The Rays Rotation And Sliders | The Process Report

The Rays Rotation And Sliders

Just how far away have the Rays moved from the slider? To expand on yesterday’s post, I decided to go year-by-year using the FanGraphs team leaderboards. I focused only on rotation-based usage, since relievers are a different type of bird altogether. Here are the results:

2011: 28th (6.6 percent)
2010: 29th (7.8 percent)
2009: 20th (11.5 percent)
2008: 17th (13 percent)
2007: 5th (15.4 percent)
2006: 20th (11.1 percent)

2006-2011: 21st (11.7 percent)

I have two big disclaimers to put out there about this data:

1) It’s from Baseball Info Solutions (BIS). I have nothing against BIS –as they do a lot of great work—but when in doubt, defer to Pitch-f/x. The scorer bias argument and information has been covered nonstop when it comes to batted ball information (also from BIS) and I have to imagine some of that leaks over to BIS’s pitch classifications. I’m more apt to trust the quantitative classification of pitches than the qualitative is all.

2) Scott Kazmir threw 10,804 pitches between 2006 and the day he was traded in 2009. About 2,075 of those pitches were sliders –or 19 percent. Taking his usage rates away and replacing them with just about anyone would cause a natural decline in slider usage across the board.

Both of those points are to say that personnel and misclassification caused some of the decline. I cannot answer or approximate how much, but I daresay the Rays did not have a meeting after the 2007 season and decide they would no longer start pitchers who threw sliders. With the exception of Matt Garza –who has a nasty slider— everyone else who started for the 2008 team spent the 2007 season within the organization in one capacity or another (David Price being a borderline exception, although his rights were acquired and he did sign in 2007).

Whether the Rays have an organizational philosophy about sliders is no more clear today than it was yesterday, but their rotation appears to have moved away from the pitch.

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