By The Numbers: Midland Pitching Staff

How do Mazzaro's numbers translate?

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 Double-A Midland pitching staff thus far this season.

My past two columns have focused on the pitching staffs of the Oakland A's and the Sacramento River Cats. I will continue my journey down the system with this column, focusing on the Midland RockHounds.

Starter Andrew Bailey has been quite a bit better than his 5.44 ERA indicates. Bailey has allowed just 36 hits in 43 innings pitched and has struck out nearly a batter per inning. Command seems to be Bailey's problem, as he has walked 25 batters and hit four more, leading to a mediocre .474 UVI. Bailey hasn't posted a walk rate that high before, so he is likely to reduce the walks as he continues to adjust to Double-A.

Closer Andrew Carignan serves as a great example of how ERA is a misleading metric. Carignan's 1.04 ERA indicates that he has adapted well to the Texas League after being promoted from Stockton, but further examination reveals that this is not the case. Carignan has struggled with his control, walking nine batters in 8.2 innings thus far. When translated, two of his outs turn into hits, so his hit rate should actually be much higher than it is. All told, Carignan has an ugly .548 UVI and an uglier 6.47 ARA, but given that it's an eight-inning sample, there's no need to rush to conclusions about Carignan's progress or viability as a prospect. All we can say for sure is that he needs to find the strike zone more frequently or his ERA will take a massive hit very soon.

Swingman Justin Dowdy is the opposite of Carignan, in that his 7.71 ERA understates his ability to a massive degree. Let's not forget that this is the guy who struck out a whopping 102 batters in just 52 independent league innings last year. His translation lops off five hits from his line and turns them into outs, which helps him immensely. Dowdy's rather high walk rate (11 BB in 21 IP) is cause for some concern, but he definitely has a chance at being a big league lefty specialist down the line, as he has struck out nine of the 23 lefty batters he has faced. Overall, Dowdy has a .455 UVI and a 4.56 ARA. Notice that Dowdy's 7.71 ERA translates better than Carignan's 1.04 by nearly two runs (4.56 to 6.47).

Lefty sidewinder Jay Marshall has impressed this year for Midland after spending 2007 in the majors. Sent all the way down to Double-A, Marshall has continued to keep the ball on the ground and has produced a sparkling 0.89 ERA. Such numbers are never truly sustainable, but Marshall's .358 UVI and 3.37 ARA show that he has pitched extremely well this year. If Marshall maintains this pace, he could be back in an Oakland uniform quickly.

Starter Vince Mazzaro has taken a big step forward this year, with his 2.05 ERA and low walk rate showing that he has made a lot of progress. However, Mazzaro may not be the future ace that his ERA indicates, mainly because his strikeout rate (38 in 52.2 innings) is fairly average. Pitchers with average K-rates in Double-A ball usually wind up with below-average figures in the majors. Mazzaro has been quite effective anyway, as his 4.04 ARA and .410 UVI prove, but he looks like more of a mid-rotation guy than an ace for the long term.

Hard-throwing starter Henry Rodriguez has struggled mightily to throw strikes for the RockHounds, walking 25 hitters in just 22.1 innings. What's incredible about Rodriguez is that even with that terrible control, his UVI is actually a tick above average at .463. How does he do it? For one, Rodriguez has also struck out 25 batters, so he's been tough to hit. Second, he has kept the ball in the park, allowing just one home run in a RockHounds uniform. He also hasn't hit any batters, which is actually quite surprising given the walk total. Rodriguez has also been very unlucky on balls in play, as seven hits should have gone for outs according to my translations. Rodriguez's 5.10 ARA shows that he clearly has work to do, but if he cuts the walk rate in half, he could dominate.

Starter James Simmons has been extremely similar to Mazzaro with his .419 UVI and 4.01 ARA. Both share a similar line overall, featuring good control and a merely average strikeout rate. Like Mazzaro, Simmons also has an ERA (2.93) that is more than a run lower than his ARA. Simmons' strikeout rate is skewed some, as he didn't strikeout a batter in his last outing before going on the DL with "dead arm." Before that outing, he had struck-out 31 batters in 35.2 innings.

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