Rangers Pitching - April Report

Personally, I'm blaming the offense (and some other things) for where the Rangers are right now.  But as I spend most of my analysis time looking at pitching, here are a few things I've looked at:

This is a composite view of each Texas starter's ERA, FIP, and xFIP.  Everyone should be well familiar with Earned Run Average, but I usually get questions about what FIP and xFIP mean.  Fielding Independent Pitching is an ERA-equivalent statistic based on Home Runs, Walks, Hit-by-pitches, and Strikeouts.  It gives a view of a pitcher's run-prevention ability that removes the activity of the defense, and to a small extent certain park factors.  eXpected-FIP further replaces the Home Run part of the formula with a league-average based constant, which effectively removes bad luck and park factors from the Home Runs Allowed statistic.  FIP typically appears a bit worse than ERA, frequently by a half-run or a run per nine innings.  The very best pitchers every year will turn in a season in which ERA, FIP, and xFIP are all similar.  The sirens get turned on when a pitcher's ERA differs from his FIP and xFIP by larger margins than one run per nine, or when either xFIP or FIP are wildly out of line with one or both of the other two stats.

In other words, Darvish's column is not only good, it's exactly what one would expect given everything else we've ever seen from Darvish.  He's having a good year, and would probably be even better if he weren't having to deal with a squeezed strike zone consistently.

Nick Martinez looks great, but he's done this trick before.  Martinez has never shown the ability to maintain a FIP and xFIP this low, so we should expect at least a regression back to four and a half or five and a half runs per nine.  If he keeps this up, or something close to it....well, hot damn.

A.J. Griffin was doing exactly what he used to do, and is expected to do, before he got hurt.  Here's hoping he can come back up and do it some more.

(NOTE: After the 4/30 game, Perez moved behind Hamels.  That will be shown in the next chart.)

Cole Hamels hasn't looked very good this year.  There were signs last year this was coming, as was noted a couple of times here during last season.  He didn't look too hot in Spring Training, to the extent that even a couple of the Texas beat writers asked him about plans to fix his problems.  Hamels is a smart and experienced pitcher, who has frequently out-performed his peripherals...but he has a higher hurdle to clear this year than last.  You will notice Cole's FIP and xFIP are almost identical, and they're both saying he should be allowing 5 runs per 9 innings.  Some of that 3.03 ERA is the Rangers' defense...but I would expect things to trend poorly for Hamels until he goes on the DL.

Martin Perez was looking pretty OK until last night.  The bad news is that he's trended negative the entire first month so far.  It's only one month, and Perez seems healthy...so for now I'm going to say that Pitching Coach Doug Brocail, along with Lucroy and Chirinos, are going to have to help Perez find a new approach.  Martin Perez hasn't had command of his changeup ever since returning from Tommy John Surgery.  That means what he have is what we're going to keep getting until someone can find a new key for him.

In my opinion, Andrew Cashner needs another month of rehab starts, working with coaches and trainers.  He shouldn't be the fifth starter for the Texas Rangers right now.  He has got by so far on luck.  Let's see if today's start shows us something new, or if he winds up the disabled list to facilitate some more rehab in the next week or so.

For reference, here's the current Rangers composite look mixed in with Houston:


Keuchel has been the recipient of some luck (clearly not from defense, as no-one else is getting that benefit), but that shouldn't take away from the fact that he's pitching really well right now.  A matchup between him and Darvish would come down to how the strike zone is called, and the offense...which gives the advantage to Keuchel.

McCullers' xFIP would seem to indicate he's been making better pitches than the results indicate.  A 4.34 ERA paired with a 3.47 FIP says the same.  But with Nick Martinez pitching the way he has, you could make the case that the top four pitchers are all quite good.

One thing you can take away from Houston's stats is that defense may be letting the side down, compared to Texas.  With so many FIPs and xFIPs being in agreement, but with elevated ERAs, Texas may have a lot of hits against Houston that wouldn't score against other teams.  Like McCullers, Morton is sporting an ERA a run higher than his FIP, again indicating runs being scored that shouldn't have.

Musgrove, Hamels, Griffin, and Perez are all hanging out in the same neighborhood, again putting it to the offense to sort out the difference.  And again, that's an advantage to Houston right now.  And then you have the outliers: Cashner and Fiers.  Cashner is averaging only three runs allowed per nine innings, despite his FIP and xFIP saying he should be giving up two or more MORE runs per nine.  Fiers, I don't know for sure what's going on.  His ERA compared to his xFIP is in line with the other Houston trends, but that FIP is way out of whack.  That usually means he's giving up a lot of walks and home runs, and guess what?  HE IS!

Now on to Texas' relievers:

OK, putting Dyson on there isn't really fair.

LeClerc has been slightly better against Righties than Lefties, but still better than anyone else in the bullpen against everybody.  He has also, for the record, performed that same with runners on base as with the bases empty, and in high-leverage situations.  Jose should be your most-high-leverage reliever, whether you need him in the sixth inning or the ninth.

Keone Kela has been a bit better verses Lefties than Righties.  While you would prefer a slightly lower xFIP (this goes for all of the rest of the relievers, too), it's important to note that in most bullpens other than this one, that works out to about three or four runs allowed per month.  Claudio and Bush have turned in similar performances to Kela, although it's probably worth noting that, in the small early-season sample size, Bush has been much better against Lefties than Righties.

Alvarez hasn't really been used enough to even out some glaring discrepancies in this stats.  His splits are mixed all over the place.  It's wild enough that I can't really make a predictive statement.  I hope the Rangers have better numbers available to make the best call, although I haven't seen any *consistent* evidence they're doing such a thing.

Barnette's numbers look about right.  When he's good, he's quite good.  When he's bad, he's quite bad.  He's had four bad outings by xFIP, three bad outings by FIP, only two of which are the same as the bad xFIP outings, and only two bad outings by ERA.  Which happened to be a good outing by xFIP, but bad by FIP, which means Home Runs.  And it was!  It was his only home run allowed this year.  Me personally, I would keep throwing him out there.  There's no correlation with number of batters faced with him, he seems to be a better long-man option right now.

That's probably how Jeffress needs to be used, as well.  I was vocal until recently that Jeffress needed the chance to close, but he's not proven out in high leverage situations.  In fact, he's the one Rangers reliever who has done markedly better in LOW leverage situations, with no runners on base.  Jeremy probably needs to be the primary long man, along with Barnette, for middle inning relief.  Save LeClerc, Bush, Claudio, and Kela for the higher-leverage spots.  Use them for fewer batters than you are now, keep them available night-after-night.

And that brings us to Sam Dyson, because I'm not going to analyze one appearance by Anthony Bass, even if it was bad.

There is no current evidence that Sam Dyson should be on the big league roster, let alone being used in high leverage situations.  There is no glimmer of hope in his advanced stats or splits.