This edition of One Night Only contains a semi-lengthy consideration of a fringe major leaguer.
In other words: P-A-R-T-Y.
(NERD scores in parentheses.)
New York Nationals (3) at Atlanta (5) | 7:10pm ET
Metropolitans: Pat Misch (10?)
18.0 IP, 3.50 K/9, 1.00 BB/9, .314 BABIP, 46.3% GB, 4.0% HR/FB, 4.55 xFIP
Braves: Jair Jurrjens (5)
95.0 IP, 6.25 K/9, 2.94 BB/9, .291 BABIP, 39.6% GB, 7.3% HR/FB, 4.52 xFIP
Pat Misch, Pat Misch Is on My List
You’ll notice, if you look down below at the full schedule of today’s games, that I gave Met starter Pat Misch an estimated NERD of only 6. At the time, I thought I was being liberal even with that assignation: Misch isn’t exactly what you’d call a “stuff” guy (currently sporting, for example, an average fastball velocity of 85.4 mph) and appears, at first glance, to be a serious candidate for the Quad-A (or just straight-up Triple-A) label.
Thing is, Misch does one thing really well, and that’s throw strikes. His strike rate of 66.5% through his first three starts would tie him for 11th place in that category — with Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton — of the 205 NERD-qualified starters. Nor does it mark a serious departure from his minor league numbers, which generally have him throwing strikes at about a 65% rate.
His strike-throwing profile is borne out in his line so far, which includes a 3.50 K/9 and 1.00 BB/9. In other words, he’s pitching to contact pretty seriously. And when a pitcher is conceding so much contact, the logical question to ask is, “What’s his groundball rate?” If it’s high, you’re probably talking about a serviceable (and, for now, cost-controlled) major league pitcher; if it’s low, you’re talking about John Wasdin, who’s called Way Back Wasdin not for nothing.
So, what’s Misch’s groundball rate?
Well, there are a couple-few answers to that. Like this one: “Through 174 major league innings, it’s 43.3%.” Or, like this other one: “Through 705.1 minor league innings, it’s 47.2%.” Thing is, we ought to be most interested in a third answer — i.e. what it’s likely to be going forward.
Because Misch has a considerably larger minor league resume, it’d be ideal to project his major league rates using at least some of his minor league data. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy as looking at major league equivalencies.
The Evolution of Groundball Rates
A couple weeks ago, Resident Prospect Maven Bryan Smith wrote an article all up in this piece called “The Evolution of Groundball Rates,” in which Smith looks at 18 current major leaguers and the differences between their minor and major league groundball rates.
After listing both sets of rates, Smith gives us this:
[It’s] interesting that half the players dropped their groundball rate between 3 and 7.5 percent between the minor and Major leagues. Those who attended FanGraphs Live heard the problems I have with using MLEs to project minor leaguers. While it would be easy to do this study with everyone in the MinorLeagueSplits era, create an average drop that we apply for everyone, I just don’t find it all that informative. If you want to assume a player drops about 5-5.5 percent when he reaches the Majors, you’ll probably be about right as often as you’re about wrong.
Essentially, what we learn from Smith — and he presents the numbers in that article if you wanna see — is that groundball rates don’t translate perfectly from the minors to the majors.
In other words, if we’re going to project Misch, it’ll require something more nuanced than just MLEs. It’ll require, ultimately, human input.
The Horse’s Mouth
On account of Bryan Smith is basically just sitting by his computer all the time, thinking about this exact subject, I decided to go ahead and ask him what’s the deal with Misch. Specifically, I asked this:
I’m curious as to how you view Pat Misch. In particular, I’m wondering how he might fit into the different categories you discussed in your piece on the evolution of groundball rates.
Per his Minor League Splits page, he appears to’ve settled in the high-40s and low-50s at the Triple-A level. At the same time, he’s working with only an 85-87 mph fastball.
Who’re his comps, you think?
And, specfically, this is what Smith replied:
One thing that doesn’t receive enough attention when thinking about groundball rates is command. I think most are guilty of assuming that GB% is correlated strictly with movement — the sinker with the most downward movement should yield the highest number of groundballs. But this isn’t the case, and it’s important to remember that commanding a pitch down in the zone is half (or more) of the battle. Misch’s stuff — both in terms of velocity and movement — aren’t special in the slightest, and he doesn’t have the unique build (and downward plane) of a guy like Doug Fister. But what they do share is amazing command, and there is significant value in that. I don’t think Misch will be able to sustain a 50% groundball rate, but I think his ability to spot his fastball below the belt will keep him on the better side of average going forward.
The Outlook on Misch
I’m not sure that Pat Misch is gonna ever be a world-beater of a starter. He strikes out very few batters, and that’s not the best of qualities for a major league pitcher to possess.
But he also seems to have the stuff to not walk batters and, within, reason to induce grounders at an above-average rate.
If I Had My Druthers
• Jair Jurrjens, a native of Curacao (in the Netherlands Antilles), would begin referring to his fastball as “The Dutch Oven” — owing, you know, to the heat that it provided.
• It would become such a fabulous pitch that announcers are absolutely forced to reference it, by name, on the air.
• I, along with droves of American teenagers, would L my A off.
These games are very likely playing at some kind of sporty channel near you.
pNERD = Pitcher NERD
tNERD = Team NERD
Game = Time and Average NERD for Game
* = Estimated NERD
Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.