A quick update on fastball velocities;
- Alfredo Simon fastball watch: In the first half, Simon was averaging 94.0mph on his fastball but in his four starts since the All Star Break he’s down to 93.5. In his most recent start he posted his highest average fastball velocity and broke 95 MPH during the game for the first time since the All-Star Break.
- Mat Latos is the pitcher I am most concerned about during the second half. In the mid-season round out, I wrote about his declining fastball velocity and career-low swinging strike percentage. These numbers had been masked by an unsustainably low .188 BABIP during the first half. In Big Mat’s three starts in the second half, his fastball velocity is still concerning (90.7 mph. For reference, Mike Leake is averaging 90.5 mph) and BABIP in the second half (.254) quickly moving back to his career average (.274).
We write a lot about the individual stories that happen during a season: Alfredo Simons unexpected performance as a starting pitching; Johnny Cueto’s Cy Young-quality year; and Mike Leake’s quietly great season.
Actually, I can’t stress enough how great of a season Leake is having: his K% (18.4) is at a career high, while he has career lows in BB% (5.1), HR/9 (0.88), FIP (3.62), and xFIP (3.41). With such a good season you would expect his BABIP to be far below his career average, but this year Leake’s BABIP is above (.302) his career rate (.295).
In the story of the 2014 season, Johnny Cueto’s name is in lights, but Mike Leake is the memorable opening act.
Yet instead of looking an individual player or game, today we are going to look at the pitching staff as a whole and compare them to our 2013 group. The conventional wisdom is that our pitching staff is better than previous years, but in what area(s) have they improved?
Here are the aggregate numbers — all pitchers, all innings.
The Reds staff ranks 11th in xFIP (3.45) and 19th in FIP (3.88). One explanation why the Reds FIP is higher than their xFIP could be the Reds give up more home runs per fly ball than an average major league team. Not surprisingly, the Reds rank 26th in home runs per fly ball ratio.
The 2014 Reds’ 3.41 ERA puts them 8th best in the league, and the divergence between FIP and ERA can partially be explained by the Reds having the 3rd lowest BABIP (.273) in the league. Furthermore, the club is stranding runners at a 76.9% clip, which is third best in baseball [for reference, only 8.4% distinguish the best in the league, Seattle (77.4%) and the worst, the Rangers, at 69.0%).
Aroldis Chapman’s 50+% strikeout rate is helping the the Reds hold tight at 8th best in the league at K/9, but they are at the middle of the pack (17th) in BB/9.
Now, let’s take a look at the 2013 Reds staff.
The 2013 ERA (3.38) was good for 4th in the league, which was a half point lower than what our FIP (3.81, 13th in the league) would have predicted. Once again, giving up a lot of home runs (23rd “best”) explains a big split between our FIP and the Reds ranking 7th in xFIP (3.68).
Usually, somewhere in there, we have to work in a reference to BABIP being a compounding factor for why its hard to make comparisons across groups. Surprisingly, the 2013 and 2014 Reds (at the time of writing) have exactly the same BABIP, (.273). In 2013, the Reds had the lowest BABIP in the league.
So, the quick recap:
The 2014 Reds: ERA (8th), FIP (19th), xFIP (11th), BABIP (3rd)
The 2013 Reds: ERA (4th), FIP (23rd), xFIP (7th), BABIP (1st)
Despite losing Latos for half the season, Cingrani being demoted to AAA, and Homer Bailey struggling in the first half, the Reds pitching staff has largely performed as well as their 2013 version.
There is one major difference between 2013 and 2014: walk-rate. The 2013 Reds starters walked fewer batters (6.2 percent, 4th in the league) than the 2014 Reds starters (6.9 percent, 17th in the league).
In the sage words of the big board at Riverfront Stadium, walks will haunt.
Here are three random stats that I found interesting:
- The Reds throw fewer wild pitches than any other team in the league (only 23 allowed, whereas the White Sox are leading the league with 62 wild pitches. Think about that for a second: that means in more than half their games this year, the White Sox have thrown a wild pitch. You can only blame so many of these on Adam Dunn).
- Only two teams in the league have not balked yet this year (Phillies, and…the Mets? Seriously?). The Reds have five balks this year good for 25th worst in baseball. The Twins and Giants are tied with us at 5, while the Mariners (6), Tigers (6), Rangers (6) and Rockies (7) are the only teams to have more balks than our Reds. So which one of the Reds pitchers have balked this year? (Answer: Cingrani, 2; Cueto, 1; Bailey, 1; Carlos Contreras, in his 13 innings, 1).
- The Reds take, on average, 23.0 seconds between pitches. This is good (good? well, its something) for 15th in the league. The Rays are the human indoor rain delays, clocking in almost 2 full seconds slower than the next-slowest team, at 26.1 seconds. The Reds slowest pitchers this year is Johnaton Broxton, taking 28.7 seconds between pitches, while Johnny Cueto only takes 21.1 seconds between throws.