nolasco gets more run, horizontally). The add/subtract works, and his range on both types of heaters, and top speed makes good hitters uncomfortable enough to be late, or just not able to get hard liners off him.

He doesn't miss that many bats. But neither does Nolasco. Garza's slider is above average when he surprises hitters, since they see about 85% fastballs. His curve can work well too, but he hangs 1 out of 4 of them. So, he doesn't usually throw many, and shouldn't to anyone with a lick of power.

Garza's pitch types at Oakland, July 3rd

Pitch Type Avg Speed Max Speed Avg H-Break Avg V-Break Count Strikes / % Whiffs / % SNIPs / % Linear Weights
FT (TwoSeam Fastball)93.0895.7-5.989.164932 / 65.31%6 / 12.24% 21 / 55.26%-2.0286
FF (FourSeam Fastball)93.5995.68-3.459.744125 / 60.98%2 / 4.88% 18 / 52.94%-1.0846
SL (Slider)85.7187.391.232.071811 / 61.11%4 / 22.22% 8 / 53.33%-0.9448
CU (Curveball)74.8576.594.60-8.9063 / 50.00%0 / 0.00% 1 / 25.00%1.2033

His prior start confirms too his velocity hovers right at 94 MPH. He loses only a fraction past 85 pitches, but puts 2 or 3 more fastballs above 94 at around 100 pitches, throwing a few more curve balls and sliders to a weaker Milwaukee team, getting by with it.

 Garza's velocity at Milwaukee June 27, 2013

The Final Analysis

Matt Garza is much, much better trade piece. He has been gradually stretched out his last 3 starts from 98 - 101 - 114 pitches, mixing some of his ancillary stuff, while showing consistent velocity. Nolasco, even on long rest, has suspect velocity once past 75 pitches. His fastball is very hittable for good FB hitting teams, like Boston, Oakland, Texas, or the Los Angeles Dodgers, playoff contenders all.

Garza should be the jewel piece of the trade season, if a team wants a better chance, than if they select Nolasco.