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2008-04-23 22:06
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Mike Mussina and Javy Vazquez were both sharp last night. The Yanks squeezed out a run early with a soft two-out rally in the second that was started by two-out walks to Robinson Cano and Jason Giambi and extended by infield singles by Morgan Ensberg, who lined a shot off Vazquez's chest, and Melky Cabrera. Melky's hit plated the run before Vazquez struck out Johnny Damon to leave the bases loaded. There weren't any terribly hard-hit balls in the game until the fifth, when a two-out double by Jorge Posada plated Damon and Hideki Matsui, both of whom had singled, to make it 3-0 Yanks.

Entering the bottom of the fifth, Mussina had allowed just two singles and a walk, and only one of those two singles left the infield. With one out in that inning, Joe Crede blasted a solo homer to left, but the Yanks broke the game open with three runs in the top of the sixth to chase Vazquez, and Mussina came back with a 1-2-3 sixth of his own.

Moose allowed another solo homer (this to Carlos Quentin) with two outs in the seventh. With his starter up to 99 pitches and Crede due up again, Joe Girardi popped out of the dugout. When he got to the mound, he turned to Posada and asked, "What's he got?" Posada meant to say "there's nothing wrong with him," but it came out "he's got nothing." With that, Girardi began to lift his arm to call for a reliever, but Posada, realizing his mistake, quickly stopped his manager and explained what he meant to say. Girardi appeared puzzled, but accepted Posada's explanation and returned to the dugout without making a change. Mussina then got Crede out on two pitches to end the inning and his evening. (The incident reminded me of this game.)

Mussina was flat-out excellent in his seven innings and was working quickly and efficiently and in an easy rhythm with Posada (who had a great night overall, going 4 for 5 with three doubles). Said Moose after the game:

I didn't throw hardly any curveballs. Lotta sinkers, lotta cutters, good changeup. I think I had real good movement today. Seems like I jammed a lot of guys. They were diving out over the plate, and the ball ran back in on them a little bit, so I think the movement was my biggest asset today. I usually don't go out there planning not to throw curveballs. The curveball's a pretty big part of my game. Just today, right from the beginning, it seemed like I could throw two-seamers and get some run out of it, get some sink out of it, and I got a ton of groundballs, so I just kept on throwing them. [Jorge and I] were just trying to figure out what worked and we found something pretty early, so we just kept doing it. It wasn't really rocket science, we just kept doing what was working.

Those early grounders became fly balls in the latter innings (thus the two homers), but by then the game was in hand. As for that good changeup, the YES gun clocked a few of Mussina's pitches at 63 miles per hour. Now pitching, Bugs Bunny . . .

Girardi did bring in LaTroy Hawkins to start the eighth, but after a walk and a single, he turned to Billy Traber to face Jim Thome with one out and a four-run lead. For the second night in a row, Traber failed to retire Thome (he walked him in a completely unnecessary matchup on Tuesday night), giving up an RBI single that made the score 6-3. With Paul Konerko due up as the tying run and Joba Chamberlain having worked an inning and two-thirds the night before, Girardi went straight to Mariano Rivera for a five-out save.

Said Joe after the game, "The game was on the line. That was when we had to shut the door and close the game. . . . that was when we needed him."

Damn straight, skip. Girardi did the same thing with Chamberlain in the seventh inning on Tuesday night when the Sox, trailing by three, loaded the bases with one out. I applaud his willingness to use his big bullpen guns as stoppers (though I was less convinced of the need to leave Chamberlain in to pitch the eighth on Tuesday with the lead expanded to 9-4). Girardi has called on Rivera in the eighth twice this year and used Chamberlain in the seventh three times and has won all five of those games. The extra outs have thus far totaled up to just three extra innings combined for the two pitchers, which would pace out to about 22 innings over the course of the season.

Oh, and since I'm crunching numbers, if you take Manny Ramirez's hits and RBIs out of Mike Mussina's season totals, his ERA drops to 3.04 with a 1.06 WHIP.

