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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News


Pinch hitting: Matt Hunter

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Misc on Feb 01, 2013 Print This Post Print This Post | Email This Post Email This Post

Next up in our Pinch Hitters series is Matt Hunter, who recently graduated from Carleton College with a degree in philosophy. He works at a software company in Madison, Wisconsin but does a lot of baseball writing for Yanks Go Yard, Big Leagues Magazine, and Beyond the Box Score. 

For his post, Matt found the bright side in a disappointing season.

It’s easy to be pessimistic about Ivan Nova. His ERA jumped from 3.70 to 5.02 in one year, he gave up a whopping 87 extra base hits (compared to 52 in 2011), and he all but fell apart in the second half of the season.

But here’s the thing; I feel better about Ivan Nova’s future now than I did one year ago. You heard me. The 2012 season gave me optimism, not pessimism, about Nova.

Mind you, this is not the same as saying that Nova was better in 2012 than 2011. Why? Because there is a difference between results and talent. Nova had horrible results last season, and those results were largely a product of his performance on the field – no one is denying that. However, Nova showed significant improvement in one essential aspect of his game, an aspect that happens to be the single most important factor for predicting future pitching performance.

I’m referring to strikeouts, of course. In 2011, Ivan Nova struck out 14% of all batters that he faced. In 2012, Ivan Nova struck out 20.5% of all batters that he faced. Using raw numbers, he struck out 153 batters last season compared to only 98 in 2011, despite only pitching five more innings.

More advanced numbers back up these increased strikeouts. In 2010 and 2011, 6.8% and 6.6% of all pitches that Nova threw were swung at and missed. In 2012, that number jumped all the way to 9.0%. A 2-3% difference may not seem significant, but over the course of a season, that’s about 60 additional pitches that were swung through.

That’s nice and all, but why does it matter? Well, strikeouts are the single most stable aspect of a pitcher’s performance year to year. More stable than walks. More stable than home runs. More stable than wins or ground balls or ERA.

Being stable isn’t enough, though. After all, the number on a player’s back is stable, but that doesn’t tell us anything about the pitcher’s performance or talent. Luckily, strikeouts are not only stable, but tell us a lot about how the pitcher will do in the future. Strikeouts per nine innings has one of the strongest correlations with the following year’s ERA of all statistics. In fact, strikeout rate correlates better with ERA in the following year than ERA itself!

What does this mean for Nova? Well, first of all, we should expect him to improve if only because almost any pitcher with an ERA that poor will regress back towards the mean in the following year. However, even more than that, Nova’s significant jump in strikeout rate indicates a major improvement in his stuff which, in turn, indicates that he is primed for a bounceback year.

Associated Press photo

 
 

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109 Responses to “Pinch hitting: Matt Hunter”

  1. blake February 1st, 2013 at 9:10 am

    “What does this mean for Nova? Well, first of all, we should expect him to improve if only because almost any pitcher with an ERA that poor will regress back towards the mean in the following year. However, even more than that, Nova’s significant jump in strikeout rate indicates a major improvement in his stuff which, in turn, indicates that he is primed for a bounceback year.”

    love the optimism and obviously I hope you’re right…..but I think we do need to mention that the increase in K’s was also coupled with a regression to his track record in command…..which was the problem. Nova’s minor league issues were that he didn’t command the ball well…..and those were his issues in 2012 also.

    He’s at his best when he’s pounding the bottom of the zone and getting groundouts with his 2 seamer…..when he’s up his fastball is extremely flat and hitters just crush it…..

    Now I loved the tick up in velocity and the development of a nice swing and miss slider….and the increase in K’s is a good thing….if its added to better command….and that’s the part I’m just not sure about….was 2011 what Nova is command wise….or was 2012? That’s the real question IMO….

  2. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 8:51 am

    Blake-

    Now that ARod has stated he plans to fullfill the remainder of his contract as a Yankee, and plans to be on the field this year, he should play the majority of his time at 3rd with occasional rest at DH.
    ————-

    My hope is as it has always been for David Adams and Corban Joseph to both have very big years in Scranton. The kinds of years (at least in the case of Adams) where the Yankees have no choice but to call him up.

    If those two guys perform this year then the Yankees have options. They could walk away from Cano at 8 years and $23M/year; they could – assuming he’s still with the team – make Alex a spare part/DH.

  3. Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 9:13 am

    Matt-

    Thanks for your post.

    This was Nova’s 1st start of 2012. “When it comes to Nova’s fastball, his four-seam sat at 92.4 mph last year, but on Monday night, the big righty came out with some of the highest velocity we’ve seen from a Yankee starter this year. Sitting 93.3 mph on his four-seam, Nova hit 96 mph in the first inning of the game. To have such a velocity spike in the first game of the year is very rare, but Nova has done so many unpredictable things, I am curious to see what he’s up to.”

