Sunday, June 22, 2008

Scanning The System - Starting Pitchers, Pt. 1

As much as I would love to use the same formulas for pitchers as I did for position players, line drive rate wasn't available for pitchers. Instead, I will list traditional statistics such as innings pitched, ERA, walks, home runs, and strikeouts, while also showing the pitchers' ground ball rates, FIP ERA, and in most cases, their opposing BA/OBP/SLG split when available. Most statistics came from . The production splits come from, but were only available for the players' most recent affiliate.

The pitchers will be divided into six parts. The higher levels will include Detroit, Toledo, and Erie. Lakeland, West Michigan, and Oneonta comprise part 2. The GCL, DSL, and VSL teams will round out the pack. I'll run through starting pitching first and then relief pitching. Today, we'll look at the starting pitchers at the upper levels.

Justin Verlander, 25
97 IP, 4.55 ERA, 36BB, 62K, 9HR
.270 BABIP, 43% GB, 4.29 FIP

Kenny Rogers, 43
88.2 IP, 4.97 ERA, 36BB, 36K, 8 HR
.301 BABIP, 44% GB, 4.78 FIP

Nate Robertson, 30
90 IP, 5.60 ERA, 26BB, 61 K, 12 HR
.332 BABIP, 42% GB, 4.31 FIP

Jeremy Bonderman, 25
71.1 IP, 4.29 ERA, 36BB, 44K, 9 HR
.300 BABIP, 48% GB, 5.05 FIP

Dontrelle Willis, 26
11.1 IP, 10.33 ERA, 21BB, 5K, 2 HR
.172 BABIP, 41% GB, 9.97 FIP

Armando Galarraga, 26
71.1 IP, 3.03 ERA, 29BB, 49K, 6 HR
.194 BABIP, 49% GB, 4.15 FIP

Eddie Bonine, 27
12.1 IP, 5.84 ERA, 5BB, 3K, 3 HR
.293 BABIP, 44% GB, 6.08 FIP

This is the group most responsible for the team's initial struggles, and most responsible for the recent resurgence. Fortunately, LD% is available for the Major League pitchers. Justin Verlander has only allowed 14.7% of batted balls to be liners, while teams are hitting Nate Robertson (19.4%) has been hit harder. Between the line drive rate and 12 homers, it seems that Robertson, despite the solid k rate, isn't getting any bad breaks from his defense, but instead has been giving up well hit balls. In recent weeks, Verlander has re-emerged as the staff ace. Kenny Rogers is getting things done with smoke and mirrors again. We've thought he would tail off before, but hasn't yet. Yes, Dontrelle Willis was that bad, and it's just further proof that BAA really isn't a good statistic to use as a measuring stick for pitchers. Galarraga has been discussed in detail, as his peripherals suggest he should be doing much worse. That seems likely, which is unfortunate, because he has gone from a bonus pitcher to necessity. Meanwhile, Eddie Bonine has already allowed three homers. That could spell trouble in the future, and explains why the Tigers are doing things like talking to Freddy Garcia, stretching out Aquilino Lopez, and refusing to give Casey Fossum the release he's earned.

Eddie Bonine, 27
74.1 IP, 4.48 ERA, 14BB, 46K, 6 HR
.325 BABIP, 57% GB, 3.69 FIP

Chris Lambert, 25
78.2 IP, 2.97 ERA, 29BB, 61K, 4 HR
.291 BABIP, 38% GB, 3.45 FIP

Virgil Vasquez, 26
72.1 IP, 5.10 ERA, 14BB, 55K, 11 HR
.335 BABIP, 42% GB, 4.48 FIP

Yorman Bazardo, 24
55.1 IP, 5.86 ERA, 19BB, 40K, 12 HR
.361 BABIP, 49% GB, 5.64 FIP

Jeremy Johnson, 26
46.2, 5.79 ERA, 16BB, 26K, 6 HR
.335 BABIP, 46% GB, 4.82 FIP

Armando Galarraga, 26
12 IP, 2.25 ERA, 1 BB, 11K, 1 HR
.204 BABIP, 50% GB, 2.73 FIP

