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Archive for April, 2008

Shocker: Major college conferences like system that gives championship to major conferences

Posted by Fred on April 30, 2008

Although the so-called “plus one” system under consideration by the BCS conferences was far from perfect, it was certainly an improvement over the current system, which seems designed primarily to match up the SEC champion and the Big 10 champion for a mythical championship. Needless to say, therefore, that the BCS cabal doesn’t like it, and the plus-one playoff proposal was turned down by the BCS:

The conference commissioners who manage the Bowl Championship Series chose Wednesday to end their brief consideration of a new plus-one format, which would have built a four-team playoff into the current five-bowl structure. Their action — or lack of it — assures the current system will remain in place through at least the 2013 season.

“The thing. .. that came through loud and clear is there’s satisfaction with where we are,” said Atlantic Coast Conference commissioner and BCS coordinator John Swofford.

BCS_poll As USA Today’s poll indicates, however, the only people satisfied with where the BCS is are the people who run the BCS, which is to say the major conferences that want to keep the championship their exclusive domain.  Fans want a playoff, and want a playoff by an ever-increasing majority.  Schools from non-BCS conferences want a playoff, as the chances of a non-BCS team ever playing in the big game are zero. The TV networks certainly would love a playoff, judging from the CBS juggernaut that is March Madness.

The sole justification for the current system is that a playoff would “diminish” the regular season, which BCS backers love to claim means more than the regular season in college basketball.  There may be some truth to this, but keep several things in mind.  First, a 12 game regular season is inevitably going to be of greater importance than a 30-game regular season: the baseball playoffs include 8 of 30 teams instead of 12 of 32 as in the NFL, but no one claims that a single Yankees-Red Sox matchup is more important than New England vs Indianapolis. Second, college football’s system means that there is no incentive to schedule a full slate of challenging non-conference games, as losing two of them means you have little chance of playing for the title.  Why do you think Michigan scheduled Appalachian State (a decision which they now regret, of course)?

Think of it this way: who outside of Memphis and Chapel Hill would have preferred a single Tigers-Tar Heels game to the tournament we were treated to? Did KU’s eventual victory diminish the importance of Michael Beasley’s coming out party in Manhattan against the Jayhawks?  Did KU’s victory over UNC diminish the UNC-Duke games? How about the Memphis-Tennessee game? The regular season would still matter with a playoff – the justification for the BCS is more money for the SEC, not the integrity of the game.

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Stat of the Day: Closers in Non-Save Situations

Posted by Fred on April 30, 2008

In last night’s Cleveland-Seattle game, the Tribe trailed 2-1 going into the bottom of the eighth inning, and scored once to make it a tie game going into the ninth.  When faced with this situation (tie game in the ninth at home), conventional baseball wisdom suggests a manager should put his closer in to shut down the opposition in the top of the ninth, and try to win it in the bottom half of the inning.  Eric Wedge is nothing if not a follower of conventional baseball wisdom – in 2007, Joe Borowski entered a tie game in the ninth inning or later nine times, and gave up a run (or more) three times.  In came Rafael Betancourt, who proceeded to give up a 3-run homer to lose the game, which ended up a 7-2 Mariners victory.

Which leads us to the baseball question of the day – is the conventional wisdom correct?  In 2007, 23 relievers earned 20 or more saves, ranging from Bob Wickman’s 20 to Jose Valverde’s 47.  13 of 23 had higher ERAs in non-save situations than in save situations, an average difference in ERA of 1.39.  15 of the 23 had a higher OPS against in non-save situations than in save situations, an average difference of .103 in OPS.  The entire group of closers performed the same in non-save as save situations, primarily because a few were significantly better when no save was on the line (Trevor Hoffman, for example, did not give up an earned run in a non-save situation).  But for the majority of closers, the fact remains that they pitch better when used in their traditional role, something with which Tribe fans are intimately familiar (Borowski’s inflated ERA in 2007 was driven largely by his 9.60 ERA in non-save situations, as his 3.73 ERA in save situations places him more or less in the middle of this list rather than the very bottom).

When pitching in a tie game, 12 of the 23 had a higher OPS than they did overall, and the group as a whole had a slightly higher OPS in tie contests (.624 vs .618).  There is some inherent bias in that number, as it includes games where the closer had a lead and blew the save, resulting in at-bats with a tie score.  In that situation, it is reasonable to believe the OPS would skew higher – those are games where the closer didn’t have his good stuff, after all.

