• How Scott Diamond Continues to Shine

    One of the biggest surprises of the Twins season has to be the performance of starter Scott Diamond. Written off by many as just another “soft tossing pitcher” in the organization, Diamond has shown mastery of the strike zone and has been getting ground outs by the barrelful. This has led to a 10-5 record and a 2.91 ERA – the sixth best in the American League.

    While radar gun enthusiasts and strike out fanatics are not likely thrilled by his skill set, Diamond is proving that it is not necessary velocity that makes the pitcher. Let’s take a look at what has made him so successful this year.


    (1) Release Point/Plane Change

    Diamond’s over-the-top release point gives him a very high angle. Pitch F/X, which captures the first data of a pitcher’s pitch at 55 feet, shows that Diamond’s pitches are at approximately six-feet-four inches on average – which, by comparison, is slightly higher than the taller lefty teammate Tyler Robertson. Combine that with crossing the plate at the knees or lower regularly and you have a solid recipe for grounders.

    As 1500ESPN.com’s Phil Mackey pointed out recently in a great piece detailing Diamond’s outstanding game preparation, the majority of his misses are low. Mackey cites a stat that said just 6% of his entire offerings this season have missed the strike zone high. This downward trajectory ensures that he is changing planes and making it more difficult for hitters to do anything besides hit the top of the ball thereby inducing a high percentage of ground balls.




    There’s more than just his ability to keep the ball down in the zone that has made him effective this year. His curveball, which may be his best pitch, may be the key behind elevating his fastball from pedestrian to impressive.

    (2) Noon-to-Six Curveball/Effective Velocity


    His curve is released at the same point as his fastball but, unlike other pitchers’ sweeping version, Diamond throws his with a 12-to-6 break (north-south movement versus the east-west type). Because the path of his curveball follows the same trajectory as his fastball before it dips – as opposed to many 11-to-4 curves which deviate off of the fastball’s path sooner - hitters will have a more difficult time deciphering between the two offerings. This is what has been one of the practices of the “Effective Velocity” teachings.

    Part of the Effective Velocity theory is that hitters have approximately 20 feet to decide what the pitch is as they are beginning their swing. The longer an off-speed pitch looks like a fastball or vice versa, the better the odds are the hitter would be fooled by the pitch. Because Diamond’s fastball and curveball share roughly the same plane for the first 20 feet, opponents are having troubles identifying which is which before it is too late.

    From his Pitch F/X chart you can see how the fastball (blue circles and red triangles) and the curveball (green squares) have little horizontal movement yet the curveball will have a quick drop:



    Roughly eight miles an hour and several inches of drop separate the two pitches but the two complement each other well. And Diamond continually teases opponents with this breaking pitching which likely keeps opponents off of his fastball. By throwing his curve 30% of the time – the third highest rate among qualified starters – he likely disguises his 89 mile-per-hour fastball effectively.

    (3) Battler

    He also possesses a bulldog-like determination on the mound of not giving in to hitters. For starters, he rarely issues free passes or puts himself in drastically bad count situations. Baseball-Reference.com says he has only had 10 3-and-0 counts – the fewest among starters with 100 innings or more. When he does fall behind hitters he is able to navigate out of trouble. While most pitchers are cuffed around when they are behind in the count, according to his “Batters Ahead” split opponents are holding just a 760 OPS. That is more than 200 points better than the league average of 974.

    Will Diamond remain a winning pitcher? If he continues to have stellar defense and posts a 3.69 expected fielding independent number (xFIP) next year, there is certainly a chance he’ll put up very good stats and win a high portion of his games. Based on his repertoire, consistent peppering of the strike zone and studious nature of the game, there is little reason to think he cannot repeat next season with a similar xFIP.

