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two-inch slices

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blogging from a hotel room in the desert:

toward the end of the mulder projection thread over the weekend, acr made this assertion about mulder: "The thing about Mulder is that he is either on or not. He either gets ground ball after ground ball or he gets drilled." in yesterday's thread, mrcard added some data that seem to back up that assertion: in his 18 quality starts last season (ie, when he was "on"), mulder posted an era of 1.32; in his non-quality starts, his era was 8.26. a couple of comments below mrcard's post, lb3000 noted this: "[mulder] has a slightly lower K rate in the quality starts, while his walk rate jumps significantly in the bad starts."

that insight echoes one from a hardball times article from about two weeks ago. in that piece, craig burley was reacting to a gm's spin that a particular pitcher really wasn't so bad, he'd just had three or four bad outings that ruined his stat line. burley wanted to know: "If you take any starter's four worst starts out of the equation, can you make a decent pitcher of him?" burley spot-checked 8 starting pitchers -- four who'd had good years overall (including matt morris), and four with era's over 5.00 -- and parsed out their worst starts. he found this:

"What is immediately noticeable is that the four good pitchers had absolutely lousy strikeout-to-walk rates in their bad starts, especially compared to their usual performance. . . . . When they stop hitting the strike zone and are forced to throw from behind in the count, their good stuff gets easier to hit."

all of which simply reinforces what we already believed about mulder -- he has to hit the two-inch slices that define the inner, outer, and lower boundaries of the strike zone or he's toast. so when we project his performance, in essence we're projecting this: in how many of his starts will mulder hit those two-inch slices reliably? if he can do that 6 times out of 10, he'll probably end up with roughly 15 wins and an era below 4.00. if he can't, look out.

more mulder: play a hard 9 recently posted a graphical portrayal of mulder's evolution into a soft-tossing groundball artist; he also broke down the cardinal rotation by FIP (fielding-independent pitching) and didn't like what he saw.

also over the weekend, david pinto posted defensive ratings at baseball musings for two more positions, third basemen and centerfielders. not surprisingly the cardinals saved gobs and gobs of runs at both positions -- roughly 35 at third base and 15 in center. the figure at 3b is slightly misleading, in that pinto's average third baseman saved nearly 30 runs this season. that incongruity comes about because pinto is using four years' worth of aggregated data as a baseline; third basemen, as a group, were better in 2005 than they were in 2002-2004. it's not hard to see how that can happen; a couple of old 3b with limited range retire or move to 1st base, some better fielders get starting jobs or move into the position (a rod, chone figgins, eddie encarnacion), and third baseman as a group make more plays. as for the centerfielders, it's no wonder the reds can't trade ken griffey -- he's a disastrous outfielder. they could have picked up one of the top run-savers at the position, tike redman, for free a couple months back; the pirates dfa'd redman, who ended up moving to the mets in a straight cash deal. but he or someone like him (ie an undervalued glove man) might have done more to improve the reds' pitching staff than any of the nondescript pitchers they've added this offseason. cincinnati's new regime will surely move griffey either to a corner slot (in which case bye bye austin kearns or wily mo) or to another team. and if john mozeliak becomes the reds' gm and the bigbie/gooch/jrod platoon should falter, i wouldn't be at all shocked to see griffey end up in st louis, playing left and hitting 2d. i'm not campaigning for such a trade; i just think it could very well happen under certain conditions.