Sunday, November 18, 2012

Padres and Athletics Trade Evaluation: Andrew Werner

This is the 3rd article breaking down the trade between the Padres and Athletics that included Tyson Ross, A.J. Kirby-Jones, Andrew Werner, and Andy Parrino.

Andrew Werner is a 25 year old undrafted lefty that was signed out of the Independent ball in 2010 where he was good (though not great statistically) after a good career at the University of Indianapolis.

Werner made 8 starts at the end of the year for the Padres, making his big league debut. 5 of those starts were in the friendly PETCO park, but they were still pretty mediocre, with a 113 FIP -, struggling with homers (1.12 HR/9IP) with 4 of the 5 homers coming at home. The 40.1 innings is obviously a small sample size, but he did have a decent strikeout rate and a solid K/BB. He was a pretty extreme ground-baller and had a good infield fly-ball percentage. He was horrible against righties, with a .372 wOBA against, while he was very good against lefties, with a 2.51 FIP, including no homers allowed.

He actually has more MLB innings than AAA innings, as he spent most of the 2012 season in AA (103 innings). He pitched in a really friendly pitcher park there, but was extremely effective, with a SIERA of 1.10 better than league average and a FIP about 25% better than league average. If you estimate (with a home park factor of 92) that he was getting about 8% of help from his park, he was still 17% better than league average, or roughly a 83 FIP - or 3.28 adjusted FIP. This still puts him (he was the FIP leader before the adjustment) as the 2nd best pitcher in the Texas League with a minimum of 100 innings (Jose Cisnero as the leader, who was okay in Lancaster in 2011 and decent in the PCL in a short sample size in 2012. Cisnero pitched in an extreme pitcher park, which makes his results somewhat more interesting, at least statistically). In AA, he showed the same tendencies he showed in the Majors. as far as ground-ball rate, decent strikeout rate, relatively low walk rate, but without the infield fly-balls and without the homers. While he was better against lefties in AA, he was still very solid against righties. In fact, he faced a ton of them, as he faced just 79 lefties versus 348 righties! In fact on July 9th, he faced NW Arkansas who ran out an entire starting lineup full of right-handed batters. It wasn't his sharpest outing, but Werner proved to be serviceable nevertheless, with a 45 game score but 1.80 FIP in a place that has a 110 Park Factor.

Whatever he was doing to get righties out in AA, it wasn't working in the Majors. Without real pitch selection data in the minors, we will look instead at how he attacked right-handed batters in the Majors using Brooks Baseball:

Against lefties, he is very heavy with his fastball and starts a lot of counts with the curveball, but throws the slider and change about equally. He doesn't have a "go-to strikeout pitch" against either lefties or righties, but he throws his fastball the most against lefties in those situations and his change against righties. His curve is not a pitch he gets strikeouts with, as he simply doesn't throw it with 2 strikes, which I find odd. Compare this to another "pitchability lefty" in Patrick Corbin, who uses his curveball as a finisher against both lefties and righties:

It is weird that Werner doesn't rely heavily on his curveball since he has a well below average fastball at 88.1 MPH (average in his MLB stint). Out of the 30 qualified starters in 2012 with the lowest average fastball velocity, 26 of them throw curveballs (All more than 4% of the time. R.A. Dickey, a knuckleballer does not throw a curveball), and 18 of them throw it more than 10 % of the time (3 over 20% of the time). Corbin was not a qualified starter, but he averaged 90.6 MPH on his fastball in 107 innings, and threw his curveball (misidentified as a slider by FanGraphs) 17% of the time. Perhaps it isn't fair to compare the two curveballs, as Corbin's is 7 MPH faster.

Instead, Werner relies instead on a mix of pitches, throwing a sinker (according to Fangraphs), splitter, change, curve, and slider. He mainly throws the sinker (or fastball) and change, with 72.7% of his pitches being one or the other (and the slider being 13.2% of the time). In velocity, his change is most similar to those of James McDonald (a relatively effective starter that previously threw his change a lot, but according to FanGraphs, has almost ditched the pitch. As far as opponents hitting it, it has actually been a good pitch, with a 71 wRC + against) and Jeremy Sowers (out of the Majors since 2009 after an okay career, he threw his change more than any other off-speed pitch, but it wasn't effective as opponents had a 119 wRC + against it). In horizontal movement, Werner's change is most similar to the changeups of to Greg Smith and Kevin Hart. Smith was pretty poor in his 229.1 innings in the Majors, especially his time with the Colorado Rockies. He spent 2012 with the Angels' AAA in the PCL and wasn't very good with a FIP .039 worse than league average and a SIERA .035 worse than league average. His change was his most used off-speed pitch and his most consistently effective in his MLB time. Kevin Hart got 119.2 innings in the Majors, splitting between the bullpen and the rotation. It didn't go very well and he hasn't pitched in affiliated ball since 2010 (he had shoulder surgery in 2011). His changeup was thrown only rarely and was extremely ineffective. In vertical movement, Werner's change compares to Edinson Volquez and Rubby De La Rosa. Edinson Volquez being compared to Werner in any way is humorous, but the serviceable (if not extremely frustrating) now former teammate of Werner throws his changeup over 25 % of the time and his change is one of his more effective pitches (his fastball and sinker are his pitches that have not been good). De La Rosa has had arm problems and has been okay at best (below league average according to FIP - and ERA -) in 61.1 career big league innings. His change has been his worst pitch according to batted ball data.

So it seems that the data on his change seems to be mixed and his slider doesn't seem to be even an average pitch (when compared to other sliders). With that said, it seems that at worst he is a LOOGY. The Athletics were .50 points of FIP worse against left-handed hitting than right-handed hitting in 2012. He could fill in the role of Brian Fuentes, who was released in the middle of the season and then retired, as a lefty specialist and allow Sean Doolittle to take the more high leverage situations (and use Travis Blackley in a more swing man role). One could say he is the kind of guy the A's need as a low ceiling (he is most likely a 5th starter/emergency at best) but high floor (he has some MLB role) as they try
to put together another contending team. It seems that Tyson Ross could possibly have a bigger role in the Majors before it all shakes out, but Werner is a more secure piece.

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