Monday, June 14, 2010

Did the Danks Theory Solve Shaun Marcum?

Please excuse the exceedingly bloggy leading title, but I'm legitimately concerned that Overmanagin' Joe Maddon opened a window in Shaun Marcum's soul. The contents, like sweat stains on his hat, are disturbing and unsightly indeed.

The Danks Theory, for those that don't troll Rays blogs, is the practice of starting pitch-sided batters (right handers against a righty) to negate the impact of a pitcher's best out pitch, often a change up. After Dallas Braden fly ball and changed up a standard righty versus lefty Rays lineup; Joe Maddon threw down a 2006 Malbec and got crazy. He put together a lineup of lefties to face White Sox change up master John Danks, going as far as to instruct his switch hitters (the Rays are lousy with'em) to hit left against the southpaw. The results, both against Marcum and Danks, are impressive.

I realize that a) not many managers have the sack (or the wherewithal) to ignore the book and load up their lineup with out-pitch neutralizing maniacs. But Marcum's change is his out pitch, without it he looks pretty ordinary.

During my liveblog of that game, I argued over and again with a commenter who insisted Marcum doesn't throw hard enough, that his fastball and change aren't usually 10mph different, apparently a magical key to victory. This, obviously, is ludicrous.

Marcum's strength is his ability to throw just about any pitch in just about any count. Should the opposition take away one of those pitches —the one most likely to miss your bat—has to swing the advantage slightly towards the hitter, doesn't it? It at least goes a long way to even the odds. Remove the best pitch from any pitcher and you

Interleague Blows

Hardly an original statement, but I think the Jays are getting extra, superduper boned by the interleague gods this year. It is bad enough when the teams the Jays are "competing" against in their "push to the playoffs" play a completely different set of teams, but when the Jays draw the Ubaldo and the Rockies on the road while the Yankees host the god-forsaken Astros, something ain't right.

Cruel blows by the schedule maker are one thing, being victimized by circumstance is another. Not only did the Jays have to stride into Coors to face the hottest pitcher in baseball, they got to do it on a terrible night. The rain, the sleet, the whatever should've put an end to the game long before it began. Except the Jays don't play the Rockies again this year. The two teams play at opposite ends of the continent, so scheduling a make up date is pretty much impossible. Playing a double header the next day doesn't work because of the Fox fascist regime national blackout order.

So on the game went with a predictable result. The conditions were horseshit, the game only lasted six inning. It was terrible. If the Jays are hosting the Orioles, there is no way a single pitch is thrown Friday night. Let us band together and, if not end, then severely limit the amount of interleague forced upon the teams.

One road, one home series a year. That's it! The charade mustn't continue any longer. Especially since Tim Lincecum isn't scheduled to start in Toronto, making the entire Giants visit pointless. Man cannot live on Panda alone.

Hat tip to D-Rays Bay for the Danks Theory and some fancy-pants school of science for the image.


  1. If the Jays are hosting the Orioles we just close the roof.

  2. I was afraid to look, because I was afraid of what I might see, but you just confirmed it for me.

    Lincecum's not scheduled to pitch in Toronto? There goes the only interleague feature I was looking forward to this year — save for Doc, of course.

    But honestly, I was more excited for Lincecum. I've seen Doc dozens of times.

  3. It's funny you mention this Drew, because last night I was looking at Marcum's pitch F/X from the past couple of starts against the Rays and noticed that he threw predominantly changeups to the left-handed batters.

    In fact, most of his pitches to LHB were outside, he barely touched the inside of the plate.

    June 9th @ Rays
    June 2nd vs. Rays

    I'm not exactly sure what that means exactly ... but seems odd to me.

  4. That's the appeal of the change up - right handed pitchers throw it to lefties (especially outside) as it starts on the outside corner and moves down and away from them.

    The same pitch, thrown to righties, moves in towards them making it much, much easier to hit (Unless you "back door it" which is easier said than done.)

    A pitcher like Brett Cecil needs the change up to get out righties because his slider/curve takes care of lefties. Marcum lacks that devastating swing and miss pitch - though his cutter and change are more than adequate.

  5. Changeups don't really have a platoon split, so this is just Joe Maddon overmanagin'.

  6. Uh, really? I disagree. Look at the links Ian provided. It's pretty clear that Shaun Marcum and most other pitchers go out of their way to avoid throwing change ups to same handed hitters.

  7. One road and one home interleague series per year! A-frigging-men to that.

    And then we could get around to looking at the balanced schedule or some such nonsense. Because frankly, even Yanks and Red Sox fans are tired of the number of series they play against one another.

  8. Ah yes, makes sense Drew - thanks! So does that mean the opposite for lefties like Romero and Cecil then?

    Do they predominantly throw their changeups to RHB's, or is it still the strikeout pitch of choice for LHB's?

  9. Exactly - they throw the change to retire righties, the slider/curve gets out the lefties.

  10. Awesome side note -- I just checked out Fred Lewis' Facebook page and there was a post from Andrew (of 'HELLO KEVIN MILLAR!!' fame), in all caps, imploring Fred to say hello to everyone for him. Amazing stuff.


    Pitch platoon run values at the bottom. Pitchers use changeups against opposite handed hitters because fastballs, sliders, and curveballs all carry large platoon splits. Changeups don't. Any "Danks Theory" would be only helpful against someone like Daniel Herrera, whose primary offspeed pitch is a screwball.

    Plus, Marcum has a neutral platoon split over his career anyway. Overmanagin'

  12. Interesting stuff Peter, but I don't think it considers the whole picture. Against righties, Marcum is less effective because he generally doesn't use his changeup really at all, presumably because he feels it's less effective against those hitters (which I'd tend to agree with, but obviously that is in opposition to the link you've provided). So the advantage for Maddon's Rays isn't necessarily that they're seeing the pitch better from the right side, but rather that they're not seeing it at all -- and for a guy like Marcum whose success lies in his ability to throw lots of different pitches, that creates a pretty huge advantage for the hitters, allowing them to totally put the changeup out of their minds and obviously have a better chance at guessing/seeing the ball correctly with that pitch out of the equation.

    In that sense, platoon splits for changeups are largely irrelevant because it doesn't matter how well righties can hit Marcum's changeup if he's refusing to throw it to them at all. Marcum's severe reverse platoon splits so far this season (lefties are hitting .168, righties almost double that at .316) seem to suggest that Maddon isn't overmanaging at all - just playing the percentages. And, obviously, it's worked for him so far.


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