    Still, on the flipside, his offense in 2012 has been extremely generous to him. In fact, his 7.40 runs of support per nine innings is the second highest amount of support among qualified starters. If that figure starts to slip in 2013 -- which it is almost certain to do – Diamond is surely due to come up with the short end of the stick. Even great pitchers are unable to manufacture wins without the aid of their hitters – after all, Bert Blyleven can tell you all about losing ball games 2 to 1 or 3 to 2.
    This article was originally published in blog: Why Minnesota Twins' Scott Diamond Continues to Shine started by Parker Hageman
    Comments 42 Comments
    1. Ultima Ratio's Avatar
      Ultima Ratio -
      I really think he has the makeup and will have the success that Mark Buerhle had in his prime. I really can't see him posting an ERA over 4 for a season.
    1. Jack Torse's Avatar
      Jack Torse -
      About the only 3rd starter type the Twins have any luck with as of late. I like how he cuts his fastball forcing righties to respect that part of the zone which also reminds me of Buerhle. I think that as much as anything is his key to pitching so well.
    1. stringer bell's Avatar
      stringer bell -
      As usual, very fine technical analysis from Parker. My only quibble is comment about run support. While I don't doubt the number, I do know Diamond was on the hill for both of the Twins biggest explosions this year--19 runs vs. the Orioles and 14 in Cleveland. Take out those blowouts and Diamond's support isn't quite as impressive. I'm sure most quality starters, Diamond included, would settle for five runs every start rather than getting 14 and 19 and then getting two or less a number of times. I checked the records and in the six games that Diamond started and the Twins lost, the team scored 0, 1, 2, 3, 3, and 2, that is 11 runs in six games.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by stringer bell View Post
      As usual, very fine technical analysis from Parker. My only quibble is comment about run support. While I don't doubt the number, I do know Diamond was on the hill for both of the Twins biggest explosions this year--19 runs vs. the Orioles and 14 in Cleveland. Take out those blowouts and Diamond's support isn't quite as impressive. I'm sure most quality starters, Diamond included, would settle for five runs every start rather than getting 14 and 19 and then getting two or less a number of times. I checked the records and in the six games that Diamond started and the Twins lost, the team scored 0, 1, 2, 3, 3, and 2, that is 11 runs in six games.
      Great point! Those two games definitely affect that 'run support' average.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      I do know Diamond was on the hill for both of the Twins biggest explosions this year--19 runs vs. the Orioles and 14 in Cleveland. Take out those blowouts and Diamond's support isn't quite as impressive.
      That definitely puffed up his RS/9 number a bit but the team still scored five or more runs for him (including 11 runs three other times) in another six starts. It would still be an above average rate even if those two outings were removed.

      And, again, there's an element of "luck" at play there considering, in the 19-run outburst, he allowed 5 runs.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ultima Ratio View Post
      I really can't see him posting an ERA over 4 for a season.
      Blinded by his half season ERA?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      Blinded by his half season ERA?
      Diamond is looking more and more like a quality #3 pitcher. A guy who strings together above average seasons mixed with more pedestrian 4.00 ERA seasons... Not unlike a Brad Radke type. Given the shift in baseball over the past decade, a 4 ERA is pretty average. Just looking at Diamond and his peripherals suggests that he's going to slide back to a slightly above average to average pitcher.

      In any case, I'll take it. The Twins badly needed a guy to step up in the rotation and Scott looks to be that guy for a few years.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      if it's sustainable, I'll take it... Keep in mind that while his velo is nothing special (low 90s from what I understand) that is coming from a lefty, not a right hander. That does make a bit of a difference as well.
    1. Cap'n Piranha's Avatar
      Cap'n Piranha -
      Quote Originally Posted by Parker Hageman View Post
      That definitely puffed up his RS/9 number a bit but the team still scored five or more runs for him (including 11 runs three other times) in another six starts. It would still be an above average rate even if those two outings were removed.

      And, again, there's an element of "luck" at play there considering, in the 19-run outburst, he allowed 5 runs.
      It would be an above-average rate, but only by half a run. The Twins are averaging 4.5 runs a game, and with the 19 and 14 run games removed, the Twins have scored 75 runs in Diamond's 15 starts, for a tidy 5.0 runs/game. Using a stat that I created, which I call Expected Win-Loss (or xWL for short), Diamond SHOULD have a record of 12-5, which is pretty decent (if this stat already exists elsewhere, I abdicate the credit for it, I just haven't seen it anywhere). The stat is calculated by calculating how many earned runs the bullpen would be expected to surrender in however much of that particular game the starter leaves to the bullpen, then adding that to the earned runs the starter gave up. If the resulting number is less than the average runs scored by the offense, the starter is credited with an "expected win", indicating that he pitched well enough to win your average game. If that number is more, the pitcher is given an "expected loss", meaning the starter did not do enough to put the team in position to win the average game. The calculation is below.

