Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Josh Fields has had a bad week

Josh Fields has had a pretty rough go of it lately. He is still amazingly still on the roster (as of lunch on April 30) and would enter tonight's series finale with the Nationals with a robust 9.58 ERA/1.74 WHIP, 10.5 H/9, 5.2 BB/9, 46 ERA+, and a -0.6 WAR (according to Baseball-Reference; FanGraphs' WAR, at 0.1, isn't so bleak). With a career 63.2% LOB rate, Fields is only stranding 39.8% of the runners he either allows or inherits - which is the lowest on the team by 16%, and the lowest of any reliever in baseball with a minimum of 10IP.

Now with relievers come small sample sizes. His FIP is 4.09, xFIP? 4.57. BABIP, you ask, ready to pounce? .379. Also, his HR/FB% is 7.1%, down from 15.7% in 2013. So you can figure that the numbers are going to get better, even if by sheer chance. Maybe if Dexter Fowler started throwing his glove at baseballs flying between him and the corner outfielder...

No matter. Let's look at the last week specifically to see just how quickly you can go from being a closer to your bosses checking flights to Oklahoma City.

April 23

It wasn't always like this. In nine appearances to begin the season, Fields had thrown 9IP, allowing 4H/3R (2ER), 11K:4BB. Opponents had a .200 BABIP and a .390 OPS-against. He was an animal. A manimal. There was a hiccup on April 10th at Toronto. With the Astros up by five runs, Fields allowed 2H/3R (2ER), 1K:1BB in 0.2IP, but the Astros still won. And then in five games from April 15-22, Fields faced 17 batters and retired 16 of them - walking one who did not score. It's like Billy Wagner resurrected right?

So Fields entered the April 23 game in the bottom of the 9th with the Astros up 3-2 at Seattle and looking to finish off a sweep of the Mariners. Robinson Cano took the third pitch of the AB to center field. Okay, then Corey Hart got a grounder between Villar and Dominguez. So there's runners on 1st and 2nd with nobody out. He struck out Justin Smoak for the first out and just needed a groundball to get out of the inning with nothing but a scare and a smile. Josh Fields took the very next pitch he threw to deep right field. Game over. Eight pitches, four batters, three hits and a strikeout.

April 25

April 24th was the beginning of the Jed Lowrie Diaries, and with the Astros down 7-0 by the time the Astros came up to bat, they didn't need much in the way of their shutdown closer. But the following night the Astros and A's were locked up at 5-5 in the top of the 9th with Moss, Callaspo, Gentry up for the A's. The Astros would have Fowler, Castro, and Springer up in the bottom half for a chance to win. Except that chance never came.

On the 4th pitch of the leadoff AB, Fields hit Moss. Callaspo worked a full count before hitting a line drive to center on the 8th pitch of the AB. Gentry bunted down the third base line and managed to reach first when Fields bobbled the pick-up. So with the bases loaded and nobody out, Daric Barton hit a first-pitch single back up the middle, clearing the bases. Nick Punto knocked a double on a 3-1 count to the left field corner. Fields' day was done, but not before Anthony Bass allowed both of the runners he inherited from Fields to score. Summary: Five batters faced, 20 pitches, three singles, a double and an HBP.

April 29

Fields had been throwing fairly often. He threw 59 pitches between April 21-25. So the Astros thought they'd give him some time off to heal. To recover. To get his groove back. In he came after having three days off (including the second off-day of the season). George Springer's 2-run single gave the Astros a 3-2 lead in the 3rd inning which was surrendered when Anthony Bass gave up a leadoff single to Jayson Werth and Raul Valdes promptly gave up an Adam LaRoche double to tie the game.

And so in the top of the 9th, tied 3-3, here comes Josh Fields. He threw six balls to start his appearance, walking Denard Span and getting behind Anthony Rendon 2-0 before inducing a groundout (which would have been a double play had Span not stolen 2nd base). Then Jayson Werth worked a full-count walk before Adam F. LaRoche singled to right to score Span. Ian Desmond GIDP'd to end the inning, but the damage was done. Down 4-3, Rafael Soriano walked Dominguez and Villar before Altuve hit a slicing ball that didn't tail enough to right field, and Nate McLouth gloved it to end the game. Summary: Six batters faced, 24 pitches, two walks and a single.

Fields' week: 14 batters faced, four outs, eight hits, two walks, nine earned runs, a .778 BABIP, .727/.786/1.091, -1.61 WPA, and a -7.79 RE24.

That's a bad week.