October 2009

AFL Day 2: Star of the Day/New blogger

Before we get into yesterday’s action, I want to encourage everyone to go check out the first of what we hope to be many players detailing their experiences via blog and Twitter. So everyone welcome in Giants reliever Steven Edlefsen, who posted for the first time on the Giants AFL blog. Go leave him some comments so he feels welcome, will you?

Looks like Day 2 was pitching-dominant, huh? Still, we can find a hitting Star of the Day while picking out one pitcher:

Hitter

petersen.jpg
Bryan Petersen, OF, Mesa (Marlins): In his first taste of AFL action Petersen led off for the Solar Sox. And while they lost to Phoenix to fall to 1-1, it wasn’t Petersen’s fault. The 2007 fourth-rounder went 3-for-5 with a pair of doubles and a home run. He also scored both of Mesa’s runs. Oddly, it was the only home run of the day. Not sure who would know this, but I have to think that’s a rarity in AFL history.

Pitcher

Donnie Veal, LHP, Scottsdale (Pirates): The Pirates’ lefty, a Rule 5 pick a year ago, hasveal.jpg often had command problems throughout his career, though the stuff has always been there. That’s why the Buccos held onto him all year. Well, he couldn’t have been much better than he was in his AFL debut. Veal was perfect through two innings, striking out three. He threw 18 pitches, 14 for strikes. Thanks to the pitch f/x on Gameday (for all games held in Peoria and Surprise), we know his 4-seam fastball was in the 93-95 mph range and his curve was 79-81 mph. Two of his strikeouts came on swings and misses at that curve and he froze Jason Heyward with a fastball after two straight curves. Nice work by Veal… I wonder if he’ll be working on the changeup at all as the fall unfolds. The icing on the cake is that our blogger, Mr. Edlefsen, got the win when the Scorpions scored twice in the 10th inning after he tossed a scoreless ninth.

AFL Day 1: Star of the Day/more on Japanese pitching

Gotta love the start of the Arizona Fall League season. I’ve done this in year’s past and, sadly, haven’t always kept up with it. But I’m going to give it a shot. Each day I’m going to award 2 Star of the Day Awards, one for a hitter and one for a pitcher, based on the previous day’s performances.

But first, some more info on the Japanese pitchers who are playing in the AFL. I wrote a story about the quintet of arms who came over from NPB (This does not include Ryohei Tanaka, who started for the Phoenix Desert Dogs on Tuesday; he was with Double-A Bowie in the Orioles system in 2009). I reached out to some scouts in Asia and was able to get a little more information on some of the arms other than what I talked about in the story.

Hiroshi Katayama: A scout other than the one I spoke to for the story feels he’s never been able to show an ability to be consistent on the mound. But he pointed out he’s a really good hitter and perhaps should convert to being a position player.

Toshiyuki Yanuki: The 25-year-old was drafted from an industrial league team and was a rookie this past year. He tops out at 92 mph and throws a curve. He needs to improve his fastball command if he wants to have a career in the Japanese big leagues.

Takanobu Tsujiuchi: The lefty can crank it up to 95-mph, but a stiff body has led to injury issues. If he can stay healthy, he’s one to watch.

Tooru Murata: Scouts haven’t seen him much since he hasn’t gotten to pitch a lot in the Minor Leagues. The scout I spoke to saw him in college, three years ago, but didn’t like his lack of command. He did toss a perfect inning in relief for Scottsdale on Tuesday. He pitched in the Hawaiian League in 2006.

OK, on to the STARS OF THE DAY

Hitter

Ike Davis, 1B, Rafters (Mets): He played at two levels. Then he helped Team USA win theike.jpg gold medal in the IBAF World Cup in Europe. After a brief rest, he picked up right where he left off on Tuesday. Hitting third and playing first for Surprise, he went 4-for-6 with a grand slam off 2009 draftee Andy Oliver, two doubles and a single. Oh, and he drove in six. Guess he’s happy to be back in Arizona, where he played for three years at ASU

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Pitcher

bierd.jpgRandor Bierd, RHP, Solar Sox (Red Sox): This one wasn’t as clear cut to me as the hitting nod, with several pitchers impressing on Day 1 (I was tempted to go with Sergio Santos, who tossed two scoreless innings in relief and struck out three while hitting 96 mph on the gun. Not bad for a converted shortstop). But, in the end, it’s hard not to go with Bierd, who started and won for Mesa against Phoenix and put up three hitless innings. He only struck out one, but he also only walked one.

