Analyzing Liriano's release point from last night's win.

Fransisco Lirano pitched 6 innings in the Twins' victory against Seattle, in which he allowed only 3 hits, 1 ER, 5 strikeouts, but 4 BB as well. After his previous start, I demonstrated that his release point was all over the place. I wanted to follow his release point closely in yesterday's game and I got inning by inning snapshots of his release point of various pitches, to see if it could tell a better story. The following pitchFX graphs (from Brooksbaseball.net) are graphs of his release point of pitches he threw up and including the indicated inning. Without further ado:

Inning 1 release point:

Fransisco's release point is all over the place again.

Innings 1-2 release point:

You see that a nicer core release point is been established

Innings 1-3 release point:

the core is continuing to be established, few more pitches outside the core

Innings 1-4 release point:

Even nicer core

Innings 1-5 release point:

It really appears that there are two core release points established, one to the left of the other

Innings 1-6 (his whole performance) release point:

The two cores are even more established...

What does that mean? I was really surprised to see two different release points, so I wanted to look more into it, so I looked into release vs lefties and righties to see whether the chirality of the batter he faced made a difference.

Here is his release point against RHB:

nice and tight (well, as far as Liriano goes.) It coincides with the left-most core in the total.

and here is his release point against LHB:

Less tight, but it coincides with the right-most core in the total.

The conclusion here is that Liriano has two different release points. He drops his arm to the right (from batter's view) when he faces lefties and pitches consistently upright when he faces righties. Is this just a coincidence in this game?

Let's look at his splits from that 5/30 game.

Here is his release point against RHB:

decent core to the left with about 3 pitches probably slipping off his fingers

a core more to the right with a few pitches even further away.

Still, the core release points are there, but are not tight. And I am not sure what having 2 different release points does to someone's ability to throw the ball accurately where he wants, but I suspect that it is not good. Let's look at a very good tight core release point.

This is Kevin Slowey's release point from his last game

Total pitches:

Against RHB:

Against LHB:

No difference against LHB and RHB and an extremely tight core. I think that the differences between Slowey's tight release point and Liriano's dual and loose release point translate to their differences in command and control: Slowey rarely walks anyone and has very good command of all his pitches, while Liriano has problems with his command and control. A single consistent release point could go a long way for Fransisco.


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...


Fixing Delmon Young

A lot of the posts in this blog have been about analysis of numbers. I know that spreadsheets, graphs, math and statistic can really give people a headache sometimes, so I am departing today from all of these and going back to something I used to love doing when I was a kid: Do you remember in the quiz sections of the newspaper or in the back side of a place mat (the ones you draw on with crayons to keep quiet when waiting for food to come in a diner) the quizzes that had two similar pictures side by size and asked you to find 5 or 10 differences and circle them? This is what this is all about, and Delmon Young.

One of the biggest criticisms of Delmon Young is that Delmon is a singles hitter and will never develop any power. I tried to answer some of this with math and analysis here last month, but let's play this game of looking at pictures and finding differences.

We'll make it more interesting than that: We'll look at pictures of swings by successful hitters and pictures of swings by Delmon to see whether there might be something obvious:

Let's start with the successful hitters:

Some righties:

Kibry Puckett:

Mike Schmidt:

Albert Pujols:

Alex Rodriguez:

Mickey Mantle:

and some lefties:

Mickey Mantle again:

Darryl Strawberry:

Ted Williams:

Joe Mauer:

Here are some Delmon Young swings:

Do you see an obvious difference between Delmon Young's swing and those of the other players'?

Here is some help: Draw an imaginary line from the base of the batter's neck and see where and whether it meets the player's tailbone during the swing.

Here is a visual comparing two of the above swings at the same point of the swing, with that line drawn:

As you can see, Ted Williams' (and all those above players) has his neck aligned with his tailbone, while Delmon's neck is way back aligned with the ground at about his back leg.

This is very unbalanced. One cannot generate any power this way. Actually one would be glad not to fall on his butt after such a swing. This indicates a top body and lower body imbalance and needs to be fixed for Young to be successfully hitting the ball far. (I could also talk about squaring one's shoulders but this is a different story and somewhat controversial)

Do you know who else from the Twins' team swings like this?

