Pitch Counts, Bronson Arroyo, Stat Dump

A few days ago it came to my attention that Bronson Arroyo, of the Cincinnati Reds, has not thrown 100 pitches or more in a game since September 14, 2012. This stretch totals 11 starts (Last 3 starts of 2012, first eight starts of 2013).

I personally dislike how pitchers are coddled in today’s game, and believe they should be able to throw a lot more innings and pitches.  If a pitcher has not shown any major injury concerns and has shown durable they should be able to throw 120-130 pitches if need be.  Heck, Baseball-Reference does not even have the pitch count of Nolan Ryan’s s game log until 1988!  That season, my math says Ryan threw 108.6 pitches per game.

That being said, the mythical “100 pitch count” has become more than just an arbitrary number.  It has become the standard.  A standard, which promotes pitchers just pitching through the sixth inning many times – depending on pitch efficiency and batter patience.

But I doubt even the people who believe that the 100 pitch count is a good thing for Major League Baseball see much of a difference between a pitcher throwing 97 and 100 pitches on a given start; just in terms of the number itself.  The only difference is how the given pitcher executes those three extra pitches.  *Side note:  I am in favor of some sort of pitch count for kids playing Little League.*

I make the point of 97 vs. 100 pitches because while I relate it all back to Arroyo, he has come close to throwing 100 pitches a couple times.  It is also the National League he is pitching in, so pinch hitting and game scenarios could lead him to exiting a game where an American League pitcher would not.

While I do not believe in the “100 pitch count” the point being made did spark my curiosity.  It led me into wanting to look further into what Arroyo has been doing; which I will do now:

Bronson Arroyo’s average pitch count per game with Cincinnati:

  • 2006:  109.9 (35g, 240.2ip)
  • 2007:  100.8 (34g, 210.2ip)
  • 2008:  101.0 (34g, 200.0ip)
  • 2009:  103.2 (33g, 220.1ip)
  • 2010:  98.7 (33g, 215.2ip)
  • 2011:  103.2 (32g, 199.0ip)
  • 2012:  92.4 (32g, 202.0ip)
  • 2013:  89.6 (8g, 52.2ip)

There has definitely been a drop off in terms of pitches thrown per start by Arroyo.  Keep in mind Arroyo was around the age where many players are hitting their peak, 29, to start the 2006 season.  He has started the 2013 season at age 36.

Stat Dump Time….

Bronson Arroyo has pitched 1,541,9 innings and thrown 25,165 pitches since the start of 2006.  Both rank sixth in the MLB over that time span.  Arroyo’s career total of 2,129.3 innings pitched ranks 12 among active pitchers.

Arroyo has made the All-Star game once, 2006.

Arroyo has a career .971 fielding percentage.  League average is .956 for pitchers since the start of Arroyo’s career through today.

Arroyo has a career .129 batting average with 6 home runs and 29 RBI.  He has grounded into 7 double plays over his career and stole 1 base.

Arroyo has a 1-0 record with a 4.60 ERA in postseason play over a career 29.1 innings pitched.  Most of the struggle was with Boston, because he has only allowed 1 earned run in 12.1 innings, in 2 postseason starts with Cincinnati.

Arroyo has a career 4.22 ERA while winnings 127 games and losing 119.  He has pitched 13 career complete games, 5 being shutouts.

He has led or tied for the league lead in the following categories, in the following seasons:

  • 2004:  20 batters hit.
  • 2006:  35 starts, 240.2 innings pitched.
  • 2008:  34 starts.
  • 2009:  2 shutouts.
  • 2011:  112 Earned Runs and 46 home runs allowed.

Arroyo has a career 71.9 percent left on base and a 23.4 total Fangraphs WAR.  His best Fangraphs WAR in one season was 4.1 in 2006.

Arroyo has intentionally walked 56 batters in his career, the most being 7 in 2006.  He has also hit a 94 career batters, 21.2 percent of those being his 20 hit batters in 2004.  He has balked 4 times in his career and thrown 38 wild pitches.

Arroyo has thrown a career first pitch 62.7 percent of the time.  He has a career 7.4 swinging strike percentage.

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Source:  Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference.  Stats as of Wed. May 15, 2013 5:58 AM ET

Clay Buchholz 2012 vs. 2013

Wednesday night, Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters Dirk Hayhurst and Jack Morris started the debate that has got the baseball world talking.  Buchholz pitched a good game – 7ip 2h 8k 3bb 0r – Hayhurst and Moris began questioning if Buchholz was “cheating”.

He very clearly kept going to touch his left forearm with the index and middle fingers on his pitching hand.  There was also a certain shine to that left forearm that was not there on his right arm, and that shine was not on his left arm during 2012 or Spring Training this year.

Here he is during Spring Training in 2013:
Here is a screenshot I took from that video:

clay spring training 2013

Click for Full Size.

This is Clay Buchholz, again pitching in Toronto, on September 15, 2012:

Here is a screenshot I took from this video:

clay 2012

Click for Full Size.

Here is the video that started the discussion from Wednesday.

No great spot to clearly point out the shininess in a screenshot here.  So I went to Twitter and found a picture:

Clay Wednesday

Source: Twitter

This picture is a much better close-up than the best screenshot I tried to take from the video.  But they are from the same start.

Buchholz has offered a response and many have speculated.  My opinion is that there is a very apparent shine to that arm.  But the questions “What really is it?” and “Is it cheating?” are not up to me to decide.  If I were to speculate, I would most likely be wrong too.  Is it baby lotion?  Is it pine tar?  Is sun tan lotion?  Is it something else?  Is it a combination of things?  Or is it simply that his left arm sweats more than his right arm out of the blue this season?

Here is Tom Verducci’s take on SI.com.
Here is the story by Gordon Edes on ESPN.

