Often times we hear things thrown around like “he has a 50 arm” or he has “80 speed”. But what do those things mean exactly? Hopefully, I can explain what they are meant to tell us and provide some examples as well.

The Scale

The scouting scale is from 20-80. I still haven’t quite figured out why, but have heard others speculate that when it first started that they decided 50 would be average (which assumes they likely wanted to use 0-100). It is speculated that someone then said they should use the scientific scale of three standard deviations above and below average. So if 50 were average, then three grades in each direction would be the normal distribution.

So, for those of you non-math guys, to make it easier, let’s look at it in a much easier way. Essentially, the talent is distributed like that of a bellcurve, with the peak of the curve being average. In a normal bell-curve, here is how it breaks down from a percentage standpoint:

Scouting Grade Term % of players with this skill (MLB)
20 Poor 0.2%
30 Well Below-Average 2.1%
40 Below-Average 13.6%
50 Average 68.2%
60 Plus 13.6%
70 Plus-Plus 2.1%
80 Top End 0.2%

Now, when we look at the chart above, 68.2% is an awful lot of players. That is why more teams use the half-grade as well. That makes 45-50 worth about 34.1% and 50-55 another 34.1%. Basically though, most players fall into the average range. When it comes to Major Leaguers only, there is roughly only 1 or 2 players that would fall into the 20 or 80 range if we go with the pure mathematical breakdown listed above, though if we truly wanted to get into the numbers there could be a few more depending on just how varied the numbers were.

Real Life Application

While scouts have a general rule of thumb of what each tools breaks down to (IE: 90 MPH is average for a fastball, 40 HR is plus-plus power), those things aren’t always based in reality as the talent level does change over time. So, what I am going to do is break down the different tools based on available statistics and put the above rates on them to show what each tool would grade out as and provide an example of it.

The tools for position players are as follows: Hitting, power, speed, defense and throwing arm. I will look at these first.

Hit Tool – Measures the ability to hit for average.

Power – Measures the power, typically home run power of a player.

Speed – Measures the speed of a player.

Defense – It measures the defensive ability, reflective of position. A guy who is say a 50 level shortstop would probably receive a better grade at second base.

Arm – Measures the arm strength, not reflective of position.

Now that we explained what each one is supposed to reflect, let’s put it to use.

What I was planning on doing was taken care of yesterday afternoon by Mark Smith at Fangraphs, who apparently thinks just like I do. He looked at batting average and came up with these numbers:

Hit Tool  AVG Player 
80 .336 Miguel Cabrera
70 .313 Josh Hamilton
60 .290 Martin Prado
50 .267 Rafael Furcal
40 .244 Vernon Wells
30 .221 Brendan Ryan
20 .199

That looks right to me. Miguel Cabrera had the highest average in the game during the 2010-2012 stretch by a large stretch over Joey Votto who came in with a .321 average and second place on the list. Votto would be a “75” hit tool player according to the true breakdown.

Getting away from what Mark had, I want to look at power a little differently than he did. He looked at IsoP, which is a good start, but I personally would rather look at home runs. A guys speed can lead to a higher IsoP than his true power would lead you to believe versus a slow guy. While I would take it a step further, and do something like HR/(AB-K) then adjust for park factors, pure home runs per 600 at bats sounds good (some guys get more chances to swing away because of where they bat in the lineup, so I am normalizing).

Grade HR Player
20 0-3 Ben Revere
30 4-10 Brett Garnder
40 11-18 Brandon Phillips
50 19-27 BJ Upton
60 28-36 Jay Bruce
70 37-45 Giancarlo Stanton
80 46+ Jose Bautista

For the most part that looks right. Those numbers vary a little bit from what scouts actually use (for the most part). They use something that is similar to this: 80 (39+), 70 (32-38), 60 (25-32), 50 (17-25),  40 (11-17), 30 (5-11) and 20(0-5). It is similar  until we get to the 60 and up range.

Speed can’t really be shown with a stat. Steals don’t represent speed. Some guys are just good or bad base runners. Speed is usually rated by a hitters time to first base.  They are timed from the point of contact until they reach first base (non-rounding first base event). Here is the scale (bunts do not count):

20 4.4 4.5
30 4.3 4.4
40 4.2 4.3
50 4.1 4.2
60 4.0 4.1
70 3.9 4.0
80 3.8 3.9

I don’t have examples for each range here.