Dontrelle Willis, 26
16.1 IP, 4.41 ERA, 7 BB, 11K, 2 HR
.304 BABIP, 50% GB, 4.76 FIP

Lauren Gagnier, 23
20 IP, 4.05 ERA, 12BB, 21K, 1HR
.377 BABIP, 44% GB, 3.58 FIP

I think once you look at their groundball rates and fielding independent stats, you start to see why Eddie Bonine was chosen over Chris Lambert. Lambert has been a bit lucky this season, but still could be the next choice if Bonine falters. Virgil Vasquz missed some time with a shoulder injury, a condition that could explain his step back this year. Coming into the season as the next in line for a starting role, he has been passed over twice now. Vasquez's disappointment doesn't even rival Yorman Bazardo, who has taken a huge step back this year after starting the season in the bullpen. The guy has allowed a slugging percentage that is now pushing .600, meaning he has been pounded pretty good. In the one game I saw him pitch in Toledo in addition to his three disasterous games in Detroit, I've noticed Bazardo's velocity has been sitting mostly in the high 80's. While that is a tell-tale sign of a possible injury, a guy who relies on his changeup will struggle if the differential between his fastball and change decreases. Jeremy Johnson is out with an elbow injury, and nobody even noticed. It's been six years since he rocketed through the system before undergoing massive shoulder surgery. Here you see why Galarraga got the nod in April after Willis' injury. You can also see that Dontrelle struggled in his time with the Hens. Finally, Lauren Gagnier only got promoted because he was in line to start on the day when Toledo needed a starter. He's been a pleasant surprise both with the Hens and with the Whitecaps.

Luke French, 22
85.1 IP, 4.85 ERA, 34 BB, 36 K, 4 HR
.342 BABIP, 48% GB, 4.29 FIP

Danny Christensen, 25
80 IP, 3.73 ERA, 34 BB, 43 K, 9 HR
.272 BABIP, 45% GB, 4.99 FIP

Andrew Kown, 25
81.2 IP, 4.85 ERA, 23 BB, 36 K, 13 HR
.289 BABIP, 47% GB, 5.33 FIP

Ben Fritz, 27
56.1 IP, 5.59 ERA, 16 BB, 32 K, 7 HR
.348 BABIP, 45% GB, 4.70 FIP

Josh Rainwater, 23
48.1 IP, 4.84 ERA, 21 BB, 32 K, 1 HR
.344 BABIP, 44% GB, 3.63 FIP

Luis Marte, 21
12.1 IP, 3.65 ERA, 9 BB, 7 K, 1 HR
.250 BABIP, 53% GB, 5.41 FIP

There's not a whole lot to see here. French is young for the league, but the strikeout rate is beyond alarming. He'll probably need to repeat the level next year. Christensen, acquired for Roman Colon this offseason, has put up the best superficial numbers, but it looks like he's had his share of breaks. Kown also looks like he's been a bit lucky this year, and like the rest of this staff, has struggled. Ben Fritz was a Rule 5 pick this past offseason, and missed some time due to shoulder problems. It looks like he's been on the wrong side of the 8-ball, but there's not much promise there. The fourth round pick from five years ago, Josh Rainwater is the most intriguing of the healthy players in Erie's rotation. His peripherals suggest that his ERA should be a full run lower, and the strikeouts have started to come on of late. Luis Marte blew through the Florida State League, but struggled in his two starts before going down with an elbow sprain. There's been no word on his rehab progress, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if he needed to undergo Tommy John Surgery as a result of this injury. That would be quite the setback for a guy who burst onto a lot of radars with his performance this year.

There hasn't been a more disappointing group this year than the starting pitchers at the upper levels. While the ones at the big leagues have underperformed for much of the year, the bigger story is the declining depth. Guys like Virgil Vasquez, Jordan Tata, and Yorman Bazardo were thought to be options if things went wrong, but all three have taken themselves out of the running this year. Meanwhile, the Erie rotation is almost completely lacking prospects, as nobody has proven themselves ready for a look at even the AAA level.

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