Sunday, June 3, 2007

High Altitude Ball

Well, the Reds won the first and lost the second game of the Colorado Series.

On Friday, the Reds called up Bobby Livingston to pitch. Livingston is a grinder who survives on great control and getting ground balls, rather than great stuff. There are three factors that determine whether a pitcher is going to be able to have sustainable success at the Major League level. Three components of pitching are solely within the control of the pitcher: 1) walk rate, 2) strikeout rate, and 3) ground ball rate.

Pitchers with a low walk rate limit the number of batters who reach base by limiting the number of free passes handed out. Pitchers with a good ground ball rate tended to limit the number of homeruns allowed. As for the strikeout rate, analysis has shown that pitchers have no control over whether a ball put in play results in a hit or an out. Accordingly, the fewer balls a pitcher allows to be put into play, the fewer hits he will allow. So, generally speaking, the more batters a pitcher strikes out, the fewer hits he will allow.

Livingston has two of the three things you need to be a successful Major League pitcher. He has a low walk rate, good ground ball tendencies, but he does not have a good strikeout rate. His MLB career will be defined by how many bats he misses. He pitched well on Friday night, but didn't strikeout any hitters, which does not portend well for the future.

Pitchers can be successful with only two of the three components, but in the modern era there are very few pitchers who can be successful over the long run with a strikeout per 9 innings (K/9) rate of below 5.0. After two starts on the year, Livingston's K/9 sits at an anemic 0.8. Basically, over 9 innings, he strikes out less than 1 batter.

As for Saturday's game, the Reds offense went AWOL yet again. After a hot start to the season, Adam Dunn is down to .251 on the season. There was a great of hope for Adam Dunn this year, as he came to camp in great shape and was supposedly working on a new approach at the plate with his former minor league hitting instructor Brook Jacoby. Dunn has been more aggressive, but it doesn't seem to be paying dividends to this point.

Kyle Lohse was solid, which is an improvement over his recent outings, but certainly nothing to write home about. He's due a big free agent payday after this season, but he has yet to prove that he deserves a big contract. The Reds would be wise to let him walk.

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