It’s easy to be impressed by Chris Archer. He throws one of the fastest, hardest to square up fastballs in baseball. His slider is an unhittable offering that can only be avoided, not conquered. If he had a third pitch he might not ever allow a man to touch first base for the rest of his life. It’s something he has worked on throughout his career without really developing the pitch much beyond a show-me offering. It may only need be a distraction to be effective, but if he wants to use it as anything other than a surprise pitch then he needs to be able to throw it more often. After throwing a higher percentage of change ups in a game since June of 2013 it’s time to take a look at Chris Archer’s cambio to gauge how it’s developing.
On his way to striking out 12 batters yesterday Archer threw 14 change ups that yielded a total of 2 balls. He induced a pop up, three grounders, a fly ball, and a line drive on eight swings with the other two going for a whiff and a foul. None of these fell for a hit. He got good results from the pitch so can this serve as a turning point or will it prove to be a high water mark that will occasionally be met, but rarely bested? Let’s trace the evolution of this pitch a few different ways to get an idea of whether he’s improving or if the pitch continues to stagnate. I want to start with every single change up that he has thrown in his career and I’ll be using the indispensable Baseball Savant to do so.
The man affectionately nicknamed Assmo (I swear it’s affection) has all of a sudden started to look like a useful piece after looking like a piece of crap upon arrival. The timeline makes a bit of sense as even a maestro like Rays pitching coach/Godhead Jim Hickey needs a bit of time for his magic to take effect. The best time to get through to someone regardless of their troubles is when they’re staring at the bottom willing to try anything that might lead to more success. Erasmo Ramirez knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and hate everything he sees, but with the help of this mentor it looks like he has made some strides. To wit:
I came across this stat earlier today which I found pretty remarkable:
The Rays had allowed 144 FBs 16 H, 14 HR, 2B, 1B 2/130 BIP failed to be caught Good for a 0.015 BABIP
Naturally, I was skeptical. I mean surely, more than 2 fly balls have fallen for hits. I went to the incomparable Baseball Savant and pulled every ball hit against the Rays pitchers. Then I filtered down to what they have labeled as fly balls. This is a work in progress, but I’m mostly able to show where these balls have been hit using their data:
You don’t have to tell me, nor your higher power that Evan Longoria’s bat seems slower than it used to be. If you’re looking for some peace of mind, however, don’t look back. Cool your engines until you’re feelin’ satisfied and then have yourself a party. Forget the foreplay with Amanda because she’s into more than just a rock and roll band. You might even start smokin’, but a man you’ll never be. Boston Sucks.
The thing about greatest hits from the greatest bands named after and from the greatest cities is that these are snapshots in time. You’ll hear a song come on the radio and you’ll be teleported to some memory where that song played in the background. Something similar happened for me last night. I saw Evan Longoria sitting on a 3-1 pitch. Something he had done a thousand times before. I have vivid memories of the dozens or hundreds of times that situation yielded a hit, or even better, a home run. Last night he swung through the pitch and fouled it off.
It was less an exclamation point and more of the last wheeze from an exhausted balloon that had become undone. It looked sad and helpless and this is a guy who’s $100 million contract doesn’t even kick in for another two seasons. In the moment it’s easy to lash out and say things that we don’t mean. We’re not looking for facts, but just to unleash the bile that is clogging our airways in order to get back to breathing that sweet, sweet oxygen. Only after these outbursts can we light up, take a deep breath, and begin to pick up the pieces on what is real and what is mirage. To that end I’d like to take a look at Evan Longoria’s career using data from Baseball Savant.
Sorry for the Odorizzi inundation, but it’s the beginning of the year when small changes could cause hurricanes in Costa Rica or some such nonsense if you believe the “Science” community. I’ll get right to it, because your time is valuable.
DRaysBay site commander Daniel Russell piqued my interest with an interesting observation that was pretty obvious in the post from earlier today. Jake threw his cutter less than one percent of the time last year while throwing the slider around 13% of the time. Yesterday, all his troubles seemed so far away, because he threw zero sliders and threw the cutter around 20% of the time. This is a HUGE reversal. The slider was always a pretty lousy pitch and he barely threw the cutter, but now he’s throwing the cutter a ton and it was a pretty good pitch. For one evening. Times and tides will tell if that is a common occurrence, but boy I hope so.
The thing is, this could just be a classification issue within the pitch tracking software. At some point a decision must be made on whether to call a pitch a cutter or a slider. Maybe some overzealous poindexter has a different interpretation of what’s what this year compared to his or her predecessor. Well let’s put that notion to bed using some Pitch F/x data courtesy of the incredible Baseball Savant starting with a look at the horizontal and vertical movement of last years cutters and sliders and this years cutters:
The unexamined life is not worth living. – Socrates
Jake Odorizzi kicked off his 2015 campaign with a raucous bang. He set down a pretty solid lineup that had put up 12 runs combined in the previous two games with a final line of 6 2/3 IP, 2 Hits, 0 Runs, 0 Walks, and 7 Strikeouts. This was no fluke. He mixed his pitches, locations, and speeds well to keep both lefties and righties off balance. Let’s take a look starting with his pitch mix: