Thursday, September 10, 2009

DGut update

Some quick notes from his debut based on the play by play:

1. The only velo reading was 89. Considering that he wasn't missing a lot of bats throughout his outing, I have to conclude that his velo was nowhere near what he topped out at at the end of 2008 (particularly during the playoffs), 93-96. Batters were fouling off lots of balls so the hitters were not being kept off-balance by his FB or Change.
2. He spotted his changeup well for strikes but it was not a swing and miss pitch. At this point you would have to be encouraged about it as a fringe-average pitch, but he is probably throwing it too hard to effectively keep hitters guessing.
3. His Curveball is a true 12-6 pitch that he throws for strikes and out of the zone for swings and misses, burying it in the dirt when way ahead. Scott Garner couldnt stop buzzing about it. It is also possible that he was changing speeds on the pitch, throwing one a little harder than the sharp breaker that is his staple, as Garner mentioned a couple of sliders but he doesn't throw one based on all of the reports that I came across.

So, in this start, it appears that DGut threw up some average velo #s if the guns were accurate and that he still has a lot of work to do on his changeup as it is not a great change of pace pitch at the moment. He had trouble missing bats in this outing, getting lots of foul balls and having some trouble putting hitters away. He didn't walk anyone so he appeared to be commanding all of his pitches well but might have been throwing too many "quality" strikes - not effectively moving the ball in the zone - given the contact that they were making. In fact Garner did mention that his FB command was only average. Garner really only made one comment about that late run and sink that had been reported on his fastball in the scouting reports; it didnt seem too lively in this outing.

So based on this outing, and this outing alone, looks like a mid-rotation starter and we have a lot of those in the system. We'll have to wait and see how he does in instructs/AFL or even next year in spring training or full season ball to see if he can repeat his plus average velo of 94 from the end of 2008. So if that happens, and he improves his changeup and he stays out of jail, he could be have a #2 ceiling. Right now: mid-rotation guy, ave to above average fastball 88-92 (possbily played up by some sink/run and command), plus CB and fringe-average changeup, all with AA command. Right now, Omar Poveda is the better pitcher (AA 4-seam FB, AA CB, plus change, ave Sinker, AA command) but DGut has the higher ceiling if everything plays out (and it never does, especially when you are on probation and on trial).



  1. Pretty early to even worry about velo and stuff consistency for a guy returning from injury. He'll need some time to settle in before we can really evaluate what he's got. You're awfully down on this guy and you seem to be going out of your way to denigrate his attributes. Do you just like Tim Smith that much?

  2. I listened to the Midland radio guy and he was much more positive about Gutierrez than what you describe regarding Scott Garner. The two times that he mentioned Gutierrez' fastball, the readings were low 90's.

    Agreed on Poveda. I don't understand his drop in K-rate this season, but he certainly has the look and feel of a future major league starting pitcher.

  3. TBall- yes I am very high on Smitty and consider him more of a sure-fire starter (LF) than I do Moreland (at 1b/dH) and I think he could contribute next year post 7/31. Also, to call any pitcher a likely mid-rotation starter is a compliment in my mind.

    However, you seem to have missed the point of my D-Gut exegeses: I am opposed to this trade on principle, splayed into 2 aspects. 1. He is a malcontent and prone to violence that have caused him to miss almost 2 years; JD chose talent over makeup and that doesnt seem to be in dispute though no one in the blogosphere seems the least bit concerned.

    And unless you can prove that his most recent "injury" wasn't mostly a dipute/ersatz suspension, you can't disprove the possibility that at least half of the time he missed this year was due to his conflict with the team. In addition, as I have pointed out, it seems likely that his "fractured elbow/elbow strain" was a result of the fight that he was in in early 2007. If you remember, he was first DL'd and then suspended right after the police report was filed.

    2. No matter what his ceiling is, he is unlikely to reach it due to his makeup concerns, much less likely to do so than Smitty and Pena, who are good character guys by all accounts.

    So in my estimation, this trade makes ZERO sense as the org has explicitly gambled on a low character guy who is more likely to flame out due to his testoterone-induced rages than realize his #2 ceiling.

  4. David- I read your summary of the broadcast over at lsb, and the difference between the accounts aren't that great. a fastball 89-91 is pretty much an average fastball siting at 90 as I projected. The one major difference seemed to be the "missing bats" part even though he only finished with 3 strikeouts.

    Garner's account (and he is usually a bit of a homer as you know) was balanced in my estimation as it dovetailed with his play by play: lots of foul balls, not a lot of missed bats, trouble finishing hitters, inconistent FB location. Now I'm not worried about his FB location as the consensus was that he had AA command last year and the end of this year.

    I am encouraged that his changeup is fringe average now but he has had 4 years to get to that point so I can't really be too impressed though he stated during spring training this year that he believed it to be a much improved pitch. The fact that he seems to be throwing it too hard - it is not a swing and miss pitch but he throws it for strikes - seems like an correctable problem. For example, Tommy Hunter threw his changeup too hard last year, so he spent his time in AA/AAA refining it, and even changing grips if I remember correctly, in an attempt to throw it more softly, and get more drop on it, so that it is now a proper change of pace pitch. I think the future of the pitch still remains to be seen as we have so little info on it except that he hardly threw it at all last year.

    The main issue with DGut is that to be anything more than a #3 starter, he has to show that the velo increase that he showed in the second half of last year can be sustained - sitting at 94. That hasn't been demonstrated yet. My only point about his velo for this one game was that it was nothing but average and that we wont' know for sure about his FB profile until next season (with a peek during the AFL).

