I’m doing something today that I never do. I’m going to address two the questions from the COMMENTS section in an article today because I thought the conversation would be beneficial to all. I’ll directly quote the response of the readers, and then give my thoughts.
Yesterday in the July 5th Mailbag, I gave a less than glowing review of my outlook with Alexi Ogando. Reader Tom gave a differing viewpoint.
“As always, loved the piece. I just wanted to play devil’s advocate with Ogando for a moment with you, though. There are 2 main areas of worry: durability and performance.
With durability, we wonder about the huge jump in innings and getting tired as the season progresses. We’ve seen him tire lately, but the staff is aware and will rest him until July 19th (missing one start). Considering he’s a RP conversion, it might help to look at his teammate C.J. Wilson, with whom they did the same thing last year. Wilson’s previous high in innings was 73.2, but they had him finish with 228 last year (including playoffs). Did C.J. tire? Actually, he got better as the year progressed until September hit. Was it tiring or just regression from his really good numbers? Also, with C.J. (a RP convert), his K-rate was only mid 6′s through July, but then saw a large uptick into the end of year. We could be seeing the same thing with Ogando as well. He started throwing his slider more and bam…season high K’s. He could keep the K-rate at or above 8 as long as he throws the slider approximately 30 percent of the time or more.
Ogando’s innings [high was] about 71 (including minors), so about the same as Wilson had. A big difference between them is that Ogando has much better control. Because of that, he has many less stressful innings and likewise receives less wear and tear on the arm. It isn’t so much about innings as it is a) total pitches and more importantly b) innings with stressful pitch numbers (the innings where 30+ pitches are thrown). As far as performance goes, yes he will see a correction in BABIP. The reason why it is lower at the moment is because of the contact he induces (weak off the bat). That is why his BABIP against line drives and flies is better than league avg and that his HR/9 is better. Will it stay at .247 (present), no. But it is possible for it to remain in the .280′s (Wilson career .289). Also consider that the league-wide BABIP is about .290 this year vs historically always being .300. Also consider that since the beginning of June, Ogando has carried a .310 BABIP and 57 LOB percent…while his ERA/WHIP have been 3.95/1.28. This includes arguably the roughest stretch in performance of his career.
Is it crazy to think this is just a little regression to the mean and nothing more (considering Ogando carries a career 2.39 ERA and 1.06 WHIP)? And if this is the rough stretch (and still a decent pitcher), I wonder how he’ll be with some rest, more sliders, and a better idea of how to pitch as he gains experience. I’m not willing to say he is elite, but he is certainly up there. And just think, Tim Lincecum is going through a rough stretch as well. Over the last 30 days, he is 1-3 with a 4.50 ERA and 1.44 WHIP. But we’re not going to write him off. Considering that Ogando’s rough patch isn’t that bad and other than those few games, he was amazing…maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt. There is precedent with his own teammate as recent as last year that this could hold up over a full season. Maybe lightning does strike twice.”
Tom – No one ever brings it more in their analysis here than you do. I applaud the effort you put in, must have taken you a good half hour or more to break down everything with Ogando. Great work – you’re a model for everyone that just writes ‘nuh uh’ in their responses.
I will not dispute the main factual arguments you presented, but I will question the comparison that you drew. It’s easy to compare Ogando to Wilson in that both are converted relievers for the Rangers, but it’s pretty darn hard to directly compare the two. First, Wilson had trained for years in America and had been a big league pitcher for years. Even if his innings total was low, you have to think he was better trained, or shall we say prepared, than Ogando. Second, they are different types of pitchers. Ogando’s GB/FB rate is 0.95 over his two seasons while Wilson’s mark is 1.67. That’s a massive difference that clearly swings things in Wilson’s favor. Third, let’s take a look at your pitch contention. This season Ogando has thrown an average of 3.93 pitches per plate appearances and 15.9 pitches per inning. Last season, during Wilson’s big innings pitched bump, he tossed 4.05 pitches per plate appearance and 16.9 pitches per inning. I’m not measuring “stress” at all with those numbers, but those numbers are pretty close (Wilson’s been better this year at 3.85 and 15.8). Fourth, you can’t really compare two pitchers to one another. You can look at historical averages and draw come basic conclusions (.290-300 BABIP for a league average for example), but that doesn’t mean that Ogando will be in that range (as you already know) – he could end up setting a baseline above, or more likely, below it.
The problem with Ogando is that we simply do not know what to expect. Given traditional measures of analysis and historical trends, the pendulum would have to favor me in this argument. Does this mean I will be “right” about Ogando? I wouldn’t have written what I did if I didn’t believe it, but that doesn’t mean I’m always going to be right.
“Ray, is Glen Perkins a save candidate now with another save Tuesday for the Twins? Need to pick up a pitcher, either the injury prone Rich Harden or Perkins? Thanks.”
Jim – The Twins closing situation is up in the air. Matt Capps is struggling, he will not be given a saves chance today if one arises, and even if he rights the ship he could be traded at some point (I touched on this situation yesterday in the Mailbag piece referenced above).
Joe Nathan is improving as he’s looked good since he returned from the DL with four straight scoreless outings in which he hasn’t allowed a single batter to reach base via a walk while allowing only one hit. The Twins obviously are looking at returning him to the 9th inning, but is he ready to assume that role right now?
Perkins has two saves in 112 career games. He’s also left handed, and many managers prefer to avoid port siders in the 9th because of matchups, but here’s the biggest issue – he’s never been this good before.(1) His K/9 is up over four full batters. I know he is working out of the bullpen right now versus spending all his time starting, but can he really go from a five per nine type of hurler to a guy with more than a K per inning? Count me doubtful there. (2) He has a 4 year low in his walk rate (nearly a full batter above his normal rate). (3) In 30.1 innings he hasn’t allowed a single home run (his career rate is 1.16 per nine). There’s just no way that I can look at him and trust him to be a closer, and I don’t think the Twins will see is differently. I’m not saying he wont get a few looks in the short term, I think he might, but he’s not likely to have long term success in that role with his skill set and current level of performance which is so drastically out of line with his previous five seasons in the big leagues.
Do I suggest adding Perkins or Harden? Depends on your need (does your team lack for relief or starting pitching?). Harden has great skills, but he has played this game with us all before. Just when we buy that he is “back,” injury strikes. If you need save help add Perkins. Even if he picks up only a few it might help you move up the standings a spot or two. I just don’t trust Harden’s being able to take the ball every five days the rest of the way. If it doesn’t work out with Perkins, you should still be able to find starting help on the waiver-wire.
By Ray Flowers