David's Blog

On this page, I'll share my thoughts, and any articles or information I think are of interest.  Feel free to use the comments section to join in the discussion!

“an easy pitch to hit, thrown right down the middle of the plate.”

TASTY PITCHES 6:53 AM AUG 13, 2014 

Here’s What Happens When A Pitcher Throws A Meatball


It was the middle of April, and the score was tied between the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners. It was the bottom of the ninth, the bases were loaded, and nobody was out. Marlins masher Giancarlo Stanton was at the plate against Mariners reliever Yoervis Medina, and Medina was ahead one ball and two strikes, in position to put Stanton away and extend the inning. But then he made a terrible mistake with a breaking ball, and Stanton knows what to do to with mistakes.

That pitch, that was a meatball — a pitch so appetizing a hitter can’t help but think of devouring it whole. And big league batters can eat; they don’t leave many meatballs on the plate.

There’s only a limited understanding of what a meatball is. One general definition: “an easy pitch to hit, thrown right down the middle of the plate.”Major League Baseball’s official lingo agrees. Brooks Baseball defines “grooved pitches” as pitches thrown in the middle-middle of the plate, regardless of movement or velocity.

But there has been no available resource that shows what happens to meatballs when they’re served up. So I looked at 1.7 million pitches over about six and a half seasons since 2008, culled from PITCHf/x and Baseball Savant, and found that off-speed meatballs lead to the kind of slugs that make highlight reels, but fastballs get swung at and hit more often.

Meatballs are subjective enough that there’s no way to separate them from non-meatballs with 100 percent accuracy. But to analyze them I had to at least approximate a definition, so that I could create two buckets: one presumably containing mostly meatballs, the other presumably containing mostly non-meatballs.

I’m defining a meatball as a pitch over the middle of the plate, between the thigh and the belt, and one that doesn’t hang around the bottom of the strike zone (because pitchers often throw low on purpose). So my data set includes pitches over the middle third of the plate, in the upper two-thirds of the strike zone, meaning 22 percent of the strike zone is meatball territory. But not all pitches that land in that area are meatballs. I’ve excepted knuckleballs, whose movement is usually too erratic,1 and also fastballs over 95 mph, under the assumption that at high enough speeds, meatballs don’t really exist. If Aroldis Chapman lays a 100 mph pitch down the pipe, a hitter barely catches a whiff of meat before the ball’s in the catcher’s glove.

This definition includes about a quarter of the homers hit so far this season. But homers aren’t the only reason meatballs are interesting: They’re a vehicle to find out more about a pitcher’s worst mistakes, and how different those mistakes are from his peak performance.

Take the chart below, which shows whether batters are more enticed to swing when they see a meatball coming toward them, as we suspect they are. I’ve split up fastballs and off-speed2 pitches to show how they’re thrown and treated differently. The data is also broken down by how the count looks from the pitcher’s perspective3: “ahead” refers to pitcher-friendly counts4; “behind” classifies pitcher-unfriendly counts5; and “even” encompasses counts where neither hitter nor pitcher is in the power position.6


Hitters swing at meaty fastballs, on average, far more frequently than at off-speed meatballs. That feels intuitive, since hitters look for fastballs over the middle, so speedy meatballs are already where hitters expect them to be. With the pitcher ahead, hitters swing at meaty fastballs 93 percent of the time, but at non-meaty fastballs 80 percent of the time. We don’t see these gaps with off-speed pitches. In every case, the rates are just about even, suggesting that breaking balls, on average, may be as deceptive when they’re meaty as when they’re not. Alternatively, batters might not be able to track off-speed pitches as well as they track fastballs.

Swinging is one thing, but we mostly care about swing results. We can also look at whether hitters make contact with meatballs more often.


When hitters are swinging at off-speed pitches, they’re doing better on the meatballs. In every case, fastballs are struck somewhere between 87 percent to 90 percent of the time. But with off-speed stuff, there are clear differences in the contact rates — the mistakes are getting hit. There’s a reason hanging breaking balls have a bad reputation.

So we know that hitters like to swing at fast meatballs and make better contact on off-speed meatballs, but what really matters is which bad pitches are most exploited.


