Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Alfredo Simon: Who Are You Anyway?

I got into a Twitter discussion with Dan from Camden Crazies last night about what kind of pitcher Alfredo Simon was and realized I was really making assumptions without looking at the data. I have been dismissive of Simon throughout his Oriole career and never really took him seriously. So lets take a closer look at Mr. Simon.

Batted ball data is incomplete for Simon over his minor league career but looking at the numbers show the following:

                    GB%   LD%   FB%   IFF%  HR/F
Simon (Minors)     48.7  11.8  28.9   12.9   9.1

Now, his strikeout and walk rate for his 9 year minor league career.

                  BB/9   K/9   K/BB  HR/9    
Simon (Minors)    3.2    6.9   2.17  0.9

Simon was signed out of the Dominican Republic at the age of 18 by the Phillies back in 1999. He bounced around a bit playing in the Giants and Ranger organization and the Mexican League before joining the Orioles and making his major league debut in September 2008.

Simon was mostly a starter during his minor league career but did make occasional appearance out of the bullpen. He demonstrated a good ability to induce ground balls and while his strikeout rate and control were not great, he did produce a good K/BB ratio of more than 2 to 1. His home run per fly ball rate was fair.

But despite decent peripherals, Simon gave up a lot of hits, 9.4 per 9 and a career WHIP in the minors of 1.39. When batters hit him, they were hitting him hard. All grounders are not created equal and to support that kind of WHIP when nearly half the balls you allow in play are grounders, a good portion must be sharply hit.

In his limited time in the majors:

                 BB/9    K/9   K/BB   HR/9   GB%   LD%   FB%   HR/F
Simon (Majors)   3.51   6.07   1.73   2.40  48.9  16.3  34.7   22.7

Firstly, I am shocked the he has been able to keep almost exactly the same ground ball rate that he had in the minors. Dan said that he was a ground ball pitcher and I completely missed that while watching him. (Probably because of what I am going to talk about next...) He has also maintained a respectable strikeout rate.

However, his command has slipped and his walks have creeped up, especially this season. He no longer has a 2 to 1 K/BB ratio. He's also giving up more liners and, especially, fly balls as his infield fly rate has diminished. And when batters get the ball in the air, it goes a long way. Every five times Simon allows a fly ball, one leaves the yard. (And he's on his way to once every four times.)

So the bottom line with Simon is this: some nights he's going to strike guys out, allow a walk and get grounders to save the game and others he's going to give up a walk or two and then allow a big home run. That's who he is.

Can he be a closer? Sure, in my mind. The closer does not have to be your best pitcher out of the pen and Simon can probably get by (and he has made it through most of the season in that role). And if he could drop the walk rate a bit, he could probably be a solid closer. But he's always going to give up homers which will probably put him on the wrong side of the Julio Lugo line.

edit: Our Twitter conversation spawned a post on Dan's site too. I have to admit that he was right about the ground ball rate. The homers? I don't think that's bad luck. More to come on that front...


Sean said...

Why doesn't the closer have to be your best pitcher in the bullpen? The closer is (hopefully) getting the highest leverage situations.

DempseysArmy said...

That is true in theory but classically the closer is used in the 9th inning only, regardless of leverage. If you are going to use your closer in the "traditional" manner, he doesn't have to be your best pitcher and you can build value in an inferior pitcher because he retains the title of closer.