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6/5/09

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde: Who really is Scott Baker?

Scott Baker had a career high 10 strikeouts yesterday, in a home game against the Cleveland Indiands; he pitched 7 innings, allowing 2 ER and 6 Hits while walking only 1. He has a no-hitter into the 4th inning. His WHIP is the lowest of all Twins' starters at 1.240 and his ERA almost dropped a whole point after his appearance yesterday. Earlier in the season, Scott Baker was plagued by multi-home run games and even allowed a home run (the first career hit of Chris Gimenez) in the 7th inning.

Is there anything that transforms Scott Baker, the Strikeout Maker to Scott "Home Run" Baker?

Lets start here:

Three weeks ago I indicated that Baker is tipping his pitches by having a higher release point for his breaking stuff that his fastballs and changes. The image I used (PitchFx data from Brooksbaseball.net) was this visualization of Baker's release point on each of his pitches broken down by pitch type from his 5/19 game vs. the Chicago White Sox:



you can see that there is a baseball difference in the height of the release of his breaking stuff (sliders and curves) vs. his fastballs and changeups.

Let's see how he did yesterday through out the game.

Here is Baker's release point on each of his pitches broken down by pitch type yesterday from innings one through five:



Much better. Only two sliders are released higher than the core of his pitches and everything is mixed up. If you look at the height of his release point (Y-axis), Baker did not move the higher breaking release point lower down to match the lower fastball point, but instead, it looks like he is pitching in between, which means that he raised his release point for his fastballs (which are his bread and butter) by standing taller when delivering, and apparently are more effective.

Let's look at his release point through the sixth inning (an additional inning of pitches added to the previous image: )



Still the core is tight with one change up (yellow) additionally thrown from the high release point.

Here is his release point through 7 innings (final for the game) :



Now you see a couple more sliders added to the high release point. When exactly were those high released sliders thrown? Guess when?

Here is Baker's release point during Chris Gimenez's AB in the 7th innning, which resulted to a home run:



Gimenez's home run came on the fastball (green), which was the third pitch of the plate appearance and was released about 7 inches lower that the previous 2 pitches. Since the data was there that Baker tips his pitches and the ball was obvious to the batter that was released from a lower point that the two previous breaking balls, guessing "fastball" was probably easy and right on the mark...

So, it seams that Scott Baker the Strikeout Maker is transformed into Scott "Home Run" Baker, by inconsistent mechanics on his fast ball delivery. It could be fatigue. It could be something obvious to Rich Anderson.

But here is a question that begs to be answered: The pitchfx data isfreely available in the internets and updated by every pitch. Why doesn't the Twins' pitching coach, instead of using a 19th century clicker to keep track of his pitchers, use a laptop to look at pitchFx data? Believe me the pitch count is there. A variation to Baker's release point should be a leading indicator for an upcoming disaster, warranting a visit to the mount and if it continues, replacement. The clicker cannot tell that. This is the 21st century Mr Anderson; welcome to it.

If you want to look at what kind of information is displayed in a pitchfx data page, here is the data from his start yesterday from Brooksbaseball.net. Make sure that you look at the different pull down menus because there is a lot of information there... More than in a clicker...

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Good information. Very interesting, and it seems to make it clear why Baker has struggled so much this year. Where you ruin it though is when you launch into the personal attack on Rick Anderson and act like he is incompetant and unable to do his job. I'd put more weight behind what you say if you could prove that you actually know what Anderson does and how much work he does or doesn't put into his position with the Twins. Since you don't know, just leave it alone.

If you just kept providing the interesting information that you often do, and limited your ramblings about the coaching staff to a minimum, this would make for a must read blog for me. As it is, I only come back occasionally, and usually leave a little disappointed. I hope you take this as constructive criticism, and not a rip on you. Great content, inconsistent delivery.

thrylos98 said...

Thanks, I think...

As far as the Twins' coaching stuff goes, I am really not sure whether they are competent or not. It is all in the results of their coaching and their track record. Anderson has turned around only 2 pitchers (Hawkins and Reyes) and has failed in many other "projects". Particularly this season, all the starters, save Blackburn and all the returning relievers, save Nathan and Guerrier have regressed. If this had happened to another team, Anderson would have been out of here (see: Mets, New York, 2007) I do not know what he does, but I can plainly see that what he does is not working. I do think that the Twins are a. too loyal to their coaches and manager and staff and b. a bit too antiquated. I know for a fact that the front office does minimal statistic analysis of its players or of its target players. This results to mistakes that are translated as Twins' loses.