    Not only was the velocity better on his four-seam fastball but so was the movement.

    http://www.yankeeanalysts.com/.....ball-39974

    If I recall correctly his main problem last season was location?

    I too have hope he can be a solid contributor as a starter.

  4. blake February 1st, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Hardball Talk ?@HardballTalk
    Stay classy, Mike Lupica http://dlvr.it/2tNVxq #mlb #hbt

  5. blake February 1st, 2013 at 9:19 am

    the yankees need to figure out a way to get a little more deception in Nova’s delivery…..hitters must just see the ball really well out of his hand because 95 mph heaters just shouldn’t get hit the way his do…..some of it is location… but he should be able to get away with more than he does at the velocity he throws.

  6. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 9:19 am

    blake February 1st, 2013 at 9:17 am

    Hardball Talk ?@HardballTalk
    Stay classy, Mike Lupica http://dlvr.it/2tNVxq #mlb #hbt
    =================

    Lupica is an accomplished moron.

  7. Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 9:21 am

    Chip-

    The Yankees are not going to make ARod a pinch hitter or full time DH, so that he can fullfill the remainder of his 5 year contract. He is being payed as a fulltime 3rd baseman and if he can’t fullfill those duties, after Dr Kelly stated the operation went better than anticipated, than he needs to step aside and collect his salary while on disability.

  8. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:24 am

    I love strikeouts because they are one of the few things that pitchers can control, but he has to keep the ball down or he can’t be more than a marginal starter.

  9. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:24 am

    Trader – I don’t think Alex will play for the Yankees again.

  10. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 9:25 am

    Maybe the uptick in velocity is why he was having more control issues.. hopefully he can harness that this year. The one good thing about Nova is that so far he’s shown a lot of durability. Hopefully that continues.

    With Andy on the team, I’m sure Phelps will still get plenty of starts. I hope the Yanks don’t throw him in the BP this year. That will make me sad… and mad.. I’ll be smad.

  11. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Lupica needs a better editor.

  12. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Question –

    I get why Diaz is trying to say he’s older than he might be (over age 23 international FA’s aren’t counted against the signing pool). However, if the Yankees were to sign him and then it was discovered later that he’s 20 and not 23 would MLB count that signing against the pool retroactively?

    If not, wouldn’t it be smart to jump on him now when he doesn’t count?

  13. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:28 am

    Rich,

    Based on some of the dreck I’ve read from Lupica I think the Daily News pretty much gives him (as well as Raissman and Madden and Meyers) carte blanche to write whatever they want.

  14. Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 9:29 am

    payed. OMG *paid* Where is my brain this morning?

    Chip-

    If ARod is not playing again for the Yankees, how would the Yankees have accomplished that?

  15. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 9:32 am

    Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:27 am

    Question –

    I get why Diaz is trying to say he’s older than he might be (over age 23 international FA’s aren’t counted against the signing pool). However, if the Yankees were to sign him and then it was discovered later that he’s 20 and not 23 would MLB count that signing against the pool retroactively?

    If not, wouldn’t it be smart to jump on him now when he doesn’t count?

    ————————

    They’re still investigating it now, so I’m assuming MLB wouldn’t allow any team to sign him until it’s resolved.

  16. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 9:33 am

    @craigcalcaterra

    Commenter makes a good point: no one has yet to run a “if The Boss was still alive …” A-Rod story.

    Interesting point..

  17. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Chip

    Mort Zuckerman is doing fine to this point without my advice, but mixing politics and sports in silly analogies is usually not good for business.

  18. Tackelberry February 1st, 2013 at 9:34 am

    R.I.P. Ed Koch.

  19. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for the comments guys. I completely agree with what all of you said about the command issues. Clearly Nova needs to keep the ball down and get more groundballs. My point was simply that historically/statistically, strikeouts both are the best single indicator of future performance and very reliable year to year. This means that it’s quite unusual for a pitcher to see a jump in Ks like Nova did, and I think we should take that as a big positive for him going forward. He needs to improve his command of course, but it seems to me that it should be easier to do that than however he increased strikeouts.

  20. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I also remain optimistic about Nova. However, I’m not sure that I buy this strikeout argument. I always expected that Nova’s strikeout rate would rise as he developed as a pitcher. So, I’m not surprised that his k-rate improved. I’m also not terribly surprised that he regressed in 2012, although I was disappointed by the extent of his regression. Nevertheless, he wasn’t THAT bad last year; he showed signs, but he was terribly inconsistent. Nova just has to learn how to minimize the damage in his bad starts, and he will have a fine year in 21012.

