25 July 2017

Cup of jO's: Zach Britton is Fine...Right Now

Over the past week, there has been a steady current of criticism toward Zach Britton's value.  Among the Baltimore faithful, there was hope that a Britton trade would bring back a bevy of talent similar to the Aroldis Chapman or Andrew Miller deals: a top 25 player, maybe a backend top 100 talent, and some prospect depth behind that.  However, there has been some dispute over that value.  To that end, I concur with the concerns about Britton's health.  The issue was never fully figured out and he needed lengthy time on the DL to sort things out.

The knock on his performance though has been interesting.  It began with a New York Post column where a scout was quoted about Britton's inability to pound the bottom of the zone.  It then led to a pretty sensationalistic article about Britton's performance on Beyond the Box Score and then a follow up one.

To test all of this, I decided to look at Britton's most recent outings where he has maintained a 96+ mph velocity similar to last year and consider metrics that are more useful in the short term.  Remember, it is important to use data that can answer your question.  Some of the failings in the articles above is that they use global 2017 data, which is not a good thing to do because you are suggesting that the entire 2017 season is representative to what Britton is now.  Post DL trip data might also be squirrelly because Britton was rusty.  You really want to see the peripherals light up and velocity can do that for you.

2016*: 96.3 mph
2017**: 96.5 mph

* July 5th to October 2nd, 2016
** July 16th to July 23rd, 2017

What we see here is that Britton is sustaining a velocity that is equal to what he did last year.  If you are worried about range, his lowest average velocity for his fastball was 96.3 and his highest was 96.7 over these last four outings.

So, how well has he hit the bottom third of the strike zone and just beyond the strike zone.

2016* 2017**
B 3rd 24% 34%
Ex B 3rd 19% 21%
43% 55%

This completely contradicts what the scout in the New York Post column said about Britton not being able to pound it low in the zone.  He is actually doing it numerically better this year than last year.

Here are a few other metrics that were noted in the columns above:

Swinging Strikes
2016*: 15.6%
2017**: 16.7%

Groundball Percentage
2016*: 79.1%
2017**: 84.6%

Hard Hit Balls
2016*: 12.8%


So, yes, any taker should be concerned about the injuries. I would not deal elite talent for Britton if I was given such a responsibility because I worry about that and the dent on payroll.  Performance-wise though, he looks to be firing on all cylinders.


Ace said...

I like the stats shown here. Of course I have just gone with the eyeball test since Britton came off the DL. His performance against the Rangers where he allowed two runs was alarming, especially because of the control. But the bounce back performance against the Astros was very good. In that game Britton walked a batter on 4 pitchers, struck out Gattis on 4 breaking ball pitches, and recorded a 'k' earlier in the inning after falling behind the batter.

If you ignore the inexplicable quasi-intentional walk, Britton was on his game. The balls he threw to the other batters had decent location save for one or two. He was aiming for whiffs. But when he fell behind he pounded the strike zone on the lower corners. Also keep in mind he was facing the best lineup in the league.

I disagree with avoiding sending top prospects because of the injury concern. There is injury risk with every player, no matter the health history, especially with hard throwing pitchers. But there's also a good chance that not a single one of the Dodgers top 5 prospects ever develops into the elite player Britton is, and at least some chance they don't develop to even average MLB players. Those are the risk factors you have to evaluate from both sides.

Pip said...

Very good article, unfortunately, the major teams who need bullpen help, are so good that they could get by with less potential than Zach offers for a great deal less money, and in Brad Hand, they get years of control as well.
Dan missed his chance.
However, there is very little that is more useless on a non-contending team than an elite closer, so I hope he is moved nonetheless.