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06-05-2013 09:14 AM #1Hangout Blogger Hall of Fame
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- Bethesda MD
HHP: Researching the claim that Buck's TTTP "obsession" hurts our pitchers
There have been a number of times when posters have hinted that Buck's "obsession" with reducing pitchers' time to the plate with runners on base has been detrimental to our pitchers' performance. But does that claim withstand scrutiny?
In the AL, the average pitcher has a .251/.312/.414 opponents' slash line with the bases empty, .262/.330/.412 with runners on base, .264/.317/.418 with a runner on 1B only (which is when 75% of stolen bases occur).
For the Orioles, the figures are .252/.319/.433 with the bases empty, .267/.337/.432 with runners on base, .255/.318/.434 with a runner on 1B.
Here are the conclusions I'd draw from this data:
1. The Orioles' pitchers are below average regardless of the situation, and their biggest problem is allowing too many extra base hits (hence the very high opposing SLG in all situations). With the bases empty (where TTTP is clearly not an issue), the O's have a .752 OPSA compared to .726 for the league, with an OBP 7 points higher and an SLG 19 points higher than the league average in that situation. Nobody can blame that on TTTP.
2. In the most common running situation, runner on 1st base only, the Orioles do almost exactly as well as they do with the bases empty (.752 OPSA in both situations). The diferential for the league as a whole is a bit greater (9 OPS point higher with a runner on 1st than with the bases empty).
3. In all runners on base situations, the O's have an 18 point increase in opposing OBP and a 1 point decrease in opposing SLG. The league as a whole has an 18 point increase in OBP and a 2 point decrease in SLG. So, the differential for the O's is basically the league average.
In short, the evidence does not support the claim that Buck's "obsession" with TTTP hurts our pitchers. But what it undeniably does seem to do is help prevent stolen bases. The O's have allowed only 14 this year, lowest in the league and less than half the league average. And in the 3 years Buck has been the manager, stolen bases allowed per game has gone from .51 per game in 2011 to .39 per game in 2012 to .24 per game in 2013. And that can only help the pitchers.
By the way, I'd probably concede that there may be individual pitchers who do worse with the hitters when they are focusing too much on TTTP. But overall, I'd say that's their problem, not Buck's, since the group as a whole seems to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.
06-05-2013 09:35 AM #2
Great analysis of the numbers. I know I was one that hinted that TTTP could be affecting their control. This just eliminates another possible cause to their sometime struggles.
I've never been a pitcher, but do they change their delivery that much when the bases are empty or do they use a consistent regimen when pitching no matter what? Your numbers do indeed show a case that the problem is they just aren't pitching well in some cases but I'm not entirely sure that they don't always stay with the same pitching in all bases situations...again being that I've never been a pitcher myself.
06-05-2013 04:53 PM #3
Very interesting stuff Rick. Good work.
06-05-2013 05:48 PM #4
This is really interesting, but I think it's neglecting a key point by including all the O's pitchers. The argument was more that the Orioles were forcing all pitchers to conform to a certain TTTP, which for some (not all) meant changing their delivery, which is generally a risky proposition with major leaguers.
I also think that since Buck certainly has a role in choosing which pitchers to use, he would favor those with good times to the plate once he took over. Therefore, in order to get an accurate read on what might have happened after Buck started stressing TTTP, the best way to start would be to compare how pitchers performed before and after Buck took over.
There's not a ton of overlap between pre-Buck and post-Buck pitchers, but let's look at four guys: Chris Tillman, Jeremy Guthrie, Jake Arrieta, and Brian Matusz. The method I'll be using is tOPS+, which compares the OPS+ against for a pitcher in a certain situation to his overall OPS+ against. Over 100 is bad, under 100 is good.
So here's the year-by-year tOPS+ numbers pre-Buck (including 2010) with men on:
Tillman: 100, 84
Guthrie: 114, 90, 91, 107
Matusz: 108, 103
Now here's the year-by-year tOPS+ numbers since 2011, when Buck took over full-time and we started hearing about TTTP in spring training:
Tillman: 121, 82, 75
Matusz: 130, 85, 181
Arrieta: 106, 123, 141
I think these numbers are pretty telling. Note the massive jumps by all these pitchers in 2011. Tillman figured out how to pitch with a shorter windup, Guthrie got traded, Matusz moved to the bullpen (I don't think B-R has double splits but I'd be interested to see his men on tOPS+ as a starter and reliever in 2012). Arrieta, on the other hand, was relatively quite good with men on in 2010, but since 2011 has gone from bad to worse. Looking at his minor league numbers, even, he pitched roughly the same or better with runners on in 2009 and 2010, and in 2008 his runners on OPS against was still just .659.
I think there's a very strong argument to be made that in the interest of improving the pitchers' TTTP, Buck tinkered with their stretch deliveries, which had negative effects at least in the short term, and in the case of Arrieta, perhaps in the long term.
06-05-2013 05:49 PM #5
Nice research on this.
