This offseason has seen the Cincinnati Reds go out and get the pitching. It’s also seen them go out and get the coaches. One of the coaches that the team has added is former big leaguer, and Red, Caleb Cotham. He’s all of 31-years-old, and last pitched in the Major Leagues in 2016. After his playing time he went to work for the Bledsoe Agency as the co-director of player development. One of the things he was at the forefront of is the use of high-speed cameras to help develop pitching. Baseball America wrote about Cotham in May of 2018, as well as how some teams – particularly the Houston Astros, were using high speed cameras in development of pitching.

The camera in question that’s being used is the edgertronic camera. The reason that everyone in baseball is using it is that it’s simply far cheaper than other high speed cameras. They require more than just the initial camera buy to get working, but when compared to cameras that have similar frame rates (1000 per second – while your normal camera will shoot anywhere from 24-120 frames per second) cost eight times as much, or more.

And that is where things get interesting. The Reds brought in Caleb Cotham as their assistant pitching coach. His specialty was, in part, his use with these cameras and the ability to use them to help pitchers better, and more quickly, develop their pitching abilities. Let’s hope that the Reds bought up all of the edgertronic cameras that they needed when they hired him back in early January. The cameras are sold out and on back order until at least April.

Everyone is familiar with Trackman/Statcast at this point. It’s taken over baseball in the last handful of years. Even in the minor leagues you won’t find a park that doesn’t have the Trackman radar system set up to track pitches and exit velocity for hitters. Last season the Reds also invested some money in the smaller, portable Trackman options to use. They could be used for bullpen sessions, or in batting cages. It will be interesting to see if they made a similar investment this offseason at the minor league level with the edgertronic cameras for development in the minors.

Re-developing Sonny Gray with the Reds

Sonny Gray has been one of the better pitchers in Major League Baseball during his career. When he was in Oakland he made a run at the Cy Young Award. But the 2018 season wasn’t his best. His ERA was 4.90 and his walk rate was the highest of his career. That’s not to say there aren’t some reasons to think he can turn things around. But, he will have to turn some things around to be what the Reds hope he can be.

One of the reasons to believe that the Reds can “fix” Sonny Gray is that when he went to the Yankees, they changed his pitch usage quite a bit. New York is a team that tries to get all of their pitchers to throw fewer fastballs and more offspeed pitches. Eno Sarris of The Athletic wrote about how the Reds could improve his pitch mix in 2019.

Sarris noted that his worst pitch was his change up. Fangraphs pitch values backs that up in a big way. Sonny Gray throws a 4-seamer, a 2-seamer, a change up, cutter, slider, and a curveball. The cutter and change up aren’t pitches that he went to much in 2018, though – throwing them a combined 5% of the time. While he didn’t throw the change up much, when he did, it was absolutely crushed. When looking at the value of his pitches per 100 thrown (of that specific pitch), his change up was worth -7.27 runs. His cutter, which he also barely threw, was at -4.42 runs. The fastball and slider were at -0.89 and -0.20 respectively. The curveball, and his sinker, were both above-average. The curveball was the best at 0.49, while the sinker was at 0.18.

It’s not just the pitch usage that Sarris notes as ways that could improve what Sonny Gray could do in 2019 to get back to where he used to be. Go give the article a read for some very detailed ways that could help Gray and the Reds re-develop what he brings to the table.

MLB Pipeline Top 100 Prospects

Tonight on MLB Network and MLB.com at 8pm, MLB Pipeline will unveil their Top 100 prospect list. The Cincinnati Reds have landed five prospects on the Baseball America list this year. They landed four prospects on the Baseball Prospectus list, too. So if this is something you’re interested in, tune in.

16 Responses

  1. Old-school

    Sarris Athletic article is very interesting .

    Must see TV alert. MLB Network has a documentary Wednesday Jan 30 at 8 pm appropriately titled.. ” Bench”

    The trailer looks great. My fav Red of all time .

    • Colorado Red

      Thx, I will have to watch that one.

