A Long Overdue (Excuse)

In addition to writing at Scouting The Sally, I’ve been fortunate enough to be picked up by the great guys over at Bullpen Banter to write, as well as starting my own podcast with a few friends. In light of these recent events, my writing here has waned considerably.

OK. I lied. It’s totally stopped. All of my off season energies are being poured into those two projects, and for that I apologize. Once Spring Training and the season comes around, I’ll be doing live game casts as well as quick writeups. In the mean time, if you can’t get enough of me via twitter (and that couldn’t possibly be true) then feel free to reach me at my other sites.

Much love,

David Lee Wiers

A Yunel Escobar Trade Retrospective

For some reason, Frank Wren catches a lot of crap from the sabermetric community.  I’ve never completely figured this out as Atlanta is middle of the pack in payroll, yet since he took over and the organization moved on from the core of the division title run has been quite competitive.  The move that gets the most scrutiny is the trade of Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays.  Usually when Braves fans cite this trade they talk about the reported standing ovation in the clubhouse when the deal was announced.  I’m going to completely ignore that in this piece and purely look at the trade from a baseball perspective and see if the scrutiny holds up.

First the actual terms of the deal.  The Blue Jays received Yunel Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes for Alex Gonzalez, Tim Collins, and Tyler Pastornicky.

Toronto got the best player without a real question.  Yunel Escobar had 3 and a half years of control left and had shown an ability to post wRC+’s in the one-teens.  Atlanta received players 2,3,4 and the Blue Jays got Jo-Jo Reyes.  Jo-Jo Reyes is a failed prospect who has a career FIP of 5.33.  I’m going to just ignore him.  It was a lottery ticket for the Blue Jays that didn’t work or hurt Atlanta’s pitching depth.

As for Atlanta’s haul, they received a starting SS of their own, Alex Gonzalez.  Per FanGraphs WAR, Alex was worth 7.9 million dollars in his year plus in Atlanta while making about 3 million in that time.  He was valuable for Atlanta.  He was a net loss from Escobar long term but Atlanta was in a playoff push that season.  This is why Atlanta received other peices.

Tim Collins is 5’7″.  Due to this, he has been undervalued his entire career even though his minor league FIP’s were in the low 2’s.  He is a situational reliever with limited upside but productive relievers at league minimum are quite valuable.  Seeing this, Atlanta flipped Collins, Gregor Blanco, and Jesse Chavez for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth.  Cue the snickers from the sabermetric crowd.  Fun Fact: in the last 2 months of 2010, after this trade, Farnsworth and Ankiel netted Atlanta .9 WAR.  Not earth shattering by any stetch but enough to offset the loss in value from Escobar to Gonzalez and help Atlanta sneak into October with the Wild Card.

This brings us to our final peice, Tyler Pastornicky.  When Atlanta made this trade, it took both a short term and a long term view.  Gonzalez replaced Escobar in 2010 and 2011 and it appears that job will pass to Pastornicky in 2012.  I won’t try to guess his line next year or put a value on him.  I’ll just say he doesn’t have to light the world on fire to be a productive major league shortstop these days.  If he winds up a utility player, as some have prognosticated, Atlanta loses this trade.  If he becomes even a second division regular who can post 1-2 WAR for a few years, Atlanta could very well be the winner.

The conclusion is this.  Whenever I see this trade mentioned it is often derided as Atlanta getting slaughtered.  What this usually fails to realize it the trade was not just Escobar for Gonzalez.  The other pieces helped Atlanta both short term and long term.  Frank Wren isn’t perfect, but neither is Alex Anthopoulos.  Don’t let reputations cloud analysis.

CBA: Quick Hits

I’m holding off on the draft because the details are still rolling out.  I need a bunch of questions to be answered yet before I make statements on how it will affect the market in the upcoming years.  There are other aspects of the CBA that I can analyze now.

