Thursday, September 22, 2005
Analysis of a Prospect
Right-Hander, Minnesota Twins
I have meant to analyze a Scott Baker start since his call up, but it just never seems to work out for me. Yesterday, the Twins played an afternoon game in Oakland. Normally Fox Sports North does not televise weekday afternoon games, but they decided to broadcast the game. Of course, game time was 2:35, and I have to work until 5. I contemplated taking a few hours off of work, but it is really hard to justify that. So, I did the next best thing, I recorded it! By the time I got home, Baker was out of the game, and I was able to watch the rest of the game on TV2 while scouting/charting Baker's pitches on TV1. Then, as I completed charting Baker's pitches, the replay of the game aired again. So, I really didn't need to tape it, but that is alright.
If you would like to go back to previous "Analysis" articles, they are done for Brad Radke, Johan Santana, JD Durbin, Felix Hernandez, and yesterday's analysis of Francisco Liriano.
Yesterday afternoon, the Twins got a much-needed win over Oakland. They even got plenty of offensive production that, at the beginning of the game, made me wonder if they would be able to do much of anything. Francisco Liriano's ceiling is incredibly high, but Scott Baker is right now the better 'pitcher.' His 'stuff' may never equal that of Liriano, but right now he really uses his knowledge as much as his arm to be effective. Really, in my mind, Francisco Liriano could become a multiple Cy Young Award winner. Scott Baker may be a solid #2 starter for 15 years with what he has. To me, the styles of these two pitchers really compliment and offset each other much in the way that Brad Radke and Johan Santana do.
So while Francisco Liriano gets all the well-deserved glory, Scott Baker has been nothing but spectacular in his eight big league starts this season. So, of course, that makes me very interested in how he does it. We frequently hear about him being compared to Brad Radke, and those comparisons are obvious. On the mound, Baker is calm and stoic, and nothing really seems to affect him. He effectively uses all three of his above average big league pitches, but like Radke, everything is based off of his fastball. We found again yesterday that one of Liriano's biggest issues is controlling the strikezone with his fastball. To this point, Baker has really done a good job of that. He then keeps hitters off balance with a good curveball and a changeup.
Let's see how his performance yesterday translates into this analysis:
To me, it is hard to analyze a pitcher against the Oakland Athletics. They have a complete team of hitters that take a lot of pitches. That means a high pitch count. Tuesday, Liriano threw 103 pitches in 3.2 innings. The Strib's Lavelle E. Neal reminded me that on Monday night, Brad Radke had to throw 107 pitches in just five innings. A full study could be, and probably has been, done on the number of pitches that the A's hitters take, as well as how many two-strike pitches that they find a way to foul off.
I guess heading into the game, I do expect a solid performance from Baker. Why? Because he does have control of his fastball and will more consistently get, and stay, ahead in the count. Because of that, the A's hitters will hopefully have to swing and put the ball into play much earlier.
But I guess that's why they play the games. Here is how Scott Baker did yesterday against the A's:
So, let's get to the observations!
I think that it is safe to say that the story the last two games has not only been the Twins two top pitching prospects, but also a viewing of just what that Oakland offense is all about. Scott Baker threw pretty well, but the A's hitters took a lot of pitches and fouled off numerous two-strike pitches, forcing Baker to last just five innings. I was impressed though. He kept throwing strikes and challenging hitters throughout his innings. With help from the offense, Baker was able to record his second win with that Twins.
Anyway, as you know if you've seen these analyses in the past, I tracked, pitch-by-pitch, Baker's pitching performance. I noted which type of pitch he threw and and then jotted down the speed of the pitch given on Fox Sports Net. (Thankfully, it was available throughout the game) I realize that the radar gun speed given on the telecast is subject to debate, but it's all I had to work with. So, how did he do it?
Let's start with the high level look at Baker's performance:
IP H R ER BB SO
Scott Baker 5.0 5 3 3 1 3
Of the 105 pitches that Baker threw, 68 of them (64.8%) were strikes. 67% is generally considered very good so Baker was really good, but could be better. Again, this is probably a very good number against the patient Oakland A's lineup that will take borderline pitches.
Here is a breakdown of the type of pitch that Baker threw.
Fastball - 68 (64.8%)
Curveball - 25 (23.8%)
Change Up - 12 (11.4%)
One important thing for me was his ability to throw strikes, particularly with his fastball. So here is a breakdown of his strikes and balls with each of his pitches:
Fastball - 47/68 strikes (69.1%)
Curveball - 11/25 strikes (44.0%)
Changeup - 10/12 strikes (83.3%)
Here are the number of pitches he threw each inning and the type of pitch:
1st inning - 18 pitches (13 fastball, 4 curveballs, 1 changeup)
2nd inning - 20 pitches (14 fastball, 4 curveballs, 2 changeup)
3rd inning - 14 pitches (8 fastball, 4 curveballs, 2 changeup)
4th inning - 12 pitches (11 fastball, 0 curveballs, 1 changeup)
5th inning - 41 pitches (22 fastball, 13 curveballs, 6 changeup)
Total - 105 pitches (68 fastball, 25 curveballs, 12 changeup)
It was interesting to me if Baker was able to maintain velocity on his fastball (and his other pitches) throughout the game.