Defense is another thing that you can’t put a real number on, at least not yet. I think that one day it will be possible with the new system MLBAM is using with the Field F/X system. But things such as range and glove go into this, as well as pitch framing and agility with catchers.

Finally there is the arm. It is another thing that you can’t put a real number on. Using assists doesn’t do us much because guys with known strong arms won’t be run on as much. Not all opportunities are created equally either. A guy like Ichiro, in his prime, would have been an example of an 80 arm. David Eckstein was probably a 20 arm.

Now with pitchers, things are more simple. Each pitch they throw is graded on the 20-80 scale, as well as control and command. Control is the ability to throw strikes. Command is the ability to locate within the strikezone.

Every pitcher has a fastball, even a knuckleballer like R.A. Dickey has a fastball that he will use from time to time. Fastball velocity is generally used when ranking a fastball, though there will also be notes on the movement and deception of the pitch. However in terms of pure velocity, here is how the actual stats from 2010-2012 played out (note that I broke it down for guys with less than 50% of their appearances as starters and more than 50%) and be sure to note that they are the average velocities and that plenty of guys can reach several MPH higher than what they average:

Starter Reliever
Grade Velo Example Velo Example
20 0-84 Livan Hernandez 85-87.5 Clay Hensley
30 85-87 Jeff Suppan 87.5-90 Sam LeCure
40 88-90 Mike Leake 90-92.5 Matt Belisle
50 91-92 CJ Wilson 92.5-95 Logan Ondrusek
60 92-93 Johnny Cueto 95-97.5 Jonathan Broxton
70 94-96 Matt Moore 97.5-100 Aroldis Chapman
80 97+ Michael Pineda 100+

Now obviously, Aroldis Chapman and several others can throw 100+, even with relative frequency, but he led all of baseball in that time with an average velocity of 98.1 MPH. The chart above is for the full three standard deviations above average, so no one qualified as an “80”. But obviously, guys can get there on any given night. Also, be sure to note that left handers generally get a MPH taken off of what the average is for a right handed pitcher to achieve the same grade.

With other pitches plenty of things go into what grades the pitch. Breaking balls are velocity, bite, depth, arm action to sell the pitch. Change ups are arm action, separation from the fastball (in velocity) and movement. Of course, being able to throw that pitch where you want it can make it play up from the raw grade that a pitch could be given too.

Control is not incredibly tough to put a number on now that we have Pitch F/X data that we can use. For this, I simply used “zone percentage” which is the amount of time that a pitcher throws a pitch inside of the strikezone.

Grade Zone % Example
20 37.0% Livan Hernandez
30 39.9% Mariano Rivera
40 42.8% Mike Leake
50 45.7% Homer Bailey
60 48.6% Clayton Kershaw
70 51.5% Chris Perez
80 54.4% Cliff Lee

I will be honest and say that Mariano Rivera being listed there is downright shocking given that his walk rate is among the league best of 1.5 per 9 innings in that time. But, the guy simply doesn’t throw that many pitches in the zone apparently. Where as another guy with an incredibly low walk rate, Cliff Lee (1.2 walks per 9 innings) pounds the strikezone better than any pitcher in the league.

Command is tough to put a number on because we would need to chart every game a pitcher has because we need to know the location of the pitch and the location where the catcher called for the pitch to be at. We don’t have access to anything like that. Plus, like control, a pitcher can have good control/command of one pitch and not so much of another. So this could vary for each pitch, though an overall grade will still be given and is likely tied to the fastball control/command since most pitchers throw that pitch at least 60% of the time.

Statistical “Scouting Scale” by pitch

For this, I thought it would be good to look at the Pitch Values from Fangraphs (which are based on the actual results of each pitch) to share who got the results from each pitch that fall into the different scouting ranges. I am using the value per 100 pitches thrown (of that specific pitch). A player also had to throw at least 5% of that pitch to be eligible. If there was a Red in the range of the grade, I tried to place them as the example.