1.  Houston changing leagues.  Fortunately Wiers and I already tackled this.  Here are our thoughts.

2.  The second change was the added Wild Card.  The instinct for the sabermetrically inclined is to say “This diminishes the playoffs even further.”  Your right.  But here is my counter – Is that really important?  The best team rarely wins the World Series.  I’m ok with this because I no longer have the expectation that the best team will win.  I enjoy the playoffs because they are exciting.  I enjoy them because they tend to be very good baseball.  We see great pitchers, incredible hits, defensive plays and comebacks.  We get drama that hopefully captivates average fans and increases the cultural pull of the game.  A one game playoff only enhances this.  As a Braves fan, I didn’t exactly enjoy the last day of the season but I can’t deny its appeal.  We had 3 incredible games that directly influenced the playoffs.  I remember the one game playoff where Matt Holliday didn’t touch home plate and the one where Alexi Casilla and Carlos Gomez broke the Tigers backs in the 12th inning.  This is what 1 game playoffs do.  They make for incredible drama and as a baseball fan I love it.  Also, it only lessens the fact that the better wild card team advances.  The wild cars play one another, not affecting the chances the division winners win the World Series.

3.  Baseball added a 26th roster spot for double headers.  Win for the MLBPA as it increases the number of players getting service time and Major League Salaries.  The effect this will have on the game is basically zero.

4.  The elimination of Type A/B Free Agents is a good thing.  The valuation of players is always a gray area no matter how accurate we think our stats become.  Getting rid of lines of demarkation between free agents just simplifies the process.  Players are either worth compensation or not.  I’m supportive of the new system, although I would rather see it jsut go away all together.

5.  The super 2 deadline was also pushed back.  It was done by increasing the percentage of players eligible from 17% to 22%.  I like this as the extra month in the minors will make more teams say the hell with it and put their best players in the majors when they deserve it, not when their service time dictates it.  Another good move by the MLBPA.

6.  The tobacco thing is useless regulation.  These are grown men, let them do what they please.  This just reeks of a political statement for the purpose of making a political statement.

7.  Baseball is going to mandate players wearing the Mr. Magoo helmet David Wright wore a few years ago.  Obviously from a player safety standpoint I support this but I would support it even more if baseball had not written the helmet had become “less bulky.”  I loved that helmet from a aesthetic standpoint.  Everyone who wore it looked ridiculous.

8.  I hate the LoMo twitter policy.  More useless regulation.  These guys are adults, let them do what they want outside of the stadium.

9.  My most controversial statement is coming up, be warned.  I hate the HGH testing.  I firmly believe steroids do not help baseball players.  Go here and just read for a few hours, you’ll agree.  So all HGH testing does in my opinion is invade players privacy while not solving a problem.  There is also a too little too late sentiment towards HGH.  If players are serious about trying to gain an advantage there are always other performance enhancing drugs they can turn to if that do not show up on Major League testing.  I just think this is unnecessary.  Baseball and the MSM need to give up this steroid crusade and focus on things that matter, like DUI’s.

 

CBA: International Market

The new CBA has been released and with it came many questions about how baseball treated the acquisition of talent from the amateur ranks.  To me, it was the only part of the CBA I really had strong feelings about and so it’s the one I’m going to write about.

Let’s begin by getting one thing clear.  The CBA is agreed upon by two groups: MLB owners and the MLBPA.  Nobody else’s opinion ultimately matters.  With that being said let’s get into it.

I’m going to start with the cap on international signing bonuses.  People seem to think this limits teams ability to sign amateur talent in Latin America. I disagree.  What this means for kids in Latin America is smaller signing bonuses.  The truth of it is, the opportunity for these kids to come to the U.S. and play professional baseball is still an opportunity of a lifetime.  Depressing bonuses by 25% or 50% or whatever the fallout winds up being will not change that.  So Miguel Sano only gets 2 mil, the $100,000 guys only get $40,000.  Does that really matter from a baseball perspective?  I say no.  The biggest argument is that this is unfair to the players.  Of course it is.  That is why I wrote the second paragraph.  Latin American signees are not in the players union, so it is ultimately not the players unions responsibility to get them more money.  Also, if these bonuses are reduced that extra money previously being spent on these bonuses could likely go towards major league salaries.  A chance of increasing MLBPA member’s salaries is exactly what the MLBPA is for, they win here.  For our other negotiating party, the owners, they win too.  As I said a limit on spending internationally will not affect the amount of money pulled in by major league clubs.  Same revenue + less spending = profit.  Some owners can choose to pocket this money; others will reinvest it in the club.  Either way, another win.

