Game 45, Astros at Mariners
Roenis Elias vs. Jarred Cosart, 7:10pm
I’ve written plenty about Cosart before; depending on what you think of these write-ups, the unbalanced schedule is either a blessing or a curse. So far, we’ve talked about the fact that he throws a very hard cutter (95mph) and that he generates tons of grounders. He doesn’t have much in the way of platoon splits, but he also doesn’t have much in the way of command. It’s one of the reasons everyone pegged him as a big regression candidate this year, and indeed, his ERA’s moved from 1.95 in his brief 2013 to 4.41 so far this year. That’s not exactly a great feat of prognosticating skill, of course – basically no one has a true-talent 1.95 ERA, and guys who give up more walks than Ks DEFINITELY don’t.
So his strand rate and HR/FB have both settled back around league average, and thus his runs allowed have followed. But there’s still something interesting going on here – something beyond the whole “95mph cutter.” One of the reasons he seemed like such a lucky pitcher was that his BABIP in 2013 was just .246. This year, with everything that had been exceptional looking more like league-average, his BABIP is still just .267. Remember, Cosart’s a heavy GB pitcher – he was at 54.5% last year and he’s regressed alllll the way down to 54.4% this season. How can a right-handed pitcher getting tons of ground balls (which have a higher BABIP than fly balls) post a really low BABIP?
The first possibility is that it’s luck and/or team/park effects. Marwin Gonzalez is not going to win any gold glove awards, so I’m not buying the team thing. It *could* be luck, as he didn’t post particularly amazing BABIP numbers in the minors. If you’re willing to speculate, though, there could be a few other things at play. We know, for example, that hitters post lower BABIPs against higher pitch velocities. Pace what the color commentator is saying, the pitcher doesn’t “supply all of the power” – it’s easier to hit the ball hard against someone throwing 85 than 95, which isn’t really groundbreaking when you put it in those terms. Moreover, pitchers have some ability to control how hard the ball is hit. Yes, this is counter to standard DIPS theory, which is still more right than wrong on the population as a whole. But then you’ve got your exceptions – the Moyers, the Wakefields, maybe the Washburns – who post lower-than-expected BABIPs time after time. As Mariano Rivera had the lowest expected BABIP of any one in this brief study of hit fx data from 2008, it’d be interesting to know if batters have trouble hitting cutters hard, just due to their movement (or the delta between how a cutter moves and a four- or two-seamer moves). Cosart better hope that they do, and that his BABIP “skill” is real, because it’s looking like one of the few statistical indicators of lasting success on his fangraphs page. Sure, I know: 95mph cutters. That’s worth something too, but right now, he’s not striking many out, he’s walking far too many, and the HR rate’s normal-ish. That cutter has to DO something for him, and maybe it is.
1: Jones, CF
2: Saunders, RF
3: Cano, 2B
4: Seager, 3B
5: Smoak, 1B
6: Ackley, LF
7: Romero, DH
8: Franklin, SS
9: Zunino, C
Nick Franklin at SS tonight; interesting move, as Franklin had played OF in recent (minor league) games. To be fair, McClendon said he’d get some time at SS and just about everywhere else when they re-called him, so there’s nothing too surprising about it…especially when the incumbent and primary back-up have been god awful at the plate.
The M’s split the two-game mini-series in Texas and look like they’re capable of sticking right with the Rangers for a while. Today, that goal got a bit easier, as Prince Fielder opted to have surgery on a herniated disk, putting him out for the season. Look, there’ve been some deals that the sabermetric community has slammed that have turned out great – most of them involve Raul Ibanez, strangely. But here’s one that the statheads pretty much nailed. No one saw a serious back injury as the problem, but the numbers were slipping and the contract looked ominous. The Rangers have plenty of depth at most positions, but the drop-off between Fielder (on paper) and Mitch Moreland (on paper) is severe. The Rangers still have a lot more talent waiting to come back from injury, but even THAT depth took a hit today as Jurickson Profar re-injured his shoulder. That set-back will cost him plenty more time, as the Rangers are going to be cautious with such a valuable young player. Schadenfreude is natural and all, and it’s amazing to think that the M’s are essentially neck and neck, and pulling ahead, from the team that’s won so many games recently, and the team that employs Beltre and Darvish, but holy crap it’s been a bad year in Texas. I always said the M’s had a huge gap in true talent to close with Texas, as the team wasn’t just good in 2011-12, they had another wave of talent ready to step up. For a number of reasons, that ship crashed on attrition shoals, and while they can be really good, they’re at a crossroads now.
The intriguing Jordan Pries starts tonight against ex-Astro Lucas Harrell at Cheney Stadium.