Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Robbie Ray's Minor League Outings

So Robbie Ray has rejoined the Big Club, and is set to pitch against the Pittsburgh Pirates tonight. We last saw him in May, when he followed two good outings against the Red Sox and the Twins with a bit of a confidence-wrecker versus the Rangers. How has he been doing since?

I like to use QMAX, a system developed in the days of the Big Bad baseball Annual, itself a lineal descendant of Bill James' old abstracts. QMAX is helpfully thought of as a means of distinguishing the varying quality of quality and non-quality starts. I have always found it especially useful in helping to understand minor-league outings, even though it was designed with Major-League statistics. It looks at two components of pitching, the ability to miss bats (stuff) and the ability to pitch in the zone (command). Outings are categorised by where they fall on a matrix, such as 'the Success Square', 'the Hit Hard region' and some don't fit into any category at all. The 'Power Precipice' is a zone where pitchers who successfully overpower hitters still find themselves teetering on the brink of a fall because they walk too many. For young players, that's a hopeful sign, because improved command will supplement good stuff. Here's a list of Robbie Ray's performances

27 May   Uncategorised
1 June   Hit Hard
12 June  Uncategorised
17 June  Uncategorised
22 June  Success Square/Power Precipice
27 June  Success Square
2 July   Uncategorised
7 July   Uncategorised
13 July  Hit Hard
20 July  Success Square
25 July  success Square
30 July  Hit Hard
4 August Success Square/Power precipice

Now what we know about minor-league baseball is that for pitchers, a lack of command at AAA will mean problems walking batters in the big leagues. We also know that AAA fielders aren't quite as good as major-league ones, so pitchers will suffer a few more hits than they might. In terms of hits given up, the Toledo Mud Hens look to be around league average.

The minor-league outings suggest that Ray is going to have some problems at the big-league level this time round. His command is wayward and he gives up too many hits to say he can get by on his stuff. His K/9 is really down this season, compared to when he was a National. In his uncategorised starts he is almost always let down by his walks. On the bright side, and something not measured in QMAX, is that he keeps the ball in the park. His HR/9 is 0.6 in AAA. If he can get a few "at 'em" balls, and continue to keep the ball in the park, he might serve as a useful stopgap for the Tigers in the present crisis. Tigers' fans need to keep an eye out for ground balls, and the Tigers turning the double play behind him. If that doesn't happen, the slack will have to be picked up by the hitters and the bullpen, and that hasn't been working out too well lately.

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