Mission ’13: The Skinny About Pitcher Ramon Rodrigo Pelfrey-Moyer

It’s been a rough season for the Jays. I don’t know how often I’ve written that, but I’ve thought it an awful lot more than I’ve written it. Lately there have been some bright spots, though. They won a series against the New York Yankees. Ryan Goins has impressed in his recent call-up. Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Buehrle both continue to plug away like the veteran pros that they are. But mostly it’s been a dismal campaign for the Jays.

You probably know that the Jays have used a lot of starters. Injuries and ineffectiveness have been the main reasons for this. I counted 8 pitchers who made ‘unplanned’ starts this year and lately I wondered how well or poorly these guys have fared. Why do I do this? It’s like asking “Why do I keep hitting myself with a hammer?” Because it feels so good when I stop.

The 8 pitchers who have filled in are: Todd Redmond; Esmil Rogers; Chien-ming Wang; Ramon Ortiz; Chad Jenkins; Ricky Romero; Aaron Laffey; and Sean Nolin. Several caveats should be made immediately. Redmond, Rogers and Ortiz were intended to be long relief. Jenkins and Nolin are young guys: we won’t criticize them. Romero is trying to rediscover past success, unsuccessfully thus far. Wang and Laffey were/are no more than emergency filler. Not one of them was intended to fill the role that they have, especially for extended periods of time.

GS

IP

H

R

ER

2B/3B

HR

BB

SO

ERA

fWAR

T. Redmond

9

44.2

42

23

22

16

7

17

53

4.43

0.7

E. Rogers

15

80.0

99

50

47

31

14

24

61

5.29

0.3

C. Jenkins

3

15.0

18

7

6

8

1

4

6

3.60

0.2

C-m. Wang

6

27.0

40

24

23

8

5

9

14

7.67

-0.1

R. Romero

2

4.1

7

6

6

0

1

5

4

12.46

-0.1

A. Laffey

1

2.2

2

2

2

0

0

5

0

6.75

-0.1

S. Nolin

1

1.1

7

6

6

2

1

1

0

40.50

-0.1

R. Ortiz

4

16.1

21

10

10

6

3

8

3

5.51

-0.2

Totals

41

191.1

236

128

122

71

32

73

141

5.74

0.6

You might not be surprised to discover that it isn’t pretty. I wasn’t surprised either, hence the red fill in the “Totals” row. Todd Redmond and Chad (which is short for ”Chadwick”, and it’s his middle name) Jenkins have done pretty well. The other 6 have been terrible. It looked as if Esmil Rogers might be okay, but when I did a little FIP exercise after he pitched “well” against TEX during the win streak, I was disabused of that notion.

What did surprise me is that it adds up to about a full season (191.1 IP) of one low quality starter. Discovering that, I wanted to get a handle on what it meant. Individually, small sample size cautions apply but as a unit they’ve pitched the equivalent of a full season. So I asked myself, “Over the last 10 seasons or so, have any Major League starters had seasons that resembled what the Jays’ fill-ins have done this year?” The answer, I was somewhat dismayed to learn, is “Yes.” I mean, really: do ML teams use bad pitchers on purpose? “Yes.”

I chose 4 pitchers from the past decade whose efforts the Blue Jays’ fillers have resembled. The following is a lazy man’s chart comparing selected stats just to give us an idea of what this looks like historically (the pitchers were chosen on the basis of a few broad similarities):

Season

Team

W/L

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

ERA

fWAR

Team W/L

Rodrigo Lopez

2010

ARI

7-16

200.0

5.22

2.52

1.67

5.00

0.6

65-97

Mike Pelphrey

2011

NYM

7-13

193.1

4.89

3.03

0.98

4.70

0.6

77-85

Jamie Moyer

2004

SEA

7-12

199.0

5.65

2.67

1.94

5.20

0.2

63-99

Ramon Ortiz

2006

WAS

11-16

190.2

4.91

3.02

1.46

5.57

-0.1

71-91

The Jays

2013

TOR

7-13

191.1

6.63

3.43

1.51

5.74

0.6

???

I know that Pitcher W/L are less than meaningful but it was just too good to resist, given the similarities. I was also thrilled to discover that a pitcher season that closely resembles this years’ Jays fill-ins belonged to none other than Ramon Ortiz. You can’t make this stuff up.

This chart confirms that teams will indeed employ subpar pitchers for extended periods, not only for full seasons but for multiple seasons. These aren’t the only bad seasons over the last decade—there were many more—but we had to stop the madness somewhere (the principle of selectivity is an under-appreciated grace in our lives). Alas, injuries play a role, as does money, poor management, bad seasons, and a host of other factors.

Looking also at the team W/L records, several things seem at least superficially relevant. First, bad teams use bad pitchers. Second, bad teams are bad for a variety of reasons. Third, the 2011 New York Mets are the one team that, like the Jays, coulda/woulda/shoulda been better. It’s my guess that their record, 77-85, will be closest to where the Blue Jays land when the dust settles on the 2013 season.

No one is to blame for the performance of these pitchers. Sure, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson are injury prone, but I doubt that they want to get hurt. This also shouldn’t be laid at the feet of John Gibbons or Alex Anthopoulos: sometimes you find a Bartolo Colon, while other times Ramon Ortiz is exactly what you get. There’s a reason why they’re available, but they have reasonable potential to pitch decent innings over the short haul. The problem is that 191.1 IP isn’t a ‘short haul’: it’s a full seasons worth of innings.

Nolin was an emergency starter who is still very young and full of potential. As such, he’s fundamentally different from the other players on the list. Otherwise, the guys with the best chance of fighting for a job next season are Todd Redmond and Chad Jenkins. They’ve pitched well enough on a regular basis to earn a shot at long relief, and they’ve also shown that they can stretch it out when the Jays need a spot start. That said, they’re not crucial to success. Jenkins is only 25 so he may have more to offer but, realistically, they offer reasonable depth.

When your depth is used as extensively as the Jays’ has been, and when it most closely resembles bad seasons by Rodrigo Lopez, Mike Pelphrey, Jamie Moyer, and Ramon Ortiz, there are problems. Are the problems systemic? Well, on the one hand the Jays decided to use utility players on a full-time basis this season. The results betray how foolish that decision was. There are good reasons why utility players are utility players.

The pitching situation, on the other hand, isn’t like that. The incredible number of games lost to injuries have, at times, forced Alex Anthopoulos and crew to scramble just to have a starting pitcher. Whether that starter was major league calibre or not is almost irrelevant. If the Jays experience positive variation, rather than the negative variation of 2012-2013, I expect that the pitching could improve on that basis alone. Positive variation isn’t enough—more needs to be done—but it’s a start.

Wes Kepstro

Advertisements

3 Responses to “Mission ’13: The Skinny About Pitcher Ramon Rodrigo Pelfrey-Moyer”


  1. 1 Wes Kepstro August 31, 2013 at 11:47 am

    I read that, and I’m glad for small mercies. Edinson Volquez chose wisely: Chavez Ravine is better-suited to his particular, um, abilities. 🙂

  2. 2 @ALEastbound August 31, 2013 at 11:41 am

    MLBTR reported that Edinson Volquez passed on joining the Blue Jays. I was actually hoping we’d land him. That’s how awful our pitching has been.


Join the Discussion

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




AL Eastbound On Twitter!

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.