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5/30/09

What's up with Frankie (and Andy) ?

Fransisco Liriano had another unfortunate outing today, pitching only 4 innings, surrounding 4 ER to further diminish the Twins record in day games to 3-12 and on the road to 5-16, dropping the Twins a full 6 games behind the Tigers in the loss column.

Liriano's return last season after his time in Rochester made a lot of Twins' fans hopeful about good things to come this year, based on his successful outings. Has anything changed with Liriano between last season and this season? The answer is yes.

If anything, his velocity is higher this season (average FB 91.5 mph vs. 90.9 mph in 2008, average slider 85.7 mph vs. 83.7 mph in 2008, average change up 84.1 mph vs. 82.1 mph in 2008).

However, there are 2 things different:

He is throwing his changeup less
Last season, Liriano threw 20% changeups. This season just 13.1% of his pitches have been changeups. For comparison purposes: the last three years, Johan Santana threw change ups for about 29% of his pitches and in his Cy Young years Pedro Martinez threw change ups for at least 20% of his pitches. Frankie needs to forget about going to Hollywood and start throwing his change up more.

His release point is all over the place

Here is Liriano's release point from this game (courtesy Brooksbaseball.net) :



as you can see his release point is very inconsistent and their is a good two feet horizontal difference among the release points of all his pitches. Fortunately, unlike Baker, Liriano is not tipping his pitches. Sliders, Fastballs and Change ups are released from all over the place, but they are mixed.

Let's compare this to Liriano's release point from one of his successful outings last September against the Tigers. This is his release point from an early September game, when he pitched 7 innings, walking one, stiking out 9 and having 2 ER:



Even though a few pitches were way off to the right, the main core was fairly consistent.

Let's superimpose the two images:



the release point cores of the successful Liriano (black) and unsuccessful Liriano (red) are hereby circled. As you can see, not only the successful Liriano release points are tighter, they are closer to his body. When he throws further away from his body, bad things happen.

What does need to be done for Liriano to be fixed:

a. Get him throw more change ups and
b. Correct his mechanics so his release point is i. tighter and ii. closer to his body.

Simpler said that done, but Andy is the guy with the supposed magic wand that can fix every ailing pitcher.

But is he?

This season,

Let’s see:

Liriano has been “atrocious”
Perkins has been “atrocious”
Baker has been “atrocious”
Crain has been “atrocious”
Breslow had been “atrocious”

do you think it might actually mean that Andy is the “atrocious” one here? This is a massive drop of performance in more than half of the pitching staff. Last time that happened to a team, the pitching coach was fired (see: Tigers, Detroit, 2008). Who can fix this.

My choice is one of the best pitching coaches available, who happens to be in the Twins' organization (and by coincidence is fully bi-lingual in English and Spanish, thus filling up another void in the team) : Bobby Cuellar.

Why Cuellar?

Cuellar was the pitching coach of the Mariners from 1995-96, the Expos from 1997-2000 and the Twins' AAA teams from 2002-2005 and is now the Red Wings' pitching coach.

Let's look at his track record with different pitchers:

Johan Santana
Before Cuellar: 4.74 ERA, 1.511 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 1.75 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.99 ERA, 1.228 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 2.80 K/BB

Perdo Martinez
Before Cuellar: 3.70 ERA, 1.195 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.17 K/BB
After Cuellar: 1.90 ERA, 0.932 WHIP, 11.4 K/9, 4.55 K/BB

Randy Johnson
Before Cuellar: 3.19 ERA, 1.186 WHIP, 10.7 K/9, 2.83 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.48 ERA, 1.045 WHIP, 12.3 K/9, 4.52 K/BB

Jeff Nelson
Before Cuellar: 2.76 ERA, 1.299 WHIP, 9.4 K/9, 2.20 K/BB
After Cuellar: 2.17 ERA, 1.081 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 3.56 K/BB