An argument I’ve heard against this is that it creates a market where potential contracts these players receive will all look very similar, resulting in players choosing teams for reasons besides contract size.  I disagree with this.  Even in an open market, teams create player evaluations and base offers off of those evaluations.  Evaluations for players are bound to have differences for each team.  What teams must decide is how much of their budget they can allot to a one player.  Finally, each team may spend the same amount this offseason, but in future offseasons the available amount of money for Latin American bonuses changes by major league team record the year previous.  This also will change the amount of money a player is offered because with different caps, 1 million to one team is different than 1 million to another team.  Different evaluations, different spending caps, as well as organizational philosophy on balancing elite talent/money with signing multiple players creates enough variables that players will still receive different dollar amounts from different teams.

I do have two issues with the spending cap.  First, I feel teams should be free to spend however much money in whatever part of the game they so choose (as evident in my Right of First Refusal post).  This budget does not allow for Texas to spend 17 million dollars in one year like they did in 2011.  Second I dislike using major league record as the basis for a team’s spending budget.  The current major league roster does not properly reflect organizational health.  Teams can go all in on the major league roster and compete but be hurt long-term.  Two current examples of this are the White Sox and the Phillies.  Chicago went all in with veterans since their 2005 run and now the organization is in rough shape.  The team has been competitive in recent years though and this cap would have kept them from spending money in Latin America and building a talent base with which to replace these veterans.  That they don’t have these prospects now is of their own doing, the Phillies will not even have the option.  Philadelphia is headed downward.  They have a below average farm system due to trades for Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt, and Roy Halladay.  They have an aging core and an awful contract for Ryan Howard that will limit the team financially in the future.  The way Philly could avoid that slide is by bringing in young talent to replace their veterans.  Because of their on field success in 2011 and probably in 2012 it will be hard for them to pick up the high impact talent they need.  In the end it all comes down to money. Despite my complaints the bottom line is this new arrangement in Latin America benefits the owners and major league players equally.

Finally, I’ll end the international signing section with answers to questions I have seen many places and you may have read answer to many places.

  • This does not affect Japanese players or the posting system at all.  MLB has had an understanding with the NPB about player moves for almost 20 years and it would require NPB cooperation to change the posting system
  • It does not affect Yoenis Cespedes.  The rules do not apply to Cuban players who are either older than 23 (Cespedes is 26) or have played professionally for 3 years (in Cuba).

As for our CBA coverage, I will be writing at least one more article on the draft but after that there hasn’t been much talk going forward between Wiers and I about how we are going to handle it.  Stay tuned for more articles.

Two (Relatively) Quick Thoughts

It all started with an off the cuff tweet by yours truly, which kicked my brain into over-drive over two subjects that shouldn’t ever be talked about by anyone. The sad truth is that the topics are all too readily at hand to discuss. What I mean is DUI’s and player safety.

With the recent kidnapping of Wilson Ramos (thankfully he was rescued safe and unharmed) and now the even more recent tragic news of Greg Halman’s death is breaking. All too often our society retroactively acts to protect. Look at AMBER alert system. It helps saves lives and find lost children. Such a shame that it is named for Amber Hagerman, a 9 year old girl who was kidnapped and murdered. Something more should have been in place at the time of her kidnapping. Instead, we enacted a system after the fact.

For all the right reasons, the MLB casts great lights upon its players. Both on the field and off the field at charity events, team sponsored events, on the red carpet, etc. MLB is a brand, and the players are what sells the brand. Unfortunately, fame is a double-edged sword. With affluence and recognition comes a price. The price is of course the higher likelihood of assault, kidnapping, and ransoming.

