Monday, December 27, 2010

Forget What I Said

Or not, whatever.

One bit of housecleaining in line with the title - the rumor persists the Jays are about to sign Octavio Dotel. I was vocal in saying a few weeks ago that if the rumors said we were interested, we weren't. I dismissed the report out of hand. I'm still suspiscious but they seem very insistant so maybe I had that wrong. My take on it, if true, is "meh." Dude is too old to impress me, but I will refrain from negativity given that I was underwhelmed by Gregg, Buck, and Gonzalez a year ago as well. Also, I note in passing that the Brewers got my guy Saito (yes I know he's older than Dotel, shaddup) for less money - but maybe Saito didn't want any more of the AL East?

Now, the title actually refers to another thought, and that was my call for trading for Mike Gonzalez. Mind you, I stand by everything I said there - but there might be another option more than $5 million cheaper to close for the Jays in 2011 and surely it's worth going with that kind of savings.

One of the things I love about blogging is when you get in an exchange on a forum and in the course of discussing some particular thought, you discover fodder for a post, well, like this one. I had had an emotional interest in this happening since the middle of last year but I've not tried to make a case for it because I thought it was basically just me rooting for one of my "pet" players. However, a poster on a forum mentioned him in a mildly negative light tonight and I looked into the claim and found a lot more goodness than I expected.

What if I told you that the Jays already had a pitcher that:

1. Had a 2.67 ERA on the season if you take away 1/3 of an inning from his 2010 record?
2. Inherited 19 runners and allowed only 3 to score - and only 1 of the last 16?
3. Pitched in the 8th inning 16 times, accumulating 12.2 IP, and wasn't charged with a single run?
4. in 10 at bats n save situations, he allowed ONE BASERUNNER?
5. In his last 25 appearances, he gave up 11 earned runs - but 4 of them came in that one fateful 1/3 of an inning.
6. Take away his two worst appearances, and his ERA for the rest of the season was 1.93?

Furthermore, this is not some out-of-left-field flunky without a pedigree or clippings, this is a first round draft pick - this is David Purcey and absent an acquisition better than Dotel, deserves a clean shot at being the jays closer in 2011 and beyond.

If you look closely at Purcey's season, that 1/3 of an inning in which he put on 4 base-runners and gave up 4 earned runs throws off almost all of the bulk stat lines like "second half" stats and "in the ninth inning" stats. he had another 1 IP outing on September 8 in which he gave up 3 runs, again in the ninth. Outside those two appearances he pitched 9 innings in the ninth and gave up 2 earned runs. What was otherwise a wildly successful season (actually, more like 2/3 of a season since he wasn't called up until very late May) was disguised by two bad days.

It's true that for comparison you can do that to many good pitchers and get great results - take away Kevin Gregg's two worst outings and his 2010 ERA is 2.48, but then Gregg is considered a pretty good pitcher.

I've been criticized before for picking and choosing my number sets, and I fully agree this sort of thing can be over applied or mis-applied. But I also contend that there's a HUGE difference between a guy with a 4.00 ERA who gives up a run or two in more than half of his appearances, and a guy who holds the opposition scoreless night after night and once or twice or three teams a season get's totally waxed. Give me the latter pitcher every time.

In short, while I wouldn't cry about the acquisition of a "proven" closer, in the absence of such a player (and Dotel ain't it) my battle cry is "Free David Purcey!!"

15 comments:

Callum said...

Yes, this would be a compelling argument had you not cherry picked your stats. They are what they are and we have to accept it, for better or worse.

As well, there is more to DP than just his last season. He's always had control issues and is good for 4 walks for every 9 innings whether as a starter or reliever. He walked 16 in 21 innings in the minors. Unacceptable. Unless you ignore those innings where he walks the whole ballpark... then he's a stud.

Callum said...

(not that Dotel is much better in the BB regard, but he can miss bats)

Xave said...

Tammy, it's good that you acknowledge the cherry-picking of the "one bad outing" stat, but the other stats, such as his performance in the 8th inning and that kind of thing, just hold no predictive value. Why not give us his numbers in the 7th inning? I assume because those numbers were worse.

