Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ryan's Song: Will His Throat Clear? Or Will the Cancer Spread?

I wrote much of this post in response to a Rob Neyer article, which was a response to Bay City Ball's excellent blog on Ryan Vogelsong, and how Giants fans should not get into panic mode.  I also added the large paragraph on Lincecum as well as words here and there, while at lunch.  I never stop tinkering...



Vogelsong We See is the Same as Before

People say and act like they are sabermetricians but then ignore the peripherals, as many of the commenters on the Neyer article did.

The peripherals say that Vogelsong is a good pitcher.  That is the whole point of the BCB article.  Not only is he striking out a lot of batters, but he keeps his K/BB ratio very high, AND he's doing even better during this bad streak.  That suggests that his current bad spell is only that, a bad spell, which was the point of this article and the Bay City Ball's article.  His talent is still there, just hidden by the barrage of hits and homers.

All the discussions I've read in the comment area seem like a lot of "I told you that a journeyman pitcher couldn't be THIS good.".   These comments came out last season, around the same time (August 2011) when Vogelsong had a bad spell then too, before correcting it to have a nice September.

However, The Situation is Different Now

Of course, this time, the malaise has lasted longer.  I would note that as much as Vogie has espoused a focused tough demeanor, both his 2011 and 2012 problems came about around the time that it was crunch time for the Giants playoff chances.  They were very much in it in August 2011, but pretty much out by September, which is around the time he pitched well again and gave me the confidence to say that he would be good again in 2012, which he had until recently.  However, this year they appear to be headed to the playoffs.  And his tough stretch has continued.

This is a phenomenon we have seen before with pitchers, just as recently with Lincecum this season with the Giants, and Lincecum before.  Tim in his first games, early in his career, he would pressurize and start overthrowing, thinking too much on each pitch.  First pro game, first spring training game, first major league start, first season opener, first home season opener, first World Series game.  The only first that I can remember where he did not have a bad start was his first playoff game, but in 2010, when every game in August and September were like playoff games, he basically got his jitters out in August with his bad stretch there.  And the same with this season, his first as the highest paid, on an annual basis, right-handed pitcher in the history of the major leagues.  Like Zito in 2007 and 2008, he appeared to feel the need to pitch to the contract instead of within his abilities.  And like Zito finally figured out in 2009 and 2010, Lincecum figured out in the second half of 2012 how to pitch within himself.  

Each pitcher needs a different amount of time to get over themselves, get over their mental-emotional thoughts getting in the way of them performing the way they are capable of.   As Vogelsong had admitted as much in interviews the past two seasons, he knew he had the talent previously, but he was just unable to tap into that talent consistently.  Somewhere in Japan, it finally clicked and he got more and more comfortable until he was able to put it all together fully, last season in AAA.

Vhen Vill Vogie Vigure it Out?

So I have to think that Vogelsong is thinking too much about the pressure and the playoffs while pitching right now, just like how this held him back earlier in this career.  His peripherals still look great.  When he will get over it, I don't know, but it is not a given that any player will ever get over it (see this great article by Malcolm Gladwell if you haven't read it yet, I've linked to it before, on failing in pressure situations).

Everybody has their Peter Principle level of incompetence, particularly in baseball.  Almost all never reach AAA, fewer still the majors.  Just like Vogelsong until he finally figured it out.  Then some lose it mid-career, like the 2B how overthrows first base, or the catcher who can't throw back to their pitcher.  Maybe this is Vogelsong's new level.

It is not like he has not had well pitched games from a peripheral standpoint during this streak of bad 9 starts.  It is just all those hits, all those homers, that muck up his performance.  He will need to get over himself to do better, but some never do, and some, like him, took over 10 years to finally figure it out, only he was one of the few to get the opportunity to show off what he could do, at his age and level of experience.  If not for Zito's car accident, Ryan would not have gotten his chance in 2011, and could have moved on to his next team for the 2012 season.  Funny how fate works sometime.

I still believe in Vogelsong, but it is a bit like a stalled plane headed into the ground.  Sometimes it is too late to pull up and avoid the collision.  He only has three more starts this season.  Hopefully he can pull it up in time.  I'm rooting for him, not just as a Giants fan, but as a fellow human being who loves comeback stories like Vogelsong's.  Go Vogie!

3 comments:

  1. Interesting theories, OGC. I don't put much weight in armchair (or keyboard) psychoanalysis. You might be right, but who knows? The fact is that he appears to be throwing without pain, which leads me to believe that he's not hurt. Kruk thinks, and I've wondered about this myself, Ryan might be tipping pitches. This would make sense as he's got nice late movement and his velocity is good. I think he's in the bullpen in the playoffs.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jewy for your comment.

      No offense taken, I guess I should have made it clearer that this is all just speculation, my theory, but I assumed most would understand that I have no inside into Ryan's psyche. Then again, the way I wrote the ending was very definitive, so I apologize for that. Caveat all that with "If my theory is correct...".

      I have heard about the idea that he might be tipping off his pitches, thanks for mentioning that and the source. That pitchers have been hitting him hard is something that raises a big question mark and suggests that this theory might hold water. How it spreads so fast yet the Giants don't notice it themselves, seems unlikely though.

      My counter argument on that is that as an ex-catcher, Bochy is probably pretty experienced at observing tells like that, just to help out his own pitchers, whether when he was catching or once he started managing.

      Still, nobody's perfect, maybe there is something there that other teams have picked up that the Giants staff has not picked up. There is the story of how Babe Ruth when he was a pitcher was suddenly lit up and the coaching staff observed him until they noticed that he stuck his tongue out when a certain pitch was being thrown.

      Clearly, the Vogie we had seen for 1.5 seasons is still there now, based on his peripherals, just that something is causing the other teams to hit him rather hard. My theory makes sense, due to timing, and the recent example of Lincecum's struggles dealing with the added (internal) pressure on himself that he was not used to (and Zito's), but there is no way for me to know whether it is correct or not, so yes, it is all speculation and armchair psychoanalysis.

      I just thought it was an interesting theory, based on the supporting bits of info I provided, and wanted to put it out there.

      Thanks again.

      Delete
  2. Yeah, no worries OGC. I've no problem with theories; I just get perplexed when some (not you) use their long distance psychoanalysis as an axiom upon which to build a "I think the Giants are screwing up and should do THIS" type argument. We're all just spitballing here; thanks for keeping it honest.

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