Out of recent memory I can name these events:

-A breaking and entering + robbery of the house where Tampa Bay stars Evan Longoria and David Price live
-Wilson Ramos’ kidnapping
-Yorvit Torrealba’s son being kidnapped
-Dernell Stenson’s robbery and ensuing murder
-Greg Halman being murdered

I really have no idea what the MLB could do to ensure the safety of its players. I don’t want teams to start carrying massive security teams with them. I don’t want players to to stop coming to public events for fear of the safety of themselves and loved ones. I don’t want players, International or not,to be fearful of going back home. I often times like to be snarky about Bud Selig for being behind the times (instant replay anyone?). This is time where jokes are not appropriate. Make no mistake: the lives and well being of Bud’s players are in jeopardy here.

Another quick tangent I’d like to get up on my soap box for is the new CBA. It hasn’t been announced yet, but trickles of details have already leaked out. What I would really like to see is a stricter punishment for DUI offenders. In addition to the legal punishments I would like to see the MLB go beyond what they currently have now.Off the top of my head Derek Lowe, Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Kennedy, Austin Kearns, CoCo Crisp and perhaps most famously Miguel Cabrera have all been charged on DUI’s.

If the MLB was truly setting an example to the younger generation then they would enact a much stricter policy on these crimes. Have we all forgotten about Nick Adenhart?

I want to see a minimum of 25 games missed for a DUI. It’s not only breaking the law, its potentially murder. MLB would be wise to make this a priority.

Don’t Trade Martin Prado

I was 7 years old living in suburban Atlanta the year Hideo Nomo robbed Chipper Jones of the NL Rookie of the Year award in 1995.  Chipper is my favorite athlete of all time and I am completely irrational about him.  He is a 1st ballot Hall of Famer and worth every penny of his 13 million dollar contract next year.  All this being said, what Chipper can’t do is play every day.  At this point, projecting him for 120 games is reasonable.  Projecting him for much more is not.

What this means for an Atlanta team with playoff aspirations is there has to be a viable back-up.  Atlanta can’t just roll with Diory Hernandez for potentially 200 or 300 PA in 2012 and expect to compete.  The back up the Braves should use also happens to be the starting left fielder and the subject of this post, Martin Prado.

Martin Prado got luck-dragoned in 2011.  He had a BABIP 50 points lower than his career and 65 points lower than his previous full seasons in 2010 and 2009.  He is most likely a true talent 110-115 wRC+ hitter and a roughly 3 WAR player.  His real value to me, besides being an above average hitter, lies in his ability to play LF, RF, 3B, and 2B.

Take a look at those positions and think about the makeup of Atlanta’s roster.  Prado himself is the current starter in LF, but I would like to see Atlanta sign a LF and use Prado as a super utility type.  As I mentioned earlier, Chipper will miss 45 games.   Jason Heyward should be given every opportunity to succeed but if his 2012 begins to resemble 2011 Prado could be used in a platoon against LHP given the 25 advantage in wOBA Prado has over Heyward.  At 2B, Dan Uggla has never had health problems but Prado could be used to spell him too occasionally or long term if an injury occurs.  I remember how effectively the Angels used Chone Figgins in 2005 and believe Atlanta has the perfect player to replicate that kind of season.

If Atlanta signs a LF it then has the versatility to cover one obvious roster issue with an average starter, while also having a good pinch hitter, defensive replacement, and long term injury replacement at 4 different positions.  So I agree with Frank Wren that Martin Prado should not be the starting LF for the Atlanta Braves next year.  What I can’t get behind is the thought that he should be traded.

A Visual Look At Jonathon Sanchez

I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring of bloggers writing about Jonthan Sanchez. With his recent trade to Kansas City in exchange for The Melk Manmany people are taking sides as to which team “won” the trade�. As usual, I shall be the contrarian. I’m going to look at the curious case of Sanchez’s release point. Er, I should say points because over the years, he has been everywhere with his arm.

�For the record, I would rather have Melky Cabrera than Sanchez.

