MLB Coaching Session – 4/01/17 by DraftCheat

Looking at Madison Bumgarner

So one big thing is most pitchers are generally priced, more or less, to their “average” skill level, but obviously not all matchups/lineups/ballparks etc. are created equal.

The main site I use for my research is www.fangraphs.com but I have 20+ FanGraphs tabs opened up at all times every day during MLB season it is a complicated site with a ton of information, and I’m still learning new stuff there every day.  You gotta keep digging.  Anyway, everyone just Google “Madison Bumgarner FanGraphs” as that is the fastest way to get to a players general page

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=5524&position=P

Click on splits and we can look at lefty/righty splits, which are a great starting point for MLB research

Remember when I said pitchers are priced based on their “average” performance? That’s also true for hitters. So in general, the most valuable commodities in DFS are hitters AND pitchers that have big L/R splits, or big home/road splits or other discrepancies that are not “priced in” to their DFS salary.

There are plenty of pitchers and hitters who are “split neutral” and while these can be fantastic baseball players, they are usually priced right about where they should be… which means that there usually is not a lot of value or easily accessed upside when rostering those types of players.

Okay, back to MadBum who is obviously a fantastic pitcher, but let’s start to look a little deeper and look at some of his splits (beginning with 2016). Weighted on base average (wOBA) is a fantastic “catch all” tool for overall pitcher/hitter effectiveness and while I won’t go into all of its components right now, in general if a pitcher has a wOBA lower than .300, they ballin’! With regards to batters, for reference the best hitters like Mike Trout have wOBAs of .400 or even higher.

We can see right away MadBum is quite a bit more effective vs. lefties than he is vs. righties. Thought that is really no surprise given that he is left-handed himself. One thing to keep in mind big picture: the VAST MAJORITY of hitters are better vs. opposite hand pitchers and the VAST MAJORITY of pitchers are better vs. same handed hitters

So when you find information contrary to the normal splits of pitchers/hitters always take it with a grain of salt and TRY TO FIGURE OUT WHY because there usually is a reason or variable(s) that can be identified as the driving factor.

Back to the FanGraphs 2016 data which shows his wOBA is a lot worse vs. R than vs. L, right?

MLB is a sport with massive sample sizes so let’s use them.  Next click on his 2015 data and you will see pretty much the same numbers, right?  We can see that he is quite a bit worse percentage wise against right-handed hitters.

What about 2014? We can again see a big split there, so at this point we have enough data that we can safely say that MadBum is significantly better versus lefties than righties

Again, as a reminder we need to look at a couple seasons’ worth of data because here are TONS of pitchers/hitters where if you just look at 2016 data, you’ll come to a false conclusion about their splits

Now, recent data is ALWAYS more important than data from past years and as you get better and better at MLB, you’ll be able to figure out WHY the data differs and if those changes are real or not… but I digress.

Ok, back to Madison Bumgarner and trying to figure out how strong of a play he is specifically for TOMORROW (Sunday, April 2nd in Arizona).

We know at this point that he is worse versus righties (though still a very effective pitcher overall against righties).

Another key factor for tomorrow’s matchup is that he won’t be pitching in his home park in San Francisco but instead at Chase Field in Arizona.

Now, if you’ve played MLB you know about park factors some parks are bigger than others, they have varying degrees of foul territory, etc.  Baseball is pretty unique among the various sports in this way.

Most people know the different parks effect things like home run rates.  Of course shorter fences, all other things being equal, will mean more home runs. What some people don’t know is that parks or geographical locations can impact pitching or hitting. Variables such as being closer to sea level, with higher humidity, influence pitches so that they ACTUALLY have significantly greater movement

Bumgarner, in theory, not only gets hurt by pitching in smaller dimensions in Arizona and away from San Fran, but also due to pitching at altitude, in more heat, and in less humidity.

