Baseball is the ultimate game for statistics, and in the past few years statistics have multiplied faster than a warren of rabbits. Launch angles, exit velocity and spin rates are only a few of the new statistics. Some statistics such as framing and DWAR are somewhat subjective and not yet a perfect means of measurement. So many fans use stats literally in the respect that your stats say what you are. That can be true, but I am of the opinion that it is more frequently false. As contradictory as it sounds, statistical analysis is part of the reason it is false.
What precipitated this post is some fans are excited to see Joe “Machine Gun” Kelly become a Dodger, while others feel like his stats only warrant a yawn. Joe Kelly has always had a very powerful gun – it’s like a machine. His career has somewhat paralleled Nathan Eovaldi in that he has always thrown 100+ MPH but has never been a big strikeout pitcher. He has also had a high walk rate per 9 innings. Kelley has averaged 3.7 BB/9 while Eovaldi was about the same… until he wasn’t.
Kelly reminds me of another pitcher that almost everyone said was a waste of a roster spot and ridiculed (YES, RIDICULED) Andrew Friedman for acquiring him. There were only two fans that I know of who supported this pitcher: AC, who called it a great pickup, and me (my attitude was “wait and see,” not actually support). This guy threw 100+ MPH but, but look at his walks per 9 innings: 7.1, 4.7, 5.7, 4.1, 3.5, 3.0, 3.0, 4.9… but suddenly he dropped to 1.9, 1.7, 1.9. To this date his walks per 9 innings is still 3.9. He is Brandon Morrow, and he is a classic case of how analytics helps players improve.
Brandon Morrow focused on what worked and discarded what didn’t and became a dominant set-up man. He was on his way to becoming that guy, even before he came to the Dodgers. He is still that guy, if he can stay healthy. Joe Kelly has ben durable, but never knew if he was a starter or reliever… until 2017. It was then that he accepted being sentenced to the pen for life.
Let’s look at Kelly’s Game Log Highlights Last Season:
- In March, April and May, he gave up 5 runs in 25 games (4 in the very first game and 1 in game #16).
- He had a 1.73 ERA on May 30th
- June 1st, he gave up 3 ER and another one on the 2nd. He had three more outings in June where he gave up 2, 1 and 1 runs.
- His ERA was 3.38 at the end of June.
- In July he had 2 games where he gave up 3 runs and 1 game where he gave up two runs.
- At the end of July, his ERA was 4.47.
- He gave up 2 ER in August and his ERA was 3.79
- Boston clinched early and it was garbage time in September where he gave up 8 ER and ended with a 4.39 ERA.
- If you take away 4 bad outings, he would have had an ERA of about 2.75.
The naysayers will say “but he didn’t.” That’s where you analyze and see what he did different and see if you can fix it. In the playoffs he pitched 11.1 Innings, allowed 1 ER and walked ZERO. We know he can do it, because we have seen him do it. He just needs to harness his talent consistently. I’m betting that the Dodger Brass and Coaches believe they can help him reach that potential. Analytics of repeating his delivery and release points may hold the solution to his inconsistency.
CT3 & Barnes
Many Dodger fans are also down on Austin Barnes and Chris Taylor. Both had very good seasons in 2017 followed by down seasons or horrid seasons in 2018 and many fans attitude is “what have you done for me lately?” For the record, I believe that Austin Barnes will rebound and have a good season in 2019. He is not a workhorse, so don’t expect more than 375 AB’s, which means he needs a platoon partner. I have also been a vocal in supporter of Chris Taylor.
I think both players got off to poor starts and started pressing… maybe developing bad habits… maybe tendencies exploited and lack of adjustments. When you are in the midst of a bad season, it’s hard to see the forest for the trees. What I did see were two players who looked confused. I don’t know about Barnes, but I do know that Robert Van Scoyoc (“RVS”) worked with Taylor to re-tool his swing before 2017. It looked to me that Taylor was indecisive much of last season. He struck out an incredible amount of times, just looking at a pitch. Part of Turner Ward’s program is to work the count and make the pitcher throw more pitches, however opposing teams know that too and sometimes you have to swing at that first pitch, because it’s the best one you will see. It’s a fine line to walk: being aggressive and patient at the same time.
Simply put: I think Taylor and Barnes and others have had too many coaches in their heads. Well, now there are three, but they are united in creating a Dynamic Hitting Environment… and that could make all the difference. I look for big things from Barnes and Taylor. Cody Bellinger is already working with RVS and has shown a great ability in the past to adjust. I wonder what RVS can do with Joc, Toles, Yasiel and Kike? The Dodgers are still rated #3 in the MLB Power Poll, behind the Yankees and Red Sox. Justin Turner is already a RVS disciple. Could most of the hitters become incrementally better with RVS driving the train? If they are, what more do the Dodgers need?
Be careful looking at stats and thinking that what a player did last year is that player. It seldom is: they are usually better or worse – they seldom stay the same. Of course, some fans just look at the negative: I went to another blog yesterday and I thought I was at a funeral. You see, part of the beauty of baseball is anticipation of winning and hope in the Fall, Winter and Spring that the Boys of Summer will live up to our expectations. Of course, the Negative Nellies say that they are “just being realistic.” No, they are who we thought they were. However, the reality of this situation is that this is a damn good team that has gotten to the World Series two years in a row and is favored to get back again in 2019. They are young and talented as well. I have a lot of hope for 2019, regardless of how much or how little the Dodgers do in the trade and free agent market.
The Negative Nellies are miserable year round and don’t expeirence the joy hope brings, and they are also miserable when the Dodgers finally lose that last game of the World Series. I’m miserable 1 day a year while they are miserable 365 days a year. I feel sorry for them. Of course, if you are a Royals fan or a Padres fan, you can’t have that same hope. Thankfully, we are Dodgers’ fans and hope springs eternal as they push for their 7th consecutive year in the playoffs… and shoot to win the World Series… AGAIN!
Rants and Raves
- I love Kaybear Ruiz – I thnk he’s a star in the making, but I would consider trading him in a deal for Realmuto because that could push the Dodgers over the hump to win the World Series for two years. However, I don’t think Miami values him that highly. They value others. So, while the Dodgers are still in on Realmuto, I don’t think he is involved. I have heard the Marlins asked for Verdugo, Lux and May.
- Speaking of catchers, some people are saying that Will Smith is closest to the majors. I disagree with that. I think Ruiz is closer because he has more talent. I truly think Ruiz will play for the Dodgers this year if they don’t get a big name catcher. He’s just about ready and he is coachable.
- AC had a great idea yesterday to reduce payroll: Instead of paying Ryu $17 Million this year, sign him to a 3-year $33 million deal which cuts his AAV to $11 million. With his injury history he would likely take it and there may be tax advantages too. However, do the Dodgers want him for three years? I doubt it. Ryu would bite, but not Friedman.
- Those of you who look at Scott Alexander’s 2018 and think that’s who he is, will be surprised. Along with Chicken Strip, I look for big things out of him.
- I would do AC’s trade of Chicken Strip for Leclerc however. Make it happen!