It’s no surprise that meatballs are turned around with more success than other, higher-quality strikes. What’s interesting is the extent to which that’s true. The biggest difference is with off-speed pitches in even counts — meaty ones have yielded a slugging percentage 119 points higher than non-meaty ones. In those situations, hitters are neither sitting on a fastball nor looking to swing at anything close.

That’s indicative of the main discovery: There’s a far bigger difference for off-speed pitches than for fastballs in every type of count. The average overall fastball gap is 48 slugging points, while the average overall off-speed gap is 104 points.

Off-speed pitches lead to more home runs, too. Here’s a table showing home runs per swing attempt:


Of course, my analysis isn’t perfect. Meatballs and non-meatballs could probably be separated with greater purity, given infinite hours of time, and a meatball to Giancarlo Stanton doesn’t work the same as a meatball to Ben Revere. Under few circumstances should a pitcher ever want to throw a pitch up in the zone and down the middle of the plate. But as the evidence shows, most meatballs still don’t get punished. Pitchers get away with the majority of their mistakes because hitting is incredibly difficult and the fate of a mistake depends in part on the context. The way pitches are woven together can make a pitch down the middle surprising and effective, even if it wasn’t actually supposed to go there.

What a meatball really is presumably changes with every situation. Meaty pitches are hit out of the park more often than non-meaty pitches, and the biggest difference is, yet again, with off-speed pitches in even counts, where a meatball is almost twice as likely to be hit out of the park as a non-meatball. (Note that these home run numbers were included in my earlier slugging-point analysis.)

But all types of meatballs hurt somehow. The off-speed ones aren’t swung at as often, but when hitters do make contact, they’re clobbering the ball. The fastball variety, meanwhile, do entice a hitter to take a swing, leading to a ball that’s more likely to find its way around the defense. And whether it’s a fastball or an off-speed pitch, meatballs are still the most homer-friendly pitch I’ve seen.

The more I looked into the meatball, the more it confirmed my suspicion: no matter the particulars, it’s the bad pitch we assumed it was.



"do agents have too much of an influence on that process?"

03/11/09 9:28 PM ET

Scandal puts focus on player holdings

By Barry M. Bloom and Tom Singer / MLB.com

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Darren Oliver, a veteran pitcher now toiling for the Angels, received the phone call a couple of weeks ago, it stopped him dead in his tracks. His investments and savings had been frozen by the federal government because of an investigation into the practices of financier Allen Stanford.

Oliver's credit cards, checking accounts and saving accounts set up through the investment firm with which he was dealing also were frozen.

"My financial guy called me and told me what was going down," Oliver told MLB.com in the Angels clubhouse on Tuesday. "Immediately I turned on CNBC, and when I heard it, I couldn't believe it. Luckily, we had another checking account so we could pay our bills. But how much do you leave in those accounts? Just enough to get by for the month."

Oliver didn't want to be specific about how much of his money was frozen by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, but he said, "It's obviously what I've made through my whole career, so you can do the math."

Including his $3.7 million for this coming season, Oliver has earned $36.2 million over the course of 16 seasons, playing for seven teams, including the Rangers twice.

But Oliver is not alone. Other Major Leaguers ensnared in the Stanford situation include Adrian Beltre of the Mariners, Johnny Damon and Xavier Nady of the Yankees, Carlos Pena of the Rays and Mike Pelfrey of the Mets.

Like Oliver, all of them had their assets frozen by the feds and have been assured that the money is not lost. Damon said he couldn't pay his bills, and Nady said his credit cards were also frozen.

Like Oliver, all these players either once were, or are still, clients of agent Scott Boras. As part of his sweeping one-stop shopping approach to representing players, Boras refers them to a financial company, which handles their investments. According to a source, Boras encourages his clients to consider Personal Management Consultants, a Boras-owned company, and it was PMC that invested the money with Stanford.

It all begs these questions: What could the MLB Players Association do to educate players about how to invest their earnings, and do agents have too much of an influence on that process?

