Tag Archives: Spray Chart

A Tale of Two Videos: Tony Stewart & Ray Rice

Tony Stewart will not face charges on the murder, the vehicular homicide or the accidental death of Kevin Ward, Jr.

I’ve lost all hope in humanity.

The American justice system has failed yet again. I can only surmise Eric Holder’s recently announced resignation comes as a result of the inaction by officials to hold yet another a popular white “athlete” accountable for his crimes (see: Duke Lacrosse team, Oscar Pistorius, baseball players).

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Two weeks ago, the last apparent last bastion of the fourth estate TMZ released a video of Ray Rice shamelessly knocking out his then-fiancé Janay Palmer.

Once revered as maybe the top running back in the world, Rice’s career as it stands appears unredeemable. The Baltimore Ravens terminated Rice’s contract, and the NFL suspended him indefinitely. The NFL Players Association has since appealed on his behalf, sighting tired (but unfortunately, most likely true) slippery slope, two punishments for one crime arguments.

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On August 9th in upstate New York a 43-year old man driving a 1400 pound vehicle at a speeds of nearly 140 miles per hour hit a 20-year man—a boy really. The young man with a long, bright future ahead of him died, almost immediately. It was caught on tape.

One would hope—given the above circumstances—that the full weight of the law and public reaction would fall on the culprit. One would imagine that said culprit would be collapse under the pressure, a charged and convicted criminal as the world celebrates the triumph of justice.

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So here we are. The NFL is the midst of a once-in-a-generation scandal. Employees are answering to the former Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (the goddamn Director of the F-B-goddamn-I!), turning over communications, cataloging steps taken and not taken in an investigation completed or not completed. Even Commissioner Roger Goodell—the shoot-first sheriff, self-proclaimed judge and jury of the NFL when he ascended to power—finds himself in the unusual position of target practice.

Rice is at fault, and the NFL and Goodell screwed everything to hell.

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There is a video that shows Ward’s murder. It wasn’t shown on ESPN or your local news, because it’s a video of someone dying (as if all that war footage of rockets firing and landing on nightly network news weren’t). Watch it here—if you can bear it.

The 43-year old man—Stewart, let’s be painfully clear—is free. He woke up this morning to a loving family, doting fans, a dedicated racing team and a job that he loves.

Ward will never get a chance to realize the NASCAR dreams Stewart shamelessly tried preserved in his all-too-early return to the track.

But more than that, Ward will never get to find and marry the love of his life, to swell with pride as he watches his children stumble and get back up, to grow old and see the world change. Ward will never get to turn the ignition or choke the throttle of his beat up no. 13, joke around with his team or get angry at his opponents, relish in victory or rise again from a loss.

Ward graduated from high school two years ago. Two years ago. And will remain fixed in his family’s memory an eternal 20-year old.

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The institution of the NFL has been turned inside out—and rightfully so—for countless reasons. Among these include: the culture of violence that has been absorbed by the players’ family members for years, the countless players facing even more countless charges of violent crimes and the apparent cover-up (or shameful ineptitude, if you’re an optimist) of the Rice incident—only the most recent indication of the NFL’s unspoken mandate to “protect the shield.”

Despite all this, last Sunday came and went. Hundreds of thousands of fans across the country flocked to their football meccas and millions tuned in at home. Billions of dollars were made in salary and advertising revenue. The testament of sport.

It would be pretentious, and in many ways wrong, to call for a boycott of the NFL—and not just because it would never happen. After all, most football players are by-and-large good people (I think) who understand that they’re not actually allowed to pulverize other people off the field.

I would hope that recent events have disrupted fandom—at least for a blip—causing unease and skepticism. There has been some reporting on this, but not nearly enough.

Football is good. Ray Rice is bad. And the NFL fucked up.

End scene.

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Ray Rice knocked someone unconscious—his partner nonetheless. He may never face judge or a jury, but he is being punished—by the league he belonged to, the team he was a part of and the American public at large.

Tony Stewart Killed a person. Where’s the indignation? Why hasn’t ESPN rushed to Ward’s aide with hours of outraged Olbermanns and Wilbons?

