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...