Fastball Curveball Changeup
1st inning - 91.5 80.3 82.0
2nd inning - 91.1 78.5 81.5
3rd inning - 91.1 77.8 81.5
4th inning - 92.6 N/A 82.0
5th inning - 92.7 77.8 81.7
It was interesting to see the difference in speed of Baker's fastball. He throws two distinct fastballs. He throws a 2-seam fastball that comes in between 88 and 90 mph, but he also throws a 4-seam fastball that is straighter, but thrown between 92 and 94 mph. Either way, the velocity on his offspeed pitches is slow enough to be deceptive. Anyway, to show the range of speed with his fastball, here are the number of times he reached each number on the radar gun:
88 mph - 3
89 mph - 4
90 mph - 6
91 mph - 15
92 mph - 12
93 mph - 10
94 mph - 17
95 mph - 1
Did Baker alter the pitches he threw each time through the batting order? The A's had just two hits the first time through the order. They had two hits the second time through. Three batters faced Baker a third time. Mark Ellis walked before Jason Kendall's two-run double. He got Mark Kotsay to pop up to end the fifth and end his outing.
Time Through Order FB FB% CB CB% CU CU% Total Pitches
1st 32 71.1% 9 20.0% 4 8.9% 45
2nd 28 60.9% 13 28.3% 5 10.9% 46
3rd 8 57.1% 3 21.4% 3 21.4% 14
So what does this show? In my opinion, it shows, well, not too much really. Like with Liriano a day earlier, it shows that Baker had to throw a lot of pitches to a lot of batters. Likewise, eight of the nine A's hitters averaged seeing more than 4.5 pitches per plate appearance. Of course, 20 of those pitches were fouled off with two strikes to extend at bats.
Here is a quick look at the pitches he threw on each count:
FB CB CU
0-0 12 5 4
0-1 7 2 2
0-2 2 3 0
1-0 8 0 1
1-1 5 2 2
1-2 11 7 0
2-0 4 0 1
2-1 5 0 0
2-2 7 5 1
3-0 1 0 0
3-1 1 0 0
3-2 5 1 1
Do first pitch strikes matter? Yesterday I said that for someone like Liriano, it was important to get ahead in the count so that he can really work the hitters over. With a control pitcher like Baker, the first pitch strike is obviously good, but not as important since he is more likely to even the count at 1-1. Last night, he threw first pitch strikes to just 12 of 21 batters. Of those 21 batters, he started 12 of them off with a fastball (4 with a changeup and 5 with a curveball).
I have to say that for just a five inning start, I was rather impressed with Scott Baker. Poise. Confidence. Stuff. Those are all words to describe Baker. He showed all of that. He showed a good fastball that he can throw harder than had been advertised, but the fact that he really has two very distinct fastballs, with good control of each, is very encouraging. More strikes from his curveball would be helpful. Yesterday, he was on with his changeup too. Three major league pitches. I do believe that Baker has a very bright future ahead of him. Some may not be impressed with the comparisons to Brad Radke. I happen to think that being compared to someone who has pitched in the big leagues for more than a decade is a good thing. I also think that generally is said because of Baker's poise. However, Baker also throws harder than Radke and has a better curveball too. If he can ever get a Radke-like changeup, he will be an All-Star!
So, what do you think? Is Scott Baker worthy of 'top prospect' status? Can he be an "ace"? Would you picture him as more of a middle of the rotation type? What does he have to work on? Should be be given a spot in the Twins 2006 starting rotation? What are your thoughts on Baker, or Liriano? Send me an e-mail.
Just a couple of additional thoughts on the Twins:
Hey Michael Cuddyer... Have a Day! What an afternoon for the oft-scrutinized Twins 3B! In his first at bat, he took a first pitch changeup that was left just above the belt and deposited it into the left field bleachers for a home run to give the Twins a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning. He came up again in the next inning with runners on 1st and 3rd and two outs, and put together an eight pitch at bat. He fouled off three tough pitches before hitting a low liner down the 3B line to score both runners and give the Twins a 4-0 lead. In the fifth inning, now batting against Juan Cruz, Cuddyer had a six pitch at bat before lining a slider to left field. Jay Payton dove toward the ball but couldn't make a play, and Cuddyer had his second double of the game. Finally, in the 7th inning against Jay Witasik, Cuddyer absolutely drilled an 0-1 98 mph fastball for a third double. In the 8th, he was intentionally walked. So for the game, he went 4-4 with 4 RBI, a HR, 3-2Bs, and two runs scored. I'd call that a good day!