Not too surprising, the inconsistency of Sanchez’s mechanics have lead to high walk rates. And “high” in an understatement. Despite those warts, Sanchez does in fact have elite strike out rates, but sometimes not even a gorgeous K-ratecan hide that ugly FIP. Let’s play a little spin control. I want to see how good and how bad we can make Sanchez look by viewing some of his different career stats.

The Good

K% BABIP SwStr%
Career 23.9% .287 10.3%

The Bad and the Ugly

BB% WPA FIP xFIP
Career 12.2% -4.95 4.11 4.17

Well now. That kind of says it all. So what we have here is a starter with reliever like swing-and-miss stuff, with an ability to suppress BABIPover a long period of time (In this case, over 700 IP) and a terrible walk rate and someone is basically a league average pitcher. Sanchez’s career FIP-of 100 clearly attests to him being dead on average. His ERA- of 103 corroborates his proven averageness. Clearly the is a fundamental lack of control. Take a look at his progressively different release points from 2008 to 2011.

Wow. There is obviously a largeshift in his release point from year to year. From 2009 to 2010 and again from 2010 to 2011 it appears as though Sanchez is drifting higher and higher on his release. Asnoted inmy previous post on Wuertz’srelease point, I’m no scout. It is very possible (and I think probable) that this lack of consistency in his release point have leadto his perennially high walk rates. Then again, this could all very well be me trying to do the classic “correlation equates causation” fallacy.

Despite my lack of formal scouting education, on an intuitive level it does make a tremendous amount of sense as to why Sanchez has routinely struggled with his control, let along command. He clearly has first-rate “stuff” but his inability to consistently find the strike zone has cost him his starting job in the past. With a new pitching coach and the classic change-of-scenery maybe Sanchez can get some consistency with his release point, and thus, probably find that long elusive strike zone.

Pitch f/x data courtesy of TexasLeagers.com

Josh Collmenter, Eskimo Brothers, and FIP

I received a text from one of my buddies in early summer this year asking me about Josh Collmenter.  It led to one of the funniest exchanges I have had via text of all time.  He was asking my opinion on Josh Collmenter, I assumed for fantasy baseball reasons.  I was wrong.  My response was that I pretty much knew nothing, and had only recently heard of Collmenter.  This, I told him, was a bad sign.  I know most top level prospects for each team.  Off the top of my head right now I could name you 5 or 6 D’Backs prospects.  I told him Collmenter was a flash in the pan.  My friends response – “Good. He and I are eskimo brothers, so I like to root against him.”

That is just magical.  Being at the age where I have relationships with people who have stories about professional athletes is hilarious.  I graduated high school in Michigan in 2006 and had many friends who went to U of M that fall.  Needless to say when Ryan Mallett’s character concerns popped up heading into the draft, no one I knew was surprised.

Now that I have covered 2/3 of my title, I can get to how analytical side works in.  Since I didn’t know much about Josh Collmenter I did what every halfway decent baseball mind does to get a picture of a player.  Fangraphs.

This story took place in May, so Collmenter’s FIP was sitting in the low 3’s.  I was floored.  Usually guys like him do some BABIP magic to look like a viable major league starter before their ERA’s correct and they become the pitching version of Chris Shelton.  Collmenter actually looked like he had viable talent.

Then I went to the FIP components.  Collmenter had a completely absurd BB/9 rate of slightly below 1 at this point.  The other two numbers looked like I expected.  His K/9 was around 6 and his GB% was in the 40% range.  It became clear this early season success was purely built on Collmenter’s ability to not give up walks.

I’m using Collmenter as an example of why looking into components is an important step in analysis.  The wheels didn’t fall off in 2011 for Collmenter.  He posted a 3.80 FIP and had a largely successful rookie season.  He did however post the lowest BB/9 of his career and finished 10th in baseball in BB/9 among starters with at least 140 IP in 2011.  Collmenter’s success going forward depends on maintaining that very low walk rate.  Were I a betting man, I think my buddy is going to get his wish.

