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The WAR Room: Plutko's performance paces the organization

Plutko, Merritt, House lead the way among pitchers

The WAR Room: Plutko's performance paces the organization
The WAR Room (Graphic courtesy of Brittany Chay)
May 18, 2014
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The WAR Room is back again, bringing you the 2014 advanced stats for every Cleveland minor leaguer. After looking at the hitters last week, today we focus on the pitchers. It is still early enough that there is some noise in the numbers, but at this point in the season, we are starting to see some interesting trends emerge.

Of course, it is always important to keep context in mind, just like with scouting. A pitcher who is old for his level using that experience to succeed against young, inexperienced hitters must be taken with a grain of salt; the same goes when looking at these WAR totals.

But it is a useful tool to put each player's performance into context and look at where they sit in regard to the rest of the league.

For reference on how I computed WAR, a reminder on the problems inherent in the stats, and everything else you need to know, click here. For a refresher on WAR and what it is, click here.

As a reminder, a 0.0 WAR per 162 games is replacement level -- otherwise known as the kind of performance an average player from the level below could offer -- a 2.0 WAR per 162 games is average, and a 5.0 WAR per 162 games is All-Star level.

Also note that pitchers have FIP-based WAR -- which is based on peripherals like strikeouts, walks, home runs, etc. -- and RA-based WAR -- which is based on runs allowed.

One more thing, all "+" stats are averaged at 100. Anything over 100, like 110, is higher and means that player is 10 percent better than the league average. Anything under 100, like 90, is lower and means that player is 10 percent worse than the league average. In the case of any "-" stats -- when lower is better, like with ERA -- a 90 ERA- means that player is 10 percent better than the league average.

Today we look at the hitters throughout the system. Next week we will do the pitchers. For the full stats, go ahead and click here. Stats are updated through Friday, May 16.

Columbus Clippers

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
T.J. House Indians (AAA) 24 41.3 1.1 1.5
Trevor Bauer Indians (AAA) 23 46.0 0.7 2.0
Josh Tomlin Indians (AAA) 29 35.0 0.6 1.6
Kyle Davies Indians (AAA) 30 19.3 0.5 0.2
Brett Brach Indians (AAA) 26 6.7 0.2 -0.4
Travis Banwart Indians (AAA) 28 40.0 0.1 0.9
Tyler Cloyd Indians (AAA) 27 42.3 0.1 -0.6

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Vinnie Pestano Indians (AAA) 29 12.3 0.4 -0.1
Mark Lowe Indians (AAA) 31 15.3 0.4 0.0
Frank Herrmann Indians (AAA) 30 7.3 0.1 0.3
Austin Adams Indians (AAA) 27 18.7 0.1 0.1
Mike Zagurski Indians (AAA) 31 13.7 0.1 0.2
CC Lee Indians (AAA) 27 2.7 0.1 0.0
Scott Barnes Indians (AAA) 26 14.0 0.0 0.1
Blake Wood Indians (AAA) 28 5.3 -0.1 0.0
Nick Hagadone Indians (AAA) 28 15.3 -0.2 -0.1
Toru Murata Indians (AAA) 29 9.0 -0.2 -0.4

T.J. House (Photo: MiLB)Left-hander T.J. House may not be as heralded as the other two pitchers Cleveland has called up this season, yet in terms of FIP-based WAR, House is leading the Clippers. Always a big-time groundball pitcher, House is using that ability to keep the ball on the ground to limit home runs 0.22 HR/9 (33 HR/9+) and get great results. With a 2.40 ERA (61 ERA-) and 2.93 FIP (74 FIP-) in 41.1 innings, House looks ready to help in Cleveland, something he got a jump on last night.

As for the other pitchers making their way to Cleveland, right-hander Trevor Bauer leads the Clippers in RA-based WAR, posting a 2.0 mark in 46.0 innings, though his peripherals do not quite back that up. Bauer's 2.15 ERA (55 ERA-) is much lower than his league-average 3.87 FIP (98 FIP-), though a good amount of that came from the right-hander's four-homer outing Tuesday. Presuming that Bauer is not suddenly wildly homer-prone again, the right-hander's 24.2 K% (119 K%+) and 7.7 BB% (81 BB%+) should translate well to the majors.

Finally, right-hander Josh Tomlin also had a RA-based WAR (1.6) that was much higher than his FIP-based WAR (0.6) in 35.0 innings. A good amount of that success came from a .211 BABIP (71 BABIP+), but Tomlin also struck out Triple-A hitters at an above-average rate -- posting a 21.5 K% (106 K%+) -- while also posting a 6.9 BB% (73 BB%+). That strikeout and walk rate dipped once Tomlin got back to Cleveland -- just like always -- as the right-hander seemed to pitch much more aggressively while facing Triple-A hitters.

