Good News (Told in GIF): Tyler Cloyd's 2012 Home Run Problem May Be Fixable

Good News (Told in GIF): Tyler Cloyd's 2012 Home Run Problem May Be Fixable

Let's focus on the positives. Tyler Cloyd was, for a healthy part of last year, the most effective starter at the highest level of the minors, where he went 12-1 with a 2.35 ERA with the Iron Pigs. When he was tapped after September callups, Cloyd struck out 4.29 batters for every walk, which if it qualified would've ranked fifth in baseball -- right ahead of NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.

His problem: home runs. It was a big one; of the 18 runs Cloyd served en route to a 2-2 mark and 4.91 ERA last year, 14 were off the eight bombs rocketed during his six starts. But at least it seems isolated.

What's more, some of it may be fixable, maybe even for Cloyd's 2013 debut in place of Roy Halladay against the Diamondbacks in the thin desert air at Chase Field tonight at 9:40 p.m. Some, maybe not.

Even then, for a HR/9 over 2 and HR/FB over 17.0%, anything helps.

The first three home runs Cloyd served if anything should've been encouraging. Look where he put the ball. Either high, over the middle or both. Can't do that.

(Lucky for you, after glitch in BrooksBaseball's game logs led me to believe the site didn't have at-bat data for Cloyd, I pulled video for each home run from MLB.com for use in GIF. Then, Dan, wonderful Dan, who runs the site showed me where to look. Net of net: you get both Pitch F/X graphs and GIFs. Enjoy.)

First, against Lucas Duda on Aug. 29:

Can't do that. Not with an 86.7 m.p.h. fastball, which would've ranked fourth-softest in baseball last year.

Next, Jay Bruce on Sept. 3:

Same deal. Miami's Jose Fernandez gasses guys high. He also has 97 m.p.h. top-end heat.

Last (for now), Chris Nelson on Sept. 9:

You could literally draw a line, from right to left, connecting those pitches.

Cloyd's admitted that nerves played a factor in his struggles last year, and said that the butterflies didn't make the trip this time around. There's (hopefully) more to his evolution than that, but if you're fishing for reasons why he missed so often last year, start reeling.

Still, half of Cloyd's homers weren't on misses. In fact, those four were put exactly where you'd want a soft-hurler to: down and/or away.

First, righty Matt Dominguez on Sept. 13:

Where else is Cloyd supposed to drop that? That far outside on a righty, and Dominguez still turns on it?

Same deal with Mike Baxter, from Sept. 20:

Could still be lower. Still. Not as egregious a mistake as some of the others. Here, Cloyd just gets beat.

Next, his three home run game against the Nationals in his 2012 finale:

To Cloyd's credit, it actually looks like he came into this at-bat with a strategy, seeing how he put the ball in the exact same spot twice. Probably should've changed it up. But at least he can locate. Either way, where Harper fouled off the first pitch, he erupted on the second.

Now, Mike Morse:

Again: Cloyd missed, but not in a spot that should do so much damage.

This one, though, much of the same as before. Cloyd hangs down the middle, and Morse cashes in.

Now, for important context.

All but one of them -- Morse's second, because Cloyd had already served two prior -- came with the Phillies ahead or tied. Even then, six of the eight were when the team was within two runs or fewer. One of the others, Dominguez's three-run blast, shaved a 4-0 lead to one.

Two had leverage indicies over 1.85, where anything over 1.00 is "high pressure." These were nearly twice that. Nelson raked with two on and two out in the third inning of a 1-1 game. Then, Dominguez.

Cloyd's development of his cutter could help. Five of his 2012 home runs were on cutters, a pitch he threw just under one-third of the time.  Adding another pitch would've been ideal; he used curves and changes on only 20% of throws, combined. But making it harder on hitters would make Cloyd infinitely more effective.

There are still reasons to be skeptical. It's been written that Cloyd didn't have a handle on his cutter until his sixth start, when he doubled his season's run total in five innings off three jacks. Still, he could've simply just got beat that night, as happens to nearly every starter a few times every year.

Question is: how often can Cloyd beat hitters?

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

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Associated Press

Penn State president 'pleased' to see Penn State thriving again

NEW YORK -- NCAA President Mark Emmert says he is pleased to see how well Penn State's football team has bounced back from the sanctions the program received in 2012 after the Sandusky scandal.

No. 5 Penn State (11-2) is having its best season since Jerry Sandusky, a longtime assistant of late Nittany Lions coach Joe Paterno, was arrested in 2011 for sexually abusing boys. The Nittany Lions won their last nine games and the Big Ten title.

"I think it's terrific," said Emmert, who spoke at an intercollegiate athletics forum sponsored by Learfield Communications on Wednesday in Manhattan.

"I think what Penn State went through is an awful situation and it's still playing out sadly. But the football program is still Penn State and they showed it and they did really well. The university has done an amazing job to put in place all of the things their board wanted and our board wanted."

The NCAA went outside its usual process to sanction Penn State in 2012. The school was hit with massive scholarship limitations and a four-year bowl ban, along with fines. The school also agreed to enact dozens of reforms recommended in a report by former FBI director Louis Freeh on the scandal.

