Saturday, May 2, 2009

Joyous Interruptus

6 7 5 5 4 3

A harsh mistress she is, this Lady Baseball, a harsh mistress indeed. Matt Cain threw a stinker today, and the feebleness of our offense was cruelly exposed by an efficient Jason Marquis. Here I was, gettin' all excited and everything, and then we go out there and look thoroughly limp.

Starters are going to have their rough spots--I can live with that. And Cain has gotten the results so far, posting quality starts and bagging a pair of W's. But I have to say that my worry-wart is coming to the surface, and some disturbing trend lines are emerging. I know, the Small Sample Size Demon is screeching at me, like I hope he screeches at all of you, but there are some concerns, mind you, some nagging doubts, some niggling niggles, to wit:
  • 2006 K/9 8.45
  • 2007 K/9 7.34
  • 2008 K/9 7.69
  • 2009 so far, strikeouts per 9 IP, 6.23

All the projection systems (courtesy Matt's FanGraphs page) have him getting at least 7.52 K/9 for 2009, this is across the board, CHONE, Bill James, Marcel, and ZiPS. To the stat-geeks, Matt is underperfoming on a crucial indicator. Another "peripheral" that has me niggled is one I've talked about a lot, and that is Matt's ability to induce GROUND BALLS. Let's take a look at his percent of all balls in play that are ground balls:

  • 2006 35.6
  • 2007 39.4
  • 2008 33.2
  • 2009 so far, GB% is 31.6

Today he faced 27 batters, threw 102 pitches, and managed only 3 groundballs and 3 strikeouts. I suppose the plus side is that he threw six innings--he didn't implode in the third and walk away with one of those Zitovian 2007-08 lines. And, of course, it is only his 5th start, he's got a couple dozen more to go this season before a jury can weigh in on the evidence. One thing is for sure, he's throwing his curveball (CB) and changeup (CH) more than ever, and relying less on his fastball (FB):

  • 2006 72.0% FB 14.1% CB 05.8% CH
  • 2007 64.5% FB 08.6% CB 10.4% CH
  • 2008 65.4% FB 10.2% CB 10.6% CH
  • 2009 59.4% FB 15.5% CB 11.7% CH

The rest of the time (12.7% career), Matt throws a slider. His average fastball velocity is down as well, from a high in 2006 of 93.2 mph, to a current 91.5 mph. I can't say I always enjoy my time on FanGraphs--it has a way of shoving unpleasant facts down your throat--but I sure learn a lot. I'm going to say "it's May, it's May, the lusty month of May" and assume Matt will throw a great start next time out, and that his performance will creep up to ever-higher levels of studliness as the year goes on. Regression to the mean, my arse.

And Young Mr. Sandoval smoked a dinger, so there's still some Joy in Mudville.

1 comment:

Bob said...

Just one of those games. The Giants are capable of making good pitchers look great.
Speaking of good pitchers, Cain is on the right track, relying less on pure power than he used to.
Sandoval is still raw, not much of run maker and not especially clutch, but damn he's fun to watch. He's the one whose ABs one doesn't want to miss.
Ishikawa and Burriss are the big underachievers so far. If they can produce hits now and then we might go somewhere.
Also, Lewis, while doing OK in the getting-on-base dept, is woefully deficient in any power numbers. That needs to change.