Right-hander Vinnie Pestano went the other way -- going from Cleveland to Columbus -- but the reliever has found a good amount of success since being sent to Triple-A. Pestano's 3.65 ERA (93 ERA-) does not stand out, but the right-hander's 1.60 FIP (41 FIP-) and 0.4 FIP-based WAR in 12.1 innings look much better. The right-hander is still walking quite a few batters, putting up a 9.4 BB% (99 BB%+), but Pestano has more than made up for it with a 37.7 K% (186 K%+). Time will tell if it is enough to get Pestano another chance, but as of right now, it looks like the right-hander deserves one.

Akron RubberDucks

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Will Roberts Indians (AA) 23 40.3 0.6 0.2
Joe Colon Indians (AA) 24 44.7 0.6 1.6
Gabriel Arias Indians (AA) 24 37.0 0.5 0.7
Cody Anderson Indians (AA) 23 40.3 0.2 0.1
Kyle Davies Indians (AA) 30 29.7 -0.3 0.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Kyle Crockett Indians (AA) 22 15.7 0.4 0.8
Shawn Armstrong Indians (AA) 23 17.7 0.4 0.8
Enosil Tejeda Indians (AA) 25 14.3 0.3 0.4
Tyler Sturdevant Indians (AA) 28 17.0 0.2 0.7
Toru Murata Indians (AA) 29 15.7 0.2 0.5
Duke von Schamann Indians (AA) 23 31.7 0.2 0.4
Jordan Cooper Indians (AA) 25 17.3 0.1 -0.1
Giovanni Soto Indians (AA) 23 10.3 0.0 0.2
Adam Miller Indians (AA) 29 3.0 0.0 0.1
Francisco Valera Indians (AA) 24 12.7 -0.4 -0.3

Cody Anderson (Photo: MiLB)Right-hander Cody Anderson may be Cleveland's highest-ranked pitching prospect not named Bauer, but while Bauer will be pitching in the majors this week, Anderson is still pretty far from the big leagues. In addition to a 5.36 ERA (134 ERA-), Anderson also owns a below-average 4.74 FIP (118 FIP-), giving him a 0.1 FIP-based WAR in 40.1 innings. A big part of the issue comes from Anderson's low 12.0 K% (64 K%+), a regression of his strikeout rate that would be a big problem if it lasts. The dip could be a result of Anderson developing his pitches and learning to be a pitcher, which would be the best-case scenario for the right-hander's below-average performance.

Another pitcher not quite performing as well as you would like to see is right-hander Joe Colon. Though the right-hander has a 2.82 ERA (70 ERA-), but with so few strikeouts (16.0 K%, 85 K%) and so many walks (11.6 BB%, 136 BB%+), Colon's success looks a little tenuous right now. It is not like Colon is pitching terribly -- his 4.07 FIP (102 FIP-) is right about at league average -- and his 0.6 FIP-based WAR in 44.2 innings is a little above-average. But the mistake would be looking at Colon's ERA and determining that the 24-year-old is tearing up Double-A and ready for a promotion.

Left-hander Kyle Crockett may be the one in the major leagues -- deservedly so -- but so far in 2014, right-hander Shawn Armstrong has been about his equal with the RubberDucks. Armstrong will never be someone who limits his walks, but you can live with a 10.5 BB% (123 BB%+) from a reliever as long as it comes with a 35.8 K% (190 K%+). The right-hander will seem his raw performance regress a little when his .229 BABIP (77 BABIP+) and 95.9 LOB% (137 LOB%+) come back to normal levels, but with a 2.58 FIP (64 FIP-) and 0.4 FIP-based WAR in 17.2 innings, Armstrong is back to being a power reliever ready to help in the major league bullpen before too much longer.

Another RubberDucks reliever making a case for a callup is right-hander Enosil Tejeda. Tejeda may have allowed his first home run since 2010 earlier this season, but the right-hander still owns a 27.6 K% (147 K%+) and 1.7 BB% (20 BB%+) as he carves up the Eastern League. The right-hander does not have overwhelming stuff but has always shown an ability to get results. Tejeda's 0.3 FIP-based WAR in 14.1 innings leaves him easily as one of the better relievers in the system and someone who deserves a shot in Triple-A, even if he does not wow with the fastball.

