Nationals Arm Race

"… the reason you win or lose is darn near always the same – pitching.” — Earl Weaver

This is why they play 162…

5 comments

Haren's first Nats outing wasn't much better than his spotty Spring Training. Photo nats official via espn.com

Dan Haren‘s debut with the Nats couldn’t have gone much worse, as he gave up 6 runs in 4 innings to help contribute to an ugly score line as the Nats lost 15-0 friday night in Cincinnati.

Haren’s troubles were simple; he did not hit his spots and left balls out over the plate.  Each of the four homers he gave up were center cut 90mph meat-balls that missed the outside corner he was aiming for (and that Kurt Suzuki was asking for) by 6-8 inches.  Professional hitters are going to punish these mistakes, and when you play in a bandbox as Cincinnati does, line drives to left field turn into homers instead of doubles off the wall.

I turned the game off when Zach Duke let in the 7th run; he proceeded to show why he was available on a minor league deal last off-season.  Hopefully subsequent appearances will continue to be of the mop-up variety where we don’t really care what the score line looks like, because that’s about what I’d expect of Duke after seeing last night’s performance.

Haren’s pitch f/x data isn’t encouraging; max of 90.7mph on his fastball, but he only broached 90 a handful of times, losing his max velocity as the night went on and barely hitting 88 by the time he was done.  Was he going to different pitches (cutters?)  I liked his split-fingered fastball on the night but he threw mostly fastballs and cutters (according to pitch f/x analysis anyway; i’m not sure how they tell the difference).

Written by Todd Boss

April 6th, 2013 at 11:56 am

Posted in Majors Pitching

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5 Responses to 'This is why they play 162…'

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  1. Agree with virtually all of this. Those taters were dead center of the plate, and I also thought his velo seemed noticeably down and he threw very little true FB as the game wore on. I thought that he maybe was gunshy after getting bombed and started going heavily with offspeed, although in fairness, at least two of the bombs were barely over, and may have been fan interference. Maybe not, but close enough to question.

    But he gets several more starts before I start to draw any conclusions. He is a command guy coming off a long layoff against a lefty heavy lineup in a small park (admittedly, three of the HRs were from RHs). Let him establish a groove, and if he doesn’t improve, then do something, I think.

    At least we don’t have to worry about Soriano!

    Wally

    6 Apr 13 at 4:58 pm

  2. I tried for about 5 minutes to find a good Haren game from 2009 to see what his pitch f/x looked like, but the data is way too spotty from then. I do agree he had a 9 day layoff and that could have contributed to his un-sharpness, so we’ll see. He’s being paid a lot of money; i’m sure he isn’t going anywhere for a while. Who could replace him?

    We don’t have to worry about Soriano…until today :-)

    Todd Boss

    6 Apr 13 at 7:05 pm

  3. Yeah, just kidding about Soriano. That was a crazy game today. Not sure what is going on with Desi’s fielding, but Zim seems to be settling down. Tomorrow should be fun.

    Wally

    6 Apr 13 at 10:22 pm

  4. Todd… regarding Strasburg… I’ve have always felt that for a guy with such legendary heat, batters usually have no problem timing it. Now i think to the point he throws off speed as his out pitches for the most part.

    Do you think he has issue being deceptive with his delivery? Sure seems batters can pick his ball up. As compared to a Chapman or Nolan Ryan or Henry R or other fireballers that could just blow guys away with their 98+ heat even when they knew it was coming.

    What do you think? I wish he could hide the ball a bit so it jumps on them. I’m surprised by the contact batters get on him.

    Marty C

    7 Apr 13 at 1:37 pm

  5. I think MLB hitters can see and hit 100mph speed if they get enough chances to time it. Ryan certainly gave up his fare share of hits and homers too.

    Admittedly Strasburg’s LD% is higher than the league leaders … but his swing and miss percentages are among the league’s best. Here’s some links:
    - 2012′s leaders in terms of Plate Discipline sorted by complete swinging strikes: Cole Hamels led the league of qualified starters with 12.9% swinging strikes. Strasburg’s 2012 number was 11.2%, right around top-10 of the league if he had enough innings to qualify.
    - On the same graphs, the league leader in terms of overall contact percentage was Yu Darvish with 72.8% … Strasburg would have been 4th at 74.3%.
    - On the same pages, LD% is there; strasburg’s at 22.7% for 2012 while league leaders (Ross Detwiler #2 in the league amazingly) are around 16.1%.

    And this is for a guy who purposely is trying to pitch to more contact, rely less on the K and more on his defense in order to keep his pitch counts down and stay in games longer. His opening day outing was a great example; 10 ground ball outs, only 3 strikeouts, and he completed 7innings on just 80 pitches. Strikeout guys by definition throw more pitches, and especially in today’s pitch-count obsessed world that means they’re out of games earlier. I think the Nats pitching coach has all his guys doing the same thing; use your defense, make guys hit your pitch instead of trying to strike everybody out, and last longer in games.

    I’ve always heard that what makes Strasburg’s heat special is the movement; don’t have any links/video but have heard that his 96 isn’t nearly as “flat” as other guys who could throw that hard. So he can work it in and out, get weaker swings by making guys hit his pitch and get easy outs.

    Rodriguez is a reliever instead of a starter because while he has a great fastball … that’s all he reliably has. Every once in a while he can mix in a killer slider but its not dependable. Strasburg has FOUR pitches that are reliable and that he can command, meaning he can turn over a line up 3 times and give guys different looks each time. Watched the first inning today; zero 2-seamers, zero changeups. He threw fastballs and curves. That gives him two new pitches to work guys with the next time through.

    Deception in motion: good question. I have no opinion whether I think batters can see his ball better or worse than others. He’s a big guy and it isn’t like he’s got a weird motion; his mechanics are relatively conventional/traditional.

    Todd Boss

    7 Apr 13 at 2:12 pm

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