So is the conventional wisdom right? The answer is a definite maybe. Some closers clearly shouldn’t be placed in non-save situations if at all possible:

Player (non-save record) Save ERA Non-Save ERA Difference
Joe Borowski (2-4) 3.73 9.60 5.87
Ryan Dempster (2-5) 3.48 5.80 2.32
Brett Myers (4-4) 1.84 4.12 2.28
Jason Isringhausen (3-0) 1.82 3.23 1.41
Dave Weathers (1-4) 3.02 4.36 1.34

Other closers excel in non-save situations, and putting them in a tie game makes a lot of sense (an argument can even be made that some of these guys should pitch the eighth and not the ninth):

Player (non-save record) Save ERA Non-Save ERA Difference
Trevor Hoffman (3-1) 3.77 0.00 -3.77
Francisco Rodriguez (3-2) 2.96 0.25 -2.71
Brian Fuentes (3-1) 4.18 1.86 -2.32
Jeremy Accardo (4-2) 2.83 1.39 -1.44
Takashi Saito (2-0) 1.87 0.43 -1.44

Which group is Betancourt in?  I have no idea, given that the sample size is so small.  But Wedge should figure it out, rather than assuming that his closer should always enter the game if the score is tied in the ninth at Progressive Field.

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Baseball payroll vs. performance

Posted by Fred on April 29, 2008

salary_performance

Each year, Ben Fry puts together a chart showing how well MLB teams are spending their money, graphically depicting record and payroll.  He’s updated the chart for 2008, discarding the first part of the season as “statistically silly.”  Last year, the LCS included three teams (the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Indians) that were relatively frugal, and this year is shaping up to be more of the same.  The top five records in baseball belong to teams ranking 23rd (Arizona), 8th (Chicago Cubs), 28th (Oakland), 30th (Florida)and 6th (LA Angels). 

No matter how you look at it, spending a lot of money is no longer a guarantee of success.  The six division leaders include Oakland, Chicago White Sox (5th), Baltimore (22nd)/Tampa Bay (29th), Arizona, Chicago Cubs and Florida.  If the playoffs were to start today, the top four payrolls would all be watching at home. The top 5 payrolls (total $739,139,520) are a combined 67-61.  The bottom 5 payrolls (total $217,250,008 or $8.1 million more than the Yankees are spending all by themselves) are 65-63.

It’s similar if you look at individuals.  The three highest paid position players all play in the Bronx.  Alex Rodriguez (.286, 4 HR, 11 RBI) is making $28 million, Jason Giambi (.167, 5 HR, 11 RBI) is making $23.4 million and Derek Jeter (.279, 0 HR, 13 RBI) is making $21.6 million.  Chase Utley, at $7.8 million, is outplaying that trio virtually single-handedly (.359, 10 HR, 21 RBI).  Add in Pat Burrell (.349, 8 HR, 25 RBI) at $14.3 million and the Phillies have 18 HR and 46 RBI for less than the Yankees are paying Giambi.

Pitchers are somewhat similar.  The four highest-paid pitchers are Johan Santana (3-2, 3.12 ERA) at $16.9 million, Andy Pettitte (3-2, 3.23) at $16 million, Carlos Zambrano (4-1, 2.21) at $16 million and Mike Hampton, who hasn’t pitched since 2005 and is currently rehabbing for the Richmond Braves, at $15.9 million.  The MLB leader in wins is Brandon Webb (6-0, 1.98) at $5.5 million.  The ERA leader is Cliff Lee (4-0, 0.28) at $4 million.  The strikeout king is Felix Hernandez (2-1, 2.22, 41 Ks) at $540,000.  The Yankees have four pitchers and ten players overall who make more than those three combined.

[via Kottke]

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Tribe-Yanks Wrap: The Kids Are Alright

Posted by Fred on April 29, 2008

Cue Charles Dickens, with a soundtrack by The Who.  The Indians’ series against the Yankees started out so promisingly, with a 6-4 victory on Friday as the aged Paul Byrd outpitched the aged Andy Pettitte.  The Tribe followed that up with a 4-3 win on Saturday behind Jeremy Sowers’ pitching and Victor Martinez’ walk-off single, running the winning streak to five.  Unfortunately, the Tribe followed those victories with yet another 1-0 loss for C.C. Sabathia (his third in the last two seasons and the 10th game over the past two seasons where the Indians scored 2 runs or fewer for the ace) and a 5-2 loss for Aaron Laffey, leaving them two games under .500 and three games behind the Central-leading White Sox.

