So yesterday twitter follower* Chris Coxen asked me if there was a way to breakdown Bryce's performance versus the best pitchers. He feared that Bryce could get dominated by such pitching.
Now there isn't a clear easy way to do this, as far as I know. There is no breakdown available between "premier" and "regular" pitchers and the definition of such is vague. Sure Kershaw is a premier pitcher. Is Zack Greinke? What about this year's Verlander? Teheran? Lance Lynn? Where is the line drawn? Another issue is that he should do worse against premier pitchers because they are the best of the best. Everyone should do worse. So there's a question of how to best measure how much worse he is in comparison to everyone - if he even is. And then there's the question of whether there's even enough at bats here to matter. I don't think going before 2014 is relevant.
For sake of moving forward though, let's make the cutoff at 3.0 WAR. What NL pitchers make the cut? Kershaw, Wainwright, Cueto, Greinke, Hamels, Bumgarner, Teheran, Lynn and Nate Eovaldi (also various Nats). Sounds about right.
How did Bryce do against these guys? He didn't face Greinke, Hamels, or Bumgarner and we throw in a couple AL elite pitchers; King Felix, Garret Richards, and Hishashi Iwakuma and we get:
.313 / .371 / .594 with 3 walks, 3 homers, 3 RBI and 5 Ks in 35 PAs.
That's great! But what if, like me, you think, "Well I don't consider Eovaldi and Iwakuma 'premier'". What happens when you take those guys out?
.227 / .320 / .364 with 3 walks, 1 homer, 1 RBI and 3 Ks in 25 PAs
That's a big drop but, you know, against a group like we've now cut down to - Kershaw, Wainwright, Cueto, Teheran, Lynn, Felix and Richards - I think that's allright. I don't see any player doing particularly better here.
Of course the big picture is that it's 25 PAs we're talking about. A ball dribbles through the infield and he's batting .273 with a .360 OBP, some one snags a line drive and it's .182 with a .280 OBP. I'm not sure we can draw any conclusions from this data unless it's overwhelmingly one way or the other and it isn't. Not to me anyway.
Ok but I told Chris I found something interesting while looking for this info and I did. You see Baseball Reference doesn't split pitchers into "premier" and "regular" but they do split pitchers into Power/Avg/Finesse. This is all based on Ks+BBs with power pitchers being in the top 3rd and finesse guys in the bottom third. In other words, guys that can strike you out (but may walk you) are power pitchers, guys that won't walk you and pitch to contact are finesse guys.
Here is how Bryce splits against these types in 2014
Power : .203 / .292 / .354
Avg : .191 / .290 / .298
Finesse : .346 / .398 / .520
The PAs here are still limited but that's more of a telling split. I know I said 2013 didn't matter but maybe we find some historic issue here. What about Bryce in 2013?
Power : .176 / .272 / .222
Avg : .289 / .372 / .555
Finesse : .319 / .421 / .590
Looks like there's definitely somthing here. In 2012 how'd he do?
Power : .200 / .301 / .391
Avg: .282 / .346 / .477
Finesse : .299 / .359 / .531
Ok he has an issue hitting "power" guys and kills "finesse" pitchers, but maybe everyone has this split. Power pitchers get a lot of K's and you are going to hit them worse, right? What's he look like compared to the other Nats?
2014 vs Power : 3rd worst regular (by OPS)
2013 vs Power : Worst regular
2012 vs Power : Worst regular
2014 vs Finesse : 2nd best regular (by OPS)
2013 vs Finesse : Best regular
2012 vs Finesse : 3rd best regular
There's definitely something here about the type of pitchers Bryce can hit and can't. In the playoffs Kershaw, Greinke, Bumgarner, and Lynn should all be issues. That's unsurprising. But based on this so could Liriano, Vogelsong, Haren, Miller, and Volquez. It's hard to say he'll face more power starters in the playoffs. Teams are going to go with their best pitchers in general so if Vance Worley is doing well, you'll see Vance Worley (who Bryce should hit great). But I bet he'll definitely face more power relievers as that's where the power arms go when their control doesn't allow them to start.
Now of course in any one game who's to say what will happen. Taking that to the extreme, Bryce did homer against Kershaw of all pitchers. And all it takes is one good at bat to change a series, but Chris was right to have a vague worry about Bryce.
*For those of you that don't know, I do have a twitter feed (75% Nationals stuff) @harpergordek . For those that wish to follow, I'll be live tweeting the Nats games and selected various other ones.