2008-04-24 05:01:16
1.   Just fair
Great game by the Moose and his nemesis Posada. : )
Moose usually shakes off whoever's catching him at least a couple of time every inning. Last night, he was throwing whatever Po's fingers were telling him. Less thinking leads to more sucess from Mussina, let's hope so. Great game to watch, save the 8th.
2008-04-24 05:33:30
2.   Rob Middletown CT
That's odd about the curveballs... I thought he threw a fair number of 'em.

Anyway, good game for the Yanks (exception: Traber/Hawkins).

YES's gun is wierd. It was clocking Mussina's fastball at 81 mph. I know he doesn't throw hard anymore, but that's low. It had been clocking Wang at 91, and we know he throws harder than that. One pitch Mo threw was clocked in the sixties. Something is screwy with that gun.

2008-04-24 06:09:30
3.   tommyl
0 Cliff, we discussed this a bit last night, but I hardly think you can blame Traber for that RBI "single". He induced a soft grounder to 1st, Giambi was just unable to field it.
2008-04-24 06:10:42
4.   tommyl
2 It was definitely low. I knew something was up when Bobby Jenks threw an 88 mph fastball. Comparing to Gameday at times, it was 6-8 mph on the low side (Jenks was hitting 94-96). Also, the ESPN gun (saw it on BBTN) had Moose much, much higher. Apparently he hit 90 once or twice.
2008-04-24 06:28:37
5.   horace-clarke-era
Johnny Damon Appreciation Society weighing in ...

I had the ESPN feed (and gun) too. Something was obviously goofy with the YESgun. Makes you realize (again!) how many grains of salt are needed for those speed reads. What puzzles me (any engineers here?) is why this should be SO disparate ... with Clemens retired (one can hope) this ain't, er, Rocket science! Jenks at 88? Pshaw!

Cano is, frankly, in much worse shape than Giambi, and that take some doing. He gets the 'youth' pass because Jason can be done and there's no possible reason to assume Robbie is other than cold, but he's hurting the lineup a lot at the plate.

2008-04-24 06:36:50
6.   tommyl
5 The YES gun might just be miscalibrated. All its doing is bouncing light with some frequency off the ball and measuring the doppler shifted pulse that is reflected back. The faster the ball is moving, the smaller the wavelength coming back is. Its the same reason that when an ambulance is speeding towards you the siren is higher in pitch than when its moving away from you (in this case though, it sound waves). If the gun is set a bit off for whatever reason, its equating a certain doppler shift with the wrong speed is all. The shift in frequency goes like v/c, where v is the velocity of the ball and c is speed of light, so its not a huge shift in the case of light. Anyways, my 2 cents, but I'm a theorist, not an engineer :).

One other possibility is that whoever is operating it is at a poor angle. If he's too much to the side he's only measuring the component of velocity in his direction, but I don't know enough about modern radar guns to know if they can compensate for this.

2008-04-24 06:39:47
7.   Rob Middletown CT
4 I don't believe ESPN's gun either. Moose hitting 90? Hah. Still, it was surely closer.

I read through the comments in RLYW's game thread and I think it was SG who said "76 mph cutter? Fix your gun." It wasn't just off a bit. It was totally outta wack.

As for Cano... dude hit the ball hard again last night and got nothing. He also had some weak-ass ABs, don't get me wrong...

2008-04-24 06:41:00
8.   dwight
Where the ball is when they clock it will have a big impact on the reading. It's fastest when it comes out of the pitcher's hand, and slows down by the time it gets to the plate. Also, the position of the gun has an effect. If the ball is coming straight at the gun, it will get a higher reading than if the gun is off a little to the side. And I'd guess that whoever sets up the system is aware of any inaccuracies and applies some kind of formula to adjust the numbers.

The real speed might lie somewhere between YES and ESPN. An 80mph fastball sounds slow, but I would bet that ESPN tries to set theirs up to get the fastest reading possible. After all, baseball isn't exciting unless someone's throwing 100mph.