Though the union that represents all of the players on the 40-man rosters of the 30 big-league clubs certifies agents, it doesn't certify financial advisors or institutions, said Don Fehr, the association's longtime executive director. 

"We don't have anything to do, except in a very limited way, with what the players do on their own personal investments or taxes or anything like that," Fehr said. "They all have their own advisors and they make their own judgments. And since it doesn't relate directly to the employer [Major League Baseball] we don't have any jurisdiction there."

Stanford was sued by the SEC, on Feb. 17, accusing him, two associates and three affiliated companies of defrauding investors through an elaborate $8 billion Ponzi scheme in which money from new investors was shuffled to pay off older ones. Like a similar scheme operated by now discredited New York financier Bernard Madoff, the money eventually runs out.

The accounts and assets of all Stanford clients were frozen that day, although some of the smaller accounts worth under $250,000 each are starting to be released by a Dallas judge.

Most Major Leaguers rely on financial advisors to manage their portfolios. The manner in which they are steered to the advisor has come under scrutiny and has brought the agent's role into question.

Boras, who said he has investigated the Stanford situation to ensure that none of his clients' assets are in prolonged jeopardy, distanced himself when asked about referring players to the company that chose Stanford.

"We're not in the financial business," Boras said last week. "We don't benefit from any financial company. We have a lawyer monitoring the conduct of people who use Stanford as a clearinghouse to purchase stocks and bonds. But I'm not involved in the financial decisions players make."

Oliver said that Boras and the financial advisor, whom he declined to name, were not connected.

"[Boras] refers you to a guy, and that's all," Oliver said. "There are no ties to Boras and the other guy. It just happened. He's just looking out for his clients, trying to find the best financial advisor. It saves you some time and money."

Oliver said that he was aware that the money was invested with Stanford, but he didn't know where the funds were going.

"Yeah, I knew," he said. "Nobody's going to know what he did with it until they finish the investigation."

Mark Gillam, who for 20 years has run his own management company, Mark Gillam Enterprises, and has worked with numerous athletes, added that it's convenient to make Boras a scapegoat in all of this.

"It's too easy to say 'A-ha!' just because it's Scott Boras," Gillam said. "But when it's Boras, people tend to take shots. Nobody knows what happened [with the Stanford situation]. There were numerous factors involved, and it will take some time to untangle them. You can't call out Boras just because his name is involved."

To be sure, not all agents ascribe to the one-stop shopping concept. John Boggs, who handles the business interests of Hall of Famers Tony Gwynn and Paul Molitor and negotiates contracts for such current players as Cole Hamels of the Phillies, said he favors a pronounced separation of contract negotiations and finances.

"I just think it's bad business to represent both sides of it," said Boggs when reached by phone at his San Diego offices. "There's a conflict of interest there. So my philosophy is we will interview people who the client wants to use as a financial investor and help in the vetting process.

"But there has to be some separation between the representation, marketing and the finances."

In contrast, PMC is a part of the Scott Boras Corporation, and its role includes auditing players' financial advisors. That factor alone has raised a flag for some business managers.

"What upsets me is seeing these players being mismanaged," said Fred Nigro of Los Angeles-based Nigro Karlan Segal Feldstein, which represents a list of blue-chip entertainers, including 25 baseball players. "Agents want to control everything. But it's their job to generate income, and a business manager's job is to protect that income. This whole Stanford financial issue is a joke."

Nady, who confirmed his association with PMC, said: "My agent really isn't involved. I've been with PMC from Day 1. Basically, they look over everything involved [with finances]."

Damon said last month that he was having problems paying bills now that his assets are frozen.

"I had to pay a trainer for working out during the offseason," Damon said. "I told him, 'Just hold on for a little bit and hopefully all this stuff gets resolved.'"

And Pelfrey, while confirming his Stanford involvement was through an accountant recommended by Boras, said he had been told that neither his agent nor his accountant received any remuneration for the arrangement.

Pelfrey, who's going into his fourth season, said that 99 percent of his money is now being tied up in the investigation. He's made about $2 million during his first three years with the Mets.

"It [stinks] not being able to get to my money and it's pretty scary, but what are you going to do?" Pelfrey said. "The economy is bad, and it seems like everybody's trying to get what they can get."