The Good

  1. C.C. Sabathia.  It certainly appears that C.C. has regained the form that earned him the AL Cy Young Award in 2007.  After a 6 inning, 0 run, 11 strikeout performance against the Royals, Sabathia pitched 8 innings against the Yankees, giving up only a solo homer to Melky Cabrera while striking out 8 in 8 innings.  Unfortunately, Yankees ace Chien-Ming Wang went him one better, giving up no runs and striking out 9 in his 7 innings and earning the 1-0 victory.  Overall, however, Sabathia has shown dramatic improvement over his last two starts:

      IP/G H ER SO BB %Str Game Score SO/9 BB/9 WHIP OPS
    First 4 starts (0-3) 4.5 32 27 14 14 63% 22 7.0 7.0 2.56 1.170
    Last 2 starts (1-1) 7.0 8 1 19 3 69% 75 12.2 1.9 0.79 .457
    2007 (19-7) 7.1 238 86 209 37 66% 58 7.8 1.4 1.14 .684
  2. The bullpen.  With the exception of Jensen Lewis, who allowed a run of his own and three runs charged to Jeremy Sowers and one to Aaron Laffey in 3IP, the relief crew was outstanding, allowing no runs in 8IP on 2 hits, with 5 strikeouts and a walk.  Jorge Julio, Rafael Betancourt and Rafael Perez allowed only a walk in 5IP, while Masa Kobayashi pitched 3 innings of scoreless relief, allowing 2 hits and striking out 2.  
  3. Victor Martinez.  The Tribe catcher had 5 hits in 14 AB, including the game-winning hit on Saturday afternoon with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth.  Amazingly, this was the first walk-off hit of Victor’s career.
  4. Jhonny Peralta, Jason Michaels and Franklin Gutierrez. Continuing a recent trend, the Tribe got production from the lower part of the order.  Peralta was 4-for-15 and led the team in RBI for the series with 4.  Michaels had 4 hits in 10 AB, including a double.  Gutierrez continues to come out of his season-long slump, getting 4 hits in 12 AB against the Yankees, including a home run.

The Bad

  1. Travis Hafner.  Pronk continued to struggle at the plate, managing only a pair of singles in 12 AB.  He did walk 4 times and pick up a run and an RBI, but he also struck out 4 times.  For the year, Hafner is hitting only .219 with a .667 OPS.  One big problem is that he is not hitting the ball in the air.  In 2006, Hafner hit 38% ground balls.  In 2007, it was 49%.  this year, it’s 44%.
  2. Casey Blake.  For a time, Blake was the Tribe’s hottest hitter, but now he’s among the coldest.  Against the Yankees, Casey was 1-for-12 with 6 strikeouts. For the season, he’s hitting an anemic .224.
  3. David Dellucci.  Offensively, Dellucci was adequate (3-for-12 with an RBI), but his misplayed line drive in Saturday’s game almost cost the team a win, as he tried to make a diving grab with the bases loaded.  If he plays it straight up, certainly no more than 2 runs score on the hit, and with slow-footed Jason Giambi at second, perhaps only one.

The Ugly

  1. Ryan Garko.  Garko’s trouble at the plate continue, as he had no hits and 3 strikeouts in 11 AB.  Entering the game against the Twins on April 18th, Garko was hitting .315 with a .948 OPS.  Since that time, he has only 3 hits in 34 AB, walking twice and striking out 7 times.  He’s watched his average drop by 88 points and his OPS by 250 in 8 games.

Next up:  the Tribe continues its homestand with three games against the Mariners.  Fausto Carmona (3-1, 2.89 ERA) matches up against Carlos Silva (3-0, 2.83) tonight.  Silva complained of tightness in his right thigh in his last start, when he gave up 2 runs on 6 hits in a 6-inning no decision against Baltimore.  He says he’s good to go for tonight, however.  Carmona looks to shake off a rough outing against Kansas City (which followed a week off and a start postponed due to rain). Tomorrow sees Cliff Lee (4-0, 0.28) and Jarrod Washburn (1-3, 4.03).  Lee will face another relatively weak-hitting lineup – the Mariners are 11th in hitting and 8th in runs in the 14-team AL, although they don’t strike out much (best in baseball with only 122 Ks). Thursday night’s rubber game features Paul Byrd (1-2, 4.85) and Miguel Batista (2-3, 5.26), who lasted only an inning in his last start.

