The Pitchers of the 'Big Trade'
In terms of excitement the Winter Meetings were underwhelming, particularly compared to their intense coverage. But, for three teams there was excitement in spades. As you surely know the Tigers, Diamondbacks and Yankees pulled off a big trade. Here I will give a pitchf/x-based look at some of the pitchers in the trade as an introduction to their new fans.
Jackson had a breakout year in 2009. For the first time he got his BB/9 below three, and also for the first time the value was below league average. He was probably the beneficiary of some BABIP based luck, but he still was a very good pitcher.
He is, for the most part, a two-pitch pitcher.
| Pitch Type | RHB | LHB |
| Fastball | 60% | 67% |
| Slider | 37% | 20% |
| Curve | 2% | 4% |
| Change | 1% | 9% |
Righties see the slider or fastball 97% of the time, and lefties 87% of the time. That is what you can do if you throw your fastball in the mid-90s and have a devastating slider.
It looks to me that the big step forward for Jackson was the out-of-zone swing rate on his fastballs. In 2007 the rate was 21%, then 25% in 2008 and now 28% in 2009. Swings at out of zone pitches turns balls into strikes or weak contact. Jackson's in zone percentage did not change much this year, so I think the decrease in walks was from batters swinging at his out of zone fastballs at a greater rate. It would take a little more digging to see why exactly they did that.
In his 60 MLB innings Kennedy has not lived up to his incredible minor league numbers; Jeff Sackmann's Minor League Splits gives him a major league equivalent FIP of 3.83 based on his minor league career. The refrain is that his meager stuff can get the job done in the minors, but will not translate directly to the Bigs. But just 60 innings is not enough to make such a designation and, anyway, the Diamondbacks would be happy with a lot worse than a 3.83 FIP.
Kennedy throws a fastball that averages just south of 90 mph, a slider, curve and change that is about 10mph slower than his fastball. In limited time in the majors he did a good job of keeping his fastball away to LHBs and the change down and away.
In Arizona he should get a solid shot to establish himself as a starter on a longer leash than when he was in New York.
Scherzer is an exciting pitcher, striking out over a batter an inning while walking just 3.34 per nine. At 25 he is one of the game's top young pitchers. The consensus is that Arizona was concerned about his long-term health and wanted to cash in on him while he is still healthy.
He throws three pitches.
| Pitch Type | RHB | LHB |
| Fastball | 70% | 72% |
| Slider | 20% | 7% |
| Change | 10% | 21% |
Scherzer's fastball works in the mid-90s. His secondary pitch is a slider to RHBs and a change to LHBs. What make Scherzer an exciting and potentially elite pitcher is his ablity to miss bats, as evidence by his strike out per inning and also by his bottom 15 contact rate (in other words top 15 whiff rate). The extra whiffs come courtesy of his excellent fastball.
| Pitch Type | Sch.| Ave.|
| Fastball | 20% | 14% |
| Slider | 26% | 27% |
| Change | 26% | 29% |
You can see that the only place Schzerer is better than average is with his fastball. But because most pitchers, Schzerer included, throw mostly fastballs, so having a fastball that is far above average is going to lead to tons of strikeouts.
Schlereth is an electric reliever, over the course of his minor league career he averaged 12.8 K/9, but also 4.9 BB/9. He joined the Diamondbacks pen part way through and pitched about how one expect, 22 Ks and 15 BBs in just 18 innings. If he can cut down on the walks while keeping the big strikeouts he will be an elite reliever.
The most interesting thing about Schlereth's usage so far, and be warned this is based on just 18 innings, is he throws curveballs over 40% of the time. No full time reliever threw that many curves in 2009 . The curve is nasty with a 40% whiff rate. It will be interesting to see his pitch usage over a full year coming out Detroit's bullpen.
Both Detroit and Arizona have two very interesting new pitchers to follow next year. In addition we recently heard that Detroit might try Phil Coke as a starter, which is another intriguing aspect of the trade.