Looking into the bowels of organizational structure and theory is one of my favorite parts about following the game of baseball right now. In prior eras, it seemed like all organizations attacked player development in a cookie cutter, archaic way. It’s referenced non-stop in Moneyball.
Though this scene is obviously Hollywoodified, it’s not too far off from what baseball scouting and development used to look like before the analytic age started.
The Oakland A’s revolutionized the game. Players were no longer living, breathing cogs in the game but instead parts of an equation that ended up in a final answer.
Now obviously there is a human element to the game. White Sox director of Amateur Scouting Nick Hosteler told us on Red Line Radio last summer that he’s gone into convenience stores and interrogated the cashiers on HS kid’s they’ve thought about drafting. Wanted to know if they were buying cigarettes or using fake ID’s and shit. Shit like that will always be a part of the game and can’t be quantified in numbers.
But even with all of these advanced formulas that forecast a player’s ability, shit like wRC+, wOBA, FIP, xFIP and a million other statistics most of us can’t even pronounce, in the end baseball boils down to two things: getting outs and scoring runs.
Caleb Frare here is a good example. Is it better to get ground balls? Sure. In the age of launch angle and lift it’s important to limit a hitter’s ability to drive the ball in the air. It’s physically impossible to hit a ground ball out of the park.
But it’s more important for a pitcher to get outs. If a pitcher has a FB/GB ratio of .5 but it’s nothing but limits hard contact, who gives a shit? And that’s what Caleb Frare does.
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Go and get outs. Who gives a shit what kind of outs they are, a box score will always read the same in the end. Either you pitched well or you didn’t. Of course there are luck and other predictive elements that say whether or not a pitcher will continue to succeed but in the end, outs. are. outs.
So let’s look at Frare as a case study right now. Here’s his line from the 2018 MiLB season:
.78 ERA, 57.1 IP, 77 K’s, .162 BAA, .94 WHIP and a .94 GB/FB ratio.
The Yankees were hell bent on getting it to probably 1.1-1.2 or so, which fucked with Frare’s command in 2017 and led to an ERA north of 4.00. But after he went back to basics, he went on to dominate and get called up to the Show.
The GB/FB ratio is perfectly fine for a reliever. I say this because when looking at his other peripherals, he has been great at limiting hard contact throughout his MiLB career thus far. Though the sample size is small, he allowed an exit velocity of only 83 MPH in his 11 IP for the Sox last year, due in part to his better than average spin rate of 2400 RPMs last year.
So who gives a shit if it’s an out in the air or an out on the ground when the final result is getting the defense off the field?
So that’s why I love the “go get outs” method. And that’s what Frare is going to do this year. Him and Jace Frye are going to be straight up lethal against LHH this year and beyond. I’ve said it before; the White Sox have built an awesome bullpen, most of it via trading international money they couldn’t even spend. They’ve amassed a ton of relief pitching that goes and gets outs and gets outs in bunches.
Frye, Frare, Ryan Burr, Ian Hamilton, paired with Alex Colome and Kelvin Herrera then eventually Zach Burdi, Tyler Johnson are going to make for a great pen in the next two years. The best part about it? Everyone but Colome and Herrera are on pre-arb contracts that will allow them extreme financial flexibility moving forward. They won’t need to overpay for a reliever like a Kimbrel via free agency or trade prospect capital for someone like an Aroldis Chapman. At least hopefully.