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Ben & Jerry’s Global Free Cone Day is tomorrow

Posted by Fred on April 28, 2008

freeconeday

Tomorrow is April 29, 2008, which means that it is Ben & Jerry’s Global Free Cone Day. Visit a local scoop shop for a free cone.  Ben & Jerry’s recommend you try one of their new flavors:

  • Coconut Seven Layer Bar:  coconut ice cream with coconut & fudge flakes, walnuts & swirls of graham cracker & butterscotch. 
  • Imagine Whirled Peace –  caramel and sweet cream ice creams mixed with fudge peace signs and toffee cookies.
  • ONE Cheesecake Brownie – cheesecake ice cream with cheesecake brownie chunks. 
  • Cake Batter – Yellow cake batter ice cream with a chocolate frosting swirl.

Ben & Jerry may be good at a lot of things, but they’re not good at math:

In 2007 Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shops gave away more than 1 million free cones worldwide! For you to consume that many scoops, you’d have to eat more than 416 ice cream cones each hour for every day of your life if you lived to be 100! You’d also be practically guaranteed to get an ice cream headache…

In reality, if I ate 416 cones per hour until I turned 100, that would be more than 220 million cones.  Ben & Jerry’s repeats this claim every year and no one knows why.  Probably just to mess with our heads.

[via Snopes]

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Cliff Lee’s best start of 2008 (so far): faster, fastball!

Posted by Fred on April 25, 2008

I continue to be amazed by Cliff Lee’s turnaround in 2008.  He looks nothing like the pitcher who was demoted to the minors in 2007, and sits atop the majors with a 0.28 ERA.  Last night was his best start to date, as he pitched a complete game, 3 hit shutout with 9 Ks and no walks.  His personal scoreless streak now sits at 22 innings, as he hasn’t given up a run since allowing a triple and an infield single to lead off the fourth inning on April 13 against the As.  Since allowing that run, he’s given up only 5 hits, with no walks and 21 strikeouts.  Compare his first 4 starts this year to his first 4 last year (and Sabathia’s first 4 starts from his Cy Young season, for good measure):

  W-L CG ShO IP H ER BB SO HR ERA OPS K/BB
Lee – 2008 4-0 1 1 31.2 11 1 2 29 0 0.28 .264 14.5
Lee – 2007 2-0 1 0 26.0 25 12 8 12 2 4.15 .736 1.5
Sabathia 3-0 0 0 28.0 30 7 7 27 3 2.25 .741 3.9

Lee is hitting the strike zone with regularity, as he has thrown 68% strikes (one reason he’s only walked 2 batters in almost 32 innings).  What was interesting about last night’s win was that he used a different mix of pitches than he had been this year, relying largely on a low-90s fastball (Pitch f/x says 3 of last night’s pitches were cutters, which I tend to doubt):

  Fastball Curve Slider Change
Previous Starts 73.7% 8.8% 2.9% 14.6%
4/24/2008 85.0% 5.0% 1.7% 5.8%

It’s not as if Lee was unable to locate his other pitches – all but one of his changeups was a strike, and one of the 9 strikeouts came on a slider.  As he noted after the game, the Royals were swinging through the high heat, so he stuck with the fastball, mixing in off-speed pitches as necessary to keep them honest.  And the results spoke for themselves:

  Total Balls Strikes In play, out In play, no out
Fastball 102 29 60 11 2
Curve 6 3 0 3 0
Slider 2 1 1 0 0
Change 7 2 1 3 1
Cutter 3 0 3 0 0
Total 120 35 65 17 3

Cliff’s location was excellent all night, as the pitch f/x data indicates:

Lee_location_042408

Focus on just the fastballs, and you can see why he relied on them so much:

Lee_location_fastball_042408

As we’ve seen all season, Cliff Lee is just a different pitcher.  His velocity is up, as his fastball (which averaged 90.2 MPH last year) averaged 90.9 MPH last night.  His location is better – last night he threw 72% strikes.  And his movement is better – here’s the pitch f/x chart from last night:

lee_movement_042408

The one potential caveat is that Lee’s opponents aren’t exactly tearing the cover off the ball.  Oakland is hitting .260 (6th in the AL) with a .715 OPS.  Minnesota is hitting .256 (10th in the AL) with a .653 OPS.  Kansas City is hitting .256 (tied for 10th with the Twins) with a .659 OPS.  The three teams rank 5th, 13th and 14th among the 14 AL teams in runs scored. Lee’s next start should come against Seattle, which currently ranks 12th in hitting and 7th in runs, as he’ll miss the Yankees (3rd in hitting and 8th in runs in 2008) this weekend.  Nevertheless, the data looks promising so far, which is good, as Fausto Carmona doesn’t yet have the command he did in 2007 (a pitch f/x analysis for Fausto will come later).