Because most players are novices when it comes to investing money, some business managers are concerned that agents who have dual interests -- their own, as well as that of their clientele -- have too much influence.

"Athletes who rely on their agents to also be their financial advisor are exposed to financial risks they may not even know about," Nigro said.

"I've seen every incident where agents have tried to be very vertical in their advisory services, and it sounds like a very good idea," said Jim Miles of The Summa Group, which advises clients, many of them baseball players, on capital allocation for investments.  "It sounds like a good model, and has definitely permitted agents to become very intimately involved with their clients' finances.

"But an accountant is better equipped to offer investment advice. When an agent is involved, the question becomes, is he conflicted or is he adding value for the baseball players he represents?"

Oliver seems to be more involved with his finances than many players. He follows financial reports and keeps track of his investments. Still, if the process is opaque it's almost impossible to discern where the money is going, no matter who you tab as your advisor.

"It's like anything else in the world," he said. "You get yourself a financial guy and you kind of have to trust him. You read all this stuff in the paper -- Bernie Madoff and this Allen Stanford guy -- and you never think it's going to happen to you. You read the paper and you feel sorry for that guy [who gets bilked]. But when it happens to you it opens up your eyes a little more to what's going on in the world."

And in Oliver's world these days, he breathes a sigh of relief. After all, so far he hasn't lost all that money. If he had, it would weigh on him, he said, but since it hasn't it doesn't bother him. Right now, though, he isn't sure when he's going to be able access it.

"You have money and you can't even touch it," he said. "It's your own money. It's kind of weird. It doesn't seem fair. Does it?"



“none dropped off as dramatically by Year 3”

Diagnosing Bryce Harper’s Decline

AUGUST 13, 2014 


Bryce Harper has a knack for making headlines.

Upon returning from the disabled list in late June, the Nationals outfielderquestioned manager Matt Williams’s decision to bat him sixth in the lineup. This past weekend, Harper pissed off Braves fans by dragging his foot over the team logo behind home plate.1 He recently triggered a heated interaction between Williams and local media over whether he should be sent to the minors. He even found a way to motivate (or at least sprinkle batted-ball luck on) a teammate, indirectly hinting that Denard Span should hit the bench, and somehow turning Span into one of the hottest players in baseball in the process.

All of those incidents could spark some interesting discussions. They also ignore the more troubling trend: Harper has played poorly this season, and compared to his historical peers — the other players who broke into the big leagues with a bang at a very young age — Harper’s Year 3 performance looks hugely out of place.

To properly frame how disappointing Harper’s 2014 season has been, we need to start by recognizing how extraordinary his 2012 season was. Harper debuted on April 28 and went on to deliver an excellent all-around campaign, hitting .270/.340/.477 with 22 homers, 18 steals, impressive defense, and a stream of highlight-reel plays. According to Baseball-Reference’s wins above replacement stat, he generated 5.1 wins with his all-around skills, ranking just outside the National League’s top 10. His .817 OPS adjusted for park effects netted a 118 OPS+, 18 percent above league average. All of which was enough to earn Harper NL Rookie of the Year honors.

Given the vagaries of defensive metrics, and the fact that Harper earned his megaprospect status primarily with his bat, we can use that OPS+ stat to gauge the impact of his 2012 season. Harper was just 19 that year. Now that we’re decades beyond the bonus baby era, which saw teams throw gobs of money at teenage prospects and then very quickly promote them to the major league level, it’s rare to see players in the big leagues before they turn 20. It’s even rarer to see someone perform as well as Harper did at such a young age. I queried Baseball-Reference’s Play Index to see which players 20 or younger put up the best numbers by OPS+, with a minimum of 500 plate appearances. Here are the top 25. Note: “OPS” is OPS+ in this case.


It turns out that what Harper did in 2012 wasn’t just rare; it was the second-greatest offensive performance ever for a player that young.

Now, just two years later, Harper is having the kind of down season that’s nearly unprecedented for anyone who broke in really young and performed as well or better than he did.