If you have any nominations for AFL Stars of the Day, please let me know. I’ll always consider alternatives. And if you happen to go out there, if you send me your first-person reports, I’ll post them here on the blog.

Pitchers of the Year

When I was in middle school, I had a math teacher who would end each class by saying, “See you tomorrow.” When it got to Friday, we pointed out that tomorrow would actually be the weekend and then would say, “No, I mean mathematical tomorrow.” He meant, of course, the next time we’d have math with him, which was Monday.

I point this out to you not to show you how fun a teacher Mr. Morris was, but as a means to explain what I’ve meant when I’ve said, “I’ll discuss Pitcher of the Year candidates tomorrow.” Clearly, I meant mathematical tomorrow.

So, here we are and I’m finally ready. And, ironically, I’ve used some math (sort of) to try and come up with the best candidates. Let me take a minute to explain my crude methodology: I started with a list of 30 of the best Minor Legue pitchers for the 2009 season. I then ranked them according to a number of statistical categories (my thanks to those who helped figure out the best ones to use — you know who you are). In the end, I used:

ERA, batting average against, K/BB, WHIP and HR rate (HR/9).  If a pitcher finished first in a category, he got one point, second place got two points and on down to 30. Obviously, the pitchers with the lower overall ratings were “better.”

Before all you true stats hounds chime in, I understand this is less than perfect. It doesn’t take level or league into account, it doesn’t look at home park factors or anything about the defense playing behind the pitcher. It doesn’t look at age according to level, either. In the end, though, picking a pitcher (or player) of the year is a little subjective and any statistical arguments you’re going to make will be somewhat arbitrary.

I’ll also note that there are no relievers considered on this list. Maybe that’s a bias of mine, but for whatever reason we’ll keep this to starters. I’m going to list them in order of my ranking. Here goes nothing.

1. Daniel Hudson, RHP, Chicago White Sox
Rating:  222
9th in ERA (2.32), 2nd in BAA (.200), 3rd in K/BB (4.88), 1st in WHIP (0.94), 7th in HR Rate (0.31)
He’s the only pitcher to finish in the top 10 in all five categories. The fact he did it across four levels certainly doesn’t hurt his case.

2. Bradley Meyers, RHP, Washington Nationals
Rating:
41
1st in ERA (1.72), 19th in BAA (.223), 12th in K/BB (3.38), 6th in WHIP (1.05), 3rd in HR Rate (0.20)

3. Travis Wood, LHP, Cincinnati Reds
Rating:
41
2nd in ERA (1.77), 3rd in BAA (.204), 23rd in K/BB (2.55), 4th in WHIP (1.04), 11th in HR rate (0.32)

4. Rudy Owens, LHP, Pittsburgh Pirates
Rating:
49
4th in ERA (2.10), 16th in BAA (.219), 1st in K/BB (6.55), 2nd in WHIP (0.94), 26th in HR rate (0.80)

5. Zach McAllister, RHP, New York Yankees
Rating:
56
7th in ERA (2.23), 17th in BAA (.220), 17th in K/BB (2.91), 9th in WHIP (1.08), 6th in HR rate (0.30)

6. Madison Bumgarner, LHP, San Francisco Giants
Rating:
57
3rd in ERA (1.85), 15th in BAA (.217), 21st in K/BB (2.71), 3rd in WHIP (1.02), 15th in HR rate (0.41)

The rest of the top 10:

7. Christian Friedrich, LHP, Rockies — 60
8. Evan Anundsen, RHP, Brewers — 60
9. Brett Lorin, RHP, Pirates — 60
10. Steve Hirschfeld, RHP, Twins — 61

Are these the only 10 pitchers worth talking about for this? Maybe not. This is by no means perfect — Anundsen and Hirschfeld, for instance, are largely creations of the pitching-friendly Florida State League. Do Owens and McAllister  belong in the top 5? Should Bumgarner be higher? It’s all food for thought and hopefully will stir up some debate. That being said — and again, this is only my opinion — you’re going to have a hard time convincing me Daniel Hudson is not the Pitcher of the Year. 


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