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Tribe-Royals Wrap: The Return of C.C. Edition

Posted by Fred on April 25, 2008

With a sweep of yesterday’s straight doubleheader (hooray for the old school twin bill, and not another of those day-night, can’t lose gate receipts even if it screws the fans travesties) and a sweep of the three-game set in KC, the Tribe secured their first three-game winning streak of the season.  The series showed flashes of the team everyone expected to see, with 25 runs scored in the first two games and some brilliant pitching.  C.C. Sabathia is starting to emerge from his April funk, throwing some good sliders on Tuesday night and striking out 11, and Cliff Lee just gets better with each start.

The Good

  1. Cliff Lee.  Everyone expected the Tribe to have a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation, but nobody expected it to be Sabathia and Lee.  Following an 8 inning, 2 hit, no run gem in his previous start, Lee outdid himself against the Royals, with a 3 hit, complete game shutout (the first of his career).  He struck out 9 and walked none.  For the season, he’s now 4-0 with an infinitesimal 0.28 ERA.  In his last two starts, he’s pitched 17 innings, giving up 5 hits and 0 ER while striking out 17 and walking none.  He’s got a ridiculous 29-2 K/BB ratio.  Perhaps most impressive was the bottom of the fifth – after giving up a leadoff double to Jose Guillen, Lee proceeded to strike out Billy Butler, Alex Gordon and Miguel Olivo to end the threat.  In that 16 pitch sequence, Lee threw 11 strikes.
  2. C.C. Sabathia.  C.C.’s two previous starts resulted in 18 ER, as Sabathia had serious control problems.  In six inning Tuesday night, the big lefthander struck out 11, giving up 4 hits and walking only 2.  Of his 102 pitches, 67% were strikes (only to be outdone two games later by Lee, who threw 72% of his 120 pitches for strikes).  Most encouraging for Tribe fans is that Sabathia rediscovered his slider, getting most of those 11 Ks on sliders.
  3. Rafael Betancourt.  In his first save opportunity since taking over for the injured and ineffective Joe Borowski, Betancourt gave up one hit in picking up the save.  For the series, he have up a hit and a walk while striking out 3 in two innings.  The bullpen generally pitched well, as Betancourt, Jensen Lewis, Masahide Kobayashi and Jorge Julio combined to pitch 7 innings, giving up a run on 4 hits, 2 walks and 3 strikeouts.  They didn’t give up any homers, which has been the downfall of the pen this year.
  4. Casey Blake. The offense was pretty good overall in this series, hitting .322 with 5 HR and 12 doubles, for a .894 OPS.  Blake had 6 hits and 8 RBI in his 8 AB, including two doubles and a grand slam.  After an incredibly slow start in which his average fell as low as .118, Casey is now hitting .250.

Honorable mention to most of the rest of the lineup.  David Dellucci hit .333 for the series, including the solo homer off Brian Bannister last night that was the difference in the game.  Grady Sizemore hit .357 with a .971 OPS, Jhonny Peralta hit .385 with a 1.077 OPS, and Victor Martinez hit .400 with a 1.000 OPS.

The Bad

  1. Rafael Perez.  While the rest of the bullpen was good, Perez had the one bad outing, managing to make the 9-6 victory in the opening game of the doubleheader closer than it should have been.  Perez allowed 2 runs on 3 hits and a walk in one inning, with the big blast coming on Miguel Olivo’s 2-run homer.
  2. Ryan Garko and Travis Hafner.  While Garko has been one of the Tribe’s few consistent hitters in 2008, he didn’t fare well against the Royals, with just one hit in 13 AB.  Hafner didn’t do much better, with just 3 hits in 14 AB. 

The Ugly

  1. Fausto Carmona.  The resurgence of Cliff Lee couldn’t have come at a better time, as Carmona continues to have trouble locating his sinker.  While his previous start was better, Fausto reverted to form yesterday, walking 4 and giving up 9 hits in 5 innings.  He picked up the win thanks to an offensive outburst, but he’s walking way too many hitters, and won’t always be able to rely on the timely double play ball.  For the year, Carmona has walked 22 in 28 innings over 5 starts.  His WHIP stands at 1.714, up half a runner per inning over 2007.

