Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tyler Walker for Closer!

OK that's a provocative title intended to get your attention. But the reality is that Walker isn't really any worse than Capps--and that's not an endorsement of Walker. It's just that folks in NatsTown are vastly overrating Capps (and don't even get me started on Brian Bruney).

To the numbers. There are a lot of fancy pitching stats out there, but the three most important pitcher stats when measuring repeatable skill are strikeout rate, walk rate, and groundball rate. If you can miss bats, keep the ball on the ground, avoid walks, or better yet all three, you're going to be ok.

Here's how Walker and Capps measure up:

Groundball rate (MLB avg: 42%)
Walker '09: 37.6%
Capps '09: 40.7%
Walker career: 40.7%
Capps career: 36.0%

Walk rate (MLB avg: 9%)
Walker '09: 6.0%
Walker career: 8.9%
Capps '09: 6.8%
Capps career: 4.5%

Strikeout rate (MLB avg: 18%)
Walker '09: 18.0%
Walker career: 18.7%
Capps '09: 18.3%
Capps career: 18.6%

So what does this show us? These guys are both flyball pitchers who get average numbers of strikeouts. Right there, that's a bad combination (lots of balls in play + lots of them in the air = lots of homers). Neither of these guys is a true ace reliever.

The place where Capps may separate himself if he's pitching well is in the walks. When he's on, he's got exceptional control, though, importantly, that was not so much the case in 2009.

The other key for a closer though is how well they pitch under pressure. Both pitchers have a lot of experience in high-leverage situations, and neither has done very well.

Career, Capps has allowed a .232 / .260 / .380 batter line in low-leverage situations, but a .274 / .311 / .458 line in high-leverage situations. Walker meanwhile has allowed a line in .252 / .311 / .409 line low-leverage situations, but a .280 / .361 / .461 line in high-leverage situations.

Again, bottom line, neither of these guys is a closer. But if you aren't excited at the prospect of Tyler Walker closing out games, you shouldn't feel any better about Matt Capps.


sec314 said...

I'm excited about Drew Storen and perfectly happy to have these guys battle it out for a few months while Storen gets a little more seasoning in Syracuse. If one of them emerges as a bona fide closer, great.

I am worried that they still haven't signed someone like Garland or Washburn or Sheets or Wang or.....

Rob B said...

Steven you had it right in your earlier post about closing by committee. We should put in the right guy based on situation, not simply the fact that we have a lead in the ninth. Who gives a shit who actually gets the credit? It's not like we're gonna win enough close ones for anybody to put up a meaningful number of saves.

Section 222 said...

I agree that in the absence of a proven lights out closer, looking at matchups is a much more intelligent way of deciding who should pitch the 9th inning. Manny actually said he was going to do that with Beimel, Tavares, and Wells, after Hanrahan's meltdown at the beginning of last season. The problem with that idea was, well, Tavares and Wells. Another difference is that the group we have in the bullpen this year will, with any luck, be better rested with Marquis going deep into games on a regular basis.

I liked Riggleman's decision once he took over to sometimes let a hot relief pitcher stay in the game for a second inning (Clippard especially). That could be done just as easily in the 8th and 9th as in the 6th and 7th, rather than being wedded to a setup man/closer system. It seems like most relievers not named Mariano Rivera have it some nights and don't have it others. Why not stick with a reliever who is pitching well if it looks like that will get you a W?