The Mockingbird

Under the Hood with Pitch f/x: Esmil Rogers

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The backup infielder we got for John Farrell for a reliever who throws 96? Deal! I love this trade, but at the same time it highlights what made dumping Snider (no, I haven’t let it go) mediocre at best: while stockpiling hard throwing relievers and hoping you strike gold is a much better acquisition strategy than overpaying for closers, you just don’t have to pay very much on the open market for hard-throwing middle-reliever longshots. Esmil Rogers doesn’t have a lot less lightning-in-a-bottle potential than Brad Lincoln, his washed out-starter-with-one-stellar-run-as-a-reliever pedigree is the same, and the Jays picked him up for a spare part and a non-prospect, with the trade deadline nowhere in sight.

It also throws cold water (although with Izturis now signed, maybe AA is taking another swing at it) on what seemed like an increasingly obvious offseason move after acquiring an extra middle infielder in Mike Aviles– sending Yunel Escobar packing. Even before the eye black, this was a sticky situation for Alex Anthopoulos, as he’s right back in the over-a-barrel situation that he had Atlanta: facing heavy pressure to replace an unpopular player with serious attitude issues at a very thin position, when said player is at his all-time lowest value and will almost certainly rebound next season. The Braves’ front office must be enjoying all this FAR too much after enduring Alex Gonzalez at SS in 2011.

Anyway, here’s the pitch f/x lowdown on Rogers. Obviously he throws gas and has had trouble finding the plate, but you’re going to hear a lot of garbage, as usual, about the rest of his repertoire. First, THE DUDE DOES NOT THROW FOUR PITCHES. In fact , no matter what Fangraphs junky pitch algorithm says, he only sorta makes it to three. For starters, he threw 9 changeups all last year. That’s not a “show me” pitch, it’s a “tinkered with” and possibly an “oops, that one slipped” pitch. It was not good when he was a starter and is now basically extinct.

His fastball on the other hand averaged 95.8 mph out of the pen last season, which is . And then you really have to look at something that gives you the bigger picture of the movement on his stuff (I’m too lazy and BrooksBaseball’s new player cards are pretty sweet) to realize that  his breaking balls are all very similar, to the point where you might just  be seeing things in the clouds when you classifying them as different pitches :

If you’re a numbers rather than a graph person, check out the table at the top of the link above — Brooks’ pitch classifier identifies two  distinct breaking pitches, but they are apparently the exact same except that his curveball is four miles an hour slower and drops four inches more than his slider. It also throws in a handful of (brown) cutters that are apparently two miles an hour harder and drop two inches less. None of this is very likely…of course everyone’s ‘stuff’ gets smushed together at the higher velocities, but the differences  that are being picked out and given the neat labels of “curve” and “slider” are smaller from the variation in movement and velocity between one slider and the next. For all intents and purposes we’re looking at the same (erratic) pitch.

Now I don’t know — Rogers may actually have three different grips and have his catcher call them at different times, in different locations, etc, but the reality is they are at most minor variations on a theme, as opposed to what we really think of when counting pitches — things with fundamentally different movement  and/or speed for a batter has to time and react to. Based on the little I know about the difference between throwing cutters/sliders and curveballs, I’m inclined to think of it as one hard biting pitch that he can throw slightly harder or softer depending on the situation so it ‘bites’ or ‘slurves’ more.

Yet another possibility is that  these ‘curves’ are just hanging sliders. As C.C. Sabathia first pointed out, and I keep quoting because he was absolutely right in every way, sliders are more effective when they are thrown harder and “break” less (and even more so when they stop ‘sliding’ downwards and go more straight sideways, as they tend to do more and more through the year — like the reverse of Rivera or Halladay’s cutter) and are thrown harder. The slower, bendier, breaking pitches that Brooks’ identifies as a curve (my algorithm just calls them all sliders) are in the zone more  often, chased out of the zone less often, and missed less frequently. Bad third pitch, or errant second one…does it matter?

Rogers’ Breaking pitch(es?) in 2012 by Velocity
Mph In Zone% Swing % Miss %
86-88+ 38 34 53
84-86 39 29 48
82-84 mph 44 22 43
Under 82 mph 33 26 0% (7-for7)

Anyway, the point is that this speaks to the ‘type’ of pitcher that Rogers is, and why, despite throwing very, very, hard and striking out a ton of batters, Rogers was moved to the bullpen and then traded by first Colorado and now the Indians for not much, despite seemingly having found command of his lightning-bolt stuff in the second half  of last year. While he’s at a great age/development level and has tremendous stuff, with his 1-2 repertoire, he is purely a back of the bullpen flamethrower and not a potential Morrowesque conversion project, or even deep rotation depth. Really, his value all comes down to whether he can maintain what was an unusual amount of control over a small sample size last year, in which case he’s another Lincoln/Delabar/Santos in the Jays’ collection of Right-handed one-Inning Setup/striKeout guys (trying really hard to invent the term RISKGYS here).


Written by halejon

November 8, 2012 at 11:39 pm

Posted in Seriousness

One Response

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  1. […] even deep rotation depth,” writes Jon Hale as he concludes an outstanding-as-always piece at the Mockingbird, this time digging into the Pitch F/X on Esmil Rogers. “Really, his value all comes down to […]

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