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Thursday, August 23, 2007

VOODOO SHIELDS (SLIGHT RETURN) 

Hey gang.

Yeah, I haven't been around lately.

Here's the thing: my general approach to writing this is that I want to either (1) tell my readership something it doesn't know or (2) provide some kind of different perspective on something that it does.

Often, there's a lot of overlap between things I don't know and things I assume y'all don't know, so for me it's fun to go through and figure out answers -- or, at least, potential answers -- and share them. That's the sort of post where I look at the Angels going from first to third or analyzing Casey Kotchman's batted balls or the efficacy of the team's bunting.

But, the fact is, there isn't really a lot that you don't know that I can tell you. I don't have a lot of readers here, and anyone who reads me is also reading the other Angel blogs in the Halosphere, all of whom do fine work, and most of which have a bigger readership than I do. So anyone reading this is someone who already knows quite a bit about the Angels, and that makes it hard for me to come up with stuff you don't know.

For instance, we all know about this:
IP   H  SO  BB   ERA
13 23 13 10 11.08
You know what that is, right? That's Scot Shields' line from July 15 forward. He's been a mess, and it's costing us games.

Why is this happening?

It struck me that Scot's command has seemed off, as evidenced by his high walk rate. He has thrown 315 pitches in those innings, only 179 (57%) of which are strikes. Major league pitchers throw strikes 63% of the time; Scot is usually around there (his season mark is 62%), but he's clearly been subpar over the past five weeks.

It gets worse once you consider that balls in play count as strikes. 23 hits in 13 innings is ... it's not good.

How does this performance compare to how Shields was doing before this slump?
Period    Pitches  Total Strikes  Hits  Non-H Strikes   %
4/2-7/15 744 474 27 447 60.1
7/15-Now 315 179 23 156 49.5
For the first three months of the season (which included an early slump), 60% of Shields' pitches were what we might consider "effective strikes"; strikes of swinging, called, foul, or a batted ball out. For the last five weeks, less than half of his pitches have been of this nature!

As you may recall, Scot was struggling back in May, which I discussed here. Let's break down it down even further, as he heated up pretty much right after I made that post:
Period    Pitches  Total Strikes   %   Hits  Non-H Strikes   %     ERA
4/2-4/9 98 63 64.3 2 61 62.2 0.00
4/10-5/14 247 152 61.5 7 145 58.7 4.80
5/15-7/14 413 269 65.1 18 251 60.8 0.32
7/15-Now 315 179 56.8 23 156 49.5 11.08
Well, that makes it all pretty obvious, doesn't it? He's not throwing strikes, and, when he is, they're getting hit. He doesn't have command. Even his prior slump isn't out of range with what he does when totally on, which was a sign that a turnaround was likely; this current slump is far, far worse, and I don't know what to make of it. He simply can't locate his pitches.

Now is that problem physical, mechanical, or psychological?

I don't know. There's nothing about this I can tell you that you don't already know. But if he can't get it figured out, our ability to win close games is going to be severely hampered, and so will this team's chances of winning anything worthwhile.

NOTE: Yes, this post title (or, rather, its inspiration would have been better-suited to a post about Ervin Santana's return to the rotation. But I didn't post anything then, so what am I gonna do?

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