Author Archive

Hall of Fame Voters Really Made Love to the Pooch with This Closer Situation

One of the hallmarks of the annual Hall of Fame debates is the comparison to players already enshrined. It can be a very good exercise in determining the merits of a particular player, especially because after so many years, there are now a lot of players in the Hall of Fame. There are plenty of players at every single position. There are pitchers. There are power hitters, average hitters. There are great fielders. One area where the present Hall of Fame lacks in providing a good comparison is the Closer situation.

As Wendy Thurm’s post indicated in evaluating Lee Smith’s candidacy*, it is difficult to judge because the only full-time relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame are Rollie Fingers, Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter. Hoyt Wilhem is not an apt comparison, having retired in 1972 with 500 more innings pitched than even Rollie Fingers. Wendy reached the conclusion that Smith was better than Sutter, not as good as Fingers and Gossage, and put Smith just on the other side of the Hall of Fame. It feels like the right call, but if Sutter is in the Hall what exactly is the standard for relief pitchers?

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Rationalizing the Next Pujols Contract

If you haven’t heard anything about what Albert Pujols’ value will be over the next 7-10 years, I suggest you go here…Or here…Or here…Or take a look at the discussion here. Haven’t had enough? Read on.

Somebody is going to sign Pujols to a massive contract in the next 12 months. That contract will likely be hard to justify in projected on field value alone. If you are a fan of the team that gets him, after you get done saying PUJOLSAWESOMEBASEBALLYAY, you may want to know what his expected value will be and then take some time rationalizing the contract to yourself and justifying it to rival fans.

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Wainwright Throws Fewer Fastballs, Increases Effectiveness

Adam Wainwright’s strikeout rates keep increasing. In over 400 innings in AA and AAA during his age 21-23 seasons, his strikeout rate was 7.8 per nine innings. When he was elevated to the majors in 2006 as a relief pitcher his strikeout rate took an expected jump to 8.64 K/9. At the time he was throwing his curveball 25.9% of his pitches. A return to starting the following year led to a decrease in both his curveball use (18.6% in 2007 and 17.9% in 2008) and his strikeout rate (6.06 K/9 in 2007 and 6.20 K/9 in 2008).

In 2009, Wainwright made a change in his pitch selection, reverting back to the curveball percentages from his bullpen tenure. The increase in curveball use (24.0% in 2009) increased his strikeouts per nine to 8.19 and turned him from an above-average pitcher (3.90 and 3.78 FIP in 2007 and 2008, respectively) to a Cy Young contender (3.11 FIP). The increased use of the curveball in 2009 also increased its effectiveness, doubling to 2.71 wCB/C. The effectiveness on his slider tripled. Unfortunately, his fastball decreased in effectiveness, going from essentially average to -.75 wFB/C.

In 2010, Wainwright has taken his curveball use to another level, increasing to 28.5% of his pitches and his strikeout rate to 8.26 K/9 and lowering his FIP to 2.86. He has not sacrificed control, lowering his walk rate to 2.21 BB/9. His curveball and slider, which may be more of a cutter, have been slightly less effective, but still very useful pitches. The significant change has occurred in the effectiveness of his fastball. Wainwright has decreased the number of fastballs thrown to a career low 46.5% of pitches. With this decrease has come a drastic increase in the effectiveness of the fastball without changing the velocity, moving to 1.00 wFB/C from last year’s total of -0.75 wFB/C.

Also of note, increasing his strikeouts has not affected his efficiency, with 15.7 P/IP in 2007, 14.8 P/IP in 2008, 15.5 P/IP in 2009 and a career low 14.6 P/IP in 2010.

Wainwright has remained effective this season throwing the third highest percentage of curveballs of any pitcher. (Only Wandy Rodriguez and Gio Gonzalez have thrown a greater percentage of curveballs this year.) When you have the curve he has, you can’t blame him. The consequence, whether inteneded or not, is a sea change in the effectiveness of his fastball.  Another Cy Young-caliber season at a bargain price for the Cardinals.