Norm Charlon:
Before Cuellar: 7.36 ERA, 1.727 WHIP, 4.9 K/9, 0.80 K/BB
After Cuellar: 1.51 ERA, 0.818 WHIP, 11.0 K/9, 3.63 K/BB (same season trade from PHI to SEA)

So, if you were the Twins' brass, who would you rather have as a pitching coach:

the guy who straighten up to Randy Johnson in ‘95 resulting to an 18-2, 2.48 ERA and 192 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,

the guy who taught the change up to Pedro Martinez in ‘97 resulting to a 17-8, 1.90 ERA and 219 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,

the guy who taught the change up to Johan Santana in ‘02 while in the minors, resulting to an
‘04 20-6, 2.61 ERA and 182 K season and started the streak of his Cy Young years,

or

Andy?

Hard choice?

5/29/09

The difference between night and day - part II

Yesterday, I pointed out the differences of the Twins' performance in day games vs. in night games and showed the following:

  • The pitching has been very similar during day games and night games

  • The hitters are hitting .163 OPS points lower at day games vs. night games

  • This is not a fluke phenomenon, but the Twins have had worse records in day games vs in night games, throughout Gardenhire's tenure, except in the 2007 season



A very astute comment in that post (unfortunately anonymous, so I cannot attribute credit) indicated that there might be another potential explanation, that the Twins are facing better pitchers, and suggested that I look at the OPS of the pitchers in general vs. the OPS of the Twins in those particular day games. Brilliant suggestion.

Here is what I did: I looked at every single day game the Twins played this season and calculated 3 things:

  1. The Twins' hitters OPS in that game

  2. The year to day Opponents' OPS of the opposing starter for that game excluding that particular game (so not to cause a circular argument)

  3. The ratio of the 2 (if the ratio is higher than 1, that means that the Twins were hitter better in that game against that particular starter vs. all his other opponents and if it lesser than 1, it means that the Twins were hitting that pitcher worse than others in other games


Here is a list of every day game the Twins played this year, with the results of the game, the opposing starter and the aforementioned three things:


April 9th, vs Mariners, L 0-2

Twins' hitters OPS: .373
Washburn's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .731
ratio: .511

April 11th @ White Sox, L 0-8

Twins' hitters OPS: .485
Colon's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .866
ratio: .561

April 12th @ White Sox, L 1-6

Twins' hitters OPS: .470
Buehrle's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .638
ratio: .737

April 19th vs Angels, W 3-1

Twins' hitters OPS: .677
Loux' YTD OPP OPS in other games: .877
ratio: .772


April 19th @ Boston, L 1-10

Twins' hitters OPS: .563
Wakefield's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .691
ratio: .814

April 26th @ Indians, L 2-4

Twins' hitters OPS: .592
Laffey's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .692
ratio: .856

May 3rd vs Royals, L 5-7

Twins' hitters OPS: .686
Meche's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .715
ratio: .960

May 10th vs Mariners, L 3-5

Twins' hitters OPS: .654
Bedard's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .655
ratio: .998


May 14th vs Tigers, W 6-5

Twins' hitters OPS: .702
Verlander's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .577
ratio: 1.218


May 16th @ Yankees, L 4-6

Twins' hitters OPS: .721
Chamberlain's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .855
ratio: 0.843

May 17th @ Yankees, L 2-3

Twins' hitters OPS: .572
Burnett's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .822
ratio: 0.695

May 21st @ White Sox, W 20-1

Twins' hitters OPS: 1.273
Colon's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .729
ratio: 1.747


May 25th vs Red Sox, L 6-5

Twins' hitters OPS: .714
Penny's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .926
ratio: 0.771



May 28th vs Red Sox, L 1-3

Twins' hitters OPS: 561
Beckett's YTD OPP OPS in other games: .756
ratio: 0.746


The average ratio of the Twins OPS against a particular pitcher in a day game over that of his opponents in all other games this season is .873 (and somewhat skewed to the Twins' favor by the 20-1 game against Colon.)

