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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

SSTN Mailbag: Stat Idea, Schmidt, And Minor League Impact!



I don't like doing this, mostly because everything is reasonably good in the Yankee Universe, but I have to rant a bit in this week's opening. Why in the heck can't Hal Steinbrenner just shut his mouth?!?! Most of us learned in kindergarten: if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. The Yankees are on-pace for 110ish wins, they lead a brutally tough AL East by 3 games over the talented Orioles, the Yankees appear to have a very happy group of superstars mashing in the middle of the order, and we haven't even had the heart to pick on Boone or Cashman so far. Steinbrenner's initial comments were good! The Yankees will look to entertain extension talks with Soto and his agent; great! But then he kept talking. I wish he had just left good enough alone.


Because Hal Steinbrenner can't help himself, he made it a point to tell us that payrolls at their current level are unsustainable, even for the richest professional sports franchise at least in the US. Did we have to talk about that now? How tone deaf can one person possibly be?!? Anyone who thinks Cashman is tone deaf needs to read transcripts of this guy's interviews. Cashman is blunt, and leaves himself open for ridicule. Steinbrenner is just completely out of touch. I want to root for this team so hard, but then the ownership group opens its mouth...and it makes me wonder sometimes why I'm a Yankee fan. I love the team, I'm thrilled for their success...and I also will likely refrain from paying to see them play in person again this year. Every time Hal Steinbrenner opens his mouth, it becomes clearer and clearer that he doesn't care about my money or support. So be it. I'll keep writing and rooting, but I don't see much reason to give a dime to the Steinbrenner family. It just never ends with these guys.


As always, thanks for the great questions and keep them coming to SSTNReadermail@gmail.com. In this week's SSTN Mailbag, we'll talk about an ingenious idea for a new statistic from one of our readers, Clark Schmidt's emergence, and about possible supplementation from the minor leagues! Let's get at it:


Prof Robert asks: Andy, what is the formula for Average Exit Velocity?  Is it total EV divided by struck balls (i.e., AB-K), or is it total EV divided by AB (i.e., strikeouts equal zero EV)?  In practical terms, if a batter has struck 10 balls at 100 mph each, but also struck out 10 times, is his average EV 100 mph or 50 mph?  I suspect it's the former, but I think the latter is the better way to measure the effectiveness of swinging real hard.

 

And

 

Fuster responded with: is swing velocity closely related to the frequency of putting the bat on the ball when swinging or are they mostly independent?

 

This is a really interesting way of thinking about all of our recent conversations around exit velocity, bat speed, and contact rates.  Let’s be straight about a few things.  On the one hand, there has been an explosion in the amount of publicly available data in the last few years, and it can be really confusing to try to understand which numbers matter, which don’t, and which only matter sometimes.  In the conversations we had about player value in the past decade, we typically looked to whatever our favorite WAR calculation was as something akin to the be-all, end-all.  We used some relatively rudimentary statistical analysis to identify the “what” and some of the “why,” but we really couldn’t dive as deep as what teams were using.  Now we have a lot of that information, and putting it all in context is difficult.

 

I am intrigued by Prof’s idea.  Much like the statistics of previous years, Prof is trying to find something far more all-encompassing in an attempt to distill disparate data points into something more useful.  I am very curious to know what kind of correlation we would find by comparing Exit Velocity per swing (so this would include all instances of swinging a bat, including whiffs…though I wonder if we should then also include foul ball Exit Velocity in the calculation, but I digress) to bat speed to see if there is a correlation.  To me, that would be the real test to see if we can make more sense of bat speed.  Additionally, I’d like to see if there’s a correlation between Exit Velocity per swing and total offensive performance; is it more predictive of total offensive performance than Exit Velocity alone?

 

Now, we get to Fuster’s response to Prof’s idea, which is where my hypothesis lies as well.  I dug into the numbers along Fuster’s line of thinking.  I first wanted to more exactly check the relationship between Prof’s two metrics, Exit Velocity and contact rates.  For the purposes of this exercise, I used Zone Contact %, as we really care about swings in the strike zone.  The numbers showed that there was almost no correlation between Exit Velocity and Zone Contact %.  Even if I adjusted to remove some extreme data points, the numbers didn’t get any better.

