Doubled up in Arlington

by billfer on April 25, 2010 · 40 comments

in 2010 Season,Game Post

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Let the Rick Porcello panic set in. He was knocked around pretty good for the third straight start, which was a shame because an interesting lineup managed to plate 4 runs in the first 2 innings.

The raw numbers don’t paint a pretty picture in this one. Four innings, ten hits, six runs, two walks, three strike outs, 92 pitches. I’m not going to sugar coat this, Porcello didn’t make the pitches he needed to when he got in trouble. When things were at their worst the balls came off the bats the hardest. But I’m still not worried.

Half of the hits that Porcello gave up came on ground balls. The second inning outburst was set up by two ground ball hits and a line drive just out of the reach of Ramon Santiago. While the bases loaded walk was inexcusable, the bases clearing double was on a pitch that was off the plate inside to Michael Young. The homer he allowed in the first inning was off the plate away.

Both the Young pitch and Murphy pitch were up too high in the zone, but he didn’t throw them in the middle of the plate either. Porcello didn’t make enough good pitches, but he also didn’t get enough good results on the good pitches he did make.

Here’s where I get accused of being an apologist. I understand that and I can live with that and I still think that Porcello will be okay. If he doesn’t, feel free to go back to this post and point out how wrong I am.

As for the offense, it was an interesting day. The bats came out strong but after the second inning they were completely silenced. Colby Lewis went on to fan 10 batters. Four of those strikeouts were caught looking.

  • Dontrelle Willis walked the bases loaded and allowed 2 add-on runs. After a strong outing against the Angels  you have to see the control problems return. Maybe it was coming out of the bullpen, but the Willis situation is fragile to say the least.
  • Fu-Te Ni walked 2 in 2 innings, but that was mitigated with 5 strike outs and Phil Coke pitched a nice inning was well.
  • The bullpen has been effective, but is in getting worn down. Jeremy Bonderman needs to go 6 innings at least tomorrow, and pray for no extra inning games.
  • Congrats to Austin Jackson on his first career homer.
 
 

{ 40 comments }

Mat April 25, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Porcello is too good not to figure it out. Hopefully its sooner rather than later and he doesn’t need a trip to the minors to get there.

In hindsight, its a shame Dontrelle was used today. Given the smidge of comfort zone he had established for himself as a starter this year, I’d hate to see anything like this shake his fragile confidence. Of course he’s bounced back before…

Lets take 3 of the next 4 and get everyone in Tigertown happy again, at least on the relative scale for whatever passes for happiness with this fanbase.

Scott April 26, 2010 at 7:17 am

Agreed, Mat. I would rather not have seen Willis pitch in relief, but Leyland’s hand was forced a bit with Porcello’s bad outing. Hopefully JB can go 7 innings today.

Jeff Molby April 28, 2010 at 4:56 pm

he doesn’t need a trip to the minors to get there.

I’m not going to rule it out. He’s just a sophomore. Long term, he certainly belongs in the majors, but if he needs to spend a couple hours in study hall, so be it.

Mark in Chicago April 26, 2010 at 9:00 am

Detroit News mentioned that Willis was still battling the flu bug that wiped him out on Saturday. That probably has something to do with his performance.

Agree billfer that Porcello will be fine. He’s leaving pitches up and not getting the same movement on his sinker that I remember seeing. I’m no pitching coach but i would guess these are mechanical issues. He’s also been unlucky. You mentioned some of his peripherals already, I would add that his FIP is 4.27 while his LOB% is 62.8% (nearly Verlander territory) and his BABIP against is .427, which is obscene. Those last two will start to even out and if he can get any mechanical fixes he needs, he’ll look a lot more like last year’s Game 163 version.

Jeff Molby April 28, 2010 at 4:59 pm

Detroit News mentioned that Willis was still battling the flu bug that wiped him out on Saturday.

