Jun
03

Mailbag: First Pitch Swinging, OF Arms, DotF

By

After a one week hiatus, I’m back with a new mailbag. This week we’re going to talk about first pitch swinging, outfield arms, some DotF weirdness, prospects in the super-low minors, and my favorite announcers. Remember to use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar to send in your questions throughout the week.

Alex asks: I have a few questions about first pitch swinging: Who swings at first pitches the most on the Yankees? And, as a team what are the situations where the team as a whole is the most likely to swing at the first pitch? While watching the game against the Orioles, Teixeira swung at the first pitch in a two out, no one on situation which seems to play into the pitcher’s goal of having a quick inning. Very frustrating.

First pitch swinging can be very frustrating, but it’s not always a bad strategy. A lot of time with the bases loaded or with men in scoring position, spots where the pitcher is in serious trouble, the first pitch is often the best to hit because the guy on the mound wants to make sure he gets strike one. That leads to a lot of first pitch fastballs in the zone, which are good hittin’. Those are good time to guess, and great things happen when you guess right.

Anyway, I have no idea how to find the situations in which the team (or even individual players) are most likely to swing at the first pitch, but what I can tell you is how often each player puts the first pitch of an at-bat in play. That’s pretty much the best I can do since I’m not PitchFX savvy enough to dig through the data and pick it out swings regardless of outcome. Here’s what I’ve got for first pitch balls in play…

The data is for this year only, and I looked at players with more than 100 plate appearances. So sorry to all the bench guys. No one should be surprised that Robinson Cano tops the list or that Derek Jeter ranks pretty high, and frankly it looks like what I imagine a chart of first pitch swinging percentages would look like (based on just observation). As a group, the nine regulars put the first pitch in play 11.5% of the time, which is slightly higher than the MLB (11.2%) and AL (11.0%) averages. The Yankees also have a 118 OPS+ on the first pitch, so they’re doing more damage that the league average on the first pitch as well. Swinging at the first pitch is most frustrating after the pitcher walks the previous batter, that’s when it really bothers me.

(Photo Credit: Flickr user tom sulivan via Creative Commons license)

Shai asks: Is Granderson considered to have a good arm? From my untrained eye it seems he doesn’t and he actually pushes the ball rather than throwing it. From the 3 OF Swisher seems to have the best mechanics (Gardner’s % not withstanding) What do you think?

Yeah, all of the Yankees’ outfield arms pretty much suck (for various reasons). Gardner has a tendency to throw ten-hoppers to the plate and Swisher is prone to airmailing stuff, and Grandy just isn’t all that great at it. Throwing arm is the least important defensive tool for center and left fielders, so it’s not a killer there, but it’s very important in right. The numbers don’t really agree though. Since the start of the 2009 season, Gardner has saved 6.4 runs with his arm, ninth most among the 62 qualified outfielders (and right behind the cannon armed Shin-Soo Choo). Granderson is at 1.4 runs saved (23rd), and Swish is way down at -7.8 runs saved (59th). Two of the three have actually been pretty good.

As for the actual throwing mechanics, Swisher looks like he has the best, but I’m not the best person to ask about these things. Frankly I don’t care how it looks as long as it works, and it’s clearly not for Nick.

John asks: In the down on the farm stats you always include GB-FB ratio. However, many times the outs don’t match up. For instance, Nik Turley [the other day] has a game where he struck out 4 and had a 5-2 GB-FB ratio over 6 innings. What happened to those other 7 outs? Even if he got 5 DPs with his 5 ground balls, there are 2 outs missing, right?

There’s a number of reasons why. Could be a double play like you mentioned, could also be baserunners getting thrown out trying to steal/getting picked off. The biggest culprit is line outs though, which MiLB.com doesn’t keep track of in the box score. I’d have to go through the play-by-play recap and count them up manually, and there’s no chance of me doing that on an every day basis. Sorry.

Nate asks: Which DSL Yankees players have received big bonuses?

The Dominican Summer League season started last weekend, and you can see the rosters for the Yankees’ two affiliates here and here. I recommend looking at the stat pages (here and here) though, just to see who has actually played this year. Some guys on the roster are actually in Extended Spring Training and on their way to GCL later this month. Here’s the bonus info I have, which is obviously far from complete (signing year in parenthesis)…

  • Wilmer Romero, OF – $656,500 (2010)
  • Christopher Tamarez, SS – $650,000 (2010)
  • Eladio Moronta, OF – $570,000 (2009)
  • Eduardo Rivera, RHP – $475,000 (2010)
  • Juan Matos, RHP -$400,000 (2010)
  • Mikeson Oliberto, OF – $12,000 (2010)

Fred asks: Besides Vin Scully, who is your favorite play-by-play announcer in baseball?