I wrote about Mike Trout’s incredible 2012 season in August of that year; he’s the standard-bearer for 20-or-younger players, and is currently in the midst of a third consecutive season in which he’d make an excellent MVP pick. Ty Cobb hit .350 as a 20-year-old in 1907 and only got better from there, batting a ludicrous .420 four years later. Mel Ott never again matched the 42 homers he hit in his age-20 season in 1929, but he remained one of the best hitters and most fearsome sluggers in the league every year for the next decade and a half. Ditto for Al Kaline, Mickey Mantle, Alex Rodriguez, and Ted Williams.2 Frank Robinson did see a modest drop in numbers during his third year, but he still cranked 31 homers and won a Gold Glove that season. And so on.

There are a few exceptions here. First baseman Dick Hoblitzell was born in 1888 and hit .308/.364/.418 as a 20-year-old in his first full big league season, but never again reached that level despite putting up above-average offensive numbers in his next five seasons. Tony Conigliaro was an offensive force through age 22, but a fastball to the face on August 18, 1967, derailed what could have been an incredible career.

Harper’s closest comp on this list, however, might be contemporary Jason Heyward. A 6-foot-5, 245-pound physical specimen, Heyward broke into the big leagues with a titanic three-run homer, setting the stage for an excellent rookie campaign in which he’d hit .277/.393/.456 with 18 homers, 91 walks, and an array of sparkling defensive plays. By advanced stats like WAR that factor in defense, Heyward has remained a tremendously valuable player, with the highlight-worthy clips to match. But he’s become a relatively pedestrian offensive player, with his home run numbers in particular drying up, a weird occurrence for someone that big and that talented.3

Still, when it comes to very young players who started their careers with a bang, none dropped off as dramatically by Year 3 as Harper has. Thanks to ESPN Stats & Info, we can track the full extent of Harper’s decline. And it’s not pretty.

First, let’s look at Harper’s strikeout rate and power numbers this season, as compared to 2012 and 2013. All stats in the below tables are current through Monday’s MLB action.4













Strikeout Rate



HR (HR Rate)

42 (4.4%)

4 (2.0%)

Harper has struggled most this season against inside pitches. He’s failing to pull these balls as often, he’s hitting more of them on the ground, and he’s swinging through more pitches located in this zone. A total of 32.3 percent of his strikeouts have come on inside pitches this season, compared to only 21 percent in 2012 and 2013. 




Slugging %



Swing-and-Miss Rate



Ground Ball Rate



Percent Pulled



Inside pitches aren’t the only ones giving him fits this year. While Harper succeeded against pitches on the inner half before 2014, he’s now shown a persistent inability to do anything with pitches down and on the outer half. As the numbers below show, he’s ranked among the league’s worst in that category (out of 198 players who’ve seen at least 700 pitches) since the start of last season.







Slugging %



Swing-and-Miss Rate



Breaking down Harper’s performance by situational splits reveals more struggles. He hit .341 with six homers on the first pitch in 2012. In 2013, he batted .388 with eight homers in that spot. Through Monday of this season, he was hitting just .242, with no home runs and one RBI on first pitches. And while numbers with runners in scoring position often vacillate even for some of the game’s best and most consistent players, the drop in Harper’s RISP line is ugly. He was batting .196 in those spots this year, compared to .282 in 2012 and .230 in 2013, and striking out in 34.5 percent of his plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Here’s a look at the highest strikeout rates with runners in scoring position among NL players with at least 50 plate appearances this season.



Strikeout Rate

Junior Lake



Jarrod Saltalamacchia



Scott Van Slyke



Brandon Belt



Bryce Harper



Finally, ESPN has a stat called hard-hit average, which tracks exactly what you’d think: the frequency with which a batter hits the ball hard. In his rookie season, Harper posted a hard-hit average of .226, placing him a solid 51st out of 144 qualified batters. Since then, that number has plummeted to .197 last season and .149 this season.