I believe it. Coming in in relief the day after you missed your regularly scheduled start? I’m not gonna hold that against anybody. Willis has pitched well enough to earn at least three more starts in my book. If he continues to pitch adequately, he can keep his spot in the back of the rotation. Regardless of what anybody watching Toledo box scores might think, we don’t have anyone that can fill the back end of the rotation more than “adequately”.

Dr. Detroit April 26, 2010 at 9:59 am

I have not seen him pitch this year but as Bilfer wrote some of the key hits came on pitches out of the kill zone for most batters. I hate using cliches, but it may be a bit of the sophomore jinx. This term necessarily implies that to have this occur his first year was so good that his fall from his usual standard calls into mind the cliche, and because he is on the radar, teams have adjusted/scouted him thoroughly. Throw in that he may be in a bit of a slump and things are not jiving with young Rick lately. But I as others have noted am not too worried–he has the stuff and demeanor to work his way out of the funk. It just would be nice for him, and our other workhorse, Verlander, to work out the kinks sooner rather than later. To use a golf analogy: our irons and short game/putting looks great, but we are all over the place off of the tee.

andre April 26, 2010 at 11:28 am

“because he is on the radar, teams have adjusted/scouted him thoroughly”

I think this aspect gets overblown in today’s game. Even with the “limited” access to information that we have as fans, we’re able to get a fairly good profile of players, regardless of their time in the league (even more in the case of a highly touted prospect like Porcello). I can only assume that teams have access to much more info than we do, and that their teams are pretty well briefed on players, even the rookies.

I’ll grant you that scouting reports aren’t the same as actually facing a guy, but the idea that Porcello, or any rookie, is succeeding early in today’s game because teams don’t know what they’re up against, then struggling because team start scouting them isn’t valid anymore, IMO. There’s way too much coverage today, at all levels of the game.

Dr. Detroit April 26, 2010 at 3:26 pm

Hey Andre, I think even with the profiles/information available to pretty much everyone who wants it, I don’t know many fans who would chart every single pitch an opposing pitcher would throw and input that into a computer. But I can guarantee you that is what the other team is doing. As such, because they charted his pitches in his first full year last year, they will have a slew of data on what he likes to throw at any given time (e.g., lefties with man on base, righties in the middle of the line-up, two-strike pitch late in innings/early in innings). Of course the Tigers will be charting Porcello’s pitches too (at least I hope so). Armed with that information, he, Avila/Laird and the coaches have to sit down and figure out how to switch up their pitching strategy.

Of course I am not a major league hitter, but I knew a couple personally, and from what I have read as well, most are “guess” hitters. However, if the pitchers are charted properly, individual hitters will have a good idea what young Rick is going to throw at any given time, fairly taken out much of the “guess” work. Some guys when their stuff is on can almost tell you what is coming (Verlander, Zoom) and you still are going to have a tough time hitting it. Porcello has fine fine stuff, but not electric, and as a result it may be that because of the charting of him last year teams have him pegged a bit. Just a hunch, and some wishful thinking because Rick is a key part of this season and the future.

andre April 26, 2010 at 4:29 pm

“As such, because they charted his pitches in his first full year last year, they will have a slew of data on what he likes to throw at any given time”

I’m sure they have more data now than they did when he was a rookie, but teams also had more data on Porcello as his season progressed last year. If it was just a matter of teams figuring Porcello out, he should have struggled more as the season progressed. However, he seemed to adjust quite well last season after some “growing pains”, and only gave up 25 ER in his last 13 games.

I’m inclined to agree with Billfer, looking at his first four starts from last year and there’s not much difference…if anything his peripherals are better this year. I’m not ready to chalk this up to more/better scouting or a sophomore slump.

Mark in Chicago April 26, 2010 at 5:05 pm

guys, his BABIP against is .427, he’s been hit hard on bad pitches AND he’s been unlucky. This is a large reason he is getting shelled.

Keith (Mr. X) April 26, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Porcello got lucky when Vladi was caught stealing in the 1st inning. Had that not happened, Porcello would of had to face another hitter after Smoak when his pitch count was already at 29 pitches.

