The Road to the Show: II

Screen Shot 2020-02-17 at 19.36.45Ok welcome back to my new series, a Let’s Play with my Starting Pitcher on the MLB The Show series of games. In the first update, we largely covered who my character is for this series. In short, he’s an 18-year old left handed pitcher named Riley Emerson from Massachusetts who focuses on controlling the strike zone with his pitches – hitting his spots and being accurate. Riley played in the Amateur Showcase (how the game determines your drafting, although you always seem to go in the 20’s), playing two games. In the first he started shakily, giving up four runs in two innings – two being through fielding mistakes – before calming down in the third giving up no urther runs. In the second game, he was much more comfortable, pitching three scoreless innings. Riley was then drafted in the 24th round with the 8th pick by the Atlanta Braves, and has begun his career with their AA affiliate club, the Mississippi Braves. So far, Riley has pitched five starts for the Braves, so I’ve decided to do my first update.

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Thus far, Riley has a record of 3-0, that is 3 wins and 0 losses. Now, baseball is weird in that it assigns wins and losses – usually a team record in any other sport – to pitchers. The old theory says that if you have a winning record you’re a good pitcher, if you have a losing record you’re not. So far Riley’s record would suggest he’s a good pitcher. But that isn’t always the case. Baseball games are won by scoring more runs than the opposition, and largely, a pitcher has very little to do with that. If Riley pitches well, but his team fails to score any runs and he gives up one run to the opposition in a 1-0 loss – still a very good outing – Riley will get the loss – therefore he’s a bad pitcher. So we have to look far deeper than wins and losses, because in reality, they tell us nothing about how good a pitcher actually is.

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 09.45.17Riley’s ERA (Earned Run Average) is 0.28. ERA is another classic stat, that is designed to tell you how many runs a pitcher would give up if he always pitched 9 inning games (baseball games are 9 innings each way). As you can see to the left, the calculation that gives you a pitcher’s ERA is very simple, Runs Allowed divided by Innings Pitched times 9. Now ERA does suggest better than wins and losses how well a pitcher is doing, but it has its own faults. Research – done by Voros McCracken – found that a pitcher’s ERA was unlikely to be consistent from one season to the next. This suggested that fielding had an effect on ERA, and that the results on balls put into play are not consistent, and therefore ERA doesn’t accurately judge pitcher performance either. Therefore it made more sense to focus on what a pitcher can solely control to measure performance. These are; Home Runs, Walks, Hit-by-Pitches and Strikeouts.

Screen Shot 2020-02-24 at 09.56.09Putting that together, that is FIP – Fielding Independent Pitching. This is effectively what a pitcher would give up if he had a league average defence behind him. The calculation for FIP is to the right, and HR (Home Runs) are prioritised as having a major impact – naturally giving up at least one run every time they occur. Now, if we look at Riley’s FIP so far, we get a number of 0.00. In terms of what he solely can control, Riley has been perfect in his first five starts. This gives us a better idea of Riley’s performance, and so far Riley has had a fantastic start to his career with the Braves. Of course this is a super-duper small sample size – and therefore we cannot really trust it yet – but no matter what, Riley has made an excellent start. As we move forward, I’ll analyse different stats to get an overall picture of Riley’s pitching. Whilst he’s been successful to start his pro-career, I don’t think anything thus far would have had a major impact on his fairly grounded character.

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In terms of the training I’ve been able to do – again, in MLB Road to the Show you only gain attributes based off what you do in game and what you choose to do in training – I’ve mainly focused on increasing Riley’s 2SFB velocity – the speed of his 2-seamer – whenever I can. I have said that I don’t want Riley to be someone who throws high heat – the caps imposed on me by the game means I can’t anyway – but ideally I want him in the low 90’s for his fastball. At the moment, it seems to top out around 91mph, with the average being 89-90mph. Other than that, I’ve been focusing on improving the control he has over his circle changeup, meaning I can vary speeds of my pitches with confidence, knowing Riley won’t leave it over the middle of the strikezone – where it will get clobbered, especially in the Majors. I have also been able to improve the break (movement) on his slider, which is a pitch I’ll often go to when I’m ahead in the count and I’m looking to get a strikeout. I’m using Pulse Pitching, which gives me some control over Riley’s pitches, but his attributes will have a larger impact than any skill I possess. As I mentioned in the first update, I’m also playing on Hall of Fame difficulty. There is one level above HoF – Legend – which I may move up to, but I haven’t decided as of yet. At the moment, Riley has increased from 50 overall to 55 overall, so there’s still some way to go yet.

With that, that brings us to the end of the second update of this new Let’s Play series. Next time I update, we’ll be further through the season – I haven’t decided when yet – but we’ll discuss Riley’s performance then, and possibly any major events that occur in game. Until then, thank you very much for reading, and as always should you have any questions about baseball, Riley, or my long-term aims for this series, then please don’t hesitate to ask either in the comments section, or on my Twitter (@JLAspey). Thank you again.

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