The Deal with Manny Delcarmen

So Jeff touched on some of this a bit this morning, that Manny Delcarmen for Chris Balcom-Miller seems like a good trade. It's probably just sentimentality and overvaluing of our own prospects that makes me not like the trade.

But the fact is that it's gone through, so come Thursday, Manny Delcarmen will be a member of the Colorado Rockies.

So what's the deal with Manny? Well, let's look at some key numbers from Delcarmen's career.

Season

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

GB%

HR/FB

ERA

FIP

xFIP

2005

9

9

7

0

0.328

81.3%

62.5%

0.0%

3.00

3.69

4.45

2006

53.1

7.59

2.87

0.34

0.385

65.3%

44.6%

3.8%

5.06

3.02

3.86

2007

44

8.39

3.48

0.82

0.224

87.0%

44.6%

9.3%

2.05

3.85

4.01

2008

74.1

8.72

3.39

0.61

0.266

73.4%

51.8%

7.1%

3.27

3.32

3.73

2009

59.2

6.64

5.13

0.75

0.322

71.6%

42.5%

6.4%

4.53

4.62

5.32

2010

44

6.55

5.73

1.43

0.220

72.8%

45.7%

14.0%

4.70

5.7

5.18

Not too much special going on there. You can see the point where the breakdown occurs, but we'll discuss that in just a bit. The obvious thing to point out from this is that Delcarmen's 2007 breakout year was pretty deflated based on a really high LOB% and a really low BABIP. Which sounds incredibly familiar.

Season

IP

K/9

BB/9

HR/9

BABIP

LOB%

GB%

HR/FB

ERA

FIP

xFIP

2007

78

6.69

2.31

0.69

0.260

84.9%

0.57

9.5%

2.08

3.6

3.7

Young pitchers are incredibly susceptible to having that one breakout season where everything goes right, where the runners get stranded, the batted balls find gloves. This isn't meant to discredit their season, I do take exception to xFIP and such being the key metric for any pitcher being praised for a good season. But it's also very dangerous to try and establish one breakout season as a skill-defining year.

Oh, and if you couldn't tell, that's Manny Corpas' 2007 pasted in up there.

Move past the jump and we'll discuss Delcarmen a bit more.

Now, 2007 and 2008 made Delcarmen look like a solid 7th/8th inning guy, a good bridge to Jonathan Papelbon, and generally a hot pitcher. Suddenly, 2009 happened, and Delcarmen started falling apart. Balls started missing gloves. Stranded runners began converting. Bats weren't being missed as much, but the strike zone certainly was.

2009 might have just been viewed as a growing pain, but 2010 hasn't done much to change the impression that Delcarmen is having troubles. We've seen his ERA and FIP rise over the past 2 seasons, and worse than that, his BB9 is rising and his K9 is dropping.

Part of Delcarmen's ERA and FIP being as high as they are this season is that his HR9 is off the charts, relative to his career. Having never posted a HR9 over 1.00, we're looking square at a 1.43 HR9, nearly double what it was in 2009. His HR/FB has risen drastically as well, from 6.4% in 2009 to 14.0% in 2010. On top of that, we're hearing claims from Boston fans that Delcarmen just can't handle the big situations, is undependable, and basically isn't the surefire answer to Boston's 8th inning like he was the past couple of seasons.

So to summarize the problems with Delcarmen, he has trouble not walking guys, he gives up too many home runs, and he can't handle the heat of the big inning. Let's look at these piece by piece.

Firstly, we want to look at that 5.73 BB9. In no way is a 5.73 BB9 acceptable, unless your name is Carlos Marmol (seriously, if you haven't been aware of Marmol's season you need to check this out) and you can back up the free passes with an inordinate number of punchouts. Delcarmen isn't doing that.

I figured we could take a quick look at Delcarmen's strike-to-ball ratio to try and get an idea of what's going on: maybe last season WAS an aberration and this season he's just getting screwed on payoff pitches or whatever.

Season

Strikes-to-Balls

BB/9

2005

1.30

7.00

2006

1.71

2.87

2007

1.55

3.48

2008

1.62

3.39

2009

1.43

5.13

2010

1.40

5.73

Nope, that's not it. We can see as that strikes-to-balls ratio goes down, his BB9 climbs, just as we'd expect. Against batters with a full count, Delcarmen is allowing a .514 OBP (.227/.514/.318). On any 3-ball count, batters are getting on at a .648 rate (.269/.648/.577). That being said, on any 2-strike count, Delcarmen is only allowing a .149/.260/.218 line. When he gets ahead, .115/.115/.250 (he obviously can't walk anyone when he's ahead in the count), and when he's behind, .286/.544/.531. Yes, I realize that I essentially just reinforced the concept that "getting ahead of the hitter is good!". As soon as Delcarmen gets behind in a count, he really starts pressing to get the strikes, and ends up walking too many guys. Issue of confidence? Possibly.