Fastball 2 Seam Cutter Sinker
Grade Example Example Example Example
20 Jake Westbrook Danny Duffy Chris Tillman Guillermo Motz
30 Zach Britton Brad Bergeson Alfredo Simon Jamie Moyer
40 Sam LeCure Wandy Rodriguez Jeff Suppan CC Sabathia
50 Zack Greinke Mat Latos Daisuke Matsuzaka Jon Lester
60 Johnny Cueto Justin Verlander Jason Motte Mitchell Boggs
70 Aroldis Chapman Jeremy Affeldt Anthony Bass Drew Storen
80 Kameron Loe Logan Ondrusek
Slider Curve Change Up
Grade Example Example Example
20 Alex White Hector Noesi Fernando Rodriguez
30 Ian Kennedy J.A. Happ Rich Harden
40 Jonathan Broxton Homer Bailey Sam LeCure
50 Johnny Cueto Yovani Gallardo Rick Porcello
60 Mat Latos Felix Hernandez Cole Hamels
70 Aroldis Chapman Sam LeCure Kameron Loe
80 Jesse Crain

Hopefully after all of that, I didn’t confuse anyone more than they were coming into the article. If you have any questions, or comments leave it in the comments and we can all talk about it.

58 Responses

  1. The Duke

    I think scouts (and definitely fans) will throw out an 80 on a guy who impresses them way too often. The scale itself is scientific whereas I think it gets used in baseball more to relate how impressed they were with the prospect/player in more of a first feeling level.

    • MK

      You know Duke I think from an amateur scouting standpoint they are a little more reluctant to give that 80 because that guy is going to be so scrutinized by cross checkers and others that they don’t want to put their professional reputations on the line, thus damaging their professional standing. I think they like to er on the low side.

    • Doug Gray

      Fans will for sure. I think if we go with the pure scientific reasoning with the 0.2%, or about 2 players in the Majors at a given time, then yeah, 80’s are handed out too often. With that said, there were 100 prospects listed on the BA Top 100. There were three 80’s handed out for non-speed, which is easier to get an 80 since it is more time based. Two guys got an 80 for the fastball and Miguel Sano got an 80 for his power. That was it. If we broke down these guys on the scouting scale, they would all be 70’s and part of the top 2% of all minor leaguers.

  2. MikeD

    The whole Mez thing drives me crazy! Hannigan is a wonderful defensive catcher, but Mez should be catching 4 out of 7 days a week. Mez is by no means a weakness behind the plate and his bat would be better than Hannigan by far if he had regular at bats. Dusty certainly has his favorites and once you are, you are good for life.

    • BobcatRedsFan

      This really Drives me crazy. Hannigan outperformed Mesaraco so badly last year that it would be absurd to limit his playing time.

      I understand that Mes is one of our prospects, but so is Hannigan. Ryan was developed by us, plays elite defense, gets on base better than anyone on the team NOT named Joey Votto, draws more walks then strike-outs, and has one of the most team-friendly contracts in all of baseball.

      And yet, he gets so much criticism here. Mesaraco is not the second coming of Johnny Bench. I wish he was. But even if Mes would play better with more regular playing time, he was substandard last year both offensively and defensively. Dioner Navarro, who hadn’t hit in years, outperformed him with the same playing time.

      It really boggles the mind.

      • foxred

        Agree that the Mes thing gets overblown on this site. Mes has not had easy sailing all the way through the minors. He has had 1 1/2 elite prospect seasons. Why he is supposed to come onto a winning team and be given the majority of playing to get in a groove is not rational.

        It is his responsibility to make the most of his opportunities like almost every other minor leaguer. To date he has not.

      • Doug Gray

        Well, because that is how every top prospect has been treated. I don’t recall the last time the best prospect at his position in all of baseball got called up, spent the entire year healthy, and got 140 at bats. Can you? Teams just don’t do that to top guys. They do that to 27 year old rookies. The closest guy I can think of would be Brandon Belt, and he wasn’t the top prospect at his position, though he was a highly regarded one.

        You give guys like that a fair chance. If they can’t cut it after say, 2 months, then you adjust your plan. But the Reds (whoever was making the call), never gave him a chance. Not a normal one that anyone else has had to deal with anyways.

