The Heart-Warming Story of a LOGY (short for lefties who face one batter) Who Became a Real Reliever
First off, sorry for no opinion pieces of late….been out of opinions? Well, to work….
Recently there was a discussion about our current bullpen centering on the not-so-great Boone Logan and his status as a one-inning reliever. When the Rox gave him a 3 year deal you know the extra year was the only way you could get him here. So you got 3 years of a pitcher (at 16.6 million total) who was pretty good pitching in the AL East, a tough division, as part of one of the better bullpens in baseball. Of course he had a lot a 2 out or even 1 out appearances. Look at his best years with the Yankees and you see 80 appearances in 2012 but just 55.1 innings. That was his high-point in terms of innings. His appearance -to-inning ration was between 1/2 and 3/5, but never close to being a 3-out guy. He is very tough against lefties, playing in a park at new Yankees stadium where lefties can yank it down the line for a homer pretty easily. For his career against lefties a .695 OPS – pretty solid. Against righties, an .867. Its people like Logan who keep guys like Drew Stubbs in baseball, as you make sure you have a 4th outfielder like Stubbs you can throw out there as a pinch hitter against Logan. We know, because we have seen it too much in a year and a bit.
But this isn’t to re-hash Logan (who I fully expect to get dealt at the deadline with teams figuring he is healthy and get hi away from Coors and he will be solid). His deal is actually pretty decent now that the market sees the world through the lenses of the Kansas City Royals. And I like Boone. The team just thought they were getting one thing and got another that was obvious based on the data.
No, I am here to defend….once again, Christian Friedrich. We all know his story. Fast riser, pitched at Coors in the year the humidor died, lost confidence, stress fracture in back, failed starter. But this team loves former first round picks who can’t quite get there as a starter (see Zero and Brooks Brown for the latest examples along with Matt Belisle from the past). Finally turned into a power reliever at the end of last year, he was terrific, getting the nod from myself and others as a potentially poor-mans Andrew Miller (who nearly single-handedly got the Yanks to first place until a recent stint on the DL). In 8.2 innings last year as a reliever vs. lefties he had a .133/.194/.207/.401 year. If you ever wanted a guy to just chew threw lefties that is your man. But this team already has a left specialist (as we presume the Rox now know after seeing Logan’s splits). Against righties in 2014 he was terrible – 15.2 innings .309/.397/.545/.942. I mean yikes! He had to figure it out against righties to really be effective and provide value to the team.
If you look at the top line numbers for 2015, as several of you pointed out, Friedrich is even worse against righties:
In 26.0 total innings this year he has 4.50 ERA with a 1.423 WHIP and just a 7.6 K/9 down from 10.0K/9 last year. And against righties? In 65 Plate Appearances and 58 AB he had given up a .345 average, a .375 OPS and an .806 OPS. Now that is better (the OPS) than last year, but still terrible. Against lefties? Not quite as good, a .244/.271/.333/.604 line. So, from a top of the line look, Friedrich stinks this year, even against lefties. And against righties? Horrible. Clearly the team has two LOGYs which is at least one too many.
But as they say, not so fast!
Christian Friedrich is a walking testament to two things – Coors Field and bad luck. And we see that from the get-go when we look at his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching (the parts he can control) ERA of just 2.60. And what is more, when we really start to dig into his performance, we see that Christian Friedrich might juts be, with Zeros’ injury, the best pitcher against righties they have this year! Okay, I know you think I am drinking Purple Kool-Aid from Boulder, but the numbers don’t lie.
In 2015 against righties he has allowed (as of last night now) a .328 average and a .431 slugging because of one big factor. His BABIP (batting average on balls in play) is at .408! That isn’t bad luck. That is stepping on a black cat, inside, with an open umbrella, while walking under a ladder into a mirror bad luck! But wait, it gets worse, for you see at home, his BABIP vs. righties is…. a whopping .445! Vs. righties at home he has allowed 15 hits in 41 at-bats, with 2 walks and 6 Ks.
