Midseason 2014 Performance Analysis of Quad Cities and Lancaster Starting Pitchers

Now that both clubs have reached the halfway milepost, let us review how the starting-biased pitchers of each club have performed versus league peers, using my Fielding- and Ballpark Independent Outcomes statistical evaluation system. For those interested in what has changed since April, here is a link to a FanPost that showed how most of these arms rated on the same system at the end of the first month. For those interested in what has changed since 2013, here is a link to how these arms graded out in that campaign.



Every pitcher in the league gets charged with the number of runs shown in the table for each such event they have allowed in 2014 (after correcting for ballpark/stringer-related biases in event type determinations). And then each starting pitcher in the league gets ranked from best to worst at runs avoided per batter faced; that amounts to their Performance Score.


That process can be repeated looking only at batted balls to compute a Batted Ball Subscore that quantifies how well the pitcher avoided the batted ball types that are most frequently associated with run generation. A Control Subscore (referencing BB+HBP%) and a Strikeout Subscore (referencing K%) are also computed to quantify how well they rate versus league starting peers on those skills. Lastly, an Age Score is computed to measure how young the pitcher was versus other league starters. Each score/subscore is expressed on a 20-to-80-style scale where 50 is league average, scores above 50 are better than average, and any 10 points equals one standard deviation; percentiles are also provided to show what percentage of league peers were beaten on the parameter.



In the tables that follow, values that beat league-average by at least a standard deviation are in green text ("very good") whereas those that trailed it by at least a standard deviation are in red ("very bad").


Quad Cities River Bandits


Gustave grades out as the top performer on the staff, though his countryman Feliz has come on strongly over the last few weeks and now sits just a tick below him. Thurman's performance has fallen a bit since April with batted balls still his weak area. Control artists Emanuel and Sanudo rate rather similarly and each has since made the jump up to Lancaster. In his first taste of full-season ball, Lee is lagging considerably behind his 2013 Greeneville marks on the same parameters.


Gustave's elite 66 Batted Ball Subscore has been fueled mostly by a low line drive rate and a very high popup rate, so there is room to question its sustainability. Houser and Lee sport rather high groundball rates but in each case a high line drive rate drags their batted ball rating down near league-average. Grills rates much better on batted balls than that duo does as his 59% groundball rate is accompanied by a relative avoidance of line drives.


Lancaster JetHawks


If I spotted you Smith and Hader and challenged you to name who would rank third on the staff on performance to this point, I am fairly confident that you would not have chosen Devenski. Though Devenski was demoted to Quad Cities from here not far from this time a year ago due to poor performance, he has rebounded nicely in his 2014 return to the California League (improving each of his three 2013 subscores by a standard deviation or more) and is presently age-average for the level of competition. Westwood's batted ball performance remains elite, and we should watch for some semblance of an uptick in his strikeout rating in the second half as he logs more Lancaster experience (as fellow groundballer and former rotation-mate Hauschild did previously). McCullers' performance has sagged lately, especially in the batted balls department. While Appel's batters faced sample remains small due to his stint in Extended Spring Training, he grades out as roughly an average league performer per this system. That suggests that Appel hasn't been nearly as terrible as the simple stats would lead one to hastily conclude. For the most part what we've likely seen from him at Lancaster is poor batted ball outcomes sequenced in a way that maximizes run generation (fat pitches plus bad timing/luck).


Westwood's 68% groundball rate stands out among the table values, as does his ability to avoid pulls on those rare occasions when he does surrender an outfield flyball (still further limiting the risk of a homer). Holmes has seen his outfield fly rate swell and groundball rate plunge versus his historical marks since returning to full-season action in 2014; getting those percentages closer to past values should push him back into the plus performer ranks where he has typically rated per this system. McCullers' groundball rate has dropped 12% versus his 2013 Quad Cities mark, and that has left him susceptible to the adverse consequences of louder contact in venues that tend to punish pitchers for such transgressions. Having recently reviewed Appel's collegiate performance in this fashion and seen what has transpired so far in his pro career, I project him now to be more of an average big-league performer on batted balls as opposed to a better-than-average one as I and others had formerly projected.


Pitchers that Toiled for Both Clubs

Below are the overall 2014 scores for the 3 pitchers who have logged innings for both teams.


Given Emanuel's extended collegiate campaign and abbreviated pro debut of 2013, this post serves as our first extended look at him under this sort of lens. The control and strikeout marks to date seem about what would be expected, but more time may be needed to assess how he would stand to fare on batted balls moving forward.

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