    Having said all of that Dave, I haven't seen you question this move in any of your musings on DGut. After perusing his arrest record, team disputes, and questionable injuries, this is simply not a trade that one can easily defend. If you factor in the likelihood that he reaches his ceiling - a large factor in my "rankings" - he is not in my top 25. With a #2 ceiling he could be around 10 but His character issues are just too prominent to ignore as a factor. I have him as a high risk #31 right now.

  5. Sort of OT David, but one final thing about your approach. I think your statistical metrics fail to properly deal with the fact that full-season leagues are also developmental leagues so performance can be truly overrated, both good and bad years. All pitchers should always be working on things (hitters too of course) - adding pitches, subtracting pitches, changing grips, mechanics, stances, - and often throw their best pitch less while working on their worst pitch to the detriment of their #s.

    Hunter is a perfect example of this. This year he worked primarily on his changeup while refining his FB/CB command. His #s were mediocre at best and certainly didn't seem to merit a callup before the ASB. He then worked on a cutter for a month before sticking with the club.

    Poveda and Kiker (who is overrated in your profiles despite what your gut tells you) are polar opposites in this sceneario. Poveda worked on refining a sinker to help him pitch down in the zone (it isn't a new pitch by his account, but he has thrown if more this year and it is much better than in previous years). He also threw his changeup (his best pitch) less and his curveball (his third pitch)more. Why? Because he took to heart what the staff was telling him: these are the things you need to improve upon to have success in the majors -- the minors is but a waystation. In the last 3-4 starts of the season, you saw his hits go down and strikeouts go up as he appeared to pitch to his strengths after improving all of the pitches in his repertoire over the first 4 months of the season.

    As for Kiker, he failed to work on his weaknesses this season. As a result, his #s appear good on the surface (H/9, SO/9), but his command worsened, his pitch counts went way up, his innings per start went down, his HBP sky-rocketed, and he had trouble putting hitters away/finishing innings despite his high SO totals. IF you factor in pitches per strikeout (strikeouts per 9 is not the greatest measure) his high strikeout profile is much less impressive. By all accounts, he continued to throw his changeup (#1 pitch) too much, his curveball (#3 pitch) too little, and his approach devolved generally, trying to strikeout each batter. However, while sufficient to succeed in the minors, a plus changeup up, an inconsistent CB, and fringe average velo (all coupled with his short stature) won't cut in in the majors as a starter.

    IMO any pitcher with an above average changeup can have success at any level of full-season or short-season ball as the hitters are generally overmatched. With the plus changeup that Kiker and Poveda bring to the table, they can dominate hitters even when their other offerings are average (at least, when their command is above average - I think Braden Tullis will prove to be another example of this, though his curveball seemed to be a better pitch than advertised but his velo is fringe average at 89-90).

    So in this scenario, Kiker chose to dominate with his best pitch whereas Poveda seems to totally get it, that is, Poveda gets that full-season ball is a baseball petri dish in which prospects should be focused on their weaknesses (and refining their strengths) even to the detriment of their #s.

    We see this in almost every player in the system. Main was working on pitching lower in the zone and improving his secondary pitches - he clearly wasn't pitching in his comfort zone and the results showed. He probably could have had better success going just with his high FB and CB but he didn't and got hammered but it will likely be for the better.

    Anyways, the examples are endless but these are the kind of things that should be included in any analysis, that is, an approach that uses an individuated developmental history to interpret (and sometimes even discount)performance trends as a gauge to any prospect's ceiling.

  6. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Goyo. I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

    Regarding the Gutierrez trade, I agree with you regarding the importance of character when it comes to adding players to your system. As a long-time Spurs fan, I appreciate the emphasis that the Popovich regime has placed on character and believe that has contributed to the team's extended run of success.

    Though the Gutierrez trade might ultimately prove to be a mistake, I favor the trade because it was a classic buy-low move. Gutierrez' value took a beating this year and the Rangers were able to acquire a guy with Top 100 talent for two minor leaguers who project as major league backups. If surrounded by good teammates and supported by a solid player development staff, perhaps Gutierrez will see the light and develop into a quality major league pitcher.

    Based on his scouting report and splits, it looks like Gutierrez is already well on his way to being one of the better relief prospects in the Rangers' system. If he can add a change-up, then he could stand alongside Poveda as guy who could potentially step in as a major league starter as soon as next season. One final thing - I have it on good authority that Gutierrez' fastball was 89-94 MPH with good movement in his one start in Midland.

    Regarding the stat-based screen that I use to evaluate the Rangers' minor league system, I don't dispute that it has holes. As t ball suggested in the comments at BBTIA a couple of weeks ago, adding groundball rates would drop a few pitchers like Kiker who are over-rated by the current algorithm and help move up a few prospects like Hunter who are likely under-rated. Even with the improvements, it is important to note that there is no way that a purely stat-based approach can accurately classify all prospects. I find the method to be a useful screen to identify players worthy of a closer look. Sometimes that closer look leads you to reject the player as an interesting prospect (Kiker, for instance, whose lack of command and flyball rate suggest that he will be a reliever). Other times, you realize that you have overlooked a guy whose combination of performance, level, and age coincide with successful major league pitchers (Ross, Hunter, Escobar, and Gomez, for instance).

    Your suggestion that players' minor league stats are a poor indicator of big league success due to the fact that good prospects are often working on weaknesses sounds good, but there is not a lot of data to support it. There are a few exceptions, but successful major league players performed very well in the minor leagues when you account for age-relative-to-league.

    Even while working on his change-up and adding a cutter, Tommy Hunter had the sixth best performance among starting pitchers in the Rangers' system in 2009. His performance was third best behind Feliz and Moscoso among pitchers who spent time in AAA and would be second if you account for groundball rates. Last year, Hunter's performance was third only to Holland and Feliz among pitchers who played in AA or higher in the Rangers' system, so perhaps his success thsi year should not have come as such a surprise.