  21. jacksquat February 1st, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Chien-Ming Wang

  22. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 9:42 am

    Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:33 am

    Chip

    Mort Zuckerman is doing fine to this point without my advice, but mixing politics and sports in silly analogies is usually not good for business.
    ===============

    Word. It’s unnecessary, fundamentally unpersuasive, and quite aggravating to any reader not inclined to agree. I don’t even read Lupica’s column anymore. He’s a fine writer, but he’s absolutely insufferable with his constant moralizing and name-calling.

  23. Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Shame-

    Pick the correct answer. If the Boss were still alive, Alex Rodriguez will:

    a) Have to sell hotdogs in the stands on days he is not playing.
    b) Will have to meet and greet fans as they pass thru the turnstiles before every home game, while handing out either a Jeter, Pettitte, or Rivera bobble-head doll.
    c) Will lose his prime locker in the clubhouse and be relegated one closest to the bathrooms
    d) All of the above

  24. Stoneburner - The Return of Wax February 1st, 2013 at 9:43 am

    Hardball Talk ?@HardballTalk
    Stay classy, Mike Lupica http://dlvr.it/2tNVxq #mlb #hbt

    *****

    The neat thing about Lupica and the posters of the lohud blog is that they both deal in black and white, there is no middle ground – their snide remarks whether it be at ARod – the player’s association, Hal, 189, Melky and Montero, it is the same sort of rhetoric – never admitting they are wrong on an issue or that the issue is more nuanced then a simple Hal is cheap – or the Yankees should have never let Melky go or resigned him this offseason (with the way things are going, Melky could possibly face another suspension – this time it would be for a 100 games) – just either ignoring a development or finding some excuse why what has happened is not what they were originally talking about (see the young established position player debate, which finally ended when Justin Upton was traded thankfully) –

    This Stoneburner, reporting from Ceti Alpha V, with the Wax Poetic Minute – - – -

  25. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 9:44 am

    Nova did have command/control issues in the minors, but his velo uptick from 2011 to 2012 is only .4. He actually had more average velo in 2010 than in 2012. It’s interesting b/c batters are making less contact in the strike zone but more contact outside the strike zone. The slider = more K’s. But he’s throwing a lot more changeups and curveballs. Wonder how much he is throwing the sinker vs. the 4 seamer. Nova has really good stuff; hopefully, he can make the necessary adjustments to retain a good K rate, but eliminate all the extra base hits.

    Mike Lupica and the News staying classy is a contradiction in terms. Their headlines have been brutal. And as per the comment here about Lupica being willing to give up some dollars in his paycheck: “I also assume that he would be totally cool in giving up some of the money in his contract with the Daily News if he suddenly became unpopular.” Is Mike Lupica popular? I haven’t read him since I was a teenybopper…

  26. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 9:45 am

    Yankee Trader February 1st, 2013 at 9:29 am

    payed. OMG *paid* Where is my brain this morning?

    Chip-

    If ARod is not playing again for the Yankees, how would the Yankees have accomplished that?
    ————————

    Outright release.

  27. jacksquat February 1st, 2013 at 9:51 am

    Watching Nova nearly every start, my non-scientific but probably very accurate opinion is that Nova threw way too many pitches over the middle of the plate, which led to giving up more extra base hits than any pitcher in the game.

    I think I also saw too much effort to have velocity and stuff, for strikeouts, which the Yankees are always pushing (along with changeups).

    Don’t listen to them Ivan, keep the ball down and take it easy running the bases.

  28. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 9:54 am

    “That fact, of course, cannot be forgotten. If Rodriguez were a healthy superstar, the Yankees would still want him around. They might have even supported him in their terse statement on Tuesday, which pledged support for baseball’s drug program and noted that the matter was now under the jurisdiction of the commissioner’s office.”

    Totally agree with the NY Times here. Yanks would have no interest in dumping Alex in spite of the PEDs if he were still an elite player. See, Texas and the Nats re: Cruz and Gio.

  29. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:56 am

    I like Nova, but it wouldn’t shock me if Phelps is the 5th starter to begin the season. Either way, he’ll get a shot at some point.

  30. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Nova needs to go back to sinking the ball. He’s still has the slider and his curve as a swing-and-miss weapon, and he’s at his best when he keeps it in the infield.

    Maybe he had a lingering weakness from the hamstring last year. This is a fun highlight film of him from 2011.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUbHEgCwFGY

  31. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Agree about the second point, but FWIW, Nova threw slightly less pitches in the strike zone in 2012, and batters had 3.5% less contact.

  32. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 9:59 am

    That post was in response to JS’s post.

  33. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 9:59 am

    yf

    That’s Kepner, right? He is owed too much money to eat. I think Ben Kabak made a good point last night. At the point that they owe him like $40m, maybe.

  34. Triple Short of a Cycle February 1st, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Lupica is the classic definition of a bandwagon fan. He was writing glowing columns about the Knicks at the beginning of the year. Then it was on to the Nets.