      • Stock

        You play to win. Problem with Meso is he was blocked by Hanigan. Hanigan is better. There is no doubt about it at this point in their careers and the Reds are playing for today. As for top prospects not being given the opportunity it happens all the time on the pitching side (Matusz, Tillman and Tehran come to mind). On the hitting side Brandon Wood, Dominic Brown and Lonnie Chisenhall come to mind. Wood and Brown were top 5 prospects. Chisenhall top 50.

        In most cases a position is available for the prospect. There wasn’t for Meso. Similar case for Alonso. He came up but played little.

      • Doug Gray

        Alonso came up and played little in September. That isn’t really the same thing. The minor league season was over.

        And you do play to win, but you also play for the future. Sometimes you have to develop at the big league level, even while playing to win. The Reds shouldn’t have a problem winning the division, just like last year, and could have easily have afforded to do a little more “developing” of a player who is likely very key to their future.

      • Stock

        Actually Alonso came up to stay in July. He started 15 games in 2+ months. Add Cameron Maybin, Lasting Milledge and Felix Pie to the list of players who didn’t get regular playing time. I’m sure there are others but am too lazy to look everyone up. I limited my look to players who suck.

        My guess is that Meso is elsewhere come August. Olivo will back up Hanigan this year. Meso will rebuild his trade value in Louisville and be traded if the Reds have a need to fill in July or August. If not look for a trade in the offseason. It just doesn’t make sense for a small market team to have two top catchers(Meso, Corcino, Soto or Lutz and Lotzkar for Price might be enough if Meso and Soto can replacate 2011).

        If Hanigan is one of the top 10 catchers in baseball he should be playing more than he played last year and not less.

      • Doug Gray

        You are right. Alonso came up with a few days left in July. And while he wasn’t starting much, he got into 4 of the 6 games in July, the first six games in August before missing one, ten of the next 15 and then the final four of the month. In September, he played in 23 games.

        Again though, while he wasn’t starting, he was being used almost every day. That isn’t something that Mesoraco got a chance to do. If the Reds trade Mesoraco, they will be making a huge mistake. If the Reds play Olivo, it will also be a huge mistake. Career .275 OBP. Terrible defender. Want to use him as a pinch hitter with power off of the bench who is an emergency catcher? Sure. Play him once a week as a starter? Bad, bad idea.

      • Foxbud

        I think we will agree to disagree. I will say you make a valid point that his opportunities could have been better chosen. In the end each pitcher had their personal catcher, by choice or not by choice. The Mes case was unusual in that the position is normally not given to a prospect when discussing a WS caliber team. When it became clear there was a drop off defensively and offensively, the opportunities were based more on resting Hanigan than giving Mes a opportunity to play to his strengths. Either way, an elite prospect overcomes these things and contributes. Mes could not do that. Hopefully he regrouped and can make the most of his opportunities this year.

      • Doug Gray

        I just don’t think hardly anyone is going to succeed, particularly with the bat, when played in the manner in which Mesoraco was.

      • Jim t

        Bobcat your posting on a minor league site. Most who post here follow
        Prospects.. The fact that Mez has done very little to warrant more playing time means very little to some who post. Earning playing time even when given limited opportunities is essential when you have a player performing as well as Hanigan. If you want to get a good perspective on how important Hanigan is to the pitching staff. Mark Sheldon has a. Nice article up in Cincinnati reds official site.

      • Doug Gray

        Don’t get me wrong, I think Hanigan is a fine catcher. Heck, I think he might even be one of the 10 best in the game when looking at his entire game. But I also think our pitching staff would be awfully good without him. Every one of our starters were top end prospects in all of baseball except Arroyo, who had success well before Hanigan was his catcher. Mesoraco is also a solid, though not as good as Hanigan right now, defensive catcher. Where the difference comes in, is that Mesoraco could be a middle of the order bat, where as Hanigan is a slap hitter with a good eye. The difference between the Reds winning the division and not winning the division isn’t Hanigan starting 60% of the time and Mesoraco 40% of the time. If Mesoraco were to start 50 or 60% of the time, the Reds still would win this division by 5+ games. The Reds never really gave him a chance to get in a groove.

