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John Granato: When it comes to baseball, stat guy deserves to be muted

John Granato: When it comes to baseball, stat guy deserves to be muted
A.J. Hinch has had troubles with his bullpen. Jason Behnken / Getty Images

For the most part Twitter is awesome. The creativity is phenomenal. There is a lot of great stuff out there. And then there’s the other side: the Twitter argument. It’s basically two sides shouting their opinions with no chance of convincing the other side that they’re wrong. It happens all the time in political and sports arguments and most of all on the sports side in baseball arguments.

Why?

Stat guy.

A couple of weeks ago when the Astros gave up that five spot in the 9th to the Indians I asked why couldn’t A.J. Hinch have just left Devenski in to finish them off. He pitched a beautiful 8th throwing just 9 pitches, 7 strikes in a 1,2,3 inning. The Astros were up by 5. He was throwing well. If he got in any trouble they could always go deeper into the bullpen. It’s one of my pet peeves that a manager pulls a guy when he’s throwing well. Why not let him go and give him an extra day of rest if he needs it after a multi-inning outing.

Instead A.J. went to Ken Giles. An hour and a half later the Astros were on the losing end of a 10-9 14-inning heartbreaker.

You would have thought I told one guy on Twitter the earth was flat. To him it would have been impossible to have pitched Devenski in the 9th and just plain stupid. We went back and forth until I couldn’t anymore.

Mute.

It’s my favorite feature on Twitter. The mute button.

You don’t have to look like a jerk and let them screencap you blocking them but it’s basically the same. You can’t see anything they write but they don’t know it. For all I know that guy is still chirping at me and he’s probably getting madder and madder because I’m not responding to any of his trolls. Totally sweet.

Fast forward to the Red Sox game Saturday night. Verlander had thrown another beauty. Not his best but he battled like a champ. 6 innings, he gave up 2 runs and left with a 3-2 lead.

Enter Will Harris. Exit two baseballs and the Astros go on to lose 5-4.

So I tweeted:

I just thought of my next Sportsmap article. It’s going to be about HOW THE BULLPEN SUCKS

For the most part the response was positive.

I had 102 likes, 10 retweets and 30 responses.

“I am ready and would like to fistfight the bullpen.”

“It’ll take more than a single article. You’re looking at a series of articles.”

“No need to write an article - we already know.”

And so on.

And we all lived happily ever after....

Until stat guy showed up.

If you don’t know him stat guy is smarter than you. He knows more baseball than you. As a matter of fact you shouldn’t breathe the same baseball air as stat guy. You don’t deserve it. You should hang on his every word. Never ever ever disagree with stat guy because you’re too stupid to form an opinion on anything baseball.

Stat guy was having none of this bullpen sucks talk. Stat guy wanted us to know that we didn’t have any idea of what we were watching. He actually said that Ken Giles has been “dominant.” I should have muted right there. You have lost all credibility when you say something like that.

He did have facts though. Giles was 10/10 in save situations and the bullpen was top 3 in the league in ERA and number one in FIP.

If you’re not familiar with FIP it’s another way to measure a pitcher’s effectiveness. It’s Fielding Independent Pitching. It takes the fielders totally out of the equation. It deals only in home runs, walks, hit-by-pitches and strikeouts. Any ball that’s put in play is not taken into account.

The thing I’m not crazy about is that if you give up a home run it counts against you but if they hit 20 balls that dent the wall they don’t count. How about if you don’t strike a lot of guys out but induce a lot of easy grounders? Doesn’t count.

Don’t get me wrong. Stat guy knows what he’s doing. Most of the guys at the top of the ERA list this year are at the top of the FIP list except Corey Kluber. He’s fourth in ERA and 16th in FIP.  He’s better than the 16th best pitcher in the league.

In 2015 Dallas Keuchel won the Cy Young and finished fifth in ERA but 14th in FIP. You can’t tell me he was the 14th best pitcher in baseball. He just wasn’t. I saw that with my human eyes.

And that’s the problem with stat guy. You can’t use your human eyes. You can’t “feel” anything about the game. The numbers don’t lie. Unless….. you make them lie.

Stat guy can manipulate numbers any way he wants.

When you look at the Astros bullpen this year and see that league leading 2.99 FIP you can’t help but be impressed.

But there’s another stat that stat guy left out: clutch. There’s an actual number for coming through when needed most and for the Astros bullpen it’s not good. As a matter of fact it’s the worst in the league and by a wide margin; more than double the White Sox who are second to last.

-2.67 to -1.24.