Scully is easily the best, and I also love Duane Kuiper and Mike Krukow, who call the Giants’ games. I’m sure some people will disagree, but I also enjoy Dewayne Staats and Brian Anderson of the Rays. They’re pretty entertaining, and Anderson’s a young enough guy that his references aren’t completely outdated. Dick Enberg with the Padres is also fantastic. Gary Cohen and Keith Hernandez have their moments on SNY; it’s fun when Keith starts rambling on like he forgets he’s on television or something. And, of course, David Cone is pretty awesome on YES. So is Ken Singleton and Al Leiter.

Categories : Mailbag

80 Comments»

  1. From 2007-present, Jeff Francouer leads all MLB outfielders in ARM at 37.6. That’s roughly TWICE AS MUCH as the #2 man, Shane Victorino (19.4).

    It’s just a shame they don’t put ARM on the scoreboard.

  2. Mike HC says:

    Good stuff here all around, questions and answers.

    I always thought Gardner had a pretty good arm and good mechanics. He does have a tendency to bounce them, but you want to keep it low and that is not all that bad.

  3. In terms of throwing mechanics, my untrained eye would say Granderson has the best because when he sees a runner tagging, he actually gets behind the ball and catches it on his throw side. It seems that very few players actually do this.

  4. Monteroisdinero says:

    Swish has the best mechanics but insufficient arm strength. Once his best throws start to bounce most of us could catch them barehanded. Gardner gets to balls quickly and his mechanics are only good in the sense that he is excellent at forward momentum when he throws-many of his throws do not spend enough time in the air-the opposite problem of Swish. Grandy’s arm is average and is only effective when he has alot of momentum to the infield. None of them can carry my jockstrap on this skill.

    Greg Golson.

  5. Macho Man says:

    And all along I thought our OFs had good arms. Then again, after years of watching Bernie and Damon, anybody would look good.

  6. Stryker says:

    jim kaat is an awesome announcer.

  7. LarryM.,Fl. says:

    Mike: I agree with your opinion on Stats and Anderson as announcers. In Florida may Directv YES feed is blacked out because I live in Sarasota the Rays TV market. I pick up the games off of the Rays channel on Diretv. Stats and Anderson report the game quite objectively with a toned down homer voice when Rays players perform well.

    Its about 180 degrees form Hawk Harrelson’s, “you can put it on the board.”

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      We can agree to disagree. Cannot stand Staats.

      • Pat D says:

        My dad hates Staats. I’m hot and cold with him.

        Whenever we check the Tampa game on Extra Innings, my dad will always make sure to put on the other team’s feed. Unless it’s the White Sox.

        • MikeD says:

          Interesting. To me there’s nothing about Staats that’s offensive. Always seemed like a solid pro. Maybe I’m partial toward him remembering his five seasons as a Yankee announcer in the early 90s. Then again, maybe that’s why your father doesn’t like him. Staats was with the Yankees during the dark losing days. Perhaps your father is having a Pavlovian response to Staats’ voice!

          As said, don’t love him, don’t hate him. I’d gladly trade John Flaherty for him.

      • LarryM.,Fl. says:

        Considering Kennedy as his partner made me vomit especially on umpire calls with the Yanks.

  8. Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

    Dewayne Staats? Ugh. He’s such a crybaby, homer. I do like Brian Anderson though. Anderson is a HUUUUGE improvement over Kevin Kennedy. I think Staats learned his “everyone is against us” attitude from Kennedy.

    • Last year GQ ranked Staats and Kennedy as the third worst team in the game.

      http://www.gq.com/sports/lists.....=8#slide=8

      (Cincinnati’s Brennaman/Brantley combo was #2. I think you can guess who the worst was without even blinking.)

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

        Michael Kay? Seriously, how much better has this West Coast trip been listening to Ken Singleton as the play-by-play guy? He keeps the game on point, when small talking, he doesn’t make it about himself, and he doesn’t disagree with the color guy just because.
        Maybe YES can have Kay just do his chat show from now on?

        • Pat D says:

          No, that would be the Hawk.

          As much as Michael Kay can irritate me at times, you know what? At least he gives pretty much the same home run call even when the other team hits one. Yea, it’s not with as much enthusiasm, but he still says “See ya!” the same way.

          Now compare that with the #4 best guy on that list, Don Orsillo. Orsillo couldn’t show enthusiasm for the opposing team hitting a home run if he had a gun to his head. Flipped on the White Sox/Red Sox game the other day just in time to see Konerko launch one over the monster. Orsillo called it as if it was a pop up to second. I mean, he could at least try.

        • MikeD says:

          While we think Kay is annoying, the Yankee broadcast team is actually good compared to what’s available around the rest of the country. Kay is one of the type of announcers who will score high on the “most liked” and “most disliked” announcers. Overall I’m fine with Kay, but I don’t have a problem with him getting some games off. Unfortunately, we will be subjected to Lorenz and Flaherty for the Angels series. Those two don’t match up well. Lorenz is fine, but they should match him with someone a little more high energy than Flaherty.

