Pitching around the Roboumps

On May 16th, the Pacific Coast League switching to using the Automated Balls and Strikes system (ABS), otherwise known as Roboumps.  Last week, we took a look at how the system had affected some of Sacramento’s regular hitters.  This week, it’s time to look at the pitchers.

Finding pitchers with a lot of experience both before and after the May 16th date was difficult, as there have been a lot of movement with pitchers up and down, both to the big leagues and to and from Double-A.  But we found seven pitchers who have gotten regular time on both sides.

So, what are the conclusions?

To be honest, just like the hitters, there are not any consistent results.

Once again, sample size is an issue here, for obvious reasons.  And other factors certainly could have an effect on how pitchers have improved or struggled since the change over to the Roboumps.

Joey Marciano has seen the biggest improvement on his strikeout and walk rates since the change, has he’s striking out over four more batters every nine innings, while walking nearly two less.  But even for him, the news hasn’t necessarily transferred into results, as his ERA has nearly tripled in the same period.

Everyone else has seen mixed results.  Sean Hjelle’s strikeout rate went up by nearly 50%, but his walk rate increased by a small amount.  However, Hjelle has been significantly stronger in the month-plus since the change.  Another start, Enmanuel De Jesus saw both his strikeout and walk rates tick up slightly, though his overall performance has improved significantly.

Three pitchers have seen both rates drop.  Raynel Espinal, one of the team’s best starters early on, has seen both his strikeouts and walks drop since the change, but he’s been giving up more hits.  Swingman Wei-Chieh Huang saw his strikeout rate drop a small amount, but cut his walk rate by more than half.  However, his ERA has skyrocketed from 5.71 to being 11.12 since the change.  One of the biggest changes was Kervin Castro, who has struggled with his control this season.  His walk-rate was 14.6 BB/9 before the ABS, and has dropped to in the weeks since.  That has certainly changed his performance for the better in the weeks since.

The last pitcher we looked at was Luis Ortiz, who saw his strikeout rate drop by two every nine innings, and saw his walk rate go from 0.7 BB/9 to 2.1 BB/9.  Ortiz has had struggles all season, and has seen his ERA and WHIP tick up since the start of the Roboumps.

Conclusion?  The Roboumps just have not had any uniform effect on the pitchers, just like they haven’t on the hitters.  Some players have been able to take advantage of the changes, while others have had struggles…and for some, it’s just different.

Playoff Races

At the end of this week’s series, the first half of the season ends for the full season A-Ball Leagues.  That means, for each league, a first half champion will be chosen for the postseason in September.  And the Giants have one team already qualified for the postseason, with more possibly to come.

The High-A Eugene Emeralds claimed a playoff-clinching win on Saturday the 19th.  The Emeralds are 35-24 in the 6-team league, good for a .593 winning percentage.  They lead rival Spokane by 4.0 games.  The Emeralds are the defending champions in the former High-A West League, and will meet the winner of the second half in September.

In the Double-A Eastern League, Richmond maintains a slim lead in the Southwest division with a 37-26 (.587) record, with Akron just 1.0 games back and Erie 2.0 games back.  Richmond will play Portland of the Northeast division for the half’s final week, while Akron and Erie will face off against the bottom two teams in the Southwest division.  Portland, though, has a lower winning percentage (.429) than Erie’s opponent Harrisburg (.444).

San Jose is just behind first place Fresno in the Low-A California League North division, 2.0 games back, with a 37-26 record (.587).  San Jose just finished a series against Fresno, winning five of six games to put them in position for playoffs.  San Jose will play the final series of the season against last place Stockton (.397), while Fresno will play against third place Modesto (.460).

The only team out of things is Triple-A Sacramento, who sits in fifth place in the PCL West with a 27-39 record, 10.5 games behind the first place Las Vegas Aviators.

Two Top Young Stars Out

Two of the Giants’ top young prospects missed this week.

Marco Luciano has been out since June 3rd with a lower back strain.  Last week, it was reported that he would not be participating in baseball activities for a couple of weeks, but it should be expected to see him began his rehab with the Arizona Complex League when it’s time to return.