    Just about the only team he won’t get on the bandwagon is the Yankees. Although he did seems to hate them a lot less during the mid to late 90′s

  35. austinmac February 1st, 2013 at 10:01 am

    I would bet Nova will be the 5th starter and Phelps to the pen.

  36. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:02 am

    Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Thanks for the comments guys. I completely agree with what all of you said about the command issues. Clearly Nova needs to keep the ball down and get more groundballs. My point was simply that historically/statistically, strikeouts both are the best single indicator of future performance and very reliable year to year. This means that it’s quite unusual for a pitcher to see a jump in Ks like Nova did, and I think we should take that as a big positive for him going forward. He needs to improve his command of course, but it seems to me that it should be easier to do that than however he increased strikeouts.
    =========

    The trouble with that argument is that correlation is not causation. I have little doubt that high k-rates are strongly correlated with good performance and even future good performance. However, I wouldn’t want to see Nova try to get more strikeouts, because the object of the game is to get outs without conceding runs. Focusing on strikeouts tends to drive up pitch counts, which can get pitchers into trouble. Moreover, as Nova’s 2012 statistics amply demonstrate, you can have pretty good strikeout rates and not be terribly successful.

    Again, I share your optimism about Nova, but my optimism comes from the fact that we saw that he was capable of making some good, effective starts in 2012, even though he was plagued by a lack of consistency. From what I’ve seen of the guy and his bulldog attitude, I think that he’ll find the consistency that he needs.

  37. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:02 am

    RIch, Kepner or Schmidt. I’m on my phone and can’t search for the NYT article right now.

  38. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I would bet Nova will be the 5th starter and Phelps to the pen.
    -
    Who do you think will pitch better in ST?

  39. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:07 am

    J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 9:58 am

    Nova needs to go back to sinking the ball. He’s still has the slider and his curve as a swing-and-miss weapon, and he’s at his best when he keeps it in the infield.

    Maybe he had a lingering weakness from the hamstring last year. This is a fun highlight film of him from 2011.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dUbHEgCwFGY
    =============

    I don’t know if he should feature a sinking fastball AND a curve. I think that these pitches are too similar for a pitcher to use them together on a regular basis. He needs to pick one or the other. As I recall, Nova had more success when he featured the two-seamer than he did with the curveball. Going with a combnation including the two-seam, four-seam, slider, and maybe a changeup sounds about right for Nova, imo.

  40. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I also think assuming he pitches well that Nova will start; Phelps will be in the pen.

  41. jacksquat February 1st, 2013 at 10:09 am

    yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 9:58 am
    Agree about the second point, but FWIW, Nova threw slightly less pitches in the strike zone in 2012, and batters had 3.5% less contact.

    It’s not the number of pitches in the strike zone though, it’s the number of pitches in parts of the strike zone where you start to physically cringe before the batter even makes contract.

  42. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:09 am

    Triple Short of a Cycle February 1st, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Lupica is the classic definition of a bandwagon fan. He was writing glowing columns about the Knicks at the beginning of the year. Then it was on to the Nets.

    Just about the only team he won’t get on the bandwagon is the Yankees. Although he did seems to hate them a lot less during the mid to late 90?s
    =============

    Lupica can’t see past the dollar signs and his ridiculous political bias.

  43. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 10:10 am

    If they put Phelps in the pen then they have really learned absolutely nothing about player development.

    It was dumb last year and would be a lot dumber to do this year.

  44. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Ghost, I don’t know about that. Nova’s curve when it’s on is a real weapon, too. He can use both the slider and curve to get whiffs, and use the sinker as his bread and butter. I think that’s when he’s at his best.

  45. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 10:12 am

    Phelps needs to have his innings built up so he can be a viable option for all of the 2014 season.. You don’t know if Kuroda, Andy, or Hughes will be back and we’ll be on a stricter budget.

  46. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:12 am

    I like that Nova can draw on the CB; he may just need to better command his repertoire because he is throwing about 10% more breaking pitches. If they don’t break then he is in trouble, but if he can refine those pitches, he will have a heckuva repertoire. Remember he is still a work in progress. I think he will use the two seamer more in 2013, but I like having so many options.

    I am curious as to how many of the xtra base hits were on breaking balls.

  47. Against All Odds February 1st, 2013 at 10:12 am

    @ Shame it’s the Yankees so when it comes to player development they are not good at it

  48. Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 10:13 am

    I think Phelps coukd out pitch Nova in ST because his mechanics are simpler and Nova has more things to work on. Whether they would still opt for Nova anyway becuse he has a higer ceiling would be interesting to watch.