When we were talking about Ward’s death—for that brief two week period that quickly was swept under the rug the moment Stewart gloriously returned to the race track to bravely not lose his position in the Sprint cup race—we seemed to shy away from what actually happened. Our headlines never used the words like “killed” or “fatally struck.” Instead it was an unfortunate accident that happened to an unfortunately young person.

“…an on-track accident that left 20-year-old Kevin Ward Jr. dead.”

“…he was involved in an incident that took the life of Kevin Ward Jr.”

“Kevin Ward Jr.’s death…”

“A sprint car racing incident involving NASCAR driver Tony Stewart left another driver with fatal injuries…”

It’s no wonder that Stewart got away with murder. Our verbs hid him from the truth of it. I don’t know yet if that was for his sake or ours. Both are infuriating reasons.

Accidents and death are part of the machismo of racing. I get it. But Ward didn’t die in an accident. He died after an accident—when Stewart’s right front tire clipped Ward, throwing him in the air like a rag doll. As for machismo, the NFL certainly doesn’t lack in it, and they’ve still managed to hold individuals to a modicum of accountability—no matter how disjointed and backwards-ass the path is to get there.

Stewart Killed a person. It’s on tape. I’m still waiting for the Fury of God’s Own Thunder.

Brad Miller and Nick Franklin. The time for change is meow. Nobama.

Count me among the bajillion people who, in regards to their expectations for Brad Miller, allowed their optimism to grab them by the balls and lead them to the bedroom only to emerge the next day with a rash of regrets as well as just the normal, medical kind of rash.

Brad Miller is absolutely lost at the plate this season. He is only the most recent example of a promising Mariners’ position prospect coming to the Majors to briefly impress only to fall victim to the disturbing trend of trying to pull everything. This, as with every other player to whom the curse has lent its sinister shadow, has resulted in Brad sucking. He is, as they say at times, “in-between pitches.” He has adopted a tendency towards taking called strikes on hittable fastballs until he falls into pitcher’s counts, only to readily offer at off-speed pitches out of the zone, resulting in a 26.7% K-rate and a putrid .534 OPS.

What’s worse is that he is allowing his disappointing season at the plate to leak into his defense, where the mental miscues are beginning to aggregate into a serious concern. These miscues, when coupled with Brad’s expected above-average offensive production at the position seemed like charming hiccups. Those charming hiccups have turned into foam burps which have then turned into aggressive projectile vomiting session post-franzia-night all over your white carpet.

Let’s pull a spray chart for Mr. Miller real quick.

brad miller spray

See all of those stupid magenta squares over by where the 2nd baseman pretty much always is? Those are groundouts to the second baseman. Brad used to be a guy whose main positive trait was the ability to spray line drives to all fields, resulting in a projectable batted ball profile that would indicate a high BA and likely doubles power. He bulked up over this past offseason in an effort to ass a little power and meat-titan-ness to what was before a slight frame and it seemed that in the process he may have become pull happy in an effort to put those muscles to work. This strategy has not yielded dividends.

I wrote a piece earlier disparaging Dustin Ackley from falling into this trap. I also recently wrote an article basically forgiving Seager for doing the same thing. The difference here, however, is the way the players pull the ball. Seager launches baseballs into the air like it’s his job. He is a fly ball hitter and he has consistently shown that, though he pulls the ball a bit more than you would like, he gets the ball in the air, some of those balls leave the yard, and the result is a productive major leaguer.

When Ackley and Miller fall into this trap, their production declines precipitously. They let pitchers get ahead of them in counts and then, when they are at the pitcher’s mercy, they expand the zone and either whiff or pull a pitch off the plate on the outside off the end of the bat to the second baseman for an easy out, or a double play. Yippee.

The suggestion here: send Miller down and bring up either Chris Taylor or Nick Franklin in an everyday role and see what they can do. I know people are not crazy about Franklin’s defense at SS. That being said, however, I think Miller’s performance in the field has declined to the point where their defense is comparable. Franklin struggled during his previous call-up this season, but he was playing in spot-duty at an unfamiliar position with inconsistent at bats. In layman’s terms, he was not given a chance to really prove that he had figured out major league pitching or that he was ready to do so.

Franklin has an OPS of 1.079 to go along with 2 dingers in the past 3 games down in AAA. He has nothing left to prove at that level. It seems at this point that the Mariners, given the framing paradigm of a team seeking to win games NOW should use the depth at their disposal in order to keep afloat.