  2. gusnwally

    I concur Old School the promos look really good.

  3. ToBeDetermined

    Doug

    Your way over my head with this article.
    In particular regarding “Fangraphs pitch values”. I have no perspective what these values mean. Could you please direct me to were I could find a “beginners guide” in order to appreciate what you have written here.

    Additonally, since I’ve been living in a cave. I’d say “‘virtually’ Everyone is familiar with Trackman/Statcast at this point”. Is that just a “radar” gun as such or is it something else?

    thanks in advance

    • Doug Gray

      0 is average. Below that isn’t good. -2 or lower is really, really bad. +2 or better is really, really good. Most of the best pitches in baseball aren’t worth +3 in this category.

      Trackman is the system that tracks the velocity and movement of the pitches, as well as the exit velocity and launch angle of the batted balls. Statcast is that, plus the fielding tracker system that you will see used for highlights and defensive stuff on broadcasts.

      • ToBeDetermined

        huh, ok. I’ll have to study that.
        So when you say “his change up was worth -7.27 runs.” obviously that’s particularly bad. But does the “runs” part mean something?

        if we plot this are a chart does it bell curve around 0 being the average ?

        also, i’m thinking outloud here but, yea a certain kind of pitch might not be as bad based on location and on pitch sequencing. So being -7 runs, may not necessarily mean that the pitch need be tossed from the arsenal, but based on location, the hitters strengths, the sequencing of the pitches etc. Are these factors taken into account?

        How is the number determined ?

        Sorry for all the questions. I’m just trying to wrap my brain around it.

    • Michael Smith

      Track man is a radar system first designed to track missiles for the navy. The developer would hit golf balls to see how well it worked. It has been huge in high end golf club fittings and lessons for a decade or more. I lived using it because of the 3d tracking information, swing data and ball performance data post impact

    • Mason Red

      I haven’t a clue what it all means. I’m
      still old school. Meaning I look at old school stats like wins and losses,ERA,HR’s,RBI’s,batting average,ect.

      • Michael Smith

        @masonred

        Lets put it in perspective. You are a batter who is going thru a slump. In the old school way someone would eye ball your swing and guess what the issues was or is. With trackman it can tell you the angles you are taking and the swing path and you can discover any numbers of value pieces of information so you can make corrections to flaws in a swing. That is one of the many ways trackman can help. Another is telling you based on your swing speed and attack angle (golf term) what your optimal launch angle is going to be and you can tailor your swing based on that information.

      • ToBeDetermined

        Mason,
        I’m with you. I always thought the Team with the most wins went to the playoffs. 🙂

  4. ToBeDetermined

    Doug

    Just as a thought. I don’t know if it would be helpful or even “legal” if on the top banner you could have a resources area. From there could have a link to “FanGraphs” or “Basic Analytics” or “twitter account links” etc. that would be helpful that you guys refer.
    Again just a thought.
    I wanted to put it in the thread in case anyone else thought it might be helpful or maybe just a waste of space that they would not use.

    • Doug Gray

      There used to be something like that. The links would be clicked less than 5 times per month, so I took them down. They simply took up useful space.

      • ToBeDetermined

        No Problem.
        Spend your time on more useful areas.
        thanks

  5. Amarillo

    Might be worthwhile to see if Mario Soto would Grey a few changeup pointers. Soto taught Cueto the changeup and that seemed to work out well.

    • ToBeDetermined

      My thoughts exactly. Soto showed the circle change to Joe Nuxall. Joe Nuxall showed it to Nolan Ryan when he was going to the American League.
      Then all the hitters in the American league hated Joe Nuxall.

  6. JayDubz

    It would be good to have a breakdown of Gray’s pitch values pre-NYY to compare.

    I’m assuming that there’s an interaction effect between the pitches. Or in other words, his changeup isn’t very good, but it’s even worse if it’s a higher portion of his pitch count. Obviously because he’s throwing a bad pitch more often and a good pitch less often, but also because the pitch mix has hitters both expecting it and seeing it better.