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Jason Grey on Matusz


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Lot's of good discussion, and I'll shoot rep to everyone I can.

LJ's explanation was beautifully put. I won't even try to restate it, as my post would undoubtably fall well short. I will throw a couple clarifying points out there as to my ratings:

1. Calling someone a #2 isn't shortselling anyone. You on't have to be a true #1 to lead a staff, and I'd love to have a#2 at the front of my rotation were I a manager.

2. Calling someon a #1 solely on stats is a matter of labeling past performance, whereas the goal of scouting is to project future performance. The definition I threw out there yesterday is a formula for identifying players that are highly likely to give dominant performances every time they take the mound. Example: I wouldn't project Cliff Lee to produce next year like he did this year, though his stats would certainly lead everyone to think he's a better pitcher than almost anyone out there. If my rating of a pitcher is going to shift every season, it really doesn't have much value as a predictive tool.

3. #1 can't be defined in the scouting world as someone who can lead a staff on a playoff contender. It isn't descriptive enough and it doesn't distinguish between, say, Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana.

4. In the NL right now I'd put Santana, Lincecum and Sabathia as true #1 starters, with Peavy and Webb straddling the line. There are a bunch of starters who are more than capable of shutting down opposing teams and beig the best starter on a staff, but those three are the only pitchers that I look at and expect absolute dominance when they take the mound. I'm not a stat expert, but I checked the VORP on NL pitchers this year and Lincecum and Santana were each over 70 and Sabthia's combined AL/NL VORP was over 70 as well. Hamels was in the mid-50s.

There are a handful of other terrific and talented pitchers at Hamels's VORP-level including Webb and Peavy (Haren, Sheets, Billingsley, Webb, Peavy) Billingsley has #1 upside and could grow into it -- he's just a little too inconsistent. What I'm trying to say is there was about a 30-35% difference in performance based on VORP (and I'll let you stat people determine whether or not that is significant or whether VORP is a good metric to use). Using the #1 label allows scouts to differentiate between the great and the elite.

Anyway, my gut tells me Frobby, Mackus, etc. would feel better if I called #2s - #1s and #1s - aces. It's truly just a matter of trying to draw a line between those pitchers who are better than the general group of top pitchers. I appreciate the convo and don't have any problem with posters here taking issue with my labels -- we're just coming at it from different angles.

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Anyway, my gut tells me Frobby, Mackus, etc. would feel better if I called #2s - #1s and #1s - aces. It's truly just a matter of trying to draw a line between those pitchers who are better than the general group of top pitchers.
I think thats a good way of looking at it. The absolute best of the best, top 5-10 in the league, should be separate from the best, the top 20 or so.

I still think you're putting a bit too much emphasis on skills rather than performance, at least when looking at who is / has been a number one as opposed to who will become a #1. When looking towards the future and trying to determine who has the upside to become a #1, I totally agree with your methodology, but when determining who is currently the best or who was the best for a certain timeframe in the past, results are far more important than projections or talent, IMO.

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I think that was my definition being allocated to you. Though Cabrera also didn't have two plus-plus pitches and one good-to-plus pitch.

He had (at one time) two plus-plus pitches and one average-to-below. As well as the command and pitchability issues.

Though his ceiling might arguably have been a #1 (arguably).

Quick question - what about a pitcher like Kevin Brown?

Honestly, I'd have to go watch tape. Brown was before my scouting days and during my playing days. I just wasn't as analytical then. I know he had a plus-plus sinker, plus-command and plus-pitchability. I don't know that his breaking ball was plus-plus but I have to think it was at least fringe. He was certainly durable on a game-to-game basis. He could miss plenty of bats, though he didn't always do so.

If I had to give an uninformed rating I'd be conservative and put him on the line between #1/#2 but most likely #1. Again, I could be way off -- I just wasn't breaking down players back then. His stuff also played a little better in the NL, but again that's anecdotal -- I just don't know without going back to watch him.

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Of the top of my head I'd define a #1 as:

1. Two pitches that grade out as fringe-plus-plus to plus-plus and another above-average to plus

2. Perhaps one more pitch that is average or better (though depending on the above, this might not be necessary)

3. Plus command

4. Advanced pitchability (knowledge of the "art" and how to gameplan and execute)

5. Durability (both in-game and in-season -- loosely I'll say he has a reasonable chance at 6+ IP each outing, with shorter outings due to effectiveness and not stamina)

6. Usually all of this adds up to high ability to miss bats, but I wouldn't say that missing bats is a requisite (more often, not missing bats is illustrating a shortcoming in 1-4)

I think Matusz can tick off 2-6, but I don't know that he has the ceiling on his pitches to grow into 1. His change and curve could certainly end up as plus-plus offerings, but I don't think his fastball gets there without adding 3-5 mph. I think that's why he gets the Hamels comp from me. Great command and a killer CH/CB combo. Not enough velo on the FB.

Now, I'm not saying it's inconceivable for him to become a true #1. I just think his total package looks to add up to #2 if all goes as expected.

Finally, the purpose of having the label is to identify a pitcher who has not just the ability but the reasonable possibility of absolutely dominating every game he starts. Everyone has "off" days, but a true #1 should have you thinking "7 IP, 8 SO, 1 BB, 4 H, 0 ER" whenever you flip to he box scores.

Does that make sense?

I understand measuring skill as the qualifier and I agree this is appropriate but isn't the exclusion of performance counterintuitive? Under your definition wouldn't it be theoretically possible for a pitcher to have the entire skilset and yet be average performance wise?
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I understand measuring skill as the qualifier and I agree this is appropriate but isn't the exclusion of performance counterintuitive? Under your definition wouldn't it be theoretically possible for a pitcher to have the entire skilset and yet be average performance wise?

