Comparing Kenny Rogers to Kenny Rogers

As the Tigers announced that Kenny Rogers was headed to the disabled list, I was finishing up some analysis on Rogers. Diving into the enhanced gameday goldmine, I looked to compare and contrast two of Rogers’s starts. His first game back against Atlanta when he was sterling and his last outing against the White Sox when he was hammered. Now we know that elbow inflammation was the cause of the problem, but how was the inflammation effecting Rogers?

The first thing I thought I would look at where Rogers was throwing the ball. Here we have pitch location from the June 22nd Atlanta start.
Notice that everything is at the bottom half of the zone if it’s over the plate at all. He kept quite a few pitches on the edges, especially coming inside to right handed batters.

Now look at the Chicago start on July 25th.
There are quite a few more pitches up, both in the zone and above it. Also, he tended to stay on first base side of the plate – which would typically be away from the right handed heavy lineup he’d face. But he was still in the strike zone with the bulk of those pitches. Rogers strength, as evidenced in the Braves was game i s getting strikes on balls outside of the zone.

Let’s move on to pitch movement and pitch selection. Movement as captured in enhanced gameday is explained pretty succinctly at the Hardball Times. Again, the top chart shows Rogers pitch movement by speed. The cluster of red pitches at the top is his regular fastball, which has little sink and is of course faster than his other pitches. The cluster of blue pitches at the bottom is a breaking pitch. Finally there is a cluster of pitches thrown in the low 80’s that have more sink than the fastball and a little more horizontal movement. I’m guessing these are a mix of change ups and 2 seam fastballs.
Now the same graph for the Chicago start.
So that plot is hard to draw conclusions from, except that Rogers seemed to be throwing the ball harder more consistently. But also, there doesn’t seem to be the same delineation between pitches (except for the breaking ball). But taking the pitch speed out of the equation, we can just plot the 2 starts against each other (I tried to include velocity as well and differentiate shapes and it just got messy).
It becomes pretty clear on this graph that Rogers just wasn’t getting the same downward movement in his last time out. And this is probably the driving force of his struggles. Not only does it result in balls up in the zone, it results in balls up in the zone that have less movement and are thus easier to hit. Without overpowering velocity this spells disaster.

As for velocity, that wasn’t an issue at all – or at least a lack of it wasn’t an issue. Rogers was throwing the ball harder in Chicago.

<72	6	1
72-74	6	7
74-76	8	7
76-78	10	3
78-80	10	7
80-82	15	11
82-84	4	22
84-86	6	5
86-88	7	13
88-90	2	13
>90	0	5

In the past Kenny has said he’s better in the mid to high 80’s because otherwise his ball flattens out. I wonder if the extra velocity caused the lack of drop in his pitches, or if he ramped up the speed to compensate for a lack of location. Chicken, egg, who knows.

In any case, Kenny Rogers finds himself on the DL with elbow inflammation. Whether it is because he tried to come back to soon, or if it is simply a matter of a 42 year old pitcher breaking down the Tigers are now in a bind. Jordan Tata will get the next start, and after that I’m not sure. It could be some combination of Tata/Vasquez/Bazardo or Chad Durbin may be back in the rotation.


  1. Kyle J

    July 29, 2007 at 11:48 pm

    I vote for Durbin.

  2. Stephen

    July 30, 2007 at 12:35 am

    Hmm, I wonder if Miner’s bereavement leave will end magically in time for him to make the 2nd Rogers’ start.

  3. Jim

    July 30, 2007 at 1:15 am

    Apparently Stephen, his father had a heart attack.

    I’d bet Miner would rather his father magically lives.

  4. Mike R

    July 30, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Yeah, I don’t get how Stephen can be so condescending towards Miner’s family emergency – especially if his dad had a heart attack. That’s a real solid value of humanity, Stephen. Well done.

    Nice post Billfer. Gut feeling says Tata and then Vasquez will start for us. I’d prefer to keep Durbin in the pen as if you try to start him, 5 innings would be a god send but not getting out of the 5th would probably be the most likely event putting unwarranted stress on the pen. Vasquez showed he can get through a lineup and give innings against the White Sox, despite the 4 HR’s he gave up which happens in that launching pad.

  5. Ian C.

    July 30, 2007 at 9:44 am

    Somehow, we should be able to blame this on Jason Grilli, right?

  6. Angus

    July 30, 2007 at 10:45 am

    The pitching staff looks beat. Hopefully we can get 1 from Oakland and get home for some rest. Rayburn looks good. If he can hold up, we may have a new left fielder. Hessman also looks good. It is too bad that he was not up sooner to use him as trade bait for someone.