Only 4 of the hits Porcello gave up were on grounders. He got 7 outs on ground balls. Take one hit away, such as Vladi’s ground ball single in the 1st, and his BABIP was .272 on ground balls. The other hits he gave up were on hard hit line-drives and fly balls that very well deserved to be hits. IMO, he was not unlucky at all.

Dr. Detroit April 26, 2010 at 8:50 pm

Mark what you just wrote is not the reason he is getting hit hard, it is the result of him getting hit hard. The cause of him getting hit hard is because the hitters are guessing right, and they are not relying on BAPIP to smoke his pitches–they are relying on charting and scouting. A guy sitting in the batter’s box is not thinking, “this guy’s BAPIP is off the charts these days, and with his WTFKs up there I think I can turn on one here.” What he is thinking is that this guy has me 1-0 and loves to go outside with a heavy sinker, look for it, and slap it opposite field.

In the end, with his heavy sinker and attitude I am sure he will be fine the next time out.

billfer April 26, 2010 at 9:02 pm

But he hasn’t been getting hit that hard. Yesterday, yeah, but his line drive rate is down 25% from last year. So he’s getting more ground balls, fewer line drives, striking out more and walking about the same, yet giving up a lot more hits and runs. I’d say luck plays a role.

Dr. Detroit April 26, 2010 at 10:00 pm

I as much as the next guy have put a rally cap on or two in my day, but can’t luck be a leading factor. It is the icing on the cake, not the cause of his lackluster start. He has given up alot of hits, and because I have not watched one game this year I will take your word for it Bill that he is not getting hit hard (though others would disagree). It could be the scouting, maybe he is tipping pitches; catchers play a role in quality pitching, maybe Laird is just not on his game and Avila is not quite ready to shepard a starting staff thru some tough innings. But the bottom line is that he is getting shelled, and if it is only luck and some bad pitches, I will be happy to eat crow.

Jeff Molby April 28, 2010 at 5:06 pm

Doc,

You’re right that statistical outliers (usually labeled as “luck”) can be leading indicators of a new trend, but the line drive rate tells the story. You put a major leaguer up against a batting practice pitcher and he’s going to square every single pitch. Likewise, if a pitcher is overly predictable, the line drive rate is going to shoot up. Since that hasn’t happened, it’s more likely that the “problem” is merely one of sample size.

Dr. Detroit April 26, 2010 at 8:34 pm

“If it was just a matter of teams figuring Porcello out, he should have struggled more as the season progressed.”

Teams during the season chart but the guys from any given weekend against a team may not even face a pitcher because he it isn’t his turn in the rotation. A quick look shows that Porcello did not even pitch against the Rangers last year, and yet they hit him pretty well. Obviously they have him scouted pretty well, and it all starts with charting pitches.

“if anything his peripherals are better this year. I’m not ready to chalk this up to more/better scouting or a sophomore slump”.

It of course may be more than charting his pitches, but saying that it’s not that but his peripherals is also flawed. These are not mutually exclusive events.

“In the end, Doc, you are right and you are the man”

Hey, I agree with you there.

Stormin Norman $ April 26, 2010 at 2:28 pm

When Porcello leaves pitches up in the zone, and/or he’s having trouble locating his sinker (for strikes) he gets into trouble… the same thing happened early last year, and he seemed to right himself… we shall see.

If a month ago someone were to tell me that after 20 games Willis and Scherzer are leading the Tiger starters in ERA, and Zumaya and Valverde have only given up 1 ER between them, and the Tigers would have 6 guys batting over .300, one would think the Tigers are at least 7-10 games over .500.

steeser April 26, 2010 at 2:37 pm

Wasn’t the Murphy pitch right down the pipe, center of the plate, in the upper half of the strike zone? I seem to remember that’s what the Fox trax showed.

billfer April 26, 2010 at 3:25 pm

I stand corrected. I must have pulled a different at-bat on accident. The Murphy pitch was meat.

