Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Lindstrom an Astro

According to Peter Gammons (God bless him), it's done. The Astros have addressed one of their bullpen concerns by trading for Marlins reliever Matt Lindstrom.

Bill Baer (of Crashburn Alley) broke down Lindstrom over at Baseball Daily Digest. What are we getting?

Lindstrom has two main pitches in his arsenal: a four-seam fastball that averages 96 MPH and an 82 MPH slider. He seems like a natural fit at the back end of any bullpen, but his poor showing in ‘09 should cause hesitation in awarding him high-leverage innings...

...Lindstrom’s BABIP last season sat at .342, which seems high but it was at .335 in ‘07. This seems to be his natural BABIP and should not be cause for concern.

His runners left on base percentage (LOB%) was 61.6% after previously resting at 72.3% and 76.3% the previous two seasons. Aha. Lindstrom was allowing hits at about a 34% clip and averaging about a walk every two innings — a bad combination. The league average LOB% is 72%.

While some of his LOB% woes may be due simply to randomness (or bad luck if you prefer), it’s so far under what we’d expect that there has to be an underlying factor. My theory is that as a result of his walk rate, and coupled with his thin pitch repertoire, he was very transparent on the mound. Thus, hitters were more successful against Lindstrom when there was at least one runner on base as opposed to the bases empty. The statistics bear this out:

* Bases empty: .744 OPS
* Runners on: .873 OPS
* Runners in scoring position: .868 OPS

All told, we can identify some, or even most, of Lindstrom’s struggles:

* He’s had a below-average defense behind him
* Transparent pitch selection, thus allowing hitters to sit on fastball, which accounts for about 75% of his pitches
* Mechanics with runners on base as opposed to bases empty causes inability to consistently pitch in the strike zone
* Hitters are much more selective at the plate due to his lack of command

Once the struggles and the factors behind them are identified, Lindstrom and whatever team he will be playing for in 2010 can take the appropriate steps necessary to fix them. Lindstrom is certainly not a lost cause. He’s only 30 years old and will be relatively cheap for several years, which makes him a great low-risk, high-reward candidate.

Lindstrom is on his way to Houston for a physical, and there's still no word on who the Astros are sending to Florida. Keep it tuned here.