Miguel Batista

Dave · December 23, 2008 at 6:49 am · Filed Under Mariners 

With Christmas a couple of days away, we’re going to see a lull in terms of news for the next while. So, I thought this would be a good time to take a look at a few players on the roster, and what we should expect from them in 2009 versus what they gave us in 2008.

I’ll start with Miguel Batista, who was about as bad as a pitcher can be last year. He had the worst walk rate in baseball, putting 6.38 men on base via the free pass per nine innings. His terrible command led to a disastrous 6.23 FIP, and he was a failure of massive proportions. He performed worse than what you’d expect by calling up a Triple-A arm and handing them innings.

At 38 years old, coming off a horrible season like his ’08 campaign, most people are ready to chalk him up as a guy whose career is just over. However, I’d like to point out the following.

Miguel Batista, 2000: 65 IP, 5.10 BB/9, 5.10 K/9, 2.62 HR/9 (!), 7.57 FIP
Miguel Batista, 2001: 139 IP, 3.88 BB/9, 5.81 K/9, 0.84 HR/9, 4.48 FIP

In 2000, Batista was the worst pitcher anyone has ever seen. He allowed 19 home runs in 65 innings, walked as many as he struck out, and was a bigger disaster then than he was last year. He rebounded in 2001, became a quality pitcher, and then proceeded to rattle off seven pretty successful season. We’ve seen Batista implode and rebound before. Of course, he wasn’t 38 before, so maybe his decline was age related?

It doesn’t look like it. His average fastball in 2008 was 91.4 MPH, down just slightly from the 92.2 MPH fastball he threw in 2007. Age related decline is usually more about losing stuff than about losing command, and while Batista’s stuff has regressed, it didn’t disappear entirely. Even with shaky command, an average fastball of 92 with decent movement is still a pretty good pitch.

With the glut of starting pitcher options combined with Batista’s experience in the bullpen, I’d say it’s extremely likely that he’s going to end up as part of the bullpen this year. That can only help – most pitchers get a +1 to +2 MPH boost on their fastball when they move to relief full time, so it’s not hard to see Batista getting right back to that 92-93 MPH fastball he had a few years ago if he’s only throwing 20-30 pitches per outing.

Being used in relief will also increase the proportion of right-handed hitters that he faces, as Wakamatsu will have the advantage of bringing him in in situations where there are several RH hitters in a row. As a starting pitcher, he didn’t have that luxury, and left-handed batters have always presented problems for Batista. By using him in situations where he can avoid the toughest LH bats, one of his main flaws will be neutralized.

As a right-handed 7th or 8th inning guy, there are quite a few reasons to think Batista can be an effective pitcher in 2009. There’s no chance he’ll be worth the $9 million the team owes him, but that’s a sunk cost, and is out the window at this point. As a guy with potential to be a league average reliever, he’s still a contributor to the roster. In fact, Miguel Batista is one of the reasons that I’m fairly optimistic about the bullpen in 2009, despite the loss of Putz and Green.

Don’t let 2008’s performance cloud your judgment. Miguel Batista still has some life left in his fastball, and a move to the bullpen could be just what he needed to regain some usefulness.


15 Responses to “Miguel Batista”

  1. qwerty on December 23rd, 2008 7:47 am

    as Wakamatsu will have the advantage of bringing him in in situations where there are several RH hitters in a row

    Is he a closer candidate so Morrow can just focus on starting?

  2. Graham on December 23rd, 2008 7:52 am

    That FIP is being generous, too. 24.7 LD%? Eesh.

  3. Dave on December 23rd, 2008 8:05 am

    20.3%, exactly the same as it was in 2006 in Arizona, and only 1% higher than his career average.

  4. diderot on December 23rd, 2008 8:32 am

    Wow. He once gave up nearly a home run every three innings? I didn’t know that was even possible in the major leagues.
    I guess you have to give Arizona credit for seeing something…and letting him start 18 games the next year.

  5. joser on December 23rd, 2008 8:53 am

    Age related decline my be more about losing stuff than about losing command, as you say, but is it possible that somebody trying to compensate for declining stuff will throw more wildly because he’s trying to throw harder?

    Still, a move to the bullpen is really the only way to salvage any value from him. It’s either that or just pay him to sit on a couch somewhere, because I doubt any other team would want him even at no cost to them.