Despite all of that damning statistical evidence of decline, there remains one huge, mitigating factor that helps explain what’s happened to Harper this season: injuries. On April 25, Harper cracked a three-run triple, punctuating the feat with a head-first slide into third. But that slide resulted in a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb, an injury that knocked him out of the lineup for more than two months. At the time of the injury, Harper was hitting .289/.352/.422, solid numbers in today’s increasingly pitcher-friendly environment, even if they were a little short of the annual sky-high expectations that fans and pundits have for him. Since returning from the DL, however, Harper has been terrible. In 141 plate appearances spread over 36 games, he’s batted just .230, with a .329 on-base percentage and an anemic .352 slugging average. He’s hit just four homers in that span, and has posted a 36.1 percent strikeout rate that would lead the majors by a wide margin if prorated over the entire season.

There are two bits of positive spin here: The first is that Harper’s thumb has severely limited his productivity, the same way similar injuries did for top hitters like Dustin Pedroia and others. A return to health, whether this season or in 2015, would presumably allow Harper to better tap into his vast potential and become the hitting star and MVP candidate that the baseball world expects him to be. The second is that he might finally be turning things around. The above tables didn’t account for last night’s game, in which Harper smacked a two-run homer, his second in five games and sixth hit in that span.

Still, until Harper fully rediscovers his 2012 form, doubts will linger. We’ll wonder if his all-out playing style could result in more injuries, like when hesmashed into the wall at Dodger Stadium last year, an incident that incredibly only cost him a couple of starts but could have been much worse. And we’ll wonder if anointing Harper as “Baseball’s Chosen One” when he was 16 years old might’ve been a case of way too much, way too soon.

He’s still just 21 years old, and he’s still on that OPS+ list with some of the greatest hitters of all time. The smart money’s still on Harper becoming a star, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.




“You could say it's because I come from a small town with envious people,” 

Pirates' Locke cleared of game-fixing allegations



By Rob Biertempfel

Wednesday, Aug. 13, 2014,


DETROIT — Pirates left-hander Jeff Locke wonders why a former childhood friend whom he hasn't seen in years would tell people Locke threw games at the behest of sports bettors during the 2012 season.

“You could say it's because I come from a small town with envious people,” Locke said. “No one else from there is doing what I do. There's a lot of jealousy.”

According to a story by The Center for Investigative Reporting in the Aug. 18 issue of Sports Illustrated, a sports handicapper named Kris Barr sent text messages claiming Locke intentionally was throwing games during the 2012 season.

An MLB investigation into the game-fixing allegations cleared Locke of wrongdoing.

“Everything came back 100 percent clean,” Locke said.

Pirates spokesman Brian Warecki said the team was aware of the inquiry from the outset and cooperated fully with the league office.

After reading the SI story, which he called “gut-wrenching,” Locke spoke with reporters at Comerica Park before Wednesday's game against the Detroit Tigers.

“This stuff happens,” he said. “It's extremely frustrating for me because I feel I have to defend myself for no reason.”

Barr, 27, of Prescott Valley, Ariz., and Locke, 26, were grade-school pals in Conway, N.H. They drifted apart in 1998 after Barr's mother won the New Hampshire lottery and he moved to Arizona with his family.

Through his website, VIPSportsInvestment.com, Barr handicaps pro football, baseball and basketball games. According to SI, Barr, who also used the alias James Hunter, is alleged to have told at least one prospective client to bet against the Pirates when Locke pitched in 2012.

“My best friend is pitching today. His name is Jeff Locke. He will not have a good day,” said one text from Barr. Another text read: “Tell your biggest people that pirates game today is fixed. My friend will be throwing this game.”

The SI article said Barr carried a grudge after Locke turned down a friend request on Facebook.

MLB assigned senior investigator Rick Burnham to look into Barr's texts. When Burnham confronted Barr on an Arizona highway in February 2013, according to SI, Barr said his texts were only “something stupid” and not an actual conspiracy.

“From the players' association's standpoint, it's kind of scary that someone made accusations about something as toxic as this,” said Bob Lenaghan, assistant general counsel for the MLBPA. “My understanding is the investigation was pretty thorough by both law enforcement and MLB, and there was no evidence at all (of wrongdoing by Locke).”

In 2012, Locke pitched in eight games (six starts) for the Pirates and went 1-3 with a 5.50 ERA. Last season, he went 10-7 with a 3.52 ERA and was named to the National League All-Star team.

