Nationals Baseball: Why do I keep wanting to call him Jeremy Blevins?

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Why do I keep wanting to call him Jeremy Blevins?

Jerry Blevins for Billy Burns. Go!

Going back to our trade analysis method hashed out last week, the Nats easily won this trade on relative value. Blevins might not be worth all that much, relievers are just limited in that way, but Burns would not have likely helped the Nats next year. Both Eury Perez and Steven Souza are ahead of Burns on the "help us now" list for the OF and Brian Goodwin is ahead of him on the "help us later" list.  Not that three minor league guys can't fail to meet expectations but they are no more likely to do that than Burns himself.

Absolute value is for future scholars to debate but I'll take a guess that the A's end up on top. I can see Billy being a decent 3rd / 4th OF for a few years which will get you more value than a few years of a reliever. In this way it's a deal that makes sense for both sides, assuming the A's had replacements in line for Blevins (they think they do with Abad and Pomeranz). Nats get better for 2014. A's trade a fungible resource (relief pitching) for a potential bigger return down the road.

Anyway let's look at the stats. First thing to note is that Blevins is not a LOOGY.  Here are those splits I promised you

v R : .220 / .314 / .322
v L : .250 / .340 / .419

v R : .219 / .333 / .310
v L : .182 / .248 / .327

v R : .190 / .267 / .314
v L : .253 / .299 / .442

See? If anything he's been better against righties over the past 3 years. The take away though is that he's been effective against both sides. This is important because a LOOGY is like a Tyler Moore for the bullpen. Limited in such a way that if you're roster isn't well made around him, it can make a manager's life more difficult as opposed to easier.

Great! Any cause for concern? Isn't there always? Let's go to the fancy stats!

Blevins is an fly-ball pitcher with a FB-rate which will probably end up in the upper 40s. That's not great but it doesn't mean Blevins will immediately be a gopher-ball pitcher coming to a new park. Clippard is the biggest fly-ball pitcher on the Nats with a FB-rate over 55% last year. Soriano was third on the team (42%). Expect a couple more homers but it shouldn't be a career-destroyer. Shouldn't

Blevins BABIP has been pretty damn low the last couple of years .242 in 2013. .224 in 2012. But given that it was .278 in 2011 I think it's as much skill as luck. I don't think he'll get to a .220 level this year but .250? Completely reasonable.

LOB-rate high (77.3%) but not unreasonable in 2013, might have been so in 2012 (84.4%).  K-rate isn't great but BB-rate dropping along with it.  FB speed is steady. Age is fine.

I think if I were to guess I'd say that 2012 was a bit of a mirage. He had everything go his way, probably in part because he changed into a different pitcher that year. He had been a guy throwing 60%+ FBs and move to throwing under 50% and more junk. So if you are expecting a deserved* say 2.50 ERA season I don't see it happening. In fact, I'd expect a bit of a ERA bump, something closer to 3.50. That's not great but it's good enough to eat up some innings and give Williams a solid lefty option out of the pen, more reliable than the young Krol or Abad (who really tanked after a super fast start)

*relief pitchers pitch relatively few innings so they are more likely to luck into good/bad ERAs despite what they deserve.

What about Billy Burns?

Well you first have to understand he's not that great a prospect. Didn't make Sickels' Top 20 for last year or Baseball America's Top 10 for this year. These aren't end-all, be-all lists but they give you an idea of where he stands. Why so "low"?  Because he's been on the old-side for the leagues he's been in and he has ZERO power and power matters. Literally he's hit one home run in 1000+ plate appearances in the minor leagues. He had 21 XBH total last year. To put that in perspective Lombo had just 3 fewer XBH in 150 fewer at bats. (or if that doesn't register - if Lombo had the amount of at bats Burns did he would have had about 25% more XBH, in the major leagues). ZERO power.

He does have a good eye and is super fast so if he can hit .250+ there might be some use for him as a 5th OF type. One thing I will note is that I can't find anything saying he was a good fielder, which is odd given his superior speed. Not that he's a bad one, just that usually if you are a super fast you are noted as a superior fielder, as well. That's not the case with Burns. That cuts down his value a bit more.