      • jim t

        Doug the difference is Mex is a catcher and Alonzo was a 1b/of. With Mez being the only back up catcher on the roster most of theyear it is dangerous to use him as a PH which would make you vulnerable in case of injury.

        The reality of the situation is this. You don’t replace a catcher of Hanigan’s ability with a prospect. If your going to make that move trade Hanigan get something for him and find a back up. Replacing a top 10 catcher with a rookie to see if he can provide more offense is crazy. IIf the move isn’t permanent you don’t make the move. Also your assertion that the staff doesn’t throw well to a particular catcher is inaccurate and flys in the face of many former players and baseball people. I have yet to see anyone say that catchers don’t effect a pitchers performance except you. You are wrong. If Hanigans performance slips or if Mez ‘s improves greatly he is the back up. Also if the offense lacks a middle of the order hitter it won’t be because hanigan didn’t do his job it will be because bruce or Ludwick didn’t do theirs.With Hanigan catching the reds should win by 8+

      • Doug Gray

        Jim, I have never said that a catcher doesn’t change how a pitcher throws to a catcher. What I am saying is that in this case, the difference is going to be rather small because Mesoraco is also a good guy behind the plate. I also believe that technology today has cut down on the gap in terms of “game calling” and the “experience” factor of knowing the guys around the league and what they can and can’t hit. Catchers can make a difference behind the plate. What I am saying is that the difference between Hanigan (who is very good) and Mesoraco (who is good), isn’t enough to justify flat our stunting his development because the Reds are a whole lot better than the rest of the division, so any step backward that there may be, isn’t actually going to cost the team the playoffs.

        Bruce will never be the cleanup guy with Dusty managing. Not long term. Have to split the lefties even though Votto crushes lefties.

      • BobcatRedsFan

        Doug I agree with you on defense. I think that the ability to catch and throw is a lot more important than game calling because if a catcher doesn’t have a good feel for it the calls just come in from the bench. So a guy like John Jaso who can hit a little but can’t throw is a huge detriment defensively.

        Where catchers really affect pitcher performance is framing (even though no umpire will admit it affects them). Hannigan is one of the very best (alongside Yadier Molina). That probably has a lot to do with reputation, so Mes can’t replicate that even if he used the exact same methods to frame the pitch that Hanny uses.

        Mes can catch and throw from what I have seen, but didn’t hit well at all. I mean at all. And Frazier (who Mes outhit in the minors) hit a lot better when he got called up and was spot starting. So, I think that Mes was just overmatched. Physically he can probably do it, because even when he struggled in the minor leagues his peripherals were always solid. But he just flopped at the plate last year, and it wasn’t anyone else’s fault.

        And while I like Jay Bruce, he’s struggled to hit consistently, so the truth is he hasn’t forced the issue to move him to clean-up. Dusty has said repeatedly he doesn’t want two lefties hitting back to back, so he deserves criticism for that. But if the Reds had Prince Fielder (I know he has no position open for him on the team, he’s just an example) I can’t believe that Dusty would hit him behind Ryan Ludwick.

        The case for Jay Bruce hitting 4th is that he has the best Home Run power in the line-up and no one else has done any better hitting there over a long period of time, not Rolen, or Brandon or even Ludwick. The Reds simply have not developed an elite bat since Joey came up in 2008. That’s four full seasons now. If it was easy everyone would do it, but that’s the real issue. If Yonder was that guy he’d be here, playing somewhere. So hitting Jay fourth or fifth doesn’t make that much of a difference (it’s probably the difference of fewer than ten plate appearances all season).

        I like Hannigan as a Red. He’s not someone we signed off the scrap heap like Ludwick or traded for in the twilight of his career like Rolen. He was our minor leaguer before he was our major leaguer, and I just get frustrated seeing him treated like a former Cub or Cardinal.

        And as a post script, on MLBTV’s Top 10 Catchers right now, even though Ryan Hannigan didn’t make the list, he was 10th on Bill James personal list. James referred to him as the second most under-rated player in baseball (behind Ben Zobrist). I wondered then if Bill James ever peruses this blog….