 

However, plugging along Fuster’s line of thinking, I found something unexpected.  Swing Speed and Zone Contact % had a slight correlation, and that correlation became much stronger when I removed some of the strongest outliers.  I honestly didn’t expect to see any correlation, much like Exit Velocity.  However, I’m still not sure this is meaningful, because some of the biggest outliers I removed were some of the best players in the sport.

 

My take on all of this is that as much as we want one happy number that gives us a warm, fuzzy feeling about total offensive performance from a biometric and physical perspective, I’m not sure we’ll do any better than statistics like wOBA or wRC+.  Those statistics tell you the “what,” not the “why.”  The new statistics don’t necessarily give you any predictive ability, but they get a lot closer to giving you the “why.”  Once you get to the “why,” you need video analysis and mechanical assessment to get the rest of the way there, which is where coaching and scouting come into play.  As I’ve said for years until I’m blue in the face, it takes everything: statistical analysis, coaching, scouting, and training to really understand the game and build a good team.

 

While I didn’t find the correlations I’m sure Prof was hoping for, I’m going to keep an eye on these trends and see if there’s something we can put together.

 

James asks: What is the key to Clarke Schmidt’s success this season? He looks like a totally different guy than last year or the year before. What is he doing differently or is this just a young guy figuring it out?

 

Even his “bad” starts, like this past week, are good.  I have long stated my belief that Schmidt’s best role would be that of a multi-inning reliever, and he’s doing everything in his power to make me look wrong.  I’m all for it, as I’ve also long loved his stuff.  There are a few things going on with Schmidt this year that have helped him make the leap.  The first is pretty obvious on video: he’s repeating his delivery far better than he ever has in the past.  Schmidt begins his delivery with a rock and a bounce into his leg load, and by my observation, that initial rock and bounce had a tendency to start out of sequence, which would throw off his delivery enough to effect his stuff and his command.  Schmidt cleaned that up more as the season went on last year, but it’s significantly better this year.  I’m not a big fan of that mechanical trigger, but it’s working for him.

 

Secondly, he’s changed his pitch mix somewhat.  I think Schmidt leaned too hard on his sweeper last year, and though it’s a good pitch, he became predictable, and guys took advantage.  This year, Schmidt has dropped his sweeper usage by 4 points and also drastically reduced his sinker usage.  He’s replaced those pitches almost entirely with more cutters, which he’s throwing 35% of the time.  However, I’d like to focus on how that pitch plays with the sweeper.

 

The sweeper and the cutter have similar shape at different velocity points and break to the left side of the plate (pitcher’s perspective).  The cutter is thrown harder, so it drops less and has less horizontal break, but they can be released in a similar tunnel.  Let’s look at the location of these pitches:

Schmidt mostly spots these pitches on the inside corner to lefties, or the outside corner to righties.  I would almost guarantee that Schmidt’s aim points are similar on the two pitches, but based on the different velocity profiles, the sweeper drops more and dives further than the cutter.  Because they are so similar, batters can’t time up either pitch easily.  Schmidt was still getting a feel for the cutter last season, as it was a new pitch for him, but this year, he’s improved his placement with the pitch while also dialing in the pitch’s movement profile to match-up really well with the sweeper.  Hitters are producing just a .291 wOBA against the cutter and a .307 wOBA against the sweeper this year, significant drops from last season, so Schmidt is making it work.

 

Lastly, Schmidt has shown better command of all of his pitches.  Looking at his heat maps, everything is pushed closer to the edges with fewer pitches hanging in the heart of the plate.  I think this is a story of a guy just getting more comfortable with more reps, and he worked really hard to refine his arsenal with weapons he could use against lefties and righties.

 

Spencer asks: Now that we’ve had enough minor league games to get a read on some guys, can you name one minor league guy who you think will come up and make an impact this summer? And no, Dominguez doesn’t count.

