Here’s part I of the interview, let’s jump right into this one.
I got to sit down with Chad Billingsley today and speak to him about pitch sequencing. This is the best conversation I’ve had about it yet and special thanks to Chad for being so open in discussing this.
This is the second or third pitcher or pitching coach I’ve spoken to about sequencing, please click the “pitch sequencing” tag to find the other ones.
Let’s start with the basic: tell me what you know about pitch sequencing.
Well, first, there’s a lot of luck involved. The hitter knows what you have, as far as the pitches and what your tendencies are.
I forgot to run this, but the Diamondbacks broke the record for most strike outs in a single season by a team on Tuesday and are still rolling. Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Chris Young swinging to tie the record and Kelly Johnson looking to break it in the first inning Tuesday night. Johnson’s K set the record at 1,400 exactly–yes, they’re the first team in history to record 1,400 strike outs.
They have 1,420 Ks now and nine games left to play. With their pace at about 9.20 all season, it looks like they’ll land at about the low 1500s. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound tonight and Chad Billingsley will pitch Sunday. Bills set a season high with 11 strikeouts against the D-Backs on May 31. Unfortunately, John Ely is pitching between them, so who knows.
Good luck, D-Backs, and Godspeed.
Jordan at OrioleProspects.com and I have been sharing thoughts on the 2009 trade deadline trade between the Dodgers and Orioles that sent George Sherrill to Los Angeles for prospects Josh Bell and Steven Johnson.
Here are my thoughts. You can read his thoughts here.
Outcome Bias. It’s a real thing. It happens all the time. Your perspective of something changes because of the end result. Player A, who is not good, is traded for Player B, who is bad. Player B performs inexplicably well and Player A continues to perform not good. The fans of Player B’s new team gloat about the trade and the fans of Player A’s new team scowl and curse the trade and all management involved.
Thoughts at the time of the trade
On paper it looks like the San Diego Padres, who hold a tenuous one-game lead in the NL West over the Dodgers, will still lead the NL West after the weekend. The Padres get to play at depressed Seattle while the Dodgers have to play the NL Central-leading Detroit Tigers.
But the Padres may be a good fit for the Mariners to earn a few wins and the Dodgers get to face the back of the Tigers’ rotation. Take a look:
In the Dodgers-Tigers match-up?
Gotta like those odds as a Dodger fan. The Latos-King Felix match-up looks most interesting for Sunday. On the other hand, the Mariners’ offense can make any team look like they’re facing the 1890 Cleveland Spiders, so who knows.
It’s a little more complicated than starting pitcher match-ups, but long and short of it is the Dodgers are at least tied for the division if they win two of three and the Padres lose two of three. With the Mariners throwing out two of their best starters, I’d lean in their favor. Likewise, the Tigers are starting their two worst pitchers this year (Porcello has a 11.9 hits per nine rate; Willis has a 6.1 walks per nine rate) and a minor league call-up. The Dodgers don’t have to see Justin Verlander and the Dodgers’ offense should be able to take advantage even without Andre Ethier. while two of Kuroda, Bills and Ely should find their way through the Tigers’ line-up.
That’s my one unknown, is what the Tigers’ line-up has to say. Starting four guys with sub-.80 OPS+s is hilarious, but it’s not those four that I’m worried about.
There’s that scene in Pirates of the Caribbean when they’re attempting to bring their ship back from the world of the dead and they figure out they have to capsize at exactly sundown. They’re wet for a few seconds, but when the Black Pearl makes the flip, they come out back into their world right-side up, everyone alive and breathing air.
The Dodgers’ pitching ship was flipped early this season. The bullpen, which was such a source of strength over the previous three years, was inept. Chad Billingsley struggled with consistency and Kershaw wasn’t able to wrangle in the walk rate, throwing 110 pitches per game through five innings. Then Padilla and Haeger imploded.
The Dodgers have lost six of their last seven to the Nationals, Mets and Pirates.
The crux of arguments from the above link is that the offense is failing. That’s partially true. I don’t think we all could’ve expected Ethier and Kemp to keep on pace for 200 OPS+, but it’s not as sharp. The team has score 13 runs in those seven games.
However, it’s not as bad as it should be.
Think of it this way: in last night’s game, the Dodgers had four hits (one double) and two walks yesterday. The Pirates had five hits (one “triple” that should’ve been a single) and two walks. The only thing that made their offenses different was the Pirates had a string of consecutive hits.
Same thing happened in the April 27 first game. Dodgers: five hits (one double, one triple), five walks, zero runs. Mets: eight hits (one double, one home run), five walks, four runs. The win expectancy was greater for the Mets than the Dodgers in that one, but getting 10 runners on base and getting shut out is very rare, especially with a double and a triple.
And then the same thing happened in their shutout against the Nats on April 25. Dodgers: Seven hits, two doubles, two walks, zero runs. Nats: four hits, one double, one walk, one run.
So if we take a rough estimate of run expectancy, where a walk = .303 runs, a single = .45 runs, a double = .75 runs and a triple = 1.03 runs, and a home run = 1.4, we have this:
April 29: 2.7 runs
April 27: 4.6 runs
April 25: 3.3 runs
So technically, the Dodgers should’ve outright won the Nats game. And even though the Mets and Pirates had higher run expectancies in both games, the Dodgers would’ve scored more runs than their opponents both times.
On top of that, all three of those teams (Mets, Nats, Pirates) are way overperforming and the Dodgers are underperforming. Pirates and Nats are overperforming their run differentials and the Mets’ pitching has been so lucky at the start of the season it’s absurd.
These are just early season problems, these things usually iron themselves out in the long run. The team overall is in the top 5 of every offensive category (except slugging and OPS where they’re six), even with these poor run expectancy outings.
My main concern though is still the pitching. Even if you want to discount the defense because of errors, the pitching has allowed 108 earned runs (127 total), which is fourth-worst in the NL. Here’s where the team stands before today’s game (rank among the 16 NL teams in parentheses):
ERA: 4.97 (12)
Hits: 198 (10)
Runs: 127 (14)
Earned Runs: 108 (12)
Home Runs: 21 (10)
Walks: 102 (15)
WHIP: 1.533 (N/A)
The walks stand out the most to me. Kershaw right now leads the team with 22 (6.8 per nine innings) and I think that’s one reason why he’s struggling. Haeger is doing his part with 16 so far (7.4 per nine). Then you’ve got Sherrill, Weaver, and so on. You’ve got 10 pitchers of the 16 that have pitched so far this year throwing at a rate higher than 4 walks per nine innings. That’s pretty bad. In comparison, the 2009 Dodgers had seven of their 25 pitchers with a +4 BB/9 rate (Chad Billingsley’s 3.9 would make it eight).
A small addendum on Colletti’s remarks about Kemp’s defense: I think what’s kinda funny about Colletti making the defense remark is that it seems like he’s paying attention to UZR, but he made his comment without considering the necessary sample size. Kemp does take bad routes now and again, but before the start of this season, he was a + defensive player. At worst, calculating for human error on UZR, he was average. You gotta have faith he’ll return to that form, or else you just look like some neurotic fanatic. He’s great! He’s awful! OK, maybe I don’t know what’s up.