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  • 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. jokin's Avatar
      jokin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nick Nelson View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by Brock Beauchamp View Post
      I'd leave Hendriks off that list for now. I think it's pretty apparent that Cuellar is working on something specific with him in Rochester and as soon as they feel comfortable with his progress, he'll be with the ML club.
      I'd leave almost everyone off that list for now. Hermsen hasn't even pitched in Triple-A, while Hernandez and Hirschfeld (seriously? Hirschfeld?) have had zero success there. These aren't top-flight prospects that you simply throw directly into an MLB rotation. Just because you haven't seen a guy before doesn't mean he's better than what you have. Plus, with the exception of Hendriks and Hernandez, none of those players are on the 40-man roster.

      When I suggested trying Duensing in the rotation, it was simply because he was readily available and has had success as an MLB starter in the past, and at the time the Twins were trotting out Swarzak and Blackburn. That doesn't mean I think he's a viable long-term option or that I'm "continuing to insist that he's starting material" – amusing statements coming from a person accusing others of being ignorant and not taking the time to track down and accurately recap past conversations.

      For you, not the "friend" you are defending, I will be happy to take the time to research, track down and get back to you with the specific quotes. Speaking of the use of accusatorial misquoting, if you aspire to professional writing, you need to discern the difference and context between "ignorance" and "ignorant". The word I used was ignorance and the use of "ignorance" on my part was in reference to the other poster's unawareness of a subject matter, not "ignorant" as a perjorative. Big difference.

      I know a lot of times guys in your position (I'm not saying you have done it) like to be in print holding different positions on the same subject- with the ability to then link back to when what they wrote then shows how smart they are. Because you're better than that, that's why I'm surprised that you backed off from the correct position in this round. As stated, I didn't expect you to "know" that Diamond should have been in the rotation from the start, in that vein, I'm saying let's find out more about what we don't know, continuing what the Twins were already doing. Just sayin'.

      Meanwhile, nothing has changed regarding the Dunce from what you wrote previously in 2011. He's demonstrated further in 2012 that he is perfect in a role as a lefty reliever. This is a lost season. It has to be a lost season when the Twins were forced to trot out Diamond, Walters, DeVries and Deduno. Were any one of these "top flight prospects that you simply throw into an MLB rotation"? Of course not. Nothing was lost by trotting these guys out and it's likely nothing will be lost by trotting out others (Hendriks is working on certain issues and his emotional fragility may or may not be a special case). There was no argument I proposed that they are "better" on a game-by-game basis, just that it generally makes perfect sense to start a guy for spot duty like Duensing- if you're in the playoff hunt or early in the season when things are unsettled- his move out of the bullpen was a "pick your poison" move as it was disruptive to a Twins area of some success- and did little-to-nothing at bolstering the SP situation- all the while wrecking what was a really nice season that Duensing was putting together. Here are his stats before beginning his SP duties in late June: 34.2 IP/WHIP 1.03/ERA 2.33/K-BB 22-8.

      His total numbers since the change: 38 IP/WHIP 1.69/ERA 7.11/K-BB 17-8. I think it's entirely fair to say anyone on my list had a shot at matching or besting these numbers, with further experience and knowledge of personnel added to the equation.

      Here are the entire season totals for the Twins RP staff cumulatively: OBA .246/WHIP 1.28/ERA 3.79/K-BB% 16.8. And here is the July stat set for the RPs: OBA .282/WHIP 1.54/ERA 4.75/K-BB% 15.5

      Of course, the bullpen fall-down isn't entirely related to Duensing's absence, but the numbers tell a good part of the story.

      To reiterate, the Twins outcome for this season has been settled for quite some time, the biggest accomplishment left for the Twins to achieve during the remainder of the year and going into the off-season, is finding and identifying guys in positions of need- a key component is starting next year's SP "cattle call" ASAP.

      The 40-man roster argument holds little water, as well. By my count, the Twins have moved NINE guys onto the 40-man during the season. This includes 5 pitchers, including 3 of 4 mentioned above. They too, were all "readily available" as the Twins demonstrated, as are the guys I proposed. There is plenty of detritus that the Twins can Waive and/or DFA, without consequence, as demonstrated with every previous cut this year, they likely won't get claimed- or won't be missed- or won't be here next year anyway. (Tosoni, Gray, "seriously"?)
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Holy crap, talk about a thread getting hijacked from the "I'm smarter than you are" crowd. The original analysis on Diamond was excellent, he has great deception and as long as he stays healthy there isn't much to indicate he won't continue to be successful.
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