Nationals Baseball: Bryce, Will he bat nice?

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Bryce, Will he bat nice?

So yesterday twitter follower* Chris Coxen asked me if there was a way to breakdown Bryce's performance versus the best pitchers. He feared that Bryce could get dominated by such pitching.

Now there isn't a clear easy way to do this, as far as I know. There is no breakdown available between "premier" and "regular" pitchers and the definition of such is vague. Sure Kershaw is a premier pitcher. Is Zack Greinke? What about this year's Verlander? Teheran? Lance Lynn? Where is the line drawn? Another issue is that he should do worse against premier pitchers because they are the best of the best. Everyone should do worse. So there's a question of how to best measure how much worse he is in comparison to everyone - if he even is. And then there's the question of whether there's even enough at bats here to matter. I don't think going before 2014 is relevant.

For sake of moving forward though, let's make the cutoff at 3.0 WAR. What NL pitchers make the cut? Kershaw, Wainwright, Cueto, Greinke, Hamels, Bumgarner, Teheran, Lynn and Nate Eovaldi (also various Nats). Sounds about right. 

How did Bryce do against these guys? He didn't face Greinke, Hamels, or Bumgarner and we throw in a couple AL elite pitchers; King Felix, Garret Richards, and Hishashi Iwakuma and we get:

.313 / .371 / .594 with 3 walks, 3 homers, 3 RBI and 5 Ks in 35 PAs.

That's great! But what if, like me, you think, "Well I don't consider Eovaldi and Iwakuma 'premier'". What happens when you take those guys out?

.227 / .320 / .364 with 3 walks, 1 homer, 1 RBI and 3 Ks in 25 PAs

That's a big drop but, you know, against a group like we've now cut down to - Kershaw, Wainwright, Cueto, Teheran, Lynn, Felix and Richards - I think that's allright. I don't see any player doing particularly better here.

Of course the big picture is that it's 25 PAs we're talking about. A ball dribbles through the infield and he's batting .273 with a .360 OBP, some one snags a line drive and it's .182 with a .280 OBP. I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions from this data unless it's overwhelmingly one way or the other and it isn't. Not to me anyway.

Ok but I told Chris I found something interesting while looking for this info and I did.  You see Baseball Reference doesn't split pitchers into "premier" and "regular" but they do split pitchers into Power/Avg/Finesse. This is all based on Ks+BBs with power pitchers being in the top 3rd and finesse guys in the bottom third. In other words, guys that can strike you out (but may walk you) are power pitchers, guys that won't walk you and pitch to contact are finesse guys.

Here is how Bryce splits against these types in 2014
Power : .203 / .292 / .354
Avg : .191 / .290 / .298
Finesse : .346 / .398 / .520

The PAs here are still limited but that's more of a telling split. I know I said 2013 didn't matter but maybe we find some historic issue here. What about Bryce in 2013?

Power : .176 / .272 / .222
Avg : .289 / .372 / .555
Finesse : .319 / .421 / .590

Looks like there's definitely somthing here. In 2012 how'd he do?

Power : .200 / .301 / .391
Avg: .282 / .346 / .477
Finesse : .299 / .359 / .531

Ok he has an issue hitting "power" guys and kills "finesse" pitchers, but maybe everyone has this split. Power pitchers get a lot of K's and you are going to hit them worse, right? What's he look like compared to the other Nats?

2014 vs Power : 3rd worst regular (by OPS)
2013 vs Power : Worst regular
2012 vs Power :  Worst regular

2014 vs Finesse : 2nd best regular (by OPS)
2013 vs Finesse : Best regular
2012 vs Finesse : 3rd best regular

There's definitely something here about the type of pitchers Bryce can hit and can't. In the playoffs Kershaw, Greinke, Bumgarner, and Lynn should all be issues. That's unsurprising. But based on this so could Liriano, Vogelsong, Haren, Miller, and Volquez. It's hard to say he'll face more power starters in the playoffs. Teams are going to go with their best pitchers in general so if Vance Worley is doing well, you'll see Vance Worley (who Bryce should hit great). But I bet he'll definitely face more power relievers as that's where the power arms go when their control doesn't allow them to start.

Now of course in any one game who's to say what will happen. Taking that to the extreme, Bryce did homer against Kershaw of all pitchers. And all it takes is one good at bat to change a series, but Chris was right to have a vague worry about Bryce.

*For those of you that don't know, I do have a twitter feed (75% Nationals stuff) @harpergordek . For those that wish to follow, I'll be live tweeting the Nats games and selected various other ones.


Jimmy said...

As much as we kick around Matt Williams around here, I think we should have a moment of silence that he is our manager and Ned Yost is not.

Harper said...

Ned Yost - undefeated in the playoffs!

Jimmy said...

Ned Yost #winning

Anonymous said...

I woke up one of my friends to have him watch Yost steal bases with the tying run on deck. Imagine being on his staff. Like being on the bridge of the Titanic.

cass said...

Good work finding this, Harper. Very interesting. Against a power lefty, it seems like Zimmerman maybe should platoon for Harper, but against a finesse lefty, for LaRoche?

Of course, there's that home run against Kershaw.

Should the Nats bring in Zimm against power righties? Maybe this will be a new type of platoon?

Froggy said...