I double checked the young pitch though and it was well inside according to pitch f/x.

Keith (Mr. X) April 26, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Both of Young’s hits off of Porcello were on inside in about the same spot. He probably expected that pitch when he hit his double.

Steve April 26, 2010 at 3:02 pm

I was curious as to how Austin Jackson’s batting average was so damn high, when he has 30 strikeouts (which is a record pace).

This year, he has 86 Plate appearances, and 79 ABs, 30 of which were strike outs. That said, his BAbip (Batting Average on balls in play) is .500!!! Of his 49 balls that were put in play, 25 were for hits. There is absolutely no way that he can sustain that…the league average is .293. .

Had he been hitting closer to the league average, let’s say .350 (which would still be very good, and given his speed, I’ll give that to him) instead of the insane .500 clip, his batting average would be .218!!!!!!!

He better slow down that strike out rate, or he is destined for some really bad numbers soon.

Keith (Mr. X) April 26, 2010 at 5:52 pm

He might be able to keep this up for another 4-6 weeks before he falls into a slump. Last season in AAA, he sustained a .480 BABIP until June. He finished the season with a .390 BABIP.

So I wondered if a .390 BABIP was sustainable? I did some research and found that Bobby Abreu sustained a .390 BABIP during his 1st two full seasons in the majors. Last season, David Wright had a .390 BABIP. (Ty Cobb had several seasons where his BABIP was over .400.)

Could most people be looking at BABIP wrong?

I suspected that the BABIP would be much higher for some hitters when:
That hitter gets ahead in count and gets the pitch that he’s waiting for.

This season, when Jackson is ahead in the count, his batting average is .500 and his BABIP is .667.
In 1998, when Bobby Abreu was ahead in the count, his batting average was .458 and his BABIP was .456.
In 2009, when David Wright was ahead in the count his batting average was .400 and his BABIP was .473.

These guys sustained a .456 – .473 BABIP for an entire season when they were ahead in the count. Maybe for Jackson, that’s all there is to it. With all his strikeouts, he puts fewer balls into play, but when he gets a pitch he can handle in the middle of the plate, he hits it more precisely into the field of play.

Links to stats:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=abreubo01&year=1998&t=b#count
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=wrighda03&year=2009&t=b#count
http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=jacksau01&year=2010&t=b#count

billfer April 26, 2010 at 9:15 pm

Over the last 5 seasons 19 players with enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title have finished the year with a babip over .370 (much lower than your .390 mark). There were 771 players who qualified over that time span meaning that about 2.5% of batters can do it. I wouldn’t bet on Jackson. Plus as team’s place an increased premium on defense the babip #’s are likely to go down.

Keith (Mr. X) April 26, 2010 at 9:44 pm

It just proves that BABIP is not a static number where the median average determines how lucky or unlucky someone is. This BABIP myth has been busted by more than a few players.

billfer April 26, 2010 at 10:12 pm

What babip myth? It’s random variation. BABIPs trend towards the middle. You flip a coin enough times you’ll get heads 10 times in a row and you don’t even have to read anything into the coin.

Keith (Mr. X) April 27, 2010 at 2:31 am

The myth that variations from the league average BABIP can measure luck.

The problem with critiquing Austin Jackson is that there are no benchmarks in the majors for what he’s currently doing. There has never been a singles hitter like him with this high of a K rate before.

The closest thing to him that I could find is a familiar name to us. Guess who it is?

It’s Cameron Maybin.
Maybin has a lifetime .368 BABIP in the majors.
But in the minors, he had a .402 BABIP in 1366 AB’s.

.402 is a far cry from the league average BABIP. It also proves that a .400 BABIP is sustainable at the minor league level.

Link to Maybin’s splits:
http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=457727

billfer April 27, 2010 at 7:23 am

So out of the thousands upon thousands of players that have been in MLB, Jackson has a special ability that nobody else has ever had before? That is essentially what you’re saying.

