Washington Nationals: Brian Bruney Needs to Throw Strikes
Washington Nationals relief pitcher Brian Bruney has had a disappointing start to the 2010 season. The biggest problem – he’s not throwing strikes.
Strike to Ball Ratio
Through May 12, major league pitchers are throwing a strike to ball ratio of 1.64. Bruney’s rate is a woeful 1.25. Here’s how the Nats pitchers are faring:
As you can see, the Nats more successful closers – Matt Capps, Tyler Clippard, and Tyler Walker – have a strike to ball rate above the league average. Brian Bruney isn’t anywhere close to where he needs to be.
Walks per Batters Faced
Through May 12, the league wide walks per batters faced rate is 9.32%. Of course, when you can’t throw strikes, the rate increases to an unrecoverable level. Brian Bruney is currently walking batters 21.69% of the time. That’s more than double the league average for walks per batters faced. Here’s the Nats walk rate through May 12th.
Getting Batters Out
One other way to evaluate a pitcher’s effectiveness is to check his strikeout rate and his ground ball rate. While this isn’t foolproof, it makes sense – it displays whether a pitcher can make the bat miss the ball, and whether he can he keep batted balls in the park. Several years ago, The Hardball Times did a study on out values. Strikeouts have the most value, because you always get an out (except for an unconverted dropped third strike), and the runners do not advance (we aren’t going to assign a stolen base to a strikeout). For batted balls, infield flies are best, followed by ground ball, outfield fly balls, then line drives. So, the more strikeouts and ground balls a pitcher can induce, the more likely it is he will be successful.
Through May 12th, the MLB ground ball rate was 44.7%. The strikeouts per batter faced rate for starters was 16.4%, for relievers was 19.2%. (Over the years that this has been studied, relievers strike out batters approximately 2.7% more often than starters.) Here’s a look at the Nats pitchers:
The vertical blue line is the average strikeout rate for starters, the orange line is for relievers. Looking at the chart, we can see that Walker, Clippard, Capps and Burnett are well ahead of their reliever peers in strikeouts per batters faced. Brian Bruney is significantly behind, with a strikeout rate of 16.87%. Scott Olsen is the only Nats starter with a higher strikeout per batters faced rate than the MLB average for starters.
Ground Ball Rates
Nats GM Mike Rizzo has professed a desire for pitchers that get ground ball outs. You can see this by the looking at the Nats starters. Matt Chico, Jason Marquis, John Lannan, Livan Hernandez, and Craig Stammen all have higher than average ground ball rates. (Matt Chico has only pitched 5 innings, so his numbers are statistically meaningless at this point.) Luis Atilano is running behind the averages in both strikeouts and ground balls. So is Livan Hernandez. It will be interesting to see if they can continue their early success into the year with these strikeout and ground ball rates. Bruney isn’t inducing many ground balls. Normally this isn’t a huge issue for relievers, but, without the strikeouts needed to extricate himself from a jam, lack of ground balls is hurting Bruney too.
Bruney for Storen?
It’s obvious that Brian Bruney isn’t throwing strikes, and his pitches aren’t fooling batters in to swinging at pitches out of the zone. The Nats need to do something to get Bruney pitching more effectively. When they tried to get him in to a no stress situation Tuesday night, he started a collapse that led to the Nats blowing a 4 run lead in the bottom of the 8th. Would some time in Syracuse help Brian Bruney? Right now, he looks like first man down to make way for Drew Storen.