Anyway, Purcey was fine last year, so sure, give him a shot at it. It's a pretty wide open bullpen if you ask me.

The Southpaw said...

You are not exactly getting it - the cherry picking (if that's what you want to call it) just puts a shine on what is, by itself, an excellent case.

I've had this discussion before on Batters' Box though.

first, cherry picking to make BAD seem OK or even GOOD is just stupid - that's not what's happening here. this is an illustration of what is, in total, GOOD is VERY close to being outstanding.

second - pulling out one or two aberrational disasters DOES make a point. f I give you the choice of two Relievers - Player A had 30 appearances in which he gave up no runs, and two appearances in which he gave up five, or Player B who had 22 appearances and gave up 2 runs each in ten of them, which had you rather have (assuming the same number of IP and all other stats being equal)?

I would argue Player A is a much more reliable pitcher. And pointing out the difference isn't "cherry picking" - it's noting a real and relevant consideration.

Third - baseball analysis, rightly or wrongly, uses arbitrary start and end points al the time (call them AEPs) We say "Jose Bautista hit great in September last year" or "Shawn Green always hit better in the second half" and no one ever blinks an eye. Why s the turn of the calendar relevant but saying, for instance, "after June 25 he only gave up one inherited runner the rest of the way" cherry-picking?


Also @Callum - What Purcey did over many years of starting has only marginal predictive value against what he does or would do as a short reliever.

Yes, a 4.0 BB/9 is a tic high, but to compare him to an unquestionable giant - Scott Downs had a 3.7 in 2007 and a 3.4 in 2008.

If Purcey had walked ONE fewer batter in 2010, his BB/9 would be - you guessed it - 3.7
Two fewer batters = 3.44

It's another illustration of how rate numbers are skewed by small samples among relievers.

****

@Xave - no, his numbers in the sixth and seventh are fine too - I quoted the 8th inning pandering to the common perception that late inning appearances have more "pressure" and some pitchers can't handle it.

His number in the ninth ARE worse - but again, I think that 9 VERY good outings, and two disasters are better than 11 outings, six of which were adventures.

It's a real and relevant factor what percentage of a time a reliever goes out and works and leaves the game without any damage.

that's why reliever's ERA is a notoriously unreliable stat - because of the sample sizes involved, one meltdown can skew a whole season.

As in Purcey's case where one melt down - ONE appearance - added more than a run to his season ERA.

As far as I'm concerned, those 4 runs being in one appearance instead of four is a SIGNIFICANT point in his favor, and not at all "cherry-picking" - because I'm not trying to tell you that Purcey is really a 1.92 ERA pitcher. I'm trying to tell you how very many times Purcey pitched for the Jays without putting runs on the board.

The Southpaw said...

Oh, and by the way - re "walking the whole ballpark" - Purcey walked more than one batter ONE time in the second half and only three times all season.

At one point he went almost a month without walking anyone at all.

For reference, he went to 3 balls on a batter 31 times in 143 PA, and walked 15 of those batters. No idea how those rates match up to other pitchers.

andy mc said...

Camp could do the job as well. We don't need bullpen arms, IMO.

Camp/Purcey/Frasor/Carlson/Janssen/Villanueva/Mills

This could be a really good relief corps, if used correctly. Richmond is another option, the guy destroys RH batters. Also, one of Litsch or Rzep will also be available for the pen.

With no Cito to screw things up, situational tactics can be applied, utilizing the strengths of each arm. I think we have the pieces in house for that strategy to work.

andy mc said...

oh ya add roenicke to the list.

Callum said...

You missed my point about his starting/relieving, so I will elaborate. As a starter, with 4 pitches to worry about, he was good for 4 walks per 9 innings. As a reliever, with 2 pitches to worry about, he is good for 4 walks per innings. As a reliever in the minors, he was much worse than that. My point is that he has control issues and they don't get better from him moving to the pen. ~fin~

Scott Downs an unquestionable giant? Reallllly. I can't recall ever hearing his name in the same breath as Mariano Rivera and the like. For an unquestionable giant, Downs only accumulated 6 saves during the 2 seasons you mention, hardly a compelling litmus test to base Purcey's chances of closing on.