06-05-2013 05:56 PM #6
06-05-2013 05:56 PM #7
06-05-2013 06:33 PM #8
General observations about set vs. windup:
1. Some pitchers, especially our "cavalry" (Britton, Arrieta, Matusz, Tillman?) seem to have better velocity and control when pitching from the windup. Outliers that have even wider a gap between windup vs. set would include, for instance, Jake Arrieta, who, for a few games this season, looked dominant when pitching from the windup, but fell apart when pitching from the set. These situations are pretty much outliers, as there is no evidence to support that, on a league level or even on a team level, that opposing OBP or BA or OPS is worse when pitching from the set. We just happen to be saddled with a few pitchers in our organization who suffer a bit more from control problems from the set than from the windup.
2. Almost without exception, time to the plate is substantially reduced when pitching from the set. I can't think of any modern pitcher who breaks this general rule, unless they have a very fast windup already.
3. All professional pitchers are (should be!) VERY accustomed to pitching from both the windup and the set, and switching back and forth between them. Example: you pitch to the lead-off guy from the windup, he gets a single, you switch to the set, the next guy bounces into a double play, then you pitch to the next guy from the windup with 2 outs and no one on, then he gets a single, then you pitch to the next guy from the set, he gets out, then in the next inning you start off from the windup again. By the time they make it to the majors, they are so used to this that they don't even have to think about it.
4. Most relievers -- with the fairly typical exception of closers -- pitch from the set all the time, even with no one on base. I think they do this because relievers in general try to focus on less variety and tend to be less flexible than starters: they pare down their pitch selection to 1 to 3 good pitches instead of trying to maintain a 4+ pitch repertoire. It makes sense to also let them focus on one single delivery mechanism.
5. Some studies have shown that, while the windup can increase some pitchers' velocity by 1-2 mph compared to the set, the windup causes more arm and elbow fatigue than the set, due to the nature of the delivery. This is hardly conclusive, though, either in favor of or against the windup.
The most important point out of all of these to consider is the second point, which is virtually indisputable and universally true: when you pitch from the set, especially the slide-step (a variety or species of the set), you get to the plate faster. The possible disadvantages of pitching from the set, such as a decrease in velocity, are kind of like a prescription drug's side effects: they are "generally mild", and happen to only 1-2% of the people. That doesn't mean, of course, that 1 out of 1000 pitchers who tries to pitch from the set won't be completely ineffective from the set but dominant from the windup. I think we may have just such a guy on our club in Jake Arrieta.
06-05-2013 08:50 PM #9Plus Member since 11/11 Major Leagues
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- Sep 2003
- Chambersburg, PA
I think there is a fine line between decreasing your time to the plate and rushing your delivery. Some guys will get out of synch. Also, the time it takes and the ability to make these adjustments will vary by individual. Some may never get there.
I wonder if there has been any change to the organization's scouting of amateur players? Do they consider TTTP when ranking pitchers more than they have in the past? Didn't Gausman already come with a fairly good TTTP? I could see them potentially looking at fastball/change combo and TTTP as key factors in targeting pitchers. They will fit in the system better and may need less intensive development. Pure speculation, of course.
Would like to hear VAtech's thoughts on this.
06-05-2013 11:12 PM #10
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06-05-2013 11:54 PM #11
To my eye Matusz, Tillman, Arrieta, and Britton, have struggled, particularly from the stretch, after the TTTP tinkering. It would be interesting to focus on just their numbers from the stretch and from the wind up since 2011.
06-07-2013 10:13 AM #12
I think there is a very good case to be made that Arrieta's struggles are a direct result of Buck's tinkering with his stretch delivery. Matusz requires a more detailed examination, Tillman seems to be a moot point since he's had success, and Britton's struggles appear unrelated to TTTP adjustments, but in the case of Arrieta, I don't think there's any more clear explanation than that.
Also, can I just state that I hate Buck's assertion that "you can't screw up the good ones"? It's demonstrably false (look at how Dusty Baker screwed up Kerry Wood and Mark Prior), and seems solely designed to absolve a coaching staff of any responsibility when a player fails (though they're perfectly happy to take some credit when players succeed).
06-07-2013 05:26 PM #13Hangout Blogger Hall of Fame
Originally Posted by eb45
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- Dec 2003
- Bethesda MD
They undoubtedly worked with the others, especially Matusz and Arrieta, who wrote very vulnerable to stolen bases in 2010 (Matusz allowed 17 of 20 successful steals in 175 inning and Arrieta allowed 10 of 11 in 100 innings). Matusz is now very effective at holding runners, and I'd argue he's been very effective with runners on base since becoming a reliever. Only 3 of 7 have stolen successfully in 2012-13 (including his time as a starter in 2012). Arrieta's been terrible with runners on base and I'd readily concede that TTTP adjustments could be a part of his problem.
As to Tillman, he's better than before with runners on base and overall so I see no issue there.
So in the end, this comes down to a possible problem with Arrieta, and I repeat what I said in the OP: I see it as his problem, not Buck's.