Sometimes I think the internet is the greatest thing ever. I can access vast amounts of information, link up with old friends, and of course, download illegal mp3s — just kidding RIAA. The global world at my fingertips and all that malarkey.
The interconnectivity between one user and the world is amazing, but sometimes I could go without certain information. Let me give you some examples:
Gee, thanks a lot, series of tubes. I think you could argue that the Giants, in terms of adding value back to society, is akin to watching that Peanut Butter Jelly Time flashpage on repeat for 4 days straight. Eventually you’ll start to feel disconnected and your brain will atrophy. The strands that hold society together will begin to unravel and dissolve, social structures will crumble, and we’ll all go back to a more primal time where Barry Zito didn’t throw 82mph and the Giants maybe still had a chance. Is that Tyler Walker I see smeared in blood and using human bones for weapons? Sweet.
My top contributors to the demise of society are:
Tylker Walker – Walker started the season strongly but since April 19th he has an ERA of 8.74. Walker has looked even more flammable as of late, giving up 3 ER or more in 3 of his last 4 appearances. He struggled again yesterday giving up 3 ER in an inning of work against the White Sox. Maybe it’s a time for a changing of the guard in late game duties.
Jose Castillo – You might think his OPS+ of 103 is great and it would be if he didn’t play defense like a blind Russ Davis. He’s still the worst fielding 3B in the NL, converting less than 60% of balls hit into his zone into outs. The average EqA for a 3B in baseball is .268 and Castillo is slightly under the mark with his EqA of .264. Also consider that most of Castillo’s underlying numbers — LD%, GB%, FB%, BB%, BABIP — are close to his career norms with a couple of exceptions. He’s hitting a few more line drives — 21.1% to a career level of 19.7% — and it actually looks like he’s swinging less and walking more. His career BB% of 5.5% is hacktastic but he’s boosted his BB% to 8.1% so far this year.
How has he boosted his BB% you ask? Mainly he’s swinging a little less. His Swing% from ’05-07 is 54.40% and for this year it’s at 52.17%. But, he’s still a free swinger when compared to league average rates. The league average hitter, over the last three years, has a Swing% of right around 46%. So, Castillo has improved some but it’s not like he’s turned into an Ultra Patient Hitter ™. His O-Swing%, or the percentage of pitches a batter swings at outside of the zone, is at 31.43% down from 35.11% in ’07. It looks like Castillo got really aggressive in ’07 and was swinging at almost anything. He’s backed that off some but he’s still swinging at pitches outside of the zone at a higher rate than his ’05-07′ career percentage of 29.49%. The league average O-Swing% over the last three years has been around 23% on average. Once again, Castillo has improved from ’07 but is still over his career percentage and is still more aggressive outside of the strike zone than your average hitter from ’05-’07.
But, being aggressive outside of the strike zone isn’t always a bad thing if you can make contact. Hitters like Bengie Molina and Vladimir Guerro have reputations for swinging at everything AND being able to make contact. Just for fun, let’s compare Castillo’s 2008 numbers against the averages of Molina and Guerrero, two noted freeswingers that make good contact outside of the zone.
We’ve explained 0-Swing% but 0-Contact% is the percentage of pitches a batter makes contact with outside of the zone. The higher the percentage, the more contact is made. A good page for the Fangraphs swing data can be found here, it contains the league averages over ’05-’07 — which I’ve just averaged for a quick and dirty number — and some more data and definitions. Also, remember that Castillo’s numbers aren’t his career numbers but his 2008 numbers.
Player O-Swing% O-Contact% L.A. 22.9 56.6 Guerrero 40.35 68.82 Molina 32.60 77.87 Castillo 31.43 55.68
You can see that Castillo is more likely to swing outside of the zone than the league average hitter but he’s not making more contact outside of the zone than your league average hitter. He’s actually making almost 1% less contact outside of the zone than your league average hitter. Molina has displayed a great ability over his career to make contact with pitches outside of the zone. Any Giants fan who has watched Molina can agree with this, I’ve seen him hit several balls that were barely inches above the ground.
Out of our three hitters, Guerrero swung the most outside of the zone but he still made good contact, posting a greater than league average rate of 68.82%, not as high as Molina’s but still very high. Guerrero’s power has always been some of the best in the game — posting HR/F rates of 20+% in some seasons — and when he makes contact, it’s hard contact.
To wrap things up on Castillo, I’m not sure his new walkin’ ways will continue. He’s still a free swinging batter that doesn’t make much contact outside of the zone but he’s somehow walking more. A good portion of his walks — 5 of the 16 — have come when he’s been the 7th place hitter. The Giants have mostly used Bocock (89 PAs) and Burriss (24 PAs) in the 8th spot and it’s very possible that even though Castillo has never been a great hitter, pitchers are more likely to go after Bocock or Burriss in the 8th spot. Bocock really struggled this year and was an easy out for most pitchers. I’ll be watching Castillo this year to see if he sets a career high BB% but I’m going to remain doubtful until his sample size increases even more.
That’s way more than anyone should ever write about Jose Castillo. See my point above? We’re all doomed.
Matt Cain’s Rising HR/F rate – Cain gave up four, count’-em, four home runs yesterday in the Giants loss to the White Sox. The average pitcher gives up a HR on a flyball 10-12% of the time but Cain has always beat that rate. The last two years Cain has posted a HR/F rate of: 7.1% and 5.5%. But, this year he’s around the league average rate at 12.2%. In 61 innings pitched he’s given up 10 home runs.
Cain is an extreme flyball pitcher — 46.8% of his balls in play for his career have been in the air — but he’s countered that by striking out hitters and keeping a really low HR/F. Mays Field will help suppress home runs on flyballs to an extent — the park is playing neutral right now on the longball — but I’m not sure we’ll see him post a 5% rate again like he did in ’07. If Cain is going to succeed this year he’s going to have to keep the ball in the yard, which could be difficult since he gives up so many flyballs.
Matt Cain was 4th in the majors last year for HR/F. Only Chris Young, Brad Penny, and Kevlin Escobar were ahead of him. Young is an extreme flyball pitcher as well but Petco might be the best place on earth for him to pitch because it absolutely kills flyballs. Penny and Escobar are guys that have been able to keep the ball on the ground and as a result, in the park. Cain has always been at the top of the leader boards for HR/F and a good bit of his value comes from that ability to keep under league average HR/F rates. The Giants have good outfield defense, so if Cain can keep the ball in the yard, they should be able to turn most of his flyballs into outs. A Cain bounceback will start by him keeping the ball in the yard.