  49. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:13 am

    Rich in NJ February 1st, 2013 at 10:03 am

    I would bet Nova will be the 5th starter and Phelps to the pen.
    -
    Who do you think will pitch better in ST?
    ============

    It’s a crap shoot; ST always is. However, I tend to think that Nova has the inside track, and he would have to blow it for Phelps to supplant him in ST. Everything is kind of lined up for 2012 to be Nova’s breakout year, if he can seize the moment.

  50. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:15 am

    Nova has the more obvious upside. I think they’ll give Nova first shot.

  51. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:16 am

    If we can retain Nova’s slider/curve combo and also, from 2011, the higher GB rates/less LDs – that would be a really, really good pitcher.

  52. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 10:17 am

    @Ghostwriter

    I agree with many of the points you make – Nova needs to settle down and try to hit his spots more rather than sacrificing command for strikeouts. However, the assumption among many is that Nova made an intentional choice to go for strikeouts instead of contact, and I’m not sure that’s the case. He saw such an increase in strikeouts and whiffs that I have to think that something just clicked with his stuff. The Ks will probably regress next year, but I think they were more than just change in approach. If that’s the case, than Nova can improve his command and try to get more groundballs while still maintaining some of that improved strikeout ability.

  53. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:17 am

    J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Ghost, I don’t know about that. Nova’s curve when it’s on is a real weapon, too. He can use both the slider and curve to get whiffs, and use the sinker as his bread and butter. I think that’s when he’s at his best.

    ——-

    Nova does have a pretty curveball. However, curveballs can hang, and sinkers look like curveballs without bite. If you have a sinker or two-seamer to give you the vertical movement, then I think that it is probably best to shelve the curveball.

  54. Shame Spencer February 1st, 2013 at 10:18 am

    I don’t think it’ll be a real competition ala Hughes vs. Joba.

    Nova gets the nod.. but do they let Phelps waste away in the pen for the first couple months of the season?

    Kid needs innings. If he isn’t starting in New York he better be starting in Scranton.

  55. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:20 am

    YankeesWFAN Feb 1. Equipment truck on its way to Tampa. Yankees pitchers and catchers report in 11 days.

    Yay! We need a clap smilie, a beg/pray, and a hide smilie, among others.

  56. Chip February 1st, 2013 at 10:22 am

    I think Phelps is going to open the year in Scranton – the Yankees will want to try to stretch him out rather than bury him in long relief. At least at the outset.

  57. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:27 am

    If he continues his trajectory, my guess is that Marshall will be the SP in Scranton who is next up if we need him. Interesting to see how his peripherals play out in AAA.

  58. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Ghost, eh, he’s always thrown all those pitches, and they have different velocities and breaks any how. You’re going to go more with a pitch that’s working best for you on a given night – they’re not all going to have the same value every time out.

  59. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 10:30 am

    If your gonna evaluate a player by employing the “numbers game”, you gotta take ALL the numbers produced by said player. NO Cherry Pickin’ Allowed.

  60. 4TrainNorth February 1st, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Nova is the worst ever.

  61. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Joba should be in the mix for starter.

    What a joke.

    Good one, all.

  62. J. Alfred Prufrock February 1st, 2013 at 10:33 am

    Odds :D If you’re still floating around here; I told Chad you can have my email.

    Later.

  63. Against All Odds February 1st, 2013 at 10:36 am

    Thanks Prufrock

  64. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:37 am

    DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 10:30 am

    If your gonna evaluate a player by employing the “numbers game”, you gotta take ALL the numbers produced by said player. NO Cherry Pickin’ Allowed.
    ===========

    Hunter wasn’t cherry-picking; he was trying to identify a predictive variable. The trouble with the k-rate as a predictor of pitching performance is that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for pitching success. Some folks obssess on the the k-rate, and incorrectly infer that a low k-rate means that a given pitcher will not be successful in the future. In fact, there were some folks on this site a couple of years ago, belittling Nova’s success, because he had a low k-rate.

  65. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 10:42 am

    @DONNYBROOK

    I didn’t mean to say that strikeouts are all that matters, or to just pretend the other numbers didn’t exist. The post was mainly just a way to highlight one area of significant improvement for Nova, and give some reasons why that improvement is very encouraging. I could have also looked at walks, for example, since Nova actually improved his walk rate as well, but I really wanted to focus primarily on strikeouts.

    The biggest area of concern outside of strikeouts was Nova’s HR rate, but historically, that varies greatly from year to year. Not saying it wasn’t his fault, but that there’s good reason to believe whatever caused the home runs will be fixed and Nova will keep the ball in the park next year.

  66. Ys Guy February 1st, 2013 at 10:45 am

    great moments in lohud history:

    September 9, 1995 at 2:35 at 1:36 pm

    IDK what the hell showalter and clonninger are thinking giving up on rivera as a starter after only 10 starts.

    i can’t wait till those two and ‘stick michael’ are outta here!