(Actually, in addition to Brian Buscher pictured above, Nick Punto and Mike Redmond also swing off-balance, with the known results)

Google images of swings of your favorite players and compare them to Delmon's or watch closely next time players hit (but static images are better, just because swings are too fast)

This is so obvious that Vavra has to do something here. I suspect that he sees that, since it is extremely obvious. If he doesn't (and at least four of his hitters swing like that), does he need to be a hitting coach?

Alternatively, the Twins should get this guy for their hitting coach. (The previous link is for a 15 minute instructional video on swinging by one of the best hitters and now coaches in the game of baseball; highly recommended to everyone who wants to look at the art of hitting. Have a look at it and then next time you watch the Twins have a look at Twins' players at the plate)

What do you think?


2009 MLB draft. Part II: The middle infielders

There are 6 days left for the 2009 MLB Amateur draft. Yesterday I examined the available players for the Twins' biggest organizational need, LHP. Today I am looking at the available players for the Twins' second biggest need, middle infield. I am listing here 53 middle infielders in alphabetical order, who are eligible for the draft (including 2 local prospects). The link on players' names is a link to their bio:

Austin Adams, SS/RHP, Senior, Faulkner. Here is a video. Might be selected as a pitcher.

Brad Agustin, SS, Junior, University of Buffalo.

Stephen Batts, IF, Senior, East Carolina. Here are his numbers and here is a newspaper article about him. Also played 1B and LF

Chris Biguenet, 2B, Senior, U Texas-Dallas.

Shane Brown, 2B, Junior, Central Florida. Here are his numbers. Also played C, 3B, and the OF.

Anselmo Cantu 2B, Senior, Norfolk State. Here are his numbers. Great fielder, light hitting second baseman.

Chase Childers, SS, Senior, Georgia State. Here are his numbers.

Derek Dennis, SS, Forest Hills Central HS, MI.

Daniel Fields, SS, University of Detroit Jesuit HS. Here is an atricle from the Detroit Free Press.

Greg Folgia IF/LF/RHP, Junior, Missouri. Here are his numbers.

Nick Franklin SS, Lake Brantley HS, FL. Here is an article and here is a scouting report.

Scooter Gennett SS/2B, Sarasota HS. Here is a scouting report.

Mychal Givens, RHP/SS, Plant HS (FL). Here is a scouting report and here is a video. An additional scouting report can be found here. He may be drafted as a pitcher.

Ryan Goins 2B, Junior, Dallas Baptist.

Phil Gosselin 2B, Sophomore, Virginia. Here is an article.

Grant Green, SS, Junior, USC. Here is a scouting report, and here are his numbers.

Reed Gragnani, SS/2B, Mills Godwin HS, VA. Here is an article.

Billy Hamilton SS, Taylorsville HS, MS.Here is a scouting report. Recruited by Colleges as a three way athelete (Baseball, Football, Basketball)

Shaver Hansen. IP, Junior, Baylor. Here are his numbers and here is an article.

Gary Helmick IF, Senior, Towson. Here are his numbers.

Randy Henry SS/RHP, Freshman, South Mountain, AZ CC.

Bryant Hernandez, SS, Junior, Oklahoma. Here are his numbers and here is a profile article.

Ryan Jackson. SS, Junior, Miami.Here is a scouting report and here are his numbers.

Corey Jones. IF, Junior, CSU – Fullerton. Here are his numbers.

Mycal Jones. SS, Sophomore, Miami Dade JC. Here is a scouting report.

Dan Kaczrowski. 2B. Senior, Hamline University.Here is an article.

Chad Kettler. IF Coppell HS,TX. Here is a scouting video.

D.J. LeMahieu. SS, Sophomore, LSU. Here is a scouting report, here are his numbers and here is an article.

Deven Marrero. SS, American Heritage HS, He is the younger brother of Nats Chris Marrero. Here is a scouting report that also scouts Stephen Perez who is mentioned below.

Juan Martinez. IF, Senior, Oral Roberts. Here is an article

Derek McCallum. SS/2B. Junior, University of Minnesota. Here is an article. He was drafted by the Twins in the 50th round of the 2006 draft but did not sign.

Rich Michalek,IF, Senior, Slippery Rock University.

Jiovanni Mier. SS - Bonita HS, FL. Here is a scouting report and here is a video.

Cooper Moseley IF, Success Unlimited Academy, AL. Here is an interesting SI article from when Cooper was 10 years old.