2008-04-24 06:41:51
9.   mehmattski
Not for the feint of heart: David Appleman of fangraphs.com looks at how pitchers perform in High Leverage (vs Low Leverage) situations in order to find out who the most "clutch" pitchers are.

There's a surprising Yankees name on the list. Make sure you don't take a sip of coffee while reading it, or you might spit it all over your screen:

http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2008/04/pitchers_can_be.php

Enjoy.

2008-04-24 06:47:53
10.   Bagel Boy
6 Isn't is also when the operator pulls the trigger? If he gets the ball when it's leaving the hand versus closer to the plate it will have lost a few mph from air resistance.

As for Moose vs. Manny: Isn't exactly the problem him trying to throw fastballs? It's amazing that we have an owner who actually understands baseball. Where his dad would have called Moose a "Skinny Pussy Elk", his son correctly identifies the problem in his approach.

The big difference is he had control with the soft stuff. And it seems he can be successful with that approach. Find one breaking pitch that's working each game and stick with it - throw it 60-70% of the time. Mix in a few fastballs and a few of the other breaking balls and hitters will stay off balance. The best hitters will simply wait for a fastball. If he keeps them waiting, he can succeed. But he's going to get hammered if he has to/wants to rely on it.

2008-04-24 06:54:27
11.   Shaun P
9 Funny you mention that, because I posted this last night (and now have updated it with the numbers including last night's appearances). I'd also point out that those numbers are over the past 6 years (I'm guessing not including 2008), and the surprising Yankee on the list was frickin' awesome in 2005 (he led both teams he pitched for in WXRL), and good in 2003, so I wonder if that isn't part of the reason for his surprising appearance.

With the below numbers, caution: small sample sizes apply.

Traber is, so far, worst on the team in preventing inherited runners from scoring. So, if you figure his job is to come in and prevent a lefty from knocking in the guys on base, he's not doing his job. However, he keeps having these non-LOOGY appearances, so it's a little hard to tell for sure from that.

Small sample, but he's next to last on the team in WXRL (-0.005; he was at +0.80 before last night). He's also 4th in terms of leverage appearances (by just the relievers), at 0.81. tommyl is right - Girardi's pen usage is excellent. Here are how the Yanks relievers break down by leverage score:

Mo - 1.74
Joba - 1.35
Bruney - 1.09
Traber - 0.81
Ohlendorf - 0.60
Hawkins - 0.52
Farnsworth - 0.52
Edwar - 0.07

That list is basically perfect. The two best relievers pitch the highest leverage situations. The two worst* relievers in the pen, Kyle and Hawkins, pitch the lowest leverage innings. The two guys who have been up just to be innings sponges - Albaladejo and Edwar - have done just that.

*FWIW, Hawkins is 3rd in WXRL (0.078) while Farnsworth is 4th (0.039). Like I said, small sample size . . .

2008-04-24 07:01:20
12.   williamnyy23
8 A radar guns measures the fastest speed of any object during the time in which the trigger is pressed. So, if operated properly, the location of the ball shouldn't matter. The difference is likely a calibration issue as explained in 6
2008-04-24 07:19:26
13.   williamnyy23
9 Lot's of flaws in that analysis...the biggest of which is a pitcher's performance can directly influence the leverage. Hitters do not have that same ability because their ABs are isolated and the leverage is mostly determined based on what other batters do.
2008-04-24 07:19:44
14.   williamnyy23
13 Lots...not lot's!
2008-04-24 07:28:08
15.   Bama Yankee
Since the angle of the radar gun relative to the path of the pitch makes a difference in the speeds reported (known as the Cosine Effect), it would make sense that the guy who can get the smallest angle would have the most accurate reading. I wonder where they station the radar guys (I doubt they can all get directly behind the plate in every stadium)? With the home team gun, the YES gun and the ESPN gun all needing to get a spot, I bet the YES guy is relagated to the worst spot and thus would get the lower readings.
2008-04-24 07:33:18
16.   Mattpat11
I saw Wil Nieves get two hits last night.

