• When A Moose Looks Like A Byrd

    Posted by on March 13th, 2008 · Comments (8)

    During Mike Mussina’s last two spring training outings, I noticed Moose throwing a lot of 76 MPH breaking pitches. And, in today’s game, I noticed that Mussina’s fastball was between 85 and 88 MPH.

    These observations made me reach for my copy of The Bill James Baseball Handbook 2008 to check James’ pitching leader boards (therein) for some pitch type and speed data.

    Of all pitchers in the A.L. last season, with a minimum of 162 IP, after Tim Wakefield (74.2 MPH), Paul Byrd had the slowest average fastball – at 85.6 MPH. No other RHP (in the A.L. with 162+ IP) averaged under 89 MPH. On the season, Byrd actually threw 632 pitches – of all types – that were less than 80 MPH.

    So, if Moose is going to feature a fastball in the range of 85 to 88 MPH this season, he’s going to be right up there with the junkiest of junkballers in the league.

    Seeing the stats, last year, for Byrd, I noticed that his ERA was 4.59 – which is not terrible. But, his Component ERA was 4.80 (in 192.1 IP).

    Last season, Mike Mussina’s ERA was a terrible 5.15 – but, Moose’s Component ERA was 4.87 (in 152 IP). It’s interesting that Byrd and Mussina had Component ERAs that were so close in 2007 – since they were not close in RSAA. (Byrd was +4 last season whereas Mussina was -8.) Byrd also had more value last season in that he gave his team 40 more IP – albeit perhaps driven by some aid.

    In the N.L., last season, the slowest right-handed (average) fastballs belonged to Livan Hernandez (83.6 MPH), Greg Maddux (84.7 MPH), Woody Williams (86.5 MPH) and Matt Morris (87.4 MPH). Outside of Maddux, none of these RHP were very effective in 2007.

    I would suggest, this season, for Mussina to be effective, Moose should only throw his “fastball” about 45% of the time. And, he should feature that 76 MPH breaking pitch about 25% of the time. For those who don’t want to do the math, that leaves 30% of the time for Moose to throw “something else.” At times, Mussina has featured a slider and a two-seam fastball that acts like a change-up with some sink. While the slider and the change were never main weapons for Moose, he may need to call on them more often now – to fill in that “30%.” He may even want to take a tip from Byrd and throw in an old fashioned full wind-up once in a while too. At this stage, whatever Mike can do to fool a batter, it’s going to help him.

    Comments on When A Moose Looks Like A Byrd

    1. Zack
      March 14th, 2008 | 2:34 am

      You really are obsessed with velocity Steve. Its an interesting read, but knowing your obsession, its hard for me to maintain a balanced view on it…

    2. Basura
      March 14th, 2008 | 5:46 am

      Mussina’s pretty cerebral.

      I envision him calling his catcher out to the mound after shaking him off:

      “Nope, I won’t throw the fastball here. It would make 78% of my pitches a fastball and everyone knows that’s too much. Regardless of the situation , the next 6 pitches will be slider, slider, change, slider, change, slider. THEN we go back to the fastball.

      “And I’ll use that new full windup I haven’t used since Little League because it worked for Byrd.”

      Steve, why not also ask him to use HGH as Byrd did to get the whole “BYRD EXPERIENCE”?

      In my opinion, you’re over-analyzing everything.

    3. gphunt
      March 14th, 2008 | 8:59 am

      I think Steve is absolutely correct. There is no reason that Mussina can’t be league average as a junkballer. He throws several different breaking pitches from different arm angles. If Mussina can change his speeds and give different looks to batters each time through the line up then there is no reason he can’t be a decent back of the rotation starter.

      Steve, what was the speed of Kenny Rogers’ fastball last year?

    4. March 14th, 2008 | 9:22 am

      I’ll have to check the book later on Rogers – but, generally, MPH for LHP is not as important.

      Update: Rogers didn’t have enough IP to make the leader board in 2007. But, in 2006, it was 85.2 MPH on Rogers average fastball

      ~~~You really are obsessed with velocity Steve. Its an interesting read, but knowing your obsession, its hard for me to maintain a balanced view on it…~~~

      Zack, for RHP, with maybe the exception of Maddux, it matters. You just don’t see RHP throwing under 89 MPH and doing well at the big league level.

    5. March 14th, 2008 | 9:40 am

      All he’s got to do is be league average. If he keeps batters off balance with his curve and change, they’ll react to his 85 mph fastball like it’s 90.

      Phil Hughes was throwing 89-91 after his leg injury last year, but the hitters were reacting to it like it was 95 because of how he used his other pitches. None of the Hughes haters on message boards, etc. bothered to acknowledge that because they were too worried about what the gun said.

    6. mehmattski
      March 14th, 2008 | 9:45 am

      Since you say you watched the game, you must have seen his curveball and changeup. They were filthy. And I know you’re at the ready with the “it’s the Pirates B-team” excuse- but that doesn’t explain why established professional hitters such as:

      Jack Wilson
      Jason Bay
      Adam LaRoche
      Ryan Doumit

      All of them had trouble with Mussina. He’s not going to strike out the world this year, but if his offspeed stuff is solid enough to keep hitters off balance, the velocity of his fastball doesn’t matter as much. Barring injury, Mussina will be a solid 3/4 pitcher who eats innings: 180 IP, 4.60 ERA or so. Which is exactly what the Yankees expect of him.

    7. Rich
      March 14th, 2008 | 10:00 am

      I’m pretty confident that Moose will pitch effectively for two or three months, but then, as has been the case for the last several years, he will probably end up on the DL with some type of injury. In past years, that has caused him to lose arm strength, thereby resulting in a period of very ineffective pitching as he tries to rebuild it. This year it may not matter as much since Joba will likely be put in the rotation by mid-season. I can see Moose shifted to long relief at that point, or perhaps be a swing man to help reduce the IP of Hughes and/or Kennedy.

    8. March 14th, 2008 | 10:45 am

      ~~~And I know you’re at the ready with the “it’s the Pirates B-team” excuse- but that doesn’t explain why established professional hitters such as:

      Jack Wilson
      Jason Bay
      Adam LaRoche
      Ryan Doumit~~~

      Career RCAA:

      Jack Wilson -130
      Jason Bay +121
      Adam LaRoche +21
      Ryan Doumit -8

      And, Bay’s RCAA last year was -4.

      Please, stop with this silly case.

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