Harper, concur. If Bryce can stay in his cleats and just focus on 'see-ball, hit-ball' instead of trying to crush it, he could be the difference maker. But, Also, I'm with Cass, Super-Sub role for Zimmy for both Harper and LaRoche. We really need our second half of the order to keep the line moving.

Also, I tried to follow you on Tweeder on Sunday but was too busy keeping score of Zimmermann's no-no. I got so superstitious after the 5th I wouldn't leave my seat b/c I just had a feeling. Ended up being the first time I've sat in the seat for the whole game this season. No bathroom breaks and forced me to drink Flying Dog from the beer man instead of DC Brau from the tap. Oh the sacrifices we fans make...

Now on to eating my crow (I predicted the A's in WS) piled high with salsa and guacamole.

Donald said...

Is it possible to do that same analysis but throw in lefty vs righty? If the sample size is small, could it be skewed because he's faced more lefty power pitchers and righty finesse pitchers? I'd be curious to know if he's struggled against righty power pitchers or lefty finesse guys.

Harper said...

Donald - possible, with a lot more work (have to figure out power/finesse rankings, isolate Bryce's at bats versus them). I'm having trouble reading the stats when trying to integrate it with L/R splits. This year he had no significant splits. Last year he had a huge RHP preference. 2012 milder preference for RHP. There isn't a pattern there, but there is with power vs finesse. What would make sense is if he faced all types of lefties before but now are missing most of the "power" types causing his LHP split to be better. But I'd have to confirm that.

Kenny B. said...

You take this post down, write it on a piece of paper, and take it to Matt Williams, stat. We can't have the other team knowing our secret weapon's weakness.

But seriously, I think you can probably learn something about his approach. If he hits finesse pitchers well, he's probably seeing the ball well and recognizing pitches/strike zone. The ability to hit faster pitching seems like something that can be more easily learned/managed through changes in approach against those pitchers.

Also, let's not put too much stock in the one homerun against Kershaw. Kershaw is remarkably good, but he's not Neo. It's just as likely Bryce got lucky as he has some magical Kershaw kryptonite. Of course, if we run into the Dodgers in the NLCS and it happens again, I will be ecstatic to eat 4 and 20 crows baked into a pie.

My predictions are off to a rough start. Though I got all the teams right (except I had the Nats playing STL in the DS and the Dodgers with the best NL record), I had OAK taking KC in the ALWC. I don't know if it matters in baseball bracket land, since I think the Angels will stampede to the World Series.

Anonymous said...

Liked your analysis of BA against power versus finesse pitchers. What applies to individual batters might also apply to the pitchers you choose to start. For example, if our playoff opponent hits well/badly overall against power pitchers, it might be an argument for sitting/playing Gio as opposed to, say, Roark.

Jay said...

Interesting, but small sample size. Plus part of that time Harper was hurt.

I'm more curious about who to root for tonight. Pirates have McCutcheon and Giants have Bochy and two WS titles. I'm thinking pirates. Pitch carefully around one guy. Thoughts?

Donald said...

@Jay -- I was kinda thinking about routing for SF, but could go either way. Pittsburgh has been playing better lately and they have their #1 and #2 pitchers lined up to face the Nats if they get through, where as SF is using their ace tonight.

Kenny B. said...

I'd rather face SF, which means the Nats will be facing PIT.

Harper said...

Jay - If I were the Nats I'd want SF. Straight up Giants with 2 Bumgarner starts in 5 games would be worse (only true ace on either staff) but that won't happen now with WC. Given that I lean toward PIT being tougher to face.

Also - I can't hate PIT so for easier rooting SF would be better. Not that I'd root for PIT but I'd feel sorry when the Nats likely pound their adequate pitching into submission.

JWLumley said...

@Harper This is not the column I requested yesterday. I wanted a full breakdown of a certain craigslist posting.

Also, I believe Harper's stats have fairly low predictive value outside of maybe 2012 because he's been hurt. He even talked himself about having to cheat on pitches last year because he couldn't spin on the knee and hand/wrist issues zap power, so for a player who's best asset is power warning track flyballs can kill BA, OBP, OPS+ etc. For once, I think anecdotal evidence might be better. He took Wainwright deep in Game 5, took Kershaw deep this year and all Bumgarner stats have to be qualified by where they took place because Telephone Park is hell on lefties not named Bonds.

KW said...

I'm in for SF - struggled in second half, Nats beat them pretty good, Pagan out, and Morse ailing. Still, they've got the gravitas of two rings, plus Nat Killer Hudson. But the Pirates have been too hot, and I don't want to face Cutch.

As for the original question, Bryce is the one real (potential) superstar the Nats have. At some point, they've just got to have faith that young Luke will trust the Force and lead them . . . and not jump out of his shoes at every pitch.

JWLumley said...

Giants kind of scare me, but maybe that's recency bias from watching them crush the Pirates yesterday. Bumgarner is very good, can't really be overstated. He's in the conversation for best pitchers in baseball (Non-Kershaw division). Tim Hudson's been awful, but he may have saved enough of his black magic to use against the Nats, Jake Peavy is still capable of spinning a gem and Petit was phenomenal there for a while. They can't really hit, which is the saving grace for the Nats, but a few dingers can shift things in a hurry. Maybe it's just residue from Game 5, but I'm feeling nearly as confident as I was yesterday.