Beat that

2008-04-24 07:40:33
17.   tommyl
16 Said this late last night too. David Cone's perfect game, remember who was pitching for the Expos? That's right, Javy Vazquez. Now, why was Javy pitching? An injury to the scheduled starter you say? Who could that have been?

Carl Pavano

2008-04-24 07:44:35
18.   tommyl
15 Its not the Cosine effect (why does everything get a name?), its just what I said before that it measure the component of velocity in the direction of the gun. In some coordinate system this ends up being $v \cos \theta$.

And extra points for anyone who realizes what typesetting notation I just used ;).

2008-04-24 07:47:47
19.   tommyl
10 Yes, the ball decelerates a bit as it travels. I assumed they were measuring the speed as it left the pitcher's hand. Gameday now tells you the difference between speeds from the pitcher's hand and when it crosses the plate. Its usually a 5-10 mph difference depending on the speed (slower pitches will decelerate more since they have more travel time).
2008-04-24 07:55:40
20.   Rob Middletown CT
11 In defense of Traber, the single he gave up last night was a little ground ball about inches from Giambi that big G couldn't get a glove on. Good pitch. Good result. Poor defense.

That being said, he hasn't been particularly good otherwise, and the poor defense isn't going to change.

2008-04-24 07:56:23
21.   Rob Middletown CT
20 Ack. "About six inches from Giambi" that is. (more like a foot or two, but hey).

Oh, for an edit button.

2008-04-24 08:11:32
22.   Chien Music
First time poster, but I have been enjoying and learning from the Banter for about a year now. I love Mussina's smart ass remarks, like his comments to reporters after the game from King's column in the post this morning: "I talked to Jamie [Moyer]. He is coming to talk for me,"
2008-04-24 08:16:07
23.   Schteeve
Giambi's OBP is up to .324! Hooo-ray!
2008-04-24 08:23:43
24.   RichB
18 TeX - what's my prize?
2008-04-24 08:24:29
25.   RichB
22 Welcome!
2008-04-24 08:28:49
26.   tommyl
24 Ahem, it was LaTeX. You get a position in the nerdy baseball fan hall of fame! Congratulations RichB!
2008-04-24 08:36:27
27.   Bama Yankee
18 Here's info on the Cosine Effect:

I would think it would be a factor (along with calibration and type/manufacturer of gun) in the difference in speeds recorded.

2008-04-24 08:36:41
28.   RichB
26 Okay, the difference between TeX and LaTeX is lost on me. I admit, I only know it because I once worked in IT for a scientific membership society. Those (La)TeX parsers are a royal pain in the butt to work with.

I am honored to be elected into the nerdy baseball fan hall of fame. I'd like to start my acceptance speech today with some musings on the standard deviation of pitching changes...

2008-04-24 08:40:00
29.   tommyl
28 I've never used plain old TeX. LaTeX has a lot more built in macros, commands and formats. Its pretty much the standard, though harvmac is making some inroads.
2008-04-24 08:43:13
30.   tommyl
27 Yeah, its just what I said above. I was just amazed it had its own name. Its like calling the fact that something rolls down an inclined plane as opposed to straight down the "incline effect".
2008-04-24 08:47:18
31.   rsmith51
No comment on how a .135 hitter got not one, but two intentional walks? And a pitcher wasn't batting behind him. Apparently Ozzie thinks he will start hitting better.
2008-04-24 08:52:27
32.   Bama Yankee
30 Good point. "Cosine Effect" is not the best choice of terms. How about: "Dude Standing At Too Large Of An Angle Effect" or DSATLOAA Effect...
;-)
2008-04-24 08:57:23
33.   tommyl
32 Or just saying it measure the velocity component in the direction of the gun.

This is a physicist's thing. We tend to go for broad understanding from a few basic principles so we don't name a lot of things (solutions to general relativity notwithstanding). Its those pesky biology types who have to name every little thing.

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