          Getting back to that list. I didn’t realize some fan base was subjected to Jeff Brantley as a regular announcer. You could take the worst of Morgan, McCarver and Buck, and that Frankenstein creation would be pure heaven compared to Brantley.

  9. Drew says:

    Al Lieter is the worst ever. Everytime I hear him speak I just say “shut up meg”

  10. Josh S. says:

    As far as play-by-play announcers, I think that anyone not named Michael Kay is good. Although I have to say that Ernie Johnson during last year’s ALDS was just awful. Sounded like he was at a funeral not a playoff baseball game.

    • Pat D says:

      And he was pretty clearly rooting for the Twins and then the Rangers. Just as John Smoltz was. Only Darling remained objective.

    • Clay Bellinger says:

      The entire TBS baseball broadcasts are pretty atrocious. Over the last two postseasons, there were multiple times where a reliever came into the game while they hadn’t even noted that he was warming up.

  11. I think Cone is really the perfect guy to have in the booth. Smart, likeable personality, knowledgeable about the game (pitching in particular, obviously), interested in learning more about the game and modern analysis, and he’s also got the ex-player side and his own particular mischievous stories from that time to tell. I’m pretty psyched he’s back with YES, it sucked when he left.

    Speaking of outfield arms… I love the current outfield, but it would be nice to have one guy with a big arm out there. It’s just fun to watch, and the outfield putout (especially at the plate) is such an exciting play. This got me thinking about strong arms we’ve seen in the Yanks’ OF… First names to pop into my mind are Winfield, Barfield, Mondesi (however brief his stint in pinstripes may have been), a younger O’Neill, Abreu… Who am I forgetting? Did Tartabull have a particularly strong arm? I can’t remember his arm for some reason.

  12. If the Yanks had Singleton and Cone as their primary team, or even Lorenz/Singleton/Cone as their primary team, I wonder where that would rank relative to the other booths out there. I’d imagine it’d rank pretty high.

  13. JobaTheHeat62 says:

    I agree with the Giants broadcasters, they are very very good. But besides them and scully I would honestly take the YES network team, even if that means Micheal Kay. As a whole I like the entire group but Cone, Leiter, and Singleton are by far the best 3…Its so awesome watching them, and it makes it miserable when the Yankees have an espn or fox game. they are horrendous.

  14. Pat D says:

    If the Yankees and Dodgers are playing at the same time, I’ll flip to the Dodgers games during commercials just to see if Vin Scully is calling the game. If he is, I’ll probably flip back repeatedly just to hear his greatness.

    Being that this is his last year, I swear that if Fox doesn’t have him call some (or preferably, all) of the World Series, those fuckers should be executed. Well, OK, they should be anyway for subjecting us to BuckCarver for years, but you get my point.

    • That would be awesome for the playoffs. Of course, FOX would screw it up by making it a two-man booth: Vin Scully and Judge Andrew Napolitano.

      • Pat D says:

        Judge Goombah!!!!!

        I’d actually like to here a discussion between them with Scully defending the move to Los Angeles while Judge Goombah insists that there were no provisions in the Constitution that made it legal for O’Malley to leave Brooklyn, since our founding fathers were never in favor of relocation of sports franchises.

  15. MannyGeee says:

    no love for my boy Bob Uecker…

    /sadface

    • MannyGeee says:

      unless we are speaking strictly of TV color & play by play guys… in which case I suck and I can be disregarded

      • Howie says:

        I have much love for Harry Doyle. The two announcers I go out of my way to listen to on MLB.TV/MLB At Bat are Vin Scully and Bob Uecker.

  16. The Oberamtmann says:

    I watch most games on MLB.tv (sigh) and when the Yanks play away I try to listen to the other teams’ broadcasts. Michael Kay is not that bad. He seems to know more about the other teams than the other teams know about the Yankees’ players (credit the YES research staff, if you will, but that’s part of broadcasting), and he really isn’t that bad. I would put him in the top half, maybe even top third, easily.

    We get annoyed at him because we hear him EVERY DAY saying the SAME THINGS. But he has to do that – they have to find things to talk about every day for 162 games. Remember, many of the viewers weren’t watching the last five times he told a story. I think if we were forced to watch each team’s broadcast that many times, we’d hate all of them that much (except Scully).

    Further, YES gets a big boost due to their large, rotating staff. That’s a brilliant addition and adds a lot of much-needed change and diversity in the booth.

    But I do think you guys are all much to hard on Kay.

  17. King of Fruitless Hypotheticals says:

    fav announcer was Scooter. He was a ton of fun.

  18. Craig says:

    Wayne Hagin and Howie Rose are pretty knowledgeable, albeit a bit biased.

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