Up next: the Indians return home for four games against the Yankees in a rematch of the 2007 ALDS.  Paul Byrd (0-2, 4.43 ERA) faces Andy Pettitte (3-1, 2.45) in the opener.  Two youngsters take the mound on Saturday, with Jeremy Sowers called up from Buffalo to fill in for the injured Jake Westbrook.  He’ll be opposed by Ian Kennedy (0-2, 9.64), who needed 86 pitches to get through 2 innings. Sunday is a battle of putative aces, with C.C. Sabathia (1-3, 10.13) facing Chien-Ming Wang (4-0, 3.94).  The doubleheader in KC means that Monday’s finale pits spot starter Aaron Laffey against Mike Mussina (2-3, 4.94).  Laffey was a six-year-old living in Cumberland, MD when Mussina made his debut with the Orioles in 1991.

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FeedDemon 2.6.1 [Regular Guy Reviews]

Posted by Fred on April 24, 2008

catalog_feeddemon As I noted earlier, now that NewsGator’s RSS products are free for individual use, I decided to try them out and see what worked better for me, a standalone reader or web application (specifically Google Reader).  NewsGator Inbox 3.0 did not work – while the idea of reading feeds in a mail client was promising, certain limitations of Outlook made it far less useful than Google Reader (first and foremost was Outlook’s inability to show how many items exist in a subfolder if the folder list is not expanded).  FeedDemon has been a far better experience, and in limited use I find it superior to Google Reader, at least for now.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Nash, Shattered

Posted by Fred on April 23, 2008

This Nike video is pretty cool, and was made by a production company led by Steve Nash.  It’s a good look for Amare Stoudamire, too.

via True Hoop

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C.C. Sabathia Turns A Corner?

Posted by Fred on April 23, 2008

Suffice it to say, C.C. Sabathia’s 6 inning, 0 ER, 11 strikeout performance last night was by far his best start of 2008.  The Game Score of 73 would put it #7 among his starts in 2007, and makes it the team’s third-best start of 2008 (behind Cliff Lee’s last two starts).  In the abstract, it would have been nice to see him pitch beyond the sixth inning, but at 102 pitches and with a 11-0 lead, there was absolutely no reason to do so.  Following consecutive starts in which he gave up 9 runs in each start, this was a delight to watch (perhaps there was actually something to Carl Willis’ comment that he had a good bullpen session).  The question becomes whether this is the Old C.C. back again or the product of a free-swinging Royals team.  Looking at the data, there are promising signs that C.C. has turned some sort of corner.

Coming into this start, it was clear that Sabathia was having trouble locating his pitches, particularly with two strikes.  He had walked an uncharacteristically high 14 batters in 18 innings while striking out only 14.  In addition, he was throwing far fewer sliders than in years past – in 2007, he threw 22% sliders; coming into last night he had thrown only 12% sliders, leading some to suspect an undisclosed injury.

Pitch f/x data from last night indicates that Sabathia did a far better job locating his pitches (thanks as usual to Dan Brooks for the charts).  When he missed he was missing low, rather than off the plate but belt high as in previous starts:

Sabathia_location_042208

This better control was obvious – C.C. only walked two batters while striking out 11, and only had eight 3-ball counts all night.  C.C. also did a better job placing his pitches with two strikes.  He had 41 2-strike counts against the Royals, and threw 60% strikes in such counts.  Of the 15 Royals C.C. took to two strikes, he struck out 11 (73%) and only allowed 3 to reach base (on walks in the fifth and sixth and a third inning single by David DeJesus).  Overall, 67% of Sabathia’s 102 pitches last night were strikes.

C.C. also relied far more on his slider than in previous starts.  Last night, he threw 26% sliders, inducing swinging strikes on 35% of them.  In fact, 60% of the swings-and-misses in last night’s start came on sliders.  Sabathia also relied on the slider as an out pitch, as a full 40% of his two strike pitches were sliders.  9 of Sabathia’s 11 strikeouts were on sliders and 7 of the 8 strikeouts coming on swinging strikes were on sliders.

Count Fastball Slider Change-up
0-2 3 37.5% 3 37.5% 2 25%
1-2 8 50.0% 7 43.8% 1 6.2%
2-2 6 54.5% 5 45.5% 0 0.0%
3-2 3 60.0% 1 20.0% 1 20.0%
Total 20 50.0% 16 40.0% 4 10.0%

Finally, whereas Sabathia’s pitches were relatively flat in his previous 4 starts, he had excellent movement last night, particularly on the slider:

Sabathia_break_042208

Oh, and the offense was pretty good, too, led by Casey Blake’s 4 hit, 6 RBI night, which included two doubles and a grand slam.

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