Wednesday, April 10, 2013

LINE DRIVES: v1.0

Suddenly, San Diego has a launching pad for hitters.
(photo courtesy of Felipe M)
Felipe M

I'll be sharing my random thoughts on the MLB games from April 9, 2013.

SO MUCH FOR A PITCHERS' PARK

The Houston Astros beat the Seattle Mariners 16-9 at Safeco Field.  The San Diego Padres won at Petco Park, scoring 9 runs.  We have been waiting in anticipation to see how the changes in dimensions at these two parks would alter offensive production.  Right away, we're seeing changes.

Taking a look back at 2012, only three times did we see teams put up nine or more runs, in one game, last year at Safeco (roughly once every 27 games).  The most runs that one team had accumulated in one game was on October 3, 2012 when the Mariners blanked the Angels, 12-0 (against Jered Weaver, no less).  The most combined runs at Safeco last season occurred on April 17, 2012 when the Mariners and Indians scored 17 total runs.  27 runs were scored between the Astros and Mariners last night.  

Petco was better last year: seven was the number of times teams had scored 9 or more runs in one game last year.  The highs came on September 16, 2012 when the Padres scored a season high at home of 12 runs and they and the Rockies accumulated 23 runs total in that game.  However, only their first game in 2013 and the Padres have all ready scored 9 runs in one game.  

One game does not make a full MLB season, but it's safe to say that after Tuesday's match-ups, both ballparks, in terms of offense, are off to a good start.  

ASTRO WOES

Speaking of the Astros, the 16 runs were the most they have scored since they scored 18 runs in August of 2010.  The Astros defeated the Cardinals, 18-4 in St. Louis.  In that game, none of the Astros hit a homerun in, but they did hit 4 doubles and 1 triple.  SS Angel Sanchez tallied 6 RBI.  This year, the Astros are 0-6 when scoring fewer than 3 runs.  They have all ready failed to score more than 3 runs in 75% of their games.  Bad sign.

METS AT PHILLIES

The Phillies' struggles in the starting rotation have been well-documented as Cole Hamels and Roy Halladay have not pitched up to par early this season.  Thankfully, they have Cliff Lee who pitched a great game against the Mets last night.  It also helped that the Phillies' bats came alive after being shutdown by pitching phenom, Matt Harvey on Monday.  

Unfortunately, it all came at the expense of Mets' pitcher Dillon Gee who had command issues all night.  So far this year, Gee has pitched 9 and a 1/3 innings and has the following stats after 2 starts: 5.8 K/9; 2.9 BB/9 AND HR/9; 12.6 H/9; 1.71 WHIP.  All of this while inducing  more groundouts than flyouts.  We've mentioned how well Gee pitched last season before being shut down for the year because of injury.  But that's the thing about pitchers like Gee.  He has potential to rack up the strikeouts, but deep down, he is a pitch-to-contact pitcher.  When pitchers like Gee don't have their best stuff and can't fight through it, they'll have nights like these.  Should be very interesting how he bounces back in his next start.  

NOW WE CAN START THE SEASON

Washington Nationals' 1B Adam LaRoche had zero hits.  Now he has two hits after his team beat the White Sox last night.  Both of his hits are homeruns.  Talk about an "all-or-nothing" approach.  LaRoche has always had a reputation for being a slow starter for his teams so it's not surprising that's he's off to the slowest of starts this year as well.  But he is struggling so bad that in the game where he hit 2 homers, he also struck out twice.  A deeper look shows that LaRoche, this season has been swinging for more strikes than in years past.  Of the 57% of pitches that are called for strikes, 24% have been of the swing-and-miss variety--his career average is 17%.  Only 12% of those pitches are actually called strikes because of foul balls--he averages 27%.  

So his timing, clearly, is not there yet, but getting back to his all-or-nothing approach, he's hit a lot more flyballs than groundballs so far this season so when he does make contact, he's looking to drive the ball into the air, but only 17% of his contact have been line drives (career line-drive% of 20%).  Because of this approach, he's suffering the worst Balls-in-Play% of his career (only 56% compared to a career 64%) and of those flyballs, 20% are not leaving the infield.  That's a lot of pop outs.  Will have to keep tabs on this guy and reconvene next week for an update.  

PICK YOUR POISON

If you can only have one closer on your team, who would it be: Carlos Marmol  or John Axford?

Outside of strikeouts, Marmol has struggled mightily with control and looks like he's pitching batting practice when he comes out of the bullpen.  Hitters have posted an OPS of 1.490.  Yikes!  It also doesn't help that Marmol is a flyball pitcher who can't produce outs via the flyout (most of his outs this season have come by way of groundouts).  His line-drive% against is 29% and it doesn't help that 27% of the strikes that he throws are put into play (above career average).  Obviously, hitters aren't being fooled or deceived by his pitches as Marmol only has a 13% in swinging-strike%.  And he gets ahead of the hitters more times than not.  55% of the time he throws a first-pitch strike.  32% of hitters see themselves down 0-2 in the count (much higher than his 2012 rate).  But as mentioned before, it's like he's pitching batting practice out there as these hitters, so far, are hungry when they see him out there--Marmol's contact percentage is a high, 80%!

And then there's Axford: he has a line-drive% against of 53%, OPS against of 1.828, a whopping 41% of his strikes are put in play (about twice his career average).  His contact% is much lower than Marmol's however and has a higher swinging-strikes% than Marmol (22%).    Only 19% of hitters see themselves at an 0-2 count.  However, he puts himself at a disadvantage by giving hitters a 3-0 count, 14% of the time (well above his norm).  

So of the two, who has a better chance to rebound?  The numbers are absolutely horrendous and I was trying to look for positives and couldn't find much.  If I have to pick one that is most likely to improve as the season progresses, it's probably Marmol.  At least he's getting ahead of the count more often than Axford.  Maybe it's a sign.  Or maybe it's not.  

And on that sour note...

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