More on Steve Delabar

marc w · May 18, 2012 at 1:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Steve Delabar has an xFIP of 3.33. He’s K’d 23 batters and walked only 5. Why does Dave have him yielding his spot in the bullpen to Stephen Pryor (or Blake Beavan, the yin to Pryor’s yang)? Today’s game-tying HR was Delabar’s sixth of the year so far – his sixth in 18 1/3 innings.

So has Delabar been the victim of bad luck? Almost certainly. His true talent probably isn’t anywhere near 3 HR/9. Still, Delabar has now given up 7 HRs in his brief 25 IP career. This is more than luck – this is a function of Delabar’s serious problems with right handed batters. The HR by Jose Lopez today was the 7th Delabar’s given up to a righty. That is to say, all of them.

Quick -who’s been the M’s most effective pitcher against lefties this year? Lucas Luetge? Charlie Furbush? Jason Vargas? It’s an absurdly small sample size, but the runaway winner, yielding a wOBA of .063, is Delabar. Lefties are 1-25 off of him this season, and 2-37 against him overall. He’s K’d 11 of those 37 and given up 4 free passes. The M’s were stockpiling LOOGYs this spring, and they seem to have missed that their most effective lefty-killer is actually their right-handed set-up man. How?

Delabar’s relying a lot on his fastball, it’s true. He’s used the pitch around 70% of his nearly 450 major league throws. It’s been reasonably effective against both lefties and righties, though he’s now given up 5 HRs this year on it. As Dave talked about, this is what happens when hitters sit on the fastball. His primary breaking ball is the real reason for his bizarre platoon splits – his splitter. With over 10″ of armside run, the pitch acts a lot like a change-up (which is why gameday/pitch fx often calls it a change-up). As Max Marchi showed a few years ago, change-ups often have a reverse platoon split.* Delabar’s strictly a two-pitch hurler against lefties, and they can’t touch him. Both the fasbtall and splitter break away from lefties; the vertical drop of the splitter apparently appears too late for lefties to adjust. But for righties, both his fastball and splitter break in. His fastball break shouldn’t be a huge problem on its own, but it’s possible that his inability to differentiate it from his breaking ball’s making him look really predictable. It’s not like he’s afraid to go to the splitter against righties – he’s used it about 30% of the time, the same percentage as lefties. Moreover, he’s never given up a HR against the splitter.

His problem is that he’s got nothing breaking the other way – away from righties. A slider or a curve would give hitters something else to think about, and sliders often have huge platoon splits – think of Jeff Nelson or, more currently, Shawn Kelley and Lucas Luetge. Of course, Delabar has a slider – it’s just not very good, and he’s thus not very fond of using it. Coming into today, he’d thrown all of 22 (Ian Kinsler took one deep in Arlington). It’s got the makings of a decent pitch, with good movement and high-80s velocity, but he’s obviously not that confident in it. Delabar has the tools to be a good set-up man in the majors, but this lack of confidence is a problem. Righties are killing Delabar right now – they’ve got a wOBA of over .400 in his brief career. Some of that’s luck, but Delabar clearly has to change something. If he goes to Tacoma to make room for Pryor or to accommodate Blake Beavan, he should focus his efforts on his slider. With a weapon to use against righties, he can be – he SHOULD be – a great set-up man. As it stands, he’s a LOOGY whose continually asked to get righties out.


5 Responses to “More on Steve Delabar”

  1. vj on May 18th, 2012 2:16 am

    Delabar is already 28. Kind of old to figure out how to get same-handed batters out.

  2. marc w on May 18th, 2012 8:18 am

    Given the long layoff and his odd path to the majors, I don’t think it’s that simple, vj.
    At 26, his velocity was nowhere near MLB quality and here he is. It’s a hell of a lot tougher to pick up that much velo in one’s mid-late 20s than it is to tighten up a slider.

    Again, we’ve now got so many pitchers who’ve added a pitch to their arsenal midway through their careers to say it’s impossible or even unlikely. Brandon McCarthy apparently added two between 2010 and 2011, and while I know he’s going to be the poster boy for learning on the job, Delabar’s got a lot less to do than McCarthy did.

    JJ Putz was 28 or 29 when he learned his splitter and went from being a set-up guy with velocity and a HR problem to an all-star closer. That’s not what we’re talking about with Delabar, obviously, but a similar M’s pitcher was able to make the necessary adjustments at the same age not that long ago.

    Delabar doesn’t need to have a wipe-out slider. He doesn’t need to dominate righties. He’s just got to be decent. (A good two-seamer might work too – another pitch that Delabar may have toyed with but doesn’t throw often).

  3. cjseattle on May 18th, 2012 8:25 am

    Great post and info, Marc. To my eye, the problem with Delabar is that his fastballs are arrow straight. I’m not surprised guys are sitting on it. I don’t really know the pitchfx tools, does data support what I’m seeing? Is his fastball straighter than the average mid 90s hurler?

  4. vj on May 18th, 2012 9:02 am

    Oh, yeah, right, Delabar was the former substitute teacher. Forgot about that.

  5. appleshampoo on May 18th, 2012 12:47 pm

    Did you mean to have a footnote? There’s an asterisk just hanging out there.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.