The other missing player is Ryan Reckley, the 17-year old who got the highest international signing bonus since Luciano for the Giants in the last signing period.  Reckley has been out since Monday, June 13th for reasons that have not been disclosed.  Reckley went hitless in his first four games, and through six games in the DSL went just 2-for-21 (.095) with a double, though with seven walks to eight strikeouts.  Without any information about whether or not Reckley is injured, there’s no way to predict when he’ll be back in action.

Joey Bart’s Adjustments

Joey Bart has graduated from prospect lists already as he started the season with San Francisco, but struggled through the first two months of the season.  A couple of weeks ago, the Giants optioned Bart to Triple-A, but he didn’t make it to Sacramento until just this past Sunday.

It turns out that part of the time spent off was to help Bart recollect himself and get off to the right start, and had him working with MLB hitting coach Justin Viele.

This article talks about Bart’s mechanical changes that he’s been making, particularly a toe-tap that he has added and removed a few times since the 2020 season.

Fan sentiment has continued to sour on the former #2 overall pick in his second stint in the Majors, but the Giants still see him as the team’s catcher of the future.  His return to Triple-A began on Sunday with a 2-for-4 day that had a walk and no strikeouts.  As the next few weeks continue, there will be a lot of attention put on his strikeouts as he tries to make the changes as he tries to become the player the team and he expects.

Carter Aldrete – Northwest League Player of the Week

It was quite a week for Aldrete, who is in a midst of a nine game hitting streak, including all seven games this week.  On the week, Aldrete hit .517 (15-for-29) on the week, though with only one double and one home run, walking two times while striking out five.

In Aldrete’s second season at High-A, he’s batting .286/.351/.530 with 11 doubles and ten home runs.

Top Prospect Watch

Marco Luciano – .288/.360/.507 – 42-146, 8 2B, 0 3B, 8 HR, 15 BB, 38 SO, 0-0 SB-SBA

As noted above, Luciano has been out since early June with a back strain.  Hopefully, we’ll see him back in action soon, but it might not be until early July.

Luis Matos – .190/.267/.250 – 22-116, 4 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 11 BB, 26 SO, 3-4 SB-SBA (High-A)

Matos has been a changed hitter since returning from injury, with a highlight this week being his 5-for-5 day, and he’s no making extra-base contact, with three doubles and a home run.  His overall numbers will take a long time to recover after his cold start, but going 10-for-31 (.323) was definitely a good start.

Kyle Harrison – 5.12 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .239 Avg – 19.1 IP, 17 H, 12 R, 11 ER, 12 BB, 30 SO (AA)

After a rough start at Double-A in the middle of the season, Harrison is beginning to show more of the version of himself that ran through the High-A Northwest League.  This week, he went a Double-A high 6.0 innings, giving up just one unearned run, while striking out eight.  However, he’s still walking a lot of batters, with 11 walks over his last three starts, over 13.2 innings.

Heliot Ramos – .217/.299/.333 – 45-207, 6 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 20 BB, 59 SO, 2-5 SB-SBA (AAA)

Ramos started last week back up with the big league team, but was back with Sacramento for the week at Tacoma, and had a good week.  He went 6-for-23 (.261) with a pair of doubles, and one walk to six strikeouts.  But he also got caught stealing twice on the basepaths.

Will Bednar – 4.19 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .167 Avg – 43.0 IP, 25 H, 22 R, 20 ER, 22 BB, 51 SO

Bednar did not pitch this week, though it’s been implied that it was just for a break, not an injury.  Bednar’s control issues have been a big concern this season, so eyes will be on him when his turn in the rotation comes up this week.

The Wrap-Up:

To wrap things up, we’ve got some special uniforms by for the San Jose Giants this past week, celebrating one of the most entertaining facets of San Jose baseball: The Beer Batter.  Obviously, the Beer Batter is not unique to San Jose, but it’s long left an impression on fans, and players, who make their way through San Jose.  Enjoy these!