My conclusion is that they are not facing better pitchers during the day games, they are just not hitting as well...

5/28/09

The difference between night and day

This season the Twins are:

3-11 in Day games and 21-14 in night games.

The team ERA is 4.81 in day games and 4.81 in night games, so the pitching t is not the problem.

However, the team is hitting .238/.323/.348 (.671 OPS) in day games and .291/.364/.471 (.834 OPS) in night games, which is a huge problem.

Here are how the different Twins' batters are faring during the day and night (today's game is not included) :

Mauer: 1.625 OPS day, 1.297 OPS night (not a problem)
Morneau: .885 OPS day, 1.154 OPS night (somewhat of a problem)
Casilla: .063 OPS day, .513 OPS night (huge problem)
Punto: .596 OPS day, .458 OPS night (not a day/night problem, but...)
Crede: .484 OPS day, .873 OPS night (big problem)
Young: .536 OPS day, .599 OPS night (problem)
Gomez: .687 OPS day, .580 OPS night (probably part of the solution)
Cuddyer: .755 OPS day, .933 OPS night (problem)
Kubel: .721 OPS day, .997 OPS night (problem)
Span: .526 OPS day, .933 OPS night (big problem)
Harris: .345 OPS day, .779 OPS night (huge problem)
Tolbert: .714 OPS day, .453 OPS night (probably part of the solution)
Buscher: .430 OPS day, .730 OPS night (huge problem)
Redmond: .356 OPS day, .823 OPS night (immense problem, esp since Gardy starts him in almost all day games after night games)
Morales: 1.434 OPS day, .570 OPS night (Part of the solution)


What can be done to fix this problem? These 3 quick fixes:


  1. Recall Morales and him have start instead of Redmond in all Day games after night games (there is a close to 1.100 OPS difference!)

  2. Start Gomez instead of Span in day games (there is a .161 OPS difference)

  3. Start Tolbert in day and Harris at night (+ about .350 OPS in day and + about .320 OPS at night)


But, is it a fluke? Let's look at the Gardenhire Twins' record in day vs. night games since 2002:

2009: day: 3-11, night 21-14
2008: day: 26-26, night: 62-49
2007: day: 29-26, night: 50-57
2006: day: 27-20, night: 69-46
2005: day: 25-25, night: 58-54
2004: day: 27-26, night: 65-44
2003: day: 26-24, night: 64-48
2002: day: 25-24, night: 69-43

So other that the unfortunate 2007 season, the Gardenhire Twins are not doing as well in day games as they do in night games. That is a problem that needs to be understood and addressed by the organization...

How bad was Todd Tichenor calling balls and strikes today?

Todd was the home plate umpire in today's game, which the Twins lost 1-3 to the Boston Red Sox. Both teams had complaints about his ball and strikes calls that resulted to the ejection of Veritek and Francona in the 7th inning. In the top of the inning Redmond and Gardenhire also got ejected, but that was for arguing a close call to the plate that went the Red Sox way, allowing a runner to score from 3th on a fly ball to Kubel.

So how bad was his ball and stike calling?

To answer this, I am looking at PitchFx data from Brooksbaseball.net, in all 4 games of the Boston series and more specifically looking at the starters for both teams and the pitches that were in the strike zone but called balls by each of the four home plate umpires.

Here are the data from today's game (green is ball, red is strike, blue is contact):

Swarzak:



Tichenor missed 6 of Swarzak's pitches (green boxes in the strike zone)

Beckett:



Tichenor missed 12 of Beckett's pitches.