    Spring Training is going to be really interesting this year. Fresh eyes in the dugout, a crop of new guys on the field (and I’m sure Zduriencik has at least one more move left before that). Hopefully we’ll see some intriguing NRIs too.

  6. Jeff Sullivan on December 23rd, 2008 9:25 am

    Graham was citing Batista’s StatCorner LD%, which is a good deal higher than what it was in 2006.

  7. Dave on December 23rd, 2008 9:35 am

    Right. However, when forced to choose between two LD% that disagree, I’m going with BIS over MLB.

  8. WhitherStanJavier on December 23rd, 2008 9:40 am

    I sure hope Batista rebounds this year. He’s always seemed positive about the team and willing to do whatever was needed, and it pains me to see him lumped into any conversation with Silva. Understandable, because they were both terrible in 2008, but night & day based on how they handled themselves.

    He’s probably past being a closer. As a solid 7th/8th inning man I think he’d be more successful than long relief. The kids in the bullpen would be better off from Batista being out there with them, too.

  9. mymrbig on December 23rd, 2008 9:43 am

    I like the idea of letting Batista compete for a closing spot. He can re-claim some sort of trade value at the deadline if he has a Sherrill-ish 1st half. Might let the Mariners either slough off a few million dollars that can be spent elsewhere, or get an intriguing young arm if they eat some money. And if he still looks bad in spring training, the M’s aren’t any worse off than they are now.

  10. Jeff Sullivan on December 23rd, 2008 10:03 am

    Is there anything in particular that makes BIS a more accurate data source?

  11. Typical Idiot Fan on December 23rd, 2008 10:36 am

    Using a little results based analysis there, Dave?

    How much of Batista’s 2008 could be attributed to the rumors of injuries plaguing him?

  12. JMHawkins on December 23rd, 2008 10:45 am

    Age related decline is usually more about losing stuff than about losing command…

    Isn’t another part of age-related decline the inability to heal minor injuries as well as youngsters? Seems Batista was dinged up (or at least complaining about being dinged up) most of the year, and a bunch of nagging injuries could screw up his mechanics and torpedo his command.

    One thing to point out about his horrible 2000 season is that he only pitched 65 1/3 innings – he was off the active roster by the All-Star break. I don’t know if an injury or sucktitude first sent him down, but he pitched 28 innings for the Royals AAA club in the second half of that year (where he was still plagued by the gohper ball, giving up almost 2 HR/9 to AAA bats).

    Prior to 2000, his BB and K rates were good, so the year stands out as an anomaly for that part of his career. But his BB and K rates have been steadily declining since he turned 35 – 2008 doesn’t look like an anomaly.

    But I hope Dave is right.

  13. micahjr on December 23rd, 2008 11:21 am

    When we picked up Batista, for a 3 year contract at 9 mil a year I thought Bavasi was crazy, he blocked developing pitchers and was in for a decline at age 36. He was a league average pitcher when we got him, there was no reason to not let a kid come up. He pitched poorly in 2007, but the offense supported him. He pitched exceedingly poorly in 2008, and there wasn’t any offense that could save him from his craptastic pitching. Aren’t we glad that [his name is Bavasi] is gone!!? At least Silva still has upside considering his age. Silva just needs stronger infield defense behind him, and he will rebound.

    Here’s to praying that Betancourt gets his head out of his butt and gets in shape.

  14. Breadbaker on December 23rd, 2008 12:22 pm

    Batista’s always struck me as someone who needs a little management, in the sense that he’s a “thrown me in, skip” kind of guy, and someone has to say to him, “sorry, Miguel, that’s not your role anymore.” I would think if Wakamatsu makes it clear to him that he’s the seventh or eighth inning guy, depending on matchups, he’ll be a lot happier than if he is still waiting for that spot start or to close. Seventh/eighth innings guys are precious (though not $9 million/year precious), and it would be a sign we have good management if, assuming he succeeds there, he’s left there.

  15. galaxieboi on December 24th, 2008 8:19 am

    Dave, just a thought. What if, at age 38, last season was the cliff for him? I understand the reasoning for not writing him off seven years ago. But now it seems like maybe he’s done. Just wondering.

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