Here is Buchholz’s 2012, 2013 and career statistics to compare.

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS CG SHO IP R ER HBP WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2012 27 BOS 11 8 4.56 29 2 1 189.1 104 96 12 1.326 8.9 1.2 3.0 6.1 2.02
2013 28 BOS 6 0 1.01 6 0 0 44.2 5 5 0 0.963 5.4 0.2 3.2 9.5 2.94
7 Yrs 52 32 3.73 111 5 3 681.0 311 282 24 1.314 8.3 0.9 3.5 6.8 1.95
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/3/2013.

No matter what is going on, cheating or not, Buchholz is pitching at a very high level.  There are also a few things that need to be remembered, again cheating or not.  The first thing to remember is Buchholz threw a no-hitter in his second career start, on September 1, 2007, against the Baltimore Orioles while striking out nine batters.

Buchholz was also named the No. 51 prospect in baseball at the end of the 2006 season by Baseball America.  This is before he threw the no-hitter. Then at the end of 2007, coming into 2008, Baseball America ranked him as the No. 4 prospect in baseball — only behind Jay Bruce, Evan Longoria and Joba Chamberlain.

The third thing to take into account is that before an injury plagued season in 2011, he went 17-7 with a 2.33 ERA in 2010.  He was an All-Star and finished sixth in the American League Cy Young ballot.  Which leads me to my final thing to be taken into account — he entered this 2013 season at age 28.  This is about the age where many players begin to reach their peaks.

He had the potential to be a dominate pitcher all along.  Then when he was just 25 he put up the above mentioned 2010 numbers.  So the fact that he is really good should be no surprise to anyone.  He had injury issues in 2011, only starting 14 games. Then in 2012, there was the well-publicized Boston scenario that led to their manager, Bobby Valentine, being fired after one season and them trading away star players.

Now let’s look at some interesting sabermetric differences, while keeping in mind that the sample size is pretty small – at only 44.2 innings pitched so far in 2013.

Buchholz is having a career year in terms of striking out batters.  He is currently striking out 9.47 batters per nine innings.  His career, which includes the 2013 numbers has him averaging 6.85 batters per nine innings.

Batters have also only hit a .176 average off of Buchholz so far in 2013. This is not just a “lucky” fluke because of the small sample size either.  If you add thirty-two points to his batting average allowed, which is  the difference in his career BABIP and his 2013 BABIP, hitters would still be only hitting .208 off of him on the season. That is an average allowed, that over a season most any starter would take in a heart beat.

Buchholz has also left 91.4 percent of baserunners on base so far in 2013.  Fangraphs also has him speeding up his pace, taking less time between pitches than he ever has.

Buchholz has been getting more movement on his pitches this year which is where the substance really is playing into in the minds of people and leading to the above mentioned results.
Vertical MovementHorizaontal Movement
Click for Full Sizes.

That’s it.  I have given you all the tools.  Pictures, videos and statistics.  Now you should better be able to come to a conclusion about what is going on with Buchholz and the effect of recent allegations.

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Very Veryyy Early Interesting MLB Hitting Statistics Dump (Team Edition)

The Atlanta Braves have hit the most home runs in the MLB with 38.  Justin Upton, OF, has hit 12 of the 38 home runs.  The Braves as a team have a .324/.428/.752 (OBP/SLUG/OPS) line on the season.  When you take Justin Upton out of the equation, the Braves line drops down to .312/.395/.707.

The Oakland Athletics have scored the most runs in the MLB, scoring 158.  They only scored 88 in their equivalent first 28 games in 2012.  That averages out to 2.5 runs scored per game in their first 28 games of 2012 and 5.6 runs per game in 2013.  The Athletics on-base percentage has also jumped up from .281 to .345; over the same spans.

Houston Astros batters have struck out 267 times, the most in the majors.  According to Baseball-Almanac the 2010 Arizona Diamondbacks currently own the record for most times striking out in a season with 1,529.  The Astros are currently on a pace, that has them striking out 1,602 times over 162 games to break that record.  The Braves, who have struck out the second most amount of times so far in 2013, are also on pace to break that record as well.  They are on pace to strike out 1,532 times over 162 games.

The Astros have also grounded into the least amount of doubles plays, 10, so far in 2013.  The Seattle Mariners have grounded into the most, hitting into 32 double plays.  The Mariners lack of speed has also played a key role in the fact that they have stolen the least amount of bases, 7, so far in 2013.  The high powered Athletics offense has stolen the most bases stealing, 25, so far.

The Cleavland Indians have led the league with a .200 ISO.  The Marlins are the worst with a .083 ISO.

The Boston Red Sox have a .339 BABIP to lead the MLB so far in 2013.  The Blue Jays and Cubs are tied for the worst, each with a .264 BABIP.

The St. Louis Cardinals have seen the highest percentage of fastballs, 62 percent, of the pitches they have seen.  The Los Angeles Angels are on the other side of the spectrum at 54.8 percent.  But when the Angels have seen a fastball so far in 2013, they are seeing the fastest average fastball, 91.8  mph.  The Rockies have seen the slowest average fastball, averaging 90.1 mph.

The Angels *cough Josh Hamilton cough* have swung at the highest percentage of pitches seen so far in 2013, at 48.5 percent.  The Indians have swung at only 42.1 percent of the pitches they have seen, the lowest rate in the MLB.  The San Francisco Giants have the highest contact rate in the majors at 82.3 percent.

The Milwaukee Brewers have seen the highest percentage of first pitch strikes, 63.5 percent.  The Athletics have seen the fewest percentage of first pitch strikes as a team at 55.5 percent.

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Source:  Fangraphs & Baseball-Reference.  Stats as of Wed. May 1, 2013 4:17 AM ET