Blog Entry

More on Sheets

Posted on: March 3, 2008 2:23 am
Edited on: May 8, 2008 8:04 pm
I got some interesting feedback from my post Saturday -- early Sunday morning, technically -- on Ben Sheets' new arm slot, and I wanted to share one piece of insight in particular. This analysis comes to us from dangerranger in Athens, Ga.:

"I hadn't heard this either and thought it was interesting, so I checked out his pitch f/x data, and I found that Sheets' release point last year was inconsistent. His curveball was usually released at a higher point than his fastball, so I think there's a chance his pitching coach might have thought it led to his sharp decline in missed bats. Some numbers which support this:
  • Only 13% of strikes registered by Sheets (counting balls put into play) were missed swings. This was his lowest total since 2003.
  • Batters swung at 49% of his pitches, which is pretty consistent with what he'd been doing his entire career.
  • Contact rate was 82%, the highest since 2003.
Considering that hitters made better contact against Sheets with no real change in swing frequency, and considering that Sheets might have tipped his pitches last year with an inconsistent release point, possibly the new pitch angle is for the better. I suppose we'll see."

I don't know if this information is accurate, and I'm not too proud to admit I wouldn't know how to verify it, but it certainly puts a new spin on the Fantasy prospects for Sheets this upcoming season. I can tell dangerranger, however, that Sheets didn't come across the new slot off the suggestion of any pitching coach. He said he discovered it himself while throwing the ball against a wall one day. His exact quote:

"There is no reason I found it or how I found it, other than I just stumbled on it and I felt like it was a good slot," Sheets said. "It ended up being just what I was looking for."

But whether I think this new arm slot will help Sheets pile up more strikeouts or set him back even further doesn't change how I'll approach him on Draft Day. He still has a certain measure of uncertainty that forces me to drop him in my rankings to the bottom of my third tier -- right around Daisuke Matsuzaka, A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez. So I can guess wrong and it not even matter because someone else making a guess will put too much trust in his guess and take Sheets in the top or middle of that third tier, banking on a rebound. I get the leftovers without the risk of guessing wrong.

That's the great thing about Fantasy that makes it far less about luck than some people want to acknowledge: Interpreting value takes priority over guesswork.

That's all for now.
Category: MLB

Since: Oct 25, 2007
Posted on: March 3, 2008 2:46 am

More on Sheets

Thanks for the shoutout!

Like I said, I had no idea about Sheets' motivations, and that was simply a guess that made sense to me.

FYI, the release point data, as registered by the Pitch F/X system, can be available in a number of areas.  It requires some searching, I'll admit, but pitcher cards can be found on page, with a link to batter cards.  The information isn't perfect, mainly because Pitch F/X was in its rookie year last year and had some slip-ups, but provided one can spot them (like Felix Hernandez NOT really throwing a 100 mph splitter in a game, haha), the information can be useful.  Sheets' release points were charted en masse, at least enough to confirm that he throws curveballs from a different position than fastballs.  Whether it caused any of his slight decline is guesswork, I suppose.

The swing and contact data is available on every player page on, like '  page, for example.  Just click on the red link which says "Pitch Data Summary (Show or Hide)."  It's not particularly fun to just go looking through, but sometimes it can help get to the bottom of why pitchers are performing strongly or poorly.

That's not much help in fantasy either way, so it may not even be relevant here, but it is interesting, I think.

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