And let’s add one more stat. I’m not sure you’ll find this one anywhere else because I just made it up.

I call it RPYRSI.

Relief Pitching against the Yankees, Red Sox and Indians

It’s kind of a big deal. Those are the teams you’ll be facing in the postseason. Those are the ones you’ll have to get out to have another parade. Those are the ones that are killing you.

In their 50 innings against those three teams the Astros pen has given up 28 runs. That’s a 5.04 ERA. Not sure what the FIP is. Don’t care because I saw with my human eyes that they weren’t good against them, that they gave up huge runs late that cost the Astros wins.

Over the next month and a half the schedule eases up drastically. It’s full of the Rangers, the Royals, the A’s and Rays. The Astros could and should be 25 plus games over .500 by the All-Star break. The bullpen should right the ship, bring their numbers down and look good again. But it’s not good enough.

And here’s the thing stat guy: Jeff Luhnow knows it.

He knew it last year when he tried to get Zach Britton at the trade deadline. He knew it this offseason when he brought in Hector Rondon and Joe Smith.

He knows it now. I’m telling you he will trade for a closer this deadline.

So I wonder stat guy, if he does, does that mean you were wrong? If he does it means that Jeff Luhnow didn’t think the bullpen was good enough even though you said it was.

Are you going to disagree with Jeff Luhnow?

I would imagine for stat guy Jeff Luhnow is a god, a sabermetrician who actually won the World Series. He’s got to be on their Mount Rushmore.  

Billy Beane is George Washington.

Theo Epstein is Abraham Lincoln.

Jeff Luhnow is Thomas Jefferson.

Andrew Friedman is Teddy Roosevelt*

*I’ve never considered Brian Cashman a sabermetrician. He just had more money than everyone else so he bought great players.

It’s all a guess though. I don’t know. I’m not a nerd.

But not even stat guy can think he’s smarter than Luhnow. Well, maybe because he’s stat guy. Stat guy knows all.

If Luhnow doesn’t do anything this trade deadline I’ll eat crow. I’ll admit I was wrong. I’m not like you stat guy. I can admit when I’m wrong.

But if he does trade for a closer or if this bullpen blows up in the postseason and costs us a parade this year you better be ready because you’re gonna need my favorite button.

Mute.


 

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The Astros rotation looks like a strength moving forward. Composite Getty Image.

The Houston Astros are coming off a much-needed series win over the White Sox, but have a quick turnaround as they host the Orioles on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The 'Stros dropped the first game of the series with Framber Valdez on the mound, but were able to rebound with Hunter Brown and Spencer Arrighetti starting the final two games.

Brown was brilliant once again, and Arrighetti bounced back after a disastrous start against the Tigers over the weekend. Despite all the injures to the Astros staff this season, their young pitchers are stepping up when they need them the most.

Brown has six consecutive quality starts and is beginning to show signs that he can be the top of the rotation pitcher the club always hoped he could develop into.

Arrighetti has stepped in and shown that he belongs in the big leagues, and has provided innings Houston desperately requires with so many pitchers on the injured list.

Speaking of which, with Justin Verlander on the IL, Double A prospect Jake Bloss will make the start for Houston on Friday night. Bloss has quickly progressed through the farm system, having been drafted just a year ago.

We'll see how he performs in his MLB debut, but the club seems to have a lot of quality pitching options moving forward, especially with Luis Garcia and Lance McCullers scheduled to return in late July and early August respectively.

And as we look at the Astros rotation moving forward, perhaps they will go back to a six-man rotation during certain stretches in the second half of the season.

Which could prove to be vital to the team's success. As good as Ronel Blanco has been, he's never pitched as many innings as he'll be asked to pitch this year. Same goes for Arrighetti. And let's face it, sending Verlander out to pitch on four days rest consistently at 41 years old doesn't sound like a wise decision. He's already been on the IL twice this year.

While some see Garcia and McCullers as wild cards to help the team this season, Astros GM Dana Brown doesn't see it that way. He told the Astros flagship station this week that he's counting on those guys to make big contributions when they return. And he's counting on their postseason experience should they get there.

Keep in mind, Garcia has a 3.61 career ERA and has been durable outside the Tommy John surgery. And McCullers has always been good, it's just the health that causes concern.

Garcia is also an example of how a player can skip Double A and Triple A and have success right away in the big leagues. Hopefully, Bloss can follow in his footsteps, since he's bypassing Triple A to make his first start.

So what's the short and long-term outlook for the Astros rotation? And should we expect Verlander to return in 2025?

Be sure to watch the video above as we address those questions and much more!

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