Cue The End of The World

After watching 2 Divisional Series games I swore that I would only watch MLB post season games on mute. I really tried for for the rest of the Divisional Series games. As much as I like to rip on the (terrible, awful, nonsensical) announcing of Buck, McCarver et al, I couldn’t do it.

I missed the crowd. I missed the absurd chants. I missed hearing the crack of the bat, the on field banter, and the occasional F-bomb, usually courtesy of Nyjer Morgan. However, after listening to the sounds of The Wonder Years, The Dangerous Summer, The Startling Line and many others bands, I had to go back to the sound of the game. Call me weak if you want, I couldn’t stay away. Maybe on some level I even missed the absurd banter between McCarver and Buck.

Maybe I’m just a sucker for the drama. That would explain all of my previous women!

*Rimshot*

Any who, long story short (too late, I know), I listened to every World Series game¹. And maybe it was lowered expectations, but I actually found McCarver insightful on two points:

-Ian Kinsler is a pull hitter
-David Freese is an opposite field hitter

Of course I’m not naive enough to take anything that McCarver says at face value, so I had to look up the numbers for myself. And honestly, I love any reason to look up players splits on FanGraphs.

¹Well, ok, I took an hour or two off to watch Community and Parks & Rec, because come on, they’re amazing. In fact, if you don’t like those shows, then I have serious doubts to whether or not you know anything about anything. In other words, you’d be another Buck or McCarver to me.

Observe the table below. It’s the career splits for Balls In Play for Kinsler and Freese, broken down by where the ball went and the result of the BIP.

Kinsler PA AVG SLG wOBA
Pull 1,233  .371  .758   .471
Center  854  .314  .407   .310
Opposite  559  .220  .290   .218
Freese PA AVG SLG wOBA
Pull 154  .351  .461   .354
Center 162  .365  .497   .371
Opposite 155  .453  .727   .502

Wow. Kinsler rakes when he pulls the ball. I didn’t think he’d become 1956 Ted Williams (also a .471 wOBA). Crazy.  Now remember, this is ONLY Balls In Play data. Kinsler’s career  is at .364 wOBA  and Freese holds a .346 wOBA, in a much smaller sample size of course.

The two most shocking things here are is that Freese turns into 2003 Barry Bonds (.506 wOBA) when he goes oppo. Let that sink in for a moment… Maybe we’ll see pitchers begin to pound him inside, where he has a much worse ability to pull the ball. Either way, I would not pitch Freese on the outer half much. You’re playing with fire at that point.

Even with the realization of how great Freese is when he goes oppo, hands down the single craziest thing is that McCarver was right.

For Better, For Wuertz

Today my A’s declined to pick up Michael Wuetz’s 2012 option. Rather than pay him 3.25 over the course of next year, Oakland decided to cut ties and pay the 250,000 buy-out. I can’t even say I’m surprised by this news. As good as Wuertz was back in 2009, his 2010 and 2011 campaigns have been a thunderstorm of sadness, with few sunny moments in between. Some amateurs may cite his rising BABIP* and write it off as bad luck. Jokes on them, as that is about the weakest type of “sabermetrics” thing you can do. Too often BABIP gets used as a magic wand explanation and an “End-all Be-all” to hitters and pitchers alike.

I prefer to dive a little deeper than that. But you already knew this. At least I hope you did. After being traded from the Cubs in the offseason of 2008-9 in the infamous Richie Robnett and Justin Sellers for Wuertz deal that made headlines all across America**, Wuertz had the best season of his career with this new club.

*Wuertz’s BABIP: .266 in 2009, .279 in 2010 and an awful .327 this season.
**I swear this happened. Maybe I dreamt about the coverage. Yeah, that’s it. I have to dream about my A’s getting media coverage. Sigh.

Observe the following.