We cannot all be rah rah rah about the Twins all the time. I want them to win and I have to point out things that in my opinion prevent them for winning. I think that this approach is fairer and more authentic than clapping and cheering losses...

Anonymous said...

I don't think I was asking for a rah-rah approach from you, and I wouldn't expect that. I think maybe where I differ from you is I think coaches get a little too much credit and/or blame at this level. Once a player reaches the bigs, how much coaching has he received? At some point I think that a player either has the talent or he doesn't. So if Anderson has "failed" in a lot of projects, is that bad coaching or is it just a lack of talent by the player? Or is the player not listening to the coach? See, how can the average fan really know since we don't have inside access? That's why I tend to stay away from criticizing the coaches.

Now, in-game strategy moves by Gardy are open to criticism...which I know you enjoy :) That's part of the fun of baseball. Like I said before, you provide some great information that I haven't seen elsewhere. The info on Baker is very interesting and answers questions that fans have (Why is Baker struggling so much this year?). Those are the types of things that I enjoy reading. Any Joe Blow can jump on the "fire the coaches" bandwagon...I want to read more interesting and insightful stuff on these blogs than that. That's just one mans opinion though, so take it for what it's worth.

thrylos98 said...

I get your point. It is easy to criticize, but I never do it without giving a reason for why the criticism is valid. As far as how much coaching is needed once a player reaches the big, I think that it depends. If he is 23 years old like Swarzak, Young and Gomez, probably a lot. Even veterans get into funks and the job of a coach is to identify the root cause and fix it. If he does neither, he is not a good coach. That's how a fan without inside information can tell.

I do appreciate you opinion. And it is not criticism for the sake of criticism, believe me. This team has not been what it should be since October of 2006 and I feel that the manager and the coaches are to blame here... The other point is that they are never questioned by the local (or national) press. Somebody's got to do it, don't you think?

Juanie said...

I thought I'd chime in on this - Anon expresses nearly exactly the same opinion as me. The statistical analysis on this blog is great - probably one of the best baseball blogs I read in regards to statistical analysis. But the only reason I'm not an everyday reader is the constant criticism on Twins' coaching staff, which I personally don't believe is warranted because I don't have any idea what goes on behind the scenes and I don't believe they have a huge impact on this level (they are very important through the minors though and actually the organizations best fundamental coaches should be located throughout their minor league system).

Of the three main coaches on this team, I think Anderson deserves the most credit. Actually, I think he's one of the best, if not the best, pitching coaches in the league. The Twins won the division in 2002-2004 and 2006 largely because of their pitching, despite largely having nothing beyond the 3rd starter and a bunch of no name relievers. And last year, he lead a staff full of rookies and young pitchers to the brink of a division title. Through these years, he's also lead a group of largely no name pitchers to be one of the best bullpens in the league.

On the other hand, I do get quite annoyed with Gardy's quirks. His mismanagement of the bullpen in recent years has been brutal, his stubbornness in leaving some guys in there make me scratch my head at times (although his loyalty to Cuddyer is winding up paying off this year), and anytime he mentions " ... but __________ (insert player) battled his tail off tonight..." If they do replace Gardy, who is the best fit to replace him? It probably has to be someone within the organization (organization rule). I don't know the minor league system very well, but I can't come up with anyone better.

thrylos98 said...

Juanie,

Johan Santana was a mediocre pitcher for the Twins with Rick Anderson as a pitching coach, until Bobby Cuellar taught him the change up at Edmonton and make him use it at least 20 times in a game. This is very well documented.

Also, the pitching success of the Twins those years was a lot because of Johan Santana...

The '87 team won the division and the world series with 2 starters (Viola and Blyleven). Does that make Dick Such a good pitching coach? I think that Anderson's pitching reputation these years was riding on the back of veterans developed by others (Reed, Radke, Rogers, Guardado, Nathan, Silva a bit) and Santana. Not much of a pedigree for pitching development by Anderson.

And when you see the massive decline of the pitching staff this season, you got to wonder sometimes...