Ziegler has gotten off to an outstanding start.
In the latest edition of "By the Numbers," a regular feature on OaklandClubhouse where Nathaniel Stoltz examines aspects of the Oakland A’s organization through statistical analysis, Stoltz takes a look at the UVI for some of the members of the Triple-A Sacramento pitching staff thus far this season.
In my last column, I used UVI to evaluate the Oakland A’s pitching staff. I’ll continue my journey down the system now by evaluating eight notable pitchers for the Sacramento River Cats.
Lefty reliever Jerry Blevins has been a bit unlucky so far this year in allowing 15 hits in 13.1 innings. Blevins has shown great control (only two walks) and pronounced groundball tendencies this year, which combine to make him a very effective pitcher. His UVI is .351 thus far, and his ARA of 3.21 shows that his 4.05 ERA has more to do with bad luck than bad pitching. Blevins looks like a future solid bullpen arm in the big leagues.
Starter Lenny DiNardo’s biggest asset is his ability to keep the ball on the ground, so his four homers allowed in 18 innings in Sacramento since being sent down from Oakland is a very bad sign. He has helped his cause by not issuing any walks, but his very low strikeout rate is a further warning sign. Time will tell if the homers are just a fluke or a real problem, but for now DiNardo’s rather conflicting profile adds up to a .462 UVI.
Starter Gio Gonzalez, arguably the A’s best pitching prospect (I would argue that he is) has raised some concerns with his performance in his first 33 Triple-A innings, although those concerns may be a bit overblown. This is because three of his hits allowed should have gone for outs according to my translations, so his hit rate should actually be exactly 9 H/9 IP (with 34 hits allowed in 34 innings). Gonzalez’s 18 walks do raise some concern, but he’s done a good job of keeping the ball in the yard, and while his strike-out rate isn’t where it normally is, it’s still well above average. It’s also worth noting that all three of his homers allowed have come on the road in very hitter-friendly parks, and most of his stats are worse in away games in more hitter-friendly parks. His UVI is .448, and I expect it to decrease as Gonzalez gets acclimated to the PCL.
Reliever Jeff Gray has been one of the unluckiest pitchers in the system thus far; the translations call for him to get six more outs than he has. Gray is sort of a right-handed version of Lenny DiNardo; he gets grounders and has a nice curve, but isn’t a big strike-out guy despite a hard fastball. Thankfully, Gray hasn’t had DiNardo’s homer problems this season, and while Gray is largely overshadowed by many other pitching prospects in the system, he appears to be capable of pitching in at least a low-leverage role in the majors. Don’t be too concerned about the ERA of 6.16; it’s all bad luck, as his UVI is .430.
Swingman Brad Knox, like Gray, has often been overlooked in the A’s system as he has advanced, yet he has always posted decent numbers. He has a .455 UVI so far this year, and also like Gray, Knox has been unlucky, as his ARA of 4.67 is lower than his ERA of 5.26. Knox is a big guy at 6’3” and 215 lbs., but he relies on a great curve to offset his relatively slow fastball. Given that pitchers often gain velocity when moved to the bullpen, and that Knox has the frame of a power pitcher, switching to the bullpen might help him get more velocity and strike-outs. The A’s seem to agree, as Knox’s last two appearances have come in relief, after he made four starts to open the year.
Starter Dan Meyer is another pitcher with a strange profile. On one hand, Meyer has allowed fewer hits than he should — four fewer, to be exact — but even with that adjustment, his 4.40 ARA is much better than his actual 5.45 ERA. Meyer hasn’t had a strike-out rate this high in a long time (nearly one per inning pitched), which is a very good sign. Getting his walks down a bit would definitely help him decrease his .440 UVI.
Starter Kirk Saarloos is similar to Gray, except he’s a starter and has big league experience. Both are extreme groundball pitchers, but while Gray has more velocity and a better breaking ball, Saarloos has better control. Saarloos actually posted an excellent .379 UVI in his short stay with the major league club earlier in the season, but in Triple-A, he hasn’t pitched as well, posting a .441 mark. This is largely due to the same problem that DiNardo has had with homers. As with DiNardo, Saarloos’ groundball tendencies run counter to the homer problem, so hopefully it’s just a fluke and won’t persist.
Reliever Brad Ziegler and his submarine delivery have produced a ridiculous 0.52 ERA this year for the River Cats. While that overstates his ability a bit, his 3.31 ARA and .348 UVI also show that he has pitched extremely well this year. He’s gotten a slight bit lucky, but his translations still call for him to allow less than a hit per inning, and he is yet another River Cats pitcher who generates a ton of ground balls. Ziegler may yet wind up better than Chad Bradford.
About The Author: Nathianel Stoltz is a statistics major at James Madison University in Virginia. He is the creator of the "Ultimate Value Index" or "UVI" baseball statistic. He hopes to some day work in the front office of a major league team. You can e-mail him with questions or comments by clicking here.