    Need to get through this rough spot soon and get Rodney back. I still like a healthy, rested Tigers team in the playoffs. They can beat up on Boston and with some sharp pitching and cooled down Angels lineup I think they can beat them as well. We have a couple of months to prove if we can beat the Indians.

    The only bad news is that we are leaving the Yankees back into the picture, but we have 6 left with them and they get the White Sox and Royals this week.

  7. Kyle J

    July 30, 2007 at 11:58 am

    Upon further review, I amend my statement:

    I vote that Durbin make whatever spot starts are available down the stretch AND be the long-relief guy instead of Grilli. That should be enough to stretch out his arm to be able to pitch 5-6 innings when he’s needed for a start.

    If we have to see Grilli, quite frankly I’d rather see him for one inning in the 8th than 2-3 innings after Miller leaves a close game after five innings.

  8. Kurt

    July 30, 2007 at 12:29 pm

    Oakland is a pretty beat team. I think the Tigers take 2 as long as they get the bats off their shoulders against the A’s starters. Oakland’s bullpen hasn’t been much better than Detroit’s with all the injuries.

  9. Ryan

    July 30, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    Ledezma has been DFAed by the Braves. I for one would love to see him back in Toledo. I still thing he’s close to turning the metaphorical corner.

  10. Mike G

    July 30, 2007 at 2:36 pm

    Agreed on the Ledezma thought. I would love to see us reacquire him. I think he may even be a decent fill-in for Rogers if Tata struggles.

  11. T Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    Unlikely. Some other team will claim him

  12. Mike R

    July 30, 2007 at 3:34 pm

    Yeah, we won’t get a chance to nab Ledezma. Any LHP that’s still just 24 and able to throw low-to-mid 90’s with a good breaking ball is going to get nabbed via trade within the 10 day limit or off waivers. If I were a struggling team going no where that could use arms, I’d grab him.

  13. Mark in Chicago

    July 30, 2007 at 4:52 pm

    Excellent work as always, Billfer.

    Perhaps I am missing something in what you presented already, but I’d be interested to see Kenny’s info on where his release points were in each start. If his elbow was bothering him during the last couple starts (which seems likely) I think this would show up in a lower release point than prior starts. Just a hunch.

    My vote is for Tata or Vasquez to get the spot starts. We know what Durbin and Miner can do, let’s see if these well-regarded arms are long-term options or not. Plus, we’ll probably need Durbin/Miner to spot start when somebody ELSE goes on the DL, so let’s get the kids in there quickly and get ’em comfortable.

  14. T Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    So I guess Sheff might get suspended AGAIN.

    Poor Sheff. He is sooo misunderstood. Someone more eloquent might claim Selig is simply politicking his way through the steroid issue, negotiating damage control and finessing baseball through mine fields, but Sheff, who minces no words let alone continually fails at choosing the right words, comes right out and begs the question, “..why doesn’t Bud Selig tell the truth? Why does he keep lying?”

    For this he gets suspended? In principal, what’s so outrageous with what Sheffield is asking? One thing is certain: Sheff is no politician, and his skills at diplomacy are about akin to Sean Casey’s base-stealing skills. But whatever Sheffield says, regardless how you feel about him, is completely misconstrued.

    Of course what Sheff is really saying is (I take it upon myself to be his mouth piece) “Who is this politician [Selig] speaking out of one side of his mouth to the media, and out of the other side of his mouth behind closed doors? I happened to discuss the matter with him personally, so I know. And the Selig I know is a guy who knows full well the scope of the steroid issue.”

    So, in effect, Sheffield is really questioning why Selig is playing politics. (And in Sheff’s defense, isn’t this synonymous with asking why Selig is lying?) I, for one, believe Sheffield is truly just posing the question. I find neither sarcasm nor hostile accusation in Sheffield’s remarks. I do find Sheffield’s unbending disdain for the game Selig’s playing. But that’s nothing new. We all know Sheffield has contempt for participating in and/or participants in any horse and pony show. Selig’s polished; Sheffield’s not. Period.

    Suspending Sheffield is a joke. If he wants to call Selig a “liar” take it for what it is, and not out of context.

  15. T Smith

    July 30, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    ha ha ha… I meant to say “dog and pony show” — but I trust you know what I meant. If only Gary Sheffield were given the same leeway when HE butchers the language.

  16. Kathy

    July 30, 2007 at 11:18 pm

    T Smith

    Someone from Sheffield’s camp will be contacting you regarding a PR position.

    Well spoken!

  17. Ed in OR

    July 31, 2007 at 8:04 pm

    I hate to say I told you so, but …

    I knew Rogers looked off in the Seattle game. You could see it if you just watched; and he proved me right in his next two starts. It doesn’t matter if he was chipper during warm-ups. My question is: Why did it take so long to yank him out of the line-up?!?!?!?

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