I mentioned earlier that the Twins put up a lineup that was not too intimidating. It went Jason Tyner (LF), Jason Bartlett (SS), Matthew LeCroy (DH), Justin Morneau (1B), Michael Cuddyer (RF), Terry Tiffee (3B), Chris Heintz (C), Nick Punto (CF), Luis Rivas (2B). Granted, with a lefty on the mound to start the game, Jacque Jones did not play. Joe Mauer did not play the back end of a day-night situation. I wonder if Lew Ford was bench for his poor play the night before, or if it was just a day off?
Matthew LeCroy went 3-4 with a walk and a double hitting out of the 3-spot in the lineup.
Chris Heintz had another good day. He was 2-4 with his third double.
Following Baker's five innings, JC Romero threw two perfect innings. Jesse Crain gave up a solo homer to Mark Ellis in his inning. Finally, Juan Rincon struck out two in a perfect inning.
Tonight, the Twins start another four
game series in Chicago against the White Sox with a chance to play spoiler
again! Here are the pitching matchups:
Thursday - 7:05 - Johan Santana (14-7, 3.05, 0.99, .214) vs Brandon McCarthy (2-1, 4.72, 1.22, .239)
Friday - 7:05 - Kyle Lohse (9-12, 4.16, 1.46, .297) vs Jose Contreras (13-7, 3.79, 1.27, .233)
Saturday - 6:05 - Joe Mays (6-9, 5.26, 1.52, .313) vs Freddy Garcia (12-8, 4.01, 1.27, .261)
Sunday - 2:05 - Francisco Liriano (0-1, 7.59, 1.22, .231) vs Mark Buehrle (15-8, 3.28, 1.22, .269)
Brandon McCarthy did take over for El Duque in the Sox rotation after the Twins jumped all over him last Saturday. McCarthy gets to start against Johan. Doesn't seem fair. Of course, our rookie phenom, Francisco Liriano, gets to go against the Sox best pitcher, Mark Buehrle. Joe Mays is back in the rotation, just for the rest of the year, replacing Brad Radke.
I just wanted to close with a few random thoughts on a number of topics:
I spent some time yesterday looking at the Baseball Primer over at the Baseball Think Factory. There were some very good articles yesterday:
Great story in the Seattle Times on the defection from Cuba of Mariners SS Yuniesky Betancourt. Some of it is just unbelievable!
Here is an interesting article from the South Florida Sun Sentinel regarding Jim "Mudcat" Grant's group called The Black Aces. They have written a book and now that he has 20 wins, they will allow Dontrelle Willis into their club. The group is comprised of only African-American pitchers who have won 20 games. Cuban-born Luis Tiant is offended and upset for not being included in the group.
Jeff Angus of the Seattle Times and Management of Baseball wrote an article on who should win the AL Cy Young Award this year. Where does Johan Santana fit in?
From USA Today, here is an article describing some more 'detailed statistics'. It really isn't that informative to people who normally look at these 'non-traditional' stats, but it is interesting to see it in a mainstream paper. One of the stats they showed was Range Factor, which takes into account the number of assists and putouts a fielder has. The Twins Juan Castro is on top of that list. However, that shows two things, first, that the defensive matrix means nothing and can be meaningless. Castro, for example, plays behind a couple of groundball pitchers, so he will be higher. Secondly, the name is wrong. I think Twins fans have seen that Castro will make most plays he gets to, but to say he has much "Range" is probably not accurate anyway.
Pat Neshek posted another Q&A on his website, this one with Jim Abbott.
The Baseball Savant is in medical school now, so he doesn't write as frequently. But you do not want to miss out when he does. Just the other day, he wrote a very fun, interesting article on what would happen with a league-wide, 16-team tournament with team's ranked based on their Pythagorean Number. The Twins would make that tournament, and how does the Savant think that they would do in such a tourney? Who would he predict to win the World Series?
I can't help but agree with Aaron Gleeman on who the Twins should trade Torii Hunter to, and who they should receive in return. I had thought about this earlier, but I just don't think that the Phillies would do that. Ryan Howard??? Twins fans can dream!
The last couple of days, Stick and Ball Guy has covered a number of topics with his special brand of analysis. Be sure to check out his thoughts on a number of topics, including the Amazing Barry Bonds!
Michael Bennett to the Arizona Cardinals? Back with Denny? Aren't rumors fun?
From LaVelle E Neal's article on the Twins need to make changes in the offseason:
Gardenhire hoped that Michael Cuddyer and Jason Bartlett would be adequate infield replacements for Corey Koskie and Cristian Guzman. Both struggled. Bartlett was sent to the minors and Cuddyer lost his job briefly. "The plan did not work," Gardenhire said.
OK, Cristian Guzman is currently riding a hot streak which has raised his average to .211, as a part-timer who is owed more than $14 million over the next three years. Corey Koskie was hurt again, and is hitting just .245. He also has two more years at about $12 million to go. I really, really don't think that they are losing out in any way at those two positions.
And, I always wondered, so I'm glad Tyra Banks could clear that up!!
And that is it for today! I hope everyone has a good one! As always, please feel free to e-mail me your thoughts on the Twins, the minor leagues, or anything you would like to discuss.
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