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Sep 22

Jon Niese: About Last Night (September 21)

Confession time.  I actually watched Sleepless in Seattle in the theatre.  I also watched Titanic in the theatre, and while I remember the iceberg being really, really big and Billy Zane being sort of awesome, I remember most the drink I bought for $6.50 that was the size of a Super Big Gulp and held the Hoyt’s guarantee of free refills.  My eyeballs spent as much time floating as the passengers on the ship, and I missed, thankfully, a fair amount of the movie.  How much is fair?  Not enough that Celine Dion isn’t still permanently etched into my memory.
Is any of this really important?
No.
Sleepless in Seattle isn’t all that important either other than I was thinking of this whole Matt Harvey situation when a line from Seattle’s cousin movie You’ve Got Mail popped into my head.  After Tom Hank’s character drives Meg Ryan’s business under, he goes and visits her because he’s in love with her (AOL brought them together through emails) and feels pretty crummy about destroying her mother’s business.  You know, he’s got a heart and all.  He says to her, “It wasn’t personal.” To which, she replies, “Wha-what is that supposed to mean?  I’m so sick of that.  All that means is it wasn’t personal to you.  It was personal to me.  It’s personal to a lot of people.”  You can probably see the parallels.
Harvey’s collective group decision to limit his innings, based on prudence and with thoughts of his long term future (health and earning potential), is based on business.  He wants to maximize how long he can pitch, pitch well, and earn truckloads of money.  Makes sense to me.  I don’t even disagree with him if you press me on the issue.  People take it personally.  Terry Collins seems to take it personally as he gets angry when he watches his team implode after removing Harvey two innings too early.  His point of view is understandable.  He’s tasked with winning games, but business decisions are dictating how he does that.  Of course, in professional sports, business decisions always dictate how a manger wins games.  Fans take it personally that Harvey has one cleat toeing the pitching mound but with his wallet still sitting in the clubhouse.  Writers take it personally that the team they cover might stumble just when they need their budding ace the most. Harvey takes it personally because of course it’s personal to him when people question his character and makeup.  Fans and writers call for him to be traded. He’s not a part of the team.  Blah, blah, blah.
In all this turmoil, in all this confusion about what makes a good teammate and what rights a player has to their own health plans, there were still games to play, and if anyone felt a buzz of energy heading into the game against Atlanta after Sunday’s game against the Yankees it was kept in the clubhouse.  For me, for a fan, what I thought the team needed was a big win.  Thank goodness a veteran like Jon Niese (9-10) stepped up and pitched well last night.  If not the team, I know I needed it.
Does this seem odd?  Does this seem forced that it took 500 words about 90s movies and Matt Harvey to get to Niese.  I don’t think so.  I don’t remember too much chatter yesterday about Niese needing to go out there and lead by example.  It doesn’t seem like yesterday was about him at all, not in the pre-game dialogue, but yesterday was about him.  It was about a veteran keeping his emotions in check, not letting the little things derail a solid outing, and get the team back on track.
It always seems like after one of those defense lapse games, the next one always includes a ton of groundballs.  There are no numbers to back that up.  I’m speaking strictly from perception.  Last night Niese wore out the infield grass, recording 15 ground balls total and 13 outs via ground balls.  The first eight batters grounded into outs, and if you include Nick Swisher‘s double-play in the fourth, 11 of the first 12 outs.  So, yeah, there were a lot of ground balls and a lot of fielding practice.
I call that professional analysis right there.
Niese returned to throwing more curveballs yesterday, and the Braves obliged by swinging at them.  A lot.  For the most part the Braves batters were patient and didn’t chase pitches out of the zone, the curve was a bit too tantalizing and they swung at just under half of those out of the strikezone.  Three of those 13 ground outs ended on a curveball with the majority coming via the cutter.
Niese worked out of trouble in both the third and fourth.  In the third, he somehow decided to walk Shelby Miller on four pitches, allowed a single to Michael Bourn, and then a Wilmer Flores throwing error on a Daniel Castro grounder loaded the bases with Freddie Freeman batting.  Freeman hit a liner to Yoenis Cespedes in center (one that about gave me a heart attack as it knuckled to his left at the last moment) and the threat was averted.  In the fourth, Niese walked Adonis Garcia on four pitches, allowed a single to A.J. Pierzynski, and then got Nick Swisher to hit a comebacker for a double play.
This is now two straight starts for Niese against the Braves, and Niese has allowed two earned runs across 12 innings.  I don’t know if he’s necessarily back on track after the rough three weeks of games that saw his season hit and run totals light up quicker than a pinball machine score, but these last few starts have been much hoped for and appreciated.  Last night, Niese pitched six shutout innings and allowed three hits and two walks with two strikeouts.  The three hits allowed matched a season low, the other time coming in an eight-inning outing against San Francisco way back on July 6th.
Kudos to Niese.  Sometimes it’s the guys that no one ever talks about that remind us to simply shut up and enjoy baseball.

Below I’ve listed the particulars for yesterday’s game.