  67. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:46 am

    @Matt,

    BTW, you did a nice job with your article. I find that too many of these pinch-hitting articles suffer from a lack of editing. I found your article to be quite nicely written (i.e. well-edited!), and I enjoyed it, even though I differ somewhat with your argument.

  68. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Ys Guy February 1st, 2013 at 10:45 am

    great moments in lohud history:

    September 9, 1995 at 2:35 at 1:36 pm

    IDK what the hell showalter and clonninger are thinking giving up on rivera as a starter after only 10 starts.

    i can’t wait till those two and ‘stick michael’ are outta here!
    =======

    LOL!

  69. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 10:48 am

    - GHOSTY -
    Agree on the K Rate. Before last season started, I heralded Cueto as the guy Fantasy Drafters should zero in on. I promptly was trashed for this Brash prediction, based on assorted “numbers” clap trap, mainly centering on his declining K Rate over the previous several seasons. In general, numbers are just numbers. They say Nothing about what an evaluator Actually Sees with his own 2 peepers. I put a lot of stock in the Fortitude of a player, (Especially a chucker), which to me is the most Valuable asset that Nova has. Of course, this was Not mentioned above.

  70. Tackelberry February 1st, 2013 at 10:56 am

    yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 10:20 am
    YankeesWFAN Feb 1. Equipment truck on its way to Tampa. Yankees pitchers and catchers report in 11 days.

    Yay! We need a clap smilie, a beg/pray, and a hide smilie, among others.

    ____________________________________________

    Excited for ST this year cause alot of young guys have a great opportunity to make a statement with the big club this time. (Montgomery, Whitley,Adams, Romine, Almonte, Mesa)

  71. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 10:57 am

    - MATT -
    Nothing personal. Just me and my preference to hear a prediction based on what someone sees, Not the stats of days-gone-by. I like Nova. He had me when assa Rookie, he “buzzed” Bautista way-back-when. You and I are on the same page regarding Nova. We are just reaching our destination by departing from opposite sides of the compass.

  72. Russell Munson February 1st, 2013 at 10:58 am

    How do one’s eyes see fortitude, exactly?

  73. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 11:03 am

    FORTITUDE = Buzzing an established slugger like Bautista, on the road, your rookie season. THAT, issa start. Numbers will Never show something of this magnitude, and Must be seen to be appreciated.

  74. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 11:05 am

    @Ghostwriter

    Thanks! I love disagreement, as long as it’s reasonable and courteous, which you definitely are. I definitely don’t think K-rate is everything, but I do think it’s very important, and given a small career sample size, I’m more comfortable saying that a strikeout guy is going to remain good (or become good) than saying a pitch-to-contact guy will. I think it’s easier to improve on control and command than raw stuff.

    Cueto is an interesting case, and I was definitely a doubter last year. I’m still a doubter, because the reasons he was good last year are completely different than the reasons he was good two years ago. In 2011, Cueto relied on weak contact and a low BABIP for success, but in 2012, his success was more based on stranding runners, as well as, and don’t laugh, an increased strikeout rate (along with less walks). So while I think he’s a very good pitcher, I’m more comfortable projecting him for a mid-3 ERA than a sub-3 ERA.

  75. yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 11:07 am

    “Some folks obssess on the the k-rate, and incorrectly infer that a low k-rate means that a given pitcher will not be successful in the future. In fact, there were some folks on this site a couple of years ago, belittling Nova’s success, because he had a low k-rate.”

    Sounds a lot like the endless Chien Ming Wang debates.

  76. Tackelberry February 1st, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Once the Indians exposed Wang in the 2007 playoffs, he was dead meat

  77. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I’m Not dumb enough to get inna argument with a guy that has a degree in philosophy. I know when I’m out gunned.

  78. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 11:17 am

    @DONNYBROOK Hahaha don’t be afraid to get in an argument with me just because of philosophy! Like I said to Ghostwriter, I love disagreement when it leads to constructive discussion. As long as everyone is respectful and open-minded, only good can come of it.

  79. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 11:18 am

    yankeefeminista February 1st, 2013 at 11:07 am

    “Some folks obssess on the the k-rate, and incorrectly infer that a low k-rate means that a given pitcher will not be successful in the future. In fact, there were some folks on this site a couple of years ago, belittling Nova’s success, because he had a low k-rate.”

    Sounds a lot like the endless Chien Ming Wang debates.
    ===========

    Yep. In unrelated news, Tommy Glavine and Greg Maddux look to be certain inductees to the HoF next year.

  80. Cashmoney February 1st, 2013 at 11:18 am

    As with most pitchers without an arsenal of overwhelming stuff, you live and die by control and command. In this case, Nova needs better command from the naked eyes. I agree with Matt he probably can’t suck any worse, logical. but the assertion of K rate is good indicator of future success remain to be seen.