But you say, “his BABIP is so high because he is giving up a ton of hard contact, right?” No, at home vs. righties his % of balls hit are 18.2% soft, 60.6% medium, and 21.2% hard (which is lower than his at-home # vs. lefties of 25.0%). For a comparison I pulled up Latroy Hawkins numbers from 2014 (a pretty ho-hum year for him). His numbers vs. lefties (his opposite hand) are 23.5% soft, 51.0% medium, and 25.5% hard, and vs. righties his numbers are 19.7% soft, 44.3% medium, and 36.1% hard.
I provide those numbers just to make the point that Friedrich’s numbers vs. righties at Coors isn’t because he is being hammered. He is not. He is simply being beaten with soft and medium hit balls that are hit where they ain’t as the old saying goes.
On the road his % are about the same except lefties on the road, for whatever reason, are hitting 31.3% hard hit balls. Weird.
Okay, on to the big numbers. So we see at home vs. righties he has been, to be blunt, unlucky. Those numbers on the BABIP have to revert to the norm over the course of a season. Actually what is weird is how his splits have played on the road, for vs. righties on the road he has a BABIP of .313, close to normal. But against lefties? His BABIP spikes up to .375, again, way about normal. So right now Friedrich, who really isn’t be hit that hard, is pitching upstream against very unlucky outcomes in at-bats. Again, this should revert to the mean.
Although his BABIP for June is .500! That though is thanks to a few bad outings (June seems the month for them, last year Zero had a horrendous month of June and was statistically one of the ten best relievers for the rest of the year.
Okay, still building my case. So here are the important numbers:
|Location||Total number of batters faced||Average Allowed||OBP Allowed||OPS allowed||BABIP||K/9||BB/9||WHIP|
|Home vs. Lefties||26||.200||.231||.551||.211||6.75||1.35||.90|
|Home vs. Righties||41||.385||.415||.928||.455||6.23||2.08||1.96|
|Road vs. Lefties||22||.286||.318||.668||.375||9.00||1.80||1.40|
|Road vs. Righties||24||.227||.304||.567||.313||9.53||3.18||1.24|
Now, I will be the first one to say “small sample size” just as I would say that DJ hasn’t suddenly become Rod Carew despite his start offensively. But we deal with the numbers we have. During the offseason Friedrich along with others worked hard to develop strategies and pitches to get the opposite-handed batters out. Now, compared to his numbers of last year (similar size) we see that he has improved a lot! Especially on the road.
And what we see is this. Right now at home, he needs to be a LOGY, at least til the luck turns his way. He is doing a pretty good job against lefties at home, though I wonder if the BABIP of .211 is sustainable all year vs. lefties because his hard hit % is pretty high. But Friedrich does seem to get a lot of fly-ball outs.
But take a look at his road numbers. Who has the best OPS allowed of the pen vs. righties on the road this year (who is not on the DL)? That is right, it is Christian Friedrich. His .567 OPS allowed doesn’t appear to be a fluke. His BABIP is close to league average (a little above) and he has a higher K/9 vs. righties than lefties. Yes, his walks are up vs. righties, but some of that is pitching around certain right-handed hitters to get to a lefty.
So there it is folks. My argument – on the road at least, Christian Friedrich is not only tough of righties, he is a hard throwing asset who can get you a strike-out. And he has been better this year vs. righties on the road than lefties (and he has been solid against lefties). On the road he is a huge asset to throw for a whole inning. At Coors, where you need pitchers to go a whole inning, well, then you are in trouble. Surely the BABIP is going to go down at home vs. righties, as last year his BABIP there was .286. If his luck turns, you can use him for a whole inning at home, but you know at home his best work is dominating lefties, which he did last year and this year to the tune of very very low BABIPs (last year vs. lefties at home it was .143).
So there – made my case. Christian Friedrich is not a LOGY, at least not on the road. Christian Friedrich right now on the road is their best pitcher vs righties. Unlike Boone Logan who seems to get hit hard, home or the road, when facing righties (his career OPS vs righties is .861 – I don’t see any reason to follow the path the team is on. Boone Logan is your new lefty specialist. Rex Brothers has suddenly found his stuff again (throwing mid-90s with a 3:1 K/BB ratio) so if you want a third lefty, so you can go multiple innings vs. tough lefties, he would be your man, or possibly Yohan Flande – who in one inning work has in general been pretty good). But if you need a guy who can dominate hitters regardless of their handedness….your man is Christian Friedrich…at least not at Coors…yet.