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mound city

jeff sullivan, dh'ing at Baseball Analysts today, takes a look at pitcher release points; fascinating stuff. jeff does this same type of analysis periodically at his own blog, Lookout Landing (the mariner affiliate of SB Nation). he takes screen-grabs from the center-field tv camera and plots the release points of x number of pitches -- an inning's worth, a game, sometimes more -- for a given hurler, then determines how much variance a hurler displays from pitch to pitch. with a sufficient base of data, we might use that stuff to answer questions like:

  • does fatigue have an inordinate effect on a certain pitcher's release point? (if you could establish that one way or the other, it'd sure help the manager decide whether or not to leave the guy in to work out of that sixth-inning jam.)
  • how much does a guy's release point vary with the type of pitch? maybe he's getting killed on his curveball because the release differs so much from that of the fastball that batters can more readily recognize the pitch.
  • what's the difference in a given pitcher's release point when pitching from the windup, vs pitching from the stretch?
pitching coaches, catchers, and pitchers themselves pore over video to spot things like this (see 3 nights in august), and the best of them don't need any systematic, quantified base of data to pick up flaws; they just have great eyes and a lot of experience. but jeff's offering a way for fans to gain a similar understanding of pitcher mechanics and performance. as a bonus, his post at BA looks at two pitchers of interest to cardinal fans: mark wood and kerry prior.

hah. those are the names my fingers typed; i'm leaving 'em that way.

for more interesting mound discussion head to hardball times, where studes has posted ball-in-play data for pitchers in tabular form. one of his half-dozen or so examples is chris carpenter, and the chart helps us boil his 2005 success down to a couple of essentials:

  • he sustained less damage on fly balls -- yielded fewer of them, and got hurt less by the ones he did yield. according to studes, that saved carp about 12 runs in 2005, or about half a point off his era.
  • he goosed his strikeout rate by 2 pct and his groundball rate by 3 pct. those don't seem like big increases, but studes puts their combined marginal value at ~40 runs, or about 1.50 worth of era.
offsetting those improvements, carp gave up more line drives in 2005 over 2004. the basic conclusion, though, is that while carpenter maxed out his performance in a few key categories, he was pretty much the same pitcher in 2005 as 2004. that's good news, because it raises our confidence that he can be nearly as effective in '06 as he was last season. see also our discussion of power pitchers and fly balls a couple weeks back (that one, too, was inspired by a studeman post) -- if carpenter can continue to limit the damage he sustains on flyballs, he'll remain a true ace. the concern here is that his 2005 performance in this regard was not at all consistent with his 2004 performance; if he regresses, his era may return to the good-not-dominant 3.50 range.

as long as we're talking about pitchers, danup folds jason marquis' 2005 line into thirds and thereby finds reason to hope this player can finally step forward in 2006; but belly's already trying to pinpoint the exact day he will be traded. rob does a data survey on la russa and pitcher ages (adding weight to the opinions posted here last friday re tlr's reluctance to rely on youthful arms); ryan vb thinks (and i agree) jocketty still needs to add a #2 starter; and the Cardinal Curmudgeon runs down the whole pitching staff.

and more opinions still: blogger-turned-si-scribe alex belth doesn't like the looper signing, while joe sheehan at baseball prospectus isn't crazy about any of the cards' moves but doesn't think they will necessarily matter in the standings: "Bigbie, Encarnacion and Ponson won't be impact players, but if they can just be average ones--and all have shown that ability--the Cardinals will be better equipped to ride their stars to a third straight division title."

happy reading.