Game 122 – Blue Jays at Mariners
Beavan vs. Morrow, 7:10pm
This is one of my favorite pitching match-ups of the season. Not only do we have a couple of young starters facing line-ups that feature interesting prospects, we’ve got an object lesson in different approaches to analyzing baseball. No, seriously.
Every bit as enigmatic/frustrating as he was in Seattle, Brandon Morrow enters tonight’s game with an ERA of 4.55, a tRA of 3.96 and a FIP of 3.08. Blake Beavan’s sporting an ERA of 3.59, a tRA of 5.27 and a FIP of 4.46. Morrow’s strikeout rate is in a dead heat with Justin Verlander’s for the best in the AL. Beavan’s would be the worst, if he qualified (Sean O’Sullivan’s is a tiny bit worse amongst the guys with less-than-50 IP, just to remind everyone of one of the most disheartening losses of the year). Morrow’s ERA is below average despite great fielding-independent stats, while Beavan’s ERA is much lower than his fielding-independent stats would predict.
While Beavan’s benefited from a low BABIP, Morrow hasn’t been troubled with a freakishly high one. Instead, he’s suffering from poor sequencing. While Beavan’s stranded nearly 80% of runners, Morrow’s down at 62.5%. With the bases empty, Morrow’s FIP is 2.67. With RISP, it rises to 4.14.* Beavan’s, predictably, goes the other direction. It’s at 5.00 with no one on, but drops to 3.17 with RISP. These are one-year samples, and they’re absurdly tiny in Beavan’s case, but I’m not trying to make a point about their true talent or their psychology (“Morrow can’t handle pressure!”). I’m just asking: what do YOU do with these numbers? If we’re going to determine who’s been the more valuable pitcher, you have to make a choice about what value means to YOU. We all make slightly different determinations, whether explicitly or implicitly. If you want to focus on actual runs given up by the actual Brandon Morrow/Blake Beavan, then you might come up with something like rWAR at baseball-reference, which has the two essentially tied with 1 WAR despite Morrow’s huge advantage in innings pitched. If you want to isolate certain features of their performance – the components that are least impacted by their teammates, say – you’d come up with something more like fWAR at Fangraphs, and you’d rate Brandon Morrow ten times more valuable than Beavan. Ten times!
When someone says they hate WAR, they’re probably just implicitly weighting different factors. That is, they may just hate FIP. Or ERA+, or UZR, or RF, etc. Just disregarding fWAR/rWAR entirely can be problematic, as it can lead you to weight things differently for different players based on who you grew up idolizing, who got that huge double that won a game you attended, or who is Chris Jakubauskas. But you CAN do it systematically and come up with very, very different numbers that are just as “real,” just as sabermetric-y, as b-ref’s or Fangraphs.
* – For someone with better results with no one on, you’d figure Morrow would ditch his childish habit of walking everyone.
The line-up that will try to get Morrow into RISP-situations:
It’s starting to feel almost like a set line-up. Bard’s in for Olivo after the latter had his “bell rung” last night.
In the minors tonight, James Paxton had his start for Jackson skipped/moved, so instead of seeing one of the best non-Matt Moore lefties in the minors, Generals fans get Moises Hernandez tonight.
Forrest Snow starts for the Rainiers against Omaha and Jeff Suppan, Nathan Reed faces off against Inland Empire, Steven Landazuri goes for Everett against Eugene, and Dylan Unsworth’s currently battling Greeneville in the Appy league.