      Expected Runs Allowed=(((9-X)/9)*Y+Z)

      X=Starter's IP in that game
      Y=Bullpen ERA
      Z=Starter's Earned Runs in that game

      Below are the xWL for all Twins starting pitchers this year

      Blackburn: 5-12
      Deduno: 3-3
      DeVries: 6-4
      Diamond: 12-5
      Duensing: 3-5
      Hendriks: 3-5
      Liriano: 8-9
      Marquis: 2-5
      Pavano: 4-7
      Swarzak: 1-3
      Walters: 4-3

      Thus, the only Twins pitchers that have consistently given the team a chance to win are Diamond, DeVries, Walters, and Deduno. Every other starter was more likely to not keep the team in the game.
    1. Fire Dan Gladden's Avatar
      Fire Dan Gladden -
      Tell me why we aren't seeing another Brian Duensing situation here? Looked really good his first run through the league. Once everybody saw him, he regressed. Duensing is a good arm for the pen and some spot starts,but I wouldn't want to count on him in the rotation for an exgtended period. I have a feeling this is closer to the real Diamond.
    1. Parker Hageman's Avatar
      Parker Hageman -
      @Cap'n --

      Good research (and yes, there is an Expected Wins stat already). I wasn't trying to contest that he would have lost any of those starts he had this year -- after all, he's allowed over 4 runs in just one of his starts. The idea is that if his ERA does go up to 4-ish (which, based on the xFIP and his very high DP rate of 22%, it will likely creep northward) and his run support drops to close to the league's average of 4.4, then the record next year will probably not be as impressive as it is this year.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cap'n Piranha View Post
      It would be an above-average rate, but only by half a run. The Twins are averaging 4.5 runs a game, and with the 19 and 14 run games removed, the Twins have scored 75 runs in Diamond's 15 starts, for a tidy 5.0 runs/game. Using a stat that I created, which I call Expected Win-Loss (or xWL for short), Diamond SHOULD have a record of 12-5, which is pretty decent (if this stat already exists elsewhere, I abdicate the credit for it, I just haven't seen it anywhere). The stat is calculated by calculating how many earned runs the bullpen would be expected to surrender in however much of that particular game the starter leaves to the bullpen, then adding that to the earned runs the starter gave up. If the resulting number is less than the average runs scored by the offense, the starter is credited with an "expected win", indicating that he pitched well enough to win your average game. If that number is more, the pitcher is given an "expected loss", meaning the starter did not do enough to put the team in position to win the average game. The calculation is below.

      Expected Runs Allowed=(((9-X)/9)*Y+Z)

      X=Starter's IP in that game
      Y=Bullpen ERA
      Z=Starter's Earned Runs in that game

      Below are the xWL for all Twins starting pitchers this year

      Blackburn: 5-12
      Deduno: 3-3
      DeVries: 6-4
      Diamond: 12-5
      Duensing: 3-5
      Hendriks: 3-5
      Liriano: 8-9
      Marquis: 2-5
      Pavano: 4-7
      Swarzak: 1-3
      Walters: 4-3

      Thus, the only Twins pitchers that have consistently given the team a chance to win are Diamond, DeVries, Walters, and Deduno. Every other starter was more likely to not keep the team in the game.
      I suspect that Liriano's record is within the standard deviation of being equal to Deduno's (and probably the same goes for Duensing and Hendriks)

      And runs allowed do not tell the story really. That dropped ball by Nishioka the other day was called a double and went on the pitcher's record. Nuts.



