Evaluating Early Season Performance

First let me thank you for your patience.  I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted an article.  I have received many encouraging emails to share my insights pertaining to my performance this year.  As I write this entry, It is now Saturday May 22nd, and we are currently 40 games into the season.  Before the season started I made a promise to myself that I would not look at my cumulative stats until this point.  As you know, I believe in a relevant sample size and for me that is completion of at least 30% of my season workload.  I also evaluate my own performance differently than most other people.

After each outing I write a brief summary of how I think I pitched and how well I feel.  In the summary, I include how I faced hitters and my plans for facing them in the future.  I cannot divulge this information for obvious reasons, but I can give you insight on how I evaluate myself, and how each of my appearances has fared.

I break down each appearance into 2 criteria.  First, I evaluate my performance based on results.  I take into consideration the situation I was put in, and the results I achieved.  I judge by the hitter’s reaction to my pitches as well as the quality of contact I get.  I give each outing a numerical value; “1” being a good performance, “2” being a mediocre performance and “3” being a bad performance.

(Note: my quality of contact evaluation is different from most people.  My goal as a pitcher is to force a hitter to swing from a powerless position, and have the ball contact the bat in a powerless spot.  For example, If the hitter lounges for a ball and loses his legs, but somehow finds the barrel of the bat and hits a bleeder over the 2nd baseman’s head I consider that a success.  Consequently, if a hitter takes a huge swing and hits a mile high pop up to the catcher, or beats the ball straight into the ground I consider that failure on my part because the hitter was only a few millimeters away from hitting a home run.   Also if I get contact off the end of the bat, or on the handle of the bat, I consider that a success because those parts of the bat do not contain power).

Second, I evaluate my stuff on that day.  Same scale applies with “1” being good, “2” being mediocre, and “3” being bad.  When I judge my stuff, I take into consideration the life and deception of my fastball, the late break of my slider, and things of that nature.  Also the evaluation of my “stuff” has absolutely nothing to do with radar gun readings.  In fact, my radar gun readings are essentially the same weather my stuff is good or bad. This is in contrast to how I am evaluated by scouts of course.  If you have read any of my other entries, you know that I think evaluating a pitcher based on radar gun readings is about as smart as evaluating a relief pitcher based on wins and losses.  But, for those of you who are still curious about velocities, my fastball has been anywhere from 88-94, and my slider has been 82-88.  When I judge my “stuff” I do not take velocity into consideration at all.  For example, it is possible for me to have good stuff and have a bad performance and vice versa.

(Note: I only use the numbers to evaluate my performance; the terms “good, mediocre, and bad” are expressive terms for you, the reader, to understand the difference in levels.   So when I use those terms throughout the column you know that I do not use them in my evaluations.  Also, my determination of 1 (good), 2 (mediocre), or 3 (bad) is obviously all relative to me.  It is not like VORP where I compare myself to the average of the league or anything like that.

You can find descriptions of my outings by going to the outing log found in “Michael Schwimer archives, and clicking on the post entitled, “outing log.”

As of May 22nd I have appeared in 17 games.  Of those 17 games. I have performed well 9 times, or 53% of the time.  My performance has been mediocre 7 times, or 41% of the time.  And my performance has been bad 1 time, or 6% of the time.  I have had dominant stuff 7 times, or 41% of the time.  I have had mediocre stuff 8 times, or 47% of the time.  Finally, I have had horrible stuff twice, or 12% of the time.

Totals in good performances… 9g, 12ip, 0r, 3h, 4bb, 18k

Totals in mediocre performances… 7g, 9ip, 3r, 11h, 2bb, 9k

Totals in bad performances… .1ip 5r 3h 2bb 0k

Totals with good stuff…  7g, 9.2ip, 1r, 5h, 3bb, 18k

Totals with mediocre stuff… 8g, 10.2ip, 2r, 8h, 3bb, 9k

Totals with bad stuff… 2g, 1.2ip, 5r, 4h, 2bb, 0k

In conclusion

When I have had good stuff I am happy that I can translate that into a lot of strike outs, but I am upset with the walks.  Having 3 walks in 9 innings with my best stuff is simply unacceptable.  I truly believe that when I have my best stuff no one in the world can consistently hit me.  I might give up a hit or two, or even a run or two, but over the long haul I will be very successful.  If that comes off as cocky or arrogant, all I can say is I go by the numbers, and at every level of baseball I have played to date, when I have my best stuff I am successful.  The plan for the remainder of the season is to reduce the walks to “0”, especially when I have good stuff.