      • Doug Gray

        Frazier spot started, but also had his spots picked for him. He also got more consistent starting time. He was also older than Mesoraco. Completely different things. Let’s just say that Mesoraco struggles against sliders (this is completely a hypothetical), it wouldn’t matter if Aroldis Chapman were starting for the other team, he went out that day because it was his pitchers day. If anyone else struggled mightily against sliders, they would not start that day, they would start a different one. That is a big difference between Mesoraco and just about any other exampled player we are bringing up.

        I bet Dusty would bat Prince behind Ludwick. Dusty wants to split the lefties. Joey Votto handles them better than most of the right handers on our team, so it clearly is because he doesn’t want lefties going back to back. I really don’t think it matters much who the two lefties were.

        I also doubt very much that Bill James has ever heard of this site or come across it.

      • Jim t

        Doug, bottom line is this. You want to sit a very good catcher in . One you think is tops 10. To see if a ,untested rookie can produce more. Doug your a saber guy and I think you have a Lot of good points. But your handling of the players would make managing a team a impossible task. Hanigan is producing and his value with the staff is documented daily. If and when Mez outplays Hanigan, he then gets the job. Your not trying to replace a guy who isn’t doing his job well. Making the decision at other way would negatively affect your influence on the team as a whole and that is the point you number guys lays miss.

      • Doug Gray

        Jim, I never said I wanted to sit Hanigan. I said I want to play Mesoraco more. Or at the very least, play him in more frequently (go H – M – H – M – H in the rotation rather than H-H-H-M-M-H-H-H-M-M and so on, where Mesoraco winds up sitting on the bench for three days in a row every 5 days. You simply can’t expect hardly anyone to see any kind of success like that). Personally, I want both guys playing. I just want to see maybe a little more Mesoraco and both guys to be catching EVERY PITCHER ON THE STAFF. Last year, what would have happened if Hanigan got hurt in August? Mesoraco hadn’t caught Cueto or Arroyo a single time all year. He hadn’t caught Latos but three times. That is a terrible plan. Mix things up. These guys are good pitchers. They are going to be good pitchers no matter who is back there (assuming they are of Major League quality). Yeah, Hanigan might make them a very, very small amount better. But you need to prepare your team for success both now and in the future. I can’t see how what the Reds did last year did either of those things, it just happened to work out because Hanigan didn’t miss any time. Don’t count on that moving forward. Adjust your plan.

  3. RMR

    Doug, I think it would be good to clarify that the % of players with this skill is % of MLB players with the skill. While there may be a more or less normal distribution of a given skill across MLB, the distribution of that skill across all of baseball (or the entire population) is decidedly not normal — or at least not centered at the same mean.

    For instance, Brendan Ryan is among the worst hitters in major league baseball — and is in the top .1% of hitters in the United States. And even if you’re only looking at professional baseball, a guy with 40s across the board would still be an above average minor legauer.

    • Doug Gray

      I added it to the initial breakdown of the percentages in the top chart. I probably should have mentioned that the breakdown was for Major Leaguers only, not inclusive of minor leaguers or there would be a whole lot more weight at the bottom of the scale.

  4. The Duke

    I find it funny that Hamilton’s times are almost a half second faster than 80

    • Doug Gray

      Nah. Those don’t count bunts. I should go back and specify. Still, being 1 or 2 tenths of a second faster than “80” in insane. I have seen a few other guys do that too.

  5. peppe

    MLB rates dusty No 3 and said he handles young players very well i think he handled Mez like a little leagure last year YOUR OPINION ? l

    • Doug Gray

      First off, I don’t believe that there is a single person out there who is truly able to accurately rate how good/bad all 30 managers are. No one knows all of the things that every single one of them have to deal with on a weekly basis when it comes to players personal lives, attitudes, small injuries we never hear about, changes made from coaches on the staff, the advanced scouting staff that helps/hurts them compared to other teams and probably 25 more things I didn’t even mention.

      Secondly, I am clearly not a fan of how Mesoraco was handled last year. I could get into it a lot more in detail, but I feel like you start this conversation at least twice a week and well, you know my opinion on it already.

    • MK

      They are the Cincinnat Reds not the Cincinnati Mesoracos, That being said from what Mez put on the field when he got the opportunity, which is what rookies trying to break into a line-up have to do, they would not have had the second best record in the league had he played more while Hanigan sat. So Dusty , the manager of the Reds, handled in properly.