Interesting question. I guess theoretically a pitcher with all of those attributes could run into incredible bad luck and end up with a relatively poor ERA?

I'd ask a different question, though.

Looking at the start of the 2009 season, would you rather have Cliff Lee or Jon Lester? Would you rather have Matt Cain or Ryan Dempster? The basic premise is the better the skillset, the more likely a player is to succeed. The set I laid out is just about the best skillset you can hope for. As Jim so eloquently stated, it's about both having a big house and filling it (potential and the ability to reach that potential).

So, Hamels at his best can be among the best starters in the game on any given night, while Lincecum at not quite his best can do the same. Further, Lincecum's package makes him the better bet to go out and shut down a team completely. So it's a matter of handicapping a player's potential performance.

So, when I say I take Lincecum over Hamels, what I'm actually saying is something like 6 out of 10 times Lincecum is going to outperform Hamels, and I want the guy who is more likely to succeed, based on the tools he's using.

Put another way (rambling on), three guys are racing. Racer 1 has a car with a max speed of 150 MPH, Racer 2 has a max speed of 140 MPH and Racer 3 has a max speed of 130 MPH. Racer 1 is a slightly better technical driver than Racer 2, ditto Racer 2 vs. Racer 3. My money will always be on Racer 1, though if they race 100 times Racer 2 and even Racer 3 will win their share, due to normal variance in performance (i.e. no one is on their game every single day). If Racer 2 wins ten straight races, do I decide to start backing Racer 2? Nope. Racer 1 is still the better bet, despite what the past 10 races would suggest.

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Anyway, my gut tells me Frobby, Mackus, etc. would feel better if I called #2s - #1s and #1s - aces. It's truly just a matter of trying to draw a line between those pitchers who are better than the general group of top pitchers. I appreciate the convo and don't have any problem with posters here taking issue with my labels -- we're just coming at it from different angles.

You can call them whatever you want, I'm just trying to be sure I understand how you are using the terms. To some people "ace" and "no. 1" are synonymous, some think "ace" denotes a higher level, some think "no. 1" denotes a higher level.

To me, since every team has someone who serves as its no. 1 starter, a "no. 1" is a lesser term than an "ace." Some teams have no "ace," and some teams are lucky enough to have two.

The other difference here is temporal. When a scout is talking about someone's ceiling, he's talking about what he can be at his peak. Is Mike Mussina an ace? Well, he certainly was an ace in his prime. Once an ace, always an ace? He was an ace this year, but he wasn't last year? There are several different ways to use these terms.

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You can call them whatever you want, I'm just trying to be sure I understand how you are using the terms. To some people "ace" and "no. 1" are synonymous, some think "ace" denotes a higher level, some think "no. 1" denotes a higher level.

To me, since every team has someone who serves as its no. 1 starter, a "no. 1" is a lesser term than an "ace." Some teams have no "ace," and some teams are lucky enough to have two.

The other difference here is temporal. When a scout is talking about someone's ceiling, he's talking about what he can be at his peak. Is Mike Mussina an ace? Well, he certainly was an ace in his prime. Once an ace, always an ace? He was an ace this year, but he wasn't last year? There are several different ways to use these terms.

No, I think a label is always what that player is now. Matusz isn't a #2, he's a potential #2. Neftali Feliz isn't a #1, he's a potential #1. Mussina isn't a #1, he's a former #1. Lincecum was a potential #1 last year, and grew into a #1 this year.

With regards to ace/#1, I agree people are inconsistent. They mean the same thing to me. A scout giving a ceiling is indeed "what the player can be", but that shouldn't be confusing.

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You can call them whatever you want, I'm just trying to be sure I understand how you are using the terms. To some people "ace" and "no. 1" are synonymous, some think "ace" denotes a higher level, some think "no. 1" denotes a higher level.

To me, since every team has someone who serves as its no. 1 starter, a "no. 1" is a lesser term than an "ace." Some teams have no "ace," and some teams are lucky enough to have two.

The other difference here is temporal. When a scout is talking about someone's ceiling, he's talking about what he can be at his peak. Is Mike Mussina an ace? Well, he certainly was an ace in his prime. Once an ace, always an ace? He was an ace this year, but he wasn't last year? There are several different ways to use these terms.

As I read this thread earlier, I was thinking that the scouts probably pegged Mussina as a potential #2 and Ben McDonald as a potential #1. I think you're on the right track that if we know how the term is being used, there's nothing wrong with that. The problem is that the terms are used so differently by different people, most notably by 'scouts' and 'non-scouts'.

I'd be willing to bet that the terms did originally mean a projection toward being the #1 starter and #2 starter (and so on) of a championship caliber team. But as a pitching era moved onto a hitting era, and as pitching got watered down for various reasons, scouts continued (and passed on to new scouts) the standard for a #1 label that they originally had.

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So, I come to the Hangout on a boring Friday afternoon, and open a thread commenting on Jason Grey's writing about Matusz...not expecting much.

What I wind up getting is insightful analysis, and posts so well-written they could be published in national periodicals.

Who are you people?

Great stuff...just great, great stuff.

Rep has been delivered.

Thanks to all.

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So as I've gone back and reread this thread I've decided that if all Matusz has is a ceiling of a number 2 according to the scouts, and as a number 2 they're referring to a Hamelesque type pitcher then I'll be more than happy with that pick; especially since they've all said that he's one of the better bets to actually reach his ceiling in a while.

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