As for minor league babips I’d just caution that the defense is a little better at the big league level, field and lighting conditions are better and babips will tend to be lower.

Jackson’s babip is .500, that is going to drop by 100 points even if he does have some magical ability to consistently hit in the top 1% of babip performers in MLB.

Keith (Mr. X) April 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

No Billfer, he doesn’t have a a super special ability, unless that ability is to strike out more. He’s striking out more than anyone else has ever before him and that changes the value of his AB’s and his Hits. This BABIP is a statistic that depends on AB’s and Hits, as it takes away strike outs and homers from the AB/Hit pool. The more strike outs and homers that are taken away the higher the impact each AB and Hit has on the statistic.

So if a player with 100 AB’s, strikes out 50 times, only 50 of those AB’s count towards the statistic. Suppose that player had 25 singles and 0 homers, his batting average would .250, but his BABIP would be .500.

A replacement level player could probably get 25 hits for each 100 AB’s. It’s only a .250 batting average.

Nearly every major league hitter can hit fastballs and can hit them for at least singles. Else they wouldn’t be playing baseball. About 50% of every pitch thrown is a fastball. Jackson can probably hit a fastball for a single as well as anyone, but he’s not good at hitting pitches that aren’t near the middle of the strike zone. That’s why he strike outs looking at so many pitches on the inside corner.

One thing Jackson is doing well is that he’s seeing a lot of pitches and he’s working the counts. He’s seeing about 4.15 pitches per PA. He’s going to keep getting fastballs that he can handle as long as he stays patient and gets ahead in the count. I’ve seen him hit mistake breaking balls too that were hung over the plate. He’s a good hitter, but he just strikes out a ton and needs to learn the borders of the strike zone better. Experience should help with that.

Does that make any sense yet?

Jeff Molby April 28, 2010 at 5:19 pm

That makes sense, but you can’t survive in the majors like that. Any decent pitcher can spot most of his pitches. Any decent hitter has to be able to hit a decently spotted pitch. No hitter is going to hit Liriano’s filthiest stuff on a regular basis, but you can’t miss every inside strike and expect to survive. Jackson still has a ton of growth opportunity; I don’t think anyone is giving up on him long term, but history shows that you simply cannot be a .300 hitter without being able to get at least a few hits off of “pitcher’s pitches” each week.

Lee Panas April 27, 2010 at 11:27 am

BABIP can be misused sometimes but the general idea is not a myth. BABIP is not totally random, of course. Batters who hit a lot of ground balls and have speed like Suzuki will have somewhat higher BABIPs than other players. Jackson could be one of those players. However, no player in the majors has had a BABIP of .400 in the last seven years. A .390 BABIP is sustainable in a given year (althought probably not on a regular basis) but .500 is not. Jackson is not going to have a BABIP 20% higher than every other player in the game.

Looking at Ty Cobb’s BABIP is misleading for a couple of reasons. He played in an era where parks were bigger and outfielders had smaller gloves. So, it was easier for a genius like Cobb to exploit this and get some unusual BABIPs in some years. Being the best batting average hitter in the history of the game, you might also expect him to be an exception in being slightly ahead of the curve even in BABIP. Still, Cobb never came close to a .500 BABIP. His highest was .416 and he went as low as .330. Even Cobb couldn’t rely on a high BABIP every year.

Minor league BABIPs are also aided by the inferior defense in the minors so those can also be misleading. Jackson can certainly be a good hitter but he’s not going to be a .330 hitter based on his BABIP being 20% higher than any batter in the game. He’s going to need to cut down his strikeouts at least to B.J. Upton’s level.

Lee

Keith (Mr. X) April 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

There are loopholes in every statistic, even Tom Tango will tell you that. Jackson could strike out 21 times in a row, drop his batting average to .270, but his BABIP will still be .500.