Having a black hole at the bottom of your lineup is bad. This problem is exacerbated by the volatility up and down the rest of the lineup.

It is one thing to have a bad apple among a bunch of kickass apples. It is another to have one obviously bad apple surrounded by a bunch of organically grown apples (read: no preservatives or whatever wait can apples even have those?) that might be left in a microwave or something at any given moment, becoming bad apples themselves!

There have been some who have been clamoring for Chris Taylor to be the guy rather than Franklin to get the call. I understand this desire as we have yet to really see what Taylor can do in a Mariners’ uniform and therefore he still has that new-prospect smell that always seems to elicit the grass-being-greener-over-there mentality from the fan base. This makes sense as we have all been getting pretty tired of recycling the same prospects only to have them sent back down and replaced with similar prospects who were probably recently sent down for similar reasons themselves blah blah blah.

The fact of the matter is, Taylor is new to AAA and isn’t on the 40-man roster. If they bring up a guy it is going to be Franklin and I do not have a problem with that. The move serves multiple purposes that make sense given the Mariners’ situation. The Mariners do not benefit from Miller’s continued struggles and for a team looking to contend (even if that is wildly unlikely) he weighs down the rest of the lineup too much in his current condition. Moving to Franklin almost certainly helps them in the near-term as they try to piece together a lineup capable of winning as many games as possible. Further, the move rewards Franklin who has been doing nothing but mash in AAA and has absolutely nothing else to prove at the level. Finally, the move is in Brad’s best interest as the SS of the future for this club. Continuing to scuffle and lose confidence at the major league level is only going to make him press that much more.

Nick has earned a shot. Miller needs time to collect his thoughts and get his confidence back. The Mariners need another bat capable of making the occasional impact.

Brad Miller AAA party now plz.

Go Mariners.

 

Dustin Ackley hitting the ball the other way

Dustin Ackley post preceded by an obligatory ode to BaseballSavant.com. Skip if desired.

Oh BaseballSavant.com, you are a very good website. I like to use your filters to sift through mountains of pitch f/x data in my spare time. You are a good friend. I want to take you to Chuck e Cheese and let you have all of my ski-ball tickets to buy that light saber that you always wanted. Or a remote control car if I got on a roll and did better than I usually do and got more tickets. That would be even more fun than a light saber. Especially since you wouldn’t need to find somebody else with a light saber to play with. You could just mess around with the car by yourself. I would even go into the ballpit and weed out all of the hypodermic needles in there. Unless you want me to leave them in there. Then I would test them all for STDs and leave in the clean ones. Unless you don’t want me to do that either. I would do all of this for you. I am selfless. 

Anyway, let us use some of this data to do things.

Dustin Ackley was hitting rather well to start the season. His doing so briefly earned him a spot batting 2nd in the lineup, a position he usurped from former optimism-paragon turned overnight-disappointment Brad Miller. There has always been one thing that Ackley does better than nearly anybody. That thing is making contact. Ackley made a lot of contact last year. He also spent much of last year being terrible. Putting the ball in play does not ensure success in the Major Leagues. There are people out there. People with gloves.

I want to take a quick look at one of Ackley’s big issues last year. I want to look at Ackley’s tendencies towards grounding out to the right side of the infield. Let us gaze upon a spray chart, and wonder.

Ackley spray chart filtered

This looks pretty stupid at first glance. I have filtered out most of the less common events just to clear away some of the dross but this is still a messy picture. What I want to point out on the above spray chart, however, is the disparity in results between when Ackley pulls the ball and when Ackley takes the ball the other way.

Ackley hits the ball on the ground fairly often. This, as Mariners fans, is something that we are all too familiar with. Last year, when Ackley was playing poorly he was beating the ball into the dirt directly towards second base. This is reflected by the maroon cluster-fuck one can see in the above chart.

Let’s look at another spray chart real quick.

kenji spray chart filtered

Similar maroon garbage. Except in this case, said garbage is located on the left side of the infield, rather than the right. This is a spray chart from Kenji Johjima in 2008. 2 years after he had weaved the mirage of competency which had since dissipated under the crushing weight of countless groundouts to the pull side.