 

That’s a tough one!  This team is rolling right now, so it’s hard to find a place for some of the Yankees’ best prospects.  However, I think the Yankees have some obvious places where they could improve, namely on the bench, 2B/3B, 1B, and the bullpen.  It’s flying under the radar, but what happens if Rizzo continues to prove he can’t hit?  What if the injury reinforcements we all hope will arrive this summer in the bullpen don’t show up?  Hopefully LeMahieu helps stabilize 2B/3B, but there are some holes elsewhere begging for a prospect to jump out and grab this summer.

 

I’ll give you guys a quick list of a few guys who I remain interested in seeing in the Bronx at some point this year, though some are more realistic than others:

 

  • Caleb Durbin: He’s fast, a great baserunner, has excellent hands, has proven his versatility by playing all over the diamond, and makes gobs of contact.  He might very well be an ideal bench piece come playoff time as a guy who can steal bases with positional flexibility.  He’s outperforming everyone’s expectations this year.

  • TJ Rumfield: He’s a fantastic defender at 1B and I believe very strongly in the bat.  He’s got above-average raw pop, though it doesn’t always come through in games.  He’s making plenty of contact this year.  If Rizzo continues to struggle, I think he’s first in line if the Yanks don’t just throw DJ LeMahieu over there.

  • Ron Marinaccio: This is a bit of a cop out, as I expect him to be back in a few days, but I think Marinaccio will stick in the bigs at some point this year.

  • Yoendrys Gomez: He’s on the 40-man with great stuff.  If the Yanks really need bullpen help late in the year, I have a feeling Gomez will be an option.

  • Oswald Peraza: Everyone seems to have forgotten he exists, but though his prospect shine has waned, he remains a gifted defender with potential with the bat.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the bench at some point.

  • Jack Neely: He’s not on the 40-man, so it would be quite an uphill climb, but he’s been electric out of the bullpen at AA this year.  If he makes it to AAA and continues his stretch of dominance, he has the stuff to be successful in the Majors.

11 Comments


Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
May 24

But you didn't answer my question! What's the formula when we hear Exit Velo? And how does Exit Velo/AB+SF correlate to OBP and to SLG?

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
May 25
Replying to

Sorry, typed too quickly - any event that ends in a ball in "play" so a foul out counts in the statistic.


Let me get the steps, and I'll let you know how to get the data...I may take a look myself.

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jeff
May 24

The biggest thing that Clarke Schmidt has to overcome, in his game against Seattle, he was obviously tipping his pitches. The Mariners baserunner admitted that he was signaling the batter what pitch Schmidt was going to throw next (which resulted in a homer), and Schmidt admitted himself that he was likely tipping his pitches. So that is something Schmidt would have to work out with Matt Blake, or perhaps with Professor Cole and Professor Pettitte (Andy Pettitte has been advising all the pitchers this year as well). If he continues to tip his pitches, that can spell trouble for him down the road, so that is something that has to be addressed immediately.


It is extremely difficult to judge how…


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fuster
May 24

is Gomez walking too many and striking out too few to suit the pitching coaches

or do you regard those numbers as a product of the experimentation expected of pitching prospects while mastering their craft?

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fuster
May 24
Replying to

I kinda had the idea that, while rookie pitchers in the bigs are most wonderfully concentrated on results, pitchers not yet in the bigs have more than single objective

and often are tasked with throwing/honing tertiary and other pitches.


one can not judge the quality of aid furnished to the kids entirely on basis of immediate success.

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Len
Len
May 24

I think we are overthinking bat speed, and how it correlates with other aspects of hitting. We may be making it too complex, by tryng to make formulas to describe it.

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Alan B.
Alan B.
May 24

Andy, I gotta agree with you on some the kids who might come up at some point. I just don't understand why Jack Neely isn't in AAA at this point.


As for Schmidt, I think Professor Cole has a lot more to do with him too. In fact, I think Cole's influence on this starting staff, and Weaver is more than any other pitching coach in the entire organization. Gil freely gives him the credit.


My feeling on a lot of these new age metrics are really useless, and even a real fan doesn't need them, and as far as all the pro coaches, only these new age geeks, trying to be coaches need most of them. Old school guy…

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jeff
May 24
Replying to

Professor Pettitte has been working with the pitchers a lot, too, in his role this year as "advisor". He has been instrumental in Rodon's improvement from last season, and I think he has influenced a lot of the other starting pitchers as well.

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