When I have had mediocre stuff I feel like I have done a good job of putting the hitters in situations and positions that make them uncomfortable.  For the most part, they have not been taking confident swings and I hope to continue that for the rest of the season.

I have had bad stuff twice.  One time I was able to change angles and speeds to keep the hitters off balance.  The other time I completely gave in to the hitters and fed them exactly what they wanted when they wanted it.  The only out I recorded was a warning track fly ball that should have been a 3rd home run that inning.  I turned into a pitcher that I have never been before, and my explanation for this inning is in my see outing log that I mentioned earlier.

My growth as a pitcher has come when I have mediocre stuff.  For the most part I have been able to battle through and draw off past experiences in order to get outs and help the team during those times.  My goal as a pitcher is to have a good performance every single outing.  I have learned that it is impossible to have your very best stuff every outing, but I have also learned that I can get outs successfully with any grade of “stuff.”

Update, 12:15PM: Michael attached a copy of his log for everyone to see, and I’m going to upload it. If you’d like to view it, click here.

13 thoughts on “Evaluating Early Season Performance

  1. Great Stuff. I mean, really really great stuff. A few quick questions:

    1. From your experience, do most pitchers take notes/record innings the way that you do, or do you feel somewhat unique?

    2. Assuming the answer to question 1 is “no “do any past or present teammates (hitters or pitchers) stand out as taking exceptional notes and relying on self-reflection?

  2. Ossum, possum!

    Great writeup. Lots of technical insights and outstanding writing.

    (Aside: When you finish you baseball career in 2025, find a good HS and teach kids writing! Do some creative writing in the meantime. And read ONLY good writers–best way to support your writing development. Reading mediocre writers–however exciting some of the airport bookstore commercial writers can be–is like getting better as a pitcher by throwing mediocre pitches or improving your basketball shot by throwing up wild bombs from 35 feet. Sorry, I am a writer and have to preach at times, especially when I see someone with promise. Your gift is that your writing comes over as simple and natural, as if you are speaking un-self-consciously to a friend. Never lose that.)

    Back to baseball: Great system. You keep it simple and easy to evaluate and learn from. Stats today are complex and that’s fine for GMs and hobbyists, like many of us here. But for the performer, simple is better. You are keeping it real for yourself.

    Thanks for your contribution here. You give the outstanding core of Phillies and the minor league system fans here a huge benefit and also have found a way to cut through a lot of the separation of fans and players that is necessary (since there are a minority of fans who can’t interact appropriately and you have to protect yourself)–but regrettable. You, the Internet, and PP have cut through some of that and enabled us to see your human, everyday side.

  3. Awesome insights.

    How many warm-up pitches do you have to throw before you can evaluate how good your stuff is on that day?

  4. I think I speak for all the posters here, as well as the casual readers in saying we are tremendously thankful for your posts as well as the monumental amount of insight you have been willing to share. We’re all pulling for you.

  5. Michael,

    Thanks so much for taking the time to do this – greatly appreciated and amazingly insightful. We’re all really pulling for you – and your results have been outstanding.

    Keep up the great work!!

  6. Thanks Michael, great insite.

    The key point of your post is learning how to pitch without your best stuff. I believe this is what ultimately separates major league pitchers from everyone else because over a 162 game season and 60-70 appearances, a pitcher will only have their best stuff about 30 of those games.

    The difference is the guys who can still get the job done in a majority of the other 40 games.

  7. Don’t know if you’ll have time to read and reply but you said you don’t worry much about your velocity and gave ranges. However, do you concern yourself with the relative difference in velocities? With the ranges given your slider and fastball could both be 88 on a given day. Does that never happen? Do your speed difference remain constant? Is that a ‘speed’ factor you consider?

  8. Michael,
    How do you adjust your record keeping for two inning outings? Most relief pitchers find the second inning to be of greater difficulty so I would think separating the innings in your process to be valuable. Good luck with the rest of the season and stay healthy.

  9. Schwim, good job with another great article. After your good performance / good stuff charts, get started with the E/A/B chart!

Comments are closed.