      • Doug Gray

        You don’t really know that though. Mesoraco got infrequent playing time, starting back to back games just three times in the first half of the season. And unlike other rookies who may be getting infrequent playing time, Mesoraco wasn’t put in the line up to hit against pitchers who pitched to his strengths. He just got to face whoever happened to be going the day one of his pitchers are going. Perhaps had he been given something close to normal playing time, perhaps even allowing him to catch other pitchers from time to time to allow his bat to match up with say, left handed pitchers more (where he hit .308/.341/.462 – though in just 39 at bats), it would have given him more confidence and it could have carried over some. But that didn’t happen. He played roughly twice a week for 5 months straight, hardly ever playing back to back days. As a rookie. Without accounting for any “improvements” his bat could have made by matching it up with favorable pitching like managers do with almost every player on their roster.

  6. Kevin

    Newsflash to Reds catchers, call for the slider every once in a while when Chapman is pitching.

  7. Herbie

    Doug, why’d you use zone % to represent control? I could understand using it for command of a particular pitch. Zone % doesn’t tell the whole story because guys like Mo can locate effectively outside the zone as well. Zone % and walk rate don’t correlate all that well. Looked it up, because Chris Perez being a 70 seemed wrong. Of all pitchers with 40+ innings since Perez has been in the league there are 508 guys with better BB/9.

    • Doug Gray

      Control is generally the ability to throw strikes. So I looked at guys ability to throw the baseball inside of the strikezone. I could have used something like BB%, though I think that can also be misleading as guys with great stuff can have less control and still not walk as many guys because they can fool guys enough into chasing outside of the zone (like a Mo Rivera apparently).

      • Doug Gray

        Control is the ability to throw strikes. Command is being able to locate the pitch exactly where you want it.

      • Herbie

        “Kevin Goldstein has offered other definitions of command and control, with control representing the ability to avoid walks, and command defined as locating pitches within the zone, and hitting specific targets. I think that Kevin’s definitions are outstanding, and like the NPA versions, they describe two unique aspects of pitch execution. Ideally, we can use Kevin’s definitions in conjunction with the NPA’s to better describe the ability to locate a baseball.”

        Do you know of anywhere else that clarifies the terms. They always seem to be used ambiguously by most people.

      • Doug Gray


        Command vs. Control is a whole other story, but still something that can’t be discounted by any means. When a pitcher consistently hits the strike zone, that means he’s commanding the ball, amirite? Absolutely not. When a pitcher consistently hits the zone that’s called control. He’s controlling the plate, but still could have lots of trouble hitting the catchers glove. When a pitcher spots a certain pitch consistently where the catcher wants it, that’s command.

      • Doug Gray

        Let’s be sure to note that Kevin, myself or the NPA guys aren’t professional scouts. While we may all talk to them, we aren’t them.

        With that said, I have always been told that control is the ability to throw the ball in the zone and that command is the ability to locate it where you want it. Kevin’s definition is awfully similar to that, it just uses different wording.

      • Herbie

        Now I’m just further confused, of course this has always been a baseball semantics head scratcher for me. I like your and Kevin’s definition but, according to wording his version of control = your definition of command and vice versa; cause Chris Perez and Mariano would be inversely rated on control according to his definition of ability to avoid walks.

        I don’t like Gershman’s definition because throwing in the zone doesn’t exactly equate to throwing strikes and outside to balls. Mariano throws outside the zone much more than Perez, but also has a much higher swing % outside the zone. If Mo wanted to consistently throw inside the zone I’d say with confidence he could do it with more accuracy than Perez.

      • Doug Gray

        Of course. That is why we can’t place numbers on some of these things, particularly when it comes to pitchers. If a pitch looks like a strike until the last moment, guys are going to swing. If you can do that often, why would you throw the pitch further over the place so it remains a strike the entire time, and thus, more hittable? You wouldn’t. Rivera might be exactly that kind of guy. Guys with elite stuff can do things like that.

      • Herbie

        Did some further reading and I’m convinced that this is one of those areas in baseball that has a completely muddied understanding. I particularly liked this article. The guy sought out the definition of the two words, then basically flip flopped the definitions he was given of the two in regards to “pitch harnessing.”