Pitches by Type:

##  Pitch Type Count    %
##    Changeup     7 7.95
##   Curveball    22 25.0
##      Cutter    12 13.6
##    Fourseam    18 20.5
##    Two-seam    27 30.7
##      Slider     2 2.27

Pitch Type by Inning

##           1 2 3 4 5 6
## Changeup  0 2 1 1 1 2
## Curveball 2 2 5 3 5 5
## Cutter    1 2 3 2 0 4
## Fourseam  2 3 5 5 1 2
## Two-seam  3 7 5 5 4 3
## Slider    1 0 0 1 0 0

Pitches by Outcome:

##                           Changeup Curveball Cutter Fourseam Two-seam
## Ball                             2         8      1        7       11
## Ball In Dirt                     0         1      0        0        0
## Called Strike                    1         3      3        6        7
## Foul                             0         2      4        4        2
## In play, no out                  0         2      2        0        0
## In play, out(s)                  4         3      2        1        5
## Swinging Strike                  0         2      0        0        2
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)        0         1      0        0        0
##                           Slider
## Ball                           1
## Ball In Dirt                   1
## Called Strike                  0
## Foul                           0
## In play, no out                0
## In play, out(s)                0
## Swinging Strike                0
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)      0

Events by Final Pitch of At-Bat

##                  Changeup Curveball Cutter Fourseam Two-seam
## Field Error             0         1      0        0        0
## Flyout                  2         0      0        0        0
## Grounded Into DP        0         0      0        0        1
## Groundout               2         3      2        0        4
## Lineout                 0         0      0        1        0
## Single                  0         1      2        0        0
## Strikeout               0         1      0        0        1
## Walk                    0         0      0        0        2

Pitches by Zone Location

##  Zone % Out of Zone % O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##   45.45         54.55     25.67     48.40

Note: Zone % is the number of pitches thrown that were considered in the strike zone; Out of Zone is the number of pitches thrown out of the strike zone; and O-Swing % and Z-Swing % relate to those pitches out of the zone and in the zone that were swung at by batters.

Calculations: I calculated the strike zone based upon the formula provided by Mike Fast in a post for Baseball Prospectus. O-Swing % = Swings at Pitches Out of the Zone / Total Pitches Out of the Zone, and Z-Swing % = Swings at Pitches In the Zone / Total Pitches In the Zone. Fangraphs has a great explanation regarding plate discipline, and I encourage you to read about it if you get a chance. After enjoying my site first, of course.


Pitch Types by Zone Location

##  Pitch Type In Zone Out of Zone O-Swing % Z-Swing %
##    Changeup       4           3     0.333     0.750
##   Curveball       6          16     0.438     0.500
##      Cutter       9           3     0.333     0.778
##    Fourseam      10           8     0.250     0.300
##    Two-seam      11          16     0.188     0.545
##      Slider       0           2      0.00       NaN

Strikeouts by Description

##                           Curveball Two-seam
## Swinging Strike                   0        1
## Swinging Strike (Blocked)         1        0

Standard Batting Lines Against Jonathon Niese

##             Batter PA AB H 2B 3B HR K BB HBP SF    BA   OBP   SLG Pitches
##    A.J.  Pierzynski  3  3 1  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333      14
##      Adonis  Garcia  3  2 1  0  0  0 0  1   0  0 0.500 0.667 0.500      11
##  Andrelton  Simmons  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       3
##     Cameron  Maybin  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       9
##      Daniel  Castro  3  3 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      13
##  Frederick Freeman  3  3 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000       6
##      Michael  Bourn  3  3 1  0  0  0 1  0   0  0 0.333 0.333 0.333      14
##       Nick  Swisher  2  2 0  0  0  0 0  0   0  0 0.000 0.000 0.000      10
##      Shelby  Miller  2  1 0  0  0  0 1  1   0  0 0.000 0.500 0.000       8

Pitches Velocities & Movement:

##  Pitch Type  Min Mean  Max Mean Hor Mean Vert CRT Mean Hor CRT Mean Vert
##    Changeup 82.9 84.2 85.3    9.892     2.826        9.502         1.605
##   Curveball 72.4 75.3 77.4   -3.314    -5.872       -3.974        -7.593
##      Cutter 85.2 86.6 88.1   0.7346     3.276     -0.04693         2.073
##    Fourseam 88.0 89.7 91.7    4.954     6.476        4.113         5.290
##    Two-seam 86.0 89.5 91.8    10.36     4.017        9.920         2.862
##      Slider 78.6 79.4 80.3   -2.063    -2.915       -3.082        -4.633

Note: Horizontal movement denotes average distance, in inches, from point of release to home plate (+ moves away from a right-handed batter) while vertical movement is average distance, in inches, from release point to home plate. As measured from the back point of home plate, the x-axis (horizontal) runs to the catcher’s right, the y-axis points at the pitcher, and the z-axis (vertical) runs upward.

Note 2: The corrected horizontal and vertical are based upon a paper by Alan M. Nathan from the University of Illinois nd account for the elimination of both gravity and drag. The corrected averages more accurately reflect the true movement of the baseball.


Average (MPH) Velocity for Pitches by Starters Last Night:

2015-09-22_Jonathon Niese_BoxPlot

Below are the pitch locations by both batter stance (left or right) and by pitch type.

Pitch Location by Stance:

2015-09-22_Jonathon Niese_Stance

Pitch Location by Pitch Type:

2015-09-22_Jonathon Niese_Pitches

Pitch Locations by Batter:

2015-09-22_Jonathon Niese_Batters

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