Nick Natoli SS, Junior, Towson. Here are his numbers. He was rated as the best defensive college infielder by College Baseball Insider.

David Nick. SS/2B, Cypress HS, CA. Here is a scouting report.

Chris Owings SS, Gilbert HS, SC. Here is a scouting report and here is a video.

Stephen Perez SS, Gulliver Prep,FL. Here and here are scouting reports.

Josh Prince. IF, Junior, Tulane. Here is an article and here is a video of a great play in a game.

David Renfroe IF,South Panola HS, MS. Here is a scouting report and here is a video.

Keyvius Sampson SS/RHP, Florida High School. Here is an article. He may be drafted as a RHP

Ryan Schimpf SS, Sophomore, LSU. Here is a video and here are his numbers.

Kyle Seager, 2B, Junior, North Carolina. Here is a scouting report.

Robbie Shields IF, Junior, Florida Southern. Here is a scouting report.

Brandon Sizemore IF, Senior, College of Charleston. Here is an article.

Jason Stidham, SS, Junior, Florida State University. Here are his numbers

Montaous Walton INF, Playball Academy, WI.

LeVon Washington. CF/2B… Buchholz HS, FL. Here and here are a couple of articles.

Alfie Wheeler. SS, Senior, High Point.

A.J. Yoder IF, Senior, Virginia Military Insitute. Here are his numbers.

I highly suspect that the Twins will select one or more of these players in this year's draft.


2009 MLB draft and a couple of notes

The 2009 Amateur MLB draft is fast approaching. The Rule 4 Draft, or the First-Year Player Draft (all those 3 things are synonyms), includes players who are residents of the U.S., Canada and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, Northern Mariana Islands and Minor Outlying Islands. Residents of other countries are not subject to the Rule 4 Draft, but are signed as free agents either when they are young (the majority of Latin American, European, African and Australian players) or when are established (the majority of Japanese players.) Free agents have the ability to negotiate with each team and actually, depending on the perceived value of a player, induce a bidding war for their services. Thus, a lot of Cuban refugees do not take residence in the U.S. or a territory, so they will not be subjected to the amateur draft, but take residence in a Latin American country like Bolivia or Mexico. The minor league draft is a way for organizations to restock their systems.

The NFL Draft is widely publicized and followed, but this is not true for the MLB Draft. Regardless, there are mock 1st round MLB drafts out there from various sources. Here are the calls for the Twins 1st pick this weekend from various places:

  • mlb outsider: Bobby Borchering, HS (3B) (pick made by Seth Stohs)
  • Sports2debate: Bobby Borchering, HS (3B)
  • Flagrant Fouls Kentrail Davis, Tennessee (OF)
  • Project Prospect: Tyler Skaggs, HS (LHP)
  • Huffington Post: James Paxton, Kentucky (LHP)
  • Prospect Insider: Chad James, Kentucky (LHP)
  • MyMLBdraft.com: Joivanni Mier, HS, SS
  • Sporting News (M Huang): Jared Mitchell, LSU (OF)
  • Minor League Ball: Bobby Borchering, HS (3B)
  • Baseball Draft Report: Jared Mitchell, LSU (OF)
  • Morisato's Blog: Max Stassi, HS (C)
  • USCTrojans31: Jacob Turner, HS (RHP)

    The Twins usually pick the best talent available, but I find it difficult for them to pick a catcher or an outfielder or a RHP, due to large organization depths in this area. There is some depth in corner infield (esp. on first base) and I think it might be unlikely to pick Bobby Borchering who projects more as a first baseman in the bigs. The needs of the Twins' system are in middle infield and Left hand starting pitching (there are only 9-10 LHS in the whole organization and all of them in all levels, excluding those in extending spring training, are struggling more or less this season). So I believe that their biggest need is a Left Handed Starting Pitcher. From the 94 total pitchers in the Twins' system (including all minor leagues, DSL and EST), there are only 19 LHP, counting both starters and relievers There are a couple of them listed in the above mock drafts, but here is a list of the top LHP in the draft according to Baseball Beginnings. The links on their names go to scouting reports about those pitchers and their overall potential grade from the same report is in parenthesis next to their names.
  • Tyler Matzek (54)
  • Andrew Oliver (53)
  • Tyler Skaggs (53)
  • Tyler Lyons (50)

    You can find another report on Tyler Marzak as well as on Matt Purke (another LHP) here at Cyberscouting. They are both within their top 5 high school talent list. Another LHP who made their top 30 high school talent list is Beau Wright.

