Loaiza Justification
by Ken Arneson
2006-01-23 11:52

There are some interesting things to note about the A’s from David Pinto’s latest defensive report, where he shows (a) which pitchers had the best defensive support behind them in 2005, and (b) which pitchers produced the easiest balls for fielders to turn into outs.

First to note is that the A’s had a great defense last year. All of the A’s starting pitchers from 2005 show up in the upper half for best defensive support:

  • Rich Harden led the majors
  • Barry Zito was 10th
  • Kirk Saarloos was 12th
  • Joe Blanton was 26th
  • Dan Haren was 44th

The result was more mixed with regards to which pitchers gave their fielders the easiest balls to turn into outs:

  • Joe Blanton was 5th
  • Barry Zito was 10th
  • Dan Haren was 91st
  • Kirk Saarloos was 106th
  • Rich Harden was 109th

For Haren and Harden, this probably doesn’t hurt them much, because they’re strikeout pitchers. They don’t rely on their fielders as much as other pitchers. But for Saarloos, who strikes out very few batters, the fact that the balls he allowed into play weren’t particularly easy to field is not, I would think, a good sign of things to come.

This brings us to Saarloos’ replacement in the rotation, Esteban Loaiza. How were his numbers?

Easy to field: 13th best.
Defensive support: Next to last.

Of all the major league pitchers who had over 300 balls in play last year, only Carl Pavano had worse defensive support. Let’s compare Zito to Loaiza:

Pitcher Balls in play Expected outs Actual outs Difference
Zito 654 460.30 486 +25.70
Loaiza 661 462.19 444 -18.19

The numbers look awfully similar: they both pitched about the same number of innings, and produced similar levels of easy-to-field balls, but there’s one big difference: Zito’s defense turned about 44 more balls into outs than Loaiza’s.

It should be quite interesting to see what happens when Loaiza gets put in front of the A’s defense come April.

Comments: 2
1.   ScoobyGoo
2006-01-23 21:31

1.  Even though I often have to remind myself in these types of situations that statistics are just statistics and correlation does not imply causality, it seems like Beane found himself another ridiculous gem in a god-awful free-agent class...it's moves like these that make me wonder why guys like Kris Benson still sign for 8 million per year, do most GMs even try?

Sigh..these were the type of moves I expected Paul DePodesta to make once he got his core roster in place...

2.   Lefty
2006-01-24 09:30

2.  This isn't necessarily on topic, but I had the pleasure of being under Curt Young's pitching tutelage at a recent baseball instructional camp. And I must say I was surprised. I thought he'd be a super-intense guy. The guy was so laid back; very approachable. And of course I wouldn't be complimentary if he wasn't helpful on the pitching front.

I'm a Cub fan and I'm more and more jealous of the A's organization.

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