Carolina Mudcats

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Ryan Merritt Indians (A+) 22 49.0 1.2 2.1
DJ Brown Indians (A+) 23 37.3 0.6 0.7
Cole Sulser Indians (A+) 24 31.7 0.4 -0.4
Scott Peoples Indians (A+) 22 32.3 0.2 -0.2
Dylan Baker Indians (A+) 22 6.0 0.2 0.5
Shawn Morimando Indians (A+) 21 38.7 0.0 -0.2

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Louis Head Indians (A+) 24 14.7 0.5 0.8
Josh Martin Indians (A+) 24 19.0 0.3 0.6
Robert Nixon Indians (A+) 25 18.3 0.3 -0.2
Steven Sides Indians (A+) 25 15.0 0.3 0.7
Elvis Araujo Indians (A+) 22 13.0 0.2 0.1
Jacob Lee Indians (A+) 24 22.7 0.1 0.3
Benny Suarez Indians (A+) 22 19.3 0.0 0.6
Carlos Melo Indians (A+) 23 10.7 -0.3 -1.0

Ryan Merritt (Photo: MiLB)In his first full season at the High-A level, left-hander Ryan Merritt is certainly turning heads. The left-hander's 1.65 ERA (42 ERA-) is clearly elite, but more importantly for Merritt, his 3.01 FIP (77 FIP-) also leaves him decidedly above-average. The 22-year-old owns a 1.2 FIP-based WAR in 49.0 innings thanks to his great control, as Merritt makes up for his average strikeout rate with a 4.7 BB% (55 BB%+). Merritt probably should spend all of 2014 in Carolina -- especially to see how he does multiple times around the league, but if the left-hander keeps pitching this well, he could force the organization to give him a shot in Akron.

Another Carolina left-hander, Shawn Morimando, has not seen much to celebrate so far in 2014. Morimando started the season well but since has sunk to a 0.0 FIP-based WAR and -0.2 RA-based WAR in 38.2 innings. The hope was for Morimando to come out strong after throwing 135.0 innings in High-A last season, but issues with home runs (1.16 HR/9, 204 HR/9+) have torpedoed the left-hander despite his good fortune of balls in play (.227 BABIP, 75 BABIP+). Morimando is limiting his walks this season -- posting a 8.3 BB% (97 BB%+) -- but an increase on his 16.7 K% (82 K%+) could help jumpstart the left-hander's replacement level beginning to 2014.

It is always great to see an under the radar minor leaguer take advantage of an opportunity like right-hander D.J. Brown has done this season. After replacing the injured Dylan Baker in the Carolina rotation, Brown has put up a 0.6 FIP-based WAR in 37.1 innings thanks to a miniscule 3.2 BB% (37 BB%+). That low walk rate lets Brown get away with a 15.4 K% (76 K%+), and while a jump in strikeouts could take Brown to the next level, the right-hander is making the combination work just fine so far this season.

Right-hander Louis Head really should find his way to Akron soon as the 24-year-old reliever does not have much left to prove in High-A. Head's 42.6 K% (209 K%+) and 7.4 BB% (86 BB%+) are fueling a 1.45 FIP (37 FIP-), the kind of elite result that should get the right-hander a look at the next level. The right-hander's 0.5 FIP-based WAR in 14.2 innings puts Head on a Craig Kimbrel pace, which really underscores both how good the right-hander has been this season and how much he needs the challenge of Double-A.

Lake County Captains

Name Team Age IP SP FIP WAR SP RA WAR
Adam Plutko Indians (A) 22 39.3 1.6 0.4
Jordan Milbrath Indians (A) 22 38.0 0.9 0.8
Luis Lugo Indians (A) 20 27.7 0.6 -0.4
Caleb Hamrick Indians (A) 20 32.0 0.3 -0.3
Mitch Brown Indians (A) 20 35.0 0.1 -0.2
Dace Kime Indians (A) 22 30.7 0.1 -1.1

 

Name Team Age IP RP FIP WAR RP RA WAR
Robbie Aviles Indians (A) 22 36.7 0.4 1.5
Kenny Mathews Indians (A) 20 17.7 0.2 0.4
Matt Whitehouse Indians (A) 23 19.0 0.2 -0.5
Trevor Frank Indians (A) 23 16.0 0.1 0.2
Kerry Doane Indians (A) 23 8.3 0.0 0.0
Brian Ruiz Indians (A) 21 1.0 0.0 0.0
Ben Heller Indians (A) 22 15.3 0.0 0.0
Wander Beras Indians (A) 25 18.0 -0.1 0.4
Cody Ferrell Indians (A) 24 0.7 -0.1 -0.1
Luis Dejesus Indians (A) 22 1.7 -0.1 -0.3
Alexis Paredes Indians (A) 22 22.3 -0.3 0.1

