Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oh, Danny Boy

CamdenDepot has a couple of good posts looking at Daniel Cabrera's season thus far. They look mostly at Cabrera's mechanics.

SonofSamHorn (yes, a Boston blog) has an excellent Pitch/FX tool up that I used to look at Daniel's starts (4/2 - 4/23, 4/28 isn't up).

First up, his release-point. I was surprised to find that he was far more consistent in his first couple of starts (5 BB in 4 IP, 4 BB in 6 IP) than in his more recent starts (especially his 8 inning 0 walk performance against Seattle - his release-point was all over the place).

Compare the 6 IP, 4 BB day (against the M's):

to his 8 IP, 0 BB day (also against the M's):

and then compare each of those to Jeremy Guthrie's on 4/27 (5 IP, 2 BB):

Cabrera is better, but still has a ways to go to be consistent.

Next up, the fastball.

Daniel's velocity has gone from 91-94 to 94-97, which is somewhat strange, since it appears that he is thowing a larger percentage of two-seamers (vs. four-seamers) than he was before.

Let's look at his first start of the year:

I won't go into an explanation of what the breaks mean (check out the wiki on the site if you're interested) but a general rule of thumb is that pitches in the 10 vertical, -10 horizontal area are two-seamers and pitches in 12 vertical, -5 horizontal area are four-seamers (I don't know if he grips the pitches differently - I'm just going by movement). Daniel threw about an equal number of pitches in both areas, including a few that had almost no horizontal movement.

Now let's look at the graph from his 4/23 start:

A lot more of his pitches were two-seamers. Almost all of them, in fact. He's getting a lot more action on his fastball, and he's throwing harder. That is definitely a good combination.

How about his breaking-ball? He is throwing it a little less, but since he's throwing more strikes, it is more effective. I can't get exact data, since the graphs of pitch types and outcomes don't match up, but it is clear that he is getting a lot more swings and misses with it than he had before. With him throwing more strikes in general, batters can't just sit back a take the breaking-pitches for balls.

I looked at Daniel's control by seeing (about) how many pitches were way out of the strike-zone (more 6 inches). He's throwing a smaller percentage of balls (pitches out of the zone) way out of the zone - it's gone from 42% to 62% to three starts in the mid/upper 30's. True, this didn't take swings or umpire calls into account, but it's nice to see that he's a little more around the plate.

That his K's/9 is way down (5.11) compared to last year (7.31) while his walks are also up (5.11 per nine from 4.76) concerns me, but he has gotten ground balls (53%) and has kept opponents from making solid contact (only 11% line-drive percentage) which means that his BABIP (.231) isn't that flukey. The high home run rate is, however, as 14% of fly balls are clearing the fences, compared to a career rate of 10%. He's also ending at bats quicker, as he's throwing 3.7 pitches per plate appearance - down from 3.9 last year. If he can become more consistent with his mechanics (and so throw some more strikes) I think Daniel can have a solid year. He'll need to trade some walks for some strike-outs (and then add a few K's on top of that), but I expect him to do it.

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