Secondly, Delcarmen's homers are also a problem, and a problem which probably won't be easily solved by moving into Coors Field, especially when you consider that 5 of his 7 homers have come at home. Additionally, 6 of those 7 homers allowed by Delcarmen have been to RHB, who are teeing off at a .241/.347/.470 rate. Amusingly enough, he dominates lefties (this season anyhow), allowing a .165/.298/.253 line - not an encouraging trend for a team that needs RHP to do what RHP does best.

Delcarmen's fastball has been rated by fangraphs as a positive pitch so far this season, and also his changeup, but his curveball has not been a positive pitch for him at all. This is the second straight season where his curveball has rated as negative and his changeup as positive, and he's seemingly lost the feel for his curve over the past few years. Which isn't a bad thing, necessarily, as Bob Apodaca works well with pitchers who can command their changeup. You can see Delcarmen's pitch selection below.

Season

Team

FB

CB

CH

2005

Red Sox

82.4%

11.0%

6.6%

2006

Red Sox

63.7%

26.1%

10.2%

2007

Red Sox

69.9%

13.9%

16.1%

2008

Red Sox

67.3%

17.8%

14.9%

2009

Red Sox

65.3%

13.4%

21.3%

2010

Red Sox

67.9%

12.1%

20.0%

Finally, we can talk about how Delcarmen's been a seeming headcase thus far. He's posted a 3-2 record in 44 innings, which really doesn't mean anything, but I don't like to see relievers with a lot of decisions. So far in 2010, Delcarmen has posted a -0.31 WPA, which suggests that his performances have actually HURT Boston's chances of winning. What strikes me as interesting, though, is that he is also posting a 0.23 WPA/LI.

[Quick explanation, for those of you lost by WPA and WPA/LI: WPA basically is the player's additions to individual games that helped or hindered the team on their way to a win (or loss). What makes WPA somewhat faulty is the fact that it's very easily swayed by Leverage. Leverage is essentially potential for WPA to swing from winning to losing. So a pitcher may do a lot of good work in 3 or 4 run games in the 7th inning, but that work probably won't rack up much WPA. That same pitcher could then be called up in the 9th with the closer getting the night off and give up a walkoff home run, which would end up being a massive negative WPA. Just like reliever ERA, one bad inning can completely sway the way their season looks as a whole. As for WPA/LI, what they've done is neutralize the leverage (so for example, a performance in the 6th inning down by 7 runs is now just as important as the 8th inning up by 1 with the bases jacked) so we can get an idea of the general contributions that player has made. Or in other words, that horrible 9th inning walkoff is just a generic bad inning, rather than a game-costing inning).]

The discrepancy between WPA/LI and WPA for Delcarmen just suggests to me that he's been having trouble coming into high leverage situations, but in general has been a pretty effective reliever.

So the answer obviously that we can't use Delcarmen in high leverage, but past that, he's great, right?

Well, I'm not so sure.

Leverage

Low

Med

High

OPS

.612

.970

.567

Of the 44 men Delcarmen has faced in high-leverage situations, 8 have reached base, and only 5 have recorded hits, one of which was a homer, and the other a double.

Ok....so no...Medium...leverage? What does that even mean? I guess that's like the 7th inning or something, right?

Wrong.

Inning

6

7

8

9

Extras

OPS

.838

.512

.791

.900

.741

I have no idea what to make of all this, except that with any luck, we can give Matt Belisle a rest in the 7th and let Delcarmen have a shot at it.

So the fact of the matter is, Delcarmen isn't anywhere as good as he was in 2007. But that's nothing new for young relievers named "Manny". This isn't to say that he'll be useless for Colorado, especially with 2 more years of team control, but with average-ish groundball abilities, average-ish strikeout potential, and a mid-90s fastball, there's still a lot to work with. The hope for me is that he'll be able to rein in his control a bit, figure out what's making those HR balls hang (and I checked, Jose Bautista has only hit one homer off of him; bad news: so has Pat Burrell - FenGimmick has not helped Manny out at all), keep his head on straight for the rest of the season, and hopefully the next 2 years as well.

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