Let us see if that’s true by looking at the FanGraphs 2016 splits page and if you are looking in the right place, you should see a 3.39 away ERA, 2.14 home ERA, .296 wOBA away, .241 wOBA home those are some MASSIVE splits and they make sense for a pitcher that pitches in the best ballpark for pitchers in all of MLB.

Again let’s make sure they are real, so click on 2015, 2014, etc. to see… not always right?

This  shows how much noise there is in MLB stats and how long stuff takes to stabilize but if we weigh current data more (which we should, every player is always changing) it is pretty clear that Bumgarner is better at home than on road.

OK so at this point you should have some qualms about rostering Bum tomorrow as the highest priced pitcher in a brutal park shift but we know he’s going to be popular and there also aren’t any “bad” pitchers throwing tomorrow so now we need to try to figure out if there is anyone on the D-Backs we can target him with so we know, ERA and wOBA wise, Bumgarner suffers away from home

Of course, that is not the whole story right? It doesn’t really tell us who we should target him with? What if he loses his control away from home due to less movement on his pitches and that’s why his wOBA and ERA are so much worse? To check that out, let’s stay on 2016 splits and scroll down to advanced on the top column you should see vs. R vs. L reaffirming what we thought.  The dude is OBLITERATING left handed bats 11.69 K/9 vs. 1.61 BB/9 vs. L…. 9.54 K/9 2.27 BB/9 vs. R righty numbers still good but those are some stark differences the takeaway (when you get Bumgarner at home with several lefties in the lineup…. ALL IN) but we’ve established the Righty/Lefty thing at least.

Now let’s look closely at his home/away numbers which are the next two rows in the advanced section.  What we see is interesting at least in 2016, Bumgarner didn’t suffer at all in his K or BB rate home/away in fact he struck out more away that’s….weird and also goes against my humidity/sea level theory of pitch movement click on his 2015/2014 splits click, scroll down to advanced, and see if that holds true generally for home/away K/BB rates.

Cliff notes: in each of the previous three years prior to 2016, Bum had a significantly higher K rate at home than on road

2016 appears to be an outlier in that regard again, pointed out to illustrate the crazy sample size noise you’ll see in MLB, even over the course of a season OK, click back on 2016 splits and scroll back down to 2016 advanced  ok and you can answer here, if you know, what is driving his 2016 higher wOBA vs. Away than Home there is one specific stat/number behind it all (HR/9) home runs have an enormous effect on wOBA, xFIP, FIP etc. and he’s giving up 1.57 HR/9 on road vs. 0.54 at home that’s huge (for reference consider about 1.0 HR/9 average and while that’s not exactly right it is close enough for a benchmark).

So we see here Bumgarner, in 2016, actually serving up a lot of home runs on the road, in fact way more than an average starting pitcher?  That seems kinda crazy on the surface, but  if we dig even a little deeper into the next two rows and look at “Home vs L” “Home vs. R” “Away vs. L” Away vs R” OK, so “Away vs. R” 1.71 that’s an enormous figure.  We do have to consider the various parks that a player plays in (for Bumgarner he has two great road parks in Dodger Stadium and Petco Park, but he also plays in Coors Field and in Arizona which are very hitter friendly).

Once again, we don’t want to take on year’s data at face value necessarily so now click on 2015/2014 etc. and look at this same data from previous years.  This will demonstrate that the data varies a lot.

As for the big picture, right-handed road hitters are very clearly able to take Bumgarner deep at a higher rate than an average pitcher and that in itself, is hopefully a bit of a lightbulb.

Think back to how many times you’ll see DFS players avoid ANYONE vs. an “ace” pitcher, when in fact you need to breakdown why a pitcher is so good.

Every pitcher has weaknesses, and we can target those once we identify them.