      As far as Diamond goes, one of the major changes this season from last is his drastic decrease in BB/9. I think he leads the league or is close to it in that stat. His K/9 is just 4.9, which is even below Brad Radke's career average mark. If he gets his K/9 up to 6-7 (where De Vries' is, btw) it would be great. At least he is one of the hopeful signs of the 2012 season.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Fire Dan Gladden View Post
      Tell me why we aren't seeing another Brian Duensing situation here? Looked really good his first run through the league. Once everybody saw him, he regressed. Duensing is a good arm for the pen and some spot starts,but I wouldn't want to count on him in the rotation for an exgtended period. I have a feeling this is closer to the real Diamond.
      Duensing never had success against righties, even when he was pitching well. He struggled to get his OPS against righties under .750 even in his good seasons. You can't succeed as a starter if you can't get right-handed batters out. That's the difference.

      Diamond, on the other hand, is getting shelled against lefties, which is incredibly odd and not likely to hold as the sample size grows.
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Diamond is looking more and more like a quality #3 pitcher. A guy who strings together above average seasons mixed with more pedestrian 4.00 ERA seasons... Not unlike a Brad Radke type. Given the shift in baseball over the past decade, a 4 ERA is pretty average. Just looking at Diamond and his peripherals suggests that he's going to slide back to a slightly above average to average pitcher.

      In any case, I'll take it. The Twins badly needed a guy to step up in the rotation and Scott looks to be that guy for a few years.
      I can't find much to disagree with here, I just found the "no ERA above 4" comment to be ridiculous.
    1. drivlikejehu's Avatar
      drivlikejehu -
      I thought this was interesting, when I looked up the Swinging Strike rankings on Fangraphs:

      Jason Vargas- 7.2%
      Mark Buehrle- 7.2%
      Wandy Rodriguez- 7.1%
      Scott Diamond- 7.0%
      Randy Wolf- 7.0%
      Joe Saunders- 6.9%
      Paul Maholm- 6.8%
      Clayton Richard- 6.8%

      I omitted a couple righties in there but this group of finesse left-handers stands out towards the bottom of the rankings, since generally they have done pretty well. The downside with these guys is that the margin for error is low and they are very dependent on their defense (and ballpark). Missing of course are the countless finesse lefties that haven't been able to sustain success or achieve any in the first place. Diamond has been a very pleasant surprise but it's hard to say exactly what he is at this point.
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by snepp View Post
      I can't find much to disagree with here, I just found the "no ERA above 4" comment to be ridiculous.
      I expect him to hover right around that mark most seasons so yeah, predicting that he'll never top it is a little premature.
    1. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      Duensing never had success against righties, even when he was pitching well. He struggled to get his OPS against righties under .750 even in his good seasons. You can't succeed as a starter if you can't get right-handed batters out. That's the difference.
      Which is -worthy when TR, Gardy, Andy and Nick Nelson continue to insist that the Dunce is starting material.

      Why do they continue with this proven and obviously pre-destined to fail strategy in a losing season, when you have nothing to lose seeing what Vasquez and any one of the "4H'ers" readily available (Hendriks, Hernandez, Hermsen, Hirschfield) have to offer?
    1. snepp's Avatar
      snepp -
      Where has Nick insisted that Duensing is starting material?
    1. Brock Beauchamp's Avatar
      Brock Beauchamp -
      Quote Originally Posted by jokin View Post
      Which is -worthy when TR, Gardy, Andy and Nick Nelson continue to insist that the Dunce is starting material.
      Nick was all for removing Duensing from the rotation in 2011 because of his splits. I know this for a fact because several massive threads were dedicated to it over on BYTO.
    1. Andrew Bryz-Gornia's Avatar
      Andrew Bryz-Gornia -
      What I find odd about Diamond's curveball is that he gets so little break on it. PITCHf/x says that his curve gets an average of no inches of vertical break (without gravity), which is atypical of curveballs (Texas Leaguers says the average curveball breaks about 6 inches downwards without gravity). If anything, his curveball has the break of a slider (1.7 inches up w/o gravity), which when combined with its velocity (about 81 MPH), it makes me believe that Diamond actually throws a slider instead of a curve.
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