Locke was unaware of MLB's probe until after it was complete. He learned about it during a phone call with Lenaghan early in the 2013 season.

“It wasn't that big of a deal to me at the time,” Locke said. “Obviously, it turns into a much bigger deal when everything becomes public. But when I heard about it, I had just made the team and everything was going fine. It was never a distraction for me. I went out and made the All-Star team, so it wasn't that hard to focus.”

Locke said MLB did not confiscate or examine his cell phone at any point. MLB spokesman Pat Courtney declined to comment on the methods used by investigators.

“We have policies regulating cell phone communication and other electronic communication to and from MLB clubhouses,” Courtney said via email.

Players are not allowed to use equipment such as cell phones, laptops and texting devices while on the bench, in the bullpen or on the playing field once batting practice has begun. They also cannot use those devices in the clubhouse within 30 minutes of the start of a game.

In a prepared statement released via email, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington supported Locke.

“MLB conducted a thorough investigation of the claims against Jeff Locke and concluded that Jeff had zero involvement and that he had done nothing wrong,” Huntington said. “Jeff has been and continues to be a consummate professional. Our belief in Jeff did not waver and remains strong. MLB long ago determined these claims were bogus and that this is a non-story. Our focus has been and remains on continuing to push toward the postseason.”


“also helped limit the mileage on his young arm.” 

Orioles may have struck gold with Hunter Harvey

By Dan Weigel  @DanWiggles38 on Aug 13 2014,


Despite elbow issues that ended his 2014 campaign prematurely, the Orioles may have gotten the best high school pitcher in the entire 2013 draft with the 22nd overall pick.

Entering the 2013 Draft, reports on Hunter Harvey sounded a lot like the reports of many high school pitchers. He was a right-hander from Catawba, North Carolina. MLB.com reported that Harvey could run his fastball up to 94 MPH, had an inconsistent curveball and changeup that had a chance to become Major League average, and the physical projection to add more velocity. At just 6’3" and 175 pounds entering the draft, Harvey was about as generic of a first round high school pitcher as one could create.

The Orioles, finding themselves in unfamiliar territory towards the back of the first round, selected Harvey with their first round pick. Along with Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, Harvey became the third pitcher selected in the first round by the O’s in the past three years, all of which have proven to be good selections.

At the time, the selection of Harvey was rather uneventful and met with little fanfare, as Harvey was not a household name or even a name that was common in the showcase circuit during his amateur years. Son of former Major League pitcher Bryan Harvey, the younger Harvey was wise to follow the tutelage of his father by staying away from most of larger amateur scouting events. According to Baseball Factory, Harvey appeared in the Under Armour All America Game at Wrigley Field and the East Coast Pro Showcase, but other than that only played locally in North Carolina. Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com pointed out that this prevented many area scouts from seeing Harvey more than once or twice, which could have hurt his draft stock slightly but also helped limit the mileage on his young arm.

The Orioles were happy to select Harvey 22ndoverall, and he quickly proved that they were wise in doing so. In 25 innings split between Rookie Ball and Short Season Aberdeen, Harvey was nothing short of dominant as he recorded 33 strikeouts while allowing just 21 hits, six walks, and five earned runs. It was a small sample, but scouts had certainly taken notice of Harvey for more than his bloodlines.

Baseball Prospectus blew up Harvey’s name in the following offseason, ranking him 58th on their Top 101 Prospect list. To put that in perspective, BP ranked Harvey just one slot behind highly toutedAstros’ first baseman Jon Singleton, a few slots ahead of Mariners lefty James Paxton, and well ahead of feared Rangers slugger Joey Gallo. Other publications were a bit more hesitant to rank a player that had yet to reach full-season ball that highly, but as Harvey began dominating at Low-A Delmarva this season, even BPs ranking began to look conservative.

Harvey was recently shut down for the season with elbow issues that do not seem to be much of a threat to his long-term outlook, but when he was healthy he dominated. In 17 starts spanning 87.2 innings, Harvey struck out a whopping 106 batters, walked 33, and only allowed 66 hits. Opponents batted .206 off of him, which does not seem like a fluke considering his terrific 10.88 K/9 rate and reasonable .291 BABIP.

