Baseball, April 6
Had this conversation with my 15-year-old daughter Elizabeth this morning. Elizabeth, as I have often written, cares nothing at all for sports. But every now and again she will say something to suggest that she cares a little bit more about what I do than she lets on.
Elizabeth: "Dad, the Red Sox and the Yankees don't like each other, right?"
Me (proudly): "That's right."
There's a pause for about eight seconds.
Elizabeth: "Is that because they play in the same city?"
* * *
Statcast™ thought of the day:
Jason Hammel, who starts for Kansas City today, was pitching pretty well last year ... until he wasn't. In the middle of August, the Cubs were 15-8 when he started, he had a 2.75 ERA, a 113-42 strikeout to walk ratio, he had allowed a reasonable 16 homer runs.
His last seven starts, the league hit .331 against him, slugged .627 against him, his ERA tripled, etc.
Statcast™ can't tell us exactly why that happened, but it does show something interesting. Batters, in general, were not hitting the ball any HARDER against him. The exit velocity for the good Jason Hammel (90.9) was basically identical to the exit velocity against the bad Jason Hammel (90.8).
BUT, the angle was very very different. The launch angle against the good Jason Hammel was 13.1 degrees and he wasn't giving up many "barrels," that word Statcast™ uses for the hardest hit balls that tend to do the most damage. He was giving up a barrel to one out of every 15 or so batters who put the ball in play.
But in those last seven starts, the launch angle against Hammel jumped up to 17.9 degrees, which isn't good at all. He was suddenly giving up barrels to one out of every eight batters who put the ball in play.
Statcast™ gives the data -- it's up to the players and coaches themselves to figure out how to fix it. There's no question that hitters figured out something about Jason Hammel in the last six weeks of the season. The Royals bet that he will solve the problem.
* * *
Here's the pitcher win scoreboard up to the moment. Great duel in Boston where Chris Sale made his expected awesome debut (7 innings, 3 hits, 7 Ks, 1 walk) but he was more or less matched by Pittsburgh's young righty Jameson Taillon (7 innings, 5 hits, 6 Ks, 3 walks). Neither, of course, got the win.
Sale threw some slider/breaking balls that can only be described as silly. But we knew that this guy bends gravity. Taillon was the find of the day; he showed real promise last year as a rookie but on Wednesday he looked like the complete package. Pittsburgh's window may be closing, but the Pirates really do have some exciting young pitching.
The running scoreboard:
Starters who pitch amazing: 2.
Starters who pitch well: 19.
Starters who pitch OK: 2
Starters who pitch kind of lousy: 2.
Relievers in the right place, right time: 7.
Relievers who get, like, one out: 1
Relievers who kind of stink: 2