25 September 2017

What to Make of Gabriel Ynoa

Joe Reisel's Archives

While the play of Austin Hays and Chance Sisco have provided Orioles' fans some hope for the future, the past couple of Gabriel Ynoa's starts have also been positive. On September 15, at Yankee Stadium, Ynoa pitched 4 1/3 innings, giving up 3 runs (2 earned) - which doesn't seem all that impressive until you compare it to some of the other Orioles' starts in that series. And on September 21, Ynoa pitched eight innings against Tampa Bay and gave up only 1 run; an impressive outing by any standard.

People who follow the Norfolk Tides are quite likely stunned by Ynoa's performances, because Ynoa spent much of the 2017 season at Norfolk and, for much of the season, was on the pace for a memorable season. Unfortunately, it was going to be a memorably awful season, a season we share with interns when they note that a starting pitcher is having a bad year. (The gold standard for those seasons in the Orioles' Era is Brandon Erbe's 2010, in which he went 0-10 with a 5.73 ERA. In my first year as a Tides' datacaster, the Tides were still affiliated with the New York Mets, and Jason Scobie went 1-11, 7.91.) After Ynoa's July 7 start, his record was 1-8, 7.64; and I was wondering how Ynoa could have been a Top Ten prospect in the Mets' organization.

However, following his July 7 start - which was his last AAA start before the all-star break, for what that's worth - Ynoa pitched much better. He went 5-1, 2.87; which was enough to bring his final season line to 6-9, 5.25. That's not a good year by any means, but it's not memorably awful. This saga, and his late-season major-league performance, brings up several questions, the biggest one being "Can Gabriel Ynoa be a useful starting pitcher for the Orioles in 2018?"

Of the 45 Tides games I saw in 2017, Gabriel Ynoa was the starting pitcher in six - four in his "bad" first part and two in his "good" second part. In the rest of this article, I will look at some of the details of those six starts.

First, the basic "box score" pitching lines:

Date
Opp
IP
H
R
ER
BB
K
BFP
Apr 29
Syracuse
6 1/3
6
2
2
1
4
25
May 31
Pawtucket
4 1/3
7
3
3
0
2
20
Jun 27
Louisville
3 2/3
5
5
5
2
2
18
Jul 2
Durham
6 2/3
7
6
4
2
3
27
Jul 28
Columbus
6 2/3
8
5
5
0
4
28
Aug 19
Toledo
7
5
3
3
0
5
26

All of the column headers should be self-explanatory except the last, which is "Batters Faced Pitcher" - the number of batters he faced. The April 29 start was his only good start before the all-star break, and the July 28 start was really his only bad start after the all-star break. The two most interesting things are (1) he had good control with only five walks in these six starts and (2) when he pitched well, he was able to work into the seventh inning and go through the lineup three times with consistency. The Tides rarely let a starting pitcher throw 100 pitches, and Ynoa threw that many pitches only in the April 29 start. So, when Ynoa's pitching well, he's efficient.

Next, I'll take a look at the results of the plate appearances against Ynoa. I don't differentiate between batters reaching base and batters being retired on batted balls here. Also, there are a couple of bunt ground balls that I arbitrarily lumped in with other ground balls, and the distinction between "fly balls" and "line drives" is somewhat arbitrary.

Date
Ground
Ball
Line
Drive
Fly
Ball
Walk
Strikeout
Apr 24
6
4
10
1
4
May 31
11
2
5
0
2
Jun 27
6
2
6
2
2
Jul 2
8
4
12
2
3
Jul 28
11
1
12
0
4
Aug 19
6
3
12
0
5

We can see that Ynoa is not a ground-ball pitcher; more balls are are hit in the air than on the ground. To the extent that we can draw any conclusions from six starts, it appears that he might be more effective when balls are hit in the air than on the ground. That works well in Harbor Park with its expansive power alleys, but may be less likely to work in Camden Yards.

Finally, I'll look at Ynoa's pitch results:

Date
Ball
Called
Strike
Swinging
Strike
Foul
In Play
Apr 24
37
19
9
15
20
May 31
21
14
5
11
18
Jun 27
25
14
5
22
14
Jul 2
31
17
7
12
25
Jul 28
32
17
8
16
24
Aug 19
27
14
16
10
22

The striking thing here is that, with the exception of August 19, Ynoa got few swinging strikes and many foul balls. This is consistent with his reputation as a pitcher with okay but not great stuff. Batters are able to make contact with his pitches, even if by fouling them off. But, on the other hand, as we noted above, he's able to go deep into games with fewer than 100 pitches. Give that, he's unlikely that the batters are fouling off good pitches, lengthening at-bats and running up pitch counts. Rather, it appears that Ynoa is pitching to contact, relying on his defense to get outs.

It's almost impossible for Ynoa to be as bad as he was in the first half of 2017. From 2012 through 2016, Baseball America ranked Ynoa among the top 20 prospects in the Mets' organization. That's more in line with his post All-Star break performance. If we assume that his first half was the aberration, then Gabriel Ynoa would be reasonable candidate for a fifth starter job. He's got a chance to hold that job, but he'd have to pitch well our of the gate and it's rare for pitchers like him to do so.


2 comments:

Elisabeth Hill said...

Yona hope it doesn't come down to him mattering, but nice story if it works, just hope we don't have to depend on him!

Elisabeth Hill said...

Ynoa