The original scholarship and postseason penalties were eventually rolled back. Emmert said he was pleased the roll back helped Penn State recover more quickly, and that NCAA sanctions are not meant to cripple an athletic program.

"I've always said and always believed that Penn State first and foremost is a great university ... and secondly it's got wonderful sports traditions. How could you not be pleased that they're playing good football again? That's very good stuff," he said.

Emmert covered numerous topics in a 30-minute question-and-answer session, and after he spoke with group of reporters for 15 more minutes.

-- He declined to weigh in on whether the College Football Playoff selection committee made the right decision with the four teams it chose to compete for the national championship, but he did say he would prefer an eight-team playoff that would include automatic bids for the Power Five conference champions.

"I think a conference championship ought to count for something. I think how you determine your champion is up to somebody else," Emmert said. "I'd like to see all five of the conference champions get in the playoff."

The NCAA has no authority over the College Football Playoff.

"That's why we live in America. Everybody can have an opinion," Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany joked, when asked about Emmert's comments. "He doesn't have a vote, though."

-- Emmert said he would like to see the new NCAA football oversight committee better define the purpose of bowl games. There are 40 and some spots are given to teams with sub.-500 records. The NCAA does not run bowl games. It does have a sanctioning process, but mostly it lets conferences decide whether they want to put on games.

"What do we, the membership of intercollegiate athletics, want bowl games to be?" Emmert said. "Are they a 13th game that's an exhibition game? Are they a reward for having won something? We have teams in now that can get into a bowl game having won two or three of their conferences games."

-- The NCAA pulled its championship events out of North Carolina in September because of a state law that limits anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people. The decision was later criticized by Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins in an Wall Street Journal op-ed. Jenkins said the NCAA should not be a moral arbiter.

"He and I have chatted a lot about that issue, and obviously I disagree and obviously, more importantly the board of governors disagreed," Emmert said.
The NCAA will choose sites for future championship events in April and part of that is a "fairly complex process," Emmert said, of looking at the local and state laws of potential host locations.

"One of the considerations we have now as we make those decisions, as the sport committees make decisions about where they go, is going to be LGBT rights," he said. "I think and hope and believe, maybe wishfully, that North Carolina will modify their position because citizens want that."

-- Emmert said the Big 12 deciding not to expand was a "good thing for college sports."

"I think the last round was very disruptive. It had a negative impact on so many schools, even personal relationships. It was hard and I'm glad we didn't have to go through that again. Even on a smaller scale," Emmert said.

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

Trade front quiet, but Phillies could lose a player or 2 in Rule 5 draft

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Phillies have a history of adding players in the Rule 5 draft. The annual event, designed to prevent teams from stockpiling minor-league talent without giving it a shot in the majors, has netted the Phillies players such as Dave Hollins, Shane Victorino and Odubel Herrera over the years.

The year’s Rule 5 draft will be held Thursday morning at the conclusion of the winter meetings, but it’s highly unlikely that the Phillies will be active. After adding 11 prospects to their 40-man roster two weeks ago, the Phillies are simply out of room. Selecting a player in the Rule 5 draft would first require the Phils to cut a player loose and that did not seem to be the plan as the sun set Wednesday.

While an addition is unlikely, there’s a strong possibility that the Phils will lose a player or two in the draft. Outfielder Andrew Pullin, a 2012 draft pick, is the likeliest to go. He hit .322 with a .885 OPS between Single A and Double A in 2016 and a number of teams are buzzing about him. A late-season elbow injury prevented Pullin from playing in the Arizona Fall League and factored into the Phillies’ decision to leave him unprotected.

If a team rolls the dice on Pullin, it must keep him in the majors all season or offer him back to the Phillies.

Other players who could go include first baseman/outfielder Brock Stassi, outfielder Carlos Tocci and pitchers Miguel Nunez and Hoby Milner.

All quiet for now
Phillies general manager Matt Klentak spent Wednesday meeting with agents and representatives from other clubs.

“Nothing is hot at the moment,” he said late in the day.

Klentak has brought back starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson, added relievers Joaquin Benoit and Pat Neshek and traded for outfielder Howie Kendrick this offseason. The biggest remaining issue/question on his plate is whether to add a veteran hitter in a corner outfield spot or keep the pathway open for young players such as Roman Quinn and eventually Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams. 

“Successfully balancing the present and the future is the single greatest challenge that a baseball operations department faces,” Klentak said. “We’ve talked about it all offseason. The decisions that we are making right now about giving playing time to a young player that has cut his teeth in Triple A and needs that opportunity to take the next step as opposed to a shorter-term solution from the outside — that’s one of the main challenges that we’ve run into this offseason.”

While it’s uncertain whether the Phils will add a hitter, they most surely will make other roster tweaks as the winter moves on. They are likely to fill their backup catcher’s spot in-house (see story), but could add a utility infielder and more bullpen depth on minor-league contracts.

“I think there will probably be another move or two before we get to Clearwater,” Klentak said. “Who and when remains to be seen.”