In total in today's game Tichenor missed 18 pitches from both starters

Let's look at yesterday's game with Chris Guccione the home plate umpire:

Slowey:



Guccione missed 7 of Slowey's pitches

Dice K:


Guccione missed 9 of DickeK's pitches

In total in yesterday's game Guccione missed 16 pitches from both starters

Let's look at Tuesday's game with Tony Randazzo the home plate umpire:

Blackburn:



Randazzo missed 8 of Blackburn's pitches

Lester:



Randazzo missed 5 of Lester's pitches

In total in Tuesday's game Randazzo missed 13 pitches from both starters

Let's look at Monday's game with Jerry Lane the home plate umpire:

Liriano:



Lane missed 3 of Liriano's pitches

Penny:



Lane missed 6 of Penny's pitches

In total in Monday's game Lane missed 9 pitches from both starters

What conclusion's can one draw from this? First of all, Todd Tichenor today was worse than all umpires in this aspect, but not that much worse than Chris Guccione was last night. I think that the fact that it was a closer game had a lot to do with it. However, he was fairly consistent, since everything outside to a right hand hitter was called a ball within an inch or 2 of the zone (in a similar way that Guccione called all low strikes balls last night). The bottom line is that umpires can affect the game, but players and managers should not let that happen, but making adjustments to a particular umpire's strike zone. On the other hand, Tichenor tossed both catchers pretty quickly without giving time for their managers to step up and intervene...

5/26/09

Who is hot in the minors V3

This is the third version of the list of the best performing players in the Twins' minor league system year to date. A reminder that several players are still in extended spring training since the Elizabethton (Appalachian League) and the Gulf Coast League rookie teams have not started their seasons yet. The numbers are as of 5/25. Some players have dropped from the list either because their performance dropped or because they were promoted (Swarzak, Henn):

Catchers

Allan de San Miguel (RHB, 21, A, A+, AA, AAA) .278/.447/.361, 0 HR, 4 RBI, 47 PA

Infielders:

Brian Dinkelman (LHB, 25, AA) .343/.422/.507, 3 HR, 29 RBI, 164 PA
Danny Valencia (RHB, 24, AA) .339/.432/.597 5 HR, 22 RBI, 146 PA
Ramon Santana (RHB, 24, A) .402/.495/.646 4 HR, 19 RBI, 98 PA

Outfielders:

Ben Revere (RHB, 21, AA) .335/.403/.399 1 HR, 20 RBI, 18 SB, 176 PA
Joe Benson (RHB, 21, A+) .293/.413/.444 3 HR, 14 RBI, 121 PA

1st basemen/DH:

Whit Robbins (LHB, 24, AA) .326/.404/.548, 6 HR, 22 RBI, 156 PA
Rene Leveret (RHB, 23, A+) .397/.506/.562 2 HR, 12 RBI, 89 PA

RH Starters:

Carlos Gutierrez (22, A+) 0.98 ERA, 0.891 WHIP, 5.69 K/9, 1.81 K/BB
Mike McCardell (24, A+) 4.20 ERA, 1.089 WHIP, 8.40 K/9, 4.67 K/BB
Brad Tippett (21, A) 3.00 ERA, 1.071 WHIP, 6.43 K/9, 3.75 K/BB

RH Relievers:

Juan Morillo (25, AAA) 3.00 ERA, 1.133 WHIP, 11.34 K/9, 2.71 K/BB
Armado Gabino (25, AAA) 3.81 ERA, 1.154 WHIP, 5.88 K/9, 1.89 K/BB
Rob Delaney (24, AA) 2.59 ERA, 1.181 WHIP, 10.05 K/9, 7.00 K/BB
Steve Hirschfield (23, A+) 1.17 ERA, 0.783 WHIP, 6.26 K/9, 3.20 K/BB
Alex Burnett (21, A+) 2.25 ERA, 0.950 WHIP, 10.80 K/9, 3.43 K/BB
Danny Berlind (21, A) 3.72 ERA, 1.207 WHIP, 8.89 K/9, 4.00 K/BB

LH Relievers:

Spencer Steedley (24, A+) 0.84 ERA, 0.891 WHIP, 9.28 K/9, 5.50 K/BB
Joe Testa (23, A) 1.80 ERA, 0.900 WHIP, 12.30 K/9, 2.93 K/BB