07 May 2008
Garrett Olson's 2nd Game and Pitch f/x
Posted by Jon Shepherd
So, yeah, I wrote that Garrett Olson was a prime candidate to get shelled in his next game when his unsustainable LD% becomes sustainable. I mentioned how his pitch counts were also going to hurt him. So what does he do? He 4 hits (w/ no extra base hits) the wild card leader and marks 7 K's and a single walk (to his last batter). Now, the caveats to this performance are: 1) the A's have no power and rank 13th in slugging in the AL, 2) Oakland Coliseum is a pitcher's park, 3) Frank Thomas would have had a homerun in almost any other park, and 4) Garrett is somewhat lucky. Now, that said . . . he did a great job with his pitching counts and seemed to be quite aggressive toward the batter. This is what he needed to do and he did it. I don't think he is an ace type of pitcher, but I think he can deliver a 100 ERA+ or a little below. So I'll go through some of the data from the Pitch f/x system:
More curveballs peeked into the Pitch f/x data. I still don't know what I happening. I thought Olson threw a fastball, change, and curveball. It may be that the equipment here are recording lower speeds than those at Camden Yards and the logarithm that predicts pitch type is seeing the lower speed and calling more of them curveballs.
Fastballs appear to be thrown at the same frequency between the two starts with 57%. Changeups have increased from 10% to 18.75%, which is most likely due to the lack of left-handed batters. Garrett does not throw his change up to lefties. The curve/slider has decreased from 38% to about 24%. This is again most likely due to the heavily right-handed lineup Oakland uses.
All in all, 55 fastballs were thrown (69% strike or hit in play), 18 changeups (60%), and 23 slider/curves (70%). In terms of purely missing the ball, the harder curveball appears to be his major out pitch. He seems to have less control of the pitch as it decreases in speed (likewise, increasing in drop). The graph to the right displays strikes, ball, and hits in play.
Here are his location and pitch types (green=fastball, orange=slider, brown?=curve) for lefties. The first thing you probably noticed is that Oakland has far fewer lefthanders in their lineup (only 1). The next thing you probably notice is that Olson hit his spots against Oakland. He really is hugging the outside part of the plate. When you see this sort of difference between starts . . . you get led to release point and pitch breaks. The pitch breaks look the same, but the release point reveals a major difference between the two starts. On the April 29th game, his fastball release point varied horizontally by almost a foot. This looked a lot like Cabrera's typical release point. Against the Athletics, Olson actually narrowed his release point to a range of about 6 inches. I think him being able to position the ball is linked to that metric. That metric suggests that his delivery was more repeatable than it was in his 2008 debut. Oh, right, this is about left handed hitters. Not much can be said as he faced so few in his second start. He still isn't throwing his changeup to them. Three of his walks came against lefties in the debut and his only walk came against a lefties in this most current game. An issue? I don't think we have enough data on that yet. Last year, he walked lefties and righties at the same rate.
Olson's first game consisted of pitching insides as often as possible. It looks like he had more spray to his location. In Oakland, he did not focus inside much, but was incredibly sharp at keeping the ball in the lower 2/3rds of the strike zone. This may be the result of better command or a more uniform approach to each hitter. I'm not sure there is much else to discuss on how he pitched to righties. Feel free to comment if you see something.
Speeds were about 3-4 mph less than his debut. This may just be a difference in equipment between stadiums or he could have toned it down a bit. I'd bet on the former. Also, more of an appearance of the curves and sliders.
One of the problems I saw with Garrett last start was his inability to get ahead in his pitch counts. He was actually worse against the Rays than he was during his forgettable 2007 run. It was one of the major reasons why I thought he would get shelled. If you combine a lot of guys walked on base and an average line drive percentage (more on that in a moment) . . . you are going to get hit. Hard. Anyway, he turned it around rather dramatically. His behind counts went from 27% to 10%. His even counts went from 31% to 24%. His ahead counts went from 42% to 67%. Typically, when you are ahead in the count 67% of the time . . . you are going to do well. I wonder if the A's approach of only swinging at their pitches allows pitchers to get into favorable counts. I'm not sure. Anyway, he did a great job reversing these numbers from last time. League averages are 12% for behind counts, 29% for even counts, and 59% for ahead counts. His numbers are potentially sustainable. It also sheds light to how poor his numbers were before.
The second part of my hypothesis about Olson getting shelled was that a 7% LD rate is unsustainable. I swear this line drive percentage is not sustainable. I'm not aware of another pitcher who is capable of putting up such a line. This is just crazy. So, yeah, 7% again. His groundball rate dropped to a more realistic, in my opinion, 42%. His left on base percent remains in the high 70s. So . . . either his stuff is nasty and no one can see that . . . or he benefited from a weak hitting Oakland lineup who somehow couldn't figure out how to earn a walk against him (A's are 3rd in runs scored).
That line drive rate will go up. It won't hurt him much if he can continue to not walk anyone. I'm still calling for him being a 3 (95 ERA+) or 4 (85 ERA+) this year. I guess we will see.