Johjima and Ackley are not the same player. They are not even particularly similar players. But they went through similar stretches of mediocrity brought on by a common tendency: attempting to pull balls on the outside of the plate only to beat the ball mercilessly into the dirt.

In Johjima’s case, we can see that most of the success he had was to the pull side. While he made several outs over there, and was generally awful overall, all of his dingers went straight out to left field and most of his hits in general did so as well. His spray chart indicates that when he went the other way, the result was typically meek, shallow fly balls to the right fielder. Johjima’s success was predicated around an unsustainable tendency (in his case) towards pulling everything. The league made the necessary adjustments and Johjima was not able to adjust in turn and achieve sustained success after his rookie season.

Ackley’s chart deviates from Johjima’s here, and therein lies the hope that a change in approach can result in marked improvement.

Dustin Ackley’s chart indicates that the majority of his offensive success came when hitting the ball the other way. The only exception to this rule is dingers which, in Ackley’s case, were strictly to the pull side (as was the case with Johjima). Ackley only hit 4 of them. So who the fuck cares.

It is clear that Ackley’s success will be built around his 91% contact rate on balls in the zone, and his ability to generate solid contact to left-center field for singles and hopefully some gap doubles as well. Ackley has never been a guy who profiles for much power, but that’s OK. We learned last year that a team can hit a lot of dingers and still find themselves mired near last place in terms of runs scored. If Ackley maintains the approach he adopted towards the end of last year, he should reach base at a solid clip and hit his fair share of doubles in the process. In this way, Ackley likely profiles as the team’s best option at leadoff- although he is a natural fit in the 2-hole as well.

That being said, having suffered through a recent slump of absolute shittiness, maybe it is best we just put Ackley out to pasture and talk about more important things like why racism is bad and why spiders may be worse.

Kyle Seager and the streakiness inherent in hitting the ball in the air all of the damn time

Joey strokes the Seager boner of the Mariners’ early season confusion-orgy.

This is a necessary post to remind us all of why we love Kyle Seager.

Less sitting, more hitting.

Mariners’ fans are familiar with Kyle Seager. He has been a lone bright spot on a team that has had very few bright spots over the past few years. If you consider an average, productive, worth-having major league position player to be worth roughly 3.0 WAR, then Kyle Seager is the lone Mariner to qualify as a productive everyday Major Leaguer on this club for the past 2 seasons. This is pretty unfortunate, given how 3.0 WAR is kind of the low-end cutoff for this degree of productivity and most teams have a few of these sorts of players if not 5 or 6 of them.

The Mariners have Robinson Cano and Corey Hart now. This is cool and something that makes watching the mariners a tiny bit less depressing than it was the past couple of years. These are veteran players with proven track records who have been more or less the same guy throughout their careers and are now firmly operating within their prime years. The Mariners have had veterans before, but these veterans either had not been good players for a few years (Ibanez), or were simply never good players to begin with (Morse). It can be pretty depressing watching a team that is riddled with question marks. It is more depressing watching a team entirely comprised of question marks. The term “riddled” is used to describe some surface filled with a bajillion holes and thusly rendered into something resembling Swiss cheese. A lot of teams have had this Swiss-cheese consistency. The Mariners the past few years haven’t even really had any cheese at all which makes the term “riddle” not even really work. The no-cheese Mariners, some would call them (Nobody would ever call them that).

But there is more cheese here than meets the eye! Kyle Seager exists. He is the tiniest of morsels remaining after a drunk-five-year-old-with-a-hole-puncher-esque onslaught of inconsistency. And he isn’t even that consistent within his own consistency. That was a silly sentence. How can a player be consistently inconsistent? The term I would use: streaky.

Imagine if you will a coin. A coin when flipped has (basically) a 50% outcome of being either heads or tails. Let us then assign a positive outcome to one of these events. In the case of heads, you get 1 dollar. In the case of tails, somebody changes the channel at your apartment to the Hallmark Channel and then subsequently shatters your remote control. It’s all about the O.