Adam Plutko (Photo: MiLB)Right-hander Adam Plutko's 4.58 ERA (116 ERA-) is a little unsightly for a 22-year-old in Low-A, but his 1.85 FIP (47 FIP-) shows that Plutko is actually pitching really well for the Captains. Plutko's 1.6 FIP-based WAR in 39.1 innings is the highest of any Cleveland pitcher in the minors as the right-hander has mowed down the opposition (30.5 K%, 148 K%+) while filling up the zone (6.0 BB%, 64 BB%). The right-hander's ERA will come down as his sky-high .381 BABIP (125 BABIP+) drops, assuming Plutko is in Lake County long enough for that to happen (Plutko could easily be promoted to Carolina very soon).

The breakout star of the system this season has been right-hander Jordan Milbrath, as the right-hander has impressed with a 0.9 FIP-based WAR and 2.13 ERA (54 ERA-) in 38.0 innings. Like Plutko, the 22-year-old should get a challenge at a higher level in the near future, but there is no need to penalize Milbrath for pitching in a lower level in his first full professional season. Milbrath is not overwhelming Midwest League hitters, only posting a 19.6 K% (95 K%+), but by limiting walks (7.8 BB%, 83 BB%+), the right-hander is getting results and making a good impression.

The latest entries in the ongoing series "ERA can only tell us so much" go to left-hander Luis Lugo and right-hander Dace Kime. In Lugo's case, his 6.18 ERA (157 ERA-) is unsightly, but a 3.28 FIP (83 FIP-) and 0.6 FIP-based WAR in 27.2 innings point to a pitcher who will soon see better results (as he did Saturday night). Lugo is striking hitters out (27.6 K%, 134 K%+) and limiting his walks (8.9 BB%, 95 BB%+) and will have his results look much better once he stops suffering from a poor .342 BABIP (112 BABIP+). It does not look like it on the surface, but the 20-year-old is doing pretty well in 2014.

Similarly, it is easy to write Kime off given his astronomical 8.51 ERA (216 ERA-), but the right-hander's 4.75 FIP (120 FIP-) is much better. Granted, that is still not a good mark, as we can see in Kime only owning a 0.1 FIP-based WAR in 30.2 innings -- but it is a better picture than the one Kime's ERA is telling. Assuming Kime can start keeping the ball in the park and his 0.88 HR/9 (166 HR/9+) is not a problem inherent in the right-hander's pitching, his FIP will drop a little more, as will his ERA once that .414 BABIP (136 BABIP+) stabilizes.

If you want to follow Jim on Twitter, he’s @JimPiascik. If you want to e-mail him, you can do so at jpiasci1@gmail.com

User Comments

Jim Piascik
May 19, 2014 - 8:58 AM EDT
Thanks Tony! :)

With von Schamann (and everyone), the cutoff is at 50% of games started. Which can get messy when someone is bouncing between starting and relieving or in the piggyback roles. Same thing happened to Robbie Aviles in Lake County.

As for Plutko, yeah, he could use some consistency from outing to outing. But it sure seems like the organization could push him soon, and I certainly wouldn't blame them.
Tony
May 19, 2014 - 8:24 AM EDT
If you love advanced stats or are looking for another way to evaluate performance and such, this is one heck of a piece. Outstanding work Jim.
anonymous
May 19, 2014 - 8:11 AM EDT
Very nice round-up, thank you. I believe that Duke von Schamann is being used as a starting pitcher, though (which is how he has racked up so many innings)!?
B igTex
May 19, 2014 - 12:16 AM EDT
Jim,

I would question the quick promotion of Plutko to high-A at this point. I'm a big fan of his; however, he has struggled in half of his starts at Lake County (4 starts with 3+ earned runs). Granted he has shown the ability to strikeout batter and limit homeruns; however, I would have hoped his performance would be better at this point of the season. This is solely based upon his advanced pitching ability and success at the collegiate level. Hopefully this a result of his first full season of professional baseball. Nonetheless, when you compare his strong FIP to a WHIP of 1.27 and 4.58 ERA, I feel he should spend at least 3/4 of the year at Lake County to continue his adjustment to advanced hitting.

With that being said, I would still get excited about seeing him in the rotation at Carolina which boasts the 2nd highest ERA in the league.

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