  81. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 11:19 am

    Tackelberry February 1st, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Once the Indians exposed Wang in the 2007 playoffs, he was dead meat
    ===========

    Right. Wang looked shaky during his 8-2 start to the 2008 season, before his injury.

  82. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 11:20 am

    The trouble with the k-rate as a predictor of pitching performance is that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for pitching success

    While the latter can be true, it doesn’t mean that the predicative nature of the stat is ‘in trouble’ or not going to work. The fact of the matter is, you look at all the successful pitchers in a given year and chances are 90% of them will have a league average or better K-rate, and a lot of the top guys will all be above league average.

    You look at every #1 starter or #2 starter, you’re bound to see all great K rates. Of course guys with an extreme outlier skill will break the mold, they are extreme outliers! The amount of guys who can throw a sinker like Wang did you can probably count on 1 hand going back 20 years. Of the top 30 guys by WAR last year, only 4 had a K rate below 7. Tells you something there.

  83. Cashmoney February 1st, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Wang’s biggest problem with lack of quality secondary offerings imo. Going up against a very offensive team with a plan of attack, Wang’s repertoire was exploited.

  84. Matt Hunter February 1st, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Re: the predictive value of strikeouts – if you’re up for it, there’s a great stats-heavy piece at the Hardball Times about how simple is often better for predicting pitching. It’s a good read: http://www.hardballtimes.com/m.....tatistics/

    Key sentence: “While the combination of walks and strikeouts was the most predictive, almost all of that predictive value seems to be coming from the strikeout rate. “

  85. Cashmoney February 1st, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Key sentence: “While the combination of walks and strikeouts was the most predictive, almost all of that predictive value seems to be coming from the strikeout rate. “
    —–
    translation if you have a guy with good command and stuff, you got a winner?

  86. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 11:29 am

    - MATT -
    My Dad majored in philosophy. He often chided me for employing an “argumentum absurdom” approach when we disagreed. I’m sure everyone on this Blog is currently nodding in agreement.

  87. DONNYBROOK February 1st, 2013 at 11:32 am

    MADDUX – Easy 1st ballot.

    GLAVINE – NOPE

  88. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 11:33 am

    Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 11:20 am

    The trouble with the k-rate as a predictor of pitching performance is that it is neither necessary nor sufficient for pitching success

    While the latter can be true, it doesn’t mean that the predicative nature of the stat is ‘in trouble’ or not going to work.

    ============

    It is absolutely true that a good k-rate is not necessary or sufficient for pitching success. And while the k-rate can be predictive of pitching performance, it is a mistake to use an indicator that is not deterministic as being deterministic.

  89. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 11:39 am

    My bottom line on this issue is that I would never write a guy off because he had a bad k-rate, and I would never get overly excited about a guy with a really good k-rate…

  90. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 11:46 am

    My bottom line on this issue is that I would never write a guy off because he had a bad k-rate, and I would never get overly excited about a guy with a really good k-rate…

    But you should be weighting your expectations on both. A guy with a bad K rate has a much lower chance of being a good pitcher than a guy with a good K rate.

  91. JobaTipsHisCap February 1st, 2013 at 11:53 am

    LOL
    now people say Andy is good guy, and A-Rod is bad guy;
    nuff said, still LOL

  92. Cashmoney February 1st, 2013 at 11:56 am

    But you should be weighting your expectations on both. A guy with a bad K rate has a much lower chance of being a good pitcher than a guy with a good K rate.
    ——
    JF, I think that’s true. The way I look at is this. you have X pct of guys in the league with a good stuff, then you have Y pct of guys with good command. I happen to think command is a practice skill set is much harder to come by, meaning- I think X pct > Y pct hence it is a better indicator.

    Furthermore, I think if you take a guy with average command and good stuff you will have better successful rate than a guy with average stuff and good command. Because MLB hits average stuff even if you do have good command.

  93. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 11:57 am

    But you should be weighting your expectations on both.

    ==============

    Not necessarily. I would try to understand the context under which the pitcher obtained his given k-rate, and then fashion my expectations about their future k-rate and future performance.

  94. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Not necessarily. I would try to understand the context under which the pitcher obtained his given k-rate, and then fashion my expectations about their future k-rate and future performance.

    Not necessarily? Come on dude :) Yes necessarily. When the majority of bad pitchers have low K rates and the majority of good pitchers have high K rates, yea you should be weighting your expectations based on K rate. If you take 100 pitchers with low K rates, and expend all your energy trying to imagine who will be good and who will be bad, you’ll still only end up with a few who are good and a ton who are bad.

    K rate is thus a simple heuristic to help you sort wheat from chaff.

  95. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:04 pm

    Guys with a high K rate can get away with a high walk rate, or high other rates. Guys with low K rate cannot. Its important, and a great indicator of success both present and future. The stats back that up. Watching the game should back that up.