I’ll drop the subject for now and just let Jackson do the talking with his bat.

andre April 27, 2010 at 6:06 pm

“There are loopholes in every statistic, even Tom Tango will tell you that”

Funny to bring up somebody that would surely disagree with you on your overall point.

“I’ll drop the subject for now”

How magnanimous of you.

“and just let Jackson do the talking with his bat.”

Here’s where I think we can all agree, even if we travel different roads getting there or define “talking” differently).

Keith (Mr. X) April 27, 2010 at 7:18 pm

Tango is a smart saberguy, as is Billfer, and Lee. Tango has written a few times about how scouting and sabermetrics should be used side by side. I fully agree with that.

We’ve watched AJax reach base in every game so far. Just yesterday, he was disciplined enough to have a 5 pitch AB strikeout where he didn’t swing at any of the pitches because everything was borderline at best.

I agree for the most part with what people here have said about him, but I want to make some arguments against some of the one-sided analysis I’ve seen.
There are a few people at BYB that actually want Jackson shipped to the minors right now.

Lee Panas April 28, 2010 at 1:41 am

“There are loopholes in every statistic, even Tom Tango will tell you that. Jackson could strike out 21 times in a row, drop his batting average to .270, but his BABIP will still be .500.”

Sure he could but that will only bring us to the end of April. The point is he won’t have a BABIP of .500 for a full season.

I’m certainly not among those who wants him sent to the minors. I like what I see from him and think he’s having a good season so far. All I’m saying is he’s got some really unusual numbers which he can’t sustain. That includes his strikeout rate. That will go down too.

Keith (Mr. X) April 28, 2010 at 6:39 am

It’s the people at the Bless You Boys website that want him sent down.

They’ve hated him from day 1.

Keith (Mr. X) April 28, 2010 at 7:25 am

Sorry, just one last thing,

Last April at Scranton (AAA),
Jackson’s BABIP was .511
So he’s done this not just once, but two April’s in a row.

Another note,
For the year in AAA, on line-drives his BABIP was an amazing .793 !!! (He was 70 for 88, with 1 HR)

Source (click splits 09) :
http://www.minorleaguesplits.com/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?pl=457706

I do apologize for posting more BABIP stats, after I said I wouldn’t. I’ll try to stop now.

Keith (Mr. X) April 28, 2010 at 7:41 am

MLB BABIP lg avg for line-drives was .724, so the .793 wasn’t so amazing after all.

Source:
http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/split.cgi?t=b&lg=MLB&year=2009#traj

andre April 27, 2010 at 7:56 pm

“I agree for the most part with what people here have said about him, but I want to make some arguments against some of the one-sided analysis I’ve seen.
There are a few people at BYB that actually want Jackson shipped to the minors right now.”

There does seem to be consensus regarding Jackson and Ks, hence the one-sided-ness, but that analysis hasn’t exactly been shallow, or without a lot of historical / empirical backing. Jackson has put up some heartening (avg) and disheartening numbers (k), generally gives the Tigers very ABs in terms of pitches-seen (regardless of outcome), as well as solid overall defense @ CF. I don’t think many people at this site, or any other Tigers blog, want to see him in the minors. For myself, I hope it never comes to that and that he makes the necessary adjustments without being sent down (and I would have to think that his avg and obp would have to drop drastically for the Tigers to make that move, a bigger drop than most seem to predict for him). The concern however remain real and well founded, though, so too is the notion that he can overcome this particular hurdle.

Steve April 28, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Wow….I just logged in to see if anyone had followed up on this comment. I had no idea what type of response I would get, and totally wasn’t expecting this. I created this login with a fake email address (not for malicious reasons), so I had no idea the discussion that had followed. I am a novice to advanced analytics.

Thanks for the interesting analysis!

Keith (Mr. X) April 28, 2010 at 4:17 pm

Thanks for opening up the discussion.

You know if Curtis Granderson were still a Tiger, I would probably be trying to defend him right now instead. It would be quite more difficult also.

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