Bad analogy do-over. Kyle Seager has been a player who can look terrible for stretches, but whose numbers have in our recent experience eventually trended towards a certain, predictable result over the course of an entire season’s worth of ups and downs. We have recently been provided some empirical evidence to support this claim. Kyle Seager spent the first two weeks of this year being absolutely terrible. Prior to this last week, Seager was arguably the most maddeningly awful player in the Mariners’ lineup. Yet, we as fans have come to expect Seager to be a solid contributor. How can these two outcomes coexist within the same paradigm and both be true? Streakiness. Seager is not alone in his up and down ways. Just look at Mike Zunino…

But what about Seager’s play results in this kind of streakiness? It is easy to assign a certain nebulous, platonic understanding of streakiness to a player without looking deeper into the player’s skillset to determine if there is perhaps, an underlying manner of playing the game that can result in this day-to-day inconsistency.

“Kyle is just hot right now” people might say. If those people were talking about Kyle Seager the way people talk about Hansel in Zoolander.

I believe that in Kyle Seager’s case there is a rhyme and perhaps a reason to his streakiness. Kyle Seager is a flyball hitter. Kyle Seager is also almost strictly speaking a dead-pull hitter. This year, there has been a record-setting pace for the number of infield shifting being done around the league. Teams are no longer simply shifting for big, obvious dead-pull guys in the traditional mold of a David Ortiz or Prince Fielder. Teams are noticing that little guys can be one-trick ponies too. Kyle Seager is one such player that could see more shifts in his future.

Let’s look at a Kyle Seager spray chart courtesy of baseballsavant.com. I have went ahead and filtered out the groundballs for a clearer picture into what I am looking for with Seager’s game.

Kyle Seager spray chart leftandright flies

Bingo bango bongo. As we can see, Seager’s success comes when he pulls the ball. Period. There is really no other interpretation to be drawn here. Seager is a dead-pull flyball hitter who shows impressive power to the pull side which the eyeball test validates by noting one of the more beautifully classic lefty uppercuts that I have seen in a while– let alone by a player in Mariners’ blue.

There is an upside and a downside to this kind of hitter and that is fairly easy to qualify. Fly ball hitters’ success is governed by the quality of their contact more so than a player who sprays the ball around and hits groundballs with more frequency. A guy like Cano is going to hit for a higher average and a higher BABIP than Seager because Cano is primarily a line drive hitter. If Cano misses a pitch, he may send a soft, broken-bat line drive into shallow center for a single. If Seager just misses a pitch, he is going to most likely be serving up lazy fly balls to right. When Cano hits the ball the other way, he is likely to get a few more singles as soft line drives drop down in front of the left fielder. When Seager hits the ball the other way, he loses distance and with it some of the success his pull-side power grants him, again, serving up lazy flyballs to the outfielder.

Players can change over the course of their careers, and Seager has several years of good baseball ahead of him. All indications point to Seager carrying the success he has had into the future- but if his style of hitting remains static he will likely remain prone to cold spells when his flies aren’t leaving the yard or crashing into fences.

This doesn’t bother me at all. We have seen what happens when Seager is squaring pitches up. Seager has carried the Mariners to 3 victories in the past 5 games. No player exists in a vacuum, and credit should be given to the guys who got on base in front of him in both of his go-ahead blasts this past week. That being said somebody has to sack up and hit the ball hard to drive those guys in. That guy has been Kyle Seager. The Mariners would do well to capitalize on this stretch, as it should be clear to everyone with eyeballs and the gumption necessary to sit down and watch the Mariners play baseball that when Kyle Seager plays well this team is astronomically superior to when he is mired in one of his slumps.

At the end of the year, Kyle Seager’s numbers will look good. They won’t reflect the AL player-of-the-week numbers he put up this past week. They don’t have to. As long as the hot stretches properly balance out the (hopefully shortened) slumps, the aggregate total will be a solid, above-average major leaguer. The Mariners don’t have many of those. We should all be grateful that he graces us with his presence. We should be doubly grateful that he seems to be superbestpals with Justin Smoak. If we were to get rid of Smoak would Seager’s production dip? Is Smoak required for moral support in order for Seager to continue to be productive? Would Smoak have to start for this to work, or could he be maintained in a symbolic role? This is something to be monitored moving forward, as I delve into the depths of their relationship via anonymous sources and idle social media speculation.

In the meantime, here’s hoping that Seager is doused with frigid Gatorade more often in the coming weeks. Sorry boss.

Umbrella!