Take 2 innings away from Dotel - who pitched almost twice as many innings as Purcey - and you have an ERA of ~2.63.

Callum said...

As well, in Downs' case, his BB/9 numbers are going to be skewed by the intentional walks given to right handers so that he can force the lefty on lefty matchup. I think. I am too lazy to look this up.

The 5th Starter said...

Based on nothing scientific: JESSE LITSCH FOR CLOSER!!!

I do agree with you about David Purcey as another excellent 9th inning option. BB/9 isn't the most valuable stat for short relievers, so his control isn't a concern for me. Guys who can miss bats, also often miss the zone.

Anonymous said...

Works for me. I'll take the monster arm every time. I think Pappy can help Purcey as much as he helped Morrow. We all know how that turned out.

The Southpaw said...

@Callum

"Scott Downs an unquestionable giant?"

In terms of never having been criticized for walking too many hitters (chosen also because he's a lefty and a now-former Jay)

"Take 2 innings away from Dotel - who pitched almost twice as many innings as Purcey - and you have an ERA of ~2.63."

Of course - you can do the same with Gregg. The question then is - why pay Dotel over $3 million to do pretty much exactly what a guy you already have can do? (actually, if I looked close enough, probably 3 or 4 guys we already have can do)

Mark said...

Jays are better off letting Frasor close, and have Camp/Purcey set up.

Camp's skills are better used with men on base. He doesn't strike out a ton, and his high GB rates means he's most likely to get a DP ball. As the closer, Camp's coming in with nobody on base which means his skillset is wasted there.

I'd like to see Purcey pitch a full year in relief as the 8th inning guy. If for nothing else than to keep the arb numbers down. I'm sure he can be a fine closer, but I'd rather save him for tougher spots. If Purcey is closing our best lefty is Carlson and I'm not thrilled with the idea of him facing the best LH bats in the AL East with the game on the line.

Anonymous said...

I generally agree that David Purcey should get a shot at the closer role. The only problem is, as your "cherry picking" shows, is that he is not ready yet.
When he was called up last year, he was given gradually increasing responsibility, which he handled pretty well. IMHO, however, it would be idiocy to take a kid with exactly 34 relief innings pitched in the bigs, and exactly one save opportunity, and toss him to the wolves.
Let him have another year under his belt, keep putting him in positions where he can succeed, and in a year or 2, you will not have to "cherry pick" his stat line any more.

The Southpaw said...

"however, it would be idiocy to take a kid with exactly 34 relief innings pitched in the bigs, and exactly one save opportunity, and toss him to the wolves."

The Braves are giving their closer job in 2011 to a 22 year old with under 21 major league innings.

Billy Wagner got his first save opportunity, at 24, after less than 10 IP in the majors and was a closer full time almost immediately.

Jason Isringhauson was converted to a reliever in '99, threw 40 relief innings and got 9 saves, and was the full time closer for the rest of his career.

Jon Papelbon had 34 IP as a rookie and was the full time closer the next year.

Joakin Soria was closing at 23 as a rookie

Huston Street was a rookie closer at 21

Tom Henke had 60 IP in the majors when he was given the jays closing job

Dave Rigehtti had started 76 games and made SIX relief appearance when he was installed as a closer.

Many more examples might be offered.

Purcey is not a kid, or wet behind the ears.

Also, by the way, "throwing to the wolves" is what you do in a season when you are not pulling out all the stops to cntend in order to find out what you have. The way you can find out if Purcey can close is to send him out there in the ninth inning and expect him to do it.

If he fails - regularly - for a couple of months, you have a Dotel - or a Frasor or a Janssen or a Camp - that you can shift off to...and you might lose, in that couple of months, 3 or 4 games you'd have won if Purcey had turned out to be a reliable closer.

so what?