My 2013 MLB All-Star Ballot

Please note:  I vote for players who I feel are currently having the best years — not just for stars.  I also try to factor the portion of of the previous season that follows the All-Star game in a little.

Catcher
American League:  Joe Mauer
National League:  Yadier Molina

First Base
American League:  Chris Davis
National LeagueJoey Votto

Second Base
American League:  Robinson Cano
National League:  Brandon Phillips

Third Base
American League:  Miguel Cabrera
National League:  David Wright

Shortstop
American League:  Jed Lowrie
National League:  Troy Tulowitzki

Outfield
American League:  Mike Trout, Jose Bautista, Adam Jones
National League:  Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, Andrew McCutchen

Designated Hitter
American League:  Edwin Encarnacion

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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

Two Tigers outfielders, Tori Hunter and Austin Jackson lead the MLB with 24 hits each.

Braves OF, Justin Upton leads the MLB with 8 home runs. He didn’t hit his first home run of the season in 2012, until April 23.  It took him 365 plate appearances and until July 20, to hit his eighth home run in 2012.  He currently sits at 57 PA for the 2013 season.

Mets catcher, John Buck is doing his best to try to keep prospect Travis d’Arnaud in the minors.  Buck is tied for MLB lead with 19 runs batted in.  He had 18 RBI last season through June 26.  So in terms of batting runners home he is about 41 games ahead of his 2012 pace in Miami.  Buck also already has 6 home runs, a plateau he did not reach until June 24 last season.

Reds 1B, Joey Votto has walked in 1/3 of his 63 plate appearances in 2013.  Votto did not qualify for the batting title in 2012 due to injuries, but among players with at least 450 PA in 2012 Joey Votto led the MLB with a 19.3 percent walk rate.

Starlin Castro has had 58 plate appearances in 2013 and walked ZERO times.

Braves 3B, Chris Johnson leads the MLB with a .500 BABIP (Batting Average on Balls in Play).  Braves OF, Jason Heyward has the second worst BABIP among qualified players sitting at .091.

Two players in the MLB currently have a .500 On-base percentage, or better.  They are Joey Voto with a .556 OBP and Lance Berkman with a .500 OBP.

The best fielder in the MLB thus far has been Matt Dominguez according to the fielding leaderboard on Fangraphs.  For what it’s worth, I will say that defensive sabermetrics are something I do not completely buy into.  However it is hard to argue against the fact that the same leader board rates Ryan Zimmerman and Shin-Soo Choo as the worst two fielders in the majors thus far in 2013.

Speaking of Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, he has been hit by seven pitches already in 2013.  No team, other than Choo’s team the Reds, has been hit more than seven times as a whole.

Royals 2B Chris Getz, has seen the highest percentage of pitches being fastballs, 76.1 percent, in the MLB.  Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez, has seen the lowest percentage of pitches being fastballs, 39.9 percent, in the MLB.

Reds 1B Joey Votto, has swung the bat on pitches outside of the zone 13 percent of the time, the lowest rate in the MLB.  Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval, has swung at 46.9 percent of pitches outside the zone, the highest rate in the MLB.  Overall Sandoval is swinging the bat at 60.6 percent of the pitches he has seen, also the highest rate in the MLB.  Mets OF Lucas Duda, beats Voto here, in terms of swinging at the least percentage of pitches seen – 29.9 percent.

Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons and Brewers OF Carlos Gomez each have been in a 0-1 count at the highest rate in the MLB, each seeing a first pitch strike 76.1 percent of the time.

Pirates 3B Pedro Alvarez has a 19.7 percent swinging strike percentage to lead the MLB.  And maybe the statistic that sticks out to me most in this whole post is the fact that in 51 plate appearances in 2013 Marlins 3B, Placido Polanco, has a swinging strike percentage of 0.0 percent, according to Fangraphs.  This is just phenomenal bat control, and even though it really sticks out to me I am going to trust Fangraphs is right, like usual.  I mean that is just crazy to think about, he has seen 176 pitches in 2013 against some of the best pitchers on the planet and he has not swung and missed at any of those pitches.

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Source:  Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference. Stats through April 17, 2013 games.

MLB Stat Dump. (Lefty Edition 2008-Today)

Major League Baseball statistic leaders off of left-handed pitchers since 2008:

Category Player Total
Hits Derek Jeter 314
Doubles Mark Teixeira 61
Home runs Albert Pujols 61
RBI Tie:  Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira 180
BB Nick Swisher 165
IBB Albert Pujols 40
Strikeouts Ryan Howard 331
HBP Chase Utley 40
GDP Adrian Gonzalez 51
Average Matt Kemp .349
OBP David Wright .453
SLG Albert Pujols .667
OPS Albert Pujols 1.088
BABIP Matt Kemp .390
Infield Hits Ichiro Suzuki 86

 

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Source:  Fangraphs. Stats through September 13, 2012 games.