Can he hit .250+ in the majors?  He did hit .325 in AA but it was just 30 games so we'll see him try again and thus he probably won't get a good look until later in the year. That's even considering the A's will probably try to fast track him because of his age, the fact his value is in having all that speed, and the A's mediocre OF prospects. My guess is that he can, but can never generate power so lines like .280 / .360 / .370 will be seen. A little tough to start a guy like that but as a pinch-runner, bunter, contact just-get-on-base or move-the-runner-over pinch hitter? He could work.

This year will really be telling though - put up another .average well over .300 into the summer and the Nats lost a useful but replaceable piece, fall to under .300 and the Nats gave up nothing, hit well over .300 and add some power and the Nats will rue the deal. (but I really don't see the latter happening)


Jay said...

On Burns, Keith Law called him "a 70 defender in center," so that definitely has some value, if accurate. At the same time, Law gave his power a 20, and said "you're hoping he turns into Ben Revere." Revere's career line is .285/.324/.330. So Burns' big question is whether he can still walk against pitchers with good control who have zero fear of him hitting the ball.

blovy8 said...

Couple things:

Every time I say Blevins I feel like I'm already drunk. Billy Burns just sounds more fun, but he needs an adjective in quotation marks. "Battling" Billy Burns fights his way onto the roster, Billy "Both Side" Burns gets his playoff facial look in order this September in Oakland, even just "Baseball's" Billy Burns to separate him from the many other Billy Burns there must be in the world. I get that once he turns 30, he'll be Over The Hill Billy Burns.

I would infer that Burns' arm isn't very good given how much left field he seems to have played in the minors, too. Still, it's a bit odd trading your minor league player of the year with 2013 Hamilton-like speed numbers for an above-average 30-year-old lefty who's not all that great at getting lefties out. Seems to be a bit penny wise, pound foolish. I mean, it's not a bad deal, I'm waiting for more a more talented option. Can Rizzo really be sweating 2 million more bucks or so, like it's the last straw in some bullpen budgetary negotiation? They are paying a lot for relievers, it's true.

Oakland is a good place to be a fly ball pitcher, the air is heavy, lots of foul ground for extra outs, etc. He'll have the advantage of not being well known with some NL hitters, but I think you're right to regress his numbers somewhat. But again, is it really such a big deal to have to give more than a one-year deal to a good FA reliever? If it's such a great thing that Blevins is team controlled for another year, why isn't it a great thing to have a guy like Howell for another year?

blovy8 said...

Also, while I like Burns as a prospect, it's hard to imagine him retaining the walk rate in the majors with his slappy approach. I would think he'd have the poor man's Juan Pierre profile.

Donald said...

To what extent does Burns' speed offset the power issue? If he steals second on a regular basis, a single is almost as good as a double, at least for a lead-off hitter with no one on. Still, I think the trade was fine for the Nats. I agree with your analysis that he was too far back in the depth chart to be a likely contributor in the next year or two.

I wonder if GMs, to any extent at all, factor in what's best for the player in making these types of deal. I think the relationship between Rizzo and Beane is pretty solid. The Nats clearly like Burns. Maybe Rizzo figured Burns had more opportunities in Oakland even if he thought he was giving up more value than he was getting. He might be willing to factor that in when dealing with a GM he likes and a team in the other league. Just a thought...

Mr. Mustache said...

"and move to throwing under 50% and more junk."
His fastball % drop appears to be largely due to an increase in cutter usage (11.4% in 2011 and 25.4% in 2012). His other pitches in 2012 didn't change much (CB usage decreased slightly and changeup increased slightly). Is a cutter a junk pitch?

The cutter (learned with buddy Dallas Braden) has been his main weapon against RHB and he's been increasing the usage ever since to become less of a LOOGY (30.0% in 2013).

Harper said...

Mr. Mustache - Not straight fastball = JUNK!!!! (ok you're right it's not really what the baseball world has designated as "junk" shouldn't give people the idea he's turning into a junkballer)

Anonymous said...

Labatt Stadium...lets go Expos!

Zimmerman11 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John C. said...

Blevins's WHIP of about 1 each of the past two seasons works for me (1.071 in 2012, 1.067 in 2013) tells me that he's a good addition to the Nats. Also, .644 OPS against over the past two years vs. a major league average around .735. Solid work by Rizzo.

Zimmerman11 said...

Labatt Stadium...let's go Expos!!!

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