Before game one of Wednesday’s double header with the Padres, the club announced that reliever Vinnie Pestano was being optioned back to Columbus. Presumably, the Indians want him to continue to work on his mechanics so that he becomes effective at retiring batters again. In three appearances this season, Pestano has surrendered six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 2 2/3 innings. He allowed three runs (one earned), including a 422-foot home run by Xavier Nady, in the ninth inning on Tuesday night.
In the never-ending battle between “cause and effect,” statistics and pitch speed are the effects of the causes which typically give coaches the most frustrations. It is easy to point to the numbers and gauge how a good (or bad) a player is relative to his peers; it is hard to point out the causes of what makes him so.
Here are a few effects we can pinpoint with Pestano:
- His K/9 rate (9.42) has plummeted relative to his 2010-2012 seasons (12.12).
- Both his FIP (5.63) and BABIP (.483) have both sky-rocketed the past two seasons from his pre-2013 career average (2.99 and .266, respectively). This indicates that although he might have been lucky in 2011 and 2012, it does not explain his high FIP that past two seasons. Looking at the components of FIP, the main problems are increased walks and home runs. Pestano has never been a control pitcher, but with his strikeout rate high in past seasons, a walk rate just under 10 percent was fine. However, at the the same time his K/9 has dropped, Pestano’s BB/9 rate is up to 5.35. He is not only allowing more balls in play (and his contact actually jumped already in 2012), but is putting more runners on with the free pass — not a good combination.
- His increase in home run rate is very alarming. While HR/9 is not the best denominator, it does highlight what has happened with Pestano. In 2012, his HR/9 was .90; since then it is 1.80, double the rate. Part of this is that 14.3 percent of Pestano’s fly balls allowed have gone out of the park. Of course, home runs per fly ball is subject to about as much random variation for pitchers as one can imagine for both relievers and starters, so in itself it is not a concern.
- The righty is allowing a greater proportion of balls to be hit in the air than in past seasons. After hanging around 40 percent in previous seasons, his GB% rate is down to around 32 % this year, and his FB% has jumped from about 42% to 50%. The more balls that are hit into the air, the more balls that have a chance to go out of the park. Combined with more frequent contact and putting runners on more often, even with a regressed home run per fly ball rate, things look ugly, hence Pestano’s 4.33 xFIP these last two seasons.
Armed with these statistics, it is up to the coaching staff to figure out what is causing these issues.
They have not in this past calender year; will that change?