#Top25 relief pitchers in 2015 #MLB season #baseball
— Felipe M (@pathological_h8) November 19, 2015
A couple of weeks ago, I had released my final relief pitchers’ rankings for the 2015 Major League Baseball season (based on Felipe’s Ultimate Baseball Advanced Rankings (or FUBAR for short)). It was a pretty polarizing list as many people were pleased with the results, but others had questions and qualms about it, mostly about certain, notable omissions in the rankings.
One reliever many had asked about was Huston Street.
What about Huston Street?
This question comes from Adam in Orange County, CA who had this to say about the rankings:
“Why are your numbers always leaving out Huston Street? He’s easily better than Luke Gregerson, Pedro Baez, and Josh Fields.”
So with that thrown out there, let’s take a look at these pitchers:
- Huston Street–uses three pitches, primarily a sinker that averages 88.4 mph in 2015. He also uses a slider and a changeup.
- Luke Gregerson–mostly depends on a slider (average velocity, 82.2 mph), but also likes to use a two-seam fastball (89.4 mph), while mixing in the occasional four-seam fastball (usage rate of 17.8 percent).
- Pedro Baez–the hardest thrower in this group (fastball used 63.8 percent of the time; 97 mph), Baez tries to utilize three other pitches at a rate of less than 15 percent: slider, two-seamer, and changeup.
- Josh Fields–depends on his fastball the most in this group (usage–68.6 percent, 94.1 mph), Fields has a knuckle-curve (18.4 percent) and a changeup to complete his repertoire.
- Josh Fields has the lowest Swinging Strike Percentage (SwStr%) of this group at 12.8 percent. Not a surprise, seeing as he also has the lowest O-Swg% (Percent of pitches swung outside the strike zone) in this group as well.
- Fields also has the highest Contact Rate of this foursome at 74.3 percent.
- The lowest Contact Rate belongs to Luke Gregerson.
- Highest Swing Rate goes to Pedro Baez. He also throws the most pitches inside the strike zone, which leads to a high Z-Swing% (Percent of Pitches Swung Inside the Strike Zone).
- It would appear that Baez needs to work on his secondary pitches, but with a 15.0 percent SwStr%, he is depending on his fastball just fine.
- Huston Street had the lowest Swing Rate, but a good SwStr% of 13.2 percent.
- Street also throws the least amount of pitches inside the strike zone (38.3 percent) in this group. So location, command, and control of his pitches is of the utmost importance.
- Gregerson’s Plate Discipline Percentages are the best of this group. He induces a lot of swings, has the highest SwStr% in the group (15.2), and has the lowest Contact Rate of these four pitchers.
BATTED BALL DISTRIBUTION
- Gregerson is the ultimate ground ball pitcher (60.4 percent Ground Ball Rate (GB%). He also has the lowest Line Drive Rate (LD%) in this group.
- Unfortunately, because of his high volume of grounders, he has a high Home Run per Fly Ball Rate (HR/FB%) of 13.2, but he also has a high pop up rate of 10.5 percent.
- As long as he’s inducing high amounts of ground balls, he will continue to be an effective pitcher.
- Baez is a bit too random to be considered a complete ground or fly ball pitcher (37.6 vs 43.6 ground to fly ball rates).
- The randomness probably caused him to have a high Batting Average on Balls in Play (BABIP) of .326.
- Street had the highest LD% in this group.
- Street can be considered a fly ball pitcher. Does not induce a lot of pop ups (3.8 percent, lowest of the group)
- Josh Fields had the highest Fly Ball Rate (FB%) out of anyone in this group (47.5 percent) and also the highest pop up rate (14.0) of anyone here.
Gregerson is the ground ball pitcher. Fields is the fly ball pitcher. Baez’s randomness and high Hard Hit Rate (31.6 percent in 2015) can be blamed on a lack of movement on his pitches or lack of a consistent secondary pitch. When you throw hard, you get hit hard, evidently.
Street is an enigma. Probably because of age or waning stuff, but even though he depends on a sinker, he gives up a lot of fly balls and had the highest line drive rate in this group.
The argument for Street comes from the fact that he racked up 40 saves this season. But as you may know by now, FUBAR does not utilize saves as a way to evaluate relievers.
- Street had the lowest K/9 in this group (8.23), the highest WHIP (1.16) and HR/9 (1.01) as well.
- The advanced stats aren’t any better as Street’s Strikeout Rate (K%) of 22.4 percent is the lowest in this group, his Walk Rate (7.8) is the second highest among the four.
- The two, bread-and-butter stats utilized for these FUBAR rankings are FIP and SIERA (read a more detailed explanation about these two stats here). Street finished a distant fourth in both categories (3.73 and 3.63 respectively).
Accumulating 40 saves is no small feat, but after taking a closer look at the numbers, it appears that Street depended a lot on veteran guile and moxie to get by this season. Which is not necessarily a bad thing and those intangibles are almost required out of most closers.
Unfortunately, when trying to gauge the best of the best relievers, we can only go wit the performance based metrics. Based on these metrics, Street is not a top 25 pitcher.
Luke Gregerson obtained 31 saves this past season:
- Gregerson also did not impress in the strikeout department (8.70 K/9; 24.7 K%), but did a great job limiting his walks.
- BB% of 4.2 percent was the lowest in this group.
- Gregerson also had the lowest ERA and WHIP as well.
- The high amounts of ground balls probably handed him the best SIERA in this group.
Gregerson’s teammate, Josh Fields did not get a save this past year, but he definitely racked up the strikeouts this season (11.90 K/9 and 32.1 K%–led in both categories in this group).
- Unfortunately, Fields had issues with walks in 2015 (9.1 BB% was worse in this group).
- Did a great job keeping the ball in the park as he showed he can be an effective fly ball pitcher in Houston.
- Best FIP in the group.
What Pedro Baez lacked in traditional stats (0 saves, 3.35 ERA, 1.14 WHIP), he made up for it by posting a high strikeout rate and limiting his walks.
So as one can see, an argument can be made that perhaps Gregerson deserved a higher spot on these rankings over Fields, but the latter’s strikeout totals were too impressive to deny. If Baez can take command of his secondary pitches, he can be a guy to look out for in the near future.
So to recap, the rankings were pretty much correct when it came to these four pitchers:
- 16. Josh Fields
- 19. Luke Gregerson
- 22. Pedro Baez
- UR: Huston Street
Featured image credit: Keith Allison/Flickr CC 2.0