Saturday, December 06, 2008

This is Howry Do It, Baby!

Thought I would go over my thoughts on Bob Howry. At $2.75M plus easy to achieve incentives that should boost him up to Affeldt's $4M per season amount, assuming he returns to his former goodness, that is not a bad deal. We give him a chance to redeem himself (and return to his first organization) and he could give us great value as a reliever if 2008 was a blip on a sterling career so far.

Let's start with his career. 7 seasons of 3.59 ERA or less (out of 10 full seasons), 4 seasons with 3.32 ERA or less out of the last 5 seasons. Career ERA of 3.68, FIP of 3.95. 2008 is an aberration compared to his career, but at age 35 for next season, it could be the start of the end of his career.

So let's look at 2008. 5.35 ERA is the worse full season of his career by far. His previous worse was 4.69, and third worse was 4.19 (which is not that bad either). What appears to be clearly a problem was that he gave up 13 homers in the season, the worse ever in a full season, as 11 was his worse before (in 2001), and he gave up 90 hits in 70.2 IP, only his second season in his career where he gave up more hits than IP during the season.

The home runs were clearly a outlier. His HR/FB% was 11.7% in 2008, when most pitchers regress to around 10%. From 2002 to 2008, his HR/FB% was 8.5%. Had he had only 10%, he would have given up only 11 homers, but if he dropped it to his career numbers, it would have been only 9 homers, which is right in range with what he had given up in his career previously. This would drop his ERA down below 5, at minimum (reducing ER by 1 for each homer; could have been runners of his on base too, which would reduce even more). It also increased his OPS giving up by 124 points, most of the points that was over his career average.

BABIP is clearly an outlier. .354 BABIP is higher than the mean .300 most pitchers regress to, and higher than his career .291 BABIP. The highest he had before was .319 BABIP in 2001 (clear by now that 2001 was his other worse season). That is 16 more hits than he would have given up had he only had a .300 BABIP in 2008. That probably represents the rest of the increase in OPS seen in 2008 versus his career. Reduction of both to career average should result in improvement he should see in 2009, as long as he's not losing his skills.

Looking at his skills, one would not see anything among the things he can control to suggest that 2008 was a season of decline. While his K/9 did drop again, at 7.51 it is very close to his career number of 7.75, just a random variation up and down. However, he was able to reduce his BB/9 to 1.66 and it has been under 2.10 for the past 4 seasons, which is excellent, good pitchers are able to get it under 3.0 but only elite pitchers can get it to the 2.0 level. That combined to improve his K/BB to 4.54 in 2008, versus career of 2.73 and previous high of 4.18 in 2006, where you want relievers to have at least a 2.4 ratio. He also had a down year in LOB%, which was only 70.3% in 2008, versus his 74.9% for his career, leading to more runs scoring on him.

His batted balls stats are also not indicative of decline. His GB/FB ratio was about the same, 0.74 versus 0.77 for 2002-2008 period (Fangraphs only has data for Howry back to 2002). He actually reduced his LD%, usually a good sign for reduced BABIP, with 17.9% in 2008 vs. 19.8% for the period, and could be a sign of development, as he had a LD% of 18.0 in 2006 (vs. 19.7% in 2007). His GB% was 34.9%, right in line with career 35.0%. The only negative was that his FB% rose to 47.2% after a 47.9% in 2007, versus 45.2% for the 2002-2008 period.

Looking at ball and strikes was also positive. For the 2002-2008 period, he threw strikes 64.1% of the time but for 2008, he threw strikes 65.5% of the time. That is certainly is not a sign of decline.

Looking at pitch type, one big difference between 2008 and previous years was that he threw less fast balls and part of the reason for that was a reduction in the speed of his fastball. He threw a fastball only 74.8% of the time (86.2%, 82.8%, and 82.6% in three previous seasons) and at only 91.2 MPH (92.3, 92.8, and 92.8 in three previous seasons). He threw a lot more sliders though, 23.1% of the time vs. 10-15% roughly previous three season, but that speed also fell too, to 83.3 MPH vs. 84.4, 84.2, and 86.4 previously. Changeup percentage wasn't that significant relative to 3 previous seasons but again velocity was down, 83.0 MPH vs. 84.2, 85.1, and 84.5.

It is not a great sign that his velocity fell, but since it fell across all his pitches and he was able to throw for more strikes, and kept his peripherals up or improved, that is the more important point.

Based on all this, he does appear to be slipping, as his velocity fell significantly, but he was able to adjust and kept his peripherals all within career norms or better, which is the more pertinent piece of information regarding his 2009 season with us. Particularly since he'll be pitching at AT&T half of his games, which should help with reducing the number of homers he gives up, particularly against left-handed hitters. With only one year committed, and the strong likelihood that 2009 should be more like his career than 2008, he was a good addition with little risk involved but a potentially large reward if he can return to his career norm of 3.68 ERA or the stretch of 2004-2007 where his ERA was 2.74, 2.47, 3.17, and 3.32.

3 comments:

  1. I don't agree with the Howry signing at all. It was a waste. We already have young, talented arms that just need innings to develop. Why add another 30+ ? I was under the assumption that Sabean was going to break out of his mold and develop youth.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I've asked you once before to stop using my former JPG that I used with my old website. It is not a nice thing to steal other people's artwork and use it as your own, it is immoral and impolite and every nasty word in the book.

    Who says that they just need innings to develop? Some pitchers get a lot of inning and never develop. Either you know how to pitch or you don't, that is the premise of the "There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect" that many people believe in, either you got it or you don't, there is no in-between where more innings is going to help the prospect figure it out.

    He needs to have a pitch that gets hitters out or a repertoire that he can mix to get hitters out or stuff that he can fool hitters, and no amount of innings pitched is going to help him develop that, he can practice to perfect it in order to do it regularly, but either he has one of those or he don't. And he can practice as well in AAA as he can in the majors.

    In addition, this only pushes out the last guy in the bullpen. It is not like we have 7 guys who are sure things in the bullpen, Matos, Sadler, Pichardo, as much as I like their stats, might never make it in the majors, Sadler in particular still walks way too many to make it up in the majors.

    Howry solidifies the bullpen without pushing a deserving reliever to the minors. Any of these fringe players can go to the minors and work on developing that pitch they need to do well in the majors. It is not like Howry will be here in 2010, if they make a big enough statement in the minors in 2009, they will get their chance in September and AFL.

    Just because you are developing youth does not mean that you necessarily just use youth and not sign some veterans. Go and look at any of the consistently successful teams of the past 20 years and you will find that while they are developing their youth, they are also supplementing their major league roster at positions where they are weak in the majors and minors. We were weak in the bullpen in 2008, with a stronger bullpen, we would have been nearly .500 already in 2008.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I apologize for the jgp. I seiously didnt know it was yours . It cane up on an image search.

    ReplyDelete

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