Monday, November 11, 2013

Exit Music (For A Player): Jarred Cosart

We're taking a look at the Astros who are still on the 40-Man Roster as part of our off-season Exit Music (For A Player) recap of 2013. Read the archive here. Today we take on Jarred Cosart.

Acquired: Via trade on July 29, 2011 with Philadelphia, along with Jon Singleton, Josh Zeid, and Domingo Santana for Hunter Pence.

10 starts: 60IP
ERA: 1.95 ; FIP: 4.35; xFIP: 4.68
1.35 WHIP. 208 ERA+
Baseball-Reference WAR: 2.6; FanGraphs WAR: 0.4
K/9: 5.0; BB/9: 5.3
2013 Salary: $2.13/hour + tips

Cosart (an anagram of "Castro," which delighted me to no end because I'm a dork) had a very strange Major-League season. At the end of August FanGraphs referred to Cosart's season in terms of "fluke," "doesn't logically make sense," and "luck." How on earth does a guy who walks 5.3 batters per nine innings have an ERA under 2.00? Well, you can click the FanGraphs link to see how they explain it, but it's clear that the reason is that Jarred Cosart's arm has been touched by God and that Cosart's splits are fearfully and wonderfully made.

While that link gets into the nuts and bolts of Cosart's season (as of August 29), we're here to take a bigger-picture look. Cosart threw 153IP between OKC and Houston in 2013 - an increase from 142.2IP between Corpus/OKC/Arizona Fall League in 2012. And while His K/9 rate increased from 7.0 for Corpus to 7.8 for OKC to 9.0 for OKC in plummeted to 4.95 for Houston. Furthermore, Cosart's walk rate rose from 3.93 to 4.23 to 4.84 to 5.25 across those same levels.

Cosart, like we saw for OKC, had his walks come in bunches. He made ten starts for Houston, and walked 5+ batters four times, including a 3K:6BB (2H/0ER) performance in his season finale on September 9. Maybe Cosart should just pitch from the stretch. With 0 outs, Cosart limited batters to a .181/.322/.208 line with 15 walks in 87 PAs. With 1 out, he allowed a .316/.379/.447 line with nine walks in 87 PAs, but with 2 outs that dropped back to a .148/.278/.230 line on a ridiculous .167 BABIP. Cosart just seemed to bear down with runners on base, and was helped out by a normally-shaky defense.

High-Water Mark:
July 12 @ Tampa Bay. In his Major-League debut, Cosart held the Rays hitless into the 7th and finished the night with 8IP, 2H/0ER, 2K:3BB.

What Went Well:
*Cosart induced a 54.5% Groundball Rate. This is pretty great. There were 171 starting pitchers who threw at least 60IP in 2013, and Cosart's 54.5% ranked 15th on the list (Dallas Keuchel ranked 9th, with 56.1% GB%). His Groundball/Flyball ratio, at 2.23, was 13th. With the Astros focusing on using the shift and highlighting other defensive strategies, this bodes well for Cosart's future.
*As previously mentioned, once runners got on base, Bud Kilmer would say that he would just bear down. With the bases empty, hitters would go .248/.393/.312. 26 of his 35 walks were with the bases empty. But when runners were on base, that dropped to .190/.252/.290, and with runners in scoring position it plummeted to .111/.208/.111. In 53 PAs with RISP, Coasrt allowed five hits - none for extra bases. So he stranded 85.9% of runners in 2013 - best (in an admittedly smaller sample size) in the league among starters who threw at least 60IP.
*Cosart held LHBs to a .176/.283/.208 line in 2013, compared to a .286/.396/.440 line to RHBs.

What Didn't:
*Maybe it's just about getting overly pumped up, but in Cosart's three starts at Minute Maid Park he allowed a .306/.411/.468 line, an OPS difference in home to away of 353 points. Pitching on the road. Seven of Cosart's starts came away from Houston, and hitters posted a .184/.295/.231 line, with a 1.23 ERA/1.16 WHIP.
*Those walks. Using the above filters (SPs > 60IP), Cosart's 5.25 BB/9 rate was the highest in the league. In those four starts where he allowed 5+ walks (which totaled 22IP), he walked multiple batters in an inning in just two of those innings. And those were the only two innings in which he walked 2+ batters.
*It ultimately comes down to that first pitch. MLB pitchers threw a first-pitch strike 60.3% of the time in 2013. Cosart threw Strike One 52.4% of the time. His swinging strike rate was 5.7%. League average is 9.2%.

Did You Know:
*The Clear Creek HS grad had signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Missouri and said he would only go pro if he was selected in the first three rounds of the 2008 draft. He fell to the 38th Round, but the Phillies offered him $550,000 within an hour of the signing deadline.
*Cosart's .506 batting average his senior season at Clear Creek broke Jay Buhner's school record.

2014 Contract: Pre-Arbitration
2014 Outlook: He'll need to work on his command, of course, but go ahead and put Cosart in the rotation for 2014. And, look, I know what his FIP, xFIP, SIERA, etc. stats say about 2013 - he got lucky. But let's just appreciate it and enjoy something nice for once.