Thursday, August 3, 2017

A Way Too Early Look at Lucas Sims Stuff

One of my favorite parts of new players making their debuts is being able to look at their performances in brand new ways. Because of the technology it takes, several of tools or metrics we use to evaluate players are only available at the major league level. When guys come up, we get to measure what they can do

So when Lucas Sims came up Tuesday and made his debut I, being the nerd that I am, was not only excited about the game itself but the next day when I could look at a bunch of new metrics on how he's doing. Of course, this is the part where I throw in the obligatory small sample size qualifier and the warning about drawing any conclusions too fast and whatever whatever. You get how this works.

The first thing I usually look at for fastball/curveball guys is spin rates. I like spin rate because it’s something that’s hard to fluke and stabilizes pretty quickly. If you were around a few weeks ago I wrote about Sean Newcomb and his curveball, and even as we sit here today, the spin rate numbers from that piece are still accurate today.

So here are Sims' early spin numbers*:

4-Seam Fastball
2314 rpms
2844 rpms

*data courtesy of Baseball Savant 

What jumps out first is that's some super impressive spin on his curveball. If you want to know why spinning a curveball is important, click on that Sean Newcomb link above. 

For context, here are some other RH pitchers who spin a curveball similarly:

2903 rpms
2856 rpms
Lucas Sims
2844 rpms
2795 rpms
2786 rpms

Yeah, so those are good names. Lucas isn’t on the same level of pitching as those guys but that is the level of natural talent he’s working with when throwing his curveball, and hey, having the talent is better than not. And having your curveball move that aggressively downward in the zone can be a tremendous weapon if you learn how to use it.

The other thing that jumped out at me was how low spinning his fastball was. This is one game worth of data so we aren’t going to read too much into this but fly ball pitchers, which Lucas has the reputation of being, usually spin their fastball a lot faster than 2300 rpms. For those of you who don’t know the faster you spin the ball the harder it goes in the direction it’s spinning. So fastballs have backspin when you throw them obviously, so the harder you spin it, the longer it repels gravity and stays up. That’s why high spinning fastballs are usually found in fly ball pitchers.

Here’s a table of the guys who spin their fastballs around 2300 rpms with their groundball rates:

FB Spin Rate
Groundball Rate
2326 rpms
Aaron Sanchez
2326 rpms
Lucas Sims
2314 rpms
2304 rpms
2294 rpms

*Used Sims’ 2017 AAA groundball rates.

So again, these spin rates from Lucas represent one game so let’s not conclude anything yet but in game 1 he spun his fastball more like a groundball heavy guy than a fly ball heavy guy. It also needs to be pointed out spin rate isn’t the only variable that decides the type of batted ball profile you carry. Which of your pitches you throw most frequently has a big impact as well as where you most regularly pitch in the zone.

For instance, here’s Stroman’s zone heatmap:

 Now for comparison, here's Sims' from Tuesday:

As you can see Stroman is able to consistently keep the ball down in the zone while Sims left more than his share of pitches up. Controlling spin is great but it doesn't mean much without being able to locate and that's where Sims can see the biggest gains.

Obviously we're going to monitor all of this the rest of the year and, hopefully that's 9 or 10 starts worth of data. At that point we really can start to some trends and make some more definitive statements. This today is more of a first glimpse. But Sims clearly has tools. Velocity is good, looks like his spin rate is better than I would've guessed based on his reputation. Good frame, good size. He just has to learn how to command it better. Like about a billion pitchers before him.

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