  96. Wave Your Hat February 1st, 2013 at 12:07 pm

    The problem with Nova is the HR/9 combined with (despite the Ks) his WHIP. It crippled him in 2012. He has always had a high WHIP and if he can’t keep the ball in the park then all the Ks in the world aren’t going to help him.

    I’d love to see him improve but I’m not a huge Nova fan.

  97. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:02 pm

    Not necessarily. I would try to understand the context under which the pitcher obtained his given k-rate, and then fashion my expectations about their future k-rate and future performance.

    Not necessarily? Come on dude :) Yes necessarily. When the majority of bad pitchers have low K rates and the majority of good pitchers have high K rates, yea you should be weighting your expectations based on K rate. If you take 100 pitchers with low K rates, and expend all your energy trying to imagine who will be good and who will be bad, you’ll still only end up with a few who are good and a ton who are bad.

    K rate is thus a simple heuristic to help you sort wheat from chaff.
    ==========

    Context matters. And historical averages only get you so far. The objective is not to try to predict the past, but rather to predict future performance. I wouldn’t use past outcomes to weight my expectations about the future; I would use my expectations about future outcomes to form my forecast about future performance. Yes, history does factor into this process, but it’s not enough.

    Honestly, two years ago, would you have expected Nova’s k-rate to increase the way that it did?

  98. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    he objective is not to try to predict the past, but rather to predict future performance. I wouldn’t use past outcomes to weight my expectations about the future; I would use my expectations about future outcomes to form my forecast about future performance. Yes, history does factor into this process, but it’s not enough.

    But as mentioned in the OP, K rate is the most stable pitching statistic with an .83 correlation from year to year. Thus you can safely use a pitchers K rate to predict future performance, and then that correlation is also as high!

    Thus heuristic.

  99. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    GW,

    Nova developed a completely new pitch. If you get new information like that, of course you can change how you think about a pitcher.

  100. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    And a lot of projections or predictions about a player even bake things like that in “Nova needs to tighten command or develop a true swing and miss pitch if he is going to become more than a back end starter” etc

  101. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    But as mentioned in the OP, K rate is the most stable pitching statistic with an .83 correlation from year to year. Thus you can safely use a pitchers K rate to predict future performance, and then that correlation is also as high!

    Thus heuristic.

    ======

    Again, correlation is not causation. The forecasting algorithm that you are describing is fundamentally myopic if it’s just based on past outcomes.

  102. G. Love February 1st, 2013 at 12:26 pm

    Matt,

    Good job & great idea for a guest post. Nova gets lost a lot in the current Yankee fan thinking like he busted last year and that’s that.

    I don’t think that’s the case. His June, last year, was positively top of the rotation-esque at times.

    What I noticed last year with him was more velocity and much more stuff than he had the previous season and I think he didn’t know what to do with it and had to learn how to harness it.

    The strikeouts were predictable once you saw how the ball was coming out of his hand.

    If he can harness this stuff and learn how to be a hybrid of the pitcher he was in his rookie season and a K pitcher? The sky’s the limit for him.

    Every time I see someone add him as a throw in into some ridiculous trade proposal I cringe. I think the best is yet to come from this pitcher.

  103. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    GW,

    Nova developed a completely new pitch. If you get new information like that, of course you can change how you think about a pitcher.

    ===========

    It was a pretty safe bet a couple of years ago that Nova’s k-rate would improve. (Although I wouldn’t have guessed that it would have jumped as much as it did last year.)

  104. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    It was a pretty safe bet a couple of years ago that Nova’s k-rate would improve.

    Not really, he was pitching about as good as he did in the minors by K-Rate

  105. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:30 pm

    It was a pretty safe bet a couple of years ago that Nova’s k-rate would improve.

    Not really, he was pitching about as good as he did in the minors by K-Rate
    ==============

    And yet, somehow, I saw it coming. :)

  106. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    And yet, somehow, I saw it coming.

    Did you say he was going to develop a completely new pitch? If not, you got lucky

  107. Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Meanwhile, if you predicted Hughes would develop a new pitch you got egg all over your face :x

  108. Ghostwriter February 1st, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    Jerkface February 1st, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    And yet, somehow, I saw it coming.

    Did you say he was going to develop a completely new pitch? If not, you got lucky
    =============

    No, and I doubt that it was just luck. I simply observed his year-on-year improvement in his k-rate in Triple-A in 2010 (about a 17-20-percent increase as I recall).

  109. Frankg February 1st, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    I think you have to know why his strike out rate went up. It was probably not due to better stuff, because he was relatively easy to hit, as his record shows. It might have been due to the fact that batters were anxious to get some swings, because he was easy to hit. I’d be swinging more if the pitcher was easy to hit.

    Interesting post, Thanks Matt.


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