Even more encouraging, the scouting reports have matched the dominant statistics. I haven’t had a chance to see Harvey live this year, but from video and reports from others, his development has gone extremely well. Most significantly, the talk of Harvey having a chance to have a Major League average curveball is gone and in it’s place is discussion of whether Harvey’s curveball is one of the better curveballs in all of the minor leagues.Baseball Prospectus’s Tucker Blair filed a report on Harvey after his July 18th start where he graded the curve as a present 65 (on the 20 to 80 scouting scale) with a future projection of a 70. That’s a far cry from an average pitch, and gives Harvey a knockout offspeed offering that could be one of the best in the game.

His fastball, which was his carrying pitch in the draft, now sits comfortably in the 92-94 MPH range with good command and life. Still not close to being filled out, it is easy to project Harvey adding a few more ticks on the radar gun as he develops. Blair rates the pitch as present 60 pitch with the potential to reach a 65, noting his ability to cut the pitch or generate arm side run, attack hitters on the inner half, and hold the velocity through the entire outing.

This gives Harvey two present plus pitches with remaining projection, a combination that no South Atlantic League pitcher other than the Nationals’ Lucas Giolito can rival. His third pitch is a changeup, an offering that is serviceable but lags behind the others in terms of present utility and development. This makes sense as Harvey was able to dominate high school and the lowest levels of the minors with just the fastball and curveball, but as he progresses he will need to improve his third offering. Perhaps Harvey would be well served by taking a page out of Giolito’s book and abandoning the breaking ball for a start to focus on learning how to get outs with the fastball and changeup, or maybe Harvey can develop the pitch with measures less drastic. Either way, neither Blair’s present 45 grade nor future 55 grade are cause for significant concern, as those grades indicate roughly a Major League average pitch.

As for the delivery itself, Harvey employs a simple, balanced motion with a high three-quarters arm slot. There is little wasted movement in the delivery, which aids his balance and ability to repeat the motion. His stride is relatively short, but he stands tall throughout the motion, helping him stay on top of the ball and generate good downward plane. Harvey also adds a bit of deception by stepping across his body slightly, but the step is not extreme enough to be a hindrance in any other aspect of the motion.

One quirk in his motion is a slight hesitation just before foot strike. Clayton Kershaw is the best Major League example of a pitcher incorporating a similar hesitation, although Kershaw’s occurs slightly earlier in his motion and is a bit more drastic than Harvey’s. I don’t see the hesitation as a negative, as it seems to help Harvey gather himself prior to exploding through his backside and delivering the pitch. Harvey does a very good job finishing the pitch and as a result, is able to get good life on his fastball.

The final pieces to the puzzle are Harvey’s pitchability and mound presence, the former of which refers to his ability to properly mix his pitches and locations and the latter of which refers to his feel for the game, baseball instincts, and understanding of his craft. Harvey earns terrific reviews in these categories, as Blair writes, "He shows an innate ability to pitch, displaying extreme pitchability and cognizance of the situation surrounding him." As Harvey moves up the ladder, these aspects of his game will be tested more frequently, but the Orioles should be confident that Harvey will pass those tests with flying colors. Any pitcher with two plus pitches should be able to excel in the lower levels of the minors, but as he faces more advanced competition, he will need the pitchability, presence, and the changeup to a greater degree.

Harvey is still very young and not close to the Major Leagues, but the Orioles ought to be thrilled with his development thus far. He has two present plus pitches that he can throw for strikes, a third pitch that should be roughly Major League average, pitchability, mound presence, and advanced understanding of his craft. In my eyes, Harvey is currently the best high school arm from the 2013 draft, and the only player who can rival him is Twins’ righthander and number four overall pick Kohl Stewart. The Orioles’ picked later in this draft than usual, but they certainly got more than their money’s worth. Baltimore fans no longer talk about just Bundy and Gausman as future rotation cogs, they now talk about a future rotation featuring Bundy, Gausman, and Harvey, and with good reason.