So we’ve established at this point that Bumgarner, while an elite pitcher, is both significantly worse on the road and vs. right-handed hitters. More specifically, he’s still great at getting Ks and limiting walks even vs. righties on the road and holding things like his wOBA, ERA, xFIP, FIP etc. in check. He still doesn’t seem like a SUPER great target even for right-handed hitters, at least on the surface, but we’ve seen his one weakness which more or less holds true year after year:

He serves up long balls to right-handed hitters when pitching on the road

Somewhat counterintuitively, the very thing that can hold a pitcher’s wOBA, xFIP etc. in check can also lead to a lot of home runs. Bumgarner refuses to give in and walk hitters so he’ll challenge even the best right-handed sluggers.

Now some of you teacher’s pets have typed in Paul Goldschmidt…

Congratufuckinglations!

Let’s look at him. He’s obviously the premier hitter on the diamondbacks and he hits from the right side, he’s a power hitter and from what we know right now, he’s obviously a pretty decent play even if we stopped here. So, what other information do we want to try to figure out if Paul Goldschmidt is just a solid play, a good play, or THE play? Ok so let’s bring up his normal FanGraphs page and once again let’s just look at splits. When looking at this we always want to start from the top then dig deeper and deeper. Scroll down to advanced and looking at Goldy’s advanced page from 2016 splits he has a .449 wOBA vs. L; .362 wOBA vs R. The dude has some insane splits, right? So Goldschmidt has some pretty big L/R splits and if you look further on the advanced page, specifically Home vs. L, you see some insane numbers:

.519 wOBA and 1.268 OPS

My God! So that’s like 1/3 a season of AB’s so let’s check 2015/2014. You know the drill! So ummmmm…. HOLY SHIT! He was even better in 2015 at home vs. L and close to it in 2014! For a reference, the overall leader in wOBA last year for the course of the season was Mike Trout and he had a .419 wOBA!

Alright, so at this point I’m pretty sure anyone who grinding out an hour and 40 minutes of me droning on is probably gonna play Goldschmidt? Yet THERE IS SO MUCH MORE TO LOOK AT! So let’s keep going. So, we know the home/road lefty/righty stuff all lines up hugely in Goldschmidt’s favor from BOTH sides of the matchup, but again there is a lot more we can look at so let’s look at THIS PARTICULAR matchup. Now BvP truthers, we’ll get there, but not yet! BvP is the last data point with the smallest sample size and is something that you look up when you’ve exhausted your other information. We haven’t done that yet, so we trudge on!

Finally, we head to another site: brooksbaseball.net

In the right hand corner type Madison Bumgarner or just Bumgarner… whatever!

Brief aside, there are a lot of places to get which pitch types a pitcher throws, the problem is all of those places show cumulative data for both L/R handed batters, but in the vast majority of cases pitchers throw different pitch types to each handedness  with the biggest difference being changeups. Most pitchers will heavily utilize changeups vs. opposite handed batters, but rarely throw them vs. same handed batters. Again, that’s a lesson for another day so back to MadBum! Click on “usage and outcomes” and you should be here:

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/outcome.php?player=518516&time=month&startDate=03/30/2007&endDate=04/01/2017&s_type=2

Ok, we need to change some shit. In the upper right hand corner, we just want last year’s data for pitch types and if we think about it, the pitches he threw last year, he’s probably going to throw again this year. That’s not something that a pitcher changes so enter:

Start date: April 1 2016
End date: Oct 1 2016

Ok hopefully most of you have that and if not I’ll link it shortly. Just under that you’ll see “additional filters” and once again we are trying to specifically look up this matchup vs. Goldschmidt, who is a right-handed hitter, so we want to know Bum’s PITCH USAGE vs. right-handed hitters. To do this change “Against LHH and RHH” to “Against RHH”

http://www.brooksbaseball.net/outcome.php?player=518516&time=month&minmax=ci&var=pcount&s_type=2&startDate=04/01/2016&endDate=10/01/2016&gFilt=&pFilt=FA%7CSI%7CFC%7CCU%7CSL%7CCS%7CKN%7CCH%7CFS%7CSB&b_hand=R

That is the exact link is above. Okay so these are the pitches that Bumgarner threw vs. Right-handed hitters in 2016: Four seam, Cutter and Curve… in that order with a few changeups, but not really a big part of his game at all. This is very unusual to throw so few changeups to an opposite handed hitter, but Bumgarner simply doesn’t have much of a changeup.

