Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Lucas Harrell vs. Brandon Backe

Lucas Harrell has racked up 16 losses this season, already tied for 7th-most in franchise history (one behind Ken Johnson (1963), Bob Knepper (1987) and Denny Lemaster (1969), two behind Bob Bruce (1965) and Doug Drabek (1993), and four behind all-time Astros single-season loss leader Turk Farrell (1962).

Yesterday, I was going through to see if Harrell's 2013 season is the worst pitching season in Astros history. That was some depressing research. I'll finish it one day, when it's 16 degrees on a January night and everyone else is asleep. Then I'll feel the warm comfort of the bourbon meet the cold comfort of my knife. But I did run across an interesting comparison: Brandon Backe.

HA! you scoff. Backe was The King! you say. And, for a few years, you were right. I'll always have a soft spot in the back of my head for Brandon Backe. But 2008 Brandon Backe was rough...and comparable to Harrell's 2013.

Let's just look at the SPROTS RITER STATZ:

Harrell: 140.2IP, 163H/194ER, 81K:82BB, 6.01 ERA/1.74 WHIP. 19HR
Backe: 166.2IP, 202H/112ER, 127K:77BB. 6.05 ERA/1.67 WHIP. 36HR

Let's look a little closer:
Harrell: 10.4 Hits/9; 1.2 HR/9; 5.2 BB/9, 5.2 K/9; 0.99 K:BB ratio
Backe: 14.5 Hits/9; 3.5 HR/9; 4.2 BB/9, 6.9 K/9; 1.67 K:BB ratio

Alright. Immediately we see that Backe allowed more hits and gave up far more homers than Harrell has. But Harrell has more walks and fewer strikeouts. Let's keep going:

Harrell: .312 BABIP; 5.52 FIP, 5.04 xFIP
Backe: .324 BABIP; 5.87 FIP; 4.83 xFIP

These stats can be naturally skewed. Home runs and BABIP, for instance, for Backe. FIP and Shifts for Harrell, too.

But both had fastball problems...

Harrell: -23.3 wFB, -9.2 wFA
Backe: -23.2 wFB, -21.2 wFA

You can even look at the Plate Discipline numbers (via FanGraphs) and see similarities:

Harrell: 28.1% O-Swing%; 78.9% O-Contact%; 86.6% Contact%
Backe: 31.5% O-Swing%; 59.4% O-Contact%; 77.9% Contact%

The percentage of pitches that opposing batters swung at outside the zone is similar (28.% for Harrell, 31.5% for Backe), but hitters made far less contact on Backe's pitches overall than Harrell (86.6% Contact% for Harrell, 77.9% for Backe).

So I don't really know what you do with this information, other than to say, "Wow. That's moderately interesting."