Year IP K Rate BB Rate HR/FB WAR WPA
2009 78.2 33.6% 7.6% 8.5% 2.4 3.05
2010 39.2 23.4% 12.3% 14.3% -0.2 0.35
2011 33.2 19.8% 16.1% 13.9% -0.5 -0.29

If that doesn’t shock and appal you then what are you doing reading this blog in the first place? Basically what we’re seeing here is that Wuertz was BELOW replacement value for his past 2 years of pitching for Oakland. When you combine an ugly FIP in less than 40 IP for two straight years, you can’t be shocked that your option isn’t exercised. According to Susan Slusser, he wasn’t. I will always fondly remember Wuertz in 2009 for having the grossest slider this side of Randy Johnson. His next two years are a bit more forgettable. As in, I’d really like to forget that we paid him so much for them.

This isn’t a post to rip on Wuertz, but to find an issue. After having a series of bouts with shoulder tendonitis, either by choice or by accident, Wuertz has changed his release. It’s possible that I’m just looking for something that isn’t there, and I never heard this or read it, but rather take a look at the these Pitch f/x release points from 2009, 2010 and 2011. They get progressively lower.

 

 

There is only a small drop in arm angle from 2009 to 2010, but the 2010 to 2011 change is shocking. It appears as though Wuertz has dropped around 6 inches of height on his pitches. As one can imagine, even a slight arm angle change can create dramatic differences. After re-classifying Wuertz’s listed 09 and 10 FA and FT we have the following table.

SL Velo H-move V-move Selection Swing Whiff
2009 85.5 -0.02 3.59 57.8% 51.9% 26.2%
2010 84.6 0.33 2.43 47.8% 55.8% 23.5%
2011 83.8 0.65 2.11 58.4% 48.3% 16.9%
FF Velo H-move V-move Selection Swing Whiff
2009 91.0 -4.58 11.76 31.7% 32.2% 4.3%
2010 89.6 -4.38 10.62 34.0% 31.9% 2.3%
2011 88.7 -5.07 9.67 37.2% 27.1% 3.9%
CH Velo H-move V-move Selection Swing Whiff
2009 84 -1.72 3.24 10.5% 40.9% 14.4%
2010 83.7 -1.76 3.72 18.2% 55.1% 21.2%
2011 83.9 -2.889 3.93 4.4% 48.1% 29.6%

Important notes when reading the tables:
SL = Slider, FF = 4 Seam Fastball, CH = Changeup.
This movement is relative to the catcher.
H-move is Horizontal movement. A negative number represents the ball moved IN towards a right handed batter. The higher the positive number moves AWAY from righties. Relatively simple stuff right? Right.
V-move is Vertical movement. The Higher the v-move, the more the pitch RESISTED gravity.  Any negative number (usually only curveballs) means that the ball fell faster than we should expect gravity alone to make it. An example: a Curveball may be -6 V-move. That means the curveball fell an additional 6 inches than gravity alone would force. The slower the pitch, the lower the V-move, as there is more time for gravity to effect it. Thus, fastballs tend have the least V-move (read: the highest positive number). Unless you’re Jamie Moyer.

With those notes in mind, review the tables again. In 2009, Wuertz has his fastest slider and the best movement away from righties. That would his explain his totally absurd Whiff rate on the pitch. As soon as the pitch started breaking away less, it began to get hammered. Clearly. Given that he relies on his Slider for over half of his career pitches, as soon as he lost it, things went downhill. Fast. He had to use his fading fastball more and more, and that got hammered even harder.

In addition to his new delivery over the past 2 years, his fastball has lost almost 3 miles per hour. Batters aren’t swinging at it anymore, and if they do, they whiff on it less than 1 time in 20 swings. Only his changeup seems relatively fine. If given the chance, I’d ask him to incorporate it more.

Assuming that every MLB team has this data plus data that would require me to hose myself down from excitement, I can’t see Wuertz signing a major league deal anywhere. Maybe the Rays or Twins take a flier on him with a minor league deal, but until he refines his release spot and rediscovers his fastball, he’s nothing more than an injury risk. I’m not one for correlation equates causation, but it seems a little more than pure coincidence that his fastball dropped as soon as his arm did. I hope he finds himself because I really did like the guy. Here’s hoping for the best, but sometimes you just gotta plan for the Wuertz.

All Pitch F/X info courtesy of Texas Leaguer’s.
Tables via Tableizer!

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