Alright, keep this page up if you can and back to Goldschmidt and FanGraphs. Click on “season stats” from his general page and then “pitch type”. That should auto scroll you down to a section with “pitch values”; now onto a brief tour of this specific section. On the left you’ll see in the first column “wFB” which 0.00 is average for an MLB hitter. That’s runs gained above average vs the fastball for the season and on the right you’ll see “vFB/C” which is per 100 pitches (C stands for contributed = 100).

Anyway, both stats are basically the same story, just per 100 pitches and on the season so it just depends how many pitches a hitter saw. So anyway, we know Bumgarner throws, vs righties the Four seam, Cutter and the Curve from brooks baseball.

Now for a question go ahead as I think I know what you are going to say so have at it:

How come Brooks says Cutter but Savant and FG show Slider?

Exactly, so, every site has different classifications for velocity, vertical and horizontal movement in how they classify pitches. So what makes a pitch a pitch? Well the velocity, horizontal and vertical movement does so each site has their own parameters. Baseball is an art… well, projecting baseball is but OK.

So we know Bumgarner throws a four seam a lot to RHH, he also throws the cutter a lot and also what appears to be something between a slider/curveball. Because we have different classifications from different sites it’s probably very close to the cutoff point, but if we look at what Goldschmidt thrives against, he is smashing the cutter, he’s good against the four seam and he’s obliterating curveballs to go along with all the L/R home/road splits we already know exists for both players in this matchup.

I could keep going for a while with more tools/sites but maybe people just want their chat back… no? Ok let’s do a few more minutes then a few questions.

Ok, so back to Goldschmidt vs Bum as our examples once again. We spent 2 fucking hours on it already so I apologize but this is my profession, as sad as that is and we’re not quite done yet! So how can we somewhat affirm what all of the data is telling us? Well it’s time…

BVP TRUTHERS UNITE!

Now, hopefully some of you have learned how crazy noisy stats can be even over the course of an entire season we’ll see big fluctuations in stable stats like K Rates, BB rates, wOBA, etc. So you’ll often see people site BvP like  “this guy is 12-24 with a .500 batting average” vs this pitcher… ZZZZZ.

So how do we know if those were hard hit balls or just seeing eye singles or Texas league bloopers? Well once again BvP should be the last thing you look at, but I do ALWAYS look at it, just not in terms of traditional stats. To see BvP stats go to baseballsavant.com and click on “daily matchups” and change the date to 4-2-2017. Once you have done that then sort by “BBE” which means batted ball event. So now we have the biggest sample sizes of hitters vs. pitcher and on the right hand side you have aEV which means “average exit velocity”. aEV is basically how hard the batter is hitting the ball on average when he makes contact vs. this specific starting pitcher.

Looking at these stats does any number stick out to anyone?

100.5, Goldy: https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/daily_matchups

The cut off line on aEV like over under or baseline of what is normal avg for players is 90 about average. So, up until this point we’ve been purely researching the theoretical matchup between Goldschmidt and Bumgarner based on L/R (both players, both sides) home away (both players, both splits) pitch types (again, both players). Now we’ll look at how the at bats between the two have played out and you’ll see that Goldschmidt is smashing Bum! However, don’t just focus on aEV here, we also need to look at SO/BB ratios and you will see that Bum is still striking out Goldy about as much as you’d expect but when Goldschmidt touches the ball, he’s hitting it HARD!

Alright, that’s all for tonight, folks!  There truly is A LOT more to look at and we will do this again soon!

Thanks again for subscribing guys as you deserve all that info… oh and also…

Paul Goldschmidt is a stone fucking lock for 0-4 tomorrow!