        The most common thought I found was control and command = accuracy and precision, which is fairly redundant.

  8. Fish

    I think Dunn in his prime had 80 power. I saw the 600 ft blast, just ridiculous…

    • Doug Gray

      There was never a 600 foot HR. The one that went into the river was estimated at 535. And yes, Dunn would be an 80 power guy, probably even today. As I noted in the article, I would have liked to have done HR per say, 400 Balls in play, since power isn’t reflective of how often you make contact, and it most certainly would put a guy like Dunn at or near the top. For example, Dunn, in his career has 41.67 home runs per 400 balls in play. Jose Bautista, for the 2010-2012 years has averaged 44.1. So he may still not be quite there for his career, but let’s just look at 2004-2010. Dunn TOPS Bautista with a 44.2.

      • BobcatRedsFan

        Balls In Play data is valuable for certain things, but less so for power data. If you just look at how often a guy puts one over the fence when he does make contact, you risk overlooking how hard he might struggle to make that contact. Jose Bautista may not be a threat to win a batting title, but he misses the ball a lot less than Adam Dunn did even in the Donkey’s heyday.

        I think Batting Average by itself is over-rated, but Dunn’s case is unique. His 40 Home Runs a year (and his 100+ BBs) came at the cost of too many strikeouts (which I could live with) and too few hits of any other kind. After peaking in 2005 with 151 Hits Dunn began racking 122-138 hits for the remainder of his time in Cincy.

        As a scouting tool, I think its okay to use Balls in Play data because most players won’t hit these outliers. But when individual players do (like Dunn and Joey Bats) it becomes a distraction.

      • Doug Gray

        Not really, because contact is generally associated with the hit tool.

      • BobcatRedsFan

        My point is that someone with a so-so hit tool will sacrifice it to improve power. That doesn’t help the team, and both tools are not equally valued by scouts. If a guy has elite power, you sign him even if his hit tool is poor. If a guy’s hit tool is only above average and his power numbers are average, you don’t. And unlike swing for the fences, there isn’t a trick anyone can do to improve the hit tool that way. So, yeah, we will disagree about using balls in play when a guy has an absolutely terrible contact rate, even when rating power.

  9. BobcatRedsFan

    I was surprised as you were Doug by how low Rivera’s Zone Percentage was. I have to think (and I’m not a Yankee hater) that players know he’s going to get the call more often than not and simply swung at anything he threw.

    A stat like that reinforces my feeling that if the technology ever comes available to really, accurately call balls and strikes electronically, baseball needs to do it. Because somehow I just don’t think that Rivera’s cutter fools guys that much more than Doc Halladay’s.

    • Doug Gray

      The technology is already here to call balls and strikes accurately. They just aren’t using it.

      • foxred

        Then we can start a whole new controversy. If technology was used to call balls and strikes, Tom Glavine would never be a HOFamer!

      • BobcatRedsFan

        We actually had the Wilson Counter set up at the Ohio U practice facility and it wasn’t 100% by any of our reckonings. It may be better than human umps, but it wasn’t full proof. To make that big a change it has to be.

        But when players would change their crouch, especially in the middle of the pitch, the counter called everything high a strike. I do think that Umpires have abandoned the high strike (unless certain pitchers throw it), but the Wilson Counter would have made Edison Volquez look like Cliff Lee.

      • Doug Gray

        I don’t know what the Wilson Counter is, but it wasn’t what I was referring to.

      • BobcatRedsFan

        It’s an electronic system used for calling balls and strikes, and claimed as of spring of 2012 to be the most accurate digital system in the world. Like I said, it probably would be more accurate than most human umpires, but it called stuff high that none of us would have. It could honestly be that we just don’t call a real strike zone and haven’t for so long that the real deal doesn’t look right anymore.

      • Doug Gray

        Ah. Well, still never heard of it. I trust the Pitch F/X system, when it has been correctly calibrated. If baseball ever does go that route, they will just need to calibrate it before each game and they will be good to go. I doubt it happens for a very long time though. Too much “tradition” and peoples feelings will get in the way of actually creating an equal playing field.