Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Lucas Harrell said all three of his starts were different

With all due respect to Lucas Harrell, he's kind of wrong. He told Mark Berman this morning that, "All three of my starts were way different. The ball caught here, the ball caught there. Bounce this way, bounce that way....all three of my starts were way different. Just one of those things, bad luck."

First, let's start with the inefficency. In his season debut, an 11-1 loss to the Angels, 38 of his 76 pitches were for strikes and there were only three swings and misses. That's a 50% strike-to-pitch ratio. In his second start, a 7-3 loss at Toronto, Harrell threw 107 pitches and got 59 strikes...six of them swinging. That's a 55.1% strike-to-pitch ratio. And in his third start, last night's 4-2 loss to the Royals, 56 of his 101 pitches were for strikes with seven swinging strikes - a 55.4% strike-to-pitch ratio.

In all, Harrell threw 284 pitches, and 153 of them for strikes for a 53.9% Strike rate. So far this season, starters across the other 29 MLB teams have thrown 37646 pitches with 23957 of those pitches for strikes - or a 63.6% Strike rate. In those three starts, 32% of his pitches were in the strike zone. That's not efficient.

Even less efficient is his pitch per out ratio. Harrell needed 284 pitches to record 37 outs, or 7.68 pitches per out, and he faced 66 batters - 4.3 pitches per batter. If we use the total pitch data from the previous paragraph, the other 29 teams' starters needed 37646 pitches in 2313.1IP - or 6940 outs, which works out to be 5.42 pitches per out. Also, the other 29 teams' starters have faced 9821 batters, working out to 3.83 pitches per batter. So Harrell was throwing an extra pitch to every second batter, and needed an extra 2.26 pitches per out. And we're not just talking about every other team's ace.

Now was Lucas Harrell unlucky, as he mentioned? The Astros are shifting far more than any other team in baseball and the problems he's had with the shift are well-documented. And, despite the hell that (Not Hank) Aaron has caught for mentioning BABIP, it's worth noting that Harrell's BABIP is .370, where the rest of MLB's starters are averaging a .295 BABIP. It's also worth mentioning that Harrell generated a groundball rate right at 50%. And 18.2% of the flyballs he's giving up are leaving the yard. Considering that the Astros - as a team, including Harrell - have an 8.2% HR/FB rate, he's the outlier.

In short Harrell threw too many pitches and the pitches that did cross the plate were getting tattooed.  Opposing hitters had a 100% contact rate on pitches thrown inside the strike zone. If they hit a fly ball, there was a higher-than-average chance that it would leave the yard.

Nope, Lucas Harrell's starts were pretty much the same.