    Other LHP of note include:
  • Mike Minor, a scouting report is here
  • Bryan Morgado, who looks like he is pitching well, a year after Tommy John surgery,
  • his teammate at Tennessee, Nick Hernandez (here is a video interview),
  • Brandon Belt who was selected in the 11th round of both 2007 (Boston) and 2008 (Atlanta) drafts, but elected to return to college here is a scouting report,
  • James Paxton, a Scott Boras' client,
  • Rex Brothers, a High School Senior from Ft. Myers, FL; scouting report here
  • Chad James; you can find an interview here
  • Matt Purke; you can find a scouting report here and another one here

    Here is a breakdown of the four high school lefties (Tyler Matzek, Matt Purke, Chad James and Tyler Skaggs) by mlb.com with nice videos.

    Additional LHP that probably belong to the later rounds and I assume that at least a couple will be wearing a Twins' unifrom include:

    Paul Applebee
    Buddy Baumann
    Mike Belfore
    Gavin Brooks
    Jordan Cooper
    Neal Davis
    Jeff Dennis
    Robbie Erlin
    Lance Hoge
    David Holmberg
    Garrett Hughes
    Jordan John
    Brian Johnson
    Donnie Joseph
    Tyler Kehrer
    Dallas Keuchel
    Nick Kirk
    Ian Krol
    Justin Marks
    Wes Musick
    Matt Packer
    John Pokomy
    Miers Quigley (drafted in the 36th round of the 2008 draft by the Twins)
    Brooks Raley
    Steven Rodriquez
    Chris Rusin
    Patrick Schuster
    Sam Selman
    Joe Serafin
    Kraig Sitton
    Travis Smink
    Josh Spence
    Matt Way
    Austin Woods
    Mikey Walkusky

    Will the Twins select one of the aforementioned with their first round pick? It is probable, and if not with their first pick, I expect one of these pitchers to become a Twin either with the supplemental pick or their 2nd round pick.

    One another note and completely different subject, Cy Morong, of Cybermetrics, posted a great article yesterday suggesting that the Twins' M&M boys' May of 2009 was statistically better than the Mantle & Maris' July of 1961. A must read for any Twins' fan

    On yet another note, Seth Stohs invited me to participate last night in his weekly podcast. You can listen online or download it here. Seth interviewed Twins' prospects Evan Bigley and Johnathan Walterbury and at the end, Seth and I talked Twins baseball, including the minors, Liriano, Twins' infield and outfield and such.
  • 6/1/09

    DSL Season opener

    It is not a secret that one of my favorite MLB-affiliated minor leagues (and probably the most obscure and hardest to follow) is the Dominican Summer League. Last season the DSL Twins finished with an overall 46-24 record on top of the Boca Chica Northern Division. The 2009 DSL season started last Saturday with DSL Twins blanking the DSL Reds 3-0, with the 19 year old Pedro Guerra, who last year I indicated as the best arm in the Twins' minor league system in my opinion, starting the game. The next game is today, since they never play baseball on Sundays in the Dominican Republic.

    Here is the 2009 DSL Roster (from MiLB.com), with the players who were in the 2008 squad in italics and off-set:

    # Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
    9 Ricardo Arevalo P R R 6' 3" 210 02-28-1991
    43 Carlos Carrillo P R R 6' 4" 180 11-25-1989
    4 Cesar Ciurcina P R R 5' 11" 192 10-23-1990
    2 Frank Frias P R R 6' 3" 170 08-15-1989
    39 Pedro Guerra P R R 6' 0" 180 01-09-1990
    17 Edgar Martinez P R R 6' 0" 145 09-01-1990
    20 Francisco Nunez P R R 6' 3" 180 12-28-1991
    33 Luis Nunez P L L 5' 11" 160 09-26-1991
    44 Renzo Reverol P R R 6' 2" 192 01-24-1991
    40 Wilson Sanchez P R R 6' 1" 175 05-06-1991
    27 Eddy Santana P R R 6' 1" 165 09-21-1987
    10 Manuel Soliman P R R 6' 2" 185 08-11-1989
    26 Orlando Villaroel P R R 6' 1" 190 03-08-1990

    # Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
    8 Felix Gallardo C R R 6' 1" 178 06-25-1991
    38 Randy Pina C R R 6' 0" 189 05-01-1991
    35 Jairo Rodriguez C R R 5' 11" 180 08-24-1988

    # Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
    31 Victor Arias SS S R 5' 11" 170 03-26-1991
    32 Juan Blanco 2B R R 5' 10" 152 04-24-1989
    28 Pedro Estaba SS S R 5' 10" 165 08-04-1992
    22 Lesther Galvan DH R R 5' 10" 178 04-10-1990
    19 Yorby Martinez 3B S R 6' 0" 170 01-12-1989
    1 Daniel Santana SS S R 5' 11" 150 11-07-1990
    23 Kelvin Silvania 1B L L 6' 1" 185 10-03-1990

    # Name Pos Bat Thw Ht Wt DOB
    11 Felix Caro LF R R 6' 0" 186 03-20-1990
    7 Ernesto Ciprian OF R R 6' 2" 175 02-09-1991
    36 Alexandre De Oliveira OF L R 6' 1" 185 07-15-1992
    5 Yancarlo Franco LF R R 5' 9" 145 08-29-1988
    21 Wilfy Gil CF R R 6' 2" 180 11-10-1989
    25 Kelvin Ortiz OF R R 5' 11" 178 10-19-1991
    1 Candido Pimentel OF S R 5' 11" 160 07-19-1990
    10 Emilio Sepulveda OF R R 6' 2" 170 08-27-1991
    12 Romy Trinidad OF R R 6' 2" 170 05-14-1991

    Several players are returning, but the roster has undergone a major overhaul, especially on the pitching side. There are two 16 year old in the roster and many 17 and 18 year old players. The DSL Twins team has 14 players who were born in 1991 or earlier.

    Here is another exciting thing: What happened to the players who were there in 2008 but are not here in 2009. As you may remember one batter and several pitchersfrom the 2008 DLS squad were included in my lists of the Top Twins' prospects from this off-season. The exiting news is that they might be coming up north to join the GCL or the Elizabethton Twins when these teams start their season.

    This is pure speculation, based on 2008 records and rosters. No announcement has been made yet, so it is breaking news :)

    Here are the 2008 DSL pitchers with their current age and 2008 record who might be playing in the US this season:

    Adrian Salcedo, 18, RHS, 1.65 ERA, 0.842 WHIP, 6.9 K/9, 6.25 K/BB (65.1 IP)
    Ramon Acosta, 22, RHS, 0.00 ERA, 0.640 WHIP, 5.8 K/9, 3.89 K/BB (54.2 IP)
    Jose Gonzales, 19, LHR, 1.87 ERA, 0.861 WHIP, 11.5 K/9, 4.78 K/BB (33.2 IP)
    Leonardo Parra, 22 RHR, 1.41 ERA, 0.761 WHIP, 6.6 J/9, 4.71 K/BB (44.2 IP)
    Edison Alvarez, 20, RHR, 2.09 ERA, 1.060 WHIP, 8.6 K/9, 5.29 K/BB, 15 saves (38.2 IP)

    The following pitchers probably did not make the cut and were released by the Twins' organization:

    Raynard Doran, RHP, 21
    Jhon Garcia, RHP, 22 (big strikeout pitcher but oft injured, I would be surprised to see him North)
    Deivi Germosen, RHP, 19
    Lesmir Vargas, RHP, 22

    The following batter and second in my Twins hitting prospect list, most certainly will be playing with the GCL Twins or with the Elizabethton Twins (the DSL league average OPS for 2008 was .660) :

    Jairo Perez, C, RH, 21: .338/.437/.525

    most likely made the cut:

    Oswaldo Arcia, OF, SH, 18: .293/.343/.432

    the following position players probably did not make the cut and were released by the organization:

    Jhonatan Arias, 20 (.612 OPS)
    Jean Carlos Mercedes, 21 (.670 OPS)
    Rafael Sanchez, 19 (.570 OPS)
    Eliel Sierra, 23 (.717 OPS)
    Manuel Soliman, 19 (.640 OPS)
    Carlos Vasquez, 18 (.426 OPS)

    It would be exciting to see what these young arms and Jairo Perez can do in the US-based minor leagues.

    I will try